YESHIVAT HAR ETZION
ISRAEL KOSCHITZKY VIRTUAL BEIT MIDRASH (VBM)
Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev
Megilla 29: 28b
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Last week, we began to discuss the laws of appropriate behavior in a synagogue or beit medrash; today we willádelve further into that area. We begináfrom the colon about a third ofáthe way down on 28b:
|Andáwe do not adorn in them:
Rava said: Sages and their students are permitted.
For R' Yehoshua ben Levi said: What isáthe bei rabanan (a name for the study hall)?á- the house of the rabbis.
Óţ° °ßÓ: šŰţÚÝ ň˙ýţÚŃÚńÝ ţň˙°Ú´,
ŃÓţ° °ßÚ Úńň¨˛ ß´ ýňÚ: ţÓÚ ßÚ °ß´ - ßÚ˙Ó Ń°ß´. ááá
This piece ofágemaraáopens with a quote from the b'raita quoted previously (28a-b). [This is a general point: when the gemara introduces a discussion with a short phrase or sentence surrounded by sets of colons, the phrase is a quote from a mishna or b'raitaácited earlier.] Rava qualifies theáb'raita's ruling that one may not adornáoneself ináa sanctified place.áTorah scholars and their students are permitted to do so. He bringsásupport for this idea from a statement ofáanother scholar. R' Yehoshua ben Leviánoted that theábeit medrash ("house of study") was commonlyácalled "bei rabanan," which literally means "house of the Rabbis." Just as one takes care of one's personal needs in one's home, a Torah scholar may attend to his personal needs in the beit medrash.
This dispensation requires some analysis. Generally, talmidei chachamim are held to the very same halachic standards that others must live up to - why here should they have an extra leniency? If anything, one might have assumed the opposite -áthat the sages and their students, who properly understand the significance of the sanctity of a shul or beit medrash, should set an example to everyone else by adhering to an even more stringent code of conduct than that required by law!
We will present here two basic approaches to this issue:
1)áRashba explains thatáthe term "house of the rabbis" is more than a reflection of the fact that rabbis mayádoácertain thingsáin a study-hall; it definesáthe very function of the beit medrash.áA beit medrash is to be considered a place set aside not just for the act of Torah study, but for Torah-studyers; namely, "sages and their students." Since these people spend almost all of their time engrossed in the study of Torah,áthe batei medrash where this study takes placeáareáconsidered their homes in all respects.áIt is therefore acceptable for them to care for their personal needs, including eating, drinking and "adorning," just as one would in one's house.
Clearly, this definition is applicable only to theábeit medrash. Theáshul, on the other hand, isáa place set aside for prayer and prayer only, and Rava's dispensation would not apply.áThere are those who object to this distinction,ábased on the fact that the gemara's presentation of Rava's statement makes it sound as though it appliesáto shuls as well - his statement is introduced with a quote fromáa b'raita mentionedáearlier in the gemara which explicitly discusses shuls. The juxtaposition of this quote and Rava's statement implies thatáhis ruling applies to shuls. (It is true thatáR' Yehoshua ben Levi's remark refers specifically to batei medrash, but this can be understood as including even batei medrash in Rava's lenient ruling, despite the fact that the sanctity of aábeit medrasháexceeds that of a shul.)áRashba must understandáthat the gemara picked up on the general theme of decorum in holy places discussed in the b'raita (in the context of a shul), and brought Rava's statement that also deals with this issue; albeit in regard to a beit medrash rather than a shul.
2) Magen Avraham asserts that there is noáinherent difference between a shul and a beit medrash,áand there is no special dispensation for Torah scholars as opposed to other people. The real key factor is not the person of a Torah scholar, but the activity of Torah study. We do not wish to interrupt Torah study, and we therefore make certain allowances even in holy places. Rather than requiring the diligent student to leave his place of learning in order to grab a bite to eat or a drink or the like, we allow him to do so where he is learning, so that he not interrupt his studies.
This explanation makes it easy to understand why this dispensation should exist, and it has the benefit of including both shuls and batei medrash, as implied by the gemara. However, itámay beáslightly more difficult to understand two other phrases in the gemara according to this explanation. Firstly, when Rava says that "sages and their students" are permitted to engage in certain activities, he doesn't really mean a specific class of people, but rather anyone who is engaging in Torah study, which is the activity most often performed by "sages and their students." In addition, when Rava mentions R' Yehoshua ben Levi's declaration that a beit medrash is a "house of the rabbis," he doesn't really mean that it is quite like a house; he permits only activities that will allow one to continue learning, not any (or even most) activities one does in one's house.
Back to the gemara
We pick up with the next set of two-dots, 9 lines from the end of the short lines on 28b.
|And we do not enter them in the sun
because of (=to protect from)
the sun and in the rain because of the rain:
Likeáthe caseáof Ravina and Rav Ada bar Matna
(who)áwere standing and asking aáquestion of Rava.
Aádownpour of rain came.
They ascended to the synagogue.á
They said: Thatáwe are ascending to the synagogue - it is not because of the rain,
but rather because teachings require clarity like a day of north wind.
Ű˝Ú´ ßń´ ßšţń ţ˘Ú ńšţń
ňßÔ¨ţÚÝ ţ˘Ú ńÔ¨ţÚÝ:
ŰÚ ńÓ Ń°ßÚÓ ň°ß ÓŃÓ ß° ţ˙ń
ńňň ¸ÚÚţÚ ň¨ÓýÚ ¨ÓÚý˙Ó ţ°ßÓ.
Ó˙Ó ŠÚýšÓ ŃţÚŔ°Ó.
˛ÚÚýÚ ýßÚ ŰÚ¨˙Ó.
Óţ°Ú: ńÓÚ Ń˛ÚÚýÚ´ ýßÚ ŰÚ¨˙Ó - ýÓň ţ¨ňÝ ţÚŔ°Ó,
ÓýÓ ţ¨ňÝ Ń¨ţ˛˙Ó ß˛Ó ÷Úýň˙Ó ŰÚňţÓ ŃÓ˝˙Ó.
Theágemaraáhere quotes another line from theáb'raita quoted previously ináthe gemara, that one cannot use a shul as a shelter, and it then tells aástory whicháillustrates this point. In the story, threeásages were discussing a matter of halacha, and entered a shul in order to avoid a downpour of rain. They emphasized that they did not enter the shul merely to shield themselves from discomfort, but rather because they were discussing Torah, and such discussions require clarity of mind - like a day of north wind, which brings clear weather. Thus, their entering the synagogue was not to find shelter from the rain, but in order to better engage in the study of Torah, an activity which is certainly permitted in a shul.
|Consider this story carefully, and think back to what we have already learned in the gemara this week and last week - is there any way in which this story mayábe at odds with what we have learned so far? Can you think of any solutions to this problem?|
This story is a nice example of not using a shul as a shelter, but it seems that the sages would have been justified in doing so even without their excuse, for we have already learned that "sages and their students" may benefit from holy places. Furthermore, we learned last week thatáshuls in Babylonia were constructed on the condition that they be permitted even for mundane use!
Let's take these issues one by one.
1) With regard to the issue of "sages and their students," the question should not bother us too much if we recall the interpretations of that ruling that we mentioned earlier - but we doásee here an additional impetus for thoseáexplanations. Rashba's distinction between a shul and a beit medrash allows him to answer our question easily; the story was that the three sages entered a shul. Had their entering been to find shelter rather than to learn Torah, it would have been forbidden. Had they entered a beit medrash, it would have been unnecessary for them to make excuses.áMagen Avraham can also answer our question - in his view, even scholars in a beit medrash may not engage in mundane activities unless it will help them continue their studies unabated.
There are other explanations as well. The one we have not yet mentioned which has the biggest practical impact is that of Rambam, who explains that the extra leniency granted to "sages and their students" applies only in situations of significant need, and getting a bit wet from the rain does not quality as significant need. This view is quoted in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 151:1). Rama, however, quotes the view that distinguishes between a beit medrash and a shul, and rules that in a beit medrash, a scholar mayáeat and drink even when there is no unusually pressing need to do so. Practically, many authorities rule that one who is learning may drink or snack in a beit medrasháin order to avoidáinterrupting his learning, and one who spends most his time studying there may attend to his needs evenáin a more formal fashion.
2) Regarding the issue of shuls in Babylonia being built conditionally, we mentioned last week the opinion of Tosafot that the leniency only applies once the building has fallen out of use, but while it is still used as a shul all prohibitions apply there just as they do anywhere else. If so,áour gemara is understandable, as the shul they entered was one that was still in use.áOther commentators claim that the condition is all-encompassing even while the shul is in use, and the sages in our gemara were simply more stringent than they needed to be. Yet other commentators take a middle approach and argue that the condition is relevant while the shul is still standing, but it allows only certain,álimitedáactivities.
Moving on in the gemara
|Rav Acha son of Rava said to Rav Ashi:
If one needs to call someone from the synagogue, what (should he do)?
He said to him: If he is a young rabbinical student, he should say a law;
if he is a tanna, he should say a mishna;
if he is a reader, he should recite a verse;
and if not, he should say to a child, "tell me your verse,"
or he should tarry a little and get up.
(=Óţ° ýÚń) °ß ÓšÓ
ß°Úń Ń°ßÓ ý°ß Ó¨Ú:
ÓÚ Ó÷Ŕ°Úŕ ýÚń ýÓÚÚ¨ ýţÚ¸°Ú Ôß°Ó ţßÚ ŰÚ¨˙Ó ţÓÚ?
Ó"ý: ÓÚ ÷ň°ßÓ ţ°ß´ ńňÓ ýÚţÓ ńýŰ˙Ó
ňÓÚ ˙Ó ńňÓ ýÚţÓ ţ˙Ú'
ňÓÚ ¸°Ó ńňÓ ýÚţÓ ˘˝ň¸Ó
ňÓÚ ýÓ, ýÚţÓ ýÚń ýÚň¸Ó ÓÚţÓ ýÚ ˘˝ň¸Úŕ
Ó" (=ÓÚ ţÚ) Ú¨ńÚ ˘ň°˙Ó ňÚ¸ňÝ.
We have already learned that one may not use a shul for any purpose other than for prayer or Torah study (with the possible exception of shuls that have been constructed conditionally). Based on this, Rav Acha poses a question; what should one do if he needs to enter a shul in order to get someone who is inside? He must enter the shul in order to accomplish this goal, but it appears that entering only for this purpose should be forbidden! Rav Ashi responds that in such a case, heámay enter the shul if he takes the opportunity to learn a bit of Torah. He may recite a quick halacha, if he is able to do so. If he is unable, but is a "tanna," he may recite a mishna. In those times, mishnayot were remembered orally; a tanna in our context is one who can orally recite mishnayot. If the person is unable to do even that, but he is a "reader," meaning he knows how to read Scripture, he may recite a pasuk. If he is unable even to do that, he may ask a child studying in the shul to share with him the pasuk that the child is learning. If even this is not possible, he may tarry a bit before leaving the shul; even tarrying in a shul is considered a mitzvah, and thatámitzvah isáenough to allow the person to enter the shul and call the person he needs to call.
The issues we have discussed recently all center around the issue of the sanctity of a shul or beit medrash. The gemara later (29a) notes that due to theiráholiness, these places are considered mikdash m'at, minor versions of the beit hamikdash itself, which was the ultimate example of holiness concentrated in a particular place. We can hope that if we commit ourselves to fully respecting and being conscious of God's presence in our mini batei mikdash, we will merit to do so in the real beit hamikdash - speedily in our days.á
This concludes our series of shiurim for this academic year - have an enjoyable summer and we look forward to seeing you in the fall!