Saturday, November 24, 2007

על עריכת פירוש לתלמוד בבלי- Part 1

An essay that very much impressed me was the מאמר על פרשנות התלמוד למשנה in שרידי אש ח"ד

This essay is unique in its very clear exposition of the (oftentime arbitrary seeming) internal logic and structure of the Talmud. I think both modern scholarship with its overemphasis on source criticism and the Yeshiva world with its overemphasis on clarifying the boundaries of specific concepts has much to learn from the methodology that the SE demonstrates in that essay. (Dr. Shapiro writes that this was actually the core of a larger book on the subject that was lost when it was sent to London for typesetting וחבל על דאבדין)

To that end I hope to work on a several posts clarifying certain aspects of Talmud study in the spirit of the aforementioned essay.

חולין נד: -אלמא קסבר רב נחמן עד ולא עד בכלל איתיביה רבא לרב נחמן חבל היוצא מן המטה עד חמשה טפחים טהור
מאי לאו חמשה כלמטה? לא, חמשה כלמעלה

This passage would seem to defy all understanding. A question is asked, to which the Gemara quotes a Baraita and says “Maybe it should be interpreted like one side of our question?” and the answer “No, It is to be interpreted like the other side”.

At no time in this discussion has any hint been given as to why the passage should be interpreted in one manner or the other. It would appear hard to understand what the Gemara believes it proved by citing this passage. There are many passages that contain a similar form to this one throughout Shas.

To understand the solution to this we must keep in mind the nature of the transmission of the Talmud. The Talmud was transmitted orally. The vehement argumentation, the ריתחא דאורייתא that must have taken place inside of the Batei Madrashim was frozen onto paper and an important part of its essence (the emphasis of tone) was lost.

In this passage, the Amora who brought this proof was insisting that it is impossible to accept that a strap of five Tefachim should be considered a כלי , It’s simply to small.

Thus the argument (emphasized by its tone) is to be understood thus “Is it possible to understand the עד passage as being anything other then inclusive? How can עד be exclusive when that would entail giving a strap of such an insignificant size as five tefachim the status of aכלי and this is impossible to accept.."

To this the Gemara responds by stating that yes it is legally possible to refer to a strap of five tefachim as aכלי despite the fact that according to practical logic one would not say this.

This explanation is supported by Rashi ד"ה מאי לאו חמשה כלמטה.דפחות מה' וטהור דקטן הוא

I believe this explanation would hold good for sugyos with a similar structure.

See also:
על עריכת פירוש לתלמוד הבבלי / הגה"צ רבי אברהם אליהו קפלן
An abortive attempt of mine to attempt to clarify a similar question:
A doctorate on the various methods of studying Gemara:
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