Sunday, October 28, 2018

Menachot 79: Once again, ruling like one’s father

A few thoughts on today’s daf (Menachot 79a).

First, we have two accounts of the dispute between Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus and Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananiah, both 3rd generation Tannaim. One account of the dispute was from Rabbi Meir, and the other was from Rabbi Yehuda. These were both fifth generation Tannaim, looking back two generations at a (fuzzily?) known dispute:



It is quite strange to me that Rabbi Yehuda records an elaborate back-and-forth between Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Eliezer about their respective reasonings. This would be no fuzzily known dispute, but a rather clear, definite tradition. It seems far more likely that Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda were fuzzy about, and therefore argued, about what that 3rd generation dispute was about, either baal mum or piggul chutz limekomo. If so, it would be Rabbi Yehuda (or else the setam of the berayta) filling in the respective arguments, based on assumed reasoning. If so, Rabbi Eliezer’s “silence” at the end should not necessarily be taken as a retraction, as the gemara takes it.

Next, according to the first lashon of the gemara, it seems extremely strange to have Rava (or perhaps Rabba, depending on girsa), retract, since Rabbi Eliezer retracted. What in the world?! The brayta predated Rabba and Rava, and if they truly based themselves on the aforementioned authorities, Rava should never have taken the position in the first place. Surely he knew about the retraction!

Next, it is interesting how the girsa is changed, flipping Rabba and Rava. Presumably this is so that the earlier authority, Rabba, should be listed first. See the Rosh’s position about changing Rava to Rabba if he is listed prior to Abaye.

Finally, this seems to be a trend I am noticing more in Menachot than elsewhere in Shas. Once again, the gemara assumes that Rabbi Eleazar beRabbi Shimon would hold like his father.

ורבי אלעזר ברבי שמעון סבר לה כוותיה דאבוה דאמר כל העומד לזרוק כזרוק דמי

And then the gemara asks whether Rabbi Shimon really holds position X, under the assumption that the son’s taking this position commits the father. I will keep an eye for it in other masechtot, to see if it is advanced elsewhere.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Menachot 72: Ruling like one’s teacher

Today’s daf (Menachot 72) provides a great argument in favor of the Mi vaMi approach, that knowing someone’s teachers and grand-teachers will help us understand their position.

It starts with a statement by Rabbi Yochanan, that Rabbi Eleazar, son of Rabbi Shimon, bases himself on the position of his father’s teacher:

אמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר רבי יוחנן רבי אלעזר ברבי שמעון בשיטת רבי עקיבא רבו של אביו אמרה

”With regard to the opinion of Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon , that barley for the omer offering that is reaped by day is unfit, Rabba bar bar Ḥana says that Rabbi Yoḥanan says : Rabbi Elazar, son of Rabbi Shimon , said his statement in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Akiva , the teacher of his father. “

It goes on to explain exactly what position of Rabbi Akiva it is. But there is a focus on the familial (father-son) and scholastic (student-teacher) relationship.

Of course, Rabbi Yochanan’s statement proceeds with an additional prong, that Rabbi Eleazar beRabbi Shimon is also based on an opinion of Rabbi Yishmael (who would be Rabbi Akiva’s disputant.)

The setama degemara carries on this assumption, that you can figure out a rabbi’s position based on the position of his father or teacher. So, for instance, it points out that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, a 6th generation contemporary who takes a different position than Rabbi Eleazar here, also was a student of the same Rabbi Shimon (who in turn was the student of Rabbi Akiva)!

 ורבי לאו תלמידיה דרבי שמעון הוא ?

And tries resolving it by saying that there is a different position of Rabbi Shimon that Rabbi is basing himself upon. But then, the gemara asks:

ורבי אלעזר ברבי שמעון לא שמיע ליה

So, throughout this particular sugya, this assumption holds, that halachic position should more or less follow the scholastic relationship. Which, in turn, recommends the Mi VaMi approach.

Is this really the case, though? There are many, many instances in which a student does not rule like his teacher. Artscroll refers us to Chidushei HaRashba, which we can read here, who enumerates a number of conditions for this assumption to hold.

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