“Did I come late merely to quarrel, and meddle in other people’s questions?”
Today’s Daf Yomi continues the discussion from the previous day on rooftops and whether they constitute domains in and of themselves. Rav and Shmuel have been wandering through the text since the early days of Berakhot offering their opinion on what is permissible. They rarely agree on anything. I have been keeping track of their disagreements and according to my record the last time they agreed on something was on April 12th when they discussed heating a pot with food over a flame on Shabbat. Given the division in the United States and many parts of the world, they serve as strong role models for two people who loved and admired each other deeply but were often of differing opinions.
We read yesterday that some Rabbis offer greater freedom of movement on rooftops, although there are restrictions and not all the Rabbis agreed that they form a single domain. Rav rules that one can move an object throughout the entire roof on Shabbat. Shmuel said that one may move an object only within four cubits on a roof. The Gemara points out that Rav may not be entirely consistent in his rulings because he had previously staeted that in regard to level roofs, one may only carry an object within four cubits. The Gemara also points out the Shmuel has contradicted himself over time, because he has previously ruled that one can carry across the entire roof. Both contradictions are explained by the area of the roof which determines how far one can carry and the partitions that are in place in the homes that support them.
Rav and Shmuel continue their walking through the Talmud with a discussion of a large ship. In a parallel opinion to the one previously put forward on the matter of an open rooftop, Rav ruled that one can move an object throughout the entire ship. Shmuel is consistent with his previous ruling on a roof and says that one may move an object only within four cubits. Shmuel’s logic again rests on partitions, as he states that a ship’s partitions “are not considered full-fledged partitions.” In a rare moment of deference to his friend, Shmuel says that the ruling should be “in accordance with the opinion of Rav, as his rationale is more convincing.”
It should be noted how significant it is that Shmuel defers to Rav. This is an example of the great tradition of discourse and respect that can be found in the Talmud, as represented by the relationship between Rav and Shmuel. Their differing perspectives appear often in the Talmud and I envision them walking side-by-side, always arguing over some fine point of Talmudic law. And yet, they were great friends and Rav is said to have mourned profoundly the death of Shmuel because there was no one else who could have verbally sparred with him in quite the same way.
The friendship between Rav and Shmuel serves as a lesson in not just respecting those that have disparate opinions from our own, but in honoring them. This reminds me of the friendship between Joe Biden and the late John McCain. They were on opposite sides of the political spectrum and at times were seen in the media arguing passionately for their perspective on policy and political matters. And yet, they were great friends who shared a common belief in the importance of their duty as public servants to find solutions together for the greater good. Like Rav and Shmuel they provided a strong blueprint for respect of intellectual discourse and opposing points of view.
Today, the world looks to Joe Biden with the hope that he will carry on the tradition of Rav and Shmuel.