This source debates whether men should marry between the ages of 16-22 or 18-24. Note that these ages are slightly older than those above.
This week’s daf discusses the obligation a father has to teach his son Torah.
The question asked is how much Torah a father is obligated to teach his son---every field in the Torah, or just the basics?
The answer is brought from the case of someone named Zevulun son of Dan, who Rashi said was a contemporary of Shmuel’s. Zevulun learned from his grandfather basically all of the fields of Torah.
The Talmud raises a difficulty—a baraita rules that the father needs only to teach his son Mikra (Torah), not all of the rest of the fields.
The resolution is that the example of Zevulun b. Dan was come to show that even a grandfather is obligated to teach his grandson Torah. But fathers (and grandfathers) are obligated to teach only Mikra, not all the fields.
The Talmud notes that there is actually a tannaitic debate about whether grandfathers must teach their grandsons Torah. Some read the verse “and your sons’ sons” as requiring a grandfather to teach his grandsons, but some read it metaphorically.
The Talmud continues to discuss a father’s obligation to teach his son Torah.
Teaching your grandson Torah is akin to standing at Sinai (Horeb). I never had the merit of studying with either of my grandfathers, but I do hope that I someday have the merit to teach my grandchildren (boys and girls alike).
R. Joshua b. Levi is in such a rush to go bring his child to the synagogue to learn that he does not even dress properly. Other rabbis do not eat meat until they read with their children, and add on to the previous lesson or bring them to the bet midrash.
R. Safra offers a sort of pun on the word “veshinantem” which in its simple meaning means to teach. Rather than teaching, one should divide one’s learning into three. The first third should be devoted to the study of Mikra, what we call Bible. The second third to Mishnah. This probably refers to more than just what we call the “Mishnah.” It would refer to any text that simply states the halakhah without discussing. Talmud would not refer to what we call the Talmud—such a book did not yet exist. It would refer to either midrashim—support for halakhah from the Torah, or explanations of the underlying reasons for the halakhah.
This sugya is independent of the previous one. It talks about a group of sages called “soferim.” In the Mishnah and elsewhere, this simply refers to a group like the rabbis or the Pharisees. Indeed, the New Testament refers to “scribes” and seems to use the term synonymously with “Pharisees.”
While historians usually understand “soferim” as scribes, taking the word to refer to the meaning of the verb as “counting” this passage, this passage associates it with the meaning of “counting.” These sages loved counting the words of the Torah and Psalms, the two most learned books in rabbinic times. They worked out which letters and words appeared right in the middle of these books. Interpreters have often tried to find deeper meaning out of the search for the middles of these books. But in my opinion, this is just something people love to do. Some people (including myself) simply love statistics.
Interestingly, the students of R. Joseph wants to answer his question by really checking things out, to see where the middle of the Torah is. They act like empirical scientists not simply trusting tradition. He even cites another case where they actually counted the letters of the Torah (we do not know the context of this case).
But alas, R. Joseph seems to acknowledge that we do not know if our Torahs are written according to this count of letters. In Hebrew the vowels for “oo” and “oh” can either be written with the letter vav (full spelling) or without (defective). There are other words that can be written in either defective or full spellings. So we do not really know where the middle of the Torah is in terms of letters.
The truth is that we do not even know the exact number of verses in the Torah. There may be variants on this as well. Therefore, we can’t bring a Sefer Torah to see if the word vehitgalah is part of the first half or the second half.
This source posits that the Torah, Psalms and Chronicles are almost the same length. However, we should note that this is not true according to our Bibles. The Tosafot already note that it’s not even close. There are over 5000 verses in the Torah and 2461 in Psalms. Not sure how many there are in Chronicles, but since there are only 65 chapters, the number of verses will be less than Psalms by a lot. Indeed, this source is so far off from the number of verses actually there, that it is somewhat of a mystery. The only thing I can say is that these are the three largest books in the Bible.
Today’s section opens with a baraita that offers another interpretation of the word “veshinantem” which was earlier interpreted as an allusion to dividing one’s time into three, as if it read “veshilashtem.”
This long baraita reads “veshinantem” as related to the word for “sharp” used elsewhere in reference to arrows. Rabbis should be able to answer questions without any hesitation. They should be as known to someone as his own sister. Bound on their hearts. They should be sharp and ready to draw in an instant like arrows.