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In Bavli Sanhedrin 32b it says:

"The Sages taught: The verse states: “Justice, justice, shall you follow.” This teaches that one should follow the best, most prestigious, court of the generation. For example, follow after Rabbi Eliezer to Lod, after Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai to Beror Ḥayil.
The Sages taught: If one produces the sound of a millstone in the city called Burni, this is tantamount to announcing: Week of the son, week of the son. If one displays the light of a lamp in the city called Beror Ḥayil, this is tantamount to announcing: There is a wedding feast there, there is a wedding feast there.

It seems to me that this anecdote about Burni and Bror Chayil is brought in relation to RYb"Z moving to Bror Chayil. However, other than the common place-name, there doesn't seem to be any actual connection between the two: It seems RYb"Z moved to Bror Chayil after spending some time in Yavneh rebuilding the nation, post-destruction. But adding the anecodte about Bror Chayil seems really random. The braita about Bror Chayil and Burni is compared by pretty much all of the commentators on Sefaria (as well as many other sources that I found) with the Yerushalmi Ketubot 1:5:

"In earlier times they decided on a persecution in Judea...They decreed that her husband should come to her when still in her father’s house; for when she knows that her husband’s fear is on her she is drawn after him...What kind of a sign did they have? The talk of a cook in town: There is a wedding meal, there is a wedding meal; there is light in Beror-Ḥayil: a week for a son, a week for a son. When the persecution ended, the custom did not end. Rebbi Hoshaia’s daughter-in-law was pregnant when she married definitively [according to Pnei Moshe and Korban Ha'edah she arrived at her chuppah already pregnant; Rabbi Hoshayah was one of the last tannaim - this shows the custom lasted at least that long]."

Most commentators also point out that that the Bavli, other than mentioning Burni (which the Yerushalmi doesn't), switched the order - in Bror Chayil a light signifies a "week of a son" instead of a wedding feast.

But another parallel is 17th of Elul in Megillat Taanit where it is stated that the this poem or song originated with the anti-Torah laws from the time of the Greeks, centuries prior to RYb"Z's time.

So what does this braita actually have to do with the previous one?

I think it's possible that the fact that it was placed here hints towards a special situation in Bror Chayil during RYb"Z's time, and that's why there are differences between the Bavli's poem and the versions in Megillat Taanit and the Yerushalmi. But I haven't been able to figure out what that special situation might be.

Does anyone know (or can think of an explanation)? Or is there any other way to explain the connection between the Braitot?

2 Answers 2

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The Occam's Razor explanation is that since this is the only place in the Bavli that that city is mentioned, this is the only place the second b'raisa would fit. (It could have been placed after the next b'raisa in the Gemara, but if fits better here because the first b'raisa ends with one of the cities mentioned in the second b'raisa.)

Similarly, sugyos mischalfos like the Aruch says is the Occam's Razor approach to the discrepancy, IMHO.

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  • The problem I have with this answer is that it is based on the assumption that the editors of the gemara had to include this section in. But there were many ideas and anecdotes not included in the Shas. So why put this one in? Evidently there's a reason for the apparent randomness of its inclusion.
    – Harel13
    May 13 at 8:24
  • That's a fair question, but I don't think you made it explicit in your original question. I took for granted it would be included; question just is where.
    – N.T.
    May 13 at 11:47
  • I can only shrug. I assume there's a reason that certain pieces of information from the Chazalic era were included in different sources and excluded from others.
    – Harel13
    May 13 at 11:58
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Rather unexpectedly, I found an answer to my question pretty quickly. The explanation that I found is a bit radical, so critique is of course welcome, to see if the answer holds water.

Aharon Kaminka in his essay in Hebrew "R' Yohanan Ben Zaccai and his disciples", p. 73, refers to Shmuel Krauss's view in his essay "Die römischen Besatzungen in Palästina", pp. 117-123 (Magazin für die Wissenschaft des Judenthums 20 (1893)) that "Bror Chayil" was not a specific place-name but was a Hebraicized term coming from the Greek "froúrion" (φρούριυν) which means something like a 'citadel', a 'garrison' or an 'army base'. The froúrion, according to both Krauss and Kaminka, was any civilian locality that had been partially taken over by soldiers, Roman legionnaire units in this case.

Per this, the two maintain that Bror Chayil was not the name of a Jewish town (!) but actually refers to an area in Judea that had been taken over by Roman soldiers during the Great Revolt or shortly thereafter. This area included none other than the city of Yavneh. So when the gemara tells us that RYb"Z went to Bror Chayil, it means that RYb"Z went to the area taken over by the Romans and set up his court there. The court itself was set up in Yavneh, but it was intended to govern the whole of the "Bror Chayil"/froúrion territory.

Of course, one would ask: If that's the case, why is Yavneh itself mentioned in the third braita:

"The Sages taught: The verse states: “Justice, justice, shall you follow.” This teaches that one should follow the Sages to the academy where they are found. For example, follow after Rabbi Eliezer to Lod, after Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai to Beror Ḥayil, after Rabbi Yehoshua to Peki’in, after Rabban Gamliel to Yavne, after Rabbi Akiva to Bnei Brak, after Rabbi Matya to Rome [Romi], after Rabbi Ḥananya ben Teradyon to Sikhnei, after Rabbi Yosei to Tzippori, after Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira to Netzivin, after Rabbi Yehoshua to the exile [gola], i.e., Babylonia, after Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi to Beit She’arim, and after the Sages in the time of the Temple to the Chamber of Hewn Stone."

To this I would say that by the time Rabban Gamliel became Nasi, Yavneh and the area as a whole was no longer teeming with Roman soldiers and so could no longer be designated as a froúrion.

There are three main reasons why I think this a good explanation, or at least that it works:

  1. It appears to explain the variations of the song/poem between the three sources: It occurred to me last night, after reading Kaminka's view (before tracking down and google-translating Krauss's explanation), that the word בורני (Burni) means in Aramaic "ship". In other words, while it might be a place-name, it may also be referring to any random ship, much like Bror Chayil refers to any locality taken by Roman soldiers. Krauss, it turns out, opined that Burni comes from the same Greek word from which the word בריון branched out. Both words are yet another reference to soldiers.
    Either way, the meimra makes sense now: We now understand:
    a. Why this special situation only happened in two little-known towns - it didn't; it happened in many places.
    b. Why the Yerushalmi refers only to Bror Chayil and a city instead of Burni, and the signs are flipped - both are references to localities. It's possible that the Yerushalmi is referring to a different era of גזירות than the Bavli, or to how things went down in a different area.
    c. Why the version in Megillat Taanit is different than the one in the Bavli - again, either a reference to a different era or a reference to the way things happened in other places.
    d. How this custom spread out to Rabbi Hoshaya's community many decades later - likely because these things happened in places like Caesarea as well.
  2. It explains why the braita about Bror Chayil and Burni is brought in the Bavli in relation to the braita about RYb"Z going to Bror Chayil to set up a court: The second braita shows us that the froúrion(s) of Judea was/were going through a difficult time after the destruction of the Temple (as we know from a great many other sources). RYb"Z came to the area strengthen the Jewish people and to bring law and order to the area. It seems that it was thanks to his efforts that by the time Rabban Gamliel came to Yavneh, it was no longer designated as a froúron.
  3. If we examine the third braita, we find that not every place is the name of a town or city, besides for Bror Chayil: Lod, Bnei Brak, Peki'in, Tzippori, Beit She'arim, Netzivin, Yavneh and Rome are cities or town, but "gola" (the diaspora) and "the Chamber of Hewn Stone" are not. So it would not be problematic to say that Bror Chayil also isn't a specific town or city but a certain area. Hence, it is not out of place in this braita.

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