THE TALMID OF REBBI AKIVA AND REBBI YISHMAEL
(Mishnah - R. Yishmael): A Talmid said... R. Akiva says, they argue in both cases (whether it is more or less than four Amos).
Question: R. Akiva does not argue with the first Tana!
Answer: They argue about Rav Achli's law (the minimum width that needs something to permit it is four Tefachim). We cannot determine who holds like him and who argues.
(Beraisa - R. Akiva): R. Yishmael did not say this. Rather, the Talmid said it, and the Halachah follows him.
Question: Surely, he said 'R. Yishmael did not say this' because [he would not say it, i.e.] it is wrong. However, he also says that the Halachah follows the Talmid!
Answer #1 (Rav Yehudah): R. Akiva said this just to test the Talmidim [if they would realize that it is wrong].
Answer #2 (Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak): R. Akiva said that he favors the opinion of the Talmid [but R. Yishmael argues].
(R. Yehoshua ben Levi): Whenever R. Yishmael mentions 'a Talmid said in front of R. Akiva', he refers to R. Meir, who learned from both of them:
(Beraisa #1 - R. Meir): When I learned from R. Yishmael, I used to put vitriol into the ink. (I was a scribe.) He did not comment;
When I came to R. Akiva, he forbade me to do so. (This will be explained.)
Question: Rav Yehudah cited R. Meir to say 'when I learned from R. Akiva, I used to put vitriol into the ink. He did not comment. When I came to R. Yishmael, I told him that I am a scribe';
R. Yishmael: Be careful, for you do the work of Shamayim. If you omit a letter or add an extra letter, you destroy the world!
R. Meir: I put vitriol into the ink!
R. Yishmael: This is invalid. It says "v'Chosav...u'Mochah" (the curses to a Sotah are written on parchment and erased into water). The writing must be erasable! (Vitriol causes a stain to remain even after it is erased.)
Question: What is the meaning of this dialogue?
Answer: R. Meir said, not only am I proficient not to errantly omit or add extra letters. I am even concerned lest a fly rest on the top right protrusion of a 'Dalet' [and the ink will stick to it, and it will go away], making it a Reish. Therefore, I put vitriol into the ink!
Summation of question: Rav Yehudah's version argues with the Beraisa regarding whom R. Meir learned from first, and regarding which Chacham forbade him to use vitriol!
Partial answer: We can say that first he went to R. Akiva to learn, but could not understand, so he went to R. Yishmael; and learned Mishnayos. (Before Rebbi codified and unified the text of the Mishnayos, each Tana had his own version.) Then, he returned to R. Akiva to learn sharp analysis.
The contradiction about which Tana forbade vitriol remains. (R. E. M. Horowitz - we do not say that Rav Yehudah is refuted, for if we assume that R. Meir [in Beraisa #2 below] holds like R. Akiva, Rav Yehudah and Beraisa #1 argue like R. Yakov and R. Yehudah.)
(Beraisa #2 - R. Yehudah citing R. Meir): We may put vitriol into ink for anything, except for Parashas Sotah;
R. Yakov says in the name of R. Meir, [it is valid] except for Parashas Sotah in the Mikdash.
Question: What do they argue about?
Answer (R. Yirmeyah): R. Yehudah holds that one may erase the curses from a Sefer Torah. Therefore they must be erasable, so one may not use vitriol. R. Yakov argues about both of these laws. They argue like the following Tana'im:
(Beraisa): A parchment written for a Sotah [that was not erased, e.g. she confessed after it was written] may not be used to test another Sotah. (It must be written for the sake of the woman it will test);
R. Achi bar Yoshiyah permits. (It need not be Lishmah. Therefore, one may erase from a Sefer Torah.)
Rejection #1 (Rav Papa): The first Tana said only that a Parashah [written, and thereby] designated for Rachel cannot test Leah. If a Sefer Torah was not written for any particular woman, [perhaps] it is valid!
Rejection #2 (Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak): R. Achi said only that a Parashah written for one Sotah can test another. A Sefer Torah is written [not to test Sotos, rather,] to learn from it. [Perhaps] it is invalid!
Question: Does R. Achi argue with the following Mishnah?!
(Mishnah): If two couples in a city have identical names, and one man wrote a Get for his wife, and then decided not to divorce her, his namesake cannot divorce with the Get.
Answer: There is different, for it says "v'Chosav Lah" - he must write the Get Lishmah;
Regarding Sotah it says "v'Asah Lah." It must be done, i.e. erased Lishmah. (It need not be written Lishmah.)
(R. Acha bar Chanina): Hash-m knows that there was no one as sharp as R. Meir in his generation. The Halachah was not established like him, because he could bring convincing proofs to be Metaher what is really Tamei or vice-versa, and his colleagues could not discern if he was saying correctly. (Even though a Stam Mishnah is R. Meir, this is when there is no argument. When he argues with R. Yosi or R. Yehudah or perhaps even R. Shimon, the Halachah is unlike R. Meir - 46b.)
(Beraisa): R. Meir's real name was R. Nehurai. He is called R. Meir because he was Me'ir (illuminated) Chachamim's eyes in Halachah;
The real name of [the Tana normally called] R. Nehurai was R. Nechemyah. Some say, it was R. Elazar ben Arach;
He is called R. Nehurai because he was Manhir (enlightened) Chachamim's eyes in Halachah.
Rebbi: I am sharper than my colleagues because I saw R. Meir from the back (Rashi - when I learned from him.) Had I seen him from the front, I would be even sharper - "v'Hayu Einecha Ro'os Es Morecha." (Chidushei Ge'onim - he understood the secondary teachings. Had he understood the primary teachings, he would have been even sharper. Rif (Beitzah 20a) brings a Yerushalmi that connotes that he saw R. Meir from the back on one occasion. It was not while learning.)
(R. Avahu): Sumchus was a Talmid of R. Meir. He would give 48 reasons why every Tamei thing is Tamei, and 48 reasons why every Tahor thing is Tahor.
(Beraisa): There was a Talmid Chacham in Yavneh who could give 150 reasons why a Sheretz is Tahor.
(Ravina): I can show that it is Tahor a snake kills people, thereby increasing Tum'ah, yet it is Tahor. A Sheretz does not kill and increase Tum'ah, all the more so it is Tahor!
Rejection: This is not a Kal va'Chomer. Also thorns kill, but this is no reason to say that they are Tamei!
THE ARGUMENT OF BEIS HILLEL AND BEIS SHAMAI
(R. Aba): Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai argued for three years. Each said 'the Halachah follows us'.
A Bas Kol announced 'the opinions of both of them are words of Hash-m. The Halachah follows Beis Hillel.' (Medrash brought in Tosfos R. Peretz - for every matter, Hash-m taught Moshe 49 reasons for Heter and 49 for Isur. He said that the Halachah will follow the majority of Chachamim.)
Question: Since both of them are words of Hash-m, why did Beis Hillel merit that the Halachah follows them?
Answer: They were pleasant and patient, and would teach Beis Shamai's opinion as well as their own. Further, they taught Beis Shamai's opinion before their own:
(Mishnah - Beis Shamai): If Rosho v'Rubo (his head and the majority of its body) were in a Sukah, and his table was in the house, it (the Sukah) is Pasul;
Beis Hillel are Machshir.
Beis Hillel: A case occurred in which elders of Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel visited R. Yochanan ben ha'Choranis. Rosho v'Rubo were in the Sukah. His table was in the house, and they did not comment about this!
Beis Shamai: No! They told him, if you have always done so, you never fulfilled the Mitzvah!
This teaches that Hash-m raises one who lowers himself, and lowers one who raises himself.
One who makes excessive efforts to attain wealth or grandeur will not attain it;
One who does not receive now what he is entitled to, will receive it later.
(Beraisa): Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai argued for two and a half years about whether or not it is better for man that he was created. (Beis Hillel said that it is.) In the end they voted, and decided that it would have better for him had he not been created. (This refers to regular people. It is advantageous for Tzadikim that they were created.)
Now that he was created, he should check his deeds [lest he sinned, and must repent];
Some say that he should reckon his deeds (decide carefully before doing an action).
THE WIDTH OF A KORAH
(Mishnah): A Korah must be wide enough to hold half of a three-Tefachim brick;
It suffices for the Korah to be a Tefach wide, to hold a half-brick. (This will be explained.)
It must be wide enough and strong enough to hold it;
R. Yehudah says, it suffices to be wide enough to hold it;
If the Korah is made of straw or reeds, we consider it to be of metal. If it is bent or round (cylindrical), we consider it to be straight and square (rectangular);
If the circumference is three Tefachim, it is a Tefach wide. (This is not exact. See note 5 in Appendix.)