Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It is Very Quiet Here

I have been off the bloggadah for many many weeks and resolved to jump back on this week. I succeeded in making it my daily practice to study the assigned reading every day and did so with my ears open for the slightest whisper of the still small voice of inspiration, which I am only beginning to hear. I am pondering R. Ze'era, who stayed obscure to remain alive (avoiding ordination!).

R. Ze'era used to say, "We are not required to give heed to the traditions of R. Sheshet, since he is blind." R. Sheshet who taught both Rava and Abaye is to be disregarded and for such a reason! Sheshet, who called Ze'era a great man (gabra rabba"; 'Er. 66a) is to be disregarded! Is it perhaps because he called Ze'era. who strived to be obscure, a great man. Is it Ze'era's fear of recognition that leads him to insist that one who recognizes him must be blind? I hope so.


Richard Friedman said...

The disregard that R' Zeira proposes is not of Rav Sheshet himself, but of his reported oral traditions. As nearly as I can understand the B&R footnote, it seems R' Zeira thought that people were reporting and relying on oral traditions without giving appropriate consideration to the reliability of the individuals from whom they heard those traditions. R' Zeira thought (again, IIUC) that one needed to be able to see someone (to watch his body language, to read his facial expressions) in order to fully assess his reliability, and thus he was not confident of Rav Sheshet in this regard. We might make different judgments about what senses are needed in order to assess character, but I don't think R' Zeira was depreciating Rav Sheshet's humanity or treating him with less than appropriate respect.

Howard said...

Welcome back Neil.

It is so easy to find justifications for downgrading those with disabilities, so we must be especially careful when doing so. I note the opposite in the many great scholars who are exceptionally good looking as if this were an important trait for being a scholar.