Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Daf Yomi: Kiddush Rabba and הֶחָכָם עֵינָיו בְּרֹאשׁוֹ

I came up with an interesting insight into the meaning of a particular derasha. Perhaps others have said it before, but I want to write it down before I forget it. The specific incident, from Pesachim 106a:
Rav Ashi visited Mechoza. They told him: Master should make kiddush for us the Great Kiddush. He said {to himself}: What is the Great Kiddush? Let us see. Whenever there is a blessing, Borei Peri HaGafen is at the head. He said Borei Peri HaGafen, drawing it out. He saw an elderly man bend down and drink {and realized that that was the entirety of it}. He applied to himself the verse {Kohelet 2:14}:
יד הֶחָכָם עֵינָיו בְּרֹאשׁוֹ, וְהַכְּסִיל בַּחֹשֶׁךְ הוֹלֵךְ; וְיָדַעְתִּי גַם-אָנִי, שֶׁמִּקְרֶה אֶחָד יִקְרֶה אֶת-כֻּלָּם. 14 The wise man, his eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness. And I also perceived that one event happeneth to them all.
Rashi does not comment here explaining why Rav Ashi applied this particular verse to himself. The "Point By Point Summary" on Daf Yomi from shemayisrael explains:
he applied to himself "Ha'Chacham Einav b'Rosho" (a Chachamim plans in advance. 'Kedusha Rabah'
But this is not really planning ahead, now is it? He came unprepared, and started, then stalled a bit for time.

Rather, with an eye to how these derashot typically work, I would put forth the following explanation which is obvious in retrospect.

Rav Ashi does not intend the simple meaning of the verse that a wise man plans in advance, but rather I would say he interprets this as follows: The wise man looks towards its head. It in this case is kiddush, and at its head is Borei Peri HaGafen. Thus, he was the wise man who looks towards the head and intuited that he should start with Borei Peri HaGafen.



Anonymous said...

I think you are off base here. The elderly man the "rosh" (leader, presumably due to his age) and R. Ashi is the hakham who LOOKED to the elderly man (einav be-rosho). This additional derashah is on top of the pashut meaning of the proverb, which really means that a wise person is one who is alert.

joshwaxman said...

this is an interesting suggestion. my reaction is that such an interpretation is possible but less plausible, for three reasons.

here is the gemara inside:

רב אשי איקלע למחוזא אמרו ליה ליקדיש לן מר קידושא רבה הבו ליה סבר מאי ניהו קידושא רבה אמר מכדי כל הברכות כולן בפה"ג אמרי ברישא אמר בורא פרי הגפן ואגיד ביה חזייה לההוא סבא דגחין ושתי קרי אנפשיה (קוהלת ב) החכם עיניו בראשו

The first reason is that drashot often make use of plays on language, and the only thing explicitly called "rosh" in this context is the bracha. (thus the best target)

The second reason is that I see no reason to assume that the particular elderly man was the leader. "Hahu" to identify a particular relevant person in the narrative is common - who is to say that this particular elderly person, over all the other elderly people in Mechoza, was the leader? It simply is not in the narrative. You need to reconstruct this fact for the purpose of lending interpretation to the derasha.

The third reason is that the cleverness of the narrative was Rav Ashi's starting with Borei Peri haGafen, NOT with his noticing the elderly man. The noticing the elderly man was just the cue that he had started correctly and that "kiddush rabba" was lashon sagi nahor and so he should stop. Indeed, this story seems designed to illustrate the statement of Rav Yehuda immediately previous:

מאי מברך אמר רב יהודה בפה"ג

I believe that pasut peshat in this story is that Rav Ashi was congratulating himself on starting the kiddush appropriately, rather than noticing a particular elder.

As to "pasut peshat" of this verse I am not convinced that in most derashot, the pasut peshat is in any way related to the derash, nor was intended in this instance by Rav Ashi.


Nor am I convinced that that is necessarily the peshat meaning of this verse...

Anonymous said...

I think your pshat is correct and, now that you have explained it, obvious

joshwaxman said...



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