Versus Whom Did the חכמים Argue in the Tosefta I: סדר זרעים

???????????????????????????????Talmud Tuesdays - DrewsViewsOne of the curious aspects I discovered while initially counting up how frequently sages appeared in the Mishnah was the not infrequent appearances of “חכמים”.  These unnamed חכמים (sages) usually appeared in verbal disagreement with a previously-named sage.  As I pointed out in my post on the חכמים in the Mishnah, “I don’t have any particular speculations as to anything about them (I would love to see what people have to suggest),” but “I wanted to list the most frequent amongst the sages against whom the חכמים had a different opinion.”  So, I will share, over the course of multiple posts, those against whom the חכמים spoke in the Tosefta, going according to each סדר (order), alongside the number of appearances of theirs that I tallied up.  I am starting off with סדר זרעים:

 רבי מאיר – 26
רבי אליעזר – 12
רבי יהודה – 10
רבי – 4
רבי יוסי – 3
רבי עקיבא – 3
רבן גמליאל – 3
בן זומא – 2
רבי נחמיה – 2
סומכוס – 1
רבי אליעזר בן יעקב – 1
רבי אלעזר – 1
רבי טרפון – 1
רבי יוסי ברבי יהודה – 1
רבי ישמעאל – 1
רבי שמעון – 1

For a comparison, it’s worth looking at the top ten appearances overall in סדר זרעים, where we see that the top two most-frequent sages against whom חכמים are speaking are not the two most frequently-mentioned sages in the סדר.  In fact, they’re not even in the top five!

Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Eliezer are the sixth and seventh most frequently-mentioned sages in the סדר.  Yes, Rabbi Yehudah, who is next on the list, is the most frequently-mentioned sage in the סדר, although clearly the ratio is not the same.  For instance, Rabbi Meir appears roughly 70 times, Rabbi Eliezer appeared 57 times and Rabbi Yehudah appeared 132 times in the סדר.  That yields Rabbi Meir 37% of the time he appears, the חכמים argue against him.  For Rabbi Eliezer, it’s 21% and, for Rabbi Yehudah, only 8% (for those wondering, Rabbi results in 8%, just a little bit less than Rabbi Yehudah (Rabbi Yehudah is actually 8.33%)).  So, one wonders why Rabbi Meir (and Rabbi Eliezer) appear so many times overall and percentage-wise to have the חכמים arguing against them.

Also of interest is how frequently the חכמים appear versus each of them: of the appearances of חכמים, Rabbi Meir appears in 36% of the time, Rabbi Eliezer appears in 16.7%, and Rabbi Yehudah appears in 13.9% of them.  These three sages account for two-thirds of the appearances of the חכמים being against sages in סדר זרעים!

I’m not yet sure what to make of all this, but I’m curious….  To be continued….

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