God vs The Multiverse

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Switcharoo (Part 2: Methodology and Approach)

The first place to start is in trying to understand Abaye's perplexing response to Rava.  This is a general methodology point, that it often pays to begin with the type of problems that don't seem to make sense even on a superficial level.

Abaye doesn't seem to be addressing the problem of אין עונשין מן הדין, as he still seems to be using a קל וחומר in order to "reveal" what the Torah is really saying.  Were it not for the fact that Abaye is employing the logic of "how could substituting a good one in place of a good one, be any less prohibited than in place of a bad one", he would not be able to reveal what the Torah's true intent is!  To put it another way, what exactly is Abaye "revealing"?

Secondly, from the fact that the Torah prohibits substitution through three different cases (good for bad, bad for good, good for good), we can infer that there is a conceptual difference between these cases.  Even though the ultimate result according to both Abaye and Rava is that exchanging is forbidden irrespective of the case, the Torah did not simply say "Do not exchange", but rather taught us the prohibition through a series of cases.  This tells us that we should try to understand these three cases on a deeper conceptual level before we try to define the machlokes between Abaye and Rava. Once we have a basic understanding of the three cases, we can then consider if Abaye and Rava learn the series of derivations differently.

Finally, we have to ask ourselves whether Abaye and Rava are arguing about their understanding of the area of תמורה, or if they agree about תמורה but argue about the area of אין עונשין מן הדין.  This is something we don't think can necessarily be answered until after we first understand and resolve the prior two issues.  Only afterwards will we be in a position to try to define their argument precisely.


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