What is R’ Yehuda asking?

Eduyot (1:6) | Yisrael Bankier | 9 years ago

Our learning this week continued directly from the previous one. Last week the Mishnah ended by asking why the Mishnah listed a singular opinion (daat yachid) alongside a majority opinion when the halacha accords with the majority. What is the point of including it if it appears to have no practical value? The Mishnah answers that a later Beit Dinof greater standing may be able to rule based on that minority opinion. The first Mishnah this week appears to continue with the same question:

R’ Yehuda said: if so, why is an individual opinion mentioned amongst the majority opinion to annul it? That if a person says I have received such a ruling, you can reply you heard like this [individual] opinion.

What is this Mishnah adding?

The Bartenura explains that R’ Yehuda found a case that is not covered by the previous one. R’ Yehuda asks regarding a daat yachid that no Beit Din has ever ruled like and is consequently considered annulled. No future Beit Din would rule like this opinion so the answer in the previous Mishnah does not explain the inclusion of those cases. R’ Yehuda therefore provides an additional explanation to cover them.

The Tosfot Yom Tov however finds this explanation difficult. Even if no Beit Din has yet ruled according to this opinion, it is possible that a Beit Din in the future might. The Tosfot Yom Tov however cites the Rambam that states that there are cases where a future Beit Din will never rule according to a singular opinion which is the target of R’ Yehuda’s question. The Tosfot Yom Tov cites the Rambam who explains that if a Beit Din institutes a gezeira – a prohibition that serves as a protective fence around another one – and it was universally accepted, then it can never be repealed. He notes that the Raavad does not differentiate between types of takanot and the scope of irrevocable gezeirot is broader. According to the Rambam, R’ Yehuda is addressing these laws in our Mishnah.

The Tosfot Yom Tov however also cites the opinion of the Raavad who has a different reading of the Mishnah. R’ Yehuda is arguing with the previous Mishnah. The Mishnah must therefore be read as follows, “If so, why is an individual opinion mentioned amongst the majority opinion? To annul it…” In other words the daat yachid is not mentioned for halachic import, but rather to reject it.

The Mahariach finds all the above explanations difficult. He cites the Tosfot Yom Tov’s difficulty with the Bartenura. He feels that the absence in the Mishnah of the crux of the Rambam’s explanation problematic. Finally he finds it difficult to explain that R’ Yehuda argues with the previous Mishnah given the language used and that both logics are sound.

The Mahariach therefore provides another explanation. There are cases where a daat yachid actually retracts and agrees with the majority opinion. R’ Yehuda is asking about those cases. “Why is an individual opinion mentioned amongst the majority opinion to annul it [since he retracted anyway]?” The Mishnah needs to teach cases where, e.g. Beit Hillel retracts in favour of Beit Shammai (1:12), but a daat yachid retracting should not be of note; it should be obvious. R’ Yehuda therefore follows on nicely from the previous Mishnah. In such cases, if the Mishnah did not include these opinions that retracted, in the future a person might present that opinion and a Beit Din rule according to it. Once included even though retracted, a future Beit Din will not err since it they will recognise that the opinion was retracted.

Interestingly the Mahariach recalls one such debate that is recorded in the Mishnah even though the daat yachid retracted. It comes from none other than masechet Sukkah. There the debate is regarding how many meals one is obligated to eat in the sukkah. The Chachamim rule that it is the first night, while R’ Eliezer maintains it is fourteen meals. The Gemara explains that R’ Eliezer ultimately agreed with the Chachamim. Nevertheless the Mishnah records both opinions.


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