Sunday, March 29, 2009

Coins of Dancho and Issar

This is my chiddush; I believe it to be true. If true, it is yet another example how knowledge of archeology and ancient history can help us find the correct peshat in the gemara, and how lack of this knowledge can lead even Rishonim astray.

Here is the gemara, taking the text and translation from my Rif Yomi blog:
המראה דינר לשולחני ונמצא רע
תני חדא אומן ה"ז פטור הדיוט ה"ז חייב
ותניא אידך בין אומן בין הדיוט חייב
אמר רב פפא כי תניא ההיא אומן הרי זה פטור כגון דנכו ואיסור דלא צריכי למיגמר כלל:
If one showed a dinar to a moneychanger {who recommended it as good} and it was found to be bad:
One Tannaitic source taught: An expert, he is exempt; a normal person, he is liable.
And another brayta: Whether an expert or a normal person, he is liable.

Rav Pappa said: When that brayta taught that an expert is exempt, it is such Dancho and Issar {Rashi: renowned experts in moneychanging} who need no instruction at all.
I admit that I was stuck when trying to translate כגון דנכו ואיסור. And so I turned to Rashi, who said that they were experts in moneychanging. And I checked Soncino, who followed Rashi's lead and said the same thing.

But that Rashi says this does not impress me. No, I do not think he had a tradition as to the names of famous Jewish Babylonian moneychangers in the time of Rav Pappa. I think he looked for the interpretation of the difficult phrase which would make it read intelligibly, and decided that these must be the names of people.

However, I know that an Issar is the name of a famous coin. Now, this moneychanger might have been eponymous, but still, it struck me that perhaps כגון דנכו ואיסור might be the names of coins rather than people. And if so, Rav Pappa's statement would mean something different, but it would be more likely that his statement would make sense to people even far off. Then, I realized that the daled in דנכו could be separate from the root, and it is "de-Nachu," meaning "of Nachu." I also knew that on occasion in the laguage of Chazal, the khaf is used to render x of other languages. And so I formed my hypothesis: that the coinage of Naxo was some standard currency.

To test my hypothesis, I decided to search google for the words:
naxo ancient coin
and indeed, I found it to be true. Here is one such site:
Naxos coin - silver stater
The output of the Archaic mint came to an end in 490 BC, when the Athenians settled five hundred cleruchs on the island. The minting of coins, on the Rhodian standard, was resumed in the 4th c. BC. The surface of the silver and bronze coins was engraved with a depiction of the head of Dionysos and the kantharos.
Another example:
Naxos (wikipedia)
The coins of Naxos, which are of fine workmanship, may almost all be referred to the period from 460 BC to 403 BC, which was probably the most flourishing in the history of the city.
A search for Naxos coins yields 61,000 hits, and here is an article on JSTOR all about Naxos coins. Coins of Naxos are thus well known. And an Issar coin is also well known.

Rif presumably thought like Rashi, and so did not see the need to cite the end of the statement. But that statement is, in full, is:

It was stated: If a denar was shown to a money changer [and he recommended it as good] but it was subsequently found to be bad, in one Baraitha it was taught that if he was an expert he would be exempt but if an amateur he would be liable, whereas in another Baraitha it was taught that whether he was an expert or an amateur he would be liable. R. Papa stated: The ruling that in the case of an expert he would be exempt refers to such, e.g., as Dankcho and Issur who needed no [further] instruction whatever, but who made a mistake regarding a new stamp at the time when the coin had just [for the first time] come from the mint.
The contrast, which I did not see at first when I made my hypothesis, because I was learning straight from Rif, is between כגון דנכו ואיסור on the one hand, and coins just coming from the mint, on the other. It is not the contrasting experts in question, but a difference in coinage. The coinage of Naxos, and an Issar, is a well-known coin, so an expert should know it well, and would indeed be an expert. But in a newly-minted coin, even an expert might not have full knowledge of it and would be as an amateur.

Now, the setama degemara compares דנכו ואיסור to Rabbi Chiyya in the continuation, which might then have influenced Rashi. Perhaps the setama was incorrect in interpreting Rav Pappa; or perhaps the comparison is of Rabbi Chiyya the person with the established coinage of Naxos and an Issar (weaker). Tzarich Iyun, but I favor the former and so am not bothered by this problem at all.

This is then shocking. And this correct interpretation would seem to be against halacha as it has been established. (Of course, in monetary matters, what people expect is determinative in court-cases, so perhaps this misinterpretation should still be encoded as halacha.) But it is nonetheless shocking. Well, not for me, because I am sitting on top of much more shocking (and straightforward) interpretations of gemara. But what do you think about this one? Correct? Incorrect? If correct, what does this mean in terms of the accepted interpretation and in terms of halacha?


Wolf2191 said...

Nice!! I like your p'shat.

Re: "I also knew that on occasion in the language of Chazal, the khaf is used to render x of other languages."

You mean the Chi Yevanis? which is in the shpae of an X.

joshwaxman said...


yes, the chi was exactly what was going through my mind. (I wrote about it here, in terms of Eruvin.)


thanbo said...

I looked around on Bar Ilan for "dancho" and found a couple of references in Chiddushei haRim who may read it like you do. I'm not sure though - see BK 33a dh "BM"Sh Y"L d'kasheh...", and BK 99b your place. The 33a one looks most promising.

חידושי הרי"מ מסכת סנהדרין דף לג עמוד א
ובמ"ש י"ל מה דקשה על הרי"ף למה פוטר מומחה לרב חסדא בנשא ונתן ביד, נהי דאנוס הוא הא דוקא אנסוהו להראות פטור ונשא ונתן ביד חייב, ולרי"ף כל דיין כאנוס ומ"מ חייב נו"נ ביד ולמה מומחה יהיה פטור. וצ"ל כמו מראה דינר דנכו ואיסור דפטורין. והא אין ראי' דשם רק גורם משא"כ נשא ונתן ביד.

thanbo said...

And hey, what's wrong with misinterpretations encoded as halacha? We're about to hit one of the bigger misinterpretations in a week and a half - that the Birkat haChamah should happen every 28 instead of 19 years.

As I note here, there are Rishonim who are uncomfortable depending on the Julian calendar for this.

joshwaxman said...

thanks, I'll try to check it out tomorrow. I'm not so sure either, how to parse it. it would be nice to have some support, at least in this particular case.

where misinterpretations are consistently encoded in halacha, perhaps we should correct the record. if Ravina and Rav Ashi are sof horaah, then savoraic misinterpretations should not stand in the way of what the halacha is. And it does not extend merely to something as trivial as this. I am sitting on some radically revolutionary misinterpretations, such as ones which would eliminate waiting between meat and milk and which would allow many types of biah between man and wife which would involve hotzaas zera levatalah. If "Truth" is other than what is practiced, then some may argue that one should correct the practice. Others will argue that practice becomes, by definition, the "correct" interpretation.


thanbo said...

So do tell about waiting between meat/milk?

I mean, look at the Rema in YD 89:1. He reports that there are some who say you don't have to wait as long as you bench, do kinuach/hadacha; that the minhag poshut in Eastern Europe was to wait one hour; that he thought that the hour-waiters ought to bench otherwise the waiting would do no good, and that in any cause, it was a good idea to wait six hours.

So the bottom line there is that

a) there is no need to wait; and

b) six hours is a (late) custom, at least for Ashkenazim.

Wolf2191 said...

But are Ravina V' R' Ashi Sof Horaah - the Saboraim (V'Lo Hi, V'Hilchasa- argue on Ravina (one Ravina and R' Ashi). I discussed this a bit with Prof. Halivni - and you can see some of it in his Mekorot U' Mesorot. Its not a very clear issue.

Te Chi-X is discussed by R' Kasher in his addendum to Toras Sheleimah VaYakhel and by Saul Lieberman in Greek in Jewish Palestine 185-190

joshwaxman said...

I am suppressing the details for now. yes, the Rema says this, although common practice is otherwise among Ashkenazim, while for Sefardim halacha.

However, I claim that the Amoraim in general not only did not wait, but even would eat milk after meat within the same seudah. And that is *without benching*. In other words, not even Tosafot's lo plug there is required. There are other repercussions as well, which I won't get into. So alas, it will look like I just talk a big game...

Perhaps -- the devil is in the details. I'd have to consider each of your examples. vehilcheta might argue on local amoraim, but might that argument might be the result of taking other amoraic statements into consideration and into the equation, harmonizing between them, or being machria between them. For example, in Bava Batra 145a, deciding like Amemar and finding Rav Ashi's objection to be flimsy. They have Amemar to rely upon, and could be explaining what Amemar's sevara is in the face of
Rav Ashi's objection. And then they have the right to weigh. Amemar is Rav Ashi's contemporary, and he would thus also be of that generation of sof horaah, if that is what is meant. In other words, not Ravina and Rav Ashi specifically, but since they redacted, from then on no more horaah. But it is still the role of savoraim, geonim, rishonim, acharonim to weigh the various positions, the kelalei horaah and the metzius to determine like which of those Amoraim we rule.

Rif often says that a certain answer is really just a weak answer. Thus, ואף על גב דפריק שמואל שינויא בעלמא הוא ולא סמכינן אשינויא. The setama could interpret Rav Ashi's objection in a similar light, as being fictional, beduta.

But perhaps they actually *do* argue upon (rather than interpret) Amoraim. Even if so, there is an idea/value of arguing leshitatam of how most people assume, that one cannot argue on the gemara because of this statement.


Wolf2191 said...

I posted examples- - here.

Good luck answering all of them :)

joshwaxman said...

Yes, I followed your initial link to that post, which is where I got that example from Bava Batra. BTW, for ב"ב נו: I think should be Chullin on that same daf.

A very nice post, I must say.

Another answer. In terms of בר רב אשי אמר אפילו מת נמי אסור דלמא קטלה ליה ואזלא ומינסבא הוה עובדא, this is not Rav Ashi, but Mar bar Rav Ashi, who perhaps is after the sof horaah anyway. And besides, if we look in the gemara in Ketubot 60b, we see that his contestants in this are Rav Pappa and Rav Huna. So the setama is offering the response of these two on behalf of these two earlier Amoraim. The setama often does this. Does this mean it is ruling against Rav Ashi? If so, it is a matter of determining among Amoraim who already argue. And if not, it could just be its style to show what each can respond -- except later generations of Geonim and Rishonim misinterpreted this as the *conclusion* of the gemara.

I like going systematically through this kind of stuff, but it is indeed possible that I won't be able to answer all of them.


Wolf2191 said...

Thanks!! The Albecks (father and son) have an article on Sof Horaah in Sinai but it didn't add much.

Its a difficult question.

Michael P. said...

For some discussion of "sof hora'ah" see this book. A good part of it is available online. You can search 'sof hora'ah". Also listen to this shiur. I haven't listened to it yet, but his other shiurim have been interesting.

joshwaxman said...

thanks. i'll try to check it out.


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