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.

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 relation...