Hard and Soft (21a-21b)

The Rabbis continue the discussion of the conditions in which the Sh’ma (and other prayers) can be recited and interrupted. They are worried – worried about many things.  One of the things they worry about is whether a man who’s had a nocturnal emission (a Ba’al Keri) can or should prayer before immersing in the mikveh. I’m thinking that they’re over-thinking this one … why worry about such a natural occurrence?

The discussion includes the question as to whether the obligation to recite the Sh’ma is Biblical in origin or a result of Rabbinic legislation. Even though the verses themselves are from the Torah, the obligation to recite them is Rabbinic according to some. The distinction matters to those who are concerned about whether these prayers must or can be said in the context of various conditions. There is often uncertainty regarding the conditions, and if there is also the added uncertainty of whether the obligation to recite the prayer in question is Biblical or Rabbinic, it seems that greater stringency obtains with those where the obligation is Biblical and less stringency to those where the obligation is Rabbinic.  There continues much debate as to whether the recitation of the Sh’ma is Biblically or Rabbinically mandated (so as to determine how much stringency to apply to it) and at one point R’ Yochanan just says “Would that a person pray all day long.”  Good idea! Enough said!

The addled brain of the Ba’al Keri continues to inform our daf where we also read about sorceresses, women violated by their future fathers-in-law, men defined as zav, and woman as niddah. The hermeneutical point being utilized (such as it is)  is about “juxtaposition” and the idea that words or sentences that appear in juxtaposition with each other contribute to the over all meaning or rather interpretation of both. One example brought is that it is written in Exodus 22:17: “You shall not permit a sorceress to live” and in the very next verse “anyone who lies with an animal shall be put to death”. So applying the hermeneutical logic of juxtaposition we read in the Gemara: “just as one who lies with an animal is liable to death by stoning [a punishment derived from yet another text] so too a sorceress is liable to death by stoning ….”

In a world where so much is defined and over-defined we have no definition of sorceress. We begin to see some of the not-so-pretty underside of this otherwise playfully serious text …The addled brain of the Ba’al Keri indeed!

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

One Response to Hard and Soft (21a-21b)

  1. neillitt says:

    One cannot “over think” the consequences of hands-free operation of one’s equipment. It results in a most decentering sensation. It boggles the mind.

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