Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Shabbat 75: Keeping the chilazon alive

For today's daf yomi, Shabbat 75a, let us consider the chilazon. Does the gemara's description of it match up with what contemporary scientific sources say about it? In particular, here is Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, Book 9, Chapter 60.

The quote I would like to focus on is this:
"People strive to catch this fish alive, because it discharges it juice with its life; and from the larger purples they get the juice by stripping off the shell, but they crush the smaller ones alive with the shell, as that is the only way to make them discharge the juice."

This matches up with some of the statements in the gemara. My concern is more with statements of named Amoraim. Statements of the setama degemara, which might well be from the Savoraim or later, do not concern me as much, as they never saw a murex snail and were far in time from when the chilazon was available.

A brayta firstly talks about first catching and then being "potzeia" a chilazon:

הַצָּד חִלָּזוֹן וְהַפּוֹצְעוֹ — אֵינוֹ חַיָּיב אֶלָּא אַחַת. רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר חַיָּיב שְׁתַּיִם. שֶׁהָיָה רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר: פְּצִיעָה בִּכְלַל דִּישָׁה. אָמְרוּ לוֹ: אֵין פְּצִיעָה בִּכְלַל דִּישָׁה.

The Tanna Kamma says he is liable for two acts, while Rabbi Yehuda says only for one act. That is slightly ambiguous, because perhaps Rabbi Yehuda holds there is no such thing as catching a slow-moving chilazon. The brayta (maybe a later stratum) continues and clarifies that all hold there is a liability for the catching, and the dispute is about potzea - whether this is like disha, threshing.

What is petzia? Rashi writes:  הפוצעו - דוחקו בידיו שיצא דמו: That is, he squeezes / crushes it in his hands so that the blood will come out. Potzea usually means to crush or crack open. See Jastrow.

I am not sure if I am forcing this explanation, but perhaps we can say that the brayta is ambiguous. Is it possible to that petzia is the same as the "stripping off of the shell" of the larger murex, and that there is some cracking open that is possible here, that does not kill it?

Rava says that this is only an issue of whether disha (threshing) applies only to plants.

אָמַר רָבָא: מַאי טַעְמָא דְּרַבָּנַן — קָסָבְרִי אֵין דִּישָׁה אֶלָּא לְגִדּוּלֵי קַרְקַע.

The setama degemara objects that there is the issue of taking a life! This is a prelude to the (earlier) statement of Rabbi Yochanan, that we are dealing with a dead murex:

וְלִיחַיַּיב נָמֵי מִשּׁוּם נְטִילַת נְשָׁמָה! אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: שֶׁפְּצָעוֹ מֵת.

And Rava disagrees and says that it could even apply to a live murex, because that is not his intent.

רָבָא אָמַר: אֲפִילּוּ תֵּימָא שֶׁפְּצָעוֹ חַי, מִתְעַסֵּק הוּא אֵצֶל נְטִילַת נְשָׁמָה.

The setama degemara objects that this is a statement by Rava, and Abaye and Rava agree about pesik reisha velo yamut. And answers that here, it is not in the person's interest that the murex dies, because if extracted while alive, the dye will be clearer.

 וְהָא אַבָּיֵי וְרָבָא דְּאָמְרִי תַּרְוַויְיהוּ: מוֹדֶה רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בִּ״פְסִיק רֵישֵׁיהּ וְלֹא יָמוּת״! שָׁאנֵי הָכָא, דְּכַמָּה דְּאִית בֵּיהּ נְשָׁמָה טְפֵי נִיחָא לֵיהּ, כִּי הֵיכִי דְּלֵיצִיל צִיבְעֵיהּ.

This reason, that its dye will be clearer, is Rashi's explanation, and Rashi's girsa of the gemara. (He says "Hachi Garsinan").

דליציל ציבעיה גרסינן - שתהא מראית צבעו צלולה:

What would be the alternative? Maybe a sense of hatzala, saving its dye. It is like hatzala. The variant manuscript in question is ktav yad Vatikan. Here, from the Hachi Garsinan website, is a comparison of several manuscripts:

And it glosses delitzlei as denitzlach, that it be saved.

Dr. Mendel Singer, a Radziner chassid, in his article about the criteria for the chilazon, in which he tries to show that the murex does not match, writes:
Dye is better while chilazon is alive: We learn in the Gemara that people try not to kill the chilazon when extracting the dye because the dye is better if extracted while the chilazon is alive.[42] From this Gemara we learn that there is a significant difference in the dye when extracted while the chilazon is alive and when it is extracted just moments after its death. Petil followers argue that the murex secretion (mucus) loses its dyeing power a few hours after the snail's death. This doesn't help since the Gemara is speaking not of a few hours, but mere moments after death. Another problem is Pliny's statement that the murex discharges its dye upon death.[43] If so, the reason not to kill the murex when removing the gland containing the dye is because otherwise the precious few drops of dye will be lost!

I personally would not try, like the Petil people, to make the setama's statement accord with contemporary observed reality. In terms of Rabbi Yochanan, he could be dealing with a dead chilazon. In terms of Rava, he could be dealing with a live chilazon. But we see from Pliny that people prefer, at least with the large snails where it is possible, to not crush it with the shell. It is only the smaller snails that they crush with the shell. It could be that this brings in impurities, because you are mixing it with bits of shell and other flesh of the snail. Indeed, the extracted dye will not be tzalil, pure. You would need to filter it. As the setama describes, perhaps.

I am a bit stymied by Dr. Singer's last two sentences, though:
Another problem is Pliny's statement that the murex discharges its dye upon death.[43] If so, the reason not to kill the murex when removing the gland containing the dye is because otherwise the precious few drops of dye will be lost!
I can only surmise that he was exposed to Pliny secondhand, and so did not see the full context. Recall that Pliny wrote:
"People strive to catch this fish alive, because it discharges it juice with its life; and from the larger purples they get the juice by stripping off the shell, but they crush the smaller ones alive with the shell, as that is the only way to make them discharge the juice."
The same Pliny who wrote that it discharges its dye upon death said immediately that they crush the smaller murex alive with its shell, to make them discharge the juice. Obviously Pliny is not saying that when you crush a live murex, killing it, the drops will be lost! That would be nonsensical.

Rather, Pliny seems to mean that, if a murex dies in the water, it discharges the dye into the water, and so you will not have a chance to extract it. But once you catch it alive, you can do with it what you will - strip off the shell for larger murex, crush it alive for smaller murex. And then they will discharge their juice / dye, which you can use.

So Dr. Singer presumably did not see Pliny inside, and kvetches him beyond recognition. However, if Dr. Singer does want to say that the concern of the gemara should be is that precious drops of dye will be lost, he can always use the Vatican manuscript, which interprets the word as hatzala, דנצלח צבעיה, or even interpret our own girsa in like manner.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Berachot 62: Roman Replacement

In today's daf yomi, Berachot 62b:

רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר עָל לְבֵית הַכִּסֵּא. אֲתָא הַהוּא רוֹמָאָה דַּחֲקֵיהּ. קָם רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר וּנְפַק. אֲתָא דְּרָקֹונָא שַׁמְטֵיהּ לְכַרְכְּשֵׁיהּ. קָרֵי עֲלֵיהּ רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר: ״וְאֶתֵּן אָדָם תַּחְתֶּיךָ״, אַל תִּקְרֵי ״אָדָם״ אֶלָּא ״אֱדוֹם״.
The Gemara relates that Rabbi Elazar entered a bathroom. This Roman came and pushed him away. Rabbi Elazar stood and left, and a serpent came and ripped out the intestines of the Roman. Rabbi Elazar recited the following verse about the Roman: “Therefore I will give man [adam] for you” (Isaiah 43:4); do not read it as adam, but rather read it as Edom, meaning a Roman.

Rashi translates כַרְכְּשֵׁיהּ as חלחולת שהרעי יוצא בו שקורין טבחיא, and so Artscroll translates it as rectum. (Rect 'um? Dang near killed 'im!)

I think the derasha here is more than the al tikrei for Adam / Edom. It is also based on the word tachtecha. Therefore I will give an Edomite as for your rectum.

Assuming the Babylonian Amoraim were Ashkenazim, there could be a similar derasha at play in the segment that follows, on the pasuk: ״וְאָמַר לַהֲרָגֲךָ וַתָּחָס עָלֶיךָ״, about what happened when King Shaul went to relieve himself.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Berachot 58a: No Reshut HaRabbim

On today's daf (Berachot 58a), the following statement of Ulla, accompanied by a brayta:

אָמַר עוּלָּא: נְקִיטִינַן אֵין אוּכְלוּסָא בְּבָבֶל. 
תָּנָא: אֵין אוּכְלוּסָא פְּחוּתָה מִשִּׁשִּׁים רִבּוֹא.
Ulla said: We hold there is no multitude in Babylonia. 
The Sage taught: A multitude is no fewer than six hundred thousand people. 
Artscroll points us to Kesef Mishneh to Rambam Hilchot Berachot 10:11, that the blessing (chacham harazim) is only said in Eretz Yisrael, and to Maadanei Yom Tov on the Rosh that it is inappropriate to make such a blessing on Jews in exile.

That is one possible interpretation. Another is that there won't be a gathering of shishim ribo in Bavel, and perhaps by extension elsewhere in exile. And that might have repercussions elsewhere.

We should connect it to another statement of Ulla, which he might have made. People wonder at the basis of Rashi's statement that a reshut harabbim requires 600,000. That is, in Eruvin 6b, Rashi writes:

רה"ר - משמע רחב שש עשרה אמה ועיר שמצויין בה ששים ריבוא ואין בה חומה (או) שהיה רה"ר שלה מכוון משער לשער שיהא מפולש דומה לדגלי מדבר:

The Meira and Ravya each refer to a (slightly different) Talmudic text of Shabbat 6a that we don't have in our printed edition. But it exists in Ktav Yad Vatikan and in a rubbed out marginal text in Ktav Yad Minkin. You can read more about this on the Eruv Online blog. Here is the image from the Vatican manuscript of Shabbat 6a:


That is, that there is no reshut harabbim in Bavel. And further, from Rabba bar bar Chana, if not for the walls of Yerushalayim closed at night, people would be liable because of Reshut HaRabbim.

This accords well with the Resh Lakish's opinion in the Yerushalmi Eruvin that there is no reshut harabbim nowadays. It will technically exist sometime in the messianic future, when all hills and mountains are flattened. This is a general trend of eliminating the reshut harabbim deorayta, so that various halachic positions can be applied.

Eruv Online also mentioned a Gra, who asks how Ulla can say there is no uchlesa (=shishim ribbo) in Bavel, if the same Ulla says (Ketubot 54a) that Mechoza would be a reshut harabbim if not for their closing their doors at night, given that Rashi there says that there was shishim ribbo in that city. And he cites an answer I don't like so much, about Bavel the city vs. Bavel the country, and then points out a Tosafot that contradicts that assumption.

I think the answer is straightforward. Ignore the details. Ulla in both cases comes to undo the status of reshut haraabim. There are ways of doing it: Resh Lakish's nuclear option; Ulla's statement that there is no multitude (=shishim ribbo); and Rabba bar bar Chana's statement about Yerushalayim and closing the doors at night.

That Ulla in Ketubot instead applies Rabba bar bar Chana's rule, to the Babylonian Mechoza, rather than the rule he possibly stated elsewhere, about shishim ribo, is not surprising. There is an overarching aim, and he could get to it in either way. He didn't have to resort to a population count given that the city closed its doors.




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