“He said what was reasonable.”
What is worth noting in many of the Daf Yomi readings is the length the Rabbis and the Gemara go to in order to explain differences of opinion. Today’s reading provides an example of Rabbis who find solutions among divergent opinions, so that everyone has a voice, and everyone’s perspective is respected. And what is more important than the actual details of what is being discussed, is how the Rabbis work to bridge the differences. It takes someone with an open heart and great empathy to be able to do so.
The solution to bridging disagreements often resides in understanding fully and deeply the other person’s perspective without being dismissive or judgmental. It means understanding their point of view from their perspective rather than trying to jam your own down their throat (and need I remind everyone of the image from a few days ago of molten lead?) The Talmud likes to extend discussions through the comparison of words and pronouncements. If something is prohibited in one circumstance, then by extension it is prohibited in another related one. But that is sometimes not the case, and today’s reading is a reminder that making fast linkages between two concepts can often be misleading.
Abaye returns to the role of great conciliator. Today he relies on past determinations by Rabbi Yosei who is like “a document that awards something to two conflicting parties.” Abaye through Rabbi Yosei’s words is able to bridge the seemingly conflicting opinions of Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua on animal offerings. And we are told that by extension, if they disagree on animal offerings, they will disagree on meal offerings. At issue is if both the blood and the meat of the sacrifice need to be acceptable for the act to be valid. Rabbi Yehoshua believes that both must be fit. Rabbi Eliezer takes a different point of view and says that “blood brings atonement although there is no suitable meat.”
These are two obvious conflicting opinions between two Rabbis who are often on the opposite side of the aisle. And yet, Rabbi Yosei is quoted as saying that he sees both points of view as correct. He says that Rabbi Eliezer is correct with regard to animal offerings because “the blood brings atonement although there is no meat.” And the statement of Rabbi Yehoshua is correct with regard to animal offerings because “if there is not blood there is no meat, and if there is no meat there is no blood.”
When it comes to meal-offerings, the attempt to cross the aisle between the two Rabbis is more complicated. Abaye explains why Rabbi Yosei would accept two such contradictory opinions. And it is worth noting the respect that Abaye has for Rabbi Yosei. Someone else might have determined that Rabbi Yosei, who was famously ill at one point in his life, was inconsistent.
We are told that the difference in opinion on whether blood can be sprinkled without acceptable meat can be attributed to a case where the offering becomes impure or when the meat itself is lost or burned. Rabbi Yosei agrees with Rabbi Eliezer when part of the offering becomes impure and the blood can be sprinkled (as a reminder, this is an ordinary meal-offering and not the Paschal lamb.) He agrees with Rabbi Yehoshua when the offering is lost or burned, and no sprinkling is allowed “after the fact.”
It is easy these days when we disagree with someone to overlook context and to assume they are not knowledgeable or learned enough to understand another point of view. I am often tempted to quickly dismiss someone because they just “don’t know what they are saying.” There are many examples in the Talmud where the Rabbis or even the voice of the Gemara construct paths for bringing diverse opinions together and assume what“he said what was reasonable.”
There are many voices commenting on the daily readings in the Daf Yomi Facebook pages and study groups that I belong to. These voices represent diverse perspectives and backgrounds. The level of respect that is demonstrated, even when we do not agree with each other, is in the spirit of Rabbi Yosei and Abaye. Among all the difficult passages and imagery and the really funky stuff when you sit back and say to yourself that I can’t believe I just read that, is the demonstrated respect for different perspectives. And that ultimately, is what makes this daily journey so meaningful.