Shiur #07: The Purpose and Status of Aggada in Halakhic Sugyot of the Babylonian Talmud - Inuy in Tractate Yoma (Part I)

  • Rav Dr. Yonatan Feintuch
In the next few shiurim, we will examine a sugya that consists of two parts: a halakhic section and an aggadic section. The aggadic section in our sugya is not a narrative, but rather a collection of aggadic dicta and derashot.
 
The sugya that we will examine is the first sugya in the eighth chapter of Tractate Yoma, which deals with the inuyim (afflictions) of Yom Kippur that were enumerated in the mishna. We will analyze the relationship between the two parts of the sugya, the halakhic and the aggadic, and the main topic of inuy on Yom Kippur. In addition, we will see the connections between these two sections themselves, noting the new significance that arises from the juxtaposition of these two parts.
 
There is another very important point that we will analyze through our sugya. What role does aggada play in such a passage? What is the status of aggada in terms of the sugya when the message it conveys differs from that of the halakhic debate? Did the editors who compiled this material and integrated these two elements intend for the aggada to influence the normative halakhic conclusion in practice, or is its contribution meant to be on other planes?
 
The Inuyim of Yom Kippur: Tannaitic Sources
 
The mishna at the beginning of the eight chapter of Tractate Yoma enumerates the inuyim that must be observed on Yom Kippur:
 
On Yom Kippur, one may neither eat nor drink nor wash nor anoint oneself nor wear shoes nor have sexual relations. Kings and brides may wash their faces, and new mothers may wear shoes; so says R. Eliezer; but the Sages forbid it.
 
This mishna appears in the Babylonian Talmud in Yoma 73b. The reader will immediately notice that the inuyim in their entirety appear in one sequence, without any distinction among them.
 
However, when we turn to the Sifra (also known as Torat Kohanim), the halakhic Midrash on Sefer Vayikra, we find that the biblical source for the inuyim is expounded differently there:
 
This shall be for you an everlasting law: in the seventh month, on the tenth of the month, you must afflict your souls, and you must do no labor, neither the native nor the sojourner who resides in your midst. (Vayikra 16:29)
 
This is the source for the requirement to afflict one’s soul on Yom Kippur. However, the derasha in the Sifra makes clear that there is a prominent and dichotomous division among these various types of inuyim. The exegesis analyzes the nature of the affliction of one’s soul that the Day of Atonement demands:
 
“You must afflict your souls” — I might think that one should sit in the sun or in the cold in order to experience discomfort; thus, the verse says, “And you must do no labor.” In another place, I forbade labor for you, and in another place, I forbade affliction for you. Just as the labor I forbade for you in another place is labor for which one receives the penalty of excision, so too the affliction I forbade for you in another place is affliction for which one receives the penalty of excision. These are they: leftover (notar) and spoiled offerings (pigul, a sacrifice offered with the intent to leave it over beyond the prescribed time).
How do I know to include the untithed? The verse says. “You must afflict your souls,” which comes to include. I might think to include the untithed for which one receives the penalty of death, but not carcasses, for which one does not receive the penalty of death; therefore, the verse says, “You must afflict your souls,” which comes to include. I might think to include the carcasses, which are prohibited by a negative command, but not regular food, which is not prohibited by a negative command; therefore, the verse says, “You must afflict your souls,” which comes to include. (Sifra, Acharei Mot 5:7)
 
This Tannaitic midrash first rejects the possible understanding that inuy requires actively causing oneself bodily pain, such as staying in a very cold or hot environment. [1] The derasha concludes that the intent is merely to forbid eating and drinking, and this is due to the juxtaposition between the positive command to afflict one’s soul and the negative command not to perform any labor.
 
However, the comparison suggests that the inuy may be limited to items that would be forbidden at the highest level in other contexts – namely, by the penalty of excision (karet), being cut off from the Jewish People. This would indicate that the only consumption forbidden on Yom Kippur would be that of something that would carry the penalty of excision any other day of the year, such as a leftover offering or a spoiled offering. This launches the exegesis on a path of expansion and inclusion, allowing the darshan to ultimately arrive at the conclusion that it is not only untithed produce, which carries the lower penalty of “death by the hands of Heaven,” that is forbidden to eat on Yom Kippur, and not only the carcasses of animals who have died without being slaughtered in the prescribed matter, which are forbidden on the still lower level of a standard negative command carrying the penalty of lashes, are forbidden. Indeed, even neutral food that is totally kosher is forbidden on Yom Kippur; consuming any food or drink incurs the penalty of excision.[2]
 
The Sifra goes on to suggest two alternative derashot, one anonymous and one in the name of R. Yishmael, which further cement the approach that inuy is about refraining from ingestion alone:
 
Alternatively, “You must afflict your souls” — this refers to affliction that applies to the abode of your souls. And what might this be? This would be eating and drinking.
In the name of R. Yishmael, they say: It says here, “You must afflict your souls,” and it says below, “And He afflicted you and He starved you.” Just as the affliction referred to there is starvation, the affliction referred to here is starvation.
 
This alternative explanation explains inuy as applying to one specific region of the body, “the abode of your souls,” which is involved in ingestion. Thus, inuy includes only eating and drinking. On the other hand, R. Yishmael compares the inuy here to another type of inuy in the Torah, which appears in the passage that describes the sojourn in the desert – God afflicts the Jewish People by making them hungry.
 
As for the other inuyim mentioned in our mishna (abstaining from washing, anointing, wearing shoes, and sexual relations), there is no mention of them in these derashot. Only later, after a number of other derashot, is an additional derasha cited, in which all five prohibitions that we find in the mishna appear (eating and drinking being considered one). However, those inuyim are derived from a different verse and are presented as having a completely different status than the excision-level prohibitions mentioned above:
 
How did we know that on Yom Kippur, one may neither eat nor drink nor wash nor anoint oneself nor wear shoes nor have sexual relations? The verse says, “[A sabbath of] rest” – so rest!
 
This derasha, which is very reminiscent of the language of the mishna, derives the five prohibitions from a word two verses later, “[Shabbat] shabbaton,” “[A sabbath of] rest.” Other acts are prohibited on Yom Kippur because of the general obligation to rest, even though these acts do not rise to the level of labor that incurs the penalty of excision.[3]
 
I only know of labor for which one receives the penalty of excision for its like; labor for which one does not receive the penalty of excision, such as not to climb a tree, to ride a beast, to swim in water, to clap hands, to slap the thigh, or to stamp the feet [how do I know]? The verse says, “[A sabbath of] rest (shabbaton)” – so rest (shvot)!
 
In the mishna, the five inuyim appear without any distinction among them, but the Sifra clearly distinguishes between two categories:
 
  1. Eating and drinking, referred to by the clause “You must afflict your souls,” incur the penalty of excision.
  2. The other prohibitions, which are forbidden by the term “Shabbat shabbaton,” do not carry the penalty of excision.[4]
 
The Sugya in the Babylonian Talmud: The Halakhic Segment
 
The halakhic portion of the sugya in the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 73b-76a) that analyzes the abovementioned mishna appears to endorse the reading of the Sifra.
 
After a brief debate at the opening of the sugya concerning the formulation of the mishna,[5] which in turns leads to a brief analysis of the concept of a “half-measure” of prohibited substances, the gemara (74a) cites a number of exegetical baraitot that are similar but are not identical to the baraitot that we saw in the Sifra. [6]These baraitot explicate and define the inuy in the verses as avoiding eating and drinking alone, as we saw in the conclusions of the baraitot in the Sifra. Below are these baraitot, with the gemara’s editorial comments omitted:
 
  1. Our rabbis taught: “You must afflict your souls” — I might think that one should sit in the sun or in the cold in order to experience discomfort, so the verse says, “And you must do no labor.” I commanded affliction for you; I forbade labor for you. Just as with labor, you are required to sit and do nothing, so too with affliction, you are required to sit and do nothing.
 
  1. Alternatively, it was taught: “You must afflict your souls” — I might think that one should sit in the sun or in the cold in order to experience discomfort, so the verse says, “And you must do no labor.” I forbade affliction for you; I forbade labor for you. Just as with labor which you are liable for in another place…[7]
 
 
  1. Or if you prefer, it says “I will cause that soul to be lost from the midst of its people” — this refers to affliction that causes the soul to be lost. And what might this be? This would be eating and drinking.
 
  1. It was taught in the school of R. Yishmael: It says here, “You must afflict your souls,” and it says below, “And He afflicted you and He starved you.” Just as the affliction referred to there is starvation, the affliction referred to here is starvation.
 
As part of the debate about the formulation of the mishna preceding the citation of the abovementioned baraitot, the sugya cites the additional derasha that appears later on in the Sifra, concerning the other prohibitions:
 
Or if you prefer, when the mishna forbids, this refers to the rest of them, as Rabba and R. Yosef taught in the other books of the School of Rav: How do we know that on Yom Kippur it is forbidden to wash, to anoint, to wear shoes, or to have sexual relations? The verse says, “[A sabbath of] rest” –  so rest!
 
Unlike the baraita in the Sifra, which includes all the five prohibitions as an application of shabbaton, the baraita in the Babylonian Talmud includes only those prohibition that do not afflict the soul: washing, anointing, wearing shoes, and sexual relations.
 
Thus, we must split the prohibitions into two dichotomous categories. The prohibitions of eating and drinking are applications of the central command, “You must afflict your souls.” Thus, whoever violates them incurs the penalty of excision. On the other hand, we have the prohibitions that appear in the mishna, derived from the command to observe Yom Kippur as “a sabbath of rest,” and these carry no penalty of excision if one violates them.[8]
 
Moreover, beyond the other distinctions between the Talmud and the Sifra,[9] there is a characteristic of the former that is utterly absent from the other. In the Babylonian Talmud, the baraitot are not cited consecutively. In between the baraitot, and sometimes even within each baraita, the gemara inserts its own editorial comments. These are phrased as questions about the content of the baraita or the formulation of its language, which the Gemara then responds to, rejecting the question.
 
There is nothing unusual about this per se; quite often, in many sugyot, the gemara does exactly this. However, if we look more carefully at the content of these brief analyses, we find a common denominator among three of them:
 
  1. What does it mean when it says “if you prefer”? You might say that the verse is talking about illicit relationships, so it says, “I will cause that soul to be lost from the midst of its people” — this refers to affliction that causes the soul to be lost. And what might this be? This would be eating and drinking.
  1. And why do we not derive it from, “If you afflict my daughters?” We derive public affliction from public affliction; we do not derive public affliction from private affliction.
  1. And why do we not derive it from, “And He saw our affliction,” concerning which the master says that this is separation from the way of the world [sexual relations in marriage]? We derive Heavenly affliction from Heavenly affliction; we do not derive Heavenly affliction from manmade affliction.
 
In these three questions, the gemara’s editorializing suggests that the reference to inuy in the text is to be understood as something that relates to the sphere of relationships and marital intercourse. Thus, the final prohibition of sexual relations would also be considered inuy in the fullest sense, and anyone who engages in sexual relations on Yom Kippur would be liable to the highest penalty, being cut off from the Jewish People through excision.
 
Each of these propositions is based on the Torah’s use of inuy in its various conjugations to refer to sexual relationships, either in the literal sense of the verse or as interpreted in a derasha. In the third instance, the similarity is even more striking, as the affliction in that case is preventing spouses from having sexual relations with each other, as the Israelites experienced in Egypt. The suggestion is that on Yom Kippur, one may also be compelled to refrain from normal marital relations in the name of inuy.
 
Each of these proposals is rejected due to a derasha from an additional verse or a distinction between the proffered verse and the command about Yom Kippur. We will address the significance of these questions below. In any case, the abovementioned baraitot, with the brief editorial comments of the gemara, conclude the halakhic segment of the sugya.
 
The Aggadic Section of the Sugya and its Connection to the Halakhic Section
 
After the abovementioned halakhic section, there is a lengthy aggadic section. This unit opens with an Amoraic dispute between R. Ammi and R. Assi concerning the manna the Israelites received in the desert, followed by a number of varied issues with the same disputants. Afterwards, the aggadic unit returns to the topic of the manna, and there is a long midrashic excursus dissecting the verses that speak of the manna, mainly based on biblical passages in Shemot (Parashat Beshalach, ch. 16) and Bamidbar (Parashat Beha’alotkha, ch. 11).
 
Apparently, this aggadic digression has nothing at all to do with Yom Kippur or its attendant prohibitions. In fact, neither the day itself nor its various proscriptions are mentioned in it.
 
At first glance, it appears that this aggadic unit appears in the Talmud where it does due to technical associations. R. Yishmael’s derasha at the end of the halakhic passage cites the verse, “And He afflicted you and He starved you” (Devarim 8:3). The very next words are, “And he fed you the manna, which you had not known…” Associatively, the gemara connects this to the dueling derashot of R. Ammi and R. Assi concerning the manna. R. Ammi and R. Assi are in fact discussing a later verse from the same chapter, which also invokes inuy: “Who feeds you manna in the desert… in order to afflict you” (ibid. v. 16).
 
However. a closer reading of this lengthy aggadic unit – in particular its first lines, which abut the halakhic debate – reveals that many connections of another type between the two units, the halakhic and the aggadic, actually exist. We will specify these connections below.
 
First, upon a careful reading of the aggadic unit, an interesting fact becomes apparent: many parts of the unit that seem to be dealing with eating in general and the manna in particular include allusions to the realm of marital relations. For example, let us consider the first aggadic derasha that we mentioned above, which expounds the verse in Devarim concerning eating the manna in the desert:
 
“Who feeds you manna in the desert… in order to afflict you” — R. Ammi and R. Assi [argue]. One says: You cannot compare one who has bread in one’s basket with one who has none. The other says: You cannot compare one who sees what one eats with one who does not see what one is eating.
 
R. Ammi and R. Assi both point to deficiencies of the manna, which made the years of being sustained by it a period of inuy for the Jewish People. Thus, their explanations seems to revolve around food. However, the first derasha speaks of “one who has bread in one’s basket.” This expression is mentioned by the darshan in order to explain the difficulty, the inuy, inherent in the existence of the manna in the desert, but this expression also has another distinctive connotation.[10] Indeed, this expression appears elsewhere in Tractate Yoma. One time, it appears in the context of food (Yoma 67a), but the other time it refers to marriage:
 
When Rav would visit Darshish, he would declare: Who will marry me for the day? Similarly, when R. Nachman would come to Shekhantziv, he would declare: Who will marry me for the day… If you prefer, I will say that they were merely designated [and not actually married], as you cannot compare one who has bread in one’s basket with one who has none. (Yoma 18b)
 
Moreover, in the ensuing discussion of eating without seeing, there is a transition to the context of marriage in an explicit manner. In this context, Reish Lakish takes the reference from the dining room to the bedroom:
 
R. Yosef says: This is an allusion to [the reason] why blind people eat and eat without becoming satisfied. Abbayei says: Therefore let one who has a meal eat only in daylight. R. Zeira says: What Scriptural verse intimates that? “Better is the seeing of the eyes than the wandering of the desire.” Resh Lakish says: Better is the pleasure of looking at a woman than the act itself, as it is says: “Better is the seeing of the eyes than the wandering of the desire.”
 
Indeed, even before Reish Lakish interjects, it may be that there is a double meaning to the sugya, as the literature of Chazal often employs euphemistic “clean language” to talk about marital relations.[11] In fact this issue is raised within this sugya itself:
 
But according to the one who says that it means intercourse, does not the verse read: “Which we were wont to eat”? The verse uses a euphemism, as it is written, “She eats and wipes her mouth and says: I have done no wickedness” (Mishlei 30:22).[12]
 
The next dispute between R. Ammi and R. Assi is also about consumption — of wine, in this case — and is apparently linked to matters of marriage or illicit relationships:
 
“When it gives its color in the goblet, when it glides down smoothly” — R. Ammi and R. Assi [argue]. One says: All illicit relationships appear like a plain to whoever fixes an eye upon the goblet. The other says: The entire world appears like a plain to whoever indulges in the goblet.
 
“Whoever fixes an eye upon the goblet” is an idiom describing one who grows intoxicated,[13] and the derasha states that such an individual does not eschew any sexual perversion: “All illicit relationships appear like a plain.” This statement thus links the dining room to the bedroom. Indeed, the specific phrasing of fixing one’s eye upon one’s goblet is something of a double entendre, as becomes clear from another source which applies this to a sexual context.
 
“And that you seek not after your own heart” — Based on this, Rabbi taught: One may not drink out of one goblet and fix an eye upon another goblet.[14] (Nedarim 20b)
 
Let us now turn to two additional disputes between R. Ammi and R. Assi. The first does not talk of consumption or copulation; however, the second specifically addresses eating. It may be that the latter does indeed allude to sexual relations, since it discusses the serpent from the Garden of Eden, and the snake is a symbol of the evil inclination, specifically in the sexual domain, in many places:
 
“Care in the heart bows it down” — R. Ammi and R. Assi [argue]. One says: One should force it down. The other says: One should tell thereof to others.
“And dust shall be the serpent's food” — R. Ammi and R. Assi [argue]. One says: Even if the serpent were to eat all the delicacies of the world, he would feel therein but the taste of dust. The other says: Even though he ate all the delicacies of the world, his mind would not be at ease until he had eaten dust.
It was taught: R. Yossi says: Come and see how different the action of human beings is from that of the Holy One, blessed be He. If one of flesh and blood is angry with his neighbor, he persecutes him by depriving him of his livelihood, but it is different with the Holy One, blessed be He. Although He cursed the serpent, when he goes up to the roof, there is his food; if he goes down, there is his food. He cursed Canaan, yet he eats what his master eats and drinks what his master drinks. He cursed the woman, yet all are running after her. He cursed the earth, yet all are feeding from it.
 
According to most versions, the disputants in the next line are Rav and Shemuel. However, Yemenite manuscripts add: “Some say that it was R. Ammi and R. Assi.” It is very possible that this belongs in the list of their arguments which appears above. Regardless, the content of the dispute is indisputable. A verse which refers explicitly to food is expounded as referring to illicit relationships:
 
“We remember the fish we were wont to eat freely in Egypt” (Bamidbar 11:15) — Rav and Shemuel [argue]. One says: Fish. The other says: Illicit relationships. The one who says fish, this is because it is written, “we were wont to eat.” The one who says illicit relationships, this is because it is written, “freely.”
 
The abovementioned series of disputes between R. Ammi and R. Assi concludes with a difference of opinion concerning the taste of the manna in the desert:
 
“The cucumbers and the melons [and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic]” — R. Ammi and R. Assi [argue]. One said: They found in the manna the taste of every kind of food, but not the taste of these five. The other said: Of all kinds of food they felt both taste and substance, but of these the taste only without the substance.
 
We will return to this dispute at a later point.
 
These two last disputes about the manna lead to an extended midrashic unit about this bread from Heaven, which concludes the sugya.
 
The aggadic unit we are discussing deals primarily with derashot concerning the manna, aside from the chain of disputes between R. Ammi and R. Assi on various topics, which appears in the middle of this unit and is mentioned because these disputes also address the manna. As we have said, our focus will be on the first half of this aggadic unit, the six midrashic disputes among the Amora’im, mainly between R. Ammi and R. Assi. The interesting thing arising from a close reading of the abovementioned unit is that in many places in this discussion, whether in the derashot about the manna or in the derashot of R. Ammi and R. Assi about other topics, there are many allusions, some subtle and some unsubtle, to the sphere of marriage and intimacy.
 
This entire aggadic unit may be read on its own, and one might assume that its connection to the abovementioned halakhic discussion about inuy on Yom Kippur is merely associative and technical. Within the aggadic unit, we may say that the link we have seen between matters of consumption and matters of coition emerges from this common practice in the literature of Chazal – associating eating and drinking with marital relations.
 
However, in the next shiur, we will explore an approach that suggests that the connection to the halakhic section is much stronger.
 
Translated by Yoseif Bloch
 

[1] Based on this baraita in the Sifra, it is difficult to reach a definitive conclusion about causing bodily discomfort actively on Yom Kippur. Does the baraita reject the concept unequivocally, or does it merely propose that one focus the application of inuy on a specific type of suffering, due to the connection to the prohibition of labor? Indeed, in another baraita that appears in the Babylonian Talmud in the sugya discussed here (see below in the text and footnotes), the question of active or passive discomfort arises explicitly; however, this baraita does not appear in the Sifra.
[2] Later on in the derasha, the author includes various instances of eating that are enjoined as mitzvot in various contexts, but we have omitted these for the sake of brevity.
[3] Indeed, in a manner that is a bit perplexing, the prohibitions of “rest” in the realm of forbidden labors are cited by the Sifra in the first derasha, following the prohibitions that carry a penalty of excision, not together with the prohibition of “rest” in the realm of inuy, even though they are derived from the same verse.
[4] Indeed, we must ask why the derasha expounding “shabbat shabbaton” mentions eating and drinking as well, as they have been forbidden at the level of excision as inuyim, but this is not the occasion to delve into the matter.
[5] The terminological debate about the formulation of the mishna relates to the fact that these acts are classified as forbidden, without reference to liability to bring an offering or to the penalty of excision.
[6] Although the baraitot in the Sifra are not identical to the baraitot in the Babylonian Talmud, they do have a great deal in common and a similar general approach. Their differences require a separate analysis, which we will not address in this framework.
[7] The continuation of the baraita, until “if you prefer,” is more or less similar to the baraita cited above from the Sifra.
[8] However, we should note that immediately after the first sugya, following the aggadic section, there is an additional sugya analyzing the first mishna that defines inuy as including every single one of these five prohibitions. This sugya seems to utterly disregard the first sugya, and it appears that each of them developed on its own. However, this is not the forum to delve into the matter.
[9] See supra, n. 6.
[10] “One who has bread in one’s basket” is a phrase which is unique to the Babylonian Talmud, and it appears only infrequently. The full phrase, “You cannot compare one who has bread in one’s basket with one who has none,” appears only two more times. The first time is in Yevamot 37b, in a very similar context to the one appearing above in Yoma, in which the context is marital relations. The second time is in Ketubot 63b, and there as well the context is copulation and not consumption. Beyond that, the expression appears in a literal sense, referring to someone who has food at home, in one place only, Sota 48b.
[11] For example, Midrash Tanchuma (Parashat Shemot, ch. 11) states:
[Yitro says to his daughters concerning Moshe:] “Summon him, that he may eat bread” (Shemot 2:20) – perhaps he will marry one of you! Eating bread as it is used here refers to nothing but a woman, as it says [concerning Yosef’s authority within Potifar’s house], “He knew nothing of what he was up to, except for the bread he ate” (Bereishit 39:6) [i.e., Potifar withheld only his wife from Yosef]. And similarly it says, “The bread of the secret places is pleasant” (Mishlei 9:17). And similarly it says, “For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but a married woman preys on your very life” (ibid. 6:26).
Eating bread is thus a clear euphemism for sexual relations.
[12] See below for further analysis of this sentence.
[13] See, for example, Rashi ad loc., s.v. eino.
[14] A similar double entendre may be found elsewhere in the Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 58a, a source that we will study in depth later this year:
A certain man once conceived a desire for the wife of his master, he being a carpenter’s apprentice. Once his master wanted to borrow some money from him. He said to him, “Send your wife to me and I will lend her the money.” So he sent his wife to him, and she stayed three days with him. He then went to him before her. “Where is my wife whom I sent to you?” he asked. He replied, “I sent her away at once, but I heard that the youngsters played with her on the road.” “What shall I do?” he said. “If you listen to my advice,” he replied, “divorce her.” “But,” he said, “she has a large marriage settlement.” Said the other, “I will lend you money to give her for her ketuba.” So he went and divorced her and the other went and married her. When the time for payment arrived and he was not able to pay him, he said, “Come and work off your debt with me.” So they used to sit and eat and drink while he waited on them, and tears used to fall from his eyes and drop into their goblets.