The Prohibition of Lo Titgodedu (Part 2)

  • Rav Moshe Taragin

 

TALMUDIC METHODOLOGY

By Rav Moshe Taragin

 

Shiur #08: The Prohibition of Lo Titgodedu (Part 2)

 

 

In the previous shiur, we outlined two different approaches to understanding the issur of lo titgodedu, the prohibition of splintered halakhic observance. Is the prohibition geared toward averting machloket, as the Rambam claims, or does it prevent the exhibition of variant torot, as Rashi suggests? Abbaye allows different halakhic norms in different locales, which easily fits the Rambam's logic that the issur aims at quelling social dispute; the fact that the practices are observed by separate communities will avoid machloket. Reconciling Abbaye's limitation with Rashi's logic is not as simple. Perhaps one could argue that as long as the discrepant practices are physically distant, there do not APPEAR to be splintered torot as casual observers will not witness the differences. Alternatively, different practices in different and distant locales may establish that behavior as part of the tradition, rather than as deviance from it. While multiple practices "under one roof" suggests multiple torot and is forbidden, different practices in different locales merely implies different and separate INTERPRETATIONS of the SAME UNIFIED MASORA.

 

This second understanding of Abbaye – that distance avoids the problem of lo titgodedu because it establishes an independent masora – may explain an interesting position adopted by the Ramban to answer a well-known question posed by Tosafot.

 

Abbaye allows different norms in different geographical areas in order to explain the differing practices of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel. (Rava ultimately rejects Abbaye’s approach because he maintains that the discrepancies between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai existed even within one region.) However, Abbaye's logic regarding different locales does not fully solve the gemara's original query about different Megilla readings in different cities. Although reading on the 14th occurred in different locales than reading on the 15th, there were other discrepancies EVEN within the SAME REGION. Those who lived in small hamlets without qualified Megilla readers were permitted to read the Megilla on the Monday or Thursday proximate to Purim, when they came to the large towns for market. Effectively, the Megilla was read anywhere between one and four days prior to the 14th IN THE VERY CITY in which it would be subsequently read on the 14th proper! Not only did discrepant reading occur in the same locale, but it was common that the very SAME person performed the different readings; since the villagers were incapable of reading, the Megilla was read for them by literate city dwellers, and the same ba'al keri'a who read for them on an earlier day woule re-read or re-hear the Megilla on the 14th itself. This situation clearly violates lo titgodedu EVEN according to Abbaye, since there was no geographical separation. Tosafot raises this question and offers a radical position, which most Rishonim reject. How do the other Rishonim solve this problem?

 

The Ramban offers an original solution. He claims that the villagers read on an earlier date in a SPECIFIC location. Even though that location was adjacent to where subsequent Megilla readings would take place on later dates, since it occurred in a DESIGNATED location, it would not violate lo titgodedu. By adding this lo titgodedu exemption, the Ramban effectively reinterprets Abbaye. Physical distance per se is not crucial in averting lo titgodedu concerns. Rather, the exemption of two cities was based on establishing parallel approaches to the masora, each with its own COMMUNITY, rather than chaotic deviances within the same tradition or community. As long as each norm is assigned to a specific location (and associated community of people), it can be maintained as a coexistent approach, even if it contradicts a different norm. If distance is necessary merely to prevent tension caused by contact, perhaps merely designating a SPECIFIC LOCATION for the alternate practice WOULD BE INSUFFICIENT; to properly avoid machloket, a DISTANT location would be required, as Abbaye's "two cities" clause seems to imply. Evidently the Rambam – by adding this clause to Abbaye agreed with Rashi that lo titgodedu isn't based on avoiding machloket but in preventing the suggestion of splintered tradition.  By tethering the practices to different communities and locations this statement is avoided.

 

The Ramban in Megilla suggests a different rationale to explain the dual Megilla readings in the same town and by the same people. Although in Yevamot, the Ramban attempts to redefine the meaning of “two batei din in two different cities,” in Megilla, he asserts that since the alternate Megilla reading was based upon a kula – (a leniency) - so as not to inconvenience the villager to travel to the city – it is not subject to the criteria of lo titgodedu. The gemara’s only concern centered around the alternate reading of the 15th in walled cities since that was based upon halakhic discrepancy, not leniency; Abbaye only suggested the “two towns” solution to solve discrepancies between the readings on the 14th and 15th. The early villagers’ reading does not require any explanation at all.

 

If Abbaye’s “two towns” allowance is based on avoiding dispute, how could he possibly waive lo titgodedu in cases of leniency-based discrepancies? Just because we relax the halakha for one group of people does not mean it won't cause a rift with a different one! If Abbaye is willing to waive lo titgodedu in situations of kula, it seems to indicate that he agreed with Rashi that the issur is based upon presenting a fractured masora. Divergences based on kula do not present the fracturing of halakha, but rather “local suspensions” of the halakha to accommodate a need. Once again, the Ramban may be asserting that Abbaye’s “two towns” solution is not based upon the Rambam’s logic of avoiding machloket, but on the notion that once each masora is tethered to a specific place and community, it does not constitute a fracture, but an independent tradition.

 

Yet another indicator that Abbaye is asserting a Rashi-based logic for lo titgodedu stems from an interesting comment of the Ritva. Rava rejects Abbaye and asserts his own explanation for the two Megilla readings because of the Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disputes. Not only did these two groups differ about yibum rules, but they actually IMPLEMENTED their differing practices – oftentimes in the SAME CITY. Although Abbaye's "two towns” approach might solve the Megilla issue, it would not address the Beit Shammai/Beit Hillel phenomenon. Rava therefore offers an alternative approach to account for BOTH the Megilla differences as well as for Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel. How would Abbaye respond to the problem posed by the situation of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel?

 

Although it is only possible to speculate - as Abbaye seems to ignore the Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel phenomenon entirely - a comment of the Ritva may disclose Abbaye's logic. The Ritva claims that Abbaye is unconcerned with the differences between the practices of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel because lo titgodedu does not apply to the proprietors of a machloket, the “ba'alei ha-machloket.” Thus, the only pressing issue for Abbaye was the dual Megilla readings, and this he solved by his "two towns" theory.

 

Clearly, the Ritva’s logic for Abbaye does not conform to the Rambam's version of lo titgodedu. If the entire concern surrounds social strife, different practices among the originators of a machloket would be MORE incendiary, not less! The ba’alei ha-machloket would presumably express and implement their positions with greater confidence and passion, and the differences between them would be more likely to erupt into arguments and disputes. The Ritva clearly assumes that Abbaye adopts a view of lo titgodedu similar to that of Rashi; the issur prevents the presentation of splintered torot. Evidently, according to Abbaye, this concern relates only to halakhic behavior of the common man. Rabbis who develop unique positions based on solid halakhic scholarship are allowed to implement their unique positions. For the actual “ba'al ha-shita,” the author of a position, discrepant halakhic activity does not imply splintered behavior, but rather establishes co-existent strands of truth within the infinite will of God. Deviation by the common man suggests splintered truth, whereas differences expressed by scholars merely reflect different interpretations of the will of Ha-Kadosh Barukh Hu .

 

Once we accept the premise that the Ritva's suggestion mandates reading Abbaye’s view of lo titgodedu as Rashi did, we are once again compelled to reinterpret his “two towns” theory. The simple approach of the Rambam was that the two city allowance avoids machloket, but according to the Ritva, Abbaye is not concerned with machloket, but the presentation of a fissured Torah. Abbaye allows different practices in different locales because this does not present a fractured Torah, but two different strands of the masora – each with its own following and community.