ט׳ בתשרי ה׳תשע״א (September 17, 2010)

Avodah Zarah 34a-b – Rabbinic travels

The Gemara relates that when Rabbi Akiva traveled to Ginzak, the community presented him with three questions that he could not answer –

 

1.      Can someone accept upon himself a private fast for a number of hours rather than for an entire day?

2.      Can storage jars belonging to non-Jews be used or not?

3.      What clothing did Moshe wear when he was bringing sacrifices and playing the role of during the seven days of the dedication of the Tabernacle?

 

Since he could not answer these questions, he raised them in the bet midrash – the Rabbinic study hall, where he received answers to all of the questions –

 

1.      A person is allowed to accept a fast of a number of hours; should he complete the fast he prays as according to the traditions of someone who fasted.

2.      Storage jars belonging to non-Jews can be used after twelve months, as we assume that whatever forbidden taste may have been in them has been nullified.

3.      Moshe, who was not a kohen, did not wear the priestly garments, rather he wore a simple white cloak with no hem. 

 

We find the city of Ganzak, located in North Western Persia – in the area then known as Maddai – mentioned in sources from the time of the Mishnah. We cannot be certain of its location, as some suggest that it was near Lake Urmia while others place it further north.

 

While it is possible that Rabbi Akiva, who traveled widely in his lifetime, reached this city, which was far from the Jewish population centers in Babylon, nevertheless, Rashi in Masechet Ta’anit (11b) notes that it is difficult to uphold the reading that we find in our Gemara that attributes this story to Rabbi Akiva, since it is unlikely that one of the greatest Sages of Mishnaic times could not respond to these questions on his own. He suggests that the text should be amended to read “Mar Ukba” instead of Rabbi Akiva.