Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Variants In Talmud and RIF - RABH Disagrees With His Father.

An apparently innocuous comment by RABH opens up an interesting window on variants of the Talmud and RIF.

Rambam in Hilchot Tefillah 7:6 as part of a discussion of the morning blessings we make when we wake up writes:
כשחוגר חגורו--מברך ברוך אתה ה' אלוהינו מלך העולם, אוזר ישראל בגבורה.  כשלובש מנעלו--מברך ברוך אתה ה' אלוהינו מלך העולם, שעשה לי כל צרכיי.  כשמהלך לצאת לדרך--מברך ברוך אתה ה' אלוהינו מלך העולם, המכין מצעדי גבר.  ומברך אדם בכל יום--ברוך אתה ה' אלוהינו מלך העולם, שלא עשני גוי; ברוך אתה ה' אלוהינו מלך העולם, שלא עשני עבד; ברוך אתה ה' אלוהינו מלך העולם, שלא עשני אישה

The three blessings שלא עשני גוי, שלא עשני עבד and שלא עשני אישה are said daily as opposed to the others which are said only when appropriate. Indeed in Halacha 9 he writes:
ט  נהגו העם ברוב ערינו, לברך ברכות אלו כולן זו אחר זו בבית הכנסת, בין נתחייבו בהן, בין לא נתחייבו בהן.  וטעות היא בידם, ואין ראוי לעשות כן.  ולא יברך אדם ברכה, אלא אם כן נתחייב בה.

Apparently the latter applies to all the other blessings except for these three which are said always on a daily basis. The Rambam commentators pick up on it and Rabbeinu Manoach explains that as it is probable that one will encounter during the day one of the three, a woman, a slave and a non-Jew, therefore these three blessings are said daily as opposed to the others which are said only when applicable. RABH in his sefer Hamaspik refers us to this Halacha in MT, repeats the rule with the other blessings and then comments:

My father Z”L already warned about this erroneous custom in Hilchot Tefillah however it becomes clear from his words that three of these blessings, שלא עשני גוי, שלא עשני עבד and שלא עשני אישה are said under all circumstances whether one encountered a Goy, slave or woman or did not. It also appears to be so from the popular edition of the Pirush of rabbeinu Yitzchak the author of the Halachot (RIF). However someone who saw a copy of an earlier edition of the Talmud that is brought down in this Pirush reads “when one sees a Goy one says שלא עשני גו” and so too concerning a woman and a slave. That edition (copy) is correct as it makes sense. So too can be found in the siddur of Rabbeinu Amram ben Shoshanna (died 875). ”  

RABH blames his father’s ruling regarding these three Brachot on a faulty edition of RIF. (As an aside and letting my anal persona take over, Frankel Rambam Mekorot Vetziyunim misunderstood RABH and says that he quotes an old edition of the Talmud. A careful read makes it clear that he is referring to a version of RIF who quotes the Talmud.) Having heard about a different edition which makes more sense to him he disagrees and relies on the latter against his father’s ruling. This is not new as many Rishonim deal with the variants as anyone who learns Gemara is familiar with the many Hachi Garsinan in Rashi. What I find interesting in this comment is that RABH who was only four generations away from RIF (Rabbeinu Maimon, Rambam’s father was a pupil of RI Migash who was a pupil of RIF) relies on a variant that he heard about from someone, a variant RIF quoting a variant in a Gemara.

The RIF edition we have is not reliable. Dr. Ezra Chwat on his blog Giluy Milta Be’alma writes that Hamaor is about to publish a new edition of RIF in their new Shas with many of the variants which explain many difficulties found in Rishonim who quote RIF different than our edition.  See there for some examples of clarifying variants.

The problem with the variant that RABH quotes is that it does not fit well into the text of the Gemara. The source of this Halacha is TB Menachot 43b which quotes a Tosefta Brachot 6 (see R. Lieberman Tosefta Kifshuta Zera’im page 38 and comments on page 119) and the suggested variant would have to be a few lines addition to the current text by the editor which did not make it into the known editions of the Talmud. Be it as it may it does open a window on how varied the texts of the Talmud were even at those early times only a few centuries after the sealing of the Talmud. These early variants impact Halacha. This case is a very minute ritualistic detail but these variants can have an impact on more serious issues. No wonder that we are so dependent on the Rishonim who, predating the many incidents of burning of the Talmud during the Middle Ages, had many variants at their disposal and were able to critically analyze them.  


  1. A precise reading in this passage of RABH (ed. Danah, 1989 p. 247) reveals that he is not reffering to an alternative reading in Hilkhot Harif (as this sentence, or anything near it does not appear in the Halakhot), rather to a expounding (RABH's original Judeo-Arabic: "Dars"- like Drasha- Blau, Dictionary of JA, 2006 p. 210)on the Talmud. This is an amazing bibliographic reference, as we have never heard of or seen such a literary work. It may have been an orally transmitted commentary that at times was copied in the margins of Talmud, which would fit RABH's description here. Some of these comments or expositions may have filtered into the Hilkhot HaRif text, which might explain the existence of certain exigetical passages which appear in some copies of Hilkhot HaRif but not in others.

    1. Dr. Chwat I do not have access to the rif as I am traveling but the kessef Mishnah quotes the rif as saying that one says these three every day. He says the rif is at the end of brachot

  2. In yesterday's daf(.לא) there is a strange ending to the gemorah-רב מרדכי אלוייה לרב שימי בר אשי מהגרוניה ועד בי כיפי ואמרי לה עד בי דורא. Some want to say that the fact that they did not part with words of Torah ( as the previous gemorah states is required) that halachikally we r not required to do so. I believe that there is prob a piece of gemorah missing here and that is why it has a strange and abrupt ending.