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The Common Language: is it Good or Bad? – On Second Thought

On Second Thought: Delving Into the Sugya with Rabbanit Yafit Clymer


Bava Metzia 104

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בבא מציעא קד

גְּמָ׳ רַבִּי מֵאִיר הָיָה דּוֹרֵשׁ לְשׁוֹן הֶדְיוֹט.

רַבִּי יְהוּדָה הָיָה דּוֹרֵשׁ לְשׁוֹן הֶדְיוֹט. 

הִלֵּל הַזָּקֵן הָיָה דּוֹרֵשׁ לְשׁוֹן הֶדְיוֹט,

רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן קׇרְחָה הָיָה דּוֹרֵשׁ לְשׁוֹן הֶדְיוֹט

רַבִּי יוֹסֵי הָיָה דּוֹרֵשׁ לְשׁוֹן הֶדְיוֹט.


Rabbi Meir would expound common language used in legal documents written by ordinary Jews to deduce halakhic conclusions.


נדרים ל ב

וּבִנְדָרִים הַלֵּךְ אַחַר לְשׁוֹן בְּנֵי אָדָם.

with regard to vows, follow the colloquial language, in which the word noladim is used to mean those who are not yet born, so the vow is interpreted in this manner.


נדרים מט א

דְּרַבִּי יֹאשִׁיָּה סָבַר: הַלֵּךְ אַחַר לְשׁוֹן תּוֹרָה, וְתַנָּא דִילַן סָבַר: בִּנְדָרִים הַלֵּךְ אַחַר לְשׁוֹן בְּנֵי אָדָם? 

The Gemara suggests: Let us say that they disagree with regard to this following principle, that Rabbi Yoshiya holds that one should follow the language of the Torah, and our tanna holds that with regard to vows one should follow the language of people.


נדרים י א

גְּמָ׳ אִיתְּמַר כִּינּוּיִין, רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן אָמַר: לְשׁוֹן אוּמּוֹת הֵן

Rabbi Yoanan said: They are terms from a language of other nations that mean offering, dedication, naziriteship, or oath.


בבא בתרא קה

חֲכָמִים אוֹמְרִים: הַלֵּךְ אַחַר פָּחוֹת שֶׁבַּלְּשׁוֹנוֹת

the Sages say: Follow the least inclusive expression,


ברכות לא, כתובות סב, נדרים ל, סנהדרין נב


דִּבְּרָה תוֹרָה כִלְשׁוֹן בְּנֵי אָדָם

The Torah spoke in the language of people,


רבי אברהם אבן עזרא בראשית ו יא

והקרוב אלי שהתורה דברה כלשון בני אדם על דרך שיבינו השומעים כעבד שיעשה עבירה לפני רבו ולא יראנו. 

In my opinion, the Torah speaks the language of men so that people will understand what is being said. 


שד”ל לבראשית

The educated will understand that what is directed in the Torah is not the teachings of the natural wisdom, and the Torah was not given but to direct people in the way of righteousness and justice, and to maintain in their hearts the faith of one g-d and providence, because the Torah was not given to the sages alone, but to all the people; And just as the matter of providence and reward was not explained (and it was not appropriate for it to be explained) in the Torah in a philosophical way, but the Torah spoke of it in the language of people


שני לוחות הברית, תולדות אדם, בית אחרון ל״ה

And really it is difficult to say: Torah spoke like the language of people in order to be clear, and in my opinion, it is the other way around where blessed be the names are real and the words of the language of people are the ones that are called like that through a question.


משנה תורה הלכות מכירה כו

וְזֶה עִקָּר גָּדוֹל בְּכָל דִּבְרֵי מַשָּׂא וּמַתָּן הוֹלְכִין אַחַר לְשׁוֹן בְּנֵי אָדָם בְּאוֹתוֹ הַמָּקוֹם וְאַחַר הַמִּנְהָג


This is a fundamental principle: With regard to all matters of commerce and trade, we follow the commonly accepted meanings of the terms used by people of that place, and the local business customs. 


מגילה טו

וְאָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר אָמַר רַבִּי חֲנִינָא: לְעוֹלָם אַל תְּהִי בִּרְכַּת הֶדְיוֹט קַלָּה בְּעֵינֶיךָ

Rabbi Elazar further said that Rabbi anina said: One should never regard the blessing of an ordinary person [hedyot] as light in your eyes


פלא יועץ כ״ב:ט׳

And it behooves a person to always strive to be blessed, and to avoid quarreling with anyone and being the cause of a curse to himself, for our sages said (Berachot 7a, Megillah 15a) Do not let the blessing of a layman be light in your eyes and do not let the curse of a layman be light in your eyes



שות הרשב”א נ

everyone who is less qualified than his friend in a matter, is called a layman compare to him… King David is called a layman in the work of the Temple, even than one of the lesser priests. And also, all the priests were called laymen, in compare to high priest…

Also, in the matter of the building of the temple, the greatest in Israel is called A layman, in compare to the artisans.

Rabbanit Yafit Clymer

Rabbanit Yafit Clymer is a senior lecturer in Jewish Studies at the several Matan learning centers, at 'Emunah' and WebYeshiva. She is a group instructor for various programs. Rabbanit Clymer is part of the steering committee of the 'Beit Hillel' organization and answers halachic questions online as a part of their Meshivat Nefesh project.
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