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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