ט׳ בניסן ה׳תשע״ג (March 20, 2013)

Eiruvin 12a-b: Defining an Alleyway and a Courtyard

On this page, the Gemara offers some basic definitions of Mavoy (alleyway) and Hatzer (courtyard). Rav Nahman rules that the Mavoy discussed by the Mishna, where one can carry if a Lehi (side post) or Kora (cross beam) is placed properly (see 2a-b), is one whose length is greater than its width and has houses opening into it. If the area is square, however, then it is a Hatzer, for which a Lehi or Kora will not suffice.

The Gemara then queries – how much longer does the length of the Mavoy need to be? Shmuel wants to suggest that it must be twice as long as its width, but Rav quotes “Havivi” as saying that it can be longer by even a small amount.

Rav and Shmuel were first generation amoraim, immediately following the generation of Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi, the redactor of the Mishna. Rav, in particular, was seen as bridging the period between the tannaim and amoraim in that the Talmud often responds to a question on him with the retort “Rav Tanna hu, u’palig” – Rav has the status of a tanna, and therefore has the ability to disagree with other opinions in the Mishna – a privilege not allowed to other amoraim (see Eiruvin 50b).

Orphaned as a child in Babylonia, Abba Arikha traveled to Israel where he was raised by his celebrated uncle, Rabbi Hiyya, whose collection of baraitot was considered authoritative. The nickname “Rav” was given to him due to his preeminence in the Babylonian community, where he played the role of in Sura following the death of his teacher, Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nassi.

When quoting “Havivi,” as he does in our Gemara, Rav is referring to his uncle, Rabbi Hiyya. The etymology of the term “Havivi” to mean “uncle” is interesting. The word “haviv” means “beloved,” similar to the term “dod” which has two meanings. “Dod” refers to the beloved one throughout Shir Ha-Shirim; more popularly it refers to the brother of one’s father or mother. Haviv developed a similar dual meaning, and here Rav uses it to refer to his uncle. The parallel between these words becomes clear when we find that the Targum Eretz Yisrael (the Aramaic translation of the Torah) translates the words “dod” and “doda” as “havivei” and “havivtei.”

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