By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow
Rav Nachum bar Papa is mentioned in Yoma (67a) on a daf that was recently learned by daf yomi participants. What he was quoted as saying is certainly important. Yet some commentators chose to focus on the name itself. Was there really an individual named Rav Nachum bar Papa?
Why would one even question this fact? The names of Rav Papa’s sons are recited at every siyum. Rav Nachum is not listed there as one of the sons. If he did exist, why didn’t he make the list?
Some commentators suggest a slight textual change. Still others suggest he was known by two names and is one of the sons on the siyum list. A rather simple answer offered is that Rav Nachum was not the son of the Rav Papa mentioned all over Shas but was the son of a different person named Papa.
Why did Rav Papa merit having the names of his sons recited at every siyum of a masechta? Rav Shimshon Aharon Polinsky suggested that the answer to this enigma is spread all over Shas.
In Berachos (59a) there is a dispute about the appropriate blessing to recite upon seeing a rainbow. One scholar says that we should recite, “Who remembers the covenant.” The other scholar says that we should recite, “Who is trustworthy in His covenant and fulfills his word.” Whereupon Rav Papa comments, “Therefore we should recite both.” The halachah follows Rav Papa and we recite “Blessed are You Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who remembers the covenant, is trustworthy in His covenant, and fulfills His word.”
In Berachos (60b) there is a dispute regarding the end of the Asher Yatzar blessing. One scholar says that we should recite, “Who heals all flesh.” Rav Sheishes says that we should conclude, “Who acts wondrously.” Whereupon Rav Papa says, “Therefore we recite both.” The halachah follows Rav Papa and we recite, “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.”
The Gemara in Megillah (21b) records a dispute about the appropriate conclusion of the blessing recited after the Megillah reading. One scholar opines that we should recite, “Who exacts vengeance for his people Israel from all their foes.” Rava opines that the berachah should conclude, “the G-d Who brings salvation.” Whereupon Rav Papa comments we should recite both formulas. The halachah follows Rav Papa and we recite, “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who exacts vengeance for His people Israel from all their foes, the G-d Who brings salvation.”
The Gemara in Taanis (6b) records a dispute over the appropriate conclusion to the blessing recited upon the first rainfall after a drought. (The Rema notes that this blessing has fallen into disuse and offers an explanation. Some say that this blessing should always be recited in Eretz Yisrael on the first rain of the winter season, since it generally does not rain all summer.) Rebbe Yochanan says we should conclude the blessing with, “Who receives many thanksgivings.” Rava says, “the G-d of thanksgivings.” Whereupon Rava Papa comments we should recite both: “Blessed are You, Hashem, Who receives many thanksgivings and is the G-d of thanksgivings.”
The chazzan says Modim out loud during his repetition of the Shemoneh Esreih. There is a dispute in Masechta Sotah (40a) about what the congregation should recite while the chazzan is reciting Modim. Rebbe Simai says, “Our Molder, Molder of the universe.” Shmuel says, “The G-d of all flesh.” The Nehardeans say, “Blessings and thanks to Your Great Name.” Rav Acha bar Yaakov says we should conclude, “So may You continue to give us life . . .” Whereupon Rav Papa comments, “We should recite all of them.” This is our practice. All of the formulas are included in Modim Derabanan.
The Gemara in Chullin (65b) records a dispute regarding how to determine which grasshoppers are kosher. (Sadly, we have lost the tradition regarding the correct identifying symbols and the vast majority of Orthodox Jews do not currently eat grasshoppers.) One of the signs of a kosher grasshopper is that its wings cover most of its body. Some say the wings must cover most of the length of the body. Others say the wings must cover most of the circumference of the grasshopper. Rav Papa commented, “Therefore, to be considered a kosher grasshopper, the wings must cover the majority of its length and circumference.”
There are similar comments found in other places in Shas made by Rav Papa. Rav Shimshon Aharon Polinsky says that we can conclude that Rav Papa always held Torah scholars in high esteem. He didn’t want to disregard any of their opinions. As long as he was able to satisfy all of their opinions, he did so. It was in the merit of honoring Torah scholars that Rav Papa was blessed with (at least) ten sons who were Torah scholars. This is the fulfillment of the Gemara in Shabbos (23a) that “whoever loves Torah scholars will merit to have sons who are Torah scholars.” We recite the names of his sons at every siyum to remind us of this important lesson. v
Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead and is a rebbi at Mesivta Kesser Yisroel of Willowbrook. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.