09 October 2009

"In the Name of"?: A Brief Clarification of Citation in the Babylonian Talmud

I am going to start off by dropping some knowledge: when the term משום pops up before a tanna's name after another rabbi's (usually a tanna, but sometime early amoraim), that is "in the name of", as opposed to a direct citation of him. The difference is that direct citations are when one rabbi heard another say it versus indirect citations when the rabbi did not hear it directly from the other one, but rather in his name.
A similar phenomenon is found with the term משמיה ד׳ which means the same thing and has the same connotation: an indirect quote of a rabbi who is usually two generations later than the one with whom the quote was to have originated. This is in apposition to a rabbi directly quoting one of his teachers (e.g. Rav Yehudah quoting Rav).*
My little rant is that people who translate Talmudic passages are not usually attuned to such differences and I get frustrated when direct citations are turned into indirect citations. Not everything is "in the name of" a rabbi, sometimes that rabbi heard it, himself, from the first rabbi.
-end rant-

* I had a conversation with Professor Yaakov Elman on 14 June 2007, where he confirmed my suspicion regarding the matter and pointed me to look to Yevamos 18b for a stammaitic conversation regarding this issue.

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