Joe Shmo is insisting Rueben did not sin and, moreover, anyone who thinks he did sin is a horrible person who probably slept through yeshiva and hates God. I tell Joe that what's he's doing is channeling the opinion of one Sage, but - guess what! - on the same page of talmud where that first opinion is recorded we have three other Sages who are quoted saying that Rueben did sin! See how gvaldik gemarah is? You can learn it day and night and never know truth from false.
Can you guess what Reb Shmo did next? If you said "I bet he loudly accused you of mislearning the passage and refused to look at it himself" you win! Haredi power!
Let's caption this anecdote "A perfect example of something I find impossible to abide."
See the talmudic passage in question after the jump
BT Shabbat 55b from here
R. Samuel b. Nahman said in R. Jonathan's name: Whoever maintains that Reuben sinned is merely making an error, for it is said, Now the sons of Jacob were twelve,9 teaching that they were all equal.10 Then how do I interpret, and he lay with Bilhah his father's concubine?11 This teaches that he transposed his father's couch,12 and the Writ imputes [blame] to him as though he had lain with her. It was taught, R. Simeon b. Eleazar said: That righteous man was saved from that sin and that deed did not come to his hand.13 Is it possible that his seed was destined to stand on Mount Ebal and proclaim, Cursed be he that lieth with his father's wife,14 yet this sin should come to his hand? But how do I interpret, and he lay with Bilhah his father's concubine'? He resented his mother's humiliation. Said he, If my mother's sister was a rival to my mother, shall the bondmaid of my mother's sister be a rival to my mother? [Thereupon] he arose and transposed her couch. Others say, He transposed two couches, one of the Shechinah and the other of his father.15 Thus it is written, Then thou defiledst, my couch on which [the Shechinah] went up.16
This is dependent on Tannaim. Unstable [Pahaz] as water, thou shalt not excel:17 R. Eliezer interpreted: Thou wast hasty [Paztah], thou wast guilty [Habtah] thou didst disgrace [Zaltah]. R. Joshua interpreted: Thou didst overstep [Pasatah] the law, thou didst sin [Hatatha], thou didst fornicate [Zanitha]. R. Gamaliel interpreted: Thou didst meditate [Pillaltah],18 thou didst supplicate [Haltah], thy prayer shone forth [Zarhah]. Said R. Gamaliel, We still need [the interpretation of] the Modiite. R. Eleazar the Modiite19 said, Reverse the word and interpret it: Thou didst tremble [Zi'az'atha], thou didst recoil [Halitha], thy sin fled [Parhah] from thee.20 Raba — others state, R. Jeremiah b. Abba interpreted: Thou didst remember [Zakarta] the penalty of the crime, thou wast [grievously] sick [Halitha],21 thou heldest aloof [Pirashta] from sinning.
Blue indicates Sages who though he sinned
Red indicates Sages who though he was innocent of any sin
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