What Would the Other One Say?

Unless I’m mistaken, here’s something we haven’t seen before: In Tractates Berachos, Shabbos, and Eruvin, when the rabbis argue about the proper understanding of a rabbi’s teaching, they attribute their different understandings of the teaching to misremembering, or an incomplete record of the case that was settled that could have been a case of this plus that or a case of this without that, or a case that occurred in a place where the custom was this way or that way. But here, on the first daf of Pesachim, the rabbis imagine an argument that is not recorded, continually asking if this one said that, how would that one respond and then what would the other one say. An interesting modulation of process!

Daf 325 (Pesachim 2a-2b)

Mishnah. Search by candlelight for chametz on the night of the 14th of Nisan wherever one might expect to find it. There is a dispute regarding how many rows of a wine cellar must be included in the search.

Gemara. The gemara seeks to understand what is meant by night (the Hebrew word is or, which can mean light as well as night). Rav Huna and Rav Yehudah argue over the meaning. This becomes an occasion for considering the various kinds of light that may be found in this world and the next.

The gemara acknowledges that the sense of the mishnah is night (this is really obvious from the context: “One should search on the or . . . and again in the morning . . .”), but continues to challenge it even so. The rabbis search for a day where there is a prohibition of work that only takes effect in the morning, a situation that would be comparable to the prohibition to eat chametz that rabbinically takes effect in the morning.

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