Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Do Tzfardeia Defecate?

One of my favorite midrashim is the one that Pharaoh went to the Nile to defecate, because he wanted people to think he was a god who did not have bodily functions. I like it because of the multiple derivations, some explicit and some implicit.

It is based on the pasuk in Shemot 7 which begins:

טו  לֵךְ אֶל-פַּרְעֹה בַּבֹּקֶר, הִנֵּה יֹצֵא הַמַּיְמָה

The midrash in question as it appears in Shemot Rabba:

לך אל פרעה בבקר הנה יוצא המימה 
לא היה יוצא אלא המימה [בבוקר], לפי, שאותו רשע היה משתבח ואומר שהוא אלוה ואינו יוצא לנקביו, לפיכך היה יוצא בבקר בשעה שהוא נצרך, תפוש אותו. 

It is not just that he went specifically baboker, in the morning. But "Yotzei Hamayma" perhaps has the implication of urinating, or even of defecating (yotzei) into the water (hamayma).

But at the end of the episode, there is also this gem, which clinches it:

כג  וַיִּפֶן פַּרְעֹה, וַיָּבֹא אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ

Apparently, there is a dvar Torah going around which argues for a sort of middah keneged middah regarding the second plague, of frogs. I will let Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin tell it:
Someone sent me an insight that they heard from a contemporary rabbi: "Because Pharaoh portrayed himself like a god by not relieving himself, G-d specifically brought frogs as the second plague, since frogs are creatures that eat and do not void their waste." Pharaoh falsely claimed to be a God who does not excrete, so he was punished with lowly creatures that really do posses this ability.

There is a problem with that, however:
I don't know how this frog drash came about. I've never heard of an ancient belief that frogs do not excrete. (Though I do often hear people asking me if snakes excrete; for some reason, people seem to think that without legs, there's no tushie.) But the fact is that frogs, like every other creature in the world, excrete their waste. How could it be otherwise? What else would they do with the parts of their food that they haven't digested?
I think I derash. First, I will point out that Rabbenu Bachya held that tzfardeia were crocodiles rather than frogs. That makes the makka pretty frightening.

Second, while I also have not heard of an ancient belief that frogs do not defecate, I have heard of an old belief that crocodiles do not defecate.

To wit, we have the following from the 1481 travel account of Meshulam de Volterra, that crocodiles lack an anal orifice and rely on birds to remove the excrement. To cite "The Rabbi and the Crocodile: Interrogating Native in the Late Quattrocento", by David Malkiel, published in Speculum,  A Journal of Medieval Studies, Volume 91, Number 1, from January 2016:

What Meshulam actually is describing is the symbiotic relationship between the Egyptian plover and the crocodile. The plover picks out the food, and at the same times cleans the crocodile's teeth. But even crocodiles defecate.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Daf Yomi, Shevuot 47

Something to consider when learning Shevuot 47.

The gemara reads:

חזרה שבועה למקומה:
להיכן חזרה א"ר אמי רבותינו שבבבל אמרו חזרה שבועה לסיני רבותינו שבארץ ישראל אמרו בחזרה שבועה למחויב לה אמר רב פפא רבותינו שבבבל רב ושמואל רבותינו שבארץ ישראל ר' אבא 

Thus, according to Rav Pappa, by "rabotainu" of Bavel, he meant Rav and Shmuel, and by "rabotainu" of E"Y, he meant Rabbi Abba, even though Rabbi Abba is just one person and even though, as Tosafot makes a diyuk from the language which says that Rabbi Abba sat before Rabbi Ammi, Rabbi Abba was a student rather than a teacher.

However, Rabbi Ami was an Amora of Eretz Yisrael (third generation). If we look at the Yerushalmi, we see Rav Hoshaya (third generation) tell Rabbi Ami this limmud.  And while the raboteinu of Bavel are left unspecified, the rabotainu of E"Y is Rabbi Yochanan citing Rabbi Yannai. These would certainly qualify as rabotainu.

דף לו, ב פרק ז הלכה ד גמרא
רב הושעיה אמר קמי ר' אמי בשם רבנין דתמן חזרה שבועה לסיני רבי יוחנן בשם רבי ינאי חזרה שבועה לבעלין.  מאן דמר חזרה שבועה לסיני כמי שאין כאן עדות המוציא מחבירו עליו הראיה ומאן דמר חזרה שבועה לבעלין ממה דהוא גברא חשוד ולא יכיל מישתבע לי 
קום שלם לי:

Further, if we look at the Tosefta (thus, a Tannaitic source) , we will find an explicit statement like the raboteinu of Bavel, together with a scriptural derivation. This could then be the source.


ו,ג  שכנגדו חשוד על השבועה כיצד זה נשבע ונוטל.  היו שניהם חשודין פטורין שנא' (שמות כב) שבועת ה' תהיה בין שניהם בזמן שאחד מהן חשוד לא בזמן ששניהן חשודין.  בין שניהם יוצא מבין שניהם אם הנשבע נשבע על שקר סוף שהשבועה חלה עליו ואם המשביע משביע על שקר סוף שהשבועה חלה עליו שנא' (זכריה ה) ולנה בתוך ביתו וכלתו בוא וראה דברים שאין האש אוכלתן שבועת שקר אוכלתן.

Rav Pappa could either be unaware of the identities, or is trying to associate certain known Amoraim of E"Y and Bavel, based on their statements elsewhere. But this involves some kvetches, and applying a principle from a different case to our local case. One could question whether they are indeed applicable. For instance, we end up having Rav and Shmuel establish a general principle of what happens when one is obligated in an oath and cannot swear, applying it then to our local case, while the Tosefta deduces from the pasuk, it for just this particular case, namely when both of them are unable to swear.

Meanwhile, these sources I mentioned are explicit in their position, rather than being a transfer from what they said elsewhere.

Another point. Towards the end of amud aleph, we see Rava's support for Rabbi Abba based on a brayta brought by Rabbi Ammi, in which they darshen the pasuk of shevuat Hashem tihyeh bein shneihem  -- velo min hayorshim:

דתני רבי אמי (שמות כב, י) שבועת ה' תהיה בין שניהם ולא בין היורשין

On the next amud, the gemara asks what the opposing position - that is, Rav and Shmuel - would do with that pasuk, since they must not hold like that brayta. And the setama degemara points us to another brayta that uses it for a quasi-homiletic purpose, namely:

ורב ושמואל האי שבועת ה' מאי קא דרשי ביה מיבעי ליה לכדתניא שמעון בן טרפון אומר שבועת ה' תהיה בין שניהם מלמד שהשבועה חלה על שניהם

We need not say this. We could say like the Tosefta, which explicitly takes this very pasuk to teach the very law in question - that only when one of them is suspect, and not when both of them are suspect. (Unless you want to interpret Shimon ben Tarfon's derasha to be precisely that...)


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