If someone performs several different acts of avoda zara and he was unaware that they were forbidden – will he be obligated to bring a single sin-offering or one for each act that he performed?
The Gemara on today’s daf relates that Rabbi Yoḥanan was presented with a baraita that discusses this question in the context of a similar discussion regarding Shabbat. Hearing the baraita, Rabbi Yoḥanan responded pok teni libara – “go teach that outside” – please do not bring unreliable baraitot into the study hall.
The Gemara succeeds in reconciling the two clauses of the baraita by determining that the first part of the baraita was comparing avoda zara to Shabbat while the second part was comparing other mitzvot to Shabbat. The Gemara explains that Rabbi Yoḥanan rejects this approach to explaining difficult baraitot, quoting him as saying that “if anyone can explain the Mishna of ḥavit (a barrel) according to a single tanna, I will carry his clothing after him to the bathhouse.”
This statement refers to a difficult Mishna in Massekhet Bava Metzia (41a), where the Gemara explains the discrepancy in the Mishna by saying that the first half of the Mishna follows the opinion of Rabbi Yishmael while the second half of the Mishna follows the opinion of Rabbi Akiva.
The question of how to reconcile two clauses of a given Mishna is one of the most common issues dealt with in the Talmud. On occasion the Gemara succeeds in working out an apparent contradiction, but when it cannot, there are two methods that most often are suggested:
1. That there are two different authors of the Mishna, one who wrote the first half and the other who wrote the second half, or
2. That the Mishna is really talking about two different cases.
Rabbi Yoḥanan’s position was that dividing up a Mishna or baraita in either of these ways was not an acceptable method of interpreting such a text.