[San 4a. We begin on the first line. The gemara had discussed rabbinic exegesis based on the spelling and pronunciation of biblical words. In opposition to the majority view that differences in the way a word is spelled in scripture can be interpreted exegetically, Rabbi gave primacy to its pronunciation: If the pronunciation of the variously spelled word is the same, it cannot be regarded as different for exegetic purposes. The gemara will now give examples of other sages who took the same position.]

Rav Yitzchak b. Yosef said in the name of R. Yohanan: Rabbi, R. Yehuda b. Ro`etz, Beit Shammai, R. Shimon, abd R. Akiva all hold that pronunciation has primacy.

Rabbi, as we have just said [in the previous text, requiring five judges on the basis of the pronunciation of the word "yarshi`un" as plural, rather than on the basis of its spelling, which can be read as singular].

R. Yehuda ben Ro`etz: [Lev 12 describes the period of ritual impurity for a woman who has given birth to a boy is seven days, followed by a thirty-three day period of purification. After the birth of a girl (Lev 12:5), the period of impurity is "shvu`ayim," two weeks, followed by a sixty-six day period of purification. But the word specifying the period of impurity is spelled shin-bet-`ayin-yod-mem, which could also be read as "shiv`im," seventy {days}].

As we learned in a b'raita: The students asked R. Yehuda b. Ro'etz: I could read it "shiv`im" (seventy); is it possible that a woman who gives birth to a girl could be impure for seventy days? He said to them: [Scripture] specifies impuriy and purification for a boy, and impurity and purification for a girl. Just as the period of purification for a girl is twice that for a boy, so is the period of impurity for a girl twice that as for a boy. After they (the students) left, R. Yehuda ran after them (and said): You do not need this [parallel of doubling]; pronunciation is primary. [There was no question that the word was pronounced "shvu'a'yim," two weeks, and the halakha followed the pronunciation.]

Beit Shammai: [In a mishna in Zevahim 36b. Most animal sacrifices require z'rika, sprinkling the blood. For a sin- offering, the blood was sprinkled on the four "karnot" (literally "horns") that were pagoda-like protuberances on the corners of the altar. For other offerings, the blood was sprinkled on northeast and southwest corners, and thus landed on all four sides of the altar. This is referred to as "two which are four" -- two sprinklings that land on four surfaces. The mishna in question discusses which variations of sprinkling would disqualify a sacrifice]:

Bei Shammai says: All sprinkling on the Outer Altar, if he [the kohen] made one application instead of two, there is atonement, as it says (Deut 12:27) "and the blood of thy sacrifices shall be poured" [Rashi: One act of pouring.]. And for the sin-offering, there must be two sprinklings. But Beit Hillel says even for a sin-offering, one sprinkling will effect atonement. Rav Huna said: What is Beit Shammai's rationale? It says "karnot", "karnot", "karnot" [i.e., Lev 4:25, 4:30, and 4:34 repeat the word referring to the "horns" of the altar] -- that makes six [three words, each in the plural form], four are for the mitzva [as there are four horns], and two (specify how many of the four) are obligatory [literally, "will stop," such that their omission would disqualify the sacrifice].

Beit Hillel say "karnot," "karnat," "karnat." [The first time the spelling is kof, resh, vav, taf, clearly plural. The other two times the word is spelled without the vav, and could be read in the singular as "the horn of".]

That makes four -- three are for the mitzva, and one for the obligation. Might I say that all four sprinklings are for the mitzva [There are four horns!]? [No.] There is no atonement without (at least one) sprinkling. [If the number of obligatory applications is not specified one might assume that none are necessary.]

[An interesting problem: Although our talmudic exegesis says that the word is spelled "karnot" {with a vav} once, the masoretic text that we have spells the word without the vav all three times.]

[In any event, the analysis has shown that Beit Shammai's exegesis focuses on the pronunciation rather than the spelling of biblical words.]

[The gemara has shown that both Rabbi (in the matter of purification after the birth of a baby) and Beit Shammai (in the matter of sacrificial sprinkling of blood) assign exegetical primacy to pronunciation rather than spelling. The gemara will now present evidence that R. Shimon and R. Akiva also give primacy to pronunciation.]

R. Shimon, as was taught in a b'raita [discussing the requirement that a sukkah have a minimum number of walls]: Two (of the walls) must be standard [i.e., full-size walls], and the third may be only a tefach (handsbreadth) wide. R. Shimon says: Three standard walls, and the fourth only a tefach wide.

What is the basis for their disagreement? The Rabbis give primacy to spelling, and R. Shimon gives primacy to pronunciation. The Rabbis, who give primacy to spelling, (base their position on) "in the sukkot" (Lev 23:42-43, in which the word "ba'sukkot" appears three times -- twice without a vav (singular) and once with a vav [plural], which makes four. Subtract one, which is required [the verse would have to mention the term "in the sukkot" at least once to make sense], and you are left with three [walls that are biblically required]. The halakha [the Oral Tradition] reduces the third (wall) to a tefach.

R. Shimon: "ba'sukkot" [all three times pronounced as plural] makes six. Subtract one (appearance of the word) which is required (as noted above), and there are four remaining; the halakha reduces the fourth wall to a tefach. [Thus we see that R. Shimon gives exegetical primacy to pronunciation.]

[The next paragraph deals with "tent impurity;" a person can become impure by being in the same tent (or under the same roof) as a corpse, or some major parts of a corpse, or a r'vi`it (about 130 cc) of blood from a corpse. But impurity is not transmitted by smaller parts of a corpse (e.g., a finger) or less than a r'vi'it of blood. What if there is a r'vi`it of blood from two corpses, but not from a single corpse?]

R. Akiva [also assigns primacy to pronunciation], as we learned [in a b'raita ]: How do you know that a r'vi'it of blood from two corpses imparts tent impurity? As it says (Lev 21:11, dealing with the High Priest) "neither shall he go in to any dead body." [The term "nafshot met," translated as "dead body," is spelled without a vav before the final tav, in the singular, but is pronounced as a plural word.] Two "nafshot" but one measure (of blood). And the Rabbis (who disagree with R. Akiva) -- It is written "nafshat" [singular, leading them to rule that the blood must come from one corpse].

[Thus, we see that both R. Shimon and R. Akiva, as well as Rabbi and Beit Shammai give primacy to pronunciation.]

[The next b'raita cited deals with the three-fold repetition of "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk (Ex. 23:19,34:26; Deut. 14:21)." The word "halav" [milk] can also be read "halev" [fat]. But there was no question that the rabbis all interpreted the term to mean milk, as the source for the prohibition of mixing milk and meat.]

R. Aha b. Yaakov asked: Can it be that _anyone_ does not maintain that pronunciation has exegetical primacy? Didn't we learn "its mother's milk" -- perhaps it refers to its mother's fat? You must therefore say that pronunciation has primacy. [Obviously, all the rabbis give primacy to pronunciation! However, note for future reference that this is an instance of different words with the same spelling rather than different spellings of the same word.]

[The gemara concedes R. Aha b. Yaakov's point, and and re-interprets the various differences of opinion accordingly. It begins with the issue that started this discussion, the question of three versus five as the minimum number of judges needed to form a court.]

Instead, all agree that pronunciation has primacy. And Rabbi and the Rabbis dispute the following point: Rabbi holds that "he whom the judges shall condemn" (Ex 22:8) refers to two other "judges." [Rashi: The term "judges" (elohim, in the plural) occurs twice in the verse, making "twice two" - four - judges. And, since a court cannot have an even number of judges, we require five judges. This is the same exegesis we saw at the end of San 3b, and has nothing to do with pronunciation vs. spelling.]

And the Rabbis hold "they condemn" refers to (both) that and this. [The appearance of "they condemn" at the end of the verse ("this") is read in the plural (even though there is no vav in "yarshi`un") and refers to the "judges" at the beginning of the verse ("this") as well. That leaves just two judges, and since a court cannot have an even number of judges, the minimum becomes three.]

[We end at the fourth line of San 4b.]

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