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I once saw that the hardest Masechtos in Shas are alluded to in "כל ימי -עני- רעים" (Mishlei 15:15), with ע standing for עירובין, and נ for נדרים (alternatively I've seen נדה or נזיר), finally י for יבמות.

Is this just a saying, or is there an actual source for this?

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    This might be interesting: forum.otzar.org/viewtopic.php?t=46548
    – Shmuel
    Jan 7, 2023 at 23:34
  • Cool mnemonic, but these (I'd admit Eiruvin) are not close to the hardest masechtos in Shas imho. Nazir, Shevuos, Temurah, Beitzah. YMMV
    – MichoelR
    Jan 8, 2023 at 3:43

1 Answer 1

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It is mentioned in the Zohar 276a

וְרוֹכֵב עַל חֲמוֹר. עָנִי אִיהוּ תַּמָּן בְּסִימָן, עֵרוּבִין נִדָּה יְבָמוֹת, וּשְׁאַר מַתְנִיתִין בִּכְלָל. וְלָא אִתְקְרֵי תַּמָּן מֶלֶךְ, עַד דְּרָכִיב בְּסוּסְיָא דִּילֵיהּ כְּנֶסֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל.

And riding upon an donkey" (Zechariah 9:9). Ani stands for the Mishnah orders of Eruvin, Nidah and Yevamot, [Ani also means "poor"] and the rest of the Mishnah in total. [ As long as a person does not know the mysteries of the Torah, but only knows the revealed Torah, one is "poor" in knowledge and it is like he is "riding on a donkey", which is the aspect of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. However, Hashem] is not considered a King until He rides on His horse, which is the Congregation of Yisrael (Sefaria translation and notation)

I also saw that Rav Yaakov Emden in his Mitpachas Sefarim 4 also notes this abbreviation.

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    Does this actually say that these are the hardest tractates? At least as quoted, this just seems to confirm that there is an acronym that stands for these three tractates.
    – Alex
    Jan 8, 2023 at 23:26
  • I share Alex's point/question. It's not clear from the part you cited why the Zohar is singling out these three. It certainly could be that there was a preexisting tradition these three were hard and he's saying even if you know the hardest masechtot you don't know enough. But it's really not clear. Still helpful to know there is a source for "ani" (FWIW when I was in yeshiva people called them the "ayin" masechtot).
    – Avraham
    Mar 30, 2023 at 17:34

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