Lessons from the Talmud

The Talmud in Eruvin [47b-48a] discusses the unusual case of a lake situated between two villages, such that each end of the lake is within the Sabbath limits of one or the other village. Because the water mixes, and thus someone who goes out and draws water might be removing water from the Sabbath limits of the other village, Rebbe Chiyah says you can’t draw water without an iron wall dividing the lake. The Talmud continues that Rebbe Yosse bar Rebbe Chanina disagrees — and laughs at Rebbe Chiyah.

The Talmud asks… why? Without focusing upon the rest of the story, and the actual reason behind the laughter, it’s interesting to note what the Talmud discounts. “Because his logic goes with a lenient view, he laughs at someone who teaches a more stringent opinion?!” The Talmud finds that inconceivable!

So you might think, as I did, that obviously the rabbis of the Talmud did not understand the blogger mindset. You know, the type of person who will make fun of anything that his shallow mind doesn’t understand? Perhaps the rabbis didn’t know such people!

But then I realized, no, of course not. The Talmud isn’t talking about your average ignoramus, but on the contrary, about one of the holy Amoraim, Rebbe Yosse bar Rebbe Chanina. Of course there are loads of people who would make fun of scholars who follow stricter opinions; the Talmud only said that that is inconceivable for a person of knowledge and intelligence.

The proof to this is Rebbe Akiva, who said about himself [Pesachim 48b] that before he went to study, if he would have encountered a Torah scholar he would have bit him “like a donkey.” His students asked, why say like a donkey, and not like a dog? He answered that a dog doesn’t break bones, meaning that the donkey’s bite is more violent.

There is another answer, though… when someone mocks scholars for their strict opinions, it’s not merely true that he shows himself to be lacking in both knowledge and intelligence. He’s also acting, like, well, a donkey…

Just saying.

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