Purpose of Mishnah Book of Practical Halakha Textbook of Oral Tradition Quotes the opinion of a single Rabbi in the Tosefta as “the Sages” in order to say that he represent the Halakha. There are still multiple opinion and contradictions within the Mishnah. Also, Mishnah includes impractical temple and purity laws.
Why Include Controversy? • Eduyot ch. 1: Mishnah 5. And why do they record the opinion of a single person among the many, when the Halachah must be according to the opinion of the many? So that if a court prefers the opinion of the single person it may depend on him. For no court may set aside the decision of another court unless it is greater than it in wisdom and in number. If it was greater than it in wisdom but not in number, in number but not in wisdom, it may not set aside its decision, unless it is greater than it in wisdom and in number. • Mishnah 6. R. Judah said: if so, why do they record the opinion of a single person among the many to set it aside? So that if a man shall say, thus have I learnt the tradition,’ it may be said to him, ‘according to the [refuted] opinion of that individual did you hear it.
Historical context of the Mishnah • 451BCE – 12 Tablets • 131CE – Hadrian issued the “Perpetual Edict” which froze and codified the praetorian edicts • 2nd-3rd centuries, legal jurists (like Gaius, Paulus, Ulpian, and Papinian) write law commentaries and codes • 438 – Theodosian Code • 530 – Justinian Code
Deciding Dispute • Codex Theodosianus, 220.127.116.11-4: Law of Citations (426CE): • When conflicting opinions are cited, the greater number of the authors shall prevail, or if the numbers should be equal, the authority of that group shall take precedence in which the man of superior genius, Papinian, shall tower above the rest, and as he defeats a single opponent, so he yields to two…Furthermore, when their opinions as cited are equally divided and their authority is rated as equal, the regulation of the judge shall choose whose opinion he shall follow.
Yerushalmi Terumah 3:1 (42a) • R. Hiyya said in the name of R. Yohanan, ‘[In a dispute between] Rabbi and his colleagues, the halakha follows Rabbi.’ And R. Yonah said, ‘Even between Rabbi and R. Eleazar b. R. Shimon’… • R. Yose said in the name of R. Yohanan, ‘In a dispute between R. Yose and his colleagues, the halakha accords with R. Yose.’ • R. Zeira and R. Yaakov bar Idi [said] in the name of R. Yohanan, “In a dispute between R. Meir and R. Shimon, the halakha follows R. Shimon. [In a dispute between] R. Shimon and R. Yehudah, the halakha follows R. Yehudah. It thus goes without saying [that in a dispute between] R. Meir and R. Yehudah, the halakha follows R. Yehudah.”
Bavli Erubin 46b • אמר רב משרשיא: ליתנהו להני כללי • R. Mesharsheya stated: These rules are to be disregarded. • דאמר רבי יוחנן: כתפילין כך מנעלין. מה תפילין בשמאל, אף מנעלין בשמאל. מיתיבי: כשהוא נועל - נועל של ימין ואחר כך נועל של שמאל! • אמר רב יוסף: השתא דתניא הכי, ואמר רבי יוחנן הכי, דעבד הכי - עבד, ודעבד הכי - עבד. • For R. Yohanan said, “Just as [one acts] regarding shoes, [one should also act] regarding tefillin: Just as one [puts] tefillin on the left hand, so too [one puts on] shoes [beginning with the left foot].” But it was taught [in a Baraita], “When one puts on shoes, one puts on the right and then the left”? • Rav Yosef said, “Now that we have learned this and R. Yohanan has said that, one who acts this way has acted [legitimately] and one who acts that way has acted [legitimately].
“Do Not Make Factions” • Sifre Debarim, 96. • לא תתגודדו, לא תעשו אגודות אלא היו כולכם אגודה אחת וכן הוא אומר הבונה בשמים מעלותיו ואגודתו על ארץ יסדה. • Do not cut yourselves. Do not make factions, but rather all of you should be one faction, as it is said, “Who built His chambers in heaven and founded His vault on the earth” (Amos 9:6).
Bavli Yebamot 13 • והא בית שמאי מתירין הצרות לאחים, ובית הלל אוסרים? • ...אמר אביי: כי אמרינן לא תתגודדו - כגון שתי בתי דינים בעיר אחת, הללו מורים כדברי ב"ש והללו מורים כדברי ב"ה, אבל שתי בתי דינים בשתי עיירות - לית לן בה. • אמר ליה רבא: והא ב"ש וב"ה כשתי בתי דינים בעיר אחת דמי! אלא אמר רבא: כי אמרינן לא תתגודדו - כגון ב"ד בעיר אחת, פלג מורין כדברי ב"ש ופלג מורין כדברי ב"ה, אבל שתי בתי דינין בעיר אחת - לית לן בה. • But do not Beth Shammai permit the rivals to the other brothers and Beth Hillel forbid them? • Abaye replied: The warning against opposing sects is only applicable to such a case as that of two courts of law in the same town, one of whom rules in accordance with the views of Beth Shammai while the other rules in accordance with the views of Beth Hillel. In the case, however, of two courts of law in two different towns [the difference in practice] does not matter. • b. Said Rava to him: “Surely the case of Beth Shammai and Beth Hillel is like that of two courts of law in the same town!” Rava said, “The warning against opposing sects is only applicable to such a case as that of one court of law in the same town, half of which rule in accordance with the views of Beth Shammai while the other half rule in accordance with the views of Beth Hillel. In the case, however, of two courts of law in the same town [the difference in practice] does not matter.”
Rabbis as Local Authorities • Bavli Hulin 57a: • אמר רב הונא אמר רב: שמוטת ירך בעוף כשרה. א"ל רבה בר רב הונא לרב הונא, והא רבנן דאתו מפומבדיתא אמרו: רב יהודה משמיה דרב אמר שמוטת ירך בעוף - טרפה! אמר ליה: ברי, נהרא נהרא ופשטיה. • Rav Huna said in the name of Rav: “If the femur of a bird was dislodged, it is permitted.” Rabbah, son of Rav Huna, said to Rav Huna, “But the Rabbis who came from Pumbeditha reported the statement of Rav Yehudah in the name of Rav thus: ‘If the femur of a bird was dislodged it is trefah!’” He replied: “My son, each river follows its own course.”
Variant Customs are OK • Yerushalmi Ber 7:3, 11c: • רבי חייא בר אשי קם מקרי באורייתא ואמר ברכו ולא אמר המבורך בעון מישתקיניה אמר להון רב ארפוניה דנהיג כרבי עקיבה • רבי זעירא קם מקרי כהן במקום לוי ובירך לפניה ולאחריה ובעון מישתוקניה אמ' לון רבי חייא בר אשי ארפוניה דכן אינון נהיגין גבייהו • R. Hiyya bar Ashi rose up to read in the Torah. He said, “Bless…” but did not say, “Who is Blessed.” They [the congregation] wanted to shut him up. Rav told them, “Leave him alone for he practices according to R. Akiba.” • R. Zeira rose up to read Kohen instead of Levi. He recited a blessing before and after his portion. They [the congregation] wanted to shut him up. R. Hiyya bar Ashi told them, “Leave him alone for so do they practice in their circles.”
Chicken Cheeseburger! • Bavli Shabbat 130a: • תנו רבנן: במקומו של רבי אליעזר היו כורתין עצים לעשות פחמין לעשות ברזל בשבת. • במקומו של רבי יוסי הגלילי היו אוכלין בשר עוף בחלב. • Our Rabbis taught: In R. Eliezer's locality they used to cut timber to make charcoal for making iron on the Sabbath. In the locality of R. Yose the Galilean they used to eat flesh of fowl with milk.
Udderly Delicious • In Sura people did not eat the udder at all, in Pumbeditha they used to eat it. • Rami b. Tamri, also known as Rami b. Dikuli, of Pumbeditha once happened to be in Sura on the eve of the Day of Atonement. When the townspeople took all the udders [of the animals] and threw them away, he immediately went and collected them and ate them. He was then brought before R. Hisda who said to him: ‘Why did you do it?’ He replied: ‘I come from the place of Rab Judah who permits it to be eaten.’ Said R. Hisda to him: ‘But do you not accept the rule: [When a person arrives in a town] he must adopt the restrictions of the town he has left and also the restrictions of the town he has entered?’ — He replied: ‘I ate them outside the [city's] boundary.’
Only in the Yerushalmi! • Yerushalmi Shabbat 3c • אותו היום היה קשה לישראל כיום שנעשה בו העגל... • תנא רבי יהושע אונייא תלמידי ב"ש עמדו להן מלמטה והיו הורגין בתלמידי בית הלל • תני ששה מהן עלו והשאר עמדו עליהן בחרבות וברמחים • That day was as difficult for Israel as the day the [golden] calf was made… • It was taught by R. Yehoshua of Onaiah: The students of Beth Shammai stood below and were killing the students of Beth Hillel. • It was taught, “Six of [Beth Hillel] were allowed to enter and the rest were guarded by swords and spears.”
Important Political Events • 313CE Constantine converted to and declared toleration for Christianity • 351CE Jewish Revolt against Gallus protesting anti-Jewish legislation • 362CE Julian the Apostate announced rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash • 380 Christianity declared the official religion of the roman empire • 395 Roman Empire splits into two • 425CE Elimination of the Patriarchate • 638CE Muslim Conquest
The Rabbis and their Literature Part II – Methodology
Charles James Ball • We have to bear in mind a fact familiar enough to students of the Talmudic and Midrashic literature, though apparently unknown to many expositors of Scripture, whose minds conspicuously lack that orientation which is an indispensable preliminary to a right understanding of the treasures of Eastern thought; • I mean, the inveterate tendency of Jewish teachers to convey their doctrine not in the form of abstract discourse, but in a mode appealing directly to the imagination, and seeking to rouse the interest and sympathy of the man rather than the philosopher.
The Rabbi embodies his lesson in a story, whether parable or allegory or seeming historical narrative; and the last thing he or his disciples would think of is to ask whether the selected persons, events, and circumstances which so vividly suggest the doctrine are in themselves real or fictitious. The doctrine is everything; the mode of presentation has no independent value. To make the story the first consideration, and the doctrine it was intended to convey an afterthought, as we, with our dry Western literalness, are predisposed to do, is to reverse the Jewish order of thinking, and to do unconscious injustice to the authors of many edifying narratives of antiquity.