(13a) How likely is it that someone would be examining the parsha of Shema in a Torah scroll at the time of the reading the Shema?
The mishnah on Daf 13a starts with these words:
“If one was reading the Torah and the time of reading arrived, if he directed his heart (to have intention to fulfil the mitzvah) he has fulfilled his obligation. And if not, he has not fulfilled his obligation.”
It is very strange that this mishnah is discussing an extremely rare scenario, that of someone who was reading the parsha of the Shema in the Torah at the exact time when he was to required to read the Shema. And to make the scenario even rarer, the gemora says that it refers to one was reading the Torah in an unusual fashion in order to spot mistakes in the writing! And even though we do sometimes find unusual scenarios being taught in the gemora to illustrate a particular point of halachah, this is not normal in the mishnah. The following explanation is a possible resolution of this problem:
Since it says in the gemora in Menachos 99b and Nedarim 8a that by reading the Shema in the morning and in the evening one fulfils the essential obligation of Torah study that is mentioned in the posuk in Yehoshua 1:8 “and you shall meditate in it (in the Torah) day and night”, it is quite possible that the original Oral Law that Hashem gave to Moshe Rabbeinu was simply to read the Torah in the morning and in the night. But later, albeit very early on, Chazal instituted that this mitzvah of reading the Torah by day and by night was to be fulfilled by the reading of the Shema. This is why the gemora is not certain how much of the Shema one needs to read to fulfil this mitzvah from the Torah.
Thus the text of the mishnah is the original Oral Law as taught to Moshe, and meant that if one was reading the Torah before the morning or before the evening and the time of reading arrives, that is, the time when one is required by the Torah to read the Torah arrives, if one now intends by his reading to fulfil this mitzvah, he fulfils it. This could certainly have been a common occurence. But now that this mitzvah is fulfilled by the reading of the Shema, this teaching was included in the mishnayos of the laws of reading the Shema. Thus, although the original text was retained it now has to be interpreted differently, resulting in an unusual scenario.
(13a) What is the basis of the dispute between R. Meir and R. Yehudah concerning responding to a greeting when reading the Shema?
The Mishnah on Daf 13a continues:
“Between the paragraphs (of the Shema) one may greet somebody whom he is required to honour and respond, and in the middle (of a paragraph) he may greet somebody whom he fears and respond - these are the words of R. Meir.
R. Yehudah says: In the middle (of a paragraph) one may greet somebody whom he fears and respond to somebody whom he is required to honour, and between the paragraphs he may greet somebody whom he is required to honour and respond to a greeting from anyone.”
The mishnah that was being taught at the time of R. Meir and R, Yehudah and about which they argue, was:
“Between the paragraphs one may greet somebody whom he is required to honour and respond, and in the middle he may greet somebody whom he fears and respond.”
This of course is exactly what R. Meir teaches, so what is he arguing with R. Yehudah about? Before we answer this we first must first observe that the mishnah that was in front of R. Meir and R. Yehudah was not the original mishnah. How do we know this? Because the wording is too irregular and cumbersome to be the original mishnah - if it was the original mishnah it would have said “one may greet and respond to somebody whom he…”.
Therefore, we must conclude that the original mishnah only taught the halachah concerning greeting somebody when one is in the middle of reading the Shema:
“Between the paragraphs one may greet somebody whom he is required to honour, and in the middle he may greet somebody whom he fears.”
But since the mishnah only teaches about initiating a greeting, later Rabbis debated and decided the halachah that one may respond. But as I mentioned in my introduction it is a firm rule that nothing can be added to the original mishnah without somehow indicating that it is an addition. Therefore it was impossible for the Rabbis to incorporate their decision into the mishnah with the wording "one may greet and respond to…", because then there would have been no indication that this was not the original mishnah. Thus there was no choice but to write "one may greet somebody whom…and respond", so that irregularity of the wording would show that the halachah concerning responding is an addition to the original mishnah.
But unfortunately as a result of using this wording the meaning of the mishnah is unclear. Because whilst it is obvious even to us that if one can initiate a greeting one can certainly respond, it is not clear whom the Rabbis decided one can respond to. If they meant that in the middle of a paragraph where one can only greet somebody whom he fears, he can also only respond to somebody whom he fears, then they should have written “and it goes without saying that he can respond”. This would have told us clearly that he can only respond to the same type of person whom he can greet, since the phrase "it goes without saying" means that this is something we would have known by ourselves, but no more than that. Thus, the mishnah would have clearly meant that one can respond to somebody who one fears, but not to anyone else. Therefore, the fact that the mishnah does not say "it goes without saying" suggests that the Rabbis decided that one can be more lenient as to the type of person one can respond to.
This is the dispute between R. Meir and R. Yehudah, as is clear from the gemora which asks: According to R. Meir to whom is he allowed to respond? If it is to someone whom he is required to honour, well, if he may initiate a greeting to such a person then it is obvious that he can respond! (And if this is the intent of the mishnah then it should have said “and it goes without saying that he can respond”). Therefore, R. Meir must mean that he may return a greeting to somebody whom he fears. The gemora asks a similar question about whom he may respond to in the middle of a paragraph, and answers that R.Meir must mean that he may return a greeting to anyone.
At this the gemora exclaims: But this is the opinion of R. Yehudah! (This is R. Yehudah's understanding of the mishnah). The gemora answers that R. Meir’s opinion is that the mishnah was written in an abbreviated fashion. (The Rabbis meant that one can only respond to the same type of person that he is allowed to initiate a greeting to, and they really should have added the words "and it goes without saying" to make this abundantly clear, but they left these words out in order not to add too much to the original mishnah).
R. Meir’s opinion is now fully explained, but in order to better understand R. Yehudah’s opinion we must first observe that whilst the word שואל means to initiate a greeting, the word משיב merely means to respond, and therefore the Rabbis could have meant that one can respond to anybody about anything that is addressed to him, for example, if anybody asked for the time he is allowed to respond to the question. However, it is a firm rule that we can never learn with logic except the minimum of all possibilities.
Therefore, when R. Yehudah learns from logic that the Rabbis meant that one can be more lenient when responding, this rule restricts us to learning that one can respond only to one level down from the teaching of the original mishnah. Thus, since in the middle of a paragraph one can only greet someone one whom he fears, one can respond to someone whom one is required to honour, but not to anybody else. Similarly, between the paragraphs where one can greet someone whom he is required to honour, one can respond to anybody. And it is because of this logic that R. Yehudah changed the order of the original mishnah.
As to what one is allowed to respond to according to R. Meir and R. Yehudah, it seems to me that since Rashi explains that one whom one fears means someone who might kill him if he does not respond, surely if such a person asks for the time he is allowed to respond! Similarly, if one does not respond to such a question to someone whom one is required to honour, for example, one’s father, surely this should be a lack of respect! (This does not appear to be the halachah, but it is the simple explanation of our mishnah). But no such argument can be made for responding to such a question from anybody else, only to a greeting, and thus R. Yehudah adds at the end "and respond to a greeting to anyone".
This then is the dispute between R. Meir and R. Yehudah, with R. Meir preferring to explain that the mishnah was written in an abbreviated fashion rather than introduce a teaching which was not taught explicitly in the original mishnah, and R. Yehudah preferring the opposite.
(54a) Why is there a dispute concerning how many prayers one should say upon entering and leaving a dangerous city?
The mishnah on Daf 54a says:
“One who enters a city prays twice - once when he enters and once when he leaves.
Ben Azzai says four times - twice when he enters and twice when he leaves.
And he gives thanks for the past and cries out (in prayer) for the future.”
The original mishnah was:
“One who enters a city prays twice when he enters and when he leaves. And he gives thanks for the past and cries out for the future.”
But the first clause is ambiguous: if there is a pause after the word 'twice', then it means that he prays twice in total, once when he enters and once when he leaves, and this is the opinion of the first Tanna of our mishnah; but if there is no pause, then the word 'twice' goes on the phrase 'when he enters' and also on the phrase 'when he leaves', making a total of four prayers, and this is the opinion of Ben Azzai. The last clause of the mishnah is an additional halachah, and, as we will see, the two opinions implement this additional halachah differently.
The Tosefta, chapter 6 mishnah 21, elaborates on the opinion of the first Tanna:
“What does he say? May it be Your will Hashem, my G-d, that I will enter in peace. After he enters in peace, he says: I give thanks to You Hashem, my G-d, for bringing me in, in peace, so too may it be Your will that You will take me out in peace. (Here there is obviously a clause missing from the Tosefta, and this is also clear from the Yerushalmi. This is the missing clause:) [When he is leaving he says: May it be Your will…that you will take me out in peace.] After he goes out in peace, he says: I give thanks to You…for taking me out in peace, so too may it be Your will that I will reach my place in peace.”
According to the Tosefta, the opinion of the first Tanna is that a person should pray once before he enters the city and once before he leaves. This is the way Rashi explained this opinion in the mishnah, and not like the Rambam. In addition, after he enters in peace and also after he exits in peace, he should give thanks for this and pray for his future welfare, as the last clause of the mishnah instructs.
The gemora on daf 60a elaborates on the opinion of Ben Azzai:
“Come and learn. When he enters what does he say? May it be Your will…that You will bring me into this city for peace. After he enters, he says: I give thanks to You…for bringing me into this city for peace. When he wishes to leave, he says: May it be Your will…that You take me out from this city for peace. After he leaves, he says: I give thanks to You…that You took me out from this city for peace, and just as You took me out for peace, so may You lead me towards peace, and support me towards peace, and guide my footsteps towards peace, and save me from the hand of every enemy and ambush along the way.”
According to the gemora, the opinion of Ben Azzai is that he prays once before and after his entering, and once before and after his leaving - before he prays that he should enter or leave safely, and after he gives thanks for his safe conduct. Afterwards he fulfils the halachah of the end of the mishnah, not only thanking Hashem for His help in the past, but also praying for Hashem’s help in the future.
The Yerushalmi on Berachos 66b has a different elaboration of the mishnah:
“One who enters a city prays twice - once when he enters and once when he leaves. When he enters what does he say? May it be your will Hashem…that You bring me into this city for peace. When he goes out, he says: I give thanks to you Hashem…”.
This is like the Rambam’s explanation of the first Tanna. But the gemora gives no indication how the first Tanna implements the last clause of the mishnah.
The gemora continues:
“Ben Azzai says he prays four times - twice when he enters and twice when he leaves. When he enters he says: May it be Your will Hashem…that You bring me into this city for peace. After he enters he says: I give thanks to You Hashem…that I entered for peace. So May it be Your will that You take me out from it for peace. When he goes out he says: May it be Your will Hashem…that You take me out from this city for peace. After he goes out he says: I give thanks to You Hashem…that You took me out for peace. So May it be Your will that You will bring me to my home for peace, and to a certain place for peace.
Thus, according to the Yerushalmi, Ben Azzai implements the last clause of the mishnah both after he enters the city, and after he leaves.