Kiddushin 80b-Part I
In the last chapter of Tractate Kiddushin there is a mishnah which discusses the limitations on people of the opposite sex being secluded alone (mKiddushin 4:12, bKiddushin 80b). One of the teachings is that a man should not be alone with two women. The Gemara notices a contradiction between the opinion brought in the Mishnah and that of Abba Shaul (80b).
2. דתניא כל שלשים יום יוצא בחיק ונקבר באשה אחת ושני אנשים אבל לא באיש אחד ושתי נשים אבא שאול אומר אף באיש אחד ושתי נשים
3. אפילו תימא אבא שאול בשעת אנינות תביר יצריה
4. ורבנן סברי לה כר’ יצחק
5. דאמר רבי יצחק: מה יתאונן אדם חי גבר על חטאיו (איכה ג:לט)- אפילו בשעת אנינותו של אדם יצרו מתגבר עליו
6. ואבא שאול כי כתיב ההוא – במתרעם על מדותיו כתיב, והכי קאמר: מה יתרעם על מדותיו? וכי גבר על חטאיו? דיו חיים שנתתי לו.
8. כי ההוא מעשה דההיא איתתא, דהוה עובדא ואפיקתיה
1. Our Mishnah does not agree with Abba Saul.
2. For it was taught: Within the first thirty days [of a child’s birth] it may be carried out [for burial] in one’s bosom, and buried by one woman and two men, but not by one man and two women. Abba Saul said: Even by one man and two
3. You may even say [that it agrees with] Abba Saul: in the time
of grief one’s passions are subdued.
4. But the Rabbis hold with R. Isaac,
5. who said: “Wherefore doth a living man mourn, a man that is in
his sins?” (Lam. 3:39) Even in a man’s grief, his lusts prevail against him.
6. And Abba Saul?— That is written with reference to one who complains
of His [God’s] measures, and this is its meaning: Why should he
complain of His dispensation; has he then prevailed over his sin? The life which I gave him is sufficient for him.
7. And the Rabbis?
8. Even as the story of a certain woman: It once happened that she took
him out. (Soncino trans.)
The Gemara discusses the underlying differences between the opinion of Abba Shaul and that of the Rabbis, explaining their respective interpretations of Lamentations 3:39. In line no. 6 the Gemara explains the way in which Abba Shaul interprets this verse, showing how it differs from that of the Rabbis. Line no. 7 then introduces an opposing opinion of the Rabbis, which in line no. 8 is described as being similar to the story of “ההיא איתתא”, a “certain woman”, who “took him out.” The Gemara does not tell us who this woman was, nor what she took out, and as the text is in the standard printed edition of the Talmud line no. 8 is presenting the opinion of the Rabbis. As Rashi has pointed out in his commentary (s.v. ve-rabbanan), there is a different version of the text which does not include line no. 7 “ורבנן” (“And the Rabbis?), rather line no. 8 is a continuation of Abba Shaul’s opinion. Both MS Vatican 111 and the Venice edition (1520-23) [corrected for clarification after a comment by a reader] of the Babylonian Talmud also do not include the word “ורבנן”. In part II I will show how this variant reading resulted in different interpretations of who exactly was this “certain woman” and what exactly did she do.
Part II can be found here.