Thursday, December 13, 2007

Daf Yomi Ketubot 102b: When Did The Heirs Slaughter the Son?

From Ketubot 102, translation from my Rif blog:
לא יאמר הראשון כשתבא אצלי אזונה
אמר רב חסדא זאת אומרת בת אצל האם לא שנא גדולה ולא שנא קטנה
תניא מי שמת והניח בן קטן יורשי האב אומרים יהא גדל אצלנו והיא אומרת [יהא] גדל אצלי אין מניחין [אותו] אצל מי שראוי ליורשו מעשה היה ושחטוהו ער"ה
"The first husband is not entitled to plead, 'when she comes to me I will give her maintenance'":
Rav Chisda said: This says that the daughter must be living with her mother, with no difference whether she is an adult of a minor.
They learnt {in a brayta}: One who died and left a minor son, the heirs of the father say 'let him grow up with us,' and she says 'let him grow up with me,' we do not place him with anyone entitled to be an heir. There was an incident and they slaughtered him on erev Rosh haShana! {Note that after posting this on parsha blog, I changed my translation to match that of masoret haShas.}
It is strange that they would specifically slaughter him on Rosh haShana. To what end, specifically on that date?!

Soncino has an interesting, and true comment, about how this passage has been used to bolster the blood libel:
In order to secure his property. Now since there is nothing to prove that an older daughter (who is well capable of looking after herself) must also be maintained at her mother's house and cannot be compelled to live with the brothers and receive maintenance from them, an objection arises against R. Hisda. [Detractors of the Talmud, it may be mentioned, professed to find in this passage an allusion to the 'ritual' murder of 'Christian' children! The absurdity of this suggestion was pointed out by Eric Bischoff in his Talmudkatechismus, p. 38, where he describes it as 'sinnlos' (senseless). It is evident that this incident was recorded to emphasize the danger of entrusting a child to the care of one who stands to benefit by its death. For we see here that even the sanctity of the Festival did not deter the brothers from perpetrating a crime for the purpose of gain. This danger has also been recognized in the English Law of Insurance which lays down that a man cannot insure his child's life to derive a benefit on its death].
Note that despite the fact that our gemara has ער"ה (which I might plausibly expand to Erev Rosh Hashana), Soncino translates "Such a case once occurred and [the heirs] killed him on the eve of passover!" With such a girsa, one can see how it could be easy fodder for people trying to falsely accuse Jews of ritual murder. And invoking Pesach makes a bit more sense that Rosh haShana, at least, for slaughter in context here, since there is the typical slaughter of the pascal lamb.

Why this exchange between the Pesach and Rosh haShanah? Perhaps because Pesach made more sense for shechita? Or perhaps, in the other direction, there were blood libels arising from the reference to Passover, and so a scribe changed it to erev Rosh haShana, to prevent bloodshed from people attacking Jews, while maintaining the fact that it was a Jewish festival.

Masoret haShas has a an illuminating comment. First, Rabbi Yehoshua Boaz (16th century) writes that the printers made an error here, and it was really erev haRishon, meaning that the very first night the son came to live with them, the heirs killed him. This makes a lot more sense in context. But there were roshei teivot, and the printers made an error, to something which makes no sense in context.

(I would say that perhaps those letters were עה"ר, and the printers transposed them to ער"ה, which makes no sense in the context. But see what I write later.)

Also in masores hashas, in square brackets, Rabbi Yeshayahu Pick notes that there are other printed editions which have Passover.

Thus, the development might have been erev haRishon to erev Rosh haShanah to erev haPesach. (Or directly from erev haRishon to erev haPesach.)

It would be nice to see Kitvei Yad on this. Two I found: Ktav Yad Vatikan, Ebr 113, has erev Pesach. See the very last line, in the picture to the right.

Similarly, in Ktav Yad Vatikan, Ebr 130, we have the same. See the picture to the left, the first words on the third line.

Thus, it is understandable that Soncino selects erev haPesach as his girsa, as it is based on other printings and has basis in manuscript evidence.

Note the fact that this is just one small selection of manuscripts that I was able to look at online.

However, these particular manuscript are one piece of evidence. We can also make use of how Rishonim cite the gemara. In Tosafot Rid, he says ע"ה, without the ר. Both with and without the resh, it is understandable as erev haRishon. It is quite a stretch, in my humble opinion, that a scribe would take erev haPesach and make it into ע"ה or ע"רה, which makes the erev part clear (the first letter or first two letters), but only present the ה, the definite article, from the second word. How in the world did the scribe expect the reader to make sense of which holiday it was. It it was erev Rosh Hashana, then the ער"ה makes sense, since the ע (rather than ע"ר) stands for erev and the ר"ה stands for Rosh haShana. But, the presence of ע"ה without the resh in Tosafot Rid tells me that it could not be erev rosh hashana, at least in the manuscript before him, because the scribe would be omitting the rosh of rosh hashana.

Furthermore, I have seen nothing with erev rosh hashana spelled out in full, so this is quite likel a red herring I have introduced myself.

If we look in Rosh (1250-1328), he explicitly has erev haRishon. Thus, we see much earlier than masoret hashas that there was this reading of the gemara. Thus, together, I believe that Rosh and Tosafot Rid are sufficient to establish that this was the original reading, as put forth by Rabbi Yehoshua Boaz.

As an aside, it thus has nothing to do with Passover, and thus provides no bolster to the blood libel, even without the insightful comment in Soncino.


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