Friday, July 11, 2008

Sotah 45-46

We are now a bit behind the pace here in Allentown, slowing me down in getting these out to you. Not that much here in any case; mostly technical notes, other than some interesting references on Yerushalayim and on the gemara's own discussions.

First, one last note on 44b – The court for eglah arufah must have an odd number of judges, per our mishnah, but I am not clear on why that should be so. The requirement for an odd-numbered court is practical (to prevent a tie in voting) rather than ritual, as is proved by the fact that if an even-numbered court renders a ruling, the ruling is valid. So why do we need an odd-numbered court for this purely ritual activity of measurement?

Note that בית פאגי is the origin of the place-name “Bethpage.”

Technically, if the מזג-dilution reference teaches that we require that the Sanhedrin seat no fewer than 1/3 of its members, the minimum number should be 24, not 23!
However, one could take the approach brought at the end of Tosafot Sanhedrin 14b אל, in which he understands the מזג reference as Gematria – the Sanhedrin should not be lacking 50, the gematria value of the word מזג. In that case, the threshold is 22, and we add one more because of the desire for an odd-numbered court. I know I’ve seen another elsewhere, perhaps on the mishnah printed on Sanhedrin 37a, but I don’t recall it at the moment.

Of course, the separate problem with the above passage is that the gemara’s wine-dilution is traditionally 1-3, not 1-2; see Tosafot Shabbat 77a דאמר רבא on this point.


Our gemara here relies on the view that Yerushalayim was not divided among the tribes. This is a fascinating topic; see Rashi and Radak to Shoftim on the trade-off of the ruins of Jericho for the tribe who would surrender land for the building of the Beit haMikdash, taking the view that it did come from tribal land.

It’s interesting to see the debate on how embryonic cells begin to differentiate; we know from other gemara passages that despite the historic cultural (aside from halachic) aversion to autopsy, the sages of the gemara did have autopsy knowledge of embryonic development.


The word איכא about ¾ of the way down should be ואיכא.

Note that Rashi and our gemara have different editions regarding the calf, at the bottom. Our gemara has שלא עשה פירות, Rashi has שאינו עושה פירות. These clearly mean different things – but Rashi translates his edition as though it matched ours.

Language point: On the changed-edition about ten lines down, note that אמר רבא means Rava is making a new statement, but רבא אמר means that Rava is disagreeing with the preceding comment.

On the third of the widest lines - What will R’ Yoshiyah do with the lesson we are drawing from אשר?

Why does pointing to the city entrance count as “escorting” someone? Maharsha explains that this is because the essential purpose of the escort is to show the traveler the best path, where he will not encounter harm. Personal escorting may not be necessary. (But how much greater the reward if one does escort personally!

On the term קץ, used here to refer to disgust (disgust with life, in this context) – see Rashbam on Bamidbar 21:5, ונפשנו קצה בלחם הקלוקל. It seems to me that his explanation, that the Jews were disgusted because of 39 years of the same dry, round food, fits the word קצה better than the explanations of other commentaries fit that word.

How do we know Paroh took 4 steps, in particular? Perhaps by counting the word ויצו עליו פרעה אנשים, but perhaps because we assume this was a 4-cubit trip, by default explanation of how one escorts. Of course, his reward ended up harming himself and his country, but no one forced him to spend his reward that way…

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