Holiness and Carrying the Yoke with the Other

(The following is based on a class I gave on Shabbat at Mussar Kallah IX, and is the further development of a number of ideas R’ Gil Student and I wrote for Mesuqim MiDevash.)

The question of holiness is central to the title phrase of the sedra of Qedoshim. “Qedoshim tihyu hi Qadosh Ani – Be qadosh [holy, sacred] for I Am Qadosh.” (Vayiqra 19:2) But what is qedushah?

Translating it as “sanctity” or “holiness” falls short as: (1) the meaning of the English is itself not too clear, (2) nor are we sure that they truly capture the connotations of the Hebrew original.

The Sifra[1], commenting on our verse, writes “’qedoshim tihyu': perushim tihyu – ‘be holy': you shall be separated”.

Along these lines, Rashi understands the verse as referring to the list of laws of intimacy with which the previous sedra concluded, as well as other transgressions. And he gives other examples where such a separation is associated with the concept of qedushah.

The Ramban (Nachmanides) writes “make yourself qadosh with that which is permitted to you” by refraining from the permitted.

It would seem that they are both defining qedushah as separation. But there is also a real difference. Rashi discusses things that are specifically prohibited. The Ramban is quite specifically speaking about separating oneself from things that are not the topic of a specific prohibition – there is no ban on the action, but rather the action isn’t in concert with being a holy person.

A parallel division exists in other discussions about qedushah.

In parashas Sheqalim, the portion discussing the mitzvah for each person to donate a 1/2 sheqel coin to the Temple (also counted for a census), we are told to take “half a sheqel of a sheqel haqodesh”. The Ramban (ad loc) explains that these sheqalim were considered sacred because they were used for holy purposes. The funds gathered by this census in the first year were donated towards the construction of the Tabernacle, other “sheqel haqodesh” were used for buying offerings and utensils for the Tabernacle or Temple, or for redeeming a first-born. Along similar lines, Rabbeinu Bachya (ad loc) writes, “Since all mitzvos are the core of holiness and some mitzvos require this currency,” the currency takes on a holiness corresponding to its use.

The Ramban continues, Hebrew is called leshon haqodesh – the holy language – because it was and continues to be used for holy purposes. It is the language in which G-d said “yehi or – let there be light”, in which He gave us the Torah and the Tanakh was written, the language in which our ancestors were named, etc…

However, the Ramban (Nachmanides) notes that the Rambam (Maimonides) has a very different understanding of why Hebrew is called “the holy language”. In his Guide for the Perplexed (3:8), Rambam explains that Hebrew is called sacred because it has no specific words for uniquely male and female body parts, for the acts that lead to conception of a child, nor does it have precise terms for the various bodily emissions and excretions.

Rabbi Shimon Romm [2] explains this dispute between Rambam and Ramban as being a fundamental disagreement over the nature of qedushah, holiness.

According to Ramban (Nachmanides), holiness comes from being committed for a purpose. When currency is used for a mitzvah it becomes sacred and when a language is used to create the world and convey the Torah it becomes sanctified.

According to the Rambam (Maimonides), however, holiness is not due to a positive usage but to a lack of diminution of its purity. A language is inherently sacred and only loses that status when it contains less than holy words. Presumably, the Rambam would explain that the sheqel haqodesh is called holy because, as the Ramban himself suggests at the beginning of his comments, the sheqel coins used in the Torah were entirely pure, lacking all dilution. This purity of content, rather than its sanctity of use, is what earned for these coins the title of qadosh. R’ Romm continued that it would seem that the Rashi we looked at agrees with the Rambam. By not engaging in prohibited action, one lives up to “be holy”.

Someone in the audience when I presented this material at Mussar Kallah IX suggested another way to understand the dispute. It could be that both sides agree in how they define qedushah — holiness. Rather, they disagree about the nature of the mitzvah. Rashi sees the obligation “qedoshim tihyu — be holy” as one to protect the holiness we already have; not to descend the ladder, so to speak. And therefore it’s accomplished by not tainting oneself with sin. The Ramban sees it as a duty to increase one’s holiness, to climb the ladder, and therefore to commit beyond what would otherwise be mandatory.

When a Mussarist wants to understand a middah, the first place to turn is a genre of mussar texts that are organized by middah. Most famously Orchos Tzadiqim and Mesilat Yesharim (Ways of the Righteous, and Path of the Just, respectively.) The last chapter of Mesilat Yesharim (ch. 26) discusses Qedushah. To quote Rav Shraga Simmons’ translation, in part:

Note the distinction between one who is Pure and one who is Holy. The earthy actions of the first are necessary ones, and he is motivated by necessity alone, so that his actions escape the evil in earthiness and remain pure. But they do not approach Holiness, for it were better if one could get along without them. One who is Holy, however, and clings constantly to his God, his soul traveling in channels of truth, amidst the love and fear of his Creator -such a person is as one walking before God in the Land of the Living, here in this world. …

In fine, Holiness consists in one’s clinging so closely to his God that in any deed he might perform he does not depart or move from the Blessed One, until the physical objects of which he makes use become more elevated because of his having used them, than he descends from his communion and from his high plane because of his having occupied himself with them. This obtains, however, only in relation to one whose mind and intelligence cling so closely to the greatness, majesty and Holiness of the Blessed One that it is as if he is united with the celestial angels while yet in this world….

According to Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (the “Ramchal”), a focus on separation is more associated with purity than with holiness. Avoiding unnecessary entanglements with the physical “so that his actions escape the evil in earthiness and remain pure.” Qedushah is clinging to G-d.

Is this a shift in definition from that offered by the Sifra and discussed through the next millennium by Rashi, Rabbeinu Bachya, Nachmanides and Maimonides?

Rav Shimon Shkop (Sha’arei Yosher, introduction) argues that the Sifra’s comment cannot be an actual definition. He points out that separation as a definition would fail for the verse’s next clause – “for I [Hashem] am Qadosh”. There is no purpose or meaning in Hashem restraining Himself, no dangerous entanglements for Him to avoid. (For that matter, it is arguable that such separation on His part would mean the item in question would cease to exist!)

Perhaps we could also note that Nachmanides could not be understanding the Sifra as defining qedushah. You cannot translate a word using another conjugation of the same word. “Qadeish es atmekha bemah shemutar lakh — sanctify yourself with that which is permitted to you” therefore cannot be his elaboration of a definition. Rather, the Ramban is suggesting the way in which to obey the verse and become holy to someone who already knows how to translate the word.

So, qedushah is commitment to Hashem’s goal, which the Ramban is telling us we can reach by separation from the pursuit of other goals.

All that is left is the “simple” question of defining that goal.

Rav Shimon Shkop’s introduction opens (tr. mine):

BLESSED SHALL BE the Creator, and exalted shall be the Maker1, Who created us in His “Image” and in the likeness of His “Structure”, and planted eternal life within us, so that our greatest desire should be to do good to others, to individuals and to the masses, now and in the future, in imitation of the Creator (as it were). For everything He created and formed was according to His Will (may it be blessed), [that is] only to be good to the creations. So too His Will is that we walk in His ways. As it says “and you shall walk in His Ways” – that we, the select of what He made – should constantly hold as our purpose to sanctify our physical and spiritual powers for the good of the many, according to our abilities.

In my opinion, this whole concept is included in Hashem’s mitzvah “Be holy, [for I am Holy].” The Midrash (Leviticus, Emor, ch. 24) says about this verse: “Can it [truly] be ‘Like Me?’ This is why it continues, ‘for I am Holy’ to teach that My Sanctity is above yours.” And about the foundation of this mitzvah of sanctity the Toras Kohanim [ie the Sifra] has “‘be holy’ – be separate”. Nachmanides, in his commentary on the Torah, explains at length this notion of separation as it is stated in this mitzvah, that it is separation from excessive comfort and pleasure – even if they are actions that are not prohibited to us. In one illustrative statement, he writes that it is possible for a person to be disgusting with [what would otherwise be] the permission of the Torah, see his holy words there.

According to this, it would seem the Midrash is incomprehensible. What relevance does the concept of separation have to being similar to the Holy? The verse tells us with regard to this that His Will is not like this. As it says, “Can it [truly] be ‘Like Me?’ This is why it continues, ‘For I am holy’ to teach that My sanctity is above Yours.” This explanation is incumbent upon us to understand; in truth there is some similarity in the holiness He expects of us to His [Sanctity], except that His Holiness is more general and inclusive. If we say that the essential idea of the holiness He demands of us (in this mitzvah of “be holy”) is distance from the permissible, this kind of holiness has nothing to do with Him.5

And so, it appears to my limited thought that this mitzvah includes the entire foundation and root of the purpose of our lives. All of our work and effort should constantly be sanctified to doing good for the community. We should not use any act, movement, or get benefit or enjoyment that doesn’t have in it some element of helping another. And as understood, all holiness is being set apart for an honorable purpose – which is that a person straightens his path and strives constantly to make his lifestyle dedicated to the community. Then, anything he does even for himself, for the health of his body and soul he also associates to the mitzvah of being holy, for through this he can also do good for the masses. Through the good he does for himself he can do good for the many who rely on him. But if he derives benefit from some kind of permissible thing that isn’t needed for the health of his body and soul, that benefit is in opposition to holiness. For in this he is benefiting himself (for that moment as it seems to him), but no one else.

Maimonides would be bothered by this attempt to explain why Hashem created the universe. It requires assuming our mind can contain His “Thought”. (At the Kallah, this topic took on a life of its own.) However, this approach, that Hashem must have created the world to have someone to whom to be good is found in sources as diverse as Rav Saadia Gaon’s “Emunos veDeios” (an Aristotilian from 9th-10th cent Baghdad) to the Ramchal’s “Derekh Hashem” (an Italian Qabbalist, 18th cent CE). Even a Maimonidian, though, can accept the notion that this is how Hashem presents Himself to us; G-d as He appears through his actions as opposed to the unknowable G-d as He is. In any case…

G-d’s goal is to bestow good on others. Which paradoxically doesn’t mean doing everything for us and making our lives perfect, as that would deprive us of a greater good: the ability to emulate His Good and to bestow good to others. Ours and the world’s imperfections are areas where there is good left for us to bestow.

Is this not, after all, what Hillel famously told the prospective convert?

There is another story [this is the third in a sequence] with one non-Jew who came before Shammai. He said to him [the non-Jew to Shammai], “Convert me on the condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one leg.” He [Shammai] pushed him [away] with the builder’s  amah-stick which was in his hand.

He [the non-Jew] went before Hillel, who converted him. He [Hillel] said to him, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your friend. This is the whole Torah in its entirety, the rest is its explanation. Go learn.”

- Shabbos 55a

What then is the role of the more rite-like mitzvot? If Hashem’s goal for us is to emulate Him in being good to others, why do we need kashrut, Shabbat, mezuzah, etc, etc, etc…? (This topic also took on a life of its own). I suggested two coexisting reasons:

First, such mitzvot teach discipline, they habituate us in making more thoughtful decisions. For example, one doesn’t just see food and eat it, one has to pay attention to what one is eating and how the food is prepared. Second, one needs to develop a relationship with G-d in order to accomplish this goal. One cannot bestow Hashem’s good upon others without knowing what that good is. Such knowledge requires the “go learn”, both from Torah texts and from the experiences provided by the mitzvot that mediate the relationship between man and G-d.

Even relaxation can be sanctified; if one rests for the purpose of being able to continue doing one’s mission in life without burnout. To protect future productivity at this goal by not trying to exceed one’s capacity in the short term.

So, you might have started reading this essay picturing a holy person as a hermit in a cave, an ascetic who spends his day in prayer. Referring back to the title of the post, you might have assumed that separation of holiness is in tension with our duty to nosei be’ol im chaveiro — share the burden of the other, to help him “pull his yoke”. Conflicting values we must balance. This is quite far from Rav Shimon’s definition; the separation isn’t asceticism, rather a very focus on being good to others.

We say in the Amidah: “You are Qadosh, and Your Name [Reputation] is Qadosh, and qedoshim praise You every day. Selah! [For you are G-d, King, Great and Qadosh. –Sepharad] Baruch Atah … the Qadosh G-d.”

It is not coincidence that there are three clauses, and three iterations of the word “Qadosh” in the verse at the heart of Qedushah (Isaiah 6:3). As we quote in the prayer UVa leTzion, Targum Yonatan explains that verse as follows: “Qadosh in the heavens above, the home of His Presence; Qadosh on the earth, the product of His Might; Qadosh forever and ever is Hashem Tzevakos – the whole world is full of the Radiance of His Glory.” The “home of His Glory” is where Hashem is Qadosh. The earth, is where Hashem’s name, how people perceive him, is Qadosh. And the qedoshim, the people who allow others to experience Hashem’s good, fill the world with His Glory – their sanctity is his praise.

According to Rav Shimon Shkop, this blessings becomes, “You are committed to bestow food on others, and your reputation is that of an undivided commitment to bestowing good on others, and people who live entirely for sharing your good with others praise you. Selah!” It is not simply that the class of people who are committed to working for others rather than being self-focused also praise Hashem. It is working for the betterment of others which itself is praise.

There are a number of prayers that require a minyan: the repetition of the amidah, and a class of prayers called davar shebiqdushah — proclamations of holiness. Among these prayers are Barekhu, Qaddish and Qedushah. In case you question whether our final definition of holiness is authentic, notice this: One cannot say the prayer of Qedushah alone.

[1] The Sifra, also called Torat Kohanim, is attributed to Rav (175-247 CE). Rav also founded of the Babylonian academy of Sura, which centuries later produced the Talmud. Rav’s real name, was Abba Akira, Abba the tall. He frequently appears in the Talmud, consistently under his honorific.

[2] Rabbi Shimon Romm was a student of the pre-war Mirrer Yeshiva who participated in their flight from Nazi-occupied Vilna to Shanghai. He became a rabbi in Washington Heights, NY and a rosh yeshiva in Yeshiva University. Thanks to R’ Gil Student for relaying this thought.

On Nets and Pieces

The story so far: In the first post, I suggested that it was Rav Yehudah, founder of the Yeshiva in Pumbedisa, who really developed the style of shaqla vetarya (dialectic) that we find in the Talmud Bavli. Which implied that we wouldn’t expect to find the similar argument style in Israel. In the second post, I tried to show how in the Talmud Yerushalmi they not only didn’t use the same dialectic style, they give every appearance of eschewing it. Preferring instead a system of learning more centered on the transmission of traditions, an emphasis on quotes. Therefore the Israeli amoraim not only had less reason to engage in such dialectics, even when they could not resolve a question by dialectic they refused to. In fact, they often ridicule the Bavliim and their circuitous lines of reasoning. Such extrapolation would adulterate memory of the tanna’s actual statement.

This does not mean, however, that there is a dirth of logical argument in the Talmud. Rather, the argument is of a very different style. That will be the topic of the majority of this post. But first, a discussion of how the Yerushalmi does handle unanswered questions.

I already mentioned the difference in nomeclature between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi. What the Bavli calls a mesechta, the Yerushalmi calls a meikhla. To translate: The Bavli considers one volume of Talmud to be a “net”, with gaps that the amoraim must fill in. The Yerushalmi considers it a “piece”, and as we’ll see, their analysis involves more connected the pieces to a larger whole.

Lateral Reasoning:

Here is an example of a style of reasoning one would find much more readily in the Yerushalmi than in the Bavli:

  1. רב הונא אמר: ג’ שאכלו זה בפני עצמו וזה בפני עצמו וזה בפני עצמו ונתערבו מזמנין.
  2. רב חסדא אמר: והן שבאו משלש חבורות.
  3. על דעתיה דרבי זעירא וחבורתיה: והן שאכלו ג’ כאחת.

רבי יונה על הדא דרב הונא הטביל ג’ איזובות זה בפני עצמו וזה בפני עצמו ונתערבו מזה בהן.

רב חסדא אמר והן שבאו מג’ חבילות.

על דעתיה דר’ זעירא וחבורתיה והוא שהטביל שלשתן כאחת.

אין תימר אין למידין אזוב מברכה ואנן חזינן רבנן קיימין בסוכה וילפין מטיט הנרוק.  כיי דתנינן תמן הרחיק את הסיכוך מן הדפנות שלשה טפחים פסולה הא פחות מיכן כשירה מהו לישן תחתיו התיב רבי יצחק בן אלישיב הרי טיט הנרוק משלים במקוה ואין מטבילין בו אף הכא משלים בסוכה ואין ישינין תחתיו.

  1. Rav Huna said: Three who eat, this one by himself, this one by himself, and this one by himself, who then mix together should bentch with a mezuman.
  2. Rav Chisda said: But this is [only] when they come from three [separate] groups [of three people, so that each ate with an obligation of zimun, even if from different groups].
  3. According to the logic of Rabbi Zei’ira and his friends: But [the only may make a zimun] when they ate together.
  1. Rabbi Yonah [commented] on that which Rab Hunah [was just quoted as saying]: If [the kohein] dipped three hyssop sprigs [into the water made with the ashes of a parah adumah], this one by itself and this one by itself, and mixed them [the hyssops] together, one may sprinkle [the person needing taharah] with them.
  2. Rav Chisda said: But this is [only] when they come from three [separate] groups [of three sprigs, so that each sprig was dipped as part of a group of three, even if different groups].
  3. Acording to the logic of Rabbi Zei’ira and his friends: But [the only may may be used for sprinkling parah adumah water] when they were dipped together.

- Yerushalmi Berakhos 7:1, 51b

The Yerushalmi draws a parallel between what could have been two separate disputes. One was about zimun, saying the opening blessing before bentchin, and the other about the hyssop used to sprinkle the water from a parah adumah to purify them after contact with a dead body. Both require a group of three. Typically, three men who ate together and now wish to bentch together, or three sprigs that were one bunch when they were dipped as well as when the person is sprinkled.

Rav Hunah says that a group of three is defined by the time of the mitzvah. Therefore, three people could eat separately, and Rabbi Yonah extrapolates that he would say the three sprigs could be dipped separately — as long as they are together at the time of bentching or sprinkling, respectively.

Rav Chisda, who speaks for himself in both disputes, feels that while they only need to be a group for the mitzvah itself, to be a member of the group requires being part of an obligating group when doing the preparation. Therefore, three men who each ate alone could not combine to make a zimun, only three men who each ate in a group of at least three. But they could recombine to create a new group of three for zimun. Similarly, one could take a sprig of hyssop out of three different groups to make a new group, because such sprigs were both dipped as part of a group of three and used for sprinkling as part of a group. This would mean that if a kohein had three people before him to sprinkle and dipped three large bunches of hyssop for them, and then along comes a fourth person, the kohein can redivide the hyssop into four groups and sprinkle all four.

Rav Zeira and his peers require that the group be the same group throughout. You can’t recombine people from different zimun groups, or sprigs from different bunches to make a new one.

This is “horizontal” reasoning. We saw one dispute, we are trying to find how it relates to other topics. The search is for a general philosophy of some aspect of halakhah.

Logical discourse in the Bavli is far more “vertical”, drilling down into the details of the particular decision before us, finding how it can be understood in an internally consistent way. What does either opinion do with the other’s proofs and source texts, and the like.

A second example, from Terumos, vilna 13b, that I will treat more concisely:

תמן תנינן: כביצה אוכלין שהניחן בחמה ונתמעטו, כן כזית מן הנבילה, וכעדשה מן השרץ, כזית פיגול, כזית נותר, כזית חלב — הרי אילו טהורין.
דרומאי אמרי: והוא שיהא כזית מעיקרו.
ר’ יוחנן ור”ש בן לקיש תריהון אמרין: ואע”פ שאין כזית מעיקרו.
תמן תנינן: אמרו לו, “אף היא היתה חסירה או יתירה.” מני אמרו לו? ר”מ: פעמים שהשאור יפה והוא תפוח. הא אילו סולת היתה צמוקה, ועכשיו שהוא שאור יפה והוא תפוח, את רואה את התפוח כילו צמק ונראית חסירה. ופעמים שהשאור רע, והוא צמק. הא אלו סולת היתה תפוחה, ועכשיו שהשאור רע, והוא צמוק את רואה את הצמק כילו תפח ונראית יתירה.
על דעתיה דר’ ירמיה דרומאי ור’ יוחנן ור”ש בן לקיש שלשתן אמרו דבר אחד ביתירה. על דעתייהו דר’ יונה ור’ יוסי שלשתן אמרו דבר אחד בחסירה. אילין דבר פטי בשלון אורז אנשין מתקנתה יתיה חברייא סברין מימר ייסב חיי לו לקביל מבשל אמר לון ר’ יוסי אף אנא אמר כן למה שדרכו לתפוח:

Here the gemara links together three statements, showing how they have a common theme. In all three cases, the issue is whether we measure intial volume, current volume or whether the fact that it is normal to go to that current volume should make a difference. This is seen as being a common principle whether it’s something that dries up and shrinks, or something that soaks up water and bloats, whether we are speaking of tum’ah or of tithing rice.


Suppose you saw a discussion in which the following distinction is made with regard to food bought with money that had the sanctity of maaser sheini placed upon it. (In lieu of bringing the second tenth of one’s fruit to Yerushalayim, the sanctity was transfered to money, which is then used upon arrival to buy food to be eaten there.)

In one ruling, shelamim which one bought with maaser sheini money does not have the sanctity of maaser sheini, only that of the offering. In another, if a kohein buys with such money terumah, the result is that the food bought is now both terumah AND maaser sheini.

Vus iz der chiluq? (What’s the difference between the cases of maaser sheini and terumah?)

There is a mitzvah to buy a qorban shelamim with maaser sheini money. Therefore, if one buys a shelamim with maaser money one completed the job of handling maaser. The chalos sheim maaser sheini (the fitting under the label of maaser sheini) falls off with the purchase.  However, there is no such mitzvah of buying terumah over any other food, and therefore it’s maaser sheini until consumed or as long as it remains edible.

The way I phrased it, this discussion sounds like 19th century lomdus, the style of logic they used for analyzing the Bavli and rishonim. However, the above is a description of the discussion in the Yerushalmi at the top of Maaser Sheini 16a (3:2). (There is also a similar discussion about when a law of maaser sheini ends on Maaser Sheini 1:2 5b.)

What the Brisker method does in its lomdus is divide  laws into categories, often using and reusing the same set of mechanisms. In the above, I invoked the Brisker idiom of “chalos sheim“, when something enters or leaves a halachic state (literally, when a label falls upon an object). Other such meta-principles: mitzvos that depend on the gavra, the subject doing the verb, vs. those that depend on the cheftza, the object. The distinction between a discussion of the pe’ulah, the action, and the chalos, the change in halachic state. Etc…

In Brisk, these rules are used to analyze a specific halakhah. Why do the Rambam and Tosafos disagree? Does one say the chalos comes with the pe’ulah and the other not? Does one see the obligation on the subject’s doing it, while the other sees it on the object having it done (gavra vs cheftzah)? Brisk drills downward.

However, these rules also have an orthoganal value — they are in common across a wide variety of halakhos. To the Brisker, these are tools for finding chaqiros, distinctions, between similar cases that have different rulings, or between one opinion and another. In the Yerushalmi, tools like those used in Brisk and other 19th century Lithuanian yeshivos are a the product of this same notion of lateral analysis. They are principles of mechanics seen in numerous  ways of connecting the law to others than use the same mechanism.

Another example, this one from Pei’ah 3:5, Vilna ed. pg 16a:

משנה: המוכר קלחי אילן בתוך שדהו, נותן פאה מכל אחד ואחד. אמר רבי יהודא: אימתי? בזמן שלא שייר בעל השדה. אבל אם שייר שדהו הוא נותן פאה לכל:
גמרא: עד כדון כשהתחיל לקצור. אפי’ כשלא התחיל לקצור?
נישמעינה מן הדא: לקח גז צאנו של חבירו. אם שייר המוכר, המוכר חייב. ואם לאו, הלוקח חייב. ר’ ירמיה בשם ר’ יוחנן: דר’ יהודא היא.
שנייא היא תמן בין שהתחיל לגזוז צאנו בין שלא התחיל לגזוז. וכא, לא. שניי’ ליה, בין שהתחיל לקצור, בין שלא התחיל לקצור.
מ”ט דר”י? משום דחובת הקציר בקמה, או משום דמוכר לו חוץ מחובתו?
נישמעינה מן הדא: לקח גז צאן חבירו. אם שייר המוכר, המוכר חייב. ואם לאו, הלוקח חייב. א”ר ירמיה בשם ר’ יוחנן: דר’ יהודא היא.
אית לך למימר: תמן, שחובת קציר בקמה לא משום דמכרו לו חוץ מחובתו וכא במכרו חוץ מחובתו.
מה נפק מביניהן?
  1. עבר הלוקח ומפריש. אין תימר משום שחובת הקציר בקמה, הפריש הפריש. ואין תימר משום דמוכר לו חוץ מחובתו, הפריש ונוטל ממנו דמים.
  2. נשרף חלקו של מוכר. אין תימר משום דחובת קציר בקמה, נשרף נשרף. ואין תימר משום במוכר לו חוץ מחובתו, נשרף נוטל ממנו דמים:

Mishnah: Someone who sold tree stalks [i.e. tree trunks or stalks of a plant] from within his field [where the pei'ah, the corner of the field, was not left for the poor to gather], he must give pei’ah from each stalk. Rabbi Yehudah said: When is this? When there is nothing left by the owner of the field [for himself]. But if he did leave something of his field, he gives pei’ah [from that] for the whole.

Gemara: Until now [we were only considering] when he already began to harvest [the crop produced when he started selling the trees themselves]. But what if he didn’t start to harvest?

We hear [this implication] from this [following ruling]: Someone who buys the shearings from his friend’s flock [without the first shearing first being given to a kohein]. If the seller left any [for himself], then the seller if obligated [to give the kohein replacement wool]. If not, the buyer is obligated. Rabbi Yirmiyah said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan that this is Rabbi Yehudah’s [position].

It makes a difference over there whether he began to shear his sheep or whether he did not begin to shear. Here, could it make no difference whether he began to harvest [the stalks] whether he did not begin to harvest?

What’s the reason of Rabbi Yehudah — Is it because the obligation with respect to harvesting [and pei'ah] is with standing [grain]? Or is it that he sold it to him outside of his obligation?

We hear [this implication] from this [following ruling]: Someone who buys the shearings from his friend’s flock [without the first shearing first being given to a kohein]. If the seller left any [for himself], then the seller if obligated [to give the kohein replacement wool]. If not, the buyer is obligated. Rabbi Yirmiyah said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan that this is Rabbi Yehudah’s [position].

You must [therefore] say: Over there, it is where the obligation of harvesting is when it’s still standing, and not because he sold it ouside of his obligation, [whereas] here he sold it outside of his obligation.

What is the [pragmatic] distinction between them? …

Notice here a number of things, touching on much of the past two posts in this series.

First, there is a full repetition of a quote rather than abbreviating it in the second iteration. The latter risks compromising how it is passed down in the future, so this would be against the Yerushalmi’s citation culture.

Second, note the lomdisher use of making a distinction based on when the obligation applies. Why does the law of pei’ah from harvested grain that is sold to another differ than the law of reishis hagaz that was sold rather than being given to a kohein? Why is it that in the case of pei’ah it makes no difference whether or not he began to harvest, but when it comes to reishis hagaz it does make a difference whether or not he began to shear? And the difference is that reishis hagaz only comes into effect after the shearing. An issue of when the halachic category takes hold.

Third, note that this lamdus is being used to compare to disparate laws. Lateral reasoning.

What defines greatness

From R’ Gil Student’s blog “Hirhurim“, a sad quote about the underlying greatness of my rebbe:

When I was a bochur in yeshivah I had a scary experience. I had the zekhus of assisting a gadol ba-Torah in his last days. When R. Dovid Lifshitz got very sick, I was assigned the task of helping him out during davening. At the end of his life, I saw something incredible. He would come to the beis medrash and someone else would put tefillin on him. Then he would sit with a siddur and daven. I was waiting to see when he finished the page to turn it for him and I realized that he would keep davening the same page over and over if I let him. Sadly, the illness and the medication took away his memory and almost his ability to function. But one thing he knew, something that was in his very bones, was that he wanted to daven. When you strip away all of the learning, all of the accomplishments, what you end up with is a simple, kosher Jew. Deep down, that is what a gadol ba-Torah is – a kosher Jew.

“If I were to wake you up at 2 o’clock in the morning,” R’ YB Soloveitchik would often ask his students to get their instinctive responses, “how would you answer?”

In one sentence, what Yeshiva chinuch is all about

(Cut-n-paste from R’ Chaim Brown’s blog, Divrei Chaim.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

“In public school, they’ll ask you at the end, ‘Well, what have you learned?’ But here at Rice, the question is, ‘What kind of person have you become?”

- p. 75 in “The Street Stops Here – A Year at a Catholic High School in Harlem” by Patrick McCloskey

I don’t think I could come up with a better one sentence summary of what yeshiva education should be all about.

Posted by Chaim B. at 3:28 PM

Book Announcement: Daas Torah: Child and Domestic Abuse

Now available by R’ Dr Daniel Eidensohn and Dr Baruch Shulem!

Daas Torah: Child & Domestic Abuse, vol 1 & 2

This book is divided into two volumes – each of which is a complete work and yet they clearly supplement each other. Volume II deals with the classic Jewish sources that are relevant to define and understand the issue of abuse, obligations to help one another, sexuality and saving others from harm – as well as the nature of rabbinical authority. It includes the responsa from the major poskim on these issues.   These sources are all translated into English but the original Hebrew text is also presented. Volume I serves as a commentary and explanation of the meaning of the material in volume II. It discusses the application of these ideas to contemporary reality, as well as providing religious context for today’s society.

Something to think of buying if you are interested in the topic or to donate to the local synagogue, social work or communal organization to help them better address this critical issue in our communities.

To buy (through AishDas’s Amazon Associate store):

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Invoking Tradition

So, I recently described Rav Yehudah’s trip down to Pumbedisa, where he founded a yeshiva where learning was based on the dialectic method, the style of shaqla vetarya (question and answer) that typifies the gemara. So what was happening back in Eretz Yisrael?

To put the same question in a more straightforward way — after learning the first six mesechtos of Talmud Yerushalmi, I would like to discuss some differences in style I noted between the two talmuds.

The Talmud Yerushalmi, despite the name, was written in Northern Israel. In fact, you hear disdain for the “deromai”, the rabbis of the south, those in Judea — including Yerushalayim. As well as those in Babylonia. The work on it begins with Rabbi Yochanan and his student and brother-in-law Rabbi Shimon ben Laqish (“Reish Laqish”), in the very first generation after Rebbe compiled the mishnah. Rabbi Yochanan started out in Tzippori, which was the center of learning and housed the Sanhedrin. However, as a young rabbi, his shiur grew so popular that it caused friction with the older rabbis both due to competition for students and the number of disputes. So rather than hurt them, Rabbi Chanina was named in particular, Rabbi Yochanan moved to Teveryah. (I think something should be made of the point that R’ Chanina, the example of the older generation, is named in past tense, whereas R’ Yochanan has pretty much the future tense version of the same name. The Jerusalem Talmud is thus really a product of his school in Teveryah and the rabbis of either Katzrin (in the Golan) or perhaps Ceasarea.

(Side note: Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Laqish play a parallel role to the one Abayei and Rava do in the Bavli. They started the process that over a century later culminates in the talmud. More so than their being like Rav Ashi and Ravina, who close the vast majority of the text, with only light refinements by the savora’im. However, R’ Yochanan and Reish Laqish appear far more often, at least in the first six mesechtos of the Y-mi, than Abayei veRava do in the Bavli.)

One of the more pronounced differences one sees between the two talmuds is the greater reliance on tradition one finds in the Yerushalmi, and I intend to save other differences for another post.


I don’t just mean that because there was no Bavli-style shaqla vetarya, the Yerushalmi fell back onto relying more on sources. Rather, in Eretz Yisrael the feeling was that citations and word-of-mouth transmission is more reliable and more meaningful than relying on reasoning. And this mode was more viable for people who were actually living on the same land and using the same institutions as the tannaim. We saw that Rav Yehudah held it was prohibited for his students to move from Pumbedisa to Israel, as the loss of deep reasoned learning was too great. But also, that kind of reasoning was more critical in Bavel, where there was that extra discontinuity.

As a metaphor, I am reminded of Rabbi Yehudah haLevi’s description of Greek Philosophy:

(יג) אמר החבר: מה שאתה אומר נכון הוא בנוגע לדת המיסדת על ההגיון ומכונת להנהגת מדינה דת הנובעת אמנם מן העיון אך נופלים בה ספקות רבים ואם עליה תשאל את הפילוסופים לא תמצאם מסכימים על מעשה אחד ולא לדעה אחת כי דת כזאת בנויה על טענות אשר רק חלק מהן יכולים הפילוסופים להוכיח במופת ואלו על אחרות נתן להביא ראיות מספיקות בלבד ויתרן אין להביא עליהן אפילו ראיה מספקת אף כי להוכיחן במופת: (tr. R’ Yehudah ibn Tibon)

13. The Rabbi: That which thou dost express is religion based on speculation and system, the research of thought, but open to many doubts. Now ask the philosophers, and thou wilt find that they do not agree on one action or one principle, since some doctrines can be established by arguments, which are only partially satisfactory, and still much less capable of being proved. (tr. Hartwig Herschfeld)

Rav Yehudah haLevi says that the dependence on reasoning introduces uncertainty, and is a stop-gap  for those who do not have a tradition. Taking this from philosophy to be a metaphor for halachic styles, this parallels Rabbi Yochanan’s view, as opposed to Rav Yehudah’s down in Pumbedisa.


We see this also in terminology. The term used in Bavel for a volume of the talmud is masekhes, from the word that is also used to refer to the network of threads on a loom. Whereas in the Yerushalmi, the more common term is meikhlah, a measure or portion. (E.g. Shevi’is 10:3, Vilna 30b – R’ Yosi rules that someone who knows one meikhla who comes to a new town where they honor him for knowing two, must confess to only knowing one.) None of the implication of constructivism or filling in the holes in the network that one finds in meseches.

Another example is the difference in meaning of the keyword “ta’ama“. This appears so often in the Bavli, that I am still pretty consistently thrown by the Yerushalmi. When the Bavli asks “Mai ta’ama?” it is asking “What’s the reason?” And the answer will be the logic behind the ruling. However, in the Yerushalmi, “Mai ta’ama?” is answered with a citation of the verse that is the source of the law.

The word ba’ei is used in the Bavli in the sense of “wants to know”, introducing a question. It sometimes appears as be’ai lemeimar, “wants to say”, introducting a suggested novellum. In the Yerushalmi, just the word ba’ei is used for both, and the “wants to say” sense is far more common. In light of their distrust of deductions about existing laws, it makes sense that the rabbis of Teveryah would be more prone to mark them. It also would explain why they didn’t find it confusing to use the same keyword for “R’ X wants to know, is the halachah A?” and for “R’ X wants to say the halakhah is A”.  The difference between not knowing at all, and suggesting something without a basis, apparently wasn’t seen as that being all that great. Since otherwise confusion would have driven one of them away from using the word “ba’ei“.

(Linguistic side note: In the Yerushalmi, it seems that words were pronounced with an emphasis on the later syllables, whereas in the Bavli, the emphasis was moved forward. So, the same amora we know in the Bavli as Rav Avin, the Yerushalmi calls Rabbi Bun. Note how in Bavel, the “-i” fell off the end of “Rabbi”, so that the amoraim there are called “Rav”, and in Israel, the leading letter fell off. Similarly, R’ Elazer becomes R’ Lazer, R’ Yehudah – R’ Yuda, or sometimes, with a more Greek ending, R’ Yudan, but in either case, the hei slurs away. More dramatic — and often confusing — is when the amora the Bavli refers to as Rav Ila is called Rabbi Lo, and one has to guess whether R’ Ila is being quoted, or Rebbe is saying something starting with the word “lo” [no]. We also see alefs simply dropped out of the spelling of words and other inconsistencies, but we don’t know how many of these are simply do to inferior transcription. Unlike what I noted about names, where there is a clear pattern.)

Quoting Style:

So, given the value placed on quotes and citations, the Yerushalmi sometimes quotes entire sections repeatedly. Not just repeating the one opinion, but including the whole dialog. Usually, this is at most two or three repetitions of the same dialog in the same mesechta, each time to bring out a different point related to the current topic. But a stark example, in Mes’ Shevi’is daf 10, an entire segment is repeated in two versions that are only trivially different, Rabbi Yaaqov bar Zevidei’s version vs. Rabbi Mana’s:

1) אמר רבי יעקב בר זבדי קומי רבי אבהו לא כן אמר רבי זעירא ורבי יוחנן בשם רבי ינאי רבי ירמיה רבי יוחנן בשם ר”ש בן יוצדק נמנו בעליית בית נתזה בלוד על כל התורה מניין אם יאמר עכו”ם לישראל לעבור על אחת מכל מצות האמורות בתורה חוץ מעבודה זרה וגילוי עריות ושפיכת דמים יעבור ולא יהרג הדא דתימר בינו לבין עצמו אבל ברבים אפילו מצוה קלה לא ישמע לו כגון לולינוס ופפוס אחיו שנתנו להם מים בכלי זכוכית צבועה ולא קיבלו מהן אמר לא מתכוין משמדתכון ולא איתכווין אלא מיגבי ארנונין כמה הם רבים רבנין דקיסרין אמרי עשרה דכתיב (דף י:) (ויקרא כג) ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל>רבי אבונה זעירא חמנוניה פרי חורי חמרא בשבתא רבי יונה ורבי יוסי הורין מפי לארסקינס בשובתא
2) אמר רבי מנא קשיתי קומי רבי יונה אבא לא כן אמר רבי זעירא רבי יוחנן בשם רבי ינאי רבי ירמיה רבי יוחנן בשם ר”ש בן יוצדק נמנו בעליית בית נתזה בלוד על כל התורה כולה מניין אם יאמר עכו”ם לישראל לעבור על אחת מכל מצות האמורות בתורה חוץ מן העבודה זרה וגילוי עריות ושפיכת דמים יעבור ולא יהרג הדא דתימא בינו לבין עצמו אבל ברבים אפילו מצוה קלה לא ישמע לו כגון לוליינוס ופפוס אחיו שנתנו להם מים בכלי זכוכית צבועה ולא קיבלו מהן אמר לא אתכווין משמדתון ולא אתכווין אלא מיכל פיתא חמימה כמה הם רבים רבנן דקיסרין אמרין עשרה דכתיב (שם) ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל

This shows the significance given to precise citation. Or, this segment from Maaseros 5:3, Vilna 24b. Notice how not only is the mishnah under discussion re-quoted before Rabbi Avohu’s comment is repeated, but R’ Avohu’s introduction, that sometimes the idea he is about to give is said in the name of Rabbi Lazer and sometimes in the name of Rabbi Yossi bei Rabbi Chanina is also repeated just a couple of lines later — all to make the two word point at the end “והוא שהחמיץ” that when Rabbi Yehudah says that water that was run through wine dregs that weren’t tithed and didn’t even increase in volume is obligated in maaser anway (because it was changed by the maaser-requiring dregs), it’s only if the mixture fermented.

משנה המתמד ונתן מים במידה ומצא כדי מדתו פטור.  רבי יהודה מחייב.  …
גמרא א”ר אבהו זימנין אמר לה בשם רבי לעזר זימנין אמר לה בשם רבי יוסי בי רבי חנינא והוא שהחמיץ. תמן תנינן התמד עד שלא החמיץ אינו ניקח בכסף מעשר ופוסל את המקוה.  משהחמיץ ניקח בכסף מעשר ואינו פוסל את המקוה.  מתני’ דרבי יודה היא דתנינן תמן המתמד ונתן מים במידה ומצא כדי מידתו פטור רבי יודה מחייב.  אמר רבי אבהו זמנין אמר לה בשם רבי לעזר וזמנין אמר לה בשם רבי יוסי בי רבי חנינה והוא שהחמיץ.

The Ridvaz comments on this (Maaser Sheini 4:1, vilna pg 28a “תםן ללא יתיר פיריי…”:

פי׳ דהוא שייך למס׳ שביעית פ״ד דשם פריך מהברייתא ההיא לענין שביעית ומשני שם דתננן דלא יתיר פירוי כו׳ ואגב גררא דמביא הברייתא מביא גם כאן זאת כדרך הש״ס הזה  ככמה מקומות כידוע לדרגילין בו :

Meaning, that this is relevant to tractate Shevi’is ch. 4, because there it asksand it answers there… Because of “dragging”, that [once] it brought the beraisa it also brings here [this following discussion], as is the way in this talmud in numerous places, as is known to those who are used to it.

And then there is the opposite extreme — instead of repetitious verbiage in a desire to preserve the older discussion intact, the gemara will instead refer to opinions with the briefest of citations, leaving the commentaries scrambling to chase down what is being referred to. Sometimes, to wildly different conclusions. “A machloqes between what Rabbi Yehudah said on Sukkah and Rabbi Yosi said in Menachos.” Or, “since we see in the famous case of …” (without telling you the case), etc…

Similarly too, the Yerushalmi quotes the tannaim in the Tosefta regularly, far more often than the Bavli.

What one is clearly listening to is a group of rabbanim who follow very closely the exact wording of the statement. And knowing that they relied on studying that wording, they took caution to preserve it.

Things not said:

Therefore, the use of using reasoning to fill in gaps in our knowledge about the din under discussion occurs far less often. Many discussions end with an open question, rather than extrapolating from his words what a tanna probably would have said. Again, this isn’t only because the kind of reasoning Rabbi Yehudah developed was with him in Bavel. As we will see in another post, the Yerushalmi does engage in its own style of reasoning. (To give a teaser: there is more use of analogy to apply the parallel of a din to a different area of halakhah.)

Rather, I think this willingness to leave the question open is because they were very aware of the gap between the actual quote and a deduction. Also, tampering with the quote with suggestions contaminates the repetition process — they are actually detrimental to what the Yerushalmi is trying to do.

One amora who particularly suffered from this was Rabbi Yirmiyah. Every several pages or so, Rabbi Yirmiyah would propose some implausible case, something that would measure the limits of the just-quoted halakhah. In fact, he only arrives in Eretz Yisrael after being thrown out of the beis medrash in Bavel for doing this one time too many (Bava Basra 23b). For example, ֛Maaseros 3:4, 17b discusses how many fruit a picker may hold such that it still qualifies as a snack, as one may only snack in the field from food that hasn’t yet had terumah and maaser removed. R’ Yirmiyah asks about the case where the picker juggles the olives. Does the one in the air count as being “held”? In general, these questions don’t get answered.

Citation Culture:

Less directly connected, but I think part of this culture, is the Yerushalmi’s greater emphasis on finding sources in general.

For example, there is a halachic principle “ein sheliach lidvar aveirah — there are no messengers (or: proxies) for something that is a sin.” The Bavli’s explanation is logical, “the words of the Master, the words of the servant, which do you listen to?” Obviously, when given a choice between Hashem’s law and a person’s order, the Torah comes first. Therefore, someone who accepts such an appointment is culpable for making the wrong choice.

In the Yerushalmi (Terumos 35a), the source is a verse. “שליח לוקה והוא פטור דָּ֣ם יֵֽחָשֵׁ֞ב לָאִ֤ישׁ הַהוּ ולא לשולחיו – the messenger is punished and he [the sender] is not culpable. ‘[The murder] will be considered blood for this man’ — and not the one who sent him.”

We see this more often in the greater emphasis the Yerushalmi gives asmachtos, finding references or mnemonics for rabbinic law in the Torah. For example, by Torah law, there is no minimum for terumah. However, according to Beis Hillel, the Rabbis set that the miserly must give at least 1/60th to a kohein, the norm would be to give 1/50th, and the generous would give 1/40th. According to Beis Shammai, the rabbinic range for terumah was instead 1/50th, 1/40th and 1/30th, respectively.  The Yerushalmi (Terumos 4:3, vilna 19b-20a) textually supports all six measures with asmachtos.

כתיב ששית האיפה מחומר החיטים וששיתם את האיפה מחומר השעורים יכול תורם חיטים א’ משלשים ושעורים אחד מששים ת”ל וכל תרומת שיהיו כל התרומות שוות שמואל אמר תן ששית על ששיתם ונמצא תורם אחד מארבעים בינונית אחד מחמשים א”ר לוי כתיב וממחצית בני ישראל תקח אחד אחוז מן החמשים כל שאתה אוחז ממקום אחר הרי הוא כזה מה זה אחד מן החמשים אף מה שאתה אוחז ממקום אחר הרי הוא כזה והרעה אחד מששים דכתיב וששיתם את האיפה מחומר השעורים. בית שמאי אומרים משלשים וששית האיפה מחומר השעורים בינונית מארבעים מן הדא דשמואל והרעה מששים מן הדא דר’ לוי דאמר רבי לוי בר חינא כל המוציא מעשרותיו כתקנן אינו מפסיד כלום מה טעמא ועשירית החומר יהיה האיפה מן החומר

Last, the Bavli will only cite a mishnah if it provides a clear source as to the law under discussion. In what I think is another instance of “Citation Culture”, the Yerushalmi will quote a mishnah that hints at the law, even if it is not usable as an indisputable proof. On Terumos 6:1, vilna 31b, Rabbi Yosi quotes a mishnah as saying “that which grows from [planting] terumah is terumah“. If someone plants terumah wheat, the entire resulting crop must be given to kohanim as terumah. (This is only rabbinically. Therefore, the Torahitic obligation of tithing still applies to the crop, and must be given by the kohanim.) Rabbi Yosi uses this mishnah to show that it’s specifically when one plants terumah itself. If someone consumes terumah and then has to reimburse the kohanim, “that which goes reimbursement for terumah is not terumah” as the mishnah speaks of terumah specifically, not reimbursements.

(One might see this as reading more into a source than what is there, thus potentially corrupting the purity of the transmitted quote. In short, as defying the entire thesis of this post. I rather see it as an implication inherent in the text, but one that simply doesn’t reach the unimpeachable source level of certainty, and thus in line with trying to find a connection to tradition for every existing law.)

Coming attractions:

In the first installment I argued that the style of dialectic (shaqla vetarya) was honed by Rav Yehudah, the founder of the yeshiva at Pumbedisa. In this essay, I tried to show how rarely the Yerushalmi engages in this argument style, instead preferring a dependency on existing sources. Next, I hope to illustrate the modes of reasoning one does find in the Yerushalmi insead.