Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Disagreements are bad in Torah study?

Sanhedrin (24A) This demonstrates what Rabbi Oshaya says: What is the meaning of that which is written: “And I took for myself two staves; the one I called Graciousness, and the other I called Binders” (Zechariah 11:7)? “Graciousness”; these are the Torah scholars in Eretz Yisrael, who are gracious to one another in discussions of halakha. They treat each other with honor and love, as demonstrated in the statements of Reish Lakish and Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. “Binders [ḥovelim]”; these are the Torah scholars in Babylonia, who injure [shemeḥabbelim] each other in discussions of halakha, i.e., they speak harshly to each other when they disagree. Similarly, it is stated: “Then he said to me: These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:14), and it is stated: “And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon its left side” (Zechariah 4:3). With regard to the expression “anointed ones,” Rabbi Yitzḥak says: These are the Torah scholars in Eretz Yisrael, who are pleasant to each other in discussions of halakha like olive oil, which is not bitter. The verse “and two olive trees by it” should be interpreted as follows: These are the Torah scholars in Babylonia, who are bitter to each other in discussions of halakha like an olive.

The Gemara interprets another verse in Zechariah: “Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold there came forth two women, and the wind was in their wings, for they had wings like the wings of a stork. And they lifted up the measure between the earth and the heaven. Then I said to the angel that spoke with me: To where do they take the measure? And he said to me: To build her a house in the land of Shinar” (Zechariah 5:9–11). Rabbi Yoḥanan says in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai: This measure refers to flattery and arrogance that descended to Babylonia, i.e., Shinar.

The Gemara asks: And did arrogance descend to Babylonia? But doesn’t the Master say: Ten kav of arrogance descended to the world; Eilam took nine and all the rest of the world in its entirety took one? The Gemara asks: What is the homiletic interpretation of the word Babylonia? Rabbi Yoḥanan says, as a tribute to the Jewish community of Babylonia and its Torah scholars: It means mixed with Bible, mixed with Mishna, and mixed with Talmud. Other Sages had a different opinion of the Torah in Babylonia: With regard to the verse: “He has made me dwell in dark places, as those that have been long dead” (Lamentations 3:6), Rabbi Yirmeya says: This is the Talmud of Babylonia, which is not as clear as the Talmud of Eretz Yisrael.

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