Inside/Outside Forces: Berakhot 11-13

Berakhot 11-13 include some ideas related to the previous Daf Yomi theme about worries as a source in Talmudic decision-making:

  • In 11a, we see conflicts between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai concerning what posture to use when reciting the Shema;
  • In 13a & b we learn about greeting someone (asking after their well-being) and responding to greetings, in the breaks between paragraphs of the Shema, out of respect [שׁוֹאֵל מִפְּנֵי הַכָּבוֹד וּמֵשִׁיב] and out of fear [שׁוֹאֵל מִפְּנֵי הַיִּרְאָה וּמֵשִׁיב]; and
  • In 12a, we see changes in liturgical practice in the face of “insinuations of the Minim” or “due to the grievances of the heretics” [מִפְּנֵי תַּרְעוֹמֶת הַמִּינִין] (Jastrow Jackpot for this phrase; see below);

The first example shows Sages contending with differing opinions and practices within Jewish communities. They are aware that their individual behavior, as well as their arguments, will influence future practice. They also exhibit concern over the impact of their decisions, and the conflicts themselves, on both “Houses” and the community as a whole.

The second example shows Sages contending with customs and hierarchies internal to Jewish communities — such as honoring a parent or teacher by promptly recognizing them — and in the surrounding context, such as the necessity of recognizing a king or other high-placed official.

Decision-making around individual and communal prayers thus includes impact on — and input from — one’s own Jewish community, adjacent ones, and the local non-Jewish culture. In the third example, outside forces have an even stronger influence.

Outside Forces

Rabbi Ishmael (Ber 11a) was concerned about what students might think and infer from his own posture during the Shema, and Sages consider (Ber 13a-b) how others, in- and outside the Jewish community, would react to being ignored during recitation of the Shema. In Ber 12a, faith outside Rabbinic Judaism is used as reason to alter Jewish practice, so as to clearly delineate the latter from the former.

We learn that recitation of the Ten Commandments, once a regular part of the daily service, is dropped so as to avoid the appearance of supporting “Minim/the heretics.” Per Soncino footnote, this is “[Christian belief that the Ten Commandments were the only valid part of the Torah.” This does not appear to be a ruling from the outside about what is considered seemly or permitted in a religious service. Instead, it’s a decision made internally by the Sages based on reasoning similar to Rabbi Ishmael’s above: If we continue with this recitation it will give credence to a belief we don’t sanction; so we are altering the practice to avoid any unwanted inference, now and in the future.

Notes to B. Ber 12a cite a related discussion in the Yerushalmi (Jerusalem or “Palestinian” Talmud) explaining “why we read these paragraphs every day.” Y. Ber 9a outlines parallels between the Shema and the Ten Commandments:

[1] “I am the Lord your God” = “Hear Israel Ad-nai is our G-d”;
[2] “You shall have no other Gods” = “Ad-nai is One”;

[6] “Do not murder” = “you will rapidly vanish” – someone who murders will be murdered;
— Y. Ber 9a (Sefaria Community Translation)

The whole of Yerushalmi is available on Sefaria) in Aramaic/Hebrew, with select sections translated. Another translation is provided on the blog of Rabbi Dr. Tzvee Zahavy, and The Lehrhaus posted this related discussion, “Revealed yet Concealed: the Meaning of Aseret Ha-Dibrot,”
awhile back.

More on this blog and Daf Yomi.


Dictionary Citation

Dictionary includes a “Jastrow Jackpot,” i.e., a direct citation to the verse under consideration:

תַּרְעוֹמֶת — murmur complaint quarrel

Ber. 12ᵃ בקשו … מפני ת׳ המינין they wanted to read so (recite the Ten Commandments with the Sh’mʿa in the prayers), had they not long ago abolished it on account of the seditious talk of the heretics (who declared nothing to be essential in the Law but the Ten Commandments); a. fr.—Pl. תַּרְעוּמוֹת. Tosef. Sot. VI, 1 ושאר כל הת׳ האמורות וכ׳ and all the other murmurings (against God) mentioned in that section (Job XXVII).

— from Jastrow, Marcus. A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature. [standard Talmud reference] Philadelphia, 1903-ish. Available via Sefaria.org

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