April 23, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 23, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

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

Where Credit Is Due: Yevamot 96-97

In Yevamot 96b, Rabbi Yochanan (a second-generation Amora from Teveriah) is furious with his student, Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat (a second-generation Amora from Teveriah), who has seemingly plagiarized his analysis (שְׁמַעְתָּא) of contrasting Mishnayot (here and 31b) by repeating it in the study hall in Teveriah without crediting Rabbi Yochanan. Rabbi Yochanan’s student tries to assuage his anger. First, Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi (a third-generation from Teveriah) note an earlier heated dispute in the synagogue of Teveriah, between the fifth-generation Tannaitic colleagues, Rabbi Eleazar (ben Shamua) and Rabbi Yossi regarding the muktzah status of a door bolt, such as that they (accidentally) tore a Torah scroll, which was taken correctly as a bad omen — that a synagogue would become a house of idolatry. Rabbis Ami and Assi thought to emphasize the danger of collegial anger, but this only angered Rabbi Yochanan more. “Are you deeming that Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat and I are colleagues?” he thundered.

To take a step back, Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat studied under Rav and Shmuel in his youth, and subsequently traveled to Israel, about 40 years after Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s death, where he studied under various students of Rabbi, such as Rabbi Chanina, Rabbi Yannai and Rabbi Oshaya. After these teachers died, he went to Rabbi Yochanan’s Tiberian academy and learned from him. Meanwhile, Rabbi Yochanan did learn a bit from Rabbi, but he was only 15 years old when Rabbi died. He mostly studied from Rabbi’s students, Rabbi Yannai, Rabbi Chanina bar Chama, Rabbi Oshaya and Rabbi Chiyya’s son, Chizkiyah. When Rabbi Yochanan sent letters to Bavel, he addressed Rav as “our teacher in Bavel” and Shmuel as “our colleague in Bavel.” Shmuel was also eventually addressed as “our teacher in Bavel.”

Thus, Rabbi Yochanan was certainly cognizant of the scholastic generations and his place within them. Despite an overlap in Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat and Rabbi Yochanan’s teachers, he considered himself more of the prior generation, having actually seen Rabbi. Further, as head of the Teveriah academy, he played the role of teacher rather than colleague. Rabbis Ami and Assi accidentally further impugned his honor, which angered him.

Next, Rabbi Yaakov bar Idi (a second and third-generation Amora) stepped up to comfort Rabbi Yochanan. Unlike Rabbis Ami and Assi, who were only Rabbi Yochanan’s students, Rabbi Yaakov bar Idi had studied under Rabbi Oshaya, Rabbi Chanina, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi and other first-generation Amoraim — although his primary teacher (Rebbi Muvhak) was still Rabbi Yochanan (Yerushalmi Berachot 2:1). Rabbi Yaakov bar Idi made an analogy to Moshe and Yehoshua bin Nun. Yehoshua didn’t attribute all his statements to Moshe, but everyone knew that this was their source. So too, everyone really knew that Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat’s statements came from Rabbi Yochanan!

Rabbi Yochanan was comforted and said to Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Assi, “Why don’t you know how to appease me like our colleague, ben Idi?” In context, חֲבֵרֵינוּ,  “our colleague” is meaningful. He’s willing to grant colleague status to ben Idi, but not to ben Pedat. (Rav Hyman believes that calling him a colleague is due to Rabbi Yochanan’s humility. By the way, I drew many scholastic and biographical details from Rav Aharon Hyman’s sefer, “Toldedot Tannaim vaAmoraim,” but combined them and drew my own conclusions. It is common knowledge that the actual facts I state in these columns are from Rav Hyman’s sefer, so it’s not plagiarism even if I don’t credit him, due to space considerations.)

 

Importance of Attribution

The Gemara wonders at Rabbi Yochanan’s insistence on receiving credit for the שְׁמַעְתָּא. The answer is that Rav Yehuda cites Rav who interpreted a verse in Tehillim, that “one dwells in two Worlds (This and the Next), when people cite his words posthumously.” As an explanation of this point, Rabbi Yochanan cited Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, who says that when a deceased person’s halacha is cited, his lips move in the grave. Rabbi Yitzchak ben Nezira, and some also say Shimon the Nazirite, derived this from a verse in Shir Hashirim about moving the lips of those who are asleep.

It’s somewhat funny that, even when emphasizing the importance of attribution, the Gemara cites both רַבִּי יִצְחָק בֶּן זְעֵירָא וְאִיתֵּימָא שִׁמְעוֹן נְזִירָא, with two possibilities of this here. But, since both oral or scribal errors can occur, even as transmitters try mightily. Indeed, the very reason that they gave the וְאִיתֵּימָא attribution was because they didn’t wish to deprive either one of the two possibilities of their credit.

To briefly explore these variants, the Munich 141 manuscript has Rav Yehuda cite Shmuel, rather than Rav, and it has Rabbi Yochanan cite Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak, instead of ben Yochai. Insofar as רַבִּי יִצְחָק בֶּן זְעֵירָא וְאִיתֵּימָא שִׁמְעוֹן נְזִירָא goes, one manuscript, the Oxford 367, lacks וְאִיתֵּימָא, having only א”ר בר זעירי. The Vatican 110 has רבי שמעון בן גיורא instead of נזירא, and the Munich 96 has שמעון גרידא. I actually suspect that the וְאִיתֵּימָא ambiguity here was introduced by the scribes, and Nezira (נזירא) / Giyora (גיורא) / Gereida come from the letter parts of זעירא reinterpreted. Meanwhile, שמעון is dittography, a type of duplication either pulled from Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai or more likely from דבר שמועה.

 

A Pattern and Resolution

As Rabbi Nechemia Ruzinsky lays out in Mishnat Nechemia, apparent plagiarism appears to be a consistent problem with Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat, since repeated statements from Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish appear regularly without attribution. (See also Yerushalmi Berachot 2:5, Yerushalmi Yevamot 3:10, Makkot 5b and Menachot 93b.) Simultaneously though, in Megillah 15a, Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat cites his teacher, Rabbi Chanina, that whoever repeats something in the originator’s name brings redemption to the world. So, how could the same Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat plagiarize?

Rabbi Razinsky answers that Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat was the master of Baraitot (e.g. Sifra), which was not known even to Rabbi Yochanan (see Yevamot 72b). Rabbi Eleazar had learned these from Rav in Bavel, who had learned them from Rabbi Chiya. Similarly, after Resh Lakish’s death, when Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat was assigned to learn bachavruta with Rabbi Yochanan, he annoyed Rabbi Yochanan by repeatedly supporting, rather than attacking, his position. For each novel statement that Rabbi Yochanan made, Rabbi Eleazar said, “There’s a Baraita which supports you!” Again, this was because he knew Rabbi Chiya’s Baraitot. If so, Rabbi Eleazar wasn’t plagiarizing Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish’s Torah. They assumed he was, but he was actually just expounding these Baraitot.

I might add that this runs counterwise to Rabbi Yaakov bar Idi’s comforting words. We’d assume that all Rabbi Eleazar’s words come from Rabbi Yochanan, but perhaps they came from Baraitot, or other teachers in Bavel and Eretz Yisrael!


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