Thursday, September 25, 2008

Traits of the Sages

It was stated (Gittin 67) : Shmuel said in the name of Rebbe that the halachah is in accordance with Rabbi Yosi, who said that verbal instructions cannot be passed on to an agent.

Rabbi Shimon the son of Rebbe said to Rebbe: Seeing that Rabbi Chanina of Ono and Rabbi Meir disagree with Rabbi Yosi, what was Rebbe’s reason for saying that the halachah follows Rabbi Yosi?

He replied: Be quiet, my son, be quiet; you have never seen Rabbi Yosi. Had you seen him, you would know that he always had reasons for his views. For we learned in a braisa: Issi ben Yehudah used to specify the praiseworthy merits of the various Sages. Rabbi Meir was a scholar and a scribe. Rabbi Yehudah was a scholar when he desired to be. Rabbi Tarfon resembled a heap of nuts. [When he was asked a question, he cited proofs from Scripture, Medrash, Mishnah, halachah and aggadah, like a heap of nuts toppling over one another.] Rabbi Yishmael resembled a well-stocked shop. [Whenever someone asked him something, he replied immediately, without keeping him waiting.] Rabbi Akiva was like a storehouse with compartments. [All his learning was organized by subject and each subject was taught separately.] Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri was like a basket of a spice peddler. [He could answer questions from any subject.] Rabbi Elozar ben Azaryah was like an individual’s basket of spices. [The spice peddler has many varieties of spices.] The teachings of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov were measured but pure. [He did not issue many rulings, but the halachah follows him.] Rabbi Yosi always had reasons for his views. Rabbi Shimon used to grind a lot and let out only a little. It was taught in a braisa that this meant that he used to forget little, and whatever he did forget was only bran (teachings that were not in accordance with halachah). And so too, Rabbi Shimon said to his disciples: My sons, learn my teachings, since my teachings are the cream of the cream of Rabbi Akiva’s.

*** The Peri Megadim asks: It is forbidden to speak the praises of a person, even in his presence!?

He answers: Rebbe spoke these praises to himself.

*** The Maharsha asks: Why is it considered a praise about Rabbi Yehudah that he was a scholar when he desired to be? Isn’t that derogatory?

The Aruch explains that Rabbi Yehudah was the first of the speakers. The Iyun Yaakov explains that he was humble, and although he had permission from the king to speak first, he did not want this honor, and he only used it when it was absolutely necessary.

*** The Kesef Mishnah in Hilchos Beis Habechirah (2:18) states that the halachah follows Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov only when he is mentioned in a Mishna, but not when he is mentioned in a braisa.

The Chacham Tzvi challenges this from the fact that Shimon ben Azai found this rule in the Megillas Setarim, which was written before Rebbe arranged the Mishnayos, so obviously, the rule is all encompassing, even the braisos!?

Tosfos Yom Hakippurim asks that the Kesef Mishnah contradicts himself, for he explains the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvah (2:8) that the Rambam holds like Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov because his teachings were measured but pure, and this halachah was mentioned in a braisa!?

He explains that whenever he is mentioned in a Mishna, the halachah follows him. However, when he is mentioned in a braisa, it depends upon the logic of his argument.

The Yad Malachei writes that in truth, the Kesef Mishnah holds that the Rambam always rules like Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov, even when he is mentioned in a braisa. The Kesef Mishnah that was cited above was in fact a gloss from one of his students, and it erroneously got inserted into the text of the Kesef Mishnah.