The Contrarian

Daf 16. Errors in reciting the Shema must be corrected by returning to the place in the recitation where the error occurred.

Mishnah. Laborers may recite Shema on top of a tree. Grooms are exempt from reciting from their wedding night until Saturday night, or until the consummation of their marriage, whichever comes first. Rabban Gamliel, however, recited Shema on his wedding night, refusing to take off the “yoke of heaven” for even an instant.

Gemara. Laborers may recite in a tree but homeowners must climb down. Grooms who marry virgins are exempt but grooms who marry widows are not.

Mishnah. Although mourners are prohibited from bathing, Rabban Gamliel bathed the night after his wife died. He said, “I am not like other people. I am delicate.” And he accepted condolences when his slave died because his slave was virtuous. The Sages permit a groom to recite Shema even though he is exempt, but Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel does not.

Gemara. The gemara seeks reasons for Rabban Gamliel’s behavior. It is contrasted to Rabbi Eliezer’s behavior: When Eliezer’s students came to console him on the death of his maidservant, he fled because “the connection between a master and his slave is only financial in nature.” Nor does one say a eulogy for a servant (“If so, what praise have you left for virtuous Jews?”).

The gemara catalogs the phrases several rabbis choose to conclude their prayers.

Comment. It seems that Rabban Gamliel will tolerate no interruption in his daily practice– he will recite the Shema on his wedding night and bathe when others would be sitting shiva. On the other hand, he insists on mourning the death of a servant, contrary to custom. This contrarian has his justifications but there is a nearly silent rebuke in the fact that his son (Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel) does not follow his practice. Will we hear more of this son and come to understand his position vis a vis his father?

This entry was posted in Daf Yomi, Hevruta study, Talmud. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Contrarian

  1. charleshollander says:

    Eleni commented earlier on the acknowledgement of Beruriah’s wisdom. Here at 17c the “greater promise made to women” is described thus: “Whereby do women earn merit? By making their children go to the synagogue to learn Scripture and their husbands to the Beth Hamidrash to learn Mishnah, and waiting for their husbands till they return from the Beit Hamidrash.” No room given here for women to study Torah.

  2. elenizl says:

    Hi Charlie! See my comment about this in the next post on daf 17a-17b. I don’t project my “agency” back into the past and do not feel diminished by this text. Of more interest to me is what is true, really true, over time (all time).

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