Thursday, December 31, 2020

Berakhot 2a


List of people / positions, by Sefaria statement.



Tanna Kamma - anonymous. Discusses terminus ad quo of recitation. Exists as a separate entity from Rabbi Eliezer who discusses the terminus ad quem, assuming that the punctuation with period is correct. (See gemara's discussion.) Since discusses similar concept to that 

רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר = Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus. Tanna generation 3. Shammaite.


וַחֲכָמִים = Anonymous plural Sages, disagreeing with Rabbi Eliezer. These Sages should be contemporary to Rabbi Eliezer, as a disputant. Also, the contemporary Rabban Gamliel is about to discuss their position, so they should be in the present or in previous generations to Tanna generation 3.


רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל = Rabban Gamliel II. Tanna generation 3. It is not Rabban Gamliel I (HaZaken) because that is too early, nor Rabban Gamliel III (the son of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi), of the transitional Tanna / Amora generation, as that is not contemporary with Rabbi Eliezer, nor is likely to be included in the Mishnah. The other two, IV and IV, are Amoraim and not in scope at all. This Rabban Gamliel II is Rabbi Eliezer's brother-in-law, having married Rabbi Eliezer's sister. He was appointed Nasi in 80 CE and died approximately 114 CE.


בָנָיו = Rabban Gamliel's sons, in the plural. Of his children, a Jewish Encyclopedia article (authored by Solomon Schechter, Wilhelm Bacher) asserts that he had a daughter, "who answered in a very intelligent fashion two questions addressed to her father by an unbeliever (Sanh. 34a, 90b)." Examining those Talmudic passages, Rashi asserts that this was the daughter of the Roman emperor, who was Rabban Gamliel's interlocutor, rather than Rabban Gamliel's daughter. The same article asserts that "Two of Gamaliel's sons are mentioned as returning from a certain feast (Ber. i. 2)." The implication is that there may be several more. This reference is to our present passage, but the claim that these are specifically two, and not more, is unsupported by the text. The minimum of plural is two, but not the maximum. They suggest Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel II (who was Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi's father) and Rabbi Yehuda ben Gamliel. These spanned several generation, including the generation of Rabbi Meir (fifth generation Tanna).

אָמְרוּ לוֹ = this and other explicit and implicit pronouns throughout. Since the conversation is with his mature sons, the conversation occurs in the overlap between generations, 

חֲכָמִים = This statement was either voiced by the Mishnah or by Rabbi Eliezer. It should refer to the same group of Sages as before, namely Rabbi Eliezer's disputants. 


חֲכָמִים = the same


Commentary: Shema is not tied specifically to korbanot or to established prayers by the Avot, but to a Biblical command. Still, as prayers took the place of the korbanot we could no longer offer, perhaps the concern in establishing these fixed times is expressed well by these early Tannaim who were just post-destruction.


6, 8, 11

תַּנָּא = the anonymous author of the Mishna who frames the question.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Focus on an Amora: Resh Lakish

What kind of information would we like on his bio page?

In Hebrew & English
Wikipedia Page:
Hebrew Wikipedia Page:
This has an infobox we can mine.
Jewish Encyclopedia:

Full name: Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish
Title: Rabbi
Personal name: Shimon
Father's name: Lakish
Alternate name: Resh Lakish
Alternate name: Bar Lekisha

Ideally, attach attribution to each factoid.

Born: 200
Died: 275

Birthplace: Bostra, east of the Jordan (based on JE link, citing Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., iv. 240;) There are several places by this name, but it would seem to be this one:
Primary dwelling: Sepphoris:

For links to Gratz, see here:
which bring us to volume 4, page 240, here:
And available in English here:

Teacher: Rabbi Yochanan
Colleague: Rabbi Yochanan
Opponent: Rabbi Yochanan
Relatives: Rabbi Yochanan (brother-in-law, Resh Lakish married Rabbi Yochanan's sister)
Saw: Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (the Tanna)
According to: Gratz

Teacher: Yehuda Nesia I (the grandson of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi)
According to: Halevy, Dorot ha-Rishonim, ii. 159a-164a;

Teacher: Bar Kappara
basis: he transmits many sayings in his name
According to: Bacher: ("Ag. Pal. Amor." i. 340)

Teacher: Rabbi Hoshaya
basis: he attended his seminary, and he cites (Ḳid. 80a; Me'i. 7b; Bek. 13a), questions (Yeb. 57a), and calls the "father of the Mishnah" (Yer. B. Ḳ. 4c).
According to: Jewish Encyclopedia

Physical attributes: fat, strong

1) In Sephoris, alongside Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Chanina ("Simeon b. Laḳish stood on an equality with him and enjoyed equal rights as a member of the school and council")
2) Next, When R. Johanan went to Tiberias and founded an academy there, Simeon accompanied him and took the second position in the school

Rabbi Yochanan moved and founded the academy at Tiberias at some point before Rabbi Chanina's death in 250, so we might take this as a fuzzy boundary from position 1 to position 2.

From Hebrew Wikipedia:
Scholastic generation: A2
Teachers: Listed in infobox, taken from multiple sources:  רבי חנינא בר חמא, בר קפרא, רבי ינאי, רבי אושעיא, רבי יוחנן
Contemporaries: רבי יוחנן

City: According to Rabbi Reuven Margolias, it was Lakish

To be continued...

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Some excellent Talmud projects out there

Aside from Mi Vami, there are several other excellent Talmud-oriented projects out there. I present here a short survey of these projects and their strengths. First, of sites presenting the Talmud. I'll update this list on occasion, but here is a first pass.

1) E-daf has been around for quite a while. It contains the tzurat hadaf - the image of the page - for the entire Talmud, as small images, large images, and occasionally menukad (=vocalized) images. It is aligned to Daf Yomi (a course of study in which people worldwide study the same page and complete the Talmud in seven years), so that the day's page is what automatically loads. A very simple, straightforward interface. The resources are graphics, rather than text that is easily processed, but the tzura is important.

2) Daf Yomi Advancement Forum - Kollel Iyun HaDaf - has many English resources for understanding each page of Talmud. The two I would deem most valuable, from an NLP / machine learning perspective, are Background to the Daf and Point by Point Summary. Background to the Daf has text such as this:

16)[line 1]ביאת אורוBI'AS ORO- (a) daybreak on the following morning (RASHI); (b) the beginning of sunset (TOSFOS)
17)[line 1]טהר גבראTAHER GAVRA- (a) the person becomes Tahor after offering his Korbanos (RASHI); (b) the person becomes Tahor since the required time has passed (TOSFOS)
18)[line 3]איערב שמשאI'AREV SHIMSHA- the sun is set
19)[line 4]אדכי יומאIDKEI YOMA- the sun (lit. day) has gone completely (RASHI)
20)[line 4]מערבאMA'ARAVA- Eretz Yisrael (lit. in the west [of Bavel])
21)[line 14]עומד ליפטרOMED LI'PATER- he gets up to go [away from the table, after his meal]

In which "difficult" words and phrases are explained. The line number is the line (in the tzurat hadaf) in which the phrase appears, then the phrase in consonantal Hebrew, then a transliteration to English, and then a brief gloss.

The Point by Point Outline has a goal of explaining the shakla vetarya (=give and take, discourse) of the page, and contains text such as this:
(Mishnah) Question: When do we say Keri'as Shema at night?
Answer #1 (R. Eliezer): The Mitzvah is from the time at which Kohanim may eat Terumah until the end of the first Mishmar (these will be explained).
Answer #2 (Chachamim): The time extends until midnight.
Answer #3 (R. Gamliel): The time extends until dawn.
A case occurred: R. Gamliel's sons came home from a wedding after midnight (they had not said Shema).
R. Gamliel: You are obligated to say it now;
In fact, wherever Chachamim said "until midnight," the Mitzvah (mid'Oraisa) is until dawn:
Chelev (of Korbanos) and limbs (of an Olah) may be burned on the Mizbe'ach until dawn;
Any Korban that may be eaten for one day and a night is permitted until dawn.
Question: If so, why did Chachamim say, "until midnight"?
Answer: This is to distance people from transgression (lest dawn arrive before one performs the Mitzvah).

This might be useful for computing, or else training a discourse model. A similarly promising resource is their Point by Point Summary of Tosafot.

3) The Mercava is an impressive site. They have the tzurat hadaf, so the user is comfortable with the page. One can click on any phrase in the Mishna, Talmud, Rashi, or Tosafot and see an (aligned) English explanation of the phrase, in context. They have also marked up / color coded the discourse, for Statement, Proof, Attack, Defense, Question, and Answer. In this way, their functionality is quite similar to the Artscroll app.

4) Sefaria is another impressive site, whose goal is to create an open-source digital Jewish library. Their code and texts are freely accessible / downloadable. (I use their resources extensively, in the form of a MongoDB dump.) They present the Talmud in its Hebrew/Aramaic aligned with the Koren's English translation. Each "statement" has a unique id and can be linked from the outside. They have numerous commentaries which have been aligned with the text, and so one can click on a statement and see, on the side, what that commentator says. They do not present the tzurat hadaf, which would be difficult given the format and desire to present arbitrary commentaries. They recently added punctuation to the first two tractates, and with the help of Dicta,

5) Al HaTorah has, among its projects, its Shas Gadol. Here is a sample page:

They allow you to customize your daf (just as they do for the Mikraot Gedolot) with the commentators you want. They also have punctuation and vocalization.

6) HebrewBooks has a Shas. For each page, there is a tzurat hadaf via PDF taken from the Neharda Talmud (Vagshal / Moznayim), which is beautiful and resource rich. The text is selectable, but the glyphs don't seem to correspond to Unicode Hebrew text so that is difficult. There is also a Text tab which gives the gemara, Rashi and Tosafot in a simplified form. They have a few meforshim aligned, and clicking on them will load the PDF of that page in the aligned sefer.

More to come:
7) Hachi Garsinan
8) Otzar Hachachma
9) Gemara Berura
10) The People's Talmud

Monday, January 6, 2020

Berachot 3

Two thoughts on Berachot 3.

1) The brayta gave three reasons not to enter a ruin: suspicion (of prostitution), collapse, and mazikin (demons). As is his way, Rambam takes the halacha not to pray in a ruin but does not specify the superstitious reason. (He doesn't give any reason.) Yet the gemara outlines three cases (new ruin, two people who are exemplary, who are not so exemplary), and why each reason is necessary. Rambam does not distinguish between these cases.

2) In a brayta:
וְלֹא זוֹ בִּלְבַד אֶלָּא, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל נִכְנָסִין לְבָתֵּי כְּנֵסִיּוֹת וּלְבָתֵּי מִדְרָשׁוֹת וְעוֹנִין ״יְהֵא שְׁמֵיהּ הַגָּדוֹל מְבֹורָךְ״, הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְנַעְנֵעַ רֹאשׁוֹ

See Tosafot and the discussion of how HaGadol as an adjective contradicts Machzor Vitry that Rabba is a verb. Also, about prayers in Hebrew vs. English. However, one thing I learned in Revel was how different Savoraim reworked various masechtot, clarifying the language and sometimes substituting Hebrew for Aramaic. Note the oddity here of HaGadol rather than Rabba, when the preceding word is Shemeih which is Aramaic. See also Masoret Hashas that has that this is girsat Rasha"l, but girsat Rash"a is Shemo, which would be Hebrew. I think there is evidence of a complex editing history, and we can't necessarily derive much from the HaGadol here.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Starting Daf Yomi cycle - Berachot 2

One of the points I brought up in my Daf Yomi shiur today (Berachot 2) - the distinction between between siman and sibah. A siman is a sign, an easy way of knowing when something is (e.g. the terminus a quo of Shema). A sibah is a cause, the reason that the recital of Shema begins at that time.
The setama degemara takes the kohanim coming in to eat terumah as a siman. How so? Because really, it is tzeit hakochavim, and by tying it to the kohanim eating terumah, it teaches us something along the way (milta agav urcheih kamashma lan).
However, the brayta it excerpts from says "siman ladavar, tzeit hakochavim". It is the starts that is the siman. The implication, to me, is that the kohanim eating terumah is the sibah.
My favorite idea, one I keep returning to when I analyze midrash halachah and midrash aggada, is the hidden derasha. Sometimes Chazal don't make the derasha explicit, but a close reading of the pasuk and the halacha reveals an underlying derasha. I believe that this is the case for the many positions in the Mishna and Brayta on Berachot 2a.
בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ֤ בְּבֵיתֶ֙ךָ֙ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ֣ בַדֶּ֔רֶךְ וּֽבְשָׁכְבְּךָ֖ וּבְקוּמֶֽךָ׃
Instead of beshivtecha beveitecha, read it as when you accept Shabbat in your house. Thus the position of when Shabbat is sanctified on erev Shabbat. See Iyov 30:17 and especially Kohelet 2:23 for shevet meaning rest from work, especially the poor laborer coming in from work. Thus, coming in from a long day at work and being at rest, during your meal, in your home (beveitecha) is the start time of recital. Rabbi Acha or Rabbi Achai speaks of hesieba, reclining, during a meal. Shochev has many meaning including merely lying down. Tying to a pauper or to a regular person has parallels to the time for recital of the morning Shema, either of a regular person or of a prince.
So it is not that recital was defined by the movements of heavenly bodies. Rather, it is defined by the movements of earthly bodies - the kohen, the regular person, the pauper. And there might be very fine differences in time when these things happen, and it doesn't need to fit into the rigid systematic slots the setama tried to wedge it into. And there are deep derashot at play, that people aren't realizing. And that is why each is a sibah, rather than a siman.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Niddah 8a: Rabbi Elazar, Rabbi Eliezer, and Pedat

Not much to say about this at the moment. I just wanted to mark this daf as important, in the scheme of resolving people and their relationships. There is Rabbi Elazar, Rabbi Eliezer, and Pedat. And it matters who they are here, and that the Pedat in this case is the son, rather than the father, of Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Niddah 14: Rabbi Chiya's brayta: of his youth or old age?

In today's Daf, Niddah 14a - b, the gemara discusses a reversed position of Rabbi Chiyya. The specifics of that position depend on whether a brayta encodes his initial or reversed position. In turn, that depends on when the brayta was authored. This ties in well to our previous discussion of the triple role which Talmudic scholars play, depending on whom they interact with. We can have Rabbi Chiyya as a student (=in his youth), as a colleague (=in his prime), and as a teacher (=in his old age). In each case, he might interact with different people in his scholastic social network.

Let us begin with the plain text of the Talmud.
אתמר בדקה בעד שאינו בדוק לה והניחתו בקופסא ולמחר מצאה עליו דם א"ר יוסף כל ימיו של ר' חייא טימא ולעת זקנתו טיהר
With regard to a similar case, it was stated: If a woman examined herself with a cloth that was not examined by her before its use, and she then placed it in a box without looking at it, and on the following day she found blood on this cloth, the question is whether the blood was on the cloth before the examination and the woman is consequently not impure, or whether the blood is from the examination, and she is impure. Rav Yosef says: All the days of Rabbi Ḥiyya he would deem such a woman impure, but in his old age he would deem her pure.
Thus, Rav Yosef records a reversal of Rabbi Chiyya in this instance, from impure to pure. The setama tries to figure out the extent of this reversal, which makes sense in light of a brayta we will eventually see, in which Rabbi Chiyya argues with Rebbe and says that while she is pure from niddah, she is impure from ketem. The setama records:
איבעיא להו היכי קאמר כל ימיו טימא משום נדה ולעת זקנתו טיהר משום נדה וטימא משום כתם
A dilemma was raised before the Sages with regard to this statement of Rav Yosef: With regard to what type of impurity status is he speaking? Does he mean that all his days Rabbi Ḥiyya would deem the woman definitely impure as a menstruating woman, and therefore any teruma with which she came into contact required burning; and in his old age he would deem her pure from the definite impurity status of a menstruating woman, but would deem her impure as a woman who discovered a stain, which is an uncertain source of impurity? If so, according to his ruling from his old age any teruma she touches is not burned but may not be eaten.
או דלמא כל ימיו טימא משום כתם ולעת זקנתו טיהר מולא כלום
Or perhaps does Rav Yosef mean that all his days Rabbi Ḥiyya would deem the woman impure as a matter of uncertainty due to the stain, and in his old age he would deem her pure from any type of impurity status?
Next, the brayta:
תא שמע דתניא בדקה בעד שאינו בדוק לה והניחתו בקופסא ולמחר מצאה עליו דם רבי אומר טמאה משום נדה ורבי חייא אמר טמאה משום כתם
The Gemara suggests: Come and hear a resolution for this dilemma, as it is taught in a baraita: If a woman examined herself with a cloth that was not examined by her before its use, and she placed it in a box, and on the following day she found blood on this cloth, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi says: She is definitely impure as a menstruating woman, and Rabbi Ḥiyya says: She is impure as a matter of uncertainty due to the stain.
אמר לו ר' חייא אי אתה מודה שצריכה כגריס ועוד א"ל אבל אמר לו א"כ (אתה) אף אתה עשיתו כתם
Rabbi Ḥiyya said to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi: Do you not concede that for her to become ritually impure she requires that the size of the blood stain on the cloth be more than the size of a split bean? If the stain is smaller, it is assumed to have been caused by a squashed louse. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi said to him: Indeed [aval], that is correct. Rabbi Ḥiyya said to him: If so, you too render this blood found on the cloth in the box a stain, which renders one impure as a matter of uncertainty. If you had considered it definitely impure, there would have been no distinction between a small stain and a large one. 
This brayta should be ambiguous, but the setama regards this as definitive in one direction. I skip one clarifying statement of what Rebbe's position is. The gemara then writes:

מאי לאו בזקנותו קאי הא בילדותו טימא משום נדה שמע מינה
The Gemara analyzes this statement of Rabbi Ḥiyya with reference to the dilemma under discussion: What, is it not correct to assume that Rabbi Ḥiyya was in his old age when he disagreed with his teacher, Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi? He would not have done so when he was young. And if he deemed the woman impure as a matter of uncertainty in his old age, it can be inferred that in his youth he would deem her definitely impure as a menstruating woman. The Gemara concludes: Indeed, conclude from here that this is the case.
That is, the brayta was written to record Rabbi Chiyya's position in his old age, after he had reversed himself.

It is unclear what the setama degemara sees in the brayta to conclude that this was recording his position in his old age. Various Rishonim proffer suggestions. Thus, Rashi says that this is because he argues with his teacher:

מאי לאו בזקנותו קאי - מדפליג עליה דרבי רביה:
To try to elaborate, perhaps this means that until he came into his own as an authority, he would have given way to Rebbe. And disagreement shows that he is old. How old would that have to be? At what point did Rabbi Chiyya come to study under Rebbe? Maybe it just means that the attitude he had to assume to argue means that this would be in his old age.

Tosafot say:
מאי לאו בזקנותו. פרש"י מדפליג על רבי ואין נראה דמצינו הרבה תלמידים שחולקים על רבם בילדותם ורשב"ם פירש דרבי חייא תחילה למד בבבל ולעת זקנתו עלה ולמד לפני רבי כדאמרינן (סוכה דף כ.) חזרה ונשתכחה עלו רבי חייא ובניו ויסדוה ועי"ל מדקאמר רבי חייא אף אתה עשיתו כתם ולא קאמר אף אתה רבי ש"מ דבזקנותו היה דהוה תלמיד חבר כדאמר בשילהי מי שמת (ב"ב דף קנח:) בן עזאי תלמיד חבר של רבי עקיבא דאמר ליה (שב אתה ולא קאמר שב מר):
That is, they first cite and disagree with Rashi. After all, we often find students who disagree with their teachers in their youth. And Rashbam explains that Rabbi Chiyya first learned in Bavel. And, in his old age (corresponding to the word זקנתו that Rav Yosef employs) he ascended and learned before Rebbe, referencing Succah 20a. And the wording of אתה vs. אתה רבי implies that he interacted with Rebbe as a chaver, a colleague, rather than a student.

I recall Rabbi Yaakov Elman mentioning work, I think by Christine Hayes, in the interactions of scholars people in the Talmud. Overwhelmingly, they were more deferential to those in preceding generations and more disrespectful to those in the same generation. The consistency of this goes to show that the discussions were a record of a true diachronic discourse, rather than what some people (e.g. those who follow Neusner) assert, that the entire discussion was merely a pious fabrication created at the very close of the period. This idea of Rashbam, looking at the language, seems a similar approach.

Now some analysis of my own.

1) We can harness some further biographical information in analyzing this. Recall that Rav Yosef said that "throughout his days he held X, and in his old age, he held Y (the reverse)."

The brayta encodes not just a dispute between Rebbe and Rabbi Chiyya, but (seemingly) a direct conversation: אמר לו ר' חייא 

In general, I might reserve judgement as to whether these are actual exchanges, or the putting words into the mouth of a figure, to explain his reasoning. The latter would be the equivalent of אמר לך פלוני, X would say to you. When there are many braytot, perhaps conflicting, as to what one said to the other (see an example a few pages back), perhaps it is not that they are recording parts of a longer conversation, or conflicting recollections of a conversation, or even someone lying. Rather, perhaps the intent was to fill in the imagined, or understood details, and people knew the style. It was as if it were an amar lecha Ploni.

Regardless, here, there is a recorded conversation. And certainly as the setama understands it, this was a real conversation between them.

Rebbe lived approximately 135 - 217 CE = 80 years.
Rabbi Chiyya the Great lived approximately 180 - 230 CE = 50 years. 

If we place the dispute of the Rebbe and Rabbi Chiyya at the latest possible point, 217 CE, that means that Rabbi Chiyya would be 37. In Avot, Yehuda ben Tema says:

הוא היה אומר, בן חמש שנים למקרא, בן עשר למשנה, בן שלש עשרה למצות, בן חמש עשרה לתלמוד, בן שמונה עשרה לחופה, בן עשרים לרדוף, בן שלשים לכח, בן ארבעים לבינה, בן חמשים לעצה, בן ששים לזקנה, בן שבעים לשיבה, בן שמונים לגבורה, בן תשעים לשוח, בן מאה כאילו מת ועבר ובטל מן העולם.
True, Rabbi Chiyya would not reach 60, the age of zikna, but at 37, he had not even reached bina! Also, he had 13 years left to his life. Would this really be called zikna? Could we really say "all his days he said X" when he reversed himself at age 37?! And that is assuming the most conservative date for this conversation. It could have taken place much earlier! Unless we interpret Rav Yosef's zikna as being inexact, meaning a later reversal from a long-held position.

2) What is the point in Rav Yosef telling us this? Had he remained silent, we would have have the established brayta (תניא) and known Rabbi Chiyya's position. Rav Yosef's statement has only introduced confusion. Furthermore, Rav Yosef's choice of language would introduce even more confusion:
א"ר יוסף כל ימיו של ר' חייא טימא ולעת זקנתו טיהר
The simplest understanding of these words is a binary difference between (some level of)impurity and total purity.

We should also consider Rav Yosef's role as Sinai, an expert in old traditions. There is the  phenomenon of Tnei Rav Yosef -- see here. "Tnei Rav..." occurs 172 times in Shas, Tnei Rabbi Chiyya 49 times, and Tnei Rav Yosef 46 times (mostly aggadic derashot). So Rav Yosef knows braytot, and other supplemental Tannaitic material, outside of the formal official braytot of Rabbi Chiyya and others.

I think that Rav Yosef is only coming here to help correct a mistake people might make. He knows of the official brayta. People will think that Rabbi Chiyya, while disagreeing with Rebbe, still maintains some level of ritual impurity, namely ketem. 

Therefore, Rav Yosef tells us how to understand this brayta that you will surely encounter. All his days -- including this brayta -- Rabbi Chiyya maintains the law that she is impure. But you wouldn't know this -- because it was a very late retraction, in his old age, and therefore not recorded in any brayta -- but Rabbi Chiyya reversed and said she is entirely pure.

I would therefore respectfully disagree with conclusion of the setama.

Berakhot 2a

Link List of people / positions, by Sefaria statement. MISHNAH 1 Tanna Kamma - anonymous. Discusses terminus ad quo of recitation. Exists as...