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I recently found out that four of the masekhtot in the Bavli conclude with the same drosh by R' Elazar, and that those four masekhtot are known by a special name as a result. The drosh concerns the fact that Torah scholars bring peace to the word, and hinges on the pronunciation of the word בניך. The key part of the drosh is Isaiah 54:13 - particularly the phrase, ורב שלום בניך ("great shall be the peace of your children"). The four masekhtot are Berakhot, Yevamot, Nazir and Keritot.

Although these four masekhtot are not the only masekhtot in which this drosh appears (it also appears in Tamid 32b), they are the only ones that conclude with this drosh, and were singled out by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in a hadran that was delivered in 1980 and published in Torat Menachem: Hadranim al-haRambam veShas (1992).

The Rebbe referred to them as מסכתות בני״ך (Masekhtot Banayikh), the acronym standing for "Berakhot, Nazir, Yevamot, Keritot", and alluding to the word on which the drosh itself hinges. I was impressed with this term, and don't recall ever seeing it before; it strikes me as a beautiful way to group these four masekhtot together, only I don't know where it originated!

Looking online, I have only found sources that reference the Lubavitcher Rebbe's hadran of 1980, and the hadran itself doesn't credit anybody with the abbreviation. Either that means that the Lubavitcher Rebbe invented it, or it means that it was so widely known that accreditation was unnecessary (and impossible). The Rebbe's hadran is based closely on a Maharsha on Yevamot 121b (the drosh is brought on 122b, but the Maharsha's remarks are on the previous daf), but the Maharsha himself doesn't use the expression.

So: does anybody know of a source prior to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for this beautiful expression ("Masekhtot Banayikh") - or, alternatively, is there anybody who already knew that the Lubavitcher Rebbe invented it?

  • Note that the word in the Drasha is arguably בניך with a Kamatz Katan on the bet not בוניך with a Cholom. – Double AA May 12 '14 at 13:07
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It is brought in the name of the Vilna Gaon in the sefer Kol Eliyohu here.

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    Amazing find - thank you! I've just checked, and this is brought in the name of the Gra in another source too: Imrei Noam, by R' Hayim Mikhal Levensohn of Volozhin, published in Warsaw, 1899. – Shimon bM May 12 '14 at 11:02
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The notion that Tamid also concludes with the same ending was mentioned by a handful of authors. One of them, the prolific R. Reuven Margolios (Nitzoze Ohr, Yevamos, end), explains that Tamid isn’t included with the four others since it was redacted at a later time. Others explain that the said closing isn’t the very last statement of the Tractate.

Two most reliable sources attributing this to the Vilna Gaon is 1) his son, R. Avraham, whose glosses to Tractate Berachos were published here and there he credits his father for this acronym. 2) Additionally, the famed Vilna maggid (preacher) R. Yitzchok Eliyahu Landau (Lishmoa Limudim, Nazir, end) writes that he saw the acronym written on the margin of the VG’s own gemara.

However, while this may have been the Vilna Gaon’s independent idea, it was mentioned also by his younger contemporary Chida (Kikar La’aden, Derekh Eretz Zuta, end) quoting it from another contemporary R. Yehoshua Falk of Lissa in his commentary Binyan Yehoshua (Perek HaShalom, 9a, right column) who also seemed to have independently came upon the acronym.

Contemporaneously, R. Yaakov Shimshon Shabtai of Senigallia (author of the classic, Shabbat Shel Mi) also independently mentions the acronym in his book Abir Yaakov. Surprisingly, R. Chaim Palagi who refers to this source in his Eine Kol Chai (Yevamos, end) and was extremely proficient in Chida’s works does not cite the latter.

  • I don't know where you find all these references but great research – user15464 Aug 25 at 21:55
  • @user15464 Thanks. Any of the couple I don’t have are cited in the ones I do have ;) – Oliver Aug 25 at 22:14
  • So many contemporaries independently figuring it out? Must be something else going on – Double AA Aug 26 at 2:02
  • @DoubleAA Struck me as odd to but don’t know what to make of it, especially since the ones who mentioned it were the very erudite type who’d have mentioned both the earliest source they knew and if others say it too. – Oliver Aug 26 at 2:07
  • Usually this would mean either a missing common source or a change in the underlying facts that eases the intellectual discovery. Did perhaps a new edition of the Talmud become widespread or get printed that added this sugya to the end of some or all of these tractates? – Double AA Aug 26 at 2:32

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