Friday, January 4, 2013

Shabbat 89-90: In defense of Rav Kahana and Rav Yehuda

Shabbat 89a-b:
Rav Kahana tries to darshen the name Har Sinai, and appears to fail miserably:
One of the Rabbis asked R. Kahana: Hast thou heard what the mountain of Sinai [connotes]? The mountain whereon miracles [nissim] were performed for Israel, he replied. Then it should be called Mount Nisai? But [it means] the mountain whereon a happy augury [siman] took place for Israel. Then it should be called, Mount Simanai? Said he to him, Why dost thou not frequent [the academy of] R. Papa and R. Huna the son of R. Joshua, who make a study of aggadah. For R. Hisda and Rabbah the son of R. Huna both said, What is [the meaning of] Mount Sinai? The mountain whereon there descended hostility [sin'ah] toward idolaters.24  And thus R. Jose son of R. Hanina said: It has five names: The Wilderness of Zin, [meaning] that Israel were given commandments there;25  the Wilderness of Kadesh, where the Israelites were sanctified [kadosh], the Wilderness of Kedemoth, because a priority [kedumah] was conferred there;26  the Wilderness of Paran, because Israel was fruitful [paru] and multiplied there; and the Wilderness of Sinai, because hostility toward idolaters descended thereon. Whilst what was its [real] name? Its name was Horeb. Now they disagree with R. Abbahu, For R. Abbahu said: its name was Mount Sinai, and why was it called Mount Horeb? Because desolation [hurbah] to idolaters descended thereon.
But is Rav Kahana's suggestion, 'The mountain whereon miracles [nissim] were performed for Israel', really so terrible? After all, the rejection was based on that this requires a transposition, Nisai as opposed to Sinai. Yet, in support of the eventual derasha, Sinai as Sinah, hatred, Rabbi Yossi b' Rabbi Chanina interpreted Midbar Tzin as the place shenitztavu Yisrael, that the Israelites were commanded. It appears that this derivation requires a transposition, of Nitz for Tzin.

Shabbat 90a:
LYE [BORITH]. Rab Judah said: That is sand. But it was taught: Borith and sand? Rather what is Borith? Sulphur. An objection is raised: To these were added halbezin6  and le'enn7  and borith and ahol.8  But if you maintain that it is sulphur, is then sulphur subject to shebi'ith? Surely it was taught: This is the general rule: Whatever as a root is subject to shebi'ith, but that which has no root is not subject to shebi'ith? But what is borith? Ahala.9  But it was taught: And borith and ahala?10  — There are two kinds of ahala.
Note that the rejection to Rav Yehuda, that there is a brayta that uses both chol and borit, can now fall away. For the gemara questioned the identification of borit with ahala, since a brayta put them together, such that they must be different. And the gemara concluded that they were two different shades of ahala. Once you can say this, you can also simply say that there are two different shades of chol, the typical chol and borit, specialized sand used for cleansing.

More than this, neither Rav Yehuda (as well as the eventual suggester in the gemara of ahala) knew full well of these braytot which listed both together. Indeed, rather than a rejection of their view, I suspect that this was the very basis of their view. Since items are listed in proximity in a brayta, it stands to reason that it is another shade of the same.

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