Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thoughts on Berachot 33 - 36

On Berachot 33a, where the context is Havdalah in davening and over a cup:
בעא מיניה רב חסדא מרב ששת טעה בזו ובזו מהו אמר ליה טעה בזו ובזו חוזר לראש
R. Hisda inquired of R. Shesheth: If he forgot in both,28  what is he to do? — He replied: If one forgot in both, he says the whole again.29
This is quite mystifying. How does one forget "in both"? Rashi clearly holds we are talking about Havdalah and writes:
חוזר לראש - לתפלה ולכוס:
Soncino elaborates:
In the case of habdalah over the cup, he failed to say the last benediction which contains the enumeration of the various divisions. V. D.S. a.l.
This seems rather farfetched, as far as scenarios go. If he did not say the actual blessing which is havdalah, let him say it now. I suppose he already drank the cup, and blessed over the fire and spices.

Shteinsaltz, in the halacha section, refers to Talmidei Rabbenu Yonah and then Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 294:1 that: "One who failed to recite havdalah in the Amida prayer and later ate before reciting havdala over the cup of wine, must repeat the evening Amida prayer and recite havdala in the fourth blessing. Since eating was an action that he was not permitted to perform, he is referred to as one who erred."

This seems even more forced, as an interpretation. Fine, it is a prohibited act, but to set this as the meaning of this cryptic Talmudic statement?

I would posit that this was really about מזכירין גבורות גשמים בתחיית המתים ושאלה בברכת השנים, where the operating assumption, as we know from elsewhere, is that one can repeat it in shomeah tefillah. This is indeed explicit in this gemara in the parallel Yerushalmi (38b):

והתני אם לא שאל בברכת השנים או שלא הזכיר גבורת גשמים בתחיית המתים מחזירים אותו אמר רבי אבדימי אחוי דרבי יוסי בשלא אמר בשומע תפילה.  איכן הוא חוזר כדמר ר"ש בר ווא בשם ר' יוחנן בראש חודש אם עקר את רגליו חוזר לכתחילה ואם לאו חוזר לעבודה אוף הכא אם עקר את רגליו חוזר לכתחילה ואם לאו חוזר לעבודה

See our gemara in Berachot 29a:
גופא א"ר תנחום אמר רב אסי טעה ולא הזכיר גבורות גשמים בתחיית המתים מחזירין אותו שאלה בברכת השנים אין מחזירין אותו מפני שיכול לאומרה בשומע תפלה והבדלה בחונן הדעת אין מחזירין אותו מפני שיכול לאומרה על הכוס מיתיבי טעה ולא הזכיר גבורות גשמים בתחיית המתים מחזירין אותו שאלה בברכת השנים מחזירין אותו והבדלה בחונן הדעת אין מחזירין אותו מפני שיכול לאומרה על הכוס ל"ק הא ביחיד הא בצבור בצבור מ"ט לא משום דשמעה משליח צבור אי הכי האי מפני שיכול לאומרה בשומע תפלה מפני ששומע משליח צבור מיבעי ליה אלא אידי ואידי ביחיד ול"ק הא דאדכר קודם שומע תפלה הא דאדכר בתר שומע תפלה:
and the Tosafot on Berachot 29b.

If I recall correctly, Tosafot distinguished between Bavli and Yerushalmi, stating that according to our Bavli, if he missed in shomeah tefillah, he does not go back to avodah but returns to the start; whereas Yerushalmi maintains that he may go back to avodah and say it in shomeah tefillah.

Again, let us see this Talmudic statement:
בעא מיניה רב חסדא מרב ששת טעה בזו ובזו מהו אמר ליה טעה בזו ובזו חוזר לראש
If he erred in its normal place and in shomeah tefillah, where does he return? Rav Sheshet replies that he returns to the start, rather than to avodah.

Why juxtapose this statement in such a manner in our gemara? Because of the words טעה בזו ובזו, which parallel the earlier words of the brayta of והדר תני אם הבדיל בזו ובזו ינוחו לו ברכות על ראשו.

In Berachot 34b (English):
אמר להן לא נביא אנכי ולא בן נביא אנכי אלא כך מקובלני
 He replied: I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I learnt this from experience.
The bnei neviim were not literally sons of prophets. They were perhaps students of prophets, who maybe even employed mantic methods to induce prophecy. 2 Melachim 6:1 has sons of prophets speaking to Elisha. Amos says he is neither a prophet nor a son of a prophet.

In Berachot 35a:
א"ר יונתן מנין שאין אומרים שירה אלא על היין שנאמר (שופטים ט, יג) ותאמר להם הגפן החדלתי את תירושי המשמח אלהים ואנשים אם אנשים משמח אלהים במה משמח מכאן שאין אומרים שירה אלא על היין
For R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: Whence do we know that a song of praise is sung only over wine?7  Because it says, And the vine said unto them: Should I leave my wine which cheereth God and man?8  If it cheers man, how does it cheer God? From this we learn that a song of praise is sung only over wine.
What about on a peshat level? Perhaps wine libations to Hashem?

If I had to understand that pasuk on a peshat level, in Shofetim 9:13:
יג  וַתֹּאמֶר לָהֶם, הַגֶּפֶן, הֶחֳדַלְתִּי אֶת-תִּירוֹשִׁי, הַמְשַׂמֵּחַ אֱלֹהִים וַאֲנָשִׁים; וְהָלַכְתִּי, לָנוּעַ עַל-הָעֵצִים.13 And the vine said unto them: Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to hold sway over the trees?

I might note that Anashim is plural, so perhaps Elohim in this case is chol and indeed meant as the plural here. That is, Yotam, in this allegory, is referring to myths about Mesopotamian deities, who indeed imbibed wine to excess:

In Berachot 35b:
א"ר חנינא בר פפא כל הנהנה מן העוה"ז בלא ברכה כאילו גוזל להקב"ה וכנסת ישראל שנא' (משלי כח, כד) גוזל אביו ואמו ואומר אין פשע חבר הוא לאיש משחית ואין אביו אלא הקב"ה שנא' (דברים לב, ו) הלא הוא אביך קנך ואין אמו אלא כנסת ישראל שנא'(משלי א, ח) שמע בני מוסר אביך ואל תטוש תורת אמך
R. Hanina b. Papa said: To enjoy this world without a benediction is like robbing the Holy One, blessed be He, and the community of Israel, as it says. Whoso robbeth his father or his mother and saith, It is no transgression, the same is the companion of a destroyer;1  and 'father' is none other but the Holy One, blessed be He, as it says. Is not He thy father that hath gotten thee;2  and 'mother' is none other than the community of Israel, as it says, Hear, my son, the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the teaching of thy mother.3
Despite my general hesitation about interpreting Talmudic texts in light of later kabbalistic works, because of the risk of retrojecting later ideas into earlier sources, if I recall correctly, some scholars point to knesset Yisrael here and in the Zohar. Knesset Yisrael as the community of Israel does not really make sense. But as it appears in kabbalah, as an appellation of God (or one of His aspects), it really does make sense.

Berachot 36a:
קמחא דחיטי רב יהודה אמר בורא פרי האדמה ורב נחמן אמר שהכל נהיה בדברו
There is a difference between Sefardim and Ashkenazim as to whether it is nihyah bidvaro or nihyeh bidvaro. Was it that it came to be, in the past, or it exists, in the present? Explanations for the Ashkenazic pronunciation is that the world is continuously being created by the Makom, the Omnipresent, without which the world would cease to exist.

A bit later:
אבל קמחא דשערי הואיל וקשה לקוקיאני לא לבריך עליה כלל
I discussed this gemara in this parshablog post, reviewing a book with a Rambam / Talmudic diet. I wrote there:

Second, in terms of barley, they write:
The Talmud warns that barley may cause intestinal worms. Also, because it is difficult to digest, barley should be avoided by those with gastrointestinal problems.
I don't think the authors mean to conflate the two. But the idea that it causes intestinal worms is find in Berachot 36a:
Over raw cabbage and barley-flour we say the blessing 'by whose word all things exist', and may we not infer from this that over wheat-flour we say 'who createst the fruit of the ground'? — No; over wheat-flour also we say 'by whose word all things exist'. Then let him state the rule for wheat-flour, and it will apply to barley-flour as a matter of course?7  — If he had stated the rule as applying to wheat-flour, I might have said: That is the rule for wheat-flour, but over barley-flour we need say no blessing at all. Therefore we are told that this is not so. But is barley-flour of less account than salt or brine, of which we have learnt:8  Over salt and brine one says 'by whose word all things exist'? — It was necessary [to lay down the rule for barley-flour]. You might argue that a man often puts a dash of salt or brine into his mouth [without harm], but barley-flour is harmful in creating tapeworms, and therefore we need say no blessing over it. We are therefore told that since one has some enjoyment from it he must say a blessing over it.
If it indeed means that barley-flour causes tapeworms, then this would, in all likelihood, be based on Chazal's belief in spontaneous generation. (The phrase used in the gemara, BTW, is that it is 'difficult for kukyanei'. This in turn is related to the anasakis worms found in fish. And it makes sense that it means that it causes them to exist, similar to how certain other activities are kasha for davar acher, meaning tzaraas.) One could plausibly explain that the tape-worm eggs were laid in the barley flour, and so ingesting it uncooked would allow those tapeworm eggs to hatch inside one's body. But if so, wouldn't the same be true for uncooked wheat-flour?

But one should not simply repeat the Talmudic advice as if it were a certainty. And even more so, one should not malign barley in general, where the Talmud only spoke about barley-flourcausing this.

So I don't know that I would rely on this book to accurately and completely tell me about what Chazal said, or to learn practical information from Chazal about the medicinal properties of these foodstuffs. As a coffee-table book, an/or as a place to start (especially if they do have footnotes), it looks nice.

However, it looks like this book might be intended to offer practical medical advice, based on outdated medicine from the time of the Rambam and earlier.

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