1) AGADAH: THE HAMMER OR THE STONE
OPINIONS: The Gemara expounds the verse, "uch'Fatish Yefotzetz Sala" (Yirmeyahu 23:29), which describes the words of Hash-m. D'Vei Rebbi Yishmael derives from this verse that "just as a hammer divides into many sparks, so, too, one verse teaches many lessons."
The subject and object of the verse are unclear. Do the words "uch'Fatish Yefotzetz Sala" mean that Hash-m's words are "like a hammer that shatters a stone into many fragments," with the stone the object which is shattered by the hammer, or does the verse mean "like a hammer that is shattered to pieces when it strikes the hard stone," with the hammer the object that is shattered by the stone?
(a) TOSFOS (DH Mah Patish) quotes RABEINU SHMUEL who explains that the Girsa of our text of the Gemara is incorrect. Our text reads that the hammer is "Mis'chalek." This form of the word means that the hammer itself becomes broken into pieces. Rabeinu Shmuel says that d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael means that the stone is shattered into many pieces, not the hammer. The correct text is that the hammer is "Mechalek" the stone into many pieces. (See also RASHI to Shabbos 88b, DH Mah Patish.)
Tosfos questions this explanation. According to Rabeinu Shmuel, the main point of the Gemara's metaphor is the shattering of the stone, not the function of the hammer. The Gemara should say that just as the stone shatters into many parts, from one verse many lessons can be derived. Why does the Gemara focus on the hammer which shatters the stone, if the main point is the division of the stone, and not that the hammer that shatters it? Moreover, a similar statement is made by the Gemara in Shabbos (88b), which also uses the word "Mis'chalek." There, too, the Gemara should focus on the stone that is shattered, and not on the hammer that shatters it.
(b) Tosfos quotes RABEINU TAM who explains that the Gemara indeed means that the hammer itself shatters when it hits a strong stone. Rabeinu Tam cites supports for this explanation from the Midrash Rabah in Eichah. The Midrash relates that a person sought to check the sturdiness of a piece of sapphire. He placed the stone onto an anvil and hit it with a sledgehammer. The anvil split, the sledgehammer broke, and the sapphire remained intact. The Midrash says that this is the meaning of the verse, "uch'Fatish Yefotzetz Sala." Accordingly, the translation of the verse is "like a hammer that the hard stone shatters." (See the ARUCH LA'NER who quotes other verses which are written in a similar manner.)
Tosfos in Sukah (52a, DH Im Barzel) questions Rabeinu Tam's explanation from the Gemara in Ta'anis (4a). Rav Ashi there says that any Talmid Chacham who is not as tough as a stone (that is, he is not able to rebuke his constituents; see CHIDUSHEI HA'GE'ONIM in EIN YAKOV) is not a Talmid Chacham, as the verse says, "uch'Fatish Yefotzetz Sala." The Gemara there seems to compare the Talmid Chacham to a hammer which must be strong and capable of breaking stones. How does Rabeinu Tam reconcile his explanation of the verse (that the hammer itself breaks) with the Gemara in Ta'anis which clearly implies that the stone breaks?
The Aruch la'Ner in Sukah answers that the dispute between Rabeinu Tam and Rabeinu Shmuel is actually a dispute in the Gemara itself. Rav Ashi in Ta'anis (4a) disagrees with d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael (and with the Midrash in Eichah), who understands that the verse refers to a hammer that splits a rock, and not to a hammer that is split by a rock. Indeed, the Gemara in Shabbos records other Amora'im who derive from other verses the idea of d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael, which implies that they also do not agree with his Derashah from this verse, presumably because they understand that this verse refers to a hammer that splits a stone, and not a stone that splits a hammer. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) THE BLIND JUDGE
OPINIONS: A blind Dayan served on a Beis Din in Rebbi Yochanan's neighborhood, and Rebbi Yochanan did not protest. The Gemara asks that Rebbi Yochanan himself said that the Halachah always follows a Stam Mishnah (a Mishnah attributed to no specific Tana), and a Stam Mishnah (Nidah 49b) states, according to Rebbi Yochanan's own interpretation, that a person who is blind in even one eye may not serve as a Dayan (although he may serve as a witness). The Gemara answers that there is a different Stam Mishnah -- the Mishnah here (32a) -- which implies that a blind person may serve as a Dayan. That Mishnah states that the judging of a monetary case must begin during the day, but it may be finished at night.
What is the proof from the Mishnah here that a blind person may serve as a judge?
(a) The CHIDUSHEI HA'RAN quotes the RA'AVAD who explains the proof in the following manner. The Gemara records two basic opinions. Earlier, the Gemara quotes Rebbi Meir who derives from various verses that the laws of judging are compared to the laws of examining Tzara'as. Just as a Kohen who examines Tzara'as may do so only during the day and only if he is not blind, a Dayan may judge monetary disputes only during the day and only if he is not blind. The Mishnah here apparently does not agree with those Derashos, because it says that a monetary case may be finished at night. Since the Mishnah here does not agree with Rebbi Meir's Derashos, there no longer is any source that a blind person may not be a Dayan.
The RAMBAN disagrees with this answer. Rebbi Meir derives the law that a monetary case must be judged during the day and the law that a blind person may not be a judge from two separate verses. Just because the Mishnah here argues with Rebbi Meir's teaching about not judging at night does not prove that the Mishnah also argues with Rebbi Meir's teaching that a blind person may not judge.
(b) The RIF explains that the judge in Rebbi Yochanan's neighborhood was blind in only one eye. When the Mishnah says that monetary cases may be concluded at night, it means that any judge who can see at night is able to judge. Since a person who is blind in one eye sees better during the day than other people see at night, it must be that he is also able to be a judge. Only when a person cannot see as well during the day as a normal person can see at night is he disqualified from serving as a Dayan. The Chidushei ha'Ran says that this is also the opinion of RASHI (DH b'Lailah).
The Chidushei ha'Ran has difficulty with this explanation. The Mishnah states only that the end of the judgment may be done at night. The Gemara expresses two different qualifications: one for participating in the beginning of the judgment, for which a person must be able to see as well as a normal person during the day, and one for participating in the end of the judgment, for which one must be able to see only as well as a normal person at night. Accordingly, a person who is blind in one eye should be allowed to participate only in the final stage of a monetary judgment, not the beginning stage. How is this a proof that the person may judge in all stages of a monetary case? The Ran later writes that this is not a difficulty. If the source that a blind person may not judge is Rebbi Meir's Derashah, then it must be an absolute Derashah that a blind person may not judge. Once the Mishnah allows a judge who is blind in one eye to judge at night, it is clear that the Mishnah does not agree with Rebbi Meir's teaching at all. (Y. MONTROSE)