4 Sons & Sons

A discussion of Pesah/Passover generally and the Hagadah specifically. Please comment and contribute!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Bene Berak Seder II

Before continuing, read my first post on the subject. The only other Talmudic incident involving this same group of Rabbis is the famous “oven of Aknai” story.

Let's review that story from Bava Metsia 59. This group of rabbis was discussing the status of a certain type of oven. R. Eliezer declared it usable, the sages disagreed. R. Eliezer said "If the halakhah is as I say it is, let the carob tree prove that I am right" And the carob tree was uprooted and flew a great distance. "Who cares?" said the sages. "Let the spring show that I am correct" said R. Eliezer and the spring ran backwards. "Big deal", or in Hebrew, (Beeg Deel) said the sages. The same happened with the walls of the study hall although R. Joshua was able to convince them to bend rather than fall over.

Then R. Eliezer cried, "Let there be a voice in heaven declaring that the law is according to my opinion." This too happened. Did the sages admit defeat? No! They quoted the verse in Devarim 30:12. "The Torah is not in the heavens.", meaning that since the law is that one goes after the majority, that is the final word despite a heavenly decree. The heavenly voice said "My children have overruled me."

The scene in Bene Brak can be seen as a reconciliation between the parties involved. R. Sacks points out that R. Elazar b. Azaryah is the middle rabbi mentioned. The Gemara in Berakhot 46b holds that the highest ranking leader of a community sits in the middle. R. Elazar b. Azaryah was the temporary head of the Sanhedrin. (Arnow)

Judith Hauptman asks why this Seder took place in Bene Berak, a town associated with R. Akiva when R. Eleazar and R. Yehoshua were his elders. Wouldn't the younger pay respect by visiting the elder? R. Mordekhai Friedfertig points out more reasons why this meeting in Bene Berak might seem unlikely. Yehudah and Eliezer were teachers of Akiva and it might seem improper to travel to him rather that the other way around. Eliezer and Elazar ben Azaryah are of the opinion that the afikomen must be eaten before midnight so they couldn't have been at a Seder that lasted the entire night. (They could have finished the afikomen before midnight and continued the discussion. No big deal) Eliezer was of the opinion (Sukah 27b) that one should not be away from ones home on a yom tov (no Pesach getaways), so how could he be so far from his home in Lud on Seder night? Tarphon was of the opinion that one must drink 5 kosot at the Seder (More on this later). Wouldn't this have caused problems? (Maybe this is just a cultural difference, but today people will stick to their minhagim in another place within the confines of orthodoxy) Okay, why not say that all of these folks just decided to follow the minhagim of their host? In the case of "tanur shel akhnai" that we mentioned above, no one was willing to budge from their view. So they aren't necessarily the most compromising of sorts. The Sfas Emes points out that it never says explicitly that this meeting took place on Seder night. Perhaps it took place at another time. Friedfertig learns from this that we can find ways to participate in the lives of others with whom we have religious differences without compromising the integrity of our own positions.


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