כ״ו בטבת ה׳תשע״ג (January 8, 2013)

Shabbat 97a-b: The Sin of the Wood Gatherer

While discussing the laws of carrying out on Shabbat, Rav Yehuda quotes Rav as identifying the sin of the mekoshesh eitzim – the wood gatherer in the desert – as carrying the wood. The Gemara continues by quoting a baraita:

The wood gatherer mentioned in the Torah was Zelophehad, and it says: “And the children of Israel were in the desert and they found a man gathering wood on the day of Shabbat” (Bamidbar 15:32), and below, in the appeal of the daughters of Zelophehad, it is stated: “Our father died in the desert and he was not among the company of them that gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but he died in his own sin, and he had no sons” (Bamidbar 27:3). Just as below the man in the desert is Zelophehad, so too, here, in the case of the wood gatherer, the unnamed man in the desert is Zelophehad; this is the statement of Rabbi Akiva.

Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira said to him: Akiva, in either case you will be judged in the future for this teaching. If the truth is in accordance with your statement that the wood gatherer was Zelophehad, the Torah concealed his identity, and you reveal it. And if it the truth is not in accordance with your statement, you are unjustly slandering that righteous man.

On today’s daf the Gemara asks:

However, didn’t Rabbi Akiva derive this by means of a verbal analogy? The Gemara answers: he did not learn a verbal analogy. Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira had no tradition of this verbal analogy from his teachers, and therefore he disagreed with Rabbi Akiva’s conclusion.

Rabbeinu Ḥananel explained this passage differently: Rabbi Akiva did not actually learn this verbal analogy from his teachers. He arrived at it on his own. Since the tradition was not transmitted by previous generations, Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira did not accept it. This explanation resolves several difficulties raised by other commentaries.

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