There are two readings of the mishnah—Shoeavah and Hashuvah. According to Mar Zutra both readings make sense. “Shoevah” refers to the root which means to draw water and is found in Isaiah 12. “Hashuvah” means “important” and it refers to the description of the pits that we read about earlier in the previous chapter. These pits were created during the seven days of creation and the water during the water libation ceremony is poured out into them.
We should note that originally when these two versions of the mishnah were created, they both probably referred to the same thing—the drawing of the water. The difference was simply in pronunciation. Some people swallowed the heh and pronounced it “shoeavah.” Whereas others pronounced the word “hashuvah.” But there was no difference in meaning. The difference in meaning was imparted to it by Mar Zutra, a later amora.
Today’s section begins to discuss whether one is allowed to play the flute on Shabbat or on Yom Tov (the first day of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret) in the Temple. As we shall see, there is some debate over which flute is referred to in the baraita.
According to R. Yose bar Judah one is allowed to play the flute in the Temple on Shabbat and certainly on Yom Tov. But the sages rule much more strictly—not only can the flute not be played on Shabbat, but even on Yom Tov it cannot be played.
According to R. Yoseph, the tannaim in the above baraita debate the playing of the flute that accompanies regular sacrifices. R. Yose bar Judah who allows this, holds that the main form of music in the Temple was that performed by musical instrument. Therefore, playing the flute overrides the Shabbat.
But the sages hold that the main aspect of music in the Temple was singing by voice. The flute is just for accompaniment. Therefore, it does not override the rules of Shabbat.
But according to R. Yoseph, all tannaim agree that the flute that is used during the Simhat Bet Hashoevah does not override Shabbat, for it is not really a “mitzvah” or even an aspect of a mitzvah. It is simply an aspect of rejoicing and therefore is not done on Shabbat or Yom Tov.
In yesterday’s section R. Yose b. R. Yehudah and the sages disagreed as to whether the playing of the flute in the Temple overrides the Shabbat prohibitions. R. Yoseph limited this dispute to the flute that accompanies the sacrifices. But all sages agree that the flute played during the Simchat Bet Hashoevah (the topic of this chapter) does not override the rules of Shabbat.
Now do they not differ on this: the one who declares them valid is of the opinion that the essential feature of the [Temple] music is with an instrument and [its validity may, therefore,] be deduced from that of the reed-flute of Moses.
While he who holds them to be invalid is of the opinion that the essential feature of the Temple music is the vocal singing and its validity, therefore, cannot be deduced from that of the reed-flute of Moses?
R. Yoseph had said in the previous section that the dispute concerning playing the Temple flute on Shabbat was connected to a larger dispute over whether the main feature of the Temple music was with an instrument. Here he cites another baraita over a different subject—whether a vessel made of wood is valid—that features the same disputants. R. Yose b. Judah declares such a vessel valid because he holds that the essential feature of Temple music was with vessels. This allows the wood reed-flute used by Moses that had been in the Temple (referred to in Mishnah Arakhin 2:3, which states that they used this flute on Sukkot) to be a precedent for all vessels, which also can be made of wood.
The other sages disagree and say that the essential feature of Temple music is singing with one’s voice. Therefore the reed-flute is not a precedent for other vessels.
The Talmud now provides another interpretation for this baraita. The dispute is not about whether the essential feature of Temple music is with an instrument. It is over whether we derive that which is impossible to make from that which is possible to make. Moses’s reed flute had to be made of wood, for according to a story elsewhere in the Talmud, when they covered it with metal and it didn’t sound as good. On the other hand, the other musical instruments can be made of metal. Therefore, according to the sages, they must be made of metal, for they are compared to the menorah, which was made of gold. R. Yose b. Judah, on the other hand, holds that the reed-flute which had to be made of wood can serve as a precedent for the other vessels which also may be made of wood. But this dispute has nothing to do with the dispute over whether the flute may be played on Shabbat.
This section continues the previous section. Here we see a different explanation for the underlying dispute between Rabbi and Rabbi Yose b. Judah.
The Talmud now posits that all agree that the essential element of the Temple music is singing, thus denying any essentiality for the use of the flute on Shabbat. They also agree that we do not derive that which is possible to make of wood (the other vessels) from that which is impossible. This means that Moses’s flute is not a precedent for making other vessels out of wood. Rather, they argue about how which hermeneutical principle should be used to understand what material the menorah and other vessels may be made out of. This is unrelated to the issue of playing the flute on Shabbat. It is just a separate dispute about whether the Temple’s vessels can be made of wood.
Rabbi reads these verses using the principle called “general and particular” which has to do with the order of general instructions and particular details as they appear in the Torah. If there is a general rule followed by a particular instruction then followed by another general rule, the general rule includes only things that are like the particular detail. In this case, this leads to the conclusion that all vessels must be made of metal, like the menorah.
R. Yose b. Judah uses a different principle for interpreting the Torah, one that is similar but yields different results. As a result of this different principle he would hold that only earthenware cannot be used for the Temple vessels. But wood is not excluded.