July 18, 2024
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Ketubot 68a records a conversation between Rava and his father-in-law, Rav Chisda. Rava, a fourth-generation Amora born in Mechoza, studied from several teachers, such as Rav Chisda (of Sura academy), Rav Nachman (of Nehardea academy, which moved to Shkhanzib, then Mechoza), then Rav Yosef (of Pumbedita). While I’d primarily associate him with Pumbedita academy, Rava could then consider multiple approaches, and integrate or decide among them. Rava and his colleague Rami bar Chama both learned from Rav Chisda. Rami bar Chama first married Rav Chisda’s daughter, and Rava married her after Rami’s death.

In this conversation, Rava says to Rav Chisda: “We expound in your name, דָּרְשִׁינַן מִשְּׁמָךְ, that the halacha is like Rabbi Yehuda.” He (Rav Chisda) said to him: “May it be (Hashem’s) will that all these excellent matters you (plural) expound in my name.”

The context is that the Mishna recorded a dispute in the case that a man had two daughters and married his first daughter off with a specific dowry. Rabbi Yehuda said that the same dowry should be set for the remaining daughter, while the Sages say there’s no set dowry, as a person’s fortunes can change. Instead, the court appraises the property and gives her the appropriate sum.

The Talmudic Narrator asks whether Rava actually propounds such a position. After all, there’s a brayta in which Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi says we give an orphan daughter 1/10th of the inheritance for a dowry, and Rava rules like that brayta. The resolution is that the cases differ, for there, there’s no prior dowry via which to assess the father’s mindset.

In Beitza 28a, the Mishna taught that one may not sharpen a knife on Yom Tov in ordinary fashion, but one may in an unusual fashion—running one knife over another. Rav Chisda noted that the author of the Mishna was not Rabbi Yehuda, for a brayta records a dispute in which Rabbi Yehuda permitted, on Yom Tov, not only direct preparation of food, but even actions which facilitate preparation of food (אַף מַכְשִׁירֵי אוֹכֶל נֶפֶשׁ).

Seemingly prompted by this, an identical conversation between Rava and Rav Chisda ensues: אֲמַר לֵיהּ רָבָא לְרַב חִסְדָּא: דָּרְשִׁינַן מִשְּׁמָךְ הֲלָכָה כְּרַבִּי יְהוּדָה. אֲמַר לֵיהּ: יְהֵא רַעֲוָא דְּכׇל כִּי הָנֵי מִילֵּי מְעַלְּיָיתָא תִּדְרְשׁוּן מִשְּׁמַאי. Juxtaposed to this, we have the following. Rav Nechemia, son of (the famous) Rav Yosef, who was Rava’s student, said: I was once standing before Rava, who was running a knife over the rim of a basket on Yom Tov. I asked him whether he was doing so in order to sharpen it, or to remove the fat from the knife, and he said, “in order to remove its fat.” But I saw that his intention was actually to sharpen it. He held that this was the halacha (regarding sharpening directly) but one doesn’t (publicly) teach this. Abaye then related similarly regarding his teacher, Rabba.

Expounding

When Rava said דָּרְשִׁינַן מִשְּׁמָךְ, when and where was this? Was it the rabbis in Sura academy who were saying this, which would place the conversation earlier in Rava’s career? Or, was it the rabbis in Pumbedita academy who were saying this? Rav Chisda lived from 217-309 CE, while Rava lived from 280-355 CE, so anywhere from 280-309 is possible, except Rava shouldn’t be an infant. My inclination is that Rava was confirming something that they were saying in Pumpedita, in Rav Chisda’s name. In Sura, Rav Chisda would have already had direct knowledge of it. This illustrates an important result of attribution; Sometimes, you can check with the statement’s author.

What does expounding, דָּרְשִׁינַן, mean? I don’t know what דרש means in general in Talmud Bavli. They seem to be exegetic or homiletic interpretations, perhaps delivered in public lectures (Taanit 26b), but we won’t review the evidence here. Rav Chisda’s happy response in our sugya means that he’s happy with them saying this publicly in his name. But, does this mean that Rava taught this publicly as the proper course of action? There’s a seeming inconsistency between the two sugyot.

In Ketubot 68a, the Gemara asks how Rava could propound and endorse the halacha like Rabbi Yehuda (in Rav Chisda’s name) in light of a contrary endorsement of the halacha like Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. So דָּרְשִׁינַן indicates personal endorsement, possibly publicly. In Beitza 28a, after Rava and Rav Chisda’s conversation in which Rava says דָּרְשִׁינַן, Rava’s student indicates that while Rava privately held like Rav Chisda and acted accordingly, he kept it private—הֲלָכָה וְאֵין מוֹרִין כֵּן. He wouldn’t then teach this publicly as halacha!

I suspect that דָּרְשִׁינַן means citation within the walls of the study hall. In both cases, the Pumbeditans cited Rav Chisda as endorsing Rabbi Yehuda, and Rava confirmed the quote or implied position with the source. If so, the Talmudic Narrator’s contrast in Ketubot 68a is unnecessary, for Rava often disagrees with his teacher Rav Chisda! The harmonization is therefore unnecessary, though it might be true.

This brings us to Rava’s statement on Ketubot 69b. He declares that the halacha is that one collects from the inheritors only from real estate and not from moveable objects (מִמְּקַרְקְעֵי וְלָא מִמְּטַלְטְלִי), whether for sustenance, the ketubah or for support (לְפַרְנָסָה, indicating the daughter’s livelihood). And, on Ketubot 51a, he seemingly ruled otherwise in a case where only moveable objects were available, instructing the trustees to allocate more to the orphan boy, so there should be enough for the orphan girl as well. The Sages asked Rava, don’t you yourself restrict this to real estate? Rava answers why this is nevertheless justified within that framework—that she can be compensated for housework she surely does.

Tosafot on 51a (d”h מִמְּקַרְקְעֵי וְלָא מִמְּטַלְטְלִי) have a complex analysis by which Rava is self-contradictory. Rava on 68a rules like Rabbi Yehuda that we grant the second, orphaned daughter the same as her older sister, for we know the father’s intent. And based on complexities in 68b, that Shmuel holds like Rabbi Yehuda, Rava must maintain like him that we collect even from moveable objects. And, Tosafot continue, we cannot say that on 68a he wasn’t stating his own position but only citing Rav Chisda, for the Gemara itself contrasts and resolves Rava’s citation and Rava’s other statement (endorsing Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi). Tosafot offer their solution. Might we answer that it’s indeed citation, not endorsement, based on Beitza 28a?


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.

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