1) THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "ME'ABRIN" AND "ME'ABRIN"
QUESTION: The Mishnah (end of 52b) describes how we "extend (Me'abrin) the cities" in order to determine the boundaries of the Techum Shabbos. The Gemara says that Rav and Shmuel argue whether the word "Me'abrin" in the Mishnah is spelled with an Ayin or with an Alef. According to the opinion that it is spelled with an Alef, it means that we extend the city by "adding appendages to it" (from the word "Ever," limb). According to the opinion that it is spelled with an Ayin, it means that we extend the city like the body of "a pregnant woman" (from the word "Ubrah," pregnant).
Rebbi Yochanan says that the one thing that he learned as a youth from Rebbi Oshiya was that the word "Me'abrin" is spelled with an Alef.
What difference does it make how the word is spelled?
ANSWER: The TORAS CHAIM explains that how the word "Me'abrin" in the Mishnah is spelled has a practical Halachic ramification. The Gemara later (55b) says that a group of huts does not qualify as a city in order for its Techum to be measured from the outermost hut, because huts are not considered permanent dwelling places. Rather, each hut is viewed as independent and has its own Techum. What is the Halachah when such huts are located on the outskirts of a real city (that is, within 70 2/3 Amos of the city)? Are those huts considered the border of the city from which the extension is measured, or are they not considered part of the city, since they are not permanent dwelling places, and the city's extension is measured from the last permanent house in the city?
According to the opinion that "Me'abrin" is spelled with an "Alef," the huts do not qualify as part of the city. Just as a limb is a permanent appendage on the body, so, too, the houses from which we measure the extension of the city must be permanent. On the other hand, according to the opinion that "Me'abrin" is spelled with an Ayin, the extension may be measured from the huts, because a temporary dwelling place suffices in order to determine the city's extension. Just as a pregnant woman's "extension" is only temporary, so, too, the extension of a city may be measured from a temporary structure.
2) CAVES, NIMROD, AND A NEW KING
QUESTION: Rav and Shmuel argue whether the word "Me'abrin" in the Mishnah (end of 52b) is spelled with an Ayin or with an Alef (see previous Insight). The Gemara cites three more arguments between Rav and Shmuel.
They argue whether "Machpelah" means that the Cave of Machpelah ("doubled cave") was two stories high, or that it was the burial place for "doubled" couples.
They argue whether Nimrod's real name was Amrafel and he was merely called Nimrod, or his real name was Nimrod and he was called Amrafel.
They argue whether the Pharaoh that reigned in Egypt after the death of Yosef was a new king, or he was the same king who made new decrees against the Jews.
Is there any Halachic difference between Rav's and Shmuel's opinions in each of these cases?
ANSWER: The TORAS CHAIM answers that there is a Halachic difference in each of the arguments.
(a) If someone tells his friend that he is selling him a "doubled" burial cave, according to the first opinion he is obligated to give him a cave with one plot above another plot. According to the second opinion, he is obligated to give him a cave that is large enough to hold four couples (like the Cave of Machpelah).
(b) One is not allowed to give his child the name of a wicked person. If Nimrod's real name was not Nimrod but Amrafel, then one may name his child Nimrod, but not Amrafel. If his real name was Nimrod, then one may name his child Amrafel, but not Nimrod.
(c) If someone tells his friend that he is selling him a "new" house, according to the first opinion he is obligated to give him a newly built house. According to the second opinion, he may give his friend an old house that was made to look like a new one.
3) THE CAVE OF "MACHPELAH"
QUESTION: Rav and Shmuel argue about the meaning of the word "Machpelah" ("doubled"). One opinion says that it means that the Cave of Machpelah was one room on top of another, and the other opinion says that it means that there were two rooms, one behind the other. The Gemara says that the word "Machpelah" implies that it was one room on top of another (that is, it was discernibly doubled when viewed from the outside). How does the other opinion understand the word "Machpelah"? The Gemara answers that the other opinion holds that "Machpelah" means that it was the burial place for "doubled" couples (four people).
If the word "Machpelah" means a place for "doubled" couples, then why does that opinion assume that the cave of Machpelah was one room behind another? (MAHARSHA)
(a) RAV ELAZAR MOSHE HA'LEVI HOROWITZ answers that the one who says that the Cave of Machpelah was one room behind another retracted his opinion and maintains that "Machpelah" means that it was a cave for couples. He adds that the word "Ela" ("rather") should be inserted into the text of the Gemara to indicate a change of opinion. (The TORAS CHAIM also says that this opinion retracted its initial understanding of "Machpelah," but the Toras Chaim does not require the word "Ela" to be added to the text of the Gemara, since we find that the word Ela is often omitted when no question is asked by an Amora.)
RASHI on the Chumash (Bereishis 23:9) gives two explanations for the word "Machpelah" which seem to express the two opinions in the Gemara. He first explains that it means one room on top of another. He then explains that it means a burial place for couples. Rashi seems to understand, like Rav Elazar Moshe ha'Levi Horowitz, that the Amora who said that "Machpelah" means a room behind another retracted his opinion and said instead that it means a burial place for couples. (This is how the SIFSEI CHACHAMIM understands Rashi.)
(b) The SEFAS EMES answers that this Amora did not change his mind. Rather, he knew from a tradition that the Cave of Machpelah was one room behind another room, and he interpreted the word "Machpelah" to mean a burial place for couples and not a room on top of a room. (The Sefas Emes explains that Rashi on the Chumash does not explain that one opinion retracted its opinion. Rather, the two opinions received different traditions about what the Cave of Machpelah looked like. They both agree, however, that the word "Machpelah" means a burial place for couples, but according to the first opinion the word "Machpelah" has another connotation as well (one room on top of another).)
(c) Perhaps it was the normal practice to bury each couple in separate rooms. Consequently, if the word "Machpelah" means that there were a number of couples buried in the cave, then they were obviously buried in different rooms. Hence, it is obvious that there was "one room within another room" and there is no need to derive this from the verse.
(d) It is interesting to note that there are other, entirely different ways of understanding the words "Me'aras ha'Machpelah." First, the RAMBAN (Bereishis 23:9) explains that "Machpelah" must be the name of the area where the field and cave were located, as implied by the verse later ("Me'aras Sedeh ha'Machpelah," 23:17), and there is no need to search for a deeper meaning to the word. (According to the Ramban, the Gemara here perhaps wants to explain why the Torah finds it necessary to tell us the name of the cave.) Second, RAV ELIE MUNK zt'l (in "Call to the Torah") cites the Zohar (I:129a) which implies that "Machpelah" means the counterpart burial place of the body in this world. That is, just as the Neshamah ascends to its final place beneath the Divine throne, so, too, the bodies of the Avos are buried in a corresponding place in this world -- the Cave of Machpelah.
4) LEAVING FOOD FOR THE ATTENDANT
QUESTION: Rebbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah relates that he was once lodging as a guest at the inn of certain woman. The first two days, he left over no portion of the food from his plate. The third day the hostess spoiled his food. When he did not eat from it, she asked him why he was not eating. She then said to him that even though the Chachamim taught that one should not leave over food in the pot in which it cooks, one should leave over food on one's plate so that the attending waiter will have something to eat.
The MAHARSHA asks why did Rebbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah in fact not leave any food on his plate? Did he not know this rule of proper etiquette? Furthermore, why was the hostess so upset that Rebbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah did not leave food on his plate for the attendant? Of what concern was it to her?
(a) RAV YAKOV EMDEN answers that Rebbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah thought that the attendant had already left food for himself in the pot, and that is why Rebbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah did not leave food on his plate for the attendant. The hostess became upset because the attendant kept coming to her to complain that he was not getting his share from the guest's plate, and that she, too, was leaving no food in the pot for him, because she expected Rebbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah to leave some food for him. That is why she told him both rules -- that one should not leave over food in the pot (and therefore she did not leave food for the attendant in the pot), and that one should leave food on one's plate (and she expected Rebbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah to leave over some food).
(b) The YAD BINYAMIN answers that Rebbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah thought that the requirement to leave food on one's plate applies only when there is an attendant. In this inn, however, there was no attendant; the hostess herself made the food and served it. Since she made the food, Rebbi Yehoshua ben Chananyah assumed that she was taking her share from the pot and thus he did not leave any food over on his plate. She became upset because she felt that, as an attendant, she deserved the additional leftover portion from the plate, especially because she followed the dictum of the Chachamim that one should not leave over food in the pot.