י״ט בניסן ה׳תשע״א (April 23, 2011)

Menahot 45a-b – Saving the Book of Yehezkel from oblivion

Following the Gemara‘s interpretation of a series of difficult passages from Sefer Yehezkel, Rav Yehudah quoted Rav as saying:

 

That man is to be remembered for good, and Hanina ben Hizkiah is his name; for were it not for him the Book of Yehezkel would have been suppressed, since

its sayings contradicted the words of the Torah. What did he do? He took up with him three hundred barrels of oil and remained there in the upper chamber until he had explained away everything.

 

Hanina (or Hananyah) ben Hizkiah ben Gurion was one of the important scholars who lived in the generation followingHillel and Shammai. Hanina’s attic served as an important meeting place for of that time, where significant issues were discussed and decided. Among his most noteworthy works was Hanina’s collection of Megillat Ta’anit , the first time Rabbinic oral traditions were set into writing. In this effort he was assisted by his son, Rabbi Eliezer, who may, in fact, have done most of the work in organizing and producing that material.

 

Megillat Ta’anit is a little known collection of statements about minor holidays and fasts that commemorate events which took place during the Second TempleHanukkah – although there are also events from earlier and later periods included, as well. This work is set up chronologically, and it includes the date and a brief account of the incident written in Aramaic (Although it is not part of the standard texts of Talmud, the Steinsaltz Talmud includes it as an addendum to the volume that contains MasechetTa’anit)., followed by a fuller description of the event in Hebrew. period. On the minor holidays, fasting and eulogies were forbidden. Most of the events that are commemorated are from the period of the Hasmonean monarchy – a prime example being the story of

 

As our Gemara explains, and as appears in other places, Hanina ben Hizkiah devoted himself to assuring that the Book of Yehezkel would be included in the accepted Biblical canon which was a matter of concern since there are a number of passages that appear to contradict Biblical teachings.