Who’s on First? (14a-14b)

Well more to the point here: what comes first?  Reciting the Sh’ma or greeting someone who interrupts you?

Today’s daf continues the discussion from yesterday.

We learn from a Baraisa that according to R’ Meir you can be interrupted “in between paragraphs” only to return the greeting of one who is greater than yourself while R’ Yehudah says that you can return the greeting of anyone at all. The reason for both is to acknowledge the honor of the other person. I prefer R’ Yehudah’s position because it suggests, although not stated directly, that everyone is to be honored, not just the one who is known to be publicly esteemed.

A further distinction is made that differentiates interruptions between paragraphs and those within a paragraph …To be interrupted while within a paragraph is a more serious interruption, and fear for one’s life is what is considered to be at stake here although I do not understand why this would be the case.

R’ Meir’s position is that while within a paragraph a person may “inquire about another’s welfare only on account of he fear he has for his life” while R’ Yehudah says that you can do so “for the sake of another’s honor”.

What is at stake when one is interrupted in the middle of the paragraph? What magic is embedded or embodied in the words that an interruption might so threaten their efficacy? Help me out here chevruta partner – what do you think is going on?

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2 Responses to Who’s on First? (14a-14b)

  1. neillitt says:

    Who walks into the sanctuary in the middle of the Shema and just starts talking? And who can tolerate being interrupted in the middle of opening their heart to the Parent of all Creation? No one has the right to interrupt your process when you are in the midst of taking on the yoke of heaven. Only an imbecile or an enemy would even attempt it.

    • elenizl says:

      Not everyone is so smart as that. They walk into the space and they are happy to see you. They greet you. They may not know that they are interrupting you. You greet them out of the honor that one must accord to all human beings. That is R’ Yehudah’s position. I think it’s a good one. The yoke of heaven is always there … another’s honor isn’t.

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