Friday, April 19, 2019

Was Rabbi Yaakov the grandson of Acher?

Yesterday we finished mashechet Chullin in Daf Yomi, and there (Chullin 142a), Rav Yosef asserts that the Tanna Rabbi Yaakov was the grandson of Acher, that is, Elisha ben Avuya,

As background, while the Mishna (Rabbi Meir) implies that Biblical verses discussing reward of long life for fulfilling precepts were meant literally, about life in this world, a brayta has Rabbi Yaakov explaining this as referring to reward in the world-to-come. According to the Munich manuscript and various Vatican manuscripts, as well as Rashi, the gemara ends there. But there is a haavara -- a transferred sugya -- from a gemara in Kiddushin 39b.

There, we see an incident of one who was sent by his father to send away the mother bird and died while descending. Thus, the verse cannot be taken literally. The gemara proceeds to suggest that this was an actual, rather than theoretical incident. After a long discussion, the gemara in Chullin ends:


אמר רב יוסף אלמלא דרשיה אחר להאי קרא כרבי יעקב בר ברתיה לא חטא מאי חזא איכא דאמרי כי האי מעשה חזא ואיכא דאמרי לישנא דרבי חוצפית המתורגמן חזא דהוה מוטלת באשפה אמר פה שהפיק מרגליות ילחוך עפר והוא לא ידע למען ייטב לך בעולם שכלו טוב ולמען יאריכון ימיך בעולם שכולו ארוך:
Rav Yosef said: Had Aḥer, literally Other, the appellation of the former Sage Elisha ben Avuya, interpreted homiletically this aforementioned verse: “That it may go well with you” (Deuteronomy 5:16), as referring to the World-to-Come, as did Rabbi Ya’akov, the son of his daughter, he would not have sinned. The Gemara asks: What did Aḥer see that led him to heresy? Some say that he saw an incident like this one witnessed by Rabbi Ya’akov, and some say that he saw the tongue of Rabbi Ḥutzpit the disseminator, which was cast in a garbage dump after he was executed by the government. Aḥer said: Will a mouth that produced pearls of wisdom lick the dust? But he did not know that the phrase “that it may be well with you” means in the world where all is well, and that the phrase “that your days may be long” is referring to the world that is entirely long.
This is a great illustration of the motivating factor behind Mi Vami. Elisha ben Avuya became an apostate because of a specific incident, either the same (sort of) incident discussed earlier, or a similar one.

If so, perhaps we can understand that this personal history was what drove Rabbi Yaakov to his interpretation. As a grandson of Elisha ben Avuya, yet a religious man, he could not take the verse at its surface sense and yet could not dismiss Divine reward and punishment. He grappled with it and arrived at this interpretation.

However, I would point out that Rav Hyman in Toldot Tannaim veAmoraim dismisses this relationship. He writes:


That is, he asks where Rav Yosef got this biographical information, since there is no other reference to it in the Talmud. He dismisses the idea that this could have been a received tradition. More compellingly, he points out an incident in masechet Chagiga, where Rabbi Yehuda HaNasiwas approached by Acher's daughter, asking to be provided for. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi expresses surprise that there are descendants of Acher out and about. Yet, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi was a student of Rabbi Yaakov, so why would he be surprised. Rav Hyman points out that a parallel Yerushalmi omits the words bar bartei, "the son of the daughter of". He concludes that this was a girsological error, and really the text read bar Karshay, which is the patronymic of Rabbi Yaakov.

If so, the familial / scholastic relationship has no bearing on the developed positions in this sugya.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The aged Rav Avira, and the great Rebbi

A curious incident is related on Chullin 51a, in which Rav Avira appears. This Rav Avira is a scholar from Israel. Rav Safra informs Abaye that this scholar has related an incident and novel teaching from Rabbi (/Rabbi Rabba). Abaye pursues Rav Avira to a rooftop and eventually gets him to relate the novel ruling. Then:
Rav Avira said to him : I am a director of assemblies in the study hall. I was standing above the Great Rabbi Yehuda HaNasiand Rav Huna of Tzippori and Rabbi Yosei of Medea were sitting before him, and a needle came before Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi that was found in the thickness of the reticulum protruding from one side, i. e. , the inside, and Rabbi Yehuda HaNasiturned the reticulum over and found a drop of blood on the outside, parallel to the wound on the inside, and he deemed the animaltereifa. And he said : If there is no wound on the outside there as well, from where is this drop of blood? Abaye said to Rav Avira : He caused that man trouble needlessly, i. e. , you troubled me for no reason. This is nothing more than the mishna, which states that an animal is a tereifa if the omasum or the reticulum was perforated to the outside.
Artscroll has a nice footnote discussing the identity of  this "Rabbi" that Rav Avina quotes. Was it really Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi? Footnote 11:

This is a reference to R' Yehudah HaNasi (Rashi d.h. le'eila miRabbi Rabbi; see though, note 14 below).

Footnote 14:

[As mentioned above (note 11), Rashi understands this as a reference to R' Yehudah HaNasi, redactor of the Mishnah. It seems strange, though, that Abaye, who lived several generations after Rebbi, should have conversed with a contemporary of Rabbi. Moreover, this contemporary is described here as a tzurba reirabbanan, which is generally understood to mean a young Torah scholar (see Rashi to Taanis 4a, d.h. tzurba reibarabbanan). A contemporary of Rebbi could not have been "young" when conversing with Abaye! Indeed, because of such considerations, the Sefer HaYochasin (cited in Seder HaDoros רב עוירא) disagrees with Rashi, and explains that Rabbi Rabba here does not refer to Rebbi, but rather means "the great one of the generation." Seder HaDorors, however, allows that it might refer to Rebbi, and that Rav Avira lived exceptionally long and was indeed quite old when he spoke with Abaye.]

You can read this in Seder HaDoros, chelek 2, page 299, here:


After citing the relevant gemara and the Rashi, he cites Sefer Yochasin, on the letter Heh, for Rav Huna of Tzippori, noting that
he argues on Rashi who had explained that "Rebbi Rabba" was Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, for how could he before Rabbi as well as before Abaye and Rav Safra. Rather, Rebbi Rabba implies the Gadol HaDor.
Yet, in Chullin (54a) it states that Rav attended to Rabbi Rabba and Rabbi Chiyya, and Rashi does not comment there anything, for there it is utterly clear that Rabbi Rabba is Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. Yet, at the end of Ketubot (112a), Rav Avira, Rabbi Chelbo, and Rabbi Yose bar Chanina visit that place, and it is known that Rabbi Yose bar Chanina was a student of Rabbi Yochanan, and Rabbi Yochanan was in the time of Rabbi. If so, perhaps he was long-lived, or there were two people by that name.

So ends Seder HaDoros. In Sefer Yuchsin, the discussion is actually a bit more extensive that the quote given above. He writes:



After suggesting that it refers to the Gadol HaDor, he notes that in the last perek of Rosh Hashana, it is apparent that he, meaning Rav Huna Tziporaah, is a student of Rabbi Yochanan.

I did a quick search, and we find this in the Rif citing a Yerushalmi,
רב הונא ציפוראה בשם רבי יוחנן אמר הלכה כר"ג באילין תקיעתא והוא שישבו שם מראש התפלה
It makes a lot more sense that Rabbi Rabba, the great Rabbi, is an appellation for whichever the current great of the generation is. Furthermore, in Eretz Yisrael in particular, the one to see about tereifot was specifically Rabbi Yochanan.

This is further established based on what Seder HaDoros mentioned, that Rabbi Yose ben Chanina accompanied Rav Avira, and the former was a student of Rabbi Yochanan.

If we wanted to establish the Rabbi Rabba as Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, just how old would Rav Avira need to be? It is a tug of war. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi was born in 135 CE and died in Tzipori in 217 CE. Abaye was born in 278 CE and died in 338 CE.

If Rav Avira stood before Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, let us say that it is in 217. Abaye might be at least 20 years old at the time of this incident, so 298 CE. A subtraction, 298 - 217 = 81. Not exactly a tzurba meiRabbanan if that means a youth. And we might want the incident with Rebbi to be earlier than his final year, and the incident with Abaye -- who Rav Safra calls Mar, meaning master -- to be older than 20.

Still, 80 to 100 years is not crazily old. It might make a lot of sense for Abaye to pursue a teaching from an elderly Sage about a novel position of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, because this is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And the statement that this is the same as the Mishna has greater resonance if it indeed Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, redactor of the Mishna, who said it.

Yet the Rav Huna Tziporaah seems to be a much better grounding, as a student of Rabbi Yochanan. If we make Rebbi Rabbi into Rabbi Yochanan, who was born 180 CE and died in 279 CE, and have Abaye as a 20 year old, then 298 - 279 = 19 years, in which case calling him a youth ("tzurba meirabbanan") makes good sense, and even if we add a few year at the beginning and end, it makes very good sense.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Ulla’s fellows

An interesting Tosafot from last Monday’s daf (Chullin 34). First, the gemara writes:

אמר עולא חבריא אמרין בחולין שנעשו על טהרת הקדש ודלא כרבי יהושע
Ulla said: My colleagues say that the mishna is referring to the case of non-sacred food items that were prepared on the level of purity of sacrificialfood, and the mishna is not in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua, who says: Non-sacred food items that were prepared on the level of purity of teruma assume third-degree impurity, but non-sacred food items that were prepared on the level of purity of sacrificial food do not assume third-degree impurity.
ואנא אמינא רבי יהושע היא ולא מיבעיא קאמר לא מיבעיא חולין שנעשו על טהרת קדש דחמירי דאית בהו שלישי אלא אפילו חולין שנעשו על טהרת תרומה נמי אית בהו שלישי
Ulla continues: And I say that the mishna is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua, and when he said that non-sacred food items that were prepared on the level of purity of teruma assume third-degree impurity, he is speaking utilizing the style of: It is not necessary. It is not necessary to say that in the case of non-sacred food items that were prepared on the level of purity of sacrificial food, which is stringent, that they have the capacity of assuming third-degree impurity. Rather, even non-sacred food items that were prepared on the level of purity of teruma also have the capacity of assuming third-degree impurity.
מאן חבריא רבה בר בר חנה היא דאמר רבה בר בר חנה א"ר יוחנן מאי אהדרי רבי אליעזר ורבי יהושע להדדי
The Gemara asks: Who are the colleagues to whom Ulla referred? It is Rabba bar bar Ḥana, as Rabba bar bar Ḥana says that Rabbi Yoḥanan says: What did Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua reply to each other? The differences between their opinions are twofold. First, Rabbi Eliezer holds that one who eats food with first-degree impurity assumes first-degree impurity, while according to Rabbi Yehoshua he assumes second-degree impurity. Second, Rabbi Eliezer holds that one who eats food with third-degree impurity assumes third-degree impurity, while according to Rabbi Yehoshua he assumes second-degree impurity vis-à-vis sacrificial food but not vis-à-vis teruma.

Tosafot wonders why not say that the “colleagues” refers to Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat, who said this very think on the previous amud. And answers that Rabbi Eleazar is Ulla’s teacher, not a colleague, giving two examples of Ulla citing Rabbi Eleazar.

 מאן חבריא רבה בר בר חנה - לא ר"ל רבי אלעזר דלעיל דלא הוה קרי ליה חבריא דרבו הוה כדאמר בפ"ק דב"ק (דף יא:) וביש נוחלין (ב"ב דף קכח.) דאמר עולא אמר רבי אלעזר הלכה גובין מן העבדים אבל קשיא אמאי לא קאמר עולא רבותי אומרים ונראה דרבי אלעזר לא קאמר לעיל יותר אלא הכא בחולין שנעשו על טהרת קדש עסקינן והש"ס הוא דמסיים ודלא כרבי יהושע: 

While mi vami hasn’t explicitly recorded R’ Eleazar as Ulla’s teacher, we do have the citation relationships when looking globally across the Talmud.

Chavraya implies to me multiple people, rather than just one. And interestingly, in both cases of this position, these are people citing a previous generation. It is Rabbi Eleazar citing Rabbi Oshaya, and Rabba bar bar Chana citing Rabbi Yochanan.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Rav Asi vs. Rabbi Assi

In today’s daf (Chullin 19a) it becomes imperative to know the generational information of Rav Asi.



Rav Huna is a 2nd generation Amora of Bavel, and Rav Asi is a 1st generation Amora from Bavel, the leader of the city of Hutzal and a colleague of Rav. As is shown by the color highlighting above. As Tosafot remark on the page:

 אמר רב הונא אמר רב אסי. היינו רב אסי חברו של רב כהנא שהיו גדולים דלסבריה דרב לא היו צריכין אבל רבי אסי לאו היינו רב אסי דקטן מרב הונא היה כדאמרי' בהניזקין (גיטין נט:) רבי אמי ורבי אסי כהני חשיבי דארעא דישראל מיכף כייפי ליה לרב הונא: 

That is, we must distinguish between Rav Asi and Rabbi Asi. For Rabbi Asi is a third-generation Amora of Eretz Yisrael, and we would not have Rav Huna (2nd generation) citing him. And Rav Asi is not dependent upon Rav.

This is all very relevant because this page of gemara contains three statements from Rav Huna. First, there is a sugya in which Rav Huna cites Rav Asi - the lishna kamma. Then, there is an alternate sugya in which Rav Huna cites Rav Ashi - the lishna acharina. Then, there is a sugya in which Rav Huna, citing Rav, argues with Rav Yehuda, citing Rav.

There is an immediately apparent contradiction between the first Rav Huna (citing Rav Asi) and the third Rav Huna (citing Rav). According to the former, a certain argument between the Sages and Rabbi Yosei son of Rabbi Yehuda concerns where one slaughtered the first two thirds appropriately, in the proper location, and only committed hagrama - slaughter outside of bound in the last third. But hagrama in the first third and then proper slaughter in the last two thirds would be invalid according to everyone. Yet, according to the third Rav Huna (citing Rav), if one committed hagrama in the first third, proper slaughter in the second third, and hagrama in the last third, it would be valid. This is an obvious contradiction.

Tosafot note this and explain that it is not a concern:

 הגרים שליש ושחט שליש כו' רב הונא אמר רב כשרה. והא דפסיל רב הונא לעיל הגרים שליש ושחט שני שליש התם משמיה דרב אסי והכא משמיה דרב: 

By way of explanation, the first statement of Rav Huna, which declares it invalid, is citing Rav Asi, while the third statement of Rav Huna, which declares it valid, it citing Rav. Rav and Rav Asi can argue with one another.

I believe that this apparent contradiction between Rav Huna #1 and Rav Huna #3 explains the introduction of the lishna acharina, the variant version of Rav Huna, that is Rav Huna #2.
What happens in the lishna kamma is that Rav Huna (A2) says X, his colleague-student Rav Chisda (A3) objects and suggests Y. Rav Yosef (A3) objects to Rav Chisda, his student Abaye (A4) objects, and Rav Yosef responds conclusively. What happens in the lishna batra is that the original position and reason of Rav Huna disappears, and he instead says what Rav Chisda suggested. And then every other Amora shifts one over in their role and argument, and Abaye (the last) disappears.

I think someone spotted the contradiction between Rav Huna #1 and Rav Huna #3, and so harmonized it by introducing Rav Huna #2 which is more consistent. I don’t think Rav Huna #2 and #3 are entirely consistent, in that they may differ in their reasoning and therefore application in certain cases. Under the principle of lectio difficilior, the rule of the apparently “difficult” reading being original, it is the lishna kamma which is original.

See the Rosh who cites this sugya and brings down the second version as Rav Huna’s statement, without attributing it explicitly to Rav Huna citing Rav Ashi. Also, in terms of how people rule, most Rishonim apparently rule like Rav Yehuda citing Rav, except for Rashi who holds like Rav Huna citing Rav, except for Rashba who holds like the lishna kamma of Rav Huna citing Rav Ashi. A salient proof of the Rashba’s position is that the gemara on the next daf says that something is in accordance with Rav Huna citing Rav Asi. And that is Rav Huna #1, rather than Rav Huna #2. And that the setama degemara bothers to say this is evidence that one should rule like him.

Whether or not that is actually so, I think that this gemara on Chullin 20a serves as a useful checksum - that the setama had Rav Huna #1, rather than Rav Huna #2. This is additional proof that Rav Huna #1 is the original.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Rav Huna Kamma

In yesterday’s daf (Chullin 13a), there was an interesting interaction between Shmuel and Rav Huna:



This is strange because it is an Inquiry interaction (בעא מיניה), which usually happens as a student inquiring of a teacher. But Shmuel is a first generation Amora while Rav Huna is a second generation Amora. And Rav Huna is Shmuel’s student, rather than the reverse:



Tosafot ask this question.

 בעא מיניה שמואל מרב הונא. משמע שהיה שמואל קטן מרב הונא וכן בריש גיטין (דף ה.) ובפ' יש בערכין (ערכין טז:) הוו יתבי רב הונא וחייא בר רב קמי שמואל משמע כתלמיד היושב לפני רבו ובפרק קמא דגיטין (דף יא:) יתיב רב הונא קמי רבי ירמיה ורבי ירמיה חבירו של רבי זירא הוה כדמוכח בנדה (דף כג.) בעא מיניה רבי ירמיה מרבי זירא כו' עד כאן הביאו רבי ירמיה לרבי זירא לידי גיחוך ולא גחך ורבי זירא תלמידו של רב יהודה דהוה משתמיט מיניה למיסק לארעא דישראל ורב יהודה תלמידו של רב ושמואל והיה קורא רבי ירמיה לרב הונא דרדקי (גיטין דף יא:) ויש לומר דתרי רב הונא הוו ומיהו ההוא דערכין (דף טז:) על כרחך תלמידו של רב הוה כדמוכח התם:

They propose that there were two Rav Hunas, and this Rav Huna is earlier than Shmuel. I need to update the biographical database in Mivami to reflect this, and work on getting the disambiguator online.

We can find out more about this Rav Huna Kamma on Wikipedia (in Hebrew and in English). He was a Resh Geluta contemporary to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi

Monday, December 10, 2018

Introducing Sugyot

I am happy to announce the first introduction of Sugyot into Mi vaMi.

Each individual sugya (short discussion) is recognized, and we produce graphs for just that sugya. In the past, graphs were organized by amud, e.g. Chullin 3a vs. Chullin 3b. But that organization means that, when someone wants to focus only on the relationship between people in a sugya, graphs are sometimes cluttered with irrelevant people. And where a sugya spanned across an amud division, relevant people were being left out of the graph.

At the moment, on page load, we show the graph(s) for the amud. Thus, for today’s daf (looking at Chullin 13b), here is the teacher / student graph:


Amud-based student graph


There is now a button (labelled “Student”) at the start of each sugya (as well as at the beginning of the page, for a sugya spanning amudim). Clicking on that button yields this graph:


Sugya-based student graph

We no longer have Rav Ashi, Rav Pappa, and Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira. who were not relevant to the top sugya. And we have included Rabbi Ammi, who is part of the sugya but who only appears on the previous amud.

Additional buttons for interaction graphs to hopefully be added soon.



Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Moving towards trees

The student / teacher graphs and interaction graphs are often better seen as trees. We should really expect the earlier generations of Tannaim and Amoraim to be higher up on the graph and later generations lower.

In the past, these vertices representing rabbis were randomly placed and the directed edges connecting them pointed in all direction (up, down, left and right). I have a specific tree-like graph structure in mind, and today I announce the first step towards that.

Here is the graph before the changes, from Chullin 7a:

Chullin 7a graph, with edges in all directions

Here is the same graph, after the introduced changes:

New Chullin 7a graph

Note how almost all edges are directed upwards, and generally, higher up in the connected component of a graph are the earlier generation. There is still some work to do, but I think this is a marked improvement.

Was Rabbi Yaakov the grandson of Acher?

Yesterday we finished mashechet Chullin in Daf Yomi, and there ( Chullin 142a ), Rav Yosef asserts that the Tanna Rabbi Yaakov was the gran...