Sunday, March 27, 2005

Rabban Gamliel shows humility, blessings on entering a house of study; the death of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai and a discussion of the Amidah

All in all a packed daf.I'll have mercy and not actually require the reading of all of this, but the stroy of rabban gamliel is a must. Most interesting of course is Rabbi Yehoshua's statement "Alas for the generation of which you are the leader, seeing that you know nothing of the troubles of the scholars, their struggles to support and sustain themselves!" It is very suggestive of perhaps how a teacher shuld know his or her students. But also, perhaps, of those who employ rabbis. Just a thought.
First of all, let's get with Rabban Gamliel. Often shown by the gemara to be a less than humble man, he alienates people in several stories in the gemara (not just the ones mentioned in this sugiya, either. In fact, the famous tanur shel achnai incident nearly causes the destruction of the world in part because of him!). Here the gemara shows the rabbis getting a little peeved with this, and having their say about it.

(technically starting at the end of yesterday's daf 27b:
THE EVENING PRAYER HAS NO FIXED LIMIT. What is the meaning of HAS NO FIXED LIMIT? Shall I say it means that if a man wants he can say the Tefillah any time in the night? Then let it state, ‘The time for the evening Tefillah is the ‘whole night’! — But what in fact is the meaning of HAS NO FIXED LIMIT? It is equivalent to saying, The evening Tefillah is optional. For Rab Judah said in the name of Samuel: With regard to the evening Tefillah, Rabban Gamaliel says it is compulsory, whereas R. Joshua says it is optional. Abaye says: The halachah is as stated by the one who says it is compulsory; Raba says the halachah follows the one who says it is optional.

It is related that a certain disciple came before R. Joshua and asked him, Is the evening Tefillah compulsory or optional? He replied: It is optional. He then presented himself before Rabban Gamaliel and asked him: Is the evening Tefillah compulsory or optional? He replied: It is compulsory. But, he said, did not R. Joshua tell me that it is optional? He said: Wait till the champions enter the Beit ha-Midrash. When the champions came in, someone rose and inquired, Is the evening Tefillah compulsory or optional? Rabban Gamaliel replied: It is compulsory. Said Rabban Gamaliel to the Sages: Is there anyone who disputes this? R. Joshua replied to him: No. He said to him: Did they not report you to me as saying that it is optional? He then went on: Joshua, stand up and let them testify against you! R. Joshua stood up and said: Were I alive and he [the witness] dead, the living could contradict the dead. But now that he is alive and I am alive, how can the living contradict the living?(I.e., how can l deny that I said this?)
Rabban Gamaliel remained sitting and expounding and R. Joshua remained standing, until all the people there began to shout and say to Huzpith the turgeman, Stop! and he stopped. They then said: How long is he [Rabban Gamaliel] to go on insulting him [R. Joshua]? On New Year last year he insulted him;(By telling him to appear before him on the Day of Atonement with his staff and wallet. B.R.H. 25a) he insulted him in the matter of the firstborn in the affair of R. Zadok;(Bek. 36a) now he insults him again! Come, let us depose him! Whom shall we appoint instead? We can hardly appoint R. Joshua, because he is one of the parties involved. We can hardly appoint R. Akiba because perhaps Rabban Gamaliel will bring a curse on him because he has no ancestral merit. Let us then appoint R. Eleazar b. Azariah, who is wise and rich and the tenth in descent from Ezra. He is wise, so that if anyone puts a question to him he will be able to answer it. He is rich, so that if occasion arises for paying court to Caesar he will be able to do so. He is tenth in descent from Ezra, so that he has ancestral merit and he [Rabban Gamaliel] cannot bring a curse on him. They went and said to him: Will your honour consent to become head of the Academy? He replied: I will go and consult the members of my family. He went and consulted his wife. She said to him:
Berachot 28a
Perhaps they will depose you later on. He replied to her: [There is a proverb:] Let a man use a cup of honour for one day even if it be broken the next. She said to him: You have no white hair. He was eighteen years old that day, and a miracle was wrought for him and eighteen rows of hair [on his beard] turned white. That is why R. Eleazar b. Azariah said: Behold I am about seventy years old, and he did not say [simply] seventy years old. A Tanna taught: On that day the doorkeeper was removed and permission was given to the disciples to enter. For Rabban Gamaliel had issued a proclamation [saying]. No disciple whose character does not correspond to his exterior may enter the Beth ha-Midrash. On that day many stools were added. R. Johanan said: There is a difference of opinion on this matter between Abba Joseph b. Dosethai and the Rabbis: one [authority] says that four hundred stools were added, and the other says seven hundred. Rabban Gamaliel became alarmed and said: Perhaps, God forbid, I withheld Torah from Israel! He was shown in his dream white casks full of ashes.(Signifying that those he kept out were in fact not genuine) This, however, really meant nothing; he was only shown this to appease him.
A Tanna taught: Eduyyot was formulated on that day — and wherever the expression ‘on that day’ is used, it refers to that day — and there was no halachah about which any doubt existed in the Beit ha-Midrash which was not fully elucidated. Rabban Gamaliel also did not absent himself from the Beit ha-Midrash a single hour, as we have learnt: On that day Judah, an Ammonite proselyte, came before them in the Beth ha-Midrash. He said to them: Am I permitted to enter the assembly?(I.e., marry a Jewess) R. Joshua said to him: You are permitted to enter the congregation. Said Rabban Gamaliel to him: Is it not already laid down, At Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord?(Deut. 23:4) R. Joshua replied to him: Do Ammon and Moab still reside in their original homes? Sennacherib king of Assyria long ago went up and mixed up all the nations, as it says, I have removed the bounds of the peoples and (Isa. X, 13) and whatever strays [from a group] is assumed to belong to the larger section of the group.(E.g., if there are nine shops in a street selling kasher meat and one selling trefa, and we find a piece of meat in the street, we presume that it came from one of the kasher shops, v. Keth. 15a. So here, we presume that this man came from one of the other nations). Said Rabban Gamaliel to him: But has it not been said: But afterward I will bring back the captivity of the children of Ammon, saith the Lord,(Jer. XLIX, 6) so that they have already returned? To which R. Joshua replied: And has it not been said, And I will turn the captivity of My people Israel,(Amos IX, 24) and they have not yet returned? Forthwith they permitted him to enter the congregation. Rabban Gamaliel thereupon said: This being the case, I will go and apologize to R. Joshua. When he reached his house he saw that the walls were black. He said to him: From the walls of your house it is apparent that you are a charcoal-burner(possibly "smith"). He replied: Alas for the generation of which you are the leader, seeing that you know nothing of the troubles of the scholars, their struggles to support and sustain themselves! He said to him: I apologize. forgive me. He paid no attention to him. Do it, he said, out of respect for my father. He then became reconciled to him. They said: Who will go and tell the Rabbis? A certain fuller said to them: I will go. R. Joshua sent a message to the Beth hamidrash saying: Let him who is accustomed to wear the robe wear it; shall he who is not accustomed to wear the robe say to him who is accustomed to wear it, Take off your robe and I will put it on? Said R. Akiba to the Rabbis: Lock the doors so that the servants of Rabban Gamaliel should not come and upset the Rabbis.(The Rabbis did not want Rabban Gamaliel to be restored, being afraid of his autocratic disposition) Said R. Joshua: I had better get up and go to them. He came and knocked at the door. He said to them: Let the sprinkler son of a sprinkler (I.e., a priest, son of a priest, sprinkle the water of purification. The reference is again to Rabban Gamaliel who had an hereditary claim to the presidency) sprinkle; shall he who is neither a sprinkler nor the son of a sprinkler say to a sprinkler son of a sprinkler, Your water is cave water and your ashes are oven ashes? (I.e. niether suitable for use in purification, because ashes must be from the red heifer, and water must be "living" waters) Said R. Akiba to him: R. Joshua, you have received your apology, have we done anything except out of regard for your honour? Tomorrow morning you and I will wait on him.(I.e., on R. Eleazar b. Azariah. Lit., ‘we will rise early to his door’) They said: How shall we do? Shall we depose him [R. Eleazar b. Azariah]? We have a rule that we may raise an object to a higher grade of sanctity but must not degrade it to a lower. If we let one Master preach on one Sabbath and one on the next, this will cause jealousy. Let therefore Rabban Gamaliel preach three Sabbaths and R. Eleazar b. Azariah one Sabbath. And it is in reference to this that a Master said: ‘Whose Sabbath was it? It was the Sabbath of R. Eleazar b. Azariah’. And that disciple was R. Simeon b. Yohai

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