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Ketubot, Daf Kuf Gimmel, Part 6
Reading for Friday
, April 21
Ketubot 103-6



We continue with stories involving Rabbi Judah Hanasi’s death.


חנינא בר חמא ישב בראש. לא קיבל רבי חנינא, שהיה ר’ אפס גדול ממנו שתי שנים ומחצה. יתיב רבי אפס ברישא, ויתיב רבי חנינא אבראי ואתא לוי ויתיב גביה. נח נפשיה דרבי אפס ויתיב רבי חנינא ברישא, ולא הוה ליה ללוי איניש למיתב גביה וקאתא לבבל. והיינו דאמרי ליה לרב: גברא רבה אקלע לנהרדעא ומטלע, ודריש כלילא שרי,


Hanina b. Hama shall sit at the head [of the academy]. R. Hanina did not accept [the office] because R. Afes was older than him by two and a half years. R. Afas sat at the head of the academy. R. Hanina sat outside and Levi came and joined him. When R. Afes died and R. Hanina sat at the head, Levi had no one to join him and came in consequence to Babylonia. That is why they said to Rav: A great man came to Nehardea, and he was one who limps, and he expounded that it is permitted to wear a wreath in public on Shabbat.


This story is mostly a description of the succession of Rabbi as head of the academy. When Levi has no one else to keep him company outside the bet midrash, he goes off to learn and teach Torah in Babylonia.


אמר: שמע מינה, נח נפשיה דרבי אפס ויתיב רבי חנינא ברישא, ולא הוה ליה ללוי איניש למיתב גביה וקאתא. ואימא: רבי חנינא נח נפשיה, ור’ אפס כדיתיב יתיב, ולא הוה ליה ללוי איניש למיתב גביה וקאתא! איבעית אימא: לוי לר’ אפס מיכף הוה כייף ליה; ואי בעית אימא: כיון דאמר ר’ חנינא בר חמא ישב בראש, לא סגי דלא מליך, דכתיב בהו בצדיקים: +איוב כ”ב+ ותגזר אומר ויקם לך.


He said, “Learn from this that R. Afes has died, and R. Hanina sits at the head of the academy; and that Levi had no one to sit with him, and therefore has come [down here].”

But maybe R. Hanina died, and R. Afes continued to sit at the head and that Levi had no one to sit with him, and therefore came [down here]?

If you want I can say: Levi would have submitted to the authority of R. Afes.

And if you prefer I might reply: Since [Rabbi] said, “Hanina b. Hama shall sit at the head of the academy,” there could be no possibility of his not becoming head; for about the righteous it is written “You shall decree and it shall be done.”      


By the mere fact announcement that Levi is coming to Babylonia, Rav discerns exactly the circumstances that led to his coming.

The Talmud asks how he was so sure that R. Afes died. Maybe R. Hanina, who was keeping him company outside the Bet Midrash, died and that’s why Levi came to Babylonia. There are two reasons why this is impossible. 1) Levi could have sat as a student in front of R. Afes. It was only R. Hanina that could not sit in the academy with R. Afes. Levi stayed outside to keep him company. Had R. Hanina died, Levi would have gone in. 2) Since Rabbi predicted that Hanina would be the head of the academy, it was certain to happen.


והא הוה ר’ חייא! נח נפשיה. והאמר ר’ חייא: אני ראיתי קברו של רבי והורדתי עליו דמעות! איפוך. והאמר רבי חייא: אותו היום שמת רבי בטלה קדושה! איפוך.


But was there not R. Hiyya? He had already died. But did not R. Hiyya say, “I saw Rabbi’s grave and shed tears on it”?

Reverse [the names].

But was it not taught, “On the day on which Rabbi died holiness ceased”?

Reverse [the names].


Why didn’t Rabbi appoint R. Hiyya to be his successor? The Talmud tries to answer that R. Hiyya died before Rabbi. But this contradicts a tradition in which R. Hiyya says that he cried over R. Hiyya’s grave. The Talmud resolves this by reversing the names—Rabbi cried over R. Hiyya’s grave.

In another tradition, R. Hiyya talks about Rabbi’s death. Again, the Talmud suggests reversing the names. You can get a sense of where this is going.


והתניא: כשחלה רבי, נכנס ר’ חייא אצלו ומצאו שהוא בוכה, אמר לו: רבי, מפני מה אתה בוכה? והתניא: מת מתוך השחוק – סימן יפה לו, מתוך הבכי – סימן רע לו; פניו למעלה – סימן יפה לו, פניו למטה – סימן רע לו; פניו כלפי העם – סימן יפה לו, כלפי הכותל – סימן רע לו; פניו ירוקין – סימן רע לו, פניו צהובין ואדומים – סימן יפה לו; מת בע”ש – סימן יפה לו, במו”ש – סימן רע לו; מת בערב יוהכ”פ – סימן רע לו, במוצאי יוהכ”פ – סימן יפה לו; מת מחולי מעיים – סימן יפה לו, מפני שרובם של צדיקים מיתתן בחולי מעיים! א”ל: אנא אתורה ומצות קא בכינא!


But has it not been taught: When Rabbi fell ill, R. Hiyya entered into his presence and found him weeping. He said to him, “My master, why are you weeping? Was it not taught: “[If a man] dies laughing is a good omen for him, if weeping it is a bad omen for him; his face upwards it is a good omen, his face downwards it is a bad omen; his face towards the public it is a good omen, towards the wall it is a bad omen; if his face is greenish it is a bad omen, if bright and ruddy it is a good omen. If he dies on erev Shabbat it is a good omen, at the end of Shabbat it is a bad omen; if he dies on erev Yom Kippur it is a bad omen, at the end of Yom Kippur, it is a good omen; if he dies of dysentery it is a good omen because most righteous men die of dysentery?”

And the other replied, “I am crying over the Torah and commandments [that I will no longer be able to study or observe.]


Again, we have a tradition according to which Rabbi died before R. Hiyya. The tradition is about omens concerning a person’s death. It is better to die before Shabbat because one will immediately be at rest in the world to come. But it is better to die after Yom Kippur because he will have been forgiven on Yom Kippur.


איבעית אימא: איפוך; ואיבעית אימא: לעולם לא תיפוך, ר’ חייא עסוק במצות הוה, ורבי סבר: לא אפגריה.


If you want I might say: Reverse [the names];

But if you prefer I might say: In fact there is no need to reverse. R. Hiyya was engaged in the performance of mitzvot, and Rabbi thought “I will not disturb him.”  


Again, the Talmud suggests reversing the names.

But then, after all of these texts in which Rabbi dies before R. Hiyya, they finally offer a different reading of why Rabbi didn’t appoint R. Hiyya, even if R. Hiyya was still alive. R. Hiyya was too busy “performing mitzvot” to occupy himself with political office. This reminds me of something that remains an issue to this day. A person may be, for instance, the best teacher in the school, the best engineer in the company, and then they are moved up to administrative positions.


והיינו דכי הוו מינצו ר’ חנינא ור’ חייא, א”ל ר’ חנינא לר’ חייא: בהדי דידי מינצת? דאם חס ושלום נשתכחה תורה מישראל, מהדרנא ליה מפלפולי! א”ל ר’ חייא: אנא עבדי דלא משתכחה תורה מישראל, דאייתינא כיתנא ושדיינא, ומגדלנא נישבי וציידנא טביא, ומאכילנא בישרא ליתמי, ואריכנא מגילתא ממשכי דטביא, וסליקנא למתא דלית בה מקרי דרדקי, וכתיבנא חמשא חומשי לחמשא ינוקי, ומתנינא שיתא סידרי לשיתא ינוקי, לכל חד וחד אמרי ליה אתני סידרך לחברך.


This is similar to the following: When R. Hanina and R. Hiyya were engaged in a dispute, R. Hanina said to R. Hiyya, “Are you disputing with me? Were the Torah, God forbid, forgotten in Israel, I would restore it by means of my dialectical arguments.”

Hiyya said, “I am the one who makes sure that the Torah should not be forgotten in Israel. For I bring flax seed, sow it, and weave nets [from the plants]. [With these] I hunt deer with whose flesh I feed orphans and from whose skins I prepare scrolls, and then I got up to a town where there are no teachers of young children, and write out the five Books of the Torah for five children and teach another six children the six orders of the Mishnah, and then tell each one: Teach your section to your colleagues.”


Here we can see that while R. Hanina was known for his sharp acumen, R. Hiyya was known for his care in education. He would make sure that there were Torah scrolls from which children could learn the Torah, he would teach them the oral Torah and on top of that, he fed orphans. The performance of these mitzvot was what prevented Rabbi from appointing R. Hiyya as the head of the academy.


והיינו דאמר רבי: כמה גדולים מעשה חייא. א”ל ר”ש ב”ר: אפילו ממך? א”ל: אין. א”ל רבי ישמעאל ברבי יוסי: אפילו מאבא? א”ל: חס ושלום, לא תהא כזאת בישראל.


This is like what Rabbi said, “How great are the deeds of Hiyya?” R. Shimon b. Rabbi to him: “[Greater] even than yours?” “Yes,” he replied. R. Ishmael the son of R. Yose asked, “Even greater than my father’s?” He replied, “God forbid. Let no such thing be [mentioned] in Israel!”     


אמר להן: לבני קטן אני צריך, נכנס ר’ שמעון אצלו, מסר לו סדרי חכמה.

אמר להן: לבני גדול אני צריך, נכנס רבן גמליאל אצלו, ומסר לו סדרי נשיאות.

אמר לו: בני, נהוג נשיאותך ברמים, זרוק מרה בתלמידים.


He said to them, “I want my youngest son. R. Shimon entered into his presence and he entrusted him with the orders of wisdom.

He said, “I want my oldest son.” R. Gamaliel entered into his presence and he entrusted him with the traditions and regulations of the Patriarchate.

He said to him, “Conduct your Patriarchate with high standing, and cast bile among the students.”


Rabbi continues with his instructions to his sons. He tells Rabban Gamaliel, who will be the patriarch after him, to conduct his Patriarchate with a high degree of hierarchy.


איני? והא כתיב: +תהלים ט”ו+ ואת יראי ה’ יכבד, ואמר מר: זה יהושפט מלך יהודה, כשהיה רואה תלמיד חכם, היה עומד מכסאו ומחבקו ומנשקו, וקורא לו: רבי, רבי, מרי, מרי! לא קשיא: הא בצינעא, הא בפרהסיא.


Is this so? But is it not written, “And honor those who fear the Lord,” and the Master said that this refers to Yeshoshapat, King of Judah. who, on seeing a scholar, used to rise from his throne, embrace him and kiss him, and call him, “My master, my master; my teacher, my teacher”?

This is no difficulty: This was in private and this was in public.


The question asked here is whether Rabban Gamaliel should act with such authority vis a vis scholars. Another source portrays Yehoshaphat, King of Judah, as humbling himself in front of scholars. So which is the proper attitude for a political leader to adopt? The answer is that it depends on the setting. In public, the political leader must guard his authority. But in private, he may show his subservience to the scholar/spiritual leader.

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