1) ONE'S ESOPHAGUS IS NOT FREE WHILE HE IS EATING
OPINIONS: The Mishnah says that when drinking wine in the middle of a meal, each person should recite his own blessing over the wine and should not be exempted by a blessing recited by one person on behalf of everyone. The Gemara quotes Ben Zoma who explains that the reason is that during the meal, "a person's esophagus is not free." What does this mean?
(a) RASHI explains that while people are eating, they will not pay attention and they will not hear the blessing that is recited on behalf of everyone.
(b) The ROSH (6:29) explains that when people are eating, they are not permitted to speak (see SHULCHAN ARUCH OC 170:1). Consequently, they cannot say "Amen" to a blessing that another person recites for them. Even though they may be exempted from the blessing by listening to the blessing without answering "Amen," nevertheless another person may not recite a blessing for them during a meal because they might say "Amen" and endanger themselves.
HALACHAH: The Rishonim discuss the possibility of having one person attract everyone's attention in order to recite a blessing on their behalf. Once their attention is turned towards him, they will stop eating and thus they will not have food in their esophagus when the blessing is recited (see TOSFOS DH Ho'il).
(a) The TUR (OC 174) writes that this Halachah depends on the two opinions of Rashi and the Rosh. The Tur's logic seems to be as follows: According to Rashi, one may get everyone's attention, l'Chatchilah, in order to stop them from eating while he recites a blessing for them. According to the Rosh, however, there is a concern that even though the one reciting the blessing has everyone's attention for the duration of the blessing, the people might resume eating as soon as the blessing is finished (before they answer "Amen") and thereby endanger themselves.
(b) RABEINU ELCHANAN (cited by Tosfos), however, says that even according to Rashi, it does not help to get everyone's attention, because the Rabanan made an unconditional decree forbidding one to recite a blessing for others during a meal.
The REMA (OC 174:8) rules leniently and says that if one gets the attention of those dining at the meal, he may recite a blessing on their behalf.
2) HALACHAH: THE BLESSING FOR BLOSSOMING FRUIT TREES
OPINIONS: Rav Yehudah rules that when one sees fruit trees blossoming during the month of Nisan, he recites a special blessing. What conditions are necessary in order to recite this blessing?
(a) The HILCHOS KETANOS (2:28), cited by the BE'ER HEITEV (OC 226:1), rules that one recites this blessing only for a tree that bears edible fruit.
(b) Although the Gemara says that one recites the blessing when he sees the tree during the month of Nisan, the Acharonim point out that this blessing applies whenever one sees a blossoming fruit tree for the first time that year (MACHTZIS HA'SHEKEL; the BIRKEI YOSEF writes, based on reasons of Kabalistic nature, that one should recite this blessing specifically during the month of Nisan). Some rule that one may recite the blessing even after the fruit has grown (BI'UR HA'GRA OC 226:2).
Why, then, does the Gemara mention the month of Nisan? It mentions Nisan because it is during this month that an abundance of trees are blossoming. (It is also possible that the Gemara means that one should not recite the blessing for the trees that blossom early.) Accordingly, one who lives in a place such as South Africa certainly may say the blessing in Tishrei, when the first fruit trees blossom in that climate.
(c) The later Acharonim write that one should recite the blessing upon seeing at least two blossoming fruit trees together. This is because the Gemara says, "When one sees trees blossoming," in the plural.
3) LYING TO SAVE FACE
QUESTION: Rav Papa said that he heard from his Rebbi, Rava, that the Halachah is like Beis Hillel. According to RASHI (DH v'Lo Hi), Rav Papa lied in order to save himself from embarrassment.
(a) How could Rav Papa lie?
(b) How could he make claims in the name of his Rebbi which his Rebbi never said? This question is particularly difficult in light of the Gemara earlier (27b) that says that one who makes statements in the name of his Rebbi that his Rebbi did not say causes the Shechinah to depart from the world!
The same question may be asked on the Gemara in Pesachim (112a). The Gemara there says (according to Rashi's explanation) that if a person wants his view to be accepted, then "he should say it in the name of a great person." How can one lie merely to have his opinion accepted?
(a) The PNEI YEHOSHUA explains that Rav Papa was not saying an outright lie. Rava, his Rebbi, did say that the Halachah is like Beis Hillel, although it was not in the context of our Sugya (rather, he said it regarding a completely different Halachah, in Bava Metzia 43b).
(b) The Acharonim offer various explanations for Rav Papa's actions (some of which disagree with Rashi's interpretation of the Gemara):
1. The TESHUVOS HA'RALBACH explains that if one erred in a Halachic ruling and then conducted himself in accordance with his error, he would experience a great shame were people to know that he erred. In such a case he is permitted to save himself from that embarrassment by lying. However, if one did not actually conduct himself in practice in accordance with his mistake, then his embarrassment will not be so great and he may not lie in order to save himself from that embarrassment.
2. The PNEI YEHOSHUA explains that Rav Papa maintained that the Halachah was like Beis Hillel and he assumed that his Rebbi, Rava, would agree with that ruling, since he ruled like Beis Hillel elsewhere. (This approach is not like Rashi's approach, who explains that Rav Papa indeed prevaricated.)
3. The RAMA MI'PANO explains that Rav Papa was so sure that his ruling was true that, in his humility, he did not want to take credit for it, and so he attributed the ruling to Rava.
Regarding the question on the Gemara in Pesachim, the KORBAN EDAH cited by REBBI AKIVA EIGER (in Gilyon ha'Shas) explains that this applies only to teachings of Musar and Agadah but not to Halachos.