Daf 28. Summary. Rabban Elazar ben Azarya consults his wife on whether he should accept the appointment as Nasi. She has some concerns: one, that he has no white hair. Immediately, his hair turns white, although he is only 18 years old. Upon taking the post, he eases admissions standards and enrollment increases dramatically. The growth startles Rabban Gamliel, who then realizes that when he was Nasi he had perhaps prevented rather than facilitated Torah study.
Much halakhah is settled in the reinvigorated Sanhedrin, and we see Gamliel and Yehoshua’s disputes are more collegial. Gamliel realizes for the first time that Yehoshua’s rulings are well reasoned. Gamliel successfully seeks to appease Yehoshua. Since Yehoshua has been appeased and is no longer offended, Gamliel could be restored to his former position. But they cannot demote Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, so they work out an arrangement by which Gamliel leads for three weeks of the month and Eliazar ben Azarya for one week.
Abaye interrogates Rav Ayya when he misses a day of attending the study hall. The validity or lack of validity of his reasons for staying away establish halakhic rulings related to the order in which one may say individual and communal prayers.
Mishnah. Rav Nehunya prays upon entering and leaving the study hall.
Gemara. The content of Rav Nehunya’s prayers is determined, and then the prayers of other rabbis.
Mishnah. Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Yehoshua dispute who is obliged to recite Amida. Gamliel says everyone must say the entire prayer. Yehoshua says the abbreviated prayer is sufficient. Akiva says that the fluent should recite the entire prayer and all others should recite the abbreviated prayer.
Gemara. Attempting to identify the source of Amida, the assumption that the prayer consists of 18 blessings is doubted. Perhaps there are 19 blessings?
Comment. This daf provides our first explicit glimpse into the workings of the Sanhedrin. Herein we appear to be “overhearing” actual disputes between contemporaries and not merely constructed juxtapositions of rulings that may complement or contradict each other.
Scholars in an hierarchical relationship develop knee-jerk reactions to each other. One becomes habitually aggressive and the other one shuts down. The effect of a change of administration demonstrates how an overbearing leader can have discouraged attendance and diminished the potential for learning and community-building. When the community interrupts the habitual interactions, the participants are forced to react outside their usual familiar patterns and tangible changes are effected.