Sunday, October 22, 2017

Noach vs. Gilgamesh: YKVK and Elokim, Ea and the gods

A quick contrast from the Epic of Gilgamesh to the story of Noach.

In Gilgamesh, there are two parties, namely the council of Great Gods (=HaElohim) who move to destroy the earth via a flood, and Ea (=YKVK ? Ehkeh asher Ehkeh? ), who elsewhere was the creator of humankind, while part of this group and bound by the secret, nevertheless employs a strategem to pass on the news to his servant Utnahpishtim.

The hearts of the Great Gods moved them to inflict the Flood.
Their Father Anu uttered the oath (of secrecy),
Valiant Enlil was their Adviser,
Ninurta was their Chamberlain,
Ennugi was their Minister of Canals.
Ea, the Clever Prince(?), was under oath with them
so he repeated their talk to the reed house:
'Reed house, reed house! Wall, wall!
O man of Shuruppak, son of Ubartutu:
Tear down the house and build a boat!
Abandon wealth and seek living beings!
Spurn possessions and keep alive living beings!
Make all living beings go up into the boat.
The boat which you are to build,
its dimensions must measure equal to each other:
its length must correspond to its width.
Roof it over like the Apsu.
I understood and spoke to my lord, Ea:

Meanwhile, in the Torah, it is Hashem described both as YKVK and as HaElokim who decide to bring the flood. In perek 6:

ז  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶמְחֶה אֶת-הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר-בָּרָאתִי מֵעַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, מֵאָדָם עַד-בְּהֵמָה, עַד-רֶמֶשׂ וְעַד-עוֹף הַשָּׁמָיִם:  כִּי נִחַמְתִּי, כִּי עֲשִׂיתִם.7 And the LORD said: 'I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and creeping thing, and fowl of the air; for it repenteth Me that I have made them.'


יא  וַתִּשָּׁחֵת הָאָרֶץ, לִפְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים; וַתִּמָּלֵא הָאָרֶץ, חָמָס.11 And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.
יב  וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, וְהִנֵּה נִשְׁחָתָה:  כִּי-הִשְׁחִית כָּל-בָּשָׂר אֶת-דַּרְכּוֹ, עַל-הָאָרֶץ.  {ס}12 And God saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. {S}

And it is both YKVK and Elokim who inform Noach in order to spare him:

ח  וְנֹחַ, מָצָא חֵן בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה.  {פ}8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. {P}


יג  וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים לְנֹחַ, קֵץ כָּל-בָּשָׂר בָּא לְפָנַי--כִּי-מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ חָמָס, מִפְּנֵיהֶם; וְהִנְנִי מַשְׁחִיתָם, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ.13 And God said unto Noah: 'The end of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
יד  עֲשֵׂה לְךָ תֵּבַת עֲצֵי-גֹפֶר, קִנִּים תַּעֲשֶׂה אֶת-הַתֵּבָה; וְכָפַרְתָּ אֹתָהּ מִבַּיִת וּמִחוּץ, בַּכֹּפֶר.14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; with rooms shalt thou make the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

Then, in perek 7:

א  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה לְנֹחַ, בֹּא-אַתָּה וְכָל-בֵּיתְךָ אֶל-הַתֵּבָה:  כִּי-אֹתְךָ רָאִיתִי צַדִּיק לְפָנַי, בַּדּוֹר הַזֶּה.1 And the LORD said unto Noah: 'Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation.

In a monotheistic religion, the good and the bad both come from the one, all-powerful God.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Women were created in the image of God

It is a bit unbelievable that there should even be a reason to write this.

The pasuk in last week's parasha, Bereishit, makes this fairly clear:

כז  וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ, בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ:  זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בָּרָא אֹתָם.27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.

That is,

וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ - "and God created humankind [man in the sense of humanity] in His own image."

בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ - "in the image of God he created it [meaning the species, which is referred to in the masculine singular]

זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בָּרָא אֹתָם - "creating them male and female" [referring to the same encompassing act of creation, encompassing both male and female, now in the masculine = neutral plural because the referents are two items, male and female]

Meanwhile, the author of the Daas Torah blog, who encourages get refusal and who says awful things about Gedolim who would help out agunos, unsurprisingly latches on to one Rishon and one Acharon in order to assert that not only are only men created in the image of God but that only men are human (bold emphasis my own).
We are all familiar with Bereishis (1:27): And G-d created the Man in His Image. In the image of G-d He created him. Male and female He created them. 

It seems from this verse that only Adam was created in the image of G-d and not Eve. This implies that only Adam was human and not Eve and by extension that only males are human and not females. I am going to explore this question - to see where it goes and the implications for male-female relationships as well as society as a whole.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sanhedrin 60: throwing stones at Markulis

In today's daf (Sanhedrin 60), in the Mishnah, we see kissing and hugging as a form of idol worship, and throwing stones at Mercury as a form of idol worship.
There is a famous Ibn Ezra on Daniel (link) that speaks of Muslim practice. He writes, in part:
"ויש לתמוה מחכמי צדוקים שפירשו זה לעתיד, ואמרו: כי המקדש היא מיכ"א שיחוגו עליה הישמעאלים והסירו התמיד, החמש תפילות ונתנו השיקוץ עכו"ם ואלו התועים, איך יתכן שיקרא מקדש רק ירושלים לבדה, וככה שמה בלשון ישמעאל בית ואיך הוא מיכ"א קדש, והלא פקחו אלה העורים את עיניהם וראו כי יש במיכ"א שיקוץ עד היום והלא מרקוליס שאליו יחוגו כל ישמעאל ממזרח וממערב לזרוק אבנים שם, ואלה המפרשים חללו המקדש.
ועוד: אם היה אלה עכו"ם אין תשובה ממרקוליס, כי זה ידעוהו אבותיו ולא סרו אנשי מיכ"א למשמעתו, עד שנשבע להם שלא יסיר עבודת מרקוליס, ואין צורך להאריך."
"One is surprised by Sadducee sages who interpreted this as referring to the future. They said that the sanctuary is Mecca, around which the Ishmaelites circle. and they put aside the daily sacrifice the five prayers (the Salat). and they set up the abomination, idolatry. And they are the mistaken. As is it may be that miqdash/sanctuary refers to Jerusalem alone. Thus it is that in the Ishmaelite language its name is “house”(al-ka’aba). And how is it that Mecca is sacred? Didn’t those blind ones open their eyes and see that in Mecca there is an abomination to this day? Is it not Mercury, around which all Ishmaelites, from east and west, circle to throw stones? And these interpreters have desecrated the sanctuary.
And further, if it was a pagan god, the answer is not Mercury, because his fathers knew him and the men of Mecca did not turn to obedience to him till he swore to them that he would not put aside the service to Mercury. And there is no need to expand."
Ibn Ezra is referring to the stoning of the devil (link):
"The Stoning of the Devil (Arabic: رمي الجمرات‎‎ ramī al-jamarāt, lit. "stoning of the jamarāt [place of pebbles]")[1][2][3] is part of the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. During the ritual, Muslim pilgrims throw pebbles at three walls (formerly pillars), called jamarāt, in the city of Mina just east of Mecca. It is one of a series of ritual acts that must be performed in the Hajj. It is a symbolic reenactment of Abraham's hajj, where he stoned three pillars representing the temptation to disobey God and preserve Ishmael."
One could also add the kissing worship of the black stone, (link):
"Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba as a part of the tawaf ritual during the hajj and many try to stop and kiss the Black Stone, emulating the kiss that Islamic tradition records that it received from Muhammad."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sanhedrin 11: Where does Rav Pappa's statement end?

At the bottom of Sanhedrin 11a going on to the top of Sanhedrin 11b:

אמר רב פפא זרצו חדש רצו שלשים יום
 תא חזי מאי איכא בין תקיפאי קדמאי לעינוותני בתראי

This is typically understood, within the flow of the gemara, as two separate statements. That is, first Rav Pappa resolves a seeming contradiction within Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel as to whether they wait a month (29 days) or thirty days, and he says that it is up to them. Then, the setama degamara transitions to a new topic, contrasting the behavior of the earlier, purportedly arrogant Rabban Gamliel (who yet said that he and his colleagues saw fit to declare) and the later, purportedly humble Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel (who said he saw fit by himself to declare). And the answer of the setama degemara is that דילמא בתר דעברוהו, perhaps it was after they had removed him (Rabban Gamliel) from office.

I would suggest that we read both of the above quoted statement as a single continuous statement from Rav Pappa. Rather than תקיפאי meaning powerful / arrogant, let it refer to the tekufa, the solar-based season. After all, one of the reasons for declaring an extra month is על התקופה. And קדמאי refers to relative earliness between the solar and lunar calendar. Further, rather than עינוותני meaning humble, let it refer to lunar time (an onah), and have בתראי refer to relative lateness.

That is, Rav Pappa is saying that we already have computed calendars and know how much it would be appropriate to correct to get them in sync, so use that number of days.

This does not seem to work with what follows. What would be the question from that brayta regarding Rabban Gamliel? (The question, we should note, is not made explicit.)  The answer certainly seems to speak to Rabban Gamliel's stature, of lack thereof, where it says

דילמא בתר דעברוהו

However, note the root עבר in the word דעברוהו. Sure, it means that he was removed from office. But isn't it odd that the topic under discussion here is עיבור השנה? Perhaps we can (poorly, as I am grasping here) reframe the question as why he used various seasonal signs rather than the calculation, or why he phrased something some way in his message. And the answer is that perhaps this was after he or they had already intercalated the year.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Do the rich need to pay for the healthcare of the poor?

In a recent Huffington Post article, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz criticized the Republican health care plan and puts forth what he asserts is the Jewish perspective.
Today, Senate Republicans unveiled their so-called healthcare plan—the Better Care Reconciliation Act—conceived in secret and designed to deprive millions of people access to affordable health care, while cynically giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. These Senate Republicans, who so-often like to flaunt their spiritual credentials, would do well to remember the obligation to pay for the cure of a person who has a life-threatening illness: “From the straightforward reading of Sanhedrin 73a, we see that one is obligated to do everything to save him, and if not, one transgresses the negative commandment: ‘Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor’” (R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Minchat Shlomo, V.2, 86:4).

Personally, I am not entirely convinced that Rav Auerbach is correct, that the obligation mentioned in Sanhedrin 73a of hiring others to save, in cases of external acute threat to life (such as drowning, mauled by beasts, attacked by robbers), would extend even to internal and chronic conditions*.  Or that Rav Auerbach's position is widely accepted.

Regardless, I always encourage people to look up the sources, because people on the religious or political right or left -- that is, a lot of authors out there -- can be tempted to take sources out of context. Here is what Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach actually writes:

"4: The obligation regarding expending money to save a sick person:
Regarding the obligation to finance the costs to save the life of a dangerously ill person, from the straightforward reading of the gemara in Sanhedrin 73a we see that he is obligated to do everything to save him, and if not, he violates the prohibition of 'Do not stand idly over the blood of your fellow. (In my humble opinion, it is obvious that the sick person himself is obligated afterwards to repay him.)  
And if it be said that upon this prohibition, which requires an action, there is no obligation to despoil all his wealth, still, a tenth or fifth he is still obligated. And in this particular case, it seems more logical that this prohibition is much more severe, and indeed he should be required to despoil all his wealth..."

And it continues, but I am going to stop here.

Since Rav Auerbach writes that obviously the sick person must pay back, the idea seems to be that if these medical expenditures are holding up the procedure, that the wealthy (or really, anyone who can provide the money) must provide it to save the life. But that does not mean that the poor sick person is not on the hook for the expense. Rather, 'it is obvious that the sick person himself is obligated afterwards to repay him'.

Therefore, I am not sure that this would be a convincing argument to those wicked corrupt Senate Republicans who really want to oppress the poor, but on the other hand want to listen to Gedolim.

* While we don't make such distinctions nowadays, there is a tension between 'verapo yerapei', you shall surely heal him', and the criticism of King Asa for going to doctors, and a distinction is made between internal vs. external. See Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Rabbenu Bachya.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Praising those with whom you disagree (Bava Basra 176)

Today we finish Bava Batra. The Mishna (on the previous page) recorded a dispute, in a practical case, between Rabbi Yishmael and Shimon ben Nanas. After Ben Nanas presented his argument, Rabbi Yishmael praised Ben Nanas to the heavens:

To become a Chacham, one should study monetary laws. It is the greatest field in Torah; To learn monetary laws, one should study under Ben Nanas.

With such high praise, one might think that Rabbi Yishmael retracted. However, the gemara reports (via Rabba bar bar Chana) that not only did Rabbi Yishmael still hold firm in his position, the halacha is like him. And it turns out that even in the case of promise of repayment to save the borrower from choking, which was the comparison Ben Nanas offered, and which Rabbi Yishmael praised -- even there, Rabbi Yishmael disagrees, and the halacha is like Rabbi Yishmael.

This is a nice way to end a masechta, and is fitting for the three weeks. We can learn from Rabbi Yishmael's example. Even when we believe someone's halachic positions are wrong, we can still be polite to them, and even praise their character or thought process. All the while, holding true to what we believe is the correct halacha. And such niceness does not mean that we will lose the day.


Some thoughts about Rav Papa, especially after seeing the Rif and the Rosh. We saw on the previous daf that the Amoraim of Bavel were all aligned to say that Shibud is not Biblical, while all the Amoraim of Eretz Yisrael were aligned to say that it was Biblical. And when, for a moment, it seemed that a statement of Rabba indicated the opposite, the gemara explained that he was explaining it according to what the Amoraim of Eretz Yisrael held.

Then, we have Rav Pappa. He is the fifth generation, is thus Batrai, the halacha is like him, and he employs the word hilchesa. With whom does he align? Like Ulla that it is Biblical, or like Rabba that it is Rabbinic? The text of Rav Pappa in our gemara appears in the chart below, on the left hand side.

He stakes out a practical position regarding inheritors and purchasers, and the words he uses for each match exactly to what the gemara offers ("mai taama") to explain Rabba. And he is an Amora of Bavel. So it makes sense to place him as Shibud being Rabbinic. That is why a reason needs to be given to collect from the inheritors, of not closing the door before borrowers. If it were Biblical, then there would be no need to give a justification.

But the gemara in Kiddushin 13b has a different version of Rav Pappa, where his reason for inheritors is that Shibuda deOraysa, is Biblical! 

Rif and Rosh harmonize, and say it is not a dispute. Rather, Shibud is Biblical, but the reason the Rabbis didn't nullify it (as they did by purchasers, in the sefa) is the reason given, of not shutting the door before borrowers. This works. And there is a general trend of harmonizing sources to arrive at a globally optimal explanation.

There is a different derech halimud (IIRC popular in Spain before the expulsion) in which we identify the primary sugya where something is discussed and follow that. And look to a locally optimal explanation. And reasoning or interpretations from elsewhere, where it is brought it, are left there as interpretations brought to make things work.

In Kiddushin 13b, it definitely is a haavara, a transfer. The gemara introduces it that they hold (and are teaching here) that Shibud is Biblical, and then asks that they have taught this already once. Then it goes on to cite the foreign sugya, and ends with a slightly different version of Rav Pappa.

אלמא קסבר שיעבודא הוה דאורייתא והא פליגי בה חדא זימנא דרב ושמואל דאמרי תרוייהו מלוה על פה אינה גובה מן היורשין ולא מן הלקוחות ור' יוחנן ור"ל דאמרי תרוייהו מלוה על פה גובה בין מן היורשין בין מן הלקוחות צריכא דאי איתמר בהא בהך קאמר שמואל משום דלא מלוה כתובה בתורה היא אבל בהך אימא מודה להו לרבי יוחנן ולר"ל ואי אשמעינן בהא בהא קאמר ר' יוחנן דמלוה כתובה בתורה ככתובה בשטר דמיא אבל בהך אימא מודה ליה לשמואל צריכא אמר רב פפא הילכתא מלוה על פה גובה מן היורשין ואינו גובה מן הלקוחות גובה מן היורשין שיעבודא דאורייתא ואינו גובה מן הלקוחות דלית ליה קלא:

Also of interest is Tosafot there, who ask that Rav Pappa is different in Kiddushin and Bava Batra. But Tosafot's version of Bava Batra is different from ours:

Tosafot, Kiddushin 13b

Namely, they have explicitly in the sefa of Rav Pappa that Shibud is not Biblical. This is a quote from Tosafot, not an explanation by Tosafot. And they harmonize, but that is not our interest.

I would suggest further that, as in the case of Rabba, the primary statement by Rabba is positional, what to do in each case, as stated always in Hebrew. And the explanation (with mai taama for Rabba and bald for Rav Pappa) is the explanation by a setama, and that can be be more fluid across texts.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Sefer Bemidbar: Fairness vs. Morality

A while back, people were discussing a study which concluded that conservatives and liberals viewed the world in different ways*. Roughly, liberals think in terms of fairness while conservatives think in terms of morality. And, as Scott Adams suggested, that might be one reason one side cannot persuade the other -- they are speaking different languages, and what one side would consider a strong argument, the other would consider irrelevant.

Fairness and equality, as opposed to adherence to God-given rules, seems a recurring theme in Chumash Bemidbar. We have three separate instances in which the rules were set up, ordained by God, but in which some people, through no fault of their own, end up in an unequal situation. And in each instance, they complain to Moshe with למה נגרע, "Why should we be worse off?"

1) For Korban Pesach, people with ritual impurity contracted from a corpse may not eat of it. That is the Divine rule that applies equally to all people, that ritual impurity invalidates people from partaking in a korban in general. And some years, people miss out, and other years, they may partake. But the impure complain that it isn't fair to them, because they get left out. As they said in Bemidbar 9:7, lama nigara:

  • פסוק ז: וַיֹּאמְרוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים הָהֵמָּה, אֵלָיו, אֲנַחְנוּ טְמֵאִים, לְנֶפֶשׁ אָדָם; לָמָּה נִגָּרַע, לְבִלְתִּי הַקְרִיב אֶת-קָרְבַּן יְהוָה בְּמֹעֲדוֹ, בְּתוֹךְ, בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. 
Rather than dismissing their complaint and saying that they have lost out, Moshe takes their complaint seriously. Since he has a direct connection to God, he revisits the topic and asks what can be done for these folks. And God tells him about Pesach Sheni, a second chance. But adds a protection that people don't use this to be derelict in the first korban Pesach.

2) The inheritance of Israel is based on males. The daughters of Tzelophchad complain that, because their father died in his own sin and only had daughters, they have been left out, and their father has no share in the land. Their situation wasn't the origin intent of the Divine decree, but it has that unfortunate effect. It is not fair.  As they say, in Bemidbar 27:4, lama yigara:

  • פסוק ד: לָמָּה יִגָּרַע שֵׁם-אָבִינוּ מִתּוֹךְ מִשְׁפַּחְתּוֹ, כִּי אֵין לוֹ בֵּן; תְּנָה-לָּנוּ אֲחֻזָּה, בְּתוֹךְ אֲחֵי אָבִינוּ. 

Rather than dismiss their claim, he tells them to wait while he asks God directly. And he gets a revision, that in such a case, the daughters will inherit.

3) Even revisions can have unintended effects. The tribe of Menasheh complains that when the daughters of Tzelophchad marry, they will take their inheritance with them to another tribe, and so Menasheh's portion will shrink. That is not fair. As they say, in Bemidbar 36:3, venigraah:

במדבר פרק לו
  • פסוק ג: וְהָיוּ לְאֶחָד מִבְּנֵי שִׁבְטֵי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, לְנָשִׁים, וְנִגְרְעָה נַחֲלָתָן מִנַּחֲלַת אֲבֹתֵינוּ, וְנוֹסַף עַל נַחֲלַת הַמַּטֶּה אֲשֶׁר תִּהְיֶינָה לָהֶם; וּמִגֹּרַל נַחֲלָתֵנוּ, יִגָּרֵעַ. 
Moshe consults Hashem and revises the law once again, to require women, in such a situation, to only marry into their own tribe.

Is such a situation sustainable? Any time someone is adversely affected by the law, should they complain and the law will be revised? Maybe that was the intent, if we understand going to the shofet in a given era in that light. But having the law in such a constant state of flux does not seem sustainable to me. Eventually, the law is the law, and some people fall through the cracks, and it isn't fair.


* I would treat all such studies with skepticism, because I think that the researchers' political views will influence the design of the study or the interpretation of the results.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Bava Basra 152: Mit eyn hintn zitst men nit af tsvey ferd

There is a Yiddish idiom, which appears in various forms, Mit eyn hintn zitst men nit af tsvey ferdמיט אײן הינטן זיצט מען ניט אױף צװײ פֿערד‫.‬
This appears in English as "You can't ride on two horses with one arse."

This idiom appears at the top of today's daf, Bava Basra 152.

"The academy of Rav said in the name of Rav, you are causing him to ride on two steeds / saddles."

The setama degemara proceeds to interpret this as a positive thing, giving the transaction some of the force of a shechiv mera and some of the force of the kinyan of a healthy person. This is problematic, because it contradicts an explicit statement of Rav elsewhere, that it will not work because a kinyan is the opposite of matnat shechiv mera. But the gemara manages to harmonize it.

This idiom only appears once in Shas, namely here. Later posekim seem to employ it in a very different sense than the setama interprets it, namely that of tartei desasrei (two contradictory aspects which will therefore not work.)

Given that it is an idiom, and it is easy to misinterpret an idiom without direct knowledge of its usage, perhaps we can suggest that the setama degemara misunderstood the idiom. (Yes, they are closer in time and place, so maybe we are misunderstanding it, but on the other hand, we have the other statement of Rav.) If its intent is indeed the same as the Yiddish expression, and the same as the later posekim, then the is the same as Rav's position elsewhere, and the contradiction was never a contradiction, but was rather explicit agreement.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Bava Basra 98a and 102

אמר רבא האי מאן דזבין ליה חביתא דחמרא לחנואה אדעתא לסבוייה
See the dispute between Rashbam and Tosafot. Rashbam asserts that he did not purchase the cask of wine, but agreed to sell on the behalf of the owner. Tosafot (responding to "Rashi", but this is changed by Masores Hashas to Rashbam) say that this cannot be, since the word דזבין is employed, implying that he sold it. Instead Tosafot say he did sell it, and explain difficulties that arise as a result.
However, there is a girsa difference in play. Rashbam does not have the text I cited above. He has:
האי מאן דמזבין ליה חביתא דחמרא לחנווני
while Tosafot have:
האי מאן דזבין חביתא דחמרא אדעתא לסבוייה
Many differences might trigger this difference in understanding. Rashbam has mezabein, to Tosafot's and our gemara's zabein. Rashbam and our gemara have leih (to him) while Tosafot lack leih. Rashbam has lechenvani, our gemara has lechenvaah, and Tosafot lacks it.
So we can read our gemara as "a person who engages in sales on his (?) behalf for shopkeeping" (chenvaah), and this would not present the problem which bothers Tosafot.

Bava Basra 102
The Mishna in Ohalos is better understood in light of Bava Basra 82b:
וכמה יהא ביניהן רב יוסף אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל מארבע אמות ועד שמונה רבא אמר רב נחמן אמר שמואל משמונה ועד שש עשרה א"ל אביי לרב יוסף לא תפלוג עליה דרב נחמן דתנן מתניתין כוותיה דתנן הנוטע את כרמו שש עשרה אמה על שש עשרה אמה מותר להביא זרע לשם
[If the buyer of three trees is to acquire possession of the ground]. how much [space] must there be between [the trees]?25 — R. Joseph said in the name of Rab Judah in the name of Samuel: [A distance] of four to eight cubits [between any two trees]. Raba said in the name of R. Nahman in the name of Samuel: From eight to sixteen [cubits]. Abaye said to R. Joseph: Do not dispute with R. Nahman, for we learnt a Mishnah that is in agreement with him. For we learnt:26 He who plants his vineyard [and leaves distances of] sixteen cubits [between the rows] may insert seed there.27
That is, that the distance of 4 to 8 cubits between corpses is parallel to the 4 to 8 cubits between trees. There, as in the Mishna in Ohalos, selling one tree gives you just the tree and the immediate dirt, as does selling two trees. Three trees makes an orchard and so all the land comes with it. In Ohalos, one and two corpses just have the immediately surrounding dirt. Once we have three, then it is a cemetery (shechunat kevarim), and they cannot be moved.
The setama degemara shoehorns the Mishna in Ohalos into the box presented by our local Mishna, such that the "4 to 8" must be the side of a cave, and thus from the edge of the first of three corpses to the last of three corpses, rather than the space between each corpse and the next. But we are not talking about digging through rock, and the term is shecunat kevarim, not that it is a kever, nor is it (to employ the term used in Ohalos for the same structure in earth) a sedei kuchim.
And then the setama has difficulties making the "4 to 8" accord with the dimensions by either the Tanna Kamma or Rabbi Shimon. The same about the 20 cubits, and the difficulties which arise there.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Bread of Affliction, which our Ancestors ate in Egypt

We say ha lachma anya, and it is called that based on the pasuk (Devarim 16:3) which refers to matza by the term lechem oni. One famous answers (from Rabbi Akiva)  is that we say (“onin”) upon this bread many things. Besides the straightforward meaning that we are reciting both Maggid and Hallel upon it, we can also understand this to mean that it is pretext bread. Thus, we see it is unusual and we ask (that is, mah haavodah hazot lachem or mah zot), and it becomes a reason for retelling the story of Pesach. Or, even better, we have many different explanations for why we eat it. The pasuk which gives the putative reason is for matzah for pesach dorot, and wouldn’t account for the matzah consumed in Egypt. And various reasons are given for it. And frankly, while there is presumably one true reason for eat, eat of the devarim harbeh which are given express and develop an interesting idea, all of which have value. So the devarim harbeh is a nice thing.

At a recent shiur in Rinat, a prominent modern Torah interpreter discussed what was meant by דִּי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְּאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם, what matzah they ate at what point, and why. He developed the idea of matzah as the opposite of chametz, leavened bread, which was the Egyptian staple, and which even had a minister of bread (sar ha’ofim).

Along the way, he mocked the idea that the Egyptians were mean and therefore forced their Hebrew slaves to eat this bread of affliction. This, he said, was something kindergarten teachers taught the children in class, but lacks a basis in rabbinic literature.

Here is a basis, which appears in the Avudraham:

“And if you ask as to the meaning of ‘which our ancestors ate in Egypt’ since, after all, וַיֹּאפוּ אֶת הַבָּצֵק [Shemot 12:39] was only after they left Egypt; then, Rabbi Yehosef HaAzovi explains in the name of Ibn Ezra, who had been imprisoned in India, and they would feed him matza[-like] bread, and never gave him chametz. And the reason was that it was tough [heavy] and was not quickly digested like chametz, such that a little would suffice. And so did the Egyptians do to Israel.”

I agree that this explanation is not well supported by the Chumash text. But at the same time, there is some support in rabbinic literature for it. It is not purely an invention of the kindergarten morot.

Besides, even if we don’t find an explicit text to support it, the fact is that matzah is a word in the Hebrew language, and wasn’t invented on the spot. The Hebrews understood Moshe, and so it could make sense that it played some role in society, that some people would make unleavened bread for some purpose. And Ibn Ezra, with his personal experience, is engaging in realia, explaining what role it could play in some cultures. It is possible that the Hebrews made this bread for themselves for similar purpose, because it had to sustain them for a tough day of work. And then we can understand the pasuk of it being lechem oni, bread of affliction, that is bread that they ate in Egypt regularly, during their affliction. And then it is not without some scriptural tie-in.

I’ll close with another possible explanation of lechem oni I came up with. Maybe it is obvious, or maybe it is my own chiddush. The process of making the bread, and the experience of eating a bread of this texture, parallels that of affliction. With chametz, you put in yeast and allow the bread to expand, and you end up with a light, fluffy texture. But in Egypt, there was lachatz, oppression, in which the Hebrews were suppressed and not allowed ease and breathing space. And so too, we do not allow the dough to become chametz and the result is a bread which has been afflicted and has an afflicted texture.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Thoughts on Bava Batra 74-75

An interesting al tikrei X but Y. Don't read yam but sar shel yam. How does this work? You need to know the Chronicles of Baal, where Baal slays Prince Yam and doesn't let him trespass on dry land. Then you know that Yam is a name. So what we are really saying is don't read yam lowercase but Yam capital.

The derasha from Iyov that the righteous will eat a feast of the Leviathan and that merchants will deal in its flesh is interesting. If you read the many surrounding pesukim, you see that they are all preceded with the interrogative ha-. That is to say, "would you think it so that X?!" The implication is obviously that it is not so. This particular pasuk
  יכרו עליו חברים יחצוהו  בין כנענים

is missing the leading ha-, and it is then taken as a statement of fact about the future use of the Leviathan!

In the following section of gemara, a pasuk with the interrogative ha- is brought. How can they ignore the ha-, to say that it is a plaything?
ההשחק בו כצפור ותקשרנו לנערותיך:

It seems that there, it is saying that obviously humans cannot do it, to the exclusion of Hashem, who can do all this. If so, maybe we would say the same about the pasuk without the ha-, that it still is a question, but Hashem's intervention is different.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sources for Bava Basra 45


דף יג, ב פרק ד הלכה ב משנה  ולא את הבור ולא את הדות אע"פ שכתב לו עומקה ורומה וצריך ליקח לו דרך דברי רבי עקיבה וחכמים אומרים אינו צריך ליקח לו דרך ומודה ר' עקיבה בזמן שאמר לו חוץ מאילו שאינו צריך ליקח לו דרך מכרן לאחר ר' עקיבה אומר אינו צריך ליקח לו דרך וחכמים אומרים צריך ליקח לו דרך:
דף יג, ב פרק ד הלכה ב גמרא  לאיזה דבר כתב עומקה ורומה שאם רצה להשפיל ישפיל הגביה יגביה.  רבה בר רב הונא בשם רב הלכה כרבי עקיבה דידן דהוא רבנן דרבי חייה.  ר' זעירא רב ירמיה בשם רב הלכה כרבי עקיבה דרבי חייה דהוא רבנן דבבלאי. 

תמן אמרין אדמון ורבי עקיבה אמר ר' לא בסתם חלוקין. 
מה נן קיימין אם דבר בריא שיש לו דרך כל עמא מודי שאין צריך ליקח לו דרך אם דבר בריא שאין לו דרך כל עמא מודו שהוא צריך ליקח לו דרך.  אלא כי נן קיימין בסתם רבי עקיבה אומר אינו צריך ליקח לו דרך וחכמים אומרים צריך ליקח לו דרך:
 ואע"פ שאומר לו הוא וכל מה שבתוכו אני מוכר לך לא מכר לו את הבאר ולא את השידה ולא את הדותות והיציעים ולא את המערות שבתוכו א"כ למה כתב עומקא ורומא שאם רצה להגביה מגביה להשפיל משפיל 

Friday, March 10, 2017

How modern academic Talmud scholars can fulfill timcheh et zecher Amalek

In yesterday’s Daf Yomi, Bava Batra, Moo amud bet, there is a surprising mnemonic, עמלק סימן. That is, the four cases under discussion in the following section are arev (guarantor), malveh (lender), lokeach rishon (first purchaser) and qablan (a different type of guarantor), who may or may not testify on behalf of a certain other party as to ownership of a field. The letters spell out Amalek.
This is surprising, to use Amalek as a mnemonic, when we are supposed to blot out the memory of Amalek. And Hagahot Yaavetz (Rav Yaakov Emden) has an explanation about how it is OK to use it to remember Torah, and how there is a tipcha (disjunctive accent) on the lo of lo tishkash, לֹ֖א תִּשְׁכָּֽח , somehow telling us that it is sometimes OK for the sake of not forgetting.

The Masoret HaShas, besides pointing us to the Hagahot Yaavetz, points out that the Dikdukei Soferim notes that in many kitvei yad, this mnemonic isn’t present.
Thus, for example, we don’t find it in Ktav Yad Firenze, Paris, or Vatican.

Ktav Yad Vatican
Ktav Yad Firenze
Ktav Yad Paris

If so, perhaps we should cross out this siman, this zecher, from our gemaras. In this way, we can literally fulfill the positive command of תִּמְחֶה֙ אֶת־זֵ֣כֶר עֲמָלֵ֔ק.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Daf Yomi, Bava Batra 31a:

 טוען וחוזר וטוען או אין טוען וחוזר

This is not immediately obvious, but regarding the dispute between Ulla and the Nehardeans, and more specifically, the clarification of which cases are under dispute, is all about the ambiguity of the word chozer.

The way it was intended is almost purely grammatical that after making his first claim, he continues to present to the court another claim. Sort of like "he went and did X".

There are two other possibilities which are ruled out as not under discussion. First, that chozer means a retraction, such that there is an obvious contradiction between his first and second claim. Second, that chozer means physically returning, such that he left the court to go outside, and then physically returned.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bava Basra 25 - sources

How to use sources below:

In which we look at:
1) Rashi says that Rabbi Abahu's derasha on Oryah is either Persian and means West, or Laaz (Latin) and means East. The Latin word would be Orient. We can see the Persian word in the Aruch. We would expect Rabbi Abahu in Eretz Yisrael to be darshening the Latin more than the Persian.
2) Considering the dispute about how the sun gets backs to its position in the east each morning.
3) Rava's reinterpretation of West being tedira as referring to the location of the Shechina seems farfetched. We see in the Yerushalmi that Abaye appears to hold by the simple meaning, that it is the prevailing wind direction. We could interpret the brayta about the constant contribution of the North wind as referring to something else not contradictory.
At WindFinder dot com, you can see historical dominant wind directions for the past twelve years, at various spots in Israel, and at least for Tel Aviv, how that is the one coming from the West.
4) No, bees don't eat their honey after tasting mustard. They love mustard, and beekeepers suggest it as a bee crop. But the mustard nectar does give a distinctive color, aroma, and flavor. Rabbi Yossi famously says regarding this (or the three cases in the Mishna) that each damages the other. So when we have a statement that:
מפני שפי הדבורים חד ומחריבות הדבש
Perhaps we can reinterpret it. Not that they eat their own honey to get rid of the bad mustard taste. Rather, the mouth of the bees is sharp and destroys the plants. And the mustard destroys the honey by making it honey-mustard.
Regarding the image (from peanut butter cups):
"You got your honey in my mustard!"
"You got your mustard in my honey!"

Regarding Rashi, the Laaz / Latin word is Orient. What is the Persian word?


“These things being so we shall say, agreeably to what we find in divine scripture, that the sun issuing from the east traverses the sky in the south and ascends northwards, and becomes visible to the whole of the inhabited world. But as the northern and western summit intervenes it produces night in the ocean beyond this earth of ours, and also in the earth beyond the ocean; then afterwards when the sun is in the west, where he is hidden by the highest portion of the earth, and runs his course over the ocean through the northern parts, his presence there makes it night for us, until in describing his orbit he comes again to the east, and again ascending the southern sky illumines the inhabited world, as the divine scripture says through the divine Solomon: “The sun riseth and the sun goeth down and hasteth to his own place. Rising there, he goeth to the south, and wheeleth his circuit, and the wind turneth round to his circuits.” (Christian Topography, part II) Cosmas Indicopleustes-6th Century

Regarding Tedira: 

Abaye in Yerushalmi appears to dispute the diyuk of Rava, that tedira refers to Shechina.

פרק ב הלכה ח משנה  מרחיקין את הנבילות ואת הקברו' ואת הבורסקי מן העיר חמשים אמה ואין עושין בורסקי אלא למזרח העיר ר' עקיבה אומר לכל רוח הוא עושה חוץ מן המערבה ומרחיק חמשים אמה:
דף ו, ב פרק ב הלכה ח גמרא  ר' אבהו בשם רבי יוחנן עד מקום שעושה גלד.  דבית ר' ינאי אמרי עד מקום שעומד ומריח.  ותני כן ר' עקיבה אומר לכל רוח הוא עושה ומרחיק חוץ מן המערבה מפני שהיא תדירה.  רבי מנא היה מהלך עם מוכי שחין אמר ליה אביי לא תהלוך ממדינחיה אלא ממערביה:
דף ו, ב פרק ב הלכה ט משנה  מרחיקין את המשרה מן הירק ואת הכרישין מן הבצלים ואת החרדל מן הדבורים רבי יוסי מתיר בחרדל:

דף ו, ב פרק ב הלכה ט גמרא  תני מרחיקין את הבצלים מן הכרישין ור' לעזר בר' שמעון מתיר.  א"ר יעקב בן דוסאי מגו אילין מתניתא כשם שזה מרחיק זה מזה כך זה מרחיק זה מזה.  רבי אבהו בשם רבי יוסי בן חנינה מפני שפי הדבורים חד ומחריבות הדבש:

From WindFinder.Com, the dominant wind might indeed be a westerly wind:
Dominant Wind Direction, Tel Aviv/Ben Gurion:

Nes Tsiyona:

Do the bees really suffer from eating the mustard and then consume the honey in the hive? No, but the mustard nectar affects the taste of the honey, perhaps in a good way, but there is no accounting for taste.
Bee Value of White Mustard
Considered an excellent bee plant, white mustard brings nectar along with fair quality yellow pollen. The floriferous plants bloom for about a month.
The nectar is easily accessible to bees. Plants yield quite a bit of nectar, up to 1.1 mg per blossom daily. This contains 50 to 60 per-cent sugar concentration.
White mustard can bring a good honey crop of 25 to 100 pounds per colony. The honey can vary in color, but is typically light colored to mustard yellow. When first extracted, it can have a mustard-like aroma.
Although the flavor is initially so strong it can burn the mouth, this mellows with time. Granulating rather rapidly, the honey should be extracted promptly. It has been known to ferment.

"You got your honey in my mustard!"
"You got your mustard in my honey!"

דף ו, ב


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