Monday, April 3, 2023

.ה An 1/8 of an 1/8

א״ר חייא בר אשי אמר רב ת״ח צריך שיהא בו אחד משמונה בשמינית א״ר הונא בריה דרב יהושע ומעטרא ליה כי םאםא לשבולתא

The גר”א asks why the גמרא chose that specific number. Doubling up the number has a certain poetic effect. But why not a seventh of a seventh, or a ninth of a ninth? (Indeed, the number 7 is more commonly used in Talmudic hyperbole.) He answers that an eighth of an eighth is 1/64, just less than 1/60. In other words, the גאווה should be בטל בשישים. It should be there but not even noticeable. I have used this approach to understand .גמרא ברכות לד.

It is also intriguing that the imagery of a םאםא לשבולתא is used here in a positive context. Just above on this very עמוד, it is used to portray the downfall of the haughty. רש"י there, however, indicates that the metaphor is in reference to how this part of the שבולת falls off on his own. This later reference is not to the behaviour of this "beard" but rather to its stately appearance when it is still intact.

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