May 27, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 27, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Laundering After Tisha B’Av: Taanit 30

On Taanit 29b, Rabbi Yitzchak b. Yaakov b. Guyorei (third-generation Amora, Israel) sends a missive to Bavel in the name of Rabbi Yochanan (b. Nafcha, second-generation Amora, Israel, 180-297 CE), as he would do often. (See Eruvin 62a, Moed Katan 18a, Ketubot 42a, Chullin 101b.) The message was that although the Sages declared (in a brayta) that the prohibition of “gihutz,” fine laundering before Tisha B’Av, doesn’t apply to linen garments, this declaration was only about laundering, but one still could not actually wear them during the week of Tisha B’Av.

Rav (first-generation Amora, Israel and Bavel, 175-247 CE) says לֹא שָׁנוּ אֶלָּא, that they only taught “this” regarding the portion of the week before Tisha B’Av, but after it is permitted. Shmuel (first-generation Amora, Israel and Bavel, 165-254 CE) disagrees, saying “this” was forbidden even until the end of the week.

What is “this”? Rashi explains that they are discussing Rabbi Yochanan’s restriction of wearing finely laundered clothing in the week of Tisha B’Av. Motivating that is the immediate juxtaposition of Rabbi Yochanan’s statement to Rav and Shmuel’s statements. This seems difficult. It is true that Rabbi Yochanan directly interacted with Rav (Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 3:6). He also corresponded with Rav, addressing him as “our teacher in Bavel,” He meanwhile addressed Shmuel as “our colleague in Bavel,” which Shmuel considered a slight. Eventually, after Shmuel sent explications of uncertainties regarding treifot, Rabbi Yochanan was sufficiently impressed to consider Shmuel his master (Chullin 95b). However, the missive about wearing laundered clothing is a citation of Rabbi Yochanan by his third-generation student. Are Rav and Shmuel colleagues or students of Rabbi Yochanan to debate Rabbi Yochanan’s meaning? Are they still alive to receive/debate the third-generation Amora’s missive?

An alternative: In the flow of the Gemara, the brayta was brought to refute Rav Nachman’s position stated earlier on 29b. The ending of the brayta was tangential to that refutation, but Rabbi Yochanan’s statement clarified the brayta’s ending. Rav Nachman had commented on the Mishnah, which declared laundering and cutting hair forbidden during the week of Tisha B’Av. He said לֹא שָׁנוּ אֶלָּא and restricted it in some way. Now, Rav also declares לֹא שָׁנוּ אֶלָּא referencing the Mishnah.

Three Tanaaim have divergent views of how long the mourning rituals extend. Rabbi Meir says from the beginning of the month until the fast; Rabbi Yehuda says throughout the month; Rabban Shimon b. Gamliel says only the week of Tisha B’Av. Rabbi Yochanan says וּשְׁלׇשְׁתָּן מִקְּרָא אֶחָד דָּרְשׁוּ, that all three derive their positions from one verse. (Tangentially, the word could be mikra, “verse.” I prefer מִקְּרָא, with a dagesh, thus “from one verse.”) This exceptionally creative/multivalent interpretation appears 36 times in Bavli and six times in Yerushalmi. Rabbi Yochanan declares 22 of those, making it one of his signature derashot.

The verse in question is Hoshea 2:13: “I’ll cause to cease [וְהִשְׁבַּתִּי] all her mirth [כָּל-מְשׂוֹשָׂהּ], her Festival [חַגָּהּ], her New Moon [חָדְשָׁהּ], and her Shabbat [וְשַׁבַּתָּהּ].” Rabbi Yochanan explains that each of the three Tannaim interprets a different word to derive his position. Rabbi Meir, restricting from 1 Av until the fast, is based on חַגָּהּ. (Rabbenu Gershom persuasively notes that a festival has eight days.) Rabbi Yehuda, imposing restrictions on the entire month, is based on חָדְשָׁהּ. Rabban Shimon b. Gamliel, restricting to the week of, is based on שַׁבַּתָּהּ, since “shabbat” also means week. (Perhaps Rav Yehuda’s limitation of the restriction of eating two cooked dishes to only after six hours on Erev Tisha B’Av (30a) could be based on כׇּל מְשׂוֹשָׂהּ.)

In the parallel Yerushalmi (Taanit 25b), discussing haircuts and laundering generally (rather than wearing clothes after gihutz), Rabbi Yochanan takes the stringent position and restricts until week’s end (paralleling our Shmuel), while Resh Lakish takes the lenient position and allows after the fast (paralleling our Rav). Note that, despite choosing sides in the Tannaitic dispute, Rabbi Yochanan in Bavli explained how all positions may be legitimately derived.

The Yerushalmi recounts that Rabbi Chiyya bar Abba, the third-generation Amora, expounded his primary teacher Rabbi Yochanan’s position to the residents of Tzippori/Sepphoris, but they didn’t accept it. Rabbi Yochanan grew up in Tzippori (for that is how he attended Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s yeshiva in his youth, and was about 15 at Rabbi’s death—see Hyman), but didn’t wish to compete with Rabbi Chanina b. Sisi, and established his yeshiva in Teveria/Tiberias, which is a six-hour walk and a half hour drive/kefitzat haderech, according to Google Maps. Meanwhile, Resh Lakish’s residence, his entire life, was in Tzippori, so perhaps he prevailed there—but see next paragraph.

The Yerushalmi then cites the verse from Hoshea, stating דָּרוֹמָאֵי נַהֲגִין חַגָּהּ צִפּוֹרָאִיֵּי נָהֳגִין חָדְשָׁהּ טִיבֶרִיאֵי נָהֳגֵי שַׁבַּתָּהּ. חַזְּרִין רַבָּנָן דְּטִבֶרְיָא לְמִינְהוֹג כְּרַבָּנָן דְּצִפּוֹרִין. Those in the south of Israel practiced חַגָּהּ. In the north, the residents of Tzippori practiced חָדְשָׁהּ, and the residents of Teveria practiced שַׁבַּתָּהּ. Assuming our earlier interpretations hold, Resh Lakish’s opinion wouldn’t align with Tzippori practice.

In Yerushalmi, the three-way interpretation is geographical, not Tannaitic, isn’t ascribed to Rabbi Yochanan, and isn’t described as וּשְׁלׇשְׁתָּן מִקְּרָא אֶחָד דָּרְשׁוּ. Though some scholars assert that some Amoraic statements brought from Israel are spuriously ascribed to Rabbi Yochanan, here we are dealing with his signature style of derash.


Rabbi Dr. Joshua Waxman teaches computer science at Stern College for Women, and his research includes programmatically finding scholars and scholastic relationships in the Babylonian Talmud.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles