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Avoda Zara 4
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UNEDITED DRAFT of Megillah Daf 9

Submitted by Andrew M. Greene on 2008-11-25Z00:54:00.091374

The Mishna states that sacred books are written an all tongues. This is challenged based on a baraita: Scripture that one write in Aramaic translation, and Aramaic passages of Scripture that one wrote in Hebrew, or a passage written in Ivri letterforms, as opposed to the Ashurit letterformsin these three cases, the writing does not make the hands tamei i.e., this is not a sacred scroll unless he writes in Ashurit writing on a parchment scroll in d’yo a specific kind of black ink.

This baraita, which states that the Hebrew and Aramaic portions of scripture are not sacred if written in the other language, would seem to contradict our Mishna’s assertion that sacred books are valid when written in all tongues.

Rava said: There is no problem. 9a Here the Mishna refers to a foreign language that has been transliterated in the writing system that is ours i.e., into Ashurit letterforms; here in the baraita, it is in the writing system that is theirs.

Abaye said to Rava: In what way have you clarified that? “In the writing system that is theirs”? If that’s the issue, then why does the baraita explain the case of a Hebrew passage that he wrote in Aramaic and an Aramaic passage that he wrote in Hebrew? Even a Hebrew text that he wrote in Hebrew, or an Aramaic text that he wrote in Aramaic, if they were written with Ivri script, are also invalid, for this is what the baraita says: “they are invalid unless he writes in Ashurit writing on a parchment scroll in d’yo ink.”

The Gemara tries another way to reconcile the Mishna and baraita Rather, there is no problem: This, our Mishna, follows the Rabbis; that, the baraita, follows Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel.

However, that won’t fly. If it’s Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel that requires every word to be written in its original language, hey! There’s Greek! And the end of our Mishna says that Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel explicitly permits scripture to be written in Greek.

The Gemara tries again. Rather, there is no problem: Here, the Mishna is dealing with books which retain sanctity even when written in translation, here the baraita is dealing with tefillin and mezuzot. What is the reason that tefillin and mezuzot must be written in their original language and in ashurit letterforms? Because it is written in them in the text of the Shema, Deut. 6, “and they shall be” (v’hayu) — in the way that they are, they shall be., I.e., they must not be changed.

Even this explanation falls short. What Aramaic can there be that he wrote in Hebrew? Sure, in Torah there is the Aramaic phrase in Gen. 31y’gar sahadutaBut in the passages that are included in tefillin and mezuzot, there is no Aramaic, so the baraita cannot be discussing this case.

Once more, the Gemara asserts Rather, there is no problem: Here, the baraita is dealing with the Megillah of Esther; here, the Mishna is dealing with the other sacred books. Megillah? What is the reason that it must be written with extra constraints? For it is written therein Esth. 8: “according to their wriitng and according to their tongue”.

What Aramaic can there be that he wrote in Hebrew? Rav Papa said, quoting Esth. 1: “The decree of the king shall be heard” The word used for “decree” is the Aramaic word pitgam rather than the Hebrew word d’var. Another example: Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said, quoting Esth. 1: “And all the women shall give honor to their husbands.” In this case, the word used for “honor” is the Aramaic word y’kar and not the Hebrew word kavod.

Rav Ashi said another way of resolving the discrepency: For this baraita was taught in the case of other books besides Torah, and it is Rabbi Yehudah’s view, as it was taught in a baraita: tefilin and mezuzot are not written except in Ashurit letterforms, but our rabbis permit Greek.

The baraita being cited is interrupted by an objection. But it is written in the prooftext from the Shema, cited just a moment ago in our gemara “and they shall be” i.e., tefilin and mezuzah must be written unchanged.

The Gemara accepts the objection and rewords the interruped baraita: Rather, let us say: Books are written in all tongues, and our rabbis permit Greek.

Once again, we are interrupted by an objection. “They permit” Greek implies that the first teacher forbade Greek, but the first teacher says “in all tongues”. This is a contradiction.

The Gemara accepts the objection and once again rewords the interrupted baraita: Rather, let us say: Our rabbis did not permit that it should be written in a foreign tongue except Greek. And it was taught in our baraita: Rabbi Yehudah said: Even though they permit Greek, they do not permit except in the case of a sefer Torah, and this is because of what happened with King Ptolemy.

As it was taught in a baraita: In happened with King Ptolemy, that he gathered seventy-two elders, and gathered them in seventy-two houses, and did not reveal to them the purpose for which he had gathered them, and he went in to visit each of them, one by one, and he said to them, “Write for me the Torah of Moshe your teacher.” The Holy One, Who is Blessed, gave to the heart of each of them, one by one, wisdom, and all of them arrived at a single understanding even in difficult passages or those which might lend themselves to heretical interpretation if not translated with care.

So, for example, they wrote for him Elohim bara b’reishit, “God created at the beginning” so that it could not be misconstrued to imply that some entity named Bereshit created God.

E’eseh adam b’tzelem uvid-mut “I will create humankind in an image and a form” Casting the verb in the singular and removing the implication that God has an image or a form.

Vay’chal bayom ha-shishi vayishbot bayom hash’vi’i “And God completed the work of creation on the sixth day, and rested on the seventh day” eliminating the implication that God’s creation of Shabbat was a form of work.

Zachar unkeivah b’ra’o “Male and female God created him” and they did not write b’ra’amcreated them” eliminating the opportunity to misconstrue this as the creation of two hermaphroditic original humans, instead of the single progenitor of humanity.

Havah erdah v’evlah sham sfatam “Come, let me descend, and I will confound their lips there.” Again, reducing the royal “we” to the simple singular in the incident of the tower of Bavel.

Vatitzchak Sarah bikroveha “And Sarah laughed amongst her close relations” rather than “to herself”, so that there would be more of a distinction between her behaviour, which God chastised, and Abraham’s.

Ki b’apam hargu shor uvirtzonam ikru eyvus “For in their fury they slew an ox rather than ‘a man’ and at their will they uprooted a shack instead of ‘an ox’in the incident of Jacob’s rebuking Shimon and Levi for avenging the rape of Dinah.

Vayikach Moshe et ishto v’et banav vayarkivem al nosei bnei adam “And Moshe took his wife and his sons and placed them on that which carries people” instead of ‘on a donkey’, whose low stature would have demeaned Moshe in the eyes of Ptolemy.

Umoshav b’nei Yisrael asher yash’vu b’mitzrayim uvish’ar aratzot arba meot shana “And the dwelling of the children of Israel, which they dwelt in Egypt and in other lands phrase added, was four hundred years.” The historical record does not show a 400-year period when our ancestors were in Egypt, since the time began counting at the time of Isaac’s birth; since we did not yet posess the land of Israel, the promise given at the covenant between the parts that Abraham’s descendants would be strangers “in a land that is not theirs” for 400 years included the time that Isaac and Jacob dwelt in Eretz Yisrael. However this would be too subtle for Ptolmey, so the translators inserted the additional words to avoid accusations of inaccuracy.

Vayishlach et za’atutyey b’nei Yisrael “And he sent the exalted ones instead of the young lads of the children of Israel”. This verse from Ex. 24 speaks of the firstborn who were sent to bring sacrifices; the fear was that translating naarim as young lads would seem disrespectful to God.

V’el za’atutyey b’nei Yisrael lo shalach yado “And upon the exalted ones instead of the noble ones of the Children of Israel He did not send forth His hand.” This verse, later in the same chapter of Exodus, was translated using the same word, za’atutyey, for consistency.

9b Lo chemed echad mehem nasati “Not one precious item instead of ‘donkey’ of theirs did I take.” In this verse, Moshe is defending himself in the affair of Korach’s rebellion, pointing out that even when he would have been entitled to take a donkey for his use as leader, he did not do so. The translators brought in a more general term, lest Ptolemy should claim that Moshe specified a donkey but perhaps he had taken something else.

Asher chalak Hashem Elokecha otam l’ha’ir l’chawl ha’amim “…which Hashem, your God, has allotted to cast illumination for phrase added all the nations.” This verse, which prohibits worshipping the celestial bodies, could be misconstrued to say that while Jews are prohibited from doing so, these objects have been allotted to the other nations for the purpose of worship. By adding the word l’ha’ir, the translators clarified that the celestial bodies were given to all the nations for the purpose of casting light.

Vayelech vaya’avod elohim acherim … asher lo tziviti l’ov’dam “And he went, and he served other ‘gods’, that I have not commanded that they are to be servedBy adding the last phrase, l’ov’dam, the translators avoid the implication that God commanded the false gods to not exist; since they exist even in human-created idol form, that would have given the implication that the false gods are not only real but have the power to be victorious over God’s commands!

And they wrote for him “The one with short legs,” and they did not write for him “the rabbit” in Lev. 11, when enumerating the non-kosher animals, because the wife of Ptolemy — “rabbit” was her name. In contemporary terms, perhaps her nickname was “Bunny”. They made this change so that Ptolemy should not say “The Jews laugh at me and put my wife’s name in the Torah” as an example of a non-kosher animal.

This ends the enumeration of emendations that the 72 scholars were independently inspired to make in identical ways. We now return to our Mishna, which stated that Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: even in the case of sacred books, they did not permit that they be written in foreign tongues except for Greek.

Rabbi Abahu said that Rabbi Yochanan said: The halacha is like Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel.

And Rabbi Yochanan said: What is the reason of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel? The reading in Gen. 9 says: May God enlarge Yafet, and He will dwell in the tents of Shem. The subject of the second clause is ambiguous — it could refer to God, but it could also refer to the enlarged Yafet; that is, The words of Yafet who is the ancestor of Greece shall be in the tents of Shem. That is, the language of Greece shall be in the study halls of the Jews.

The Gemara points out that Yafet is not only the ancestor of Greece. And let us say it means Gomer and Magog instead. The response is: Rabbi Chiya bar Abba said: This if the reason: for it is written at the beginning of the verse May God enlarge Yafet. The word that we have here translated as “enlarge” is yaft, which could also be interpreted as “beautify”; since Greece is the scion of Yafet known for its love of beauty, we should interpret the verse as the beauty of Yafet i.e., the Greek language shoall be in the tents of Shem i.e., the study halls of Israel.


MISHNA: There is no difference between a kohen who became kohen gadol when he was annointed with oil of annointing and one who became kohen gadol by donning additional garments, except this: a bull that comes to expiate error on account of all the mitzvot. I.e., the kohen gadol who was inaugurated only by wearing the special garments does not bring the bull of expiation.

There is no difference between a kohen who is currently serving his term as kohen gadol and a kohen who has passed out of service and is now retired except this: the serving kohen gadol offers a bull of Yom Kippur and the tenth-ephah of flour that the kohen gadol offers as the daily minchah.

GEMARA: Thus, in the case of a bull of Yom Kippur and the tenth-ephah, this and that i.e., both the kohen gadol who was inaugurated through annointing and the one who was inaugurated through the additional vestments are equivalent.

Our Mishna is not like Rabbi Meir, because if it were Rabbi Meir, hey, it was taught in a baraita: A kohen gadol who was inaugrated by donning the additional garments does bring a bull to expiate on account of all the mitzvot — the words of Rabbi Meir; and the sages say he does not bring it.

What is the reasoning of Rabbi Meir? For it was taught in a baraita, the verse in Lev. 4 uses the word “the annointed”, from which I have nothing to learn except the case of the kohen who became kohen gadol by being annointed with the oil of annointing. As for the kohen who was inaugurated by donning the additional garments, from where does Rabbi Meir learn that he, too, brings the bull? The Torah says “the annointed.” Since we’d be able to learn the first case if the Torah had only said an annointed kohen, Rabbi Meir can learn the additonal case from the addition of the definite article.

What have we established? That our Mishna is not like Rabbi Meir.

Let us discuss the end of the Mishna: There is no difference between a kohen who is currently serving his term as kohen gadol and a kohen who has passed out of service and is now retired except this: the serving kohen gadol offers a bull of Yom Kippur and the tenth-ephah of flour that the kohen gadol offers as the daily minchah.

Thus, for all other matters, this one and that one i.e., the serving and retired kohen are equivalent and, for example, they both wear the complete set of vestments for the kohen gadol when officiating.

This goes after the opinion of Rabbi Meir, as it was taught in a baraita: A disqualification came upon the kohen gadol — for example, an emission on the night of Yom Kippur and they appointed another kohen after him to serve in his stead, the first returns to his service; while as for the second, all the mitzvot of the high priesthood are upon him. These are the words of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yose says: the first returns to his service; and as for the second, he may not appear: neither as kohen gadol nor as an ordinary kohen. And Rabbi Yose said: It happened regarding Rabbi Yosef ben Ulam from Tzippori that a disqualification befell the kohen gadol, and they appointed Rabbi Yosef ben Ulam after him to serve in his stead. And the case came before the sages, and they said: The first returns to his service; the second may not appear: neither as kohen gadol nor as a regular kohen — he may not appear as kohen gadol in full vestments on account of jealousy on the part of the first kohen gadol, and he may not appear as an ordinary kohen on account of the principle that we raise up in sanctity and we do not lower.

Perhaps the beginning of our Mishna is the Rabbis’ view and the end is Rabbi Meir? Rav Chisda said “Yes, the beginning is the Rabbis and the end is Rabbi Meir.” Rav Yosef said, “It is Rebbi, who combines for himself the various Tana’im” In this case, he is combining the Rabbis and Rabbi Meir; the difference between Rav Yosef and Rav Chisda is that Rav Yosef can continue to cite the entire Mishna as the work of a single earlier authority.


MISHNA: There is no difference between a major bamah and a minor bamah except Pesach offerings which may only be brought on a major bamah. This is the general principle: All offerings that are vowed by a neder, or donated, may be brought on any bamah; and all offerings that are not vowed by a neder and are not donated but are brought out of an obligation are not brought on any bamah but must be brought on a major bamah.

GEMARA: Pesach offerings, and naught else differentiates the two types of bamah? You should say: anything which is similar to a Pesach offering, in that it is an obligation, may only be brought on a major bamah.

Who says this? It’s Rabbi Shimon, for it was taught in a baraita: Rabbi Shimon says: Even the community does not bring offerings on the major bamah except Pesach offerings and obligations that are established by a specific time. However, obligations that do not have an established specific time, they did not bring them either here nor there on either kind of bamah.


The next Mishna spans onto 10a and so I’ll leave it for tomorrow.


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