Hearing: Berakhot 15

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It seems important to recognize who is heard and not heard in the discussion of reciting and hearing.

Berakhot 15a (a few days back, in the Daf Yomi cycle) includes much discussion of the physicality involved in reciting the Shema: how should activities such as relieving oneself, washing, and donning tefillin be conducted in preparation; what roll do the voice and the ears play in reciting.

The latter raises the question of whether a deaf person who recites Shema but cannot hear the words fulfilled the commandment or not:

הַקּוֹרֵא אֶת ״שְׁמַע״ וְלֹא הִשְׁמִיעַ לְאׇזְנוֹ — יָצָא, דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי יְהוּדָה. רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר: לֹא יָצָא
One who recites Shema and did not recite it so it was audible to his own ear, he fulfilled his obligation. This is the statement of Rabbi Yehuda. Rabbi Yosei says: He did not fulfill his obligation.
— B. Ber 15a

In compiling a list of methods used by the Sages in their decision-making, it is worth noting what their methods do not include. Here, for example, they do not mention consulting deaf people about their perspectives. And, while we have seen stories about scholars and their slaves (and wives and neighbors) enter the record, as part of the decision-making process, we don’t even get, “Rabbi Hearing Guy once met a deaf man, and…”

So, just a few resources for connecting with Deaf Jews and advocates:

Jewish Resources for the Deaf — New York and Maryland
Center for Jewish Education — Jewish Advocates for Deaf Education
Yachad/Our Way — Because Everyone Belongs
Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel

signing

from Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel website

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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Juxtaposing Redemption and Prayer

Once, Rav Beruna “juxtaposed redemption and prayer” — i.e., managed his morning prayers in such a way that he completed the Redemption [“Mi Chamocha“] blessing, following the morning Shema, and moved on to the Amidah [Standing Prayer] just exactly at sunrise — and laughter [and joy] did not cease from his mouth for the entire day.
— Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 9b

We prayed with perfect timing…At the exact moment that we started the Amidah, the sun peeked over the horizon.
…God was happy that we showed up….
I’ve held onto that day as being among the most divine experiences in a largely faithless life….
— David Wolkin, “12 Awkward Boys,” at DC Sermon Slam.

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You Can’t Spend What You Ain’t Got: Eikev Prayer Links

In this portion, Moses presents the People with a jumble of sentiments — from sweeping promises to dire threats — which found their way into prominent roles in our prayers. And, while biblical context often has little to do with the use the siddur makes of the bible’s language, our prayers do reflect this portion’s tangled relationship between the People, God and others.
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