Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Daf Yomi Megillah 27-28: For Whom Did Rav Huna Collect? A Precedent For Kupat Ha'Ir

There is an interesting gemara on Megillah 27a - b. There are two ways of reading it - that Rav Huna collected for himself, or that he administered the charity funds for the city.

Megillah 27a - b:
אמר רבה בר בר חנה א"ר יוחנן בני העיר שהלכו לעיר אחרת ופסקו להם צדקה נותנין וכשהן באין מביאין אותה עמהם ומפרנסין בהן עניי עירם
תנ"ה בני העיר שהלכו לעיר אחרת ופסקו עליהם צדקה נותנין וכשהן באין מביאין אותה עמהם ומפרנסין בה עניי עירם ויחיד שהלך לעיר אחרת ופסקו עליו צדקה תנתן לעניי אותה העיר
Rabba bar bar Channa cited Rabbi Yochanan: If the residents of one city went to another city, and they imposed upon them to give charity, they give it {to the gabbai tzedakka} and when they come {back home} they bring it {the money from the gabbai} with them and use it to provide for the poor of their own city.
A brayta also says so: If the residents of one city went to another city, and they imposed upon them to give charity, they give it {to the gabbai tzedakka} and when they come {back home} they bring it {the money from the gabbai} with them and use it to provide for the poor of their own city. And an individual who went to another city and they imposed upon him to give charity, it is given to the poor of that city.

רב הונא גזר תעניתא
על לגביה רב הונא בר חנילאי וכל בני מתיה
רמו עלייהו צדקה יהבו
כי בעו למיזל אמרי ליה ליתבינהו ניהלן מר וניזיל ונפרנס בו עניי דמאתן
אמר להו תנינא במה דברים אמורים שאין שם חבר עיר אבל יש שם חבר עיר תנתן לחבר עיר
וכ"ש דעניי דידי ודידכו עלאי סמוכו:
Rav Huna declared a fast. Rav Huna bar Chanilai and all the residents of his city came to him. He imposed upon them charity, and the gave. When they wished to leave, they said to him, "let master give it to us and we will use it to provide for the poor of our city." He said to them: We learnt it: "Where are these words said {that they take the charity back to the city}, when there is no chaver of the city {Talmid Chacham who involves himself in the needs of the community}, but where there is a chaver of the city, it is given to the chaver of the city. And certainly {in this case} since both the poor of my city and your city rely upon me!"
What is this business with the chaver ir? Perhaps it is like Kupat Ha'ir, that the gedolim involve themselves in the disbursement of the charity. Indeed, that seems the implication of Kollel Iyyun Hadaf's rendition:

1. (Beraisa): This (they take back their Tzedakah) is when there is no Chacham appointed over the communal needs. When there is a Chacham, all is done as he sees fit.


2. All the more so here Rav Huna decides, because the poor of both cities rely on him!
by saying "all is done as he sees fit" and "Rav Huna decides," both of which are not in the gemara itself, they are explaining it that he, the chaver ir, is the gabbai tzeddaka. Why a chaver ir as gabbai takes control while a non-chaver ir does not, I don't know.

Rashi defines chaver ir as a chacham who takes care of communal needs. With that in mind, I would suggest that Rav Huna declared a fast because of hard times, and he himself was in need of sustenance, and this is why he collected, for himself. Indeed, we see in Shabbat 114a:
ואמר רבי יוחנן איזהו ת"ח שבני עירו מצווין לעשות לו מלאכתו זה שמניח חפצו ועוסק בחפצי שמים וה"מ למיטרח בריפתיה
Rabbi Yochanan said: Who is a scholar whose work it is the duty of his townspeople to perform? He who abandons his own interest and engages in religious affairs; yet that is only to provide his bread {= basic necessities}.
This, I would suggest, was what is meant by a chaver ir as a talmid chacham who engages in the needs of the community. Rav Huna would say that the people, even the poor, of both communities, rely upon him as a religious leader, and thus he should be able to keep the money.

Indeed, on the next daf, Megillah 28a, we see a poor Rav Huna carrying his own spade.

By the way, helping us define chaver ir might be a search for how the term is used elsewhere in Shas.
Brachot 30a:
דף ל, א משנה ר' אלעזר בן עזריה אומר אין תפלת המוספין אלא בחבר עיר וחכ"א בחבר עיר ושלא בחבר עיר ר' יהודה אומר משמו כל מקום שיש שם חבר עיר יחיד פטור מתפלת המוספין:

Chullin 94a:
ת"ר לא ילך אדם לבית האבל ובידו לגין המתקשקש ולא ימלאנו מים מפני שמתעהו ואם יש שם חבר עיר מותר

Tosefta Megillah:
כהן שיש בו מום בפניו בידיו וברגליו הרי זה לא ישא את כפיו מפני שהעם מסתכלין בו ואם היה חבר עיר ה"ז מותר

Update/Clarification: Thus, from the first instance, we may well deduce that the presence of a chaver ir allows tefillat hamussafin. Thus, it would seem to be ten people, or a communal organization. And we might trans. This is thus predicated on the presence of this חבר עיר. Similarly over here, we might say the same.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Daf Yomi Megillah 28b: How Ulla Shows that Yerushalmi Seder Kodoshim is a Forgery

Why in the world am I obsessed with Ulla? In truth, I am not. I wanted to make a post involving Ulla, and while I was preparing it, I happened to see the Wikipedia entry, and felt compelled to make a response. This is not the Ulla post I want to make, but here it is nonetheless.

There was a famous forgery of Talmud Yerushalmi, in which someone claimed to have discovered the Yerushalmi for the order of Kodoshim. It was disproved in various ways (see this post at On the Main Line). The question still exists whether such a seder ever existed. Right now, we lack seder Kodoshim and Taharot. But perhaps they once existed?

Here is some evidence that they never existed. In previous posts, I mentioned that Ulla was an Amora from Eretz Yisrael, and bore many Eretz Yisrael statements and traditions into Bavel. We will soon encounter one such statement in Daf Yomi:

Citing from my translation of Rif on Megillah 28b (not yet published):
תנן ההם ודאישתמש בתגא חלף
א"ר שמעון בן לקיש זה שמשתמש במי ששונה הלכות דאמר עולא לישתמש איניש במאן דתני ארבעה ולא ישתמיש איניש במאן דמתני ארבעה
פירוש דתאני ארבעה מי ששונה ארבעה סדרי משנה ופירוש דמתני מי שגמר תלמוד ארבעה סידרי:

They learned {tnan - in a Mishna in Pirkei Avot} there: "And one who makes use of the crown {of Torah} will perish"
Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: This is one who makes use of one who learns "halachot." For Ulla said:

One should make use of one who is tani four and not one who is matni four.
The explanation of "one who is tani four" = one who learns the four orders of Mishna, and the explanation of "one who teaches four" = one who learns {gamar} the Talmud of the four orders.
{The typical understanding is "one who learns" vs. "one who teaches."}
According to this explanation of the Rif, the difference between tani and matni is one who learns Mishna vs. one who learns gemara. And he only speaks of learning the 4 orders of Mishna vs. the 4 orders of gemara! Presumably, the other two orders existed for Mishna but not gemara, which is why they were mentioned. Since he speaks of 4 orders rather than 6 (or 5, given the dearth of material in Bavli Zeraim), he reflects the Eretz Yisrael tradition, as we would expect. And thus we see that even then, in the Amoraic period, there was no Talmud Yerushalmi on Kodoshim or Taharot.

A grammatical point. Rif adds an aleph when he reiterates tani, showing that this is how he read it. An aleph shows that he read it with a kametz.

Perhaps Rif is incorrect in his understanding of this and it is the more typical explanation of "learn" vs. "teach." {Update: However, from reading the continuation of the gemara, Rif seems correct.} Even so, Ulla only spoke of 4 orders, and Ulla was from Eretz Yisrael. I think this is no accident. Whether he means learning vs. teaching the mishnayot or learning vs. teaching the gemara, he only refers to four.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More On Ullah's "Strict" Approach - Was He Being Machmir or Just Conveying the Halachic Traditions of Eretz Yisrael?

Continuing last post, here is another example that appears to contradict the assertion that in general, Ulla "was very strict in his interpretation of religious laws."

Shabbat 39b:
On account of the incident of what the people of Tiberias did and the Rabbis forbade them, [the practice of] putting away [aught] in anything that adds heat, even by day, has no sanction. 'Ulla said: The halachah agrees with the inhabitants of Tiberias. Said R. Nahman to him, The Tiberians have broken their pipe long ago!
Thus, it is Ulla that wants to permit and Rav Nachman who assurs.

I mentioned in the previous post that some of what may appear to be Ulla being very strict is just an effect of him being an Amora from Eretz Yisrael who traveled to Bavel. He brings with him various traditions from early Palestinian Amoraim (such as Rabbi Eleazar, Rabbi Hoshaya, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, etc.), and where he sees difference between Israeli and Babylonian halachic practice, he will point out the difference. He is more likely to point out where Babylonian tradition is more lenient, for otherwise he really has no impetus to object.

An example of this phenomenon might be seen in an incident in which Ulla clearly is the more stringent. May one knock on a door on Shabbat with one's fist, or is this prohibited under "making a noise," mashmia kol?

We see this at the end of Eruvin. Citing from my Rif blog, because the Rif's comments are especially relevant:
Ulla visited the house of Rav Menashe. A certain person came and knocked on the door. He {=Ulla} said: Who is this person? May his body be desecrated, for he desecrates the Shabbat!
Rava {our gemara: Rabba} said to him: The only spoke {and forbad creation} of a musical sound.
And they {attempted to} refute Rava from this that they learnt {in a brayta}:
Liquids may be drawn by means of a deyofi {=siphon} and water may be allowed to drip from the arag {a perforated vessel} for a sick person on Shabbat.
For a sick person, yes. But for a healthy person, no. Is this not the case that he was sleeping and they desired that he wake up {from the non-musical sound of dripping}? And we may then derive that production of {even non-musical} sound is forbidden?
And he answers: no, it is where he was awake and it is desired that he fall asleep, and this is the reason that for a healthy person it is forbidden - because he is producing a tingling noise.

The explanation of deyofi is a siphon with which they draw wine.
And the explanation of mi arag {our gemara: miarak} is a vessel whose mouth is narrow above and is wide below, and on the bottom are tiny holes through which wine exits, and when they fall into a metal vessel, the sound is heard like music.

And they {attempted to} refute Rava from this that they learnt {in a brayta}:
If one guards his fruit against birds or his gourds against beasts {on Shabbat}, he may not clap his hand, beat his chest, or stamp his feet {yerakad} as he does during the week.
What is the reason? Is it not because producing a sound on Shabbat is forbidden?
And Rav Acha bar (Rav) Yaakov answers that this is a decree lest he pick up a pebble to throw at them.

And they further {attempt} to refute from this that Rav Yehuda cited Rav: Women playing with nuts is forbidden.
What is the reason? Is it not because producing a sound on Shabbat is forbidden?
And the answer there that no, it is because they make a tinkling {=musical} sound.

And Shmuel says that Women playing with apples is forbidden.
To explain, they cast one towards the other upon the ground, and they hit one another.
What is the reason? Is it not because producing a sound on Shabbat is forbidden?
There is to answer that it is lest they come to make furrows in the ground since the play is on the ground.

And they further ask from our Mishna: "and they may fill from the Pilgrim's Well with the wheel in the Temple but not in the country."
What is the reason? Is it not because producing a sound is forbidden?
To explain, because the wheel produces a sound.
And they answer: No. It is a decree lest he draw water for his garden or for his ruin.

And it is logical to us that the halacha is like Rava, who said that they only said this {that it is forbidden} by a musical sound: Since Rav Acha bar Yaakov answered like him, it is clear that he holds like him. Further, we say that Amemar allowed filling using a wheel on Shabbat in Mechoza. He said: What is the reason the Sages decreed? Because of his garden and ruin. Here, there is neither garden nor ruin. However, when he saw that they began {Eruvin 104b} to soak flax in it {the water they drew via a wheel}, he forbade them. And thus it is clear that he held like Rava. For if he held like Ulla, he would not have permitted them to draw with a wheel at all, for it produces a sound.

And we see that a minority of {post-Talmudic} Sages who hold like Ulla and rely on the Yerushalmi, for we read there is masechet Yom Tov {=Beitza}: Rabbi Eleazar said: Anything that produces sound is forbidden on Shabbat. Rabbi Ila'a was detained in the study hall {on Friday night}. He exited to his house and they discovered him asleep at the gate in order that he not knock on Shabbat. And we say also: Rabbi Yirmiya permitted knocking on the gate on Shabbat. Rabbi Abba {not Abaye, who is not in Yerushalmi} said to him: Who permitted to you?

And we do not hold so, for since our sugya of our gemara permits, we are unconcerned that the Yerushalmi forbids, for on our gemara we rely, for it is later {contains later generations of Amoraim} and they were experts in Yerushalmi more than us, and if they did not establish that this statement in Yerushalmi is not to be relied upon, they would not have permitted it to us.
Thus, Ulla forbids while Rava permits, and their dispute is exactly what had previously been forbidden. We see that some post-Talmudic Sages ruled like Ulla because the Yerushalmi supports him. This is interesting in its own right, for we might see here that this principle set up by Rif that in case of dispute between Bavli and Yerushalmi that we favor the Bavli was not universally agreed upon (though perhaps they would argue that there is no dispute here). Also of good general use is this principle that Rif spells out about favoring Bavli.

Aside from all of that, I would point out that it is no accident that the Yerushalmi sides with Ulla. Let us not forget that Ulla carried with him the halachic traditions of Eretz Yisrael. Thus, the Babylonian Amoraim all permit, while Ulla and the Yerushalmi forbids. We have a dispute between halachic traditions of two geographical areas.

And so this is not a case from which one should argue that in general, Ulla liked being
machmir and that this is why he felt that the person who knocked on the door was mechalel Shabbat.

Was Ullah "Very Strict in His Interpretation of Religious Laws?"

So says Ulla's Wikipedia entry, presumably obtained from JewishEncyclopedia:
He was very strict in his interpretation of religious laws (Shab. 147a, 157b);
In general I dislike statements of this sort, because it is so subjective, and so easy to interpret and reinterpret the evidence. How does one define strict (that in itself is somewhat subjective), and how does one define very? What is very strict? He objects in certain cases to practices he observed. But perhaps those are instances in which the actual law was in accordance with what he said, and he was correcting a misperception. Or perhaps he was under the impression that the metziut was such-and-such while it was really otherwise. Perhaps he is citing the standard practice of Eretz Yisrael, where he came from, and which differed from Babylonian practice, and thus had ample opportunity to comment on what he saw as Babylonian permissiveness. (And perhaps the same would be true for a Babylonian in Eretz Yisrael.) And perhaps in other instances besides the two examples cited, he is actually more lenient.

Perhaps he really was very strict, and a thorough analysis of all the stories ab and state

Let us start by examining the cases brought as evidence of Ulla's strictness.

The first was Shabbat 147a. There are two incidents with Ulla there:
אמר רב הונא המנער טליתו בשבת חייב חטאת ולא אמרן אלא בחדתי אבל בעתיקי לית לן בה ולא אמרן אלא באוכמי אבל בחיורי וסומקי לית לן בה והוא דקפיד עלייהו עולא איקלע לפומבדיתא חזא רבנן דקא מנפצי גלימייהו אמר קמחללין רבנן שבתא אמר להו רב יהודה נפוצי ליה באפיה אנן לא קפדינן מידי אביי הוה קאי קמיה דרב יוסף א"ל הב לי כומתאי [חזא דאיכא] טלא עליה הוה קמחסם למיתבה ליה א"ל נפוץ שדי אנן לא קפדינן מידי
R. Huna said: If one shakes out his cloak on the Sabbath, he is liable to a sin-offering. Now, we said this only of new ones, but in the case of old ones we have nought against it; and this is said only of black ones, but in the case of white or red ones we have nought against it; [but in any case there is no culpability] unless he is particular about them.

'Ulla visited Pumbeditha. Seeing the scholars shaking their garments he observed, 'The scholars are desecrating the Sabbath.' Said Rab Judah to them, 'Shake them in his presence, [for] we are not particular at all [about the clothes].' Abaye was standing before R. Joseph. Said he to him, 'Give me my hat.' Seeing some dew upon it he hesitated to give it to him. 'Shake it and throw it off,' he directed, '[for] we are not particular at all.'
It is possible that the author read לא קפדינן מידי as "we are not particular about it," meaning that "we are not stringent about it" while others such as Ulla are. If that is so, then we can point out that it rather seems that the being particular is about the presence of the dew or dust on the garments, such that if one does not really care that the dew or dust is on it, then there is no violation of Shabbat to shake it off. (And this is how the setama clearly understands it.)

More likely, the author saw that Ulla prohibited something while Rav Yehuda, the head of the academy of Pumpedita, told them that it was allowed because the action was not done to remove something about whose presence they really had concern.

It is unclear how Ulla would respond, for we do not have his response. It would seem that he is echoing Rav Huna that one who shakes out his cloak on Shabbat is liable to a sin-offering. Perhaps Ulla did not hold by this exception that it is only where one is makpid on the dirt. Or, quite possibly, he was under the cultural impression that they did this because they were truly concerned about the dirt on it. In the actual situation, now that they are not concerned, perhaps even Ulla would now say it is permitted.

Similarly, would we say that Abaye is being very strict in the parallel case brought down? Rather, both Rav Yosef and Rav Yehuda are teaching that in this case, we are not particular about the dirt or dew's presence, and in such a situation, Rav Huna's statement does not apply.

It is also possible (though much less likely) that the later story on the same page was intended:
'Ulla visited the academy of Assi b. Hini [and] was asked: Is it permitted to make a marzeb on the Sabbath? Said he to them, Thus did R. Ilai say: It is forbidden to make a marzeb on the Sabbath. What is a marzeb? — Said R. Zera: The capes worn by Babylonian women. R. Jeremiah was sitting before R. Zera [and] asked him, How is it thus? It is forbidden, replied he. And how is it thus? It is forbidden, replied he.R. Papa said: Adopt this general rule: Whatever [is done] with the intention of gathering it [the skirts] up is forbidden; whatever is for adornment is permitted. Just as R. Shisha son of R. Idi used to adorn himself with his cloak.
But this is just answering an halachic question (where they may well have assumed that he would in other situations have said it was permitted, for otherwise, why ask?). He responds not based on his own thoughts of the matter, but rather by citing a tradition of Rabbi Ilai. And others immediately following also forbid certain things. That is why I think the first story was intended.

The second story they cite is from Shabbat 157b (the very end of the masechta):
AND FROM THEIR WORDS WE LEARN THAT WE MAY STOP UP [A SKYLIGHT] AND MEASURE AND TIE ON THE SABBATH. 'Ulla visited the home of the Resh Galutha and saw Rabbah b. R. Huna Sitting in a bath-tub of water and measuring it. Said he to him: Say that the Rabbis spoke thus of measuring in connection with a precept; did they rule [thus] when it is not in connection with a precept? — I was merely occupying myself, he replied.
Thus, while the Mishna permitted measuring on Shabbat, Ulla held that this was just for the purposes of a mitzva, such as mikveh. However, measure for another purpose, like a bath, would be forbidden. Is this being strict? Well, Rabba bar Rav Huna agrees with him. His rejoinder is that he did not intend to measure by doing this, but was merely occupying himself. But real measuring would indeed be forbidden.

I see a trend in these two stories. In both cases Ulla made his statement based on an assumption of the internal state and intention of others, and in both cases, where the internal state is in fact different, Ulla's statement does not apply.

Though I've responded to these particular two cases, this does not mean that there is not a regular pattern of stringency. I have not made a scientific study of Ulla, to be able to make such a statement. Perhaps other incidents involving Ulla allow one to draw this general picture accurately.

Still, I would point out two instances in which Ulla does not take the stringent position, based on a very quick survey.

The first example I offer is in Shabbat 29b:
The synagogue overseer of Bazrah dragged a bench in front of R. Jeremiah Rabbah. Said he to him, in accordance with whom? [Presumably] R. Simeon! Assume that R. Simeon ruled [thus] in the case of larger ones, since it is impossible otherwise; did he say thus of small ones? Now, he disagrees with 'Ulla, who said: They differ [only] in respect of small ones, but as for large, all agree that it is permitted.
Thus, according to Rabbi Yirmiyah Rabba, large benches are a dispute in which perhaps one may rely on Rabbi Shimon, but small ones are entirely forbidden. Meanwhile, Ullah would permit small ones according to everyone, and even large ones according to Rabbi Shimon. So here is a case where he is more lenient "in his interpretation of religious laws."

Another example, though it is unclear whether we would say he is being strict or lenient. Shabbat 13a:
'Ulla, on his return from the college, used to kiss his sisters on their bosoms; others say, on their hands. But he is self-contradictory, for 'Ulla said, Even any form of intimacy is forbidden, because we say, 'Take a circuitous route, O nazirite, but do not approach the vineyard.'
Here, even though he apparently has a statement one way, in his own practical personal conduct he acted leniently. What do we make of this?

This is part of the reason I am reluctant to make such generalizations about personalities and approaches of Tanaaim and Amoraim.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Acharei Rabbim LeHatot

Balashon has a good post about Acharei Rabbim Lehatos and how Rashi gives a peshat against the halachic reading (though I would not say that he considers the halachic reading wrong, just a midrashic take in parallel to the peshat level).

At any rate, rather than considering "Acharei Rabim leHatot" as a directive to go after the majority, we can consider it a prohibition of perverting justice by following the majority. This reading follows the taamei hamikra, that is, the trup. Note how "Acharei Rabim leHatot" is not a separate directive but rather modifying the prohibition.

I will close by citing Shadal's take on this, and Shadal's take on Rashi's take on this:
דרשת רז"ל (סנהדרין ב' ע"א, ע"ב) אחרי רבים להטות שמצווה לפסוק הדין אחרי הרוב, אסמכתא היא, ואין ספק כי אין דרך לפסוק הדין אלא ע"פ הרוב, כי רחוק הוא שתהיה דעת כולם שווה ; אמנם המקרא הזה איננו מדבר בשופטים, אלא ביחיד הבא להעיד ; ורש"י ז"ל עזב דרשת רז"ל וביקש ליישב המקרא על פי פשוטו, אלא שפירש גם הוא הכתוב בדיין ולא בעד והוצרך לפרש על ולא תענה פירוש דחוק מאד ; ויש לתמוה עליו הרבה איך חשב שאם הנדון ישאל את הדיין על משפטו אין לדיין לענותו דבר הנוטה אחרי הרבים החולקים עליו, אלא יאמר לו הדין לפי מה שהוא לפי דעתו ; והלא זה דבר הגורם תקלות הרבה, והלכה רווחת היא במשנה (סנהדרין פרק ג' משנה ז') וממין לכשיצא א' מן הדיינים לא יאמר אני מזכה וחברי מחייבין, אבל מה אעשה שחברי רבו עלי, על זה נאמר הולך רכיל מגלה סוד ; ויותר יש לתמוה על בעל הסמ"ג שבלאו קצ"ה וקצ"ז העתיק דברי רש"י אלה ולא העיר עליהם דבר, וכן ר' אליהו מזרחי ואחרים לא העירו על זה כלום ; ותלמידי מוהר"ר מרדכי מורטארה אומר כי המשנה מדברת בסתם דיינים, כלו' בכשרים, שאין כוונתם להטות משפט, אלא מזכים ומחייבים כפי מה שהוא האמת והישר לפי ראות עיניהם, אבל רש"י מדבר בדיינים רשעים, כמו שאמר אם ראית רשעים מטים משפט. ותלמידי מוהר"ר משה הלוי עהרענרייך אומר כי לדעת רש"י אין הפסוק כולו אזהרה לאדם אחד, אלא לשני בני אדם, לא תהיה אחרי הרבים לרעות היא אזהרה לדיין שבאו בעלי הדין לפניו וחבריו רוצים להטות משפט, ולא תענה על ריב אזהרה לחכם אחר שאינו דיין או שאינו באותו ב"ד אלא בב"ד אחר, וכוונת רש"י שאם הנדון היוצא מב"ד חייב יבוא אצל חכם אחר וישאלהו על אותו המשפט ששפטוהו אותם הדיינים, אין לו לשאת להם פנים, אלא יאמר את המשפט כאשר הוא.

Meir's First Beracha

Meir has actually been making berachot for over a year, but today he said his first real beracha.

He was sitting in his high chair eating cereal (Cheerios and Kix) and milk, and he spilled some of his milk onto his high chair tray. He began splashing that milk, making a mess. After one or two splashes, I grabbed a paper towel and started to wipe it up, and gave him a little lecture. (I want him to eat his food as much as possible, because he can stand to gain a lot of weight.) I told him that he should not play with his food; that food is for eating and not for playing with; that splashing the milk wastes it, and that we should not waste food; that there are children in Africa who are hungry and would love to have this food (yes, I'm weird :) ); that therefore we have to appreciate the food we have and treat it with respect; that Hashem gave us this food to eat and not to waste.

He sat a minute thinking about this, and then tilted his head up, heavenward, and said (and this is a direct quote!): "Hashem, thank you for giving me this food. I am eating it. I am not wasting it."

(And now you see what I mean by his first real beracha. Not Hebrew words which he doesn't understand, but a real "thank you" for the food to Hashem before eating.)

And then he started eating his food. And he was very conscientious about finishing it all by the end of breakfast, not wanting to waste it.

About two minutes into his resumption of breakfast, he offered his first sacrifice. ;) He has two spoons in his bowl for cereal and milk, and uses both - a larger metal one, and a smaller plastic one. Two minutes into this, he once again tilted his head upward, and lifted his red plastic spoon heavenwards. He then handed this red spoon to me, saying, "Abba, please give this spoon to Hashem." Then, about 10 seconds later he laughed and said "Hashem doesn't have a mouth!"

Very cute, and very theologically advanced for a two-and-a-half year old, I think.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

parshat Mishpatim: Leaning on His Staff as We Lean on Chazal

The playing field of parshanut always gets interesting when the simple meaning of a verse appears to be at odds with the halacha as decided in the gemara. Pashtanim, especially sensitive to preserving peshat as a separate and distinguished entity, yet at the same time committed to the truth, integrity and supremacy of halacha, must assay to resolve or harmonize the two. (A darshan is more able to say that this is a case of mikra yotzei midei peshuto, or that the true meaning is of course derash.}

How pashtanim go about this depends upon their respective outlooks regarding the interface between peshat and derash, and whether they consider them to be two separate entities. Seeing how different commentators deal with these issues might help clarify their methodology in this regard.

One such instance of a peshat / halacha divide appears, at first glance, to occur in parshat Mishpatim regarding someone who was injured in a fight. (In fact, this parsha is rich with such examples, but this is the one I am focusing on in this post.)

The pesukim state {Shemot 21:18-19}:

יח וְכִי-יְרִיבֻן אֲנָשִׁים--וְהִכָּה-אִישׁ אֶת-רֵעֵהוּ, בְּאֶבֶן אוֹ בְאֶגְרֹף; וְלֹא יָמוּת, וְנָפַל לְמִשְׁכָּב. 18 And if men contend, and one smite the other with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keep his bed;
יט אִם-יָקוּם וְהִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּחוּץ, עַל-מִשְׁעַנְתּוֹ--וְנִקָּה הַמַּכֶּה: רַק שִׁבְתּוֹ יִתֵּן, וְרַפֹּא יְרַפֵּא. {ס} 19 if he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed. {S}
This seems to suggest that once he gets up, even if he is still somewhat ill, the smiter is off-the-hook. It does not state, but one might conclude on a peshat level, that even if he then falls ill again and then dies, the smiter is still off the hook, once the smitee is able to walk, even though during this intervening period he is using a cane and is thus still somewhat ill. However, it does not state this explicitly, and in fact, I would argue, even on a peshat level, that all this means is that since he did not die, even though he is still sick for the rest of his life, the smiter is exempt from the death penalty. This might be obvious -- the victim did not die, so of course the smiter gets no death penalty -- but sometimes on a peshat level the text is this obvious and redundant.

However, given the first reading of the peshat level above (rather than my second one), it seems at odds with the gemara, and other sources, which discuss this. For example, Ketubot 33b. And for example, in Sanhedrin:

דף עח,א משנה המכה את חבירו בין באבן בין באגרוף ואמדוהו למיתה והיקל ממה שהיה ולאחר מכאן הכביד ומת חייב ר' נחמיה אומר פטור שרגלים לדבר:

דף עח,א גמרא תנו רבנן את זו דרש רבי נחמיה (שמות כא) אם יקום והתהלך בחוץ

דף עח,ב גמרא על משענתו ונקה המכה וכי תעלה על דעתך שזה מהלך בשוק וזה נהרג
אלא זה שאמדוהו למיתה והקל ממה שהיה ולאחר כך הכביד ומת שהוא פטור
ורבנן האי ונקה המכה מאי דרשי ביה מלמד שחובשין אותו ורבי נחמיה חבישה מנא ליה יליף ממקושש ורבנן נמי לילפי ממקושש מקושש בר קטלא הוא ומשה לא הוה ידע קטליה במאי לאפוקי האי דלא ידעינן אי בר קטלא הוא אי לאו בר קטלא הוא ורבי נחמיה יליף ממגדף דלא הוה ידע אי בר קטלא הוא וחבשוהו ורבנן מגדף הוראת שעה היתה כדתניא יודע היה משה רבינו שהמקושש במיתה שנאמר (שמות לא) מחלליה מות יומת אלא לא היה יודע באיזו מיתה נהרג שנאמר (במדבר טו) כי לא פורש וגו' אבל מגדף לא נאמר בו אלא לפרש להם על פי ה' שלא היה משה יודע אם הוא בן מיתה כל עיקר אם לאו בשלמא לרבי נחמיה היינו דכתיבי תרי אומדני חד אמדוהו למיתה וחיה וחד אמדוהו למיתה והקל ממה שהיה אלא לרבנן תרי אומדני למה לי חד אמדוהו למיתה וחיה וחד אמדוהו לחיים ומת ורבי נחמיה אמדוהו לחיים ומת לא צריך קרא שהרי יצא מבית דין זכאי תנו רבנן המכה את חבירו ואמדוהו למיתה וחיה פוטרין אותו אמדוהו למיתה והקל ממה שהיה אומדין אותו אומד שני לממון ואם לאחר כן הכביד ומת הלך אחר אומד האמצעי דברי רבי נחמיה וחכמים אומרים אין אומד אחר אומד תניא אידך אמדוהו למיתה אומדין אותו לחיים לחיים אין אומדין אותו למיתה אמדוהו למיתה והקל ממה שהיה אומדין אותו אומד שני לממון ואם לאחר כן הכביד ומת משלם נזק וצער ליורשים מאימתי משלם משעה שהכהו וסתמא כרבי נחמיה:

Thus, there appears to be a dispute between Rabbi Nechemia and the Sages. Rabbi Nechemia understands {darash -- expounds} as follows: אִם-יָקוּם ... וְנִקָּה הַמַּכֶּה -- "if he rise again, [and walk abroad upon his staff,] then shall he that smote him be quit." Would it enter your mind that this one is entirely fine, walking in the street, and this one {the smiter} is killed? Rather, this is one who they diagnosed him that he would die, and then he got better than what he was, and then he got worse, and died, then he {the smiter} is exempt.
Meanwhile, the Sages do not say this, but rather וְנִקָּה הַמַּכֶּה means that he goes out of prison, where they placed him. {Rabbi Nechemia gets the prison from some other derivation.}

That is why the Sages argue in the Mishna with Rabbi Nechemiah and state that in such an instance, the smiter gets the death penalty.

What do the Sages do with this verse that states אִם-יָקוּם וְהִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּחוּץ, עַל-מִשְׁעַנְתּוֹ--וְנִקָּה הַמַּכֶּה?
Well, Mechilta and Targum understand that this means "he walks under his own strength," and thus refers to a case where he becomes entirely better. Thus, the pasuk is not talking about the case in the Mishna at all. This seems to agree with the Sages in the gemara.

This seems difficult to say on a peshat level, given that וְהִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּחוּץ עַל-מִשְׁעַנְתּוֹ suggests that he is still ill, and is using a cane to get around. However, as I noted above, saying this does not mean we must say like Rabbi Nechemiah. We could read this like the opinion Rabbi Nechemiah rejected, which would implies he is entirely well, or we could read this as referring to a case where is still ill, in which case the smiter must pay medical bills and so on so long as the man is ill, but is exempt from the death penalty.

There is thus what to resolve with the apparent peshat level - at the least the Mechilta which translates "on his staff" as "on his own strength," and at the most whether one administers the death penalty to someone the smiter when the person got a little better and then fell ill again and died.

How do different pashtanim resolve this?

Rashi states:
on his support, with his health and his strength. -[From Mechilta].
the assailant shall be cleared Now would it enter your mind that one who did not kill should be killed? But rather, [the Torah] teaches you here that they imprison him until it becomes apparent whether this one [the victim] will get well, and this is its meaning: When this one gets up and walks on his support, then the assailant shall be cleared, but before this one [the victim] gets up, the assailant shall not be cleared. -[From Keth. 33b]
Thus, Rashi combines the Mechilta and the gemara to claim that this refers to where the person became entirely better. The implication is that in such a case, if the victim falls ill again and dies, it is unrelated to the assault and the assailant is free. But if it he was still ill, walking on a cane, and the victim subsequently got sicker and died, then the assailant would get the death penalty. In terms of the assailant shall be cleared, he understands this to mean that he is let loose from prison, just as the Sages state. This follows a pattern in which Rashi generally presents Chazal's halacha and derash as the (simple) meaning of the pesukim. He does not betray any difficulty in resolving it with a meaning of "staff."

Ibn Ezra says that about עַל-מִשְׁעַנְתּוֹ that we rely upon Chazal in their explanation.He clearly knows that others might interpret it otherwise, e.g. Karaaites, that the cane means the person is sick. He gives a good explanation of what Chazal may have meant, such that they were speaking peshat: "We rely on Chazal, who explain that "on his staff" means that he is not leaning on another person as is the way of sick people {J: perhaps on might suggest: but is rather using his regular walking stick}, but rather, on himself." He also understands the assailant shall be cleared as letting the smiter out of prison.

Ramban cites Rashi and Ibn Ezra, and then suggests that a simple reading might work well with the halacha. From other pesukim, he shows that weak people use walking sticks. This person's wound healed, but still he is in recovery. But sick people do not go outdoors until their wound is healed and they are entirely out of danger. If he walked with his walking stick indoors, then he is still sick and if he sickens and dies, the striker receives the death penalty. However, if he walks with his stick outside, then even though he is still weak he is out of danger, and if he later sickens and dies then the striker would not receive the death penalty.

Shadal also chimes in on this dispute:

על משענתו : על מקלו, מיד ינוקה המכה, אף אם אח"כ ימות המוכה, כי יש לתלות שהוא גרם לעצמו שלא נשמר כשהתחיל להבריא, ור' ישמעאל (במכילתא שם ו') דורש כמין משל על בהטענתו, על בוריו, וזה חומרא.

על משענתו - on his staff. Then immediately, the smiter is cleared, even if afterwards the victim dies, for one can suggest that he {the victim} caused it himself, for he did not watch himself carefully when he began to get better. And Rabbi Yishmael {in the Mechilta} makes a derasha patterning על משענתו with a shin on על בהטענתו, with a tet, meaning that "on his own strength," and this is a stringency.
Thus, Shadal distinguishes between a derash and peshat meaning of the word, and suggests that the peshat is somewhat at odds with the practiced halacha, because a derasha imposed a stringency by offering a reinterpretation. Either Shadal meant that by "walking outside with a staff" the sick person brought it upon himself (unlikely), or the more likely, "walking outside with a staff" means that the person got better, and then if the person got sicker we say he must have brought it upon himself. What he would say in terms of the dispute between Rabbi Nechemiah and the Sages -- well, we can guess.

There is also the resolution I gave above -- that the peshat and derash coexist on different strata, and the definition of each of these phrases need not interact between strata. Thus, on a peshat level we never speak of one who subsequently sickens and dies, but rather that he is ill for a period of time, during which he receives lost wages and doctor bills. Meanwhile, on a derash level we can raise questions such as the obviousness that the smiter would not receive the death penalty in such a situation, and then interpret it to refer to a prison term and/or to refer to cases where the person is sick or healthy to a specific extent. These strata coexist and both are true on a halachic level.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Daf Yomi Megillah: "From Chamtan to Teveria" as a Paradigm for Quantification or Lack Thereof of Halachic Shiurim


A particular section of gemara Megillah caught my attention when I was learning through it for Rif Yomi, about how far away a village can be from a walled city to be considered part of it, so as to read the megillah on the 15th of Adar. Citing from Alfasi:
אמר ר' יהושע בן לוי כרך וכל הסמוך לו וכל הנראה עמו נידון ככרך וקורין בחמשה עשר ועד כמה אמר רבי ירמיה כמחמתן לטבריא והיינו מיל ולימא מיל הא קמ"ל דשיעורא דמיל כמחמתן לטבריא:
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: A large city, all that neighbors it, and all that is seen with it {from a distance} is judged to be the large city and reads on the 15th {if it is a walled city from the time of Yehoshua bin Nun}.
And until how far?
Rabbi Yirmeya said: As from Chamtan to Teveria, and this is a mil.
So let him have said a mil?!
This informs us that the measure of a mil is as from Chamtan to Teveria.
There is a slight girsological difference between the Rif, cited above, and the text of the gemara:

דאמר רבי יהושע בן לוי כרך וכל הסמוך לו וכל הנראה עמו נידון ככרך
עד כמה אמר רבי ירמיה ואיתימא רבי חייא בר אבא כמחמתן לטבריא מיל
ולימא מיל
הא קא משמע לן דשיעורא דמיל כמה הוי כמחמתן לטבריא

There are a few slight differences, but the only one I find of possible interest is that Rif has כמחמתן לטבריא והיינו מיל while our gemara has כמחמתן לטבריא מיל.

This statement can be interpreted in one of a few possible ways. One way is:
"until how far?
Rabbi Yirmiyah said: the same as the {convenient measurement of} the distance between Chamtan and Teveria. And this happens to be a mil."
If so, the question of why mention Chamtan and Teveria is a nice one. If there is a definite exact shiur of one mil, why bother to mention the cities?

Another way is:
"until how far?
Rabbi Yirmiyah said: Well, speaking from experience, we know of one such kerach which reads megillah on the 15th, and that is Teveriah, and we know that Chamtan also reads on the 15th because of it's proximity to Teveriah, following the rule laid out by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi. And they are about a mil apart. So, while we don't have an exact upper limit, we know at the least that it extends to one mil."
Indeed, we find out a bit later in the gemara that Teveriah was considered a kerach even though it was not a walled city, because of its natural defenses, and so they did read the megillah on the 15th. And applying Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's statement, they did so in Chamtan as well.

If so, the setama digmara's question is a bit harder to understand. Why mention Chamtan and Teveriah? This is the basis for his estimation of a mil, so it is natural for Rabbi Yirmiyah to have mentioned it.

However, the setama's reaction is: OK, you gave me a hard number, a concrete measure. Why bother to also give an example of two town's distance from another. Therefore, the setama understood it as still more definition of this hard number, this concrete measure. You might not know what a mil is, and so Rabbi Yirmiyah mentioned these two towns as a way of obtaining a hard number for this abstract concept of mil. That Teveriah happened to have read on the 15th is quite possibly beside the point.

This would then be a shift from an "organic" definition of this shiur to a more mathematical one. Or perhaps it is no shift at all, if we agree with the setama's interpretation of Rabbi Yirmiyahu's statement.

Indeed, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's formulation was also somewhat organic, such that it is somewhat surprising that it worked out to be exactly one mil. He had stated

כרך וכל הסמוך לו וכל הנראה עמו נידון ככרך

which means that the walled city, and all that adjoins it, and all that it seen with it {say, from a distance} is judged like the walled city. How fortuitous that this worked out to be exactly one mil! I wonder, though -- how come Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi did not simply say "one mil?!"

Rather, I believe this represents the paradigm shift mentioned above, from a natural definition to a concrete mathematical one. The natural definition could well be that anything that surrounds the city or can be seen with it is conceptually, within people's minds, considered part of the city. And therefore the halachic status would apply to those areas as well. The mathematical one of specifically one mil seems somewhat arbitrary, motivated by a desire to scientifically and systematically assign classifications, which would "ease" halachic determinations and thus actual practice. Similar to the way a kezayis was basically a kezayis, and everyone knew more or less what that was, whereas nowadays people measure matzah portions with a ruler or have books saying exactly how large of portion of each common food item constitutes a kezayis.

I found an interesting reference to this:

Chammath חמת In Talmud Babli, Megillah, 6a, it says, that Chammath is the same with Chamtan; and ibid. fol. 2 b, it says, "From Chamtan to Tiberias there is a distance of 1 mill." I presume this to be identical with the Emaus of Josephus, and that its situation was near the present hot spring of Tiberias; for although it is more than a mill from Tiberias, it must be observed that this is now situated farther to the north than it was in the time of the Talmud. I farther believe that Chammath is identical with the Levitical town of Naphtali חמת דאר Chammath Dor, literally "the hot springs from fire," (דאור=דאר*) in reference to the hot springs found there, of Joshua 21:32. In I Chron. 6:61, it is called: Chammon.

* This would require a Chaldee construction, in which the Daleth is the preposition "of the."—Translator.

I wonder if that town's location in Talmudic times is known with any precision, which would help with all this. I would guess (and this is just a guess) that the town was not exactly 1 mil away to the cubit and handbreadth, that it was a bit more or a bit less, and that would be acceptable. Perhaps it was exactly on mil. But if not, the alternative would be that this distance is definitional of a mil, and thus exactly this and no more would be considered part of the kerach for this purpose and perhaps for other halachic purposes as well. For example, 12 mil leInyan Shabbat.

Of course, all this is not halacha lemaaseh.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Esther Reference in "The Poisoned Apple"

I was reading various Arthurian legends in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur recently, and came across something that is quite plausibly an allusion to something from megillat Esther. In this story, Queen Guinevere throws a party and Sir Pinel attempts to poison Sir Gawain by poisoning several apples. Another knight eats a poisoned apple and dies, and the queen is suspected. She will be burnt if no knight rises to her defense and fights on her behalf. Meanwhile, she had sent away Sir Lancelot, and was under the impression that he was out of the country. She then appeals to Sir Bors, his relative, to save her life:
Alas, fair knight, said the queen, I put me wholly in your grace, and all that is done amiss I will amend as ye will counsel me. And therewith she kneeled down upon both her knees, and besought Sir Bors to have mercy upon her: Outher I shall have a shameful death, and thereto I never offended {=I am innocent}.

Right so came King Arthur, and found the queen kneeling afore Sir Bors; then Sir Bors pulled her up, and said: Madam, ye do me great dishonour. Ah, gentle knight, said the king, have mercy upon my queen, courteous knight, for I am now in certain she is untruly defamed.

Amusing Historical Perspectives On The Slifkin Controversy

Reading parshablog, it should be somewhat apparent that ideologically, I am more in the camp of Rabbi Slifkin (and though I disagree with him on certain points, have in certain aspects gone farther). Yet, at the same time, I am of the opinion that religious groups and even religious subgroups have historically set the boundaries of theological acceptability, and have the right to do so.

Dag brings to our attention an article in the Trusty Shovel Online, the latest salvo in this amusing controversy. It is titled "Why We Censor." And it appears to betray a certain amusing historical naivety.

In their argument of why it is necessary to ban Rabbi Slifkin's books, they cite none other than Ramchal, Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, from Mesillat Yesharim:

Yet the spirit of the Western world, in its media, in its science, in its art, in its politics, is a challenge to the authentic Torah spirit from the floor to the rafters.

Just pick up a Mesillas Yeshorim and consider the catalogue of things that the Ramchal lists as inimical to the very first step of the Path of the Righteous (Chapter 5), and it is clear that modern society has raised the difficulty of overcoming them to new heights: 1] Dealing with distractions and necessities of the world; 2] Laughter and ridicule; 3] Pressures of an evil society.

What is funny about this is that Ramchal was essentially the Slifkin of his day. His contemporaries banned his kabbalistic books, because he wrote them when very young -- he was a whippersnapper -- and because (he claimed) he wrote them under dictation from a maggid, an angel from heaven who taught him. They agreed not to burn the books but rather to lock them all up in an aron, so long as he agreed not to right any more such books. And Mesillat Yesharim was what he wrote when he was being held back from writing what he really wanted to write. Whether what they derive from Ramchal's writings is derivable or not, I wonder whether Ramchal would be forthright in supporting a ban on another Rabbi. Perhaps he would. But there is irony to their reference, since it is unlikely they are familiar with this history.

They conclude their article with:

Whoever wants to, is free to go it alone. He or she can plunge in to the treacherous waters of the modern world alone, and try to reach the truth heroically alone. It is a big task for an individual.

The rest of us will take shelter under the banner of gedolei Yisroel. As in the generation of Chanukah, so too in our generation — the gedolei veziknei hador cry out to us all: Mi laSheim eilai!

Whoever wants to reach Hashem should join them!

It is amusing that, if they are trying to avoid the label of kanaus, they would close with this slogan. They are probably trying to deliberately call to mind the idea of the Chashmonaim struggling against the Hellenic influence which took hold of many of their coreligionists.

Yet there is more to that reference. When did Mattisyahu shout this out? The Greek soldiers wanted to make them sacrifice a pig. When one fellow Jew volunteered, Matisyahu killed this Jew and shouted "Mi La-Hashem Eilay," "whoever is for Hashem, rally to me!"

Nor did he come up with this on his own. This was a deliberate reference to Moshe's shouting of the phrase in response to the sacrificing to the Golden Calf. Those who rallied to Moshe, such as the Leviim, slew many of their relatives and members of other tribes who worshipped the calf.

Thus, the implication is not just to rally to one position in order to stay true to religious beliefs (it certainly carries that connotation as well), but also that of threatening those who disagree with your religious beliefs. That this is the close of the article, and the beginning of the article reads (emphasis mine):

". . . Life and death I have put before you, and blessing and curse. And you should choose life so that you and your descendants will live" (Devorim 30:19).

Is it wrong to add: "Don't choose death"?

it almost appears like a call to jihad, and smacks of kanaus. It is highly unlikely they mean it so, to this extent, but then this historical cluelessness amuses me.

Update: Then again, as Eliyahu pointed out to me, it would be unlikely for them to read I Maccabees chapter 2, as seforim chitzonim (and thus another book not to read):

15: Then the king's officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to make them offer sacrifice.
16: Many from Israel came to them; and Mattathias and his sons were assembled.
17: Then the king's officers spoke to Mattathias as follows: "You are a leader, honored and great in this city, and supported by sons and brothers.
18: Now be the first to come and do what the king commands, as all the Gentiles and the men of Judah and those that are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons will be numbered among the friends of the king, and you and your sons will be honored with silver and gold and many gifts."
19: But Mattathias answered and said in a loud voice: "Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers,
20: yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers.
21: Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances.
22: We will not obey the king's words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left."
23: When he had finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice upon the altar in Modein, according to the king's command.
24: When Mattathias saw it, be burned with zeal and his heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger; he ran and killed him upon the altar.
25: At the same time he killed the king's officer who was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar.
26: Thus he burned with zeal for the law, as Phinehas did against Zimri the son of Salu.
27: Then Mattathias cried out in the city with a loud voice, saying: "Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!"
28: And he and his sons fled to the hills and left all that they had in the city.
29: Then many who were seeking righteousness and justice went down to the wilderness to dwell there,
30: they, their sons, their wives, and their cattle, because evils pressed heavily upon them.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Are Onomatopoeias Related To The Actual Animal Sounds? (Woof-woof vs. Hav-hav)

I've heard this said more than once -- that onomatopoeias are only tenuously related to the underlying sound. Proof of this is given by examples such as English "bow-wow" vs. Hebrew "hav-hav," and English "cock-a-doodle-doo" vs. Hebrew "coo-koo-ri-koo."

Indeed, Wikipedia repeats this assertion:
"Sometimes onomatopoeic words can seem to have a tenuous relationship with the object they describe. Native speakers of a given language might never question the relationship; however, because words for the same basic sound can differ considerably between languages, non-native speakers might be confused by the idiomatic words of another language. For example, the sound a dog makes is bow-wow (or woof-woof) in English, wau-wau in German, ouah-ouah in French, gaf-gaf in Russian, hav-hav in Hebrew, wan-wan in Japanese and hau-hau in Finnish."
I would argue that in fact that is not evidence of a tenuous relationship. Rather, the cross-language similarity of these onomatopoeias is evidence that they do in fact represent the underlying sounds.

What, then, to make of the differences?

We need to realize that animals, rivers, and hammers do not "speak" the same way that humans in their proximity speak. They make sounds, which humans parse. However, while human speech can be divided into phonemes, animal sounds cannot generally be divided into those same phonemes.

A parallel could be drawn to the way Hebrew and Aramaic developed daled and zayin in opposition. That is, in some words, both Hebrew and Aramaic have zayin. In some words, both Hebrew and Aramaic have daled. But in some words, Hebrew has zayin while Aramaic has daled. For example, Hebrew zu vs. Aramaic di, Hebrew zahav vs. Aramaic dehav. The cause for this, one prominent suggestion goes, is that Proto-Canaanite had three letters, zayin, daled, and some in-between letter that sounded like the /th/ in "either." When they adopted the Assyrian alphabet, there were only the symbols for daled and zayin. What, then, to do with this additional letter? Hebrew mapped it to the zayin while Aramaic chose to map it to the letter daled. (The same is true for other distinctions between Aramaic and Hebrew, such as the tav/shin switch-off.)

Does this mean that the Hebrew zahav or the Aramaic dehav have only a tenuous connection to the original word as pronounced? No. Rather, given a limited orthographic inventory, each language chose to map it to a letter that approximated the sound.

Similarly, language speakers have a limited phonemic inventory, a set of sounds they make when pronouncing the language. When one maps a sound outside of that phonemic inventory to something within the phonemic inventory, of course he makes an approximation. No one says that a dog says "bow-wow" in exactly the same way that a human does. It is an approximation of the sound.

And, just as different languages approximated the /th/ sound to different letters, on occasion different languages approximated the sounds in a dog's bark using different phonemes.

Furthermore, speakers of different languages have different phonemic inventories. Speakers of certain Asian languages do not distinguish between the /l/ and the /r/. The Hebrew resh rolls, whereas the English "r" is a hard r. Modern Hebrew does not have a "w" as a consonant.

Can we then complain that Hebrew does not have the dogs say "woof-woof" if there is no "w" in Hebrew? Instead, it maps that sound to a heh.

Alright, hav-hav is actually a fairly old onomatopoeia, and perhaps back then they actually did pronounce a vav as a "w." Still, who says that the first sound is strictly either an /h/ or a /w/? Perhaps it is something in between, just as some people pronounce both the /w/ and the /h/ in words such as "when" (and which in Old English was hwenne, with the h first). Perhaps different languages picked up different aspects of the sounds being produced.

Different features might influence the particular choice. For example, /f/ and /v/ are related, the former being unvoiced and the latter voiced. /v/ is related to /b/, one being fricative and the latter being plosive. Perhaps at the beginning of a sound, to try to approximate the sudden explosion, some languages might lean towards the plosive over the fricative. And the examples given above showing these distinctions between languages are misleading, a) because the differences are either due to different spelling rules of sounds, or b) because the phoneme corresponding to that letter (grapheme) in that language is not the same as it would be in English, and thus the phonemic difference is much less. For example, German "w" sounds like English "v."

Particular meanings within these languages might slightly shift the pronunciation within the language. Thus, hav-hav means "give, give" in Aramaic (from יהב) and a cock, or rooster, says "cock-a-doodle-doo."

Friday, February 09, 2007

Daf Yomi: Megillah - A Great Place To Join

because Purim is coming up, and so it is great preparation.

Here is an interesting phenomenon to investigate. Kefar in the Mishna means village, in which one would go early on the day of assembly to the nearby city. Meanwhile, Ayarot Gedolot and Kerachin are large cities and cities. Kerachin only appears modified by haMukafin Choma, thus walled cities, and thus stands opposed to Ayarot Gedolot.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, at least the way he is usually interpreted, appears to use these terms differently. For him, a Kerach, even unmodified, means a walled city. Opposed to that is a Kefar, which is judged an city, rather than village as it meant in the Mishna.

For example:

וא"ר יהושע בן לוי כרך שישב ואח"כ הוקף נידון ככפר מ"ט ואיש כי ימכור בית מושב עיר חומה מושב שהוקף ולבסוף ישב ולא שישב ולבסוף הוקף

I have a solution in mind, but it requires a reinterpretation. Maybe more elaboration after Shabbat.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why Is Hallel HaGadol Called The Great Hallel?

I think I just discovered why. In the very beginning of the megillah (whose masechta we will be starting tomorrow), we hear about the impressive span of the countries over which King Achashverosh rules:

א וַיְהִי, בִּימֵי אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ: הוּא אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, הַמֹּלֵךְ מֵהֹדּוּ וְעַד-כּוּשׁ--שֶׁבַע וְעֶשְׂרִים וּמֵאָה, מְדִינָה. 1 Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus--this is Ahasuerus who reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over a hundred and seven and twenty provinces--
Apparently, Hallel haGadol has a similarly impressive span:

On Rif Taanit 9a {going on Taanit 26a}
ואיזהו הלל הגדול רב יהודה אמר מהודו עד על נהרות בבל
וקיימא לן כוותיה

And what is the Great Hallel? Rav Yehuda said: From Hodu {Tehillim 136}:
א הוֹדוּ לַה כִּי-טוֹב: כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ. 1 O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever.
until "Al Naharot Bavel" {Tehillim 137}
א עַל נַהֲרוֹת, בָּבֶל--שָׁם יָשַׁבְנוּ, גַּם-בָּכִינוּ: בְּזָכְרֵנוּ, אֶת-צִיּוֹן. 1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
{presumably only chapter 136}
And we establish like him.
It is not meHodu veAd Kush, from India to Ethiopia but rather meHodu veAd Al Naharot Bavel, until the banks of the rivers of Babylon.


parshat Yisro: How Is Yisro Related To Moshe?

I've covered this issue on parshablog in the past. Yisro is Choten Moshe. Yet Re'uel is given as the father of Tzipporah? (Also, who is Chovav who is also Choten Moshe?) And there are various answers possible. Yisro = Re'uel; Re'uel is the grandfather; Yisro is the brother-in-law, and that is also called choten.

I had a somewhat strange thought, but wanted to preserve it for posterity. Assume that choten means male relative related by marriage -- thus, male in-law. We need to say something akin to this for choten to mean brother-in-law.

If so, how is Moshe related to Yisro? Simple. Yisro married Moshe's ex-wife and adopted his two children. This is a possible straightforward reading of a pasuk that sets out to tell us their relationship. From the beginning of parshat Yitro:

א וַיִּשְׁמַע יִתְרוֹ כֹהֵן מִדְיָן, חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה, אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה אֱלֹהִים לְמֹשֶׁה, וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵל עַמּוֹ: כִּי-הוֹצִיא יְהוָה אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מִמִּצְרָיִם. 1 Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel His people, how that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt.
ב וַיִּקַּח, יִתְרוֹ חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-צִפֹּרָה, אֵשֶׁת מֹשֶׁה--אַחַר, שִׁלּוּחֶיהָ. 2 And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her away,
ג וְאֵת, שְׁנֵי בָנֶיהָ: אֲשֶׁר שֵׁם הָאֶחָד, גֵּרְשֹׁם--כִּי אָמַר, גֵּר הָיִיתִי בְּאֶרֶץ נָכְרִיָּה. 3 and her two sons; of whom the name of the one was Gershom; for he said: 'I have been a stranger in a strange land';
ד וְשֵׁם הָאֶחָד, אֱלִיעֶזֶר--כִּי-אֱלֹהֵי אָבִי בְּעֶזְרִי, וַיַּצִּלֵנִי מֵחֶרֶב פַּרְעֹה. 4 and the name of the other was Eliezer: 'for the God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.'
ה וַיָּבֹא יִתְרוֹ חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה, וּבָנָיו וְאִשְׁתּוֹ--אֶל-מֹשֶׁה: אֶל-הַמִּדְבָּר, אֲשֶׁר-הוּא חֹנֶה שָׁם--הַר הָאֱלֹהִים. 5 And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness where he was encamped, at the mount of God;
ו וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֲנִי חֹתֶנְךָ יִתְרוֹ, בָּא אֵלֶיךָ; וְאִשְׁתְּךָ--וּשְׁנֵי בָנֶיהָ, עִמָּהּ. 6 and he said unto Moses: 'I thy father-in-law Jethro am coming unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her.'
That is, after saying that Yitro was choten Moshe, the next pasuk defines this relationship and declares:
וַיִּקַּח, יִתְרוֹ חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-צִפֹּרָה, אֵשֶׁת מֹשֶׁה--אַחַר, שִׁלּוּחֶיהָ

What is meant by שִׁלּוּחֶיהָ and what is meant by וַיִּקַּח? We find both terms used, to define marriage and divorce, in parshat Ki Teitzei, Devarim 24:1:
א כִּי-יִקַּח אִישׁ אִשָּׁה, וּבְעָלָהּ; וְהָיָה אִם-לֹא תִמְצָא-חֵן בְּעֵינָיו, כִּי-מָצָא בָהּ עֶרְוַת דָּבָר--וְכָתַב לָהּ סֵפֶר כְּרִיתֻת וְנָתַן בְּיָדָהּ, וְשִׁלְּחָהּ מִבֵּיתוֹ. 1 When a man taketh a wife, and marrieth her, then it cometh to pass, if she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he writeth her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house,
ב וְיָצְאָה, מִבֵּיתוֹ; וְהָלְכָה, וְהָיְתָה לְאִישׁ-אַחֵר. 2 and she departeth out of his house, and goeth and becometh another man's wife,
There, כִּי-יִקַּח אִישׁ אִשָּׁה means that a man takes a wife, meaning that he marries her. In the end, he sends her away, וְשִׁלְּחָהּ מִבֵּיתוֹ, divorcing her. In such a case, someone else can take her.

Perhaps, then, this pasuk in Yisro is stating that after Moshe divorced Tzipporah, Yisro took her as a wife.

This would also clarify a co-indexation issue, in which the pasuk appears ambiguous and, I've always though, multivalent.

ה וַיָּבֹא יִתְרוֹ חֹתֵן מֹשֶׁה, וּבָנָיו וְאִשְׁתּוֹ--אֶל-מֹשֶׁה: אֶל-הַמִּדְבָּר, אֲשֶׁר-הוּא חֹנֶה שָׁם--הַר הָאֱלֹהִים. 5 And Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness where he was encamped, at the mount of God;
To whom does the pronoun refer in וּבָנָיו וְאִשְׁתּוֹ. "his sons and his wife." One straightforwarding reading would be Yitro's sons and Yitro's wife, meaning that he went there to stay. An only-slightly less straightforward reading, which makes a lot more sense in context, is that it refers to Moshe's sons and Moshe's wife. After all, in the next pasuk , Yitro announces them:

ו וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֲנִי חֹתֶנְךָ יִתְרוֹ, בָּא אֵלֶיךָ; וְאִשְׁתְּךָ--וּשְׁנֵי בָנֶיהָ, עִמָּהּ. 6 and he said unto Moses: 'I thy father-in-law Jethro am coming unto thee, and thy wife, and her two sons with her.'
such that the wife is Moshe's and the sons are hers (and thus also Moshe's). The sudden shift in pronoun makes it all clear.

However, now we can claim that this was multivalent, and it implies both Yitro's wife and sons and Moshe's wife and sons, who are the same people. The sons would be adopted sons. And Yitro is perhaps renouncing claim to them all, saying that Moshe can take them back if he wishes. Or perhaps he is just stressing their historical connection to Moshe.

We do not know that Tzipporah stayed when Yitro left. Perhaps she went with Yitro. But if Moshe took her back, then it would be a violation of the laws in Devarim just cited:

ד לֹא-יוּכַל בַּעְלָהּ הָרִאשׁוֹן אֲשֶׁר-שִׁלְּחָהּ לָשׁוּב לְקַחְתָּהּ לִהְיוֹת לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה, אַחֲרֵי אֲשֶׁר הֻטַּמָּאָה--כִּי-תוֹעֵבָה הִוא, לִפְנֵי ה; וְלֹא תַחֲטִיא, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה. {ס} 4 her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD; and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
One might posit that this was just before Matan Torah, and so this Torah law did not yet apply. Or else this could be the cause of Miriam and Aaron's complaint about Moshe, as understood midrashically.

Another major problem - well before this, Yitro (and Yeter) is referred to as choten Moshe! We might be able to answer that this is a retrojection. Since he would eventually be choten Moshe, it mentions it even earlier, in anticipation.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Handwriting Analysis of Rav Kaduri's Note

To those following a link to this post. Please note: I think that Rav Kaduri was NOT talking about Jesus. And it is not acceptable Jewish belief to belief that Jesus was the messiah, for too many reasons to spell out here. This post just shows what I think is proof that he was writing about someone named Yehoshua. (And one of his close spokesmen is named Yehoshua.) But Yehoshua does NOT have to mean Jesus, as much as Christians may want it to. And if Rav Kaduri did mean Jesus, this would just mean that he was either (1) crazy in his old age, and/or (2) a closet heretic, and not someone who should be a role model for other Jews.

A short time ago, Mystical Paths posted this handwritten note from Rav Kaduri, which seems very problematic given that it identifies the name of Mashiach as Yehoshua, which is thus similar or identical with the name Jesus. Not that I personally take the note seriously, except possibly in the same way an amulet from Rav Yonatan Eibeshetz might prove that he was a closet Sabbatean (though not even that - Yehoshua carries the connotation of redeem).

As Mystical Paths noted:

"The note reads:

בעניין הר"ת [ראשי תיבות, ע.י.] של משיח. ירים העם ויוכיח שדברו ותורתו עומדים. באתי על החתום בחודש הרחמים [אלול, ע.י] התשס"ה, יצחק כדורי"
Subsequently, Mystical Paths posted on the main page some feedback from a commenter, which reads:
"Too bad you posted this nonsense.

First, the note says ד"ת and not ר"ת. It's Divery Torah and NOT Rashey Tevot (this is also the context of his note).

Second, the so called "Vav" before "Torato" as it is very easy to notice, is forged. All "Vav"s in the note appear as single line, while this "Vav" is made with two lines (in order to create the initials Yehoshua). Also "Divrey Vetorato" has no meaning in Hebrew. Only "Divrey Torato" has a meaning.

Third, give me a break, if the Rav wanted to say the name of Moshiach he wouldn't say: "hey, see the initials of this sentence". Oh, what a big secret...."

I think this commenter is simply incorrect. Let us analyze this, point by point.

1) The note says ד"ת and not ר"ת, and thus it is Divrei Torah and not Roshei Teivot.

Response: It is funny that this dispute is whether the roshei teivot spell roshei teivot or not. Heh.

But what makes the commenter think this is so? Presumably, that the horizontal line goes back a bit to the right from the vertical line, thus making it "obviously" a daled rather than a resh.

The problem with this? That line is thicker than the rest, showing that he went back over it for some reason, perhaps that it was somewhat squiggly initially. The carrying over to the right of the vertical line was an accidental artifact of this rewriting of the line.

Do all of Rav Kaduri's daleds have a portion of the horizontal line to the right of the vertical line? Not really. Rather, it seems that the general distinction between a resh and a daled in this note is that the daled's horizontal stroke dips down and comes up, while a resh only is a dip down or else is circular, looping up.

This, for resh: the horizontal stroke of the resh in ירים just goes diagonally down, in שדברו it loops, in הרחמים it loops.

For daled: the horizontal stroke of the daled in שדברו goes down and then back up. In עומדים I would argue it does as well (thus is a bit thicker and thus higher to the left). In בחודש this dip down and up is clear. In כדורי the dip down and up is also clear.

Looking back now at ר"ת vs. ד"ת, it looks like the resh was initially rounded, needed some clarification and he fixed it by going over it, making a horizontal stroke descending diagonally but not dipping back up. And we have precedent for Rav Kaduri making this type of resh in the word ירים.

Thus, it is clear that it is a resh and not a daled as the commenter suggests.

The next point:

2) The vav in ותורתו is obviously forged, because it is made of two strokes rather than one.

Response: When people write, they sometimes use different forms of the same letter. This is already apparent from Rav Kaduri's use of two forms of resh, one in ירים with a single line descending diagonally and one in הרחמים which loops. The same is true for some of his חs. Look at his mem sofits - in עומדים it is rounded while in הרחמים it is diamond-shaped.

What about his vavs? Most of the time he uses a single vertical stroke, based on Hebrew cursive. But sometimes he uses two strokes corresponding to block letters. Thus, look at כדורי in his signature. There is a slight horizontal stroke there. Similarly, if we interpret the last letter in the word שדברו as a vav (as Mystical Paths does) rather than as a yud (as his commenter does), then this vav clearly has two strokes rather than one.

Indeed, the yuds would bear this out as well. The yuds in ירים and ויוכיח have two strokes, while in באתי and הרחמים they have one.

Thus, I would not conclude that the vav is a forgery.

The next point:

3) Divrei VeTorato has no meaning in Hebrew. Only Divrei Torato has meaning. This would prove that the vav in the beginning of veTorato was added by a later hand.

Response: The question is really what the last letter of the word דברו is. Mystical Paths understood it as a vav, while his commenter understood it as a yud (and thus דברי).

I would note the squashed nature of this particular word, and conclude that it is a squashed vav, which thus appears yud-like. Then, the phrase makes perfect sense.

Also, why assume someone would forge this? One should be wary of claiming a ziyyuf when the contents are controversial, for this is an all too tempting approach which enables avoidance.

Finally, the last point:
4) Why make it the roshei teivot, as if to hide it, when it is then so easy to decipher? It thus could not be "roshei teivot!"

It seems that the commenter is unfamiliar with kabbalistic practices. Coding in Roshei Teivot of pesukim, together with atbash and albam encoding, is standard kabbalistic practice, for example in amulets. And here, he gets to send an additional message together with the roshei teivot, with meaning besides just the name.

It is thus not strange at all.

Thus, I would conclude that the text of the note is exactly as Mystical Paths reported it.


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