When A Mistake Can Be Reversed

Daf 27. Summary. When Rav Yehuda says that a prayer may be said until, does he mean until and not including, in which case the Sages do not agree with him, or does he mean until and including, in which case the Sages may agree with him. Five rulings of Rabbi Yehuda ben Bava are cited, but only the last one is relevant to establish that until means until and including.

Other differences between Rav Yehuda and the Sages are unresolved. In those cases, every individual may choose for himself; obliged only to follow one ruling consistently once he has made his choice.

One may not pray behind his rabbi . . . or teach in front of him, or fail to return his greeting, or inaccurately attribute a teaching to him, or set up a school to compete with him.

The gemara asks if a mistake can be reversed, such as reciting the evening prayer at the conclusion of Shabbat (mistaking an overcast sky for the onset of evening). For a community, no; they need not pray again.

Is the evening prayer optional or obligatory? After Rabbi Yehosua responds to a student that it is optional, the student asks Rabban Gamliel, who tells him it is obligatory. Gamliel challenges Yehoshua, who is willing to defer to Gamliel and reluctant to stand up to him, but Gamliel will have none of it. This is part of a long history of Gamliel “afflicting” Yehoshua. For the “masters of the shields” it is the last straw and they remove Gamliel from his post as Nasi. They offer the post to Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, who will not agree to accept it until he has consulted with his wife.

Comment. Unlike yesterday’s daf, which seemed to suggest that reconciliation appeared to be on the horizon, today’s daf ends with the demotion of Rabban Gamliel for boorish and bullying conduct in the study hall. Competition for authority can be brutal and the Talmud does not soft pedal the passion and anger that can accompany strongly held views when they are publicly challenged.

The daf includes five halakhic rulings by Rabbi Yehuda ben Bava, four of which seem at first to be otherwise unrelated to the text (if the topic is the meaning of until), but perhaps there is a larger question that is only beginning to emerge. For example, is the case of the orphan girl who is married off by her mother or brother meant to foreshadow the question of whether a “mistake” can be reversed? The marriage of the minor may be anulled; no get is required. One might ask why such a marriage is even permitted, but this does not seem to me to be such a difficult question: the arranged marriage of the orphan affords her protection from predatory males in the less gentle time that they lived. The fact that the marriage can be anulled suggests that there is no expectation that it will be consummated.

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