Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How can Rav support Rabbi Zera?!

In today’s daf (Zevachim 68a), the gemara points out a seeming inconsistency in the position of Rav.

The Setup:

Specifically, (A) Rav stated that melika on a korban performed by a zar would render the bird a neveila.

Now in general, if there is an instance or analogue where action or person X would be valid for a korban, that would prevent the korban from being rendered a neveila even where the action or person was not appropriate. The analogue to melika is shechita, and a zar may perform shechita animals for a korban. The gemara answers that (B), for Rav, shechita is not considered an avoda. (Meanwhile, melika certainly is an avoda.)

Then, (C) Rabbi Zeira asserts that, for a para aduma, shechita by a zar is invalid. That means that it is considered an avoda, in direct contrast to (B). And furthermore, Rav agreed with Rabbi Zera in this, because (D), Rav adduced Scriptural support from the words “Elazar” and “Chuka”. And the gemara resolves this apparent contradiction.

ולא והא אמר רבי זירא שחיטת פרה בזר פסולה ומחוי רב עלה אלעזר וחוקה

The Problem:

The difficulty with this is that Rabbi Zera was a 3rd generation Amora, while Rav was a 1st generation Amora. While we know that Rabbi Zera studied under Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat (2nd generation, an attendant of Rav in his youth) who was long-lived, and while Rabbi Zera was a student of Rav Huna who was a student of Rav, that does not mean that Rabbi Zera would have interacted with Rav. Did their lifespans overlap?

Furthermore, would Rav, a person from 2 generations earlier have heard a statement from Rabbi Zera and then given support to it?

A Resolution:

Mivami, with its generational highlighting and graphs, brought this difficulty to the fore. One strong answer can be found in Shinuyei Nuschaot (printed on the side of the page in  Artscroll) notes that in some manuscripts, and so too in our own text of Zevachim 14b, the text is actually אמר רבי זירא אמר רב.

That is, Rabbi Zera merely cited Rav about this statement. And Rav brings to bear Scriptural support to his own statement.

This different girsa makes a lot of sense, and resolves the problem. But we would not have even thought about it were we not focused on the generational data.

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