Eilu Devarim: Part III – The Answer of the Maharam Schick

Part I: The Mishna in Peah

Part II: The Discrepancy in Talmud Shabbos

The question of the source for Eilu Devarim as we recite it was addressed by Rav Moshe Schick (d. 1879), better known as the Maharam Schick. In Sheilos u’Teshuvos Maharam Schick (OC 2), he writes the following (mildly paraphrased by me):

“Regarding the practice to recite, after the blessings on Torah study, Eilu Devarim from the Mishna in the first chapter of Peah and the statement of Rabbi Yehuda[1] in the beginning of the eighteenth chapter of Shabbos, as per Tosfos in tractate Brachos page 11: in Peah four items are listed, while the statement in Shabbos lists six items. Our siddurim, however, add an additional two: providing for a bride and burying the dead. It’s a mystery where these two items came from. … Additionally, two items have been removed: raising children to study Torah and judging others favorably. …

“Regarding the addition to the siddur of providing for a bride and burying the dead…we learn in tractate Kesubos page 17 that we cease the study of Torah in order to take out a corpse or to escort a bride. This is codified as law in the Shulchan Aruch (EH 65:1, Rema). This being the case, we see that escorting a bride (and burying the dead) surpass the study of Torah. …

“But what about the statement (in the Mishna) that Torah study is equal to all the others? … It is possible to explain as the Rambam does in his commentary on the Mishna, namely that Torah (is equal to all the others) in that it leads one to perform all the others, as is said: the study of Torah leads to action. However, providing for a bride and burying the dead supersede the study of Torah.

“Accordingly, this can explain the rationale of the compilers of the siddur. It was obvious to them that, since providing for a bride surpasses the study of Torah, then if Torah study causes one to enjoy the proceeds in this world while the principal remains waiting for him in the Next World, the same must be true of providing for a bride. (This is an argument a fortiori, called a kal v’chomer in Hebrew.)

“If this is the case, why didn’t Rabbi Yehuda include providing for a bride in his statement? We can’t say that the list isn’t meant to be exhaustive … because Rabbi Yehuda specifies “and they are.” One must conclude that this is comparable to the way that Rabbi Yehuda does not mean to exclude honoring parents and Torah study even though he does not list them, since they were already taught explicitly (in the Mishna), as Rashi explains on the gemara in Shabbos. A kal v’chomer is also considered explicit. So (if Torah study is taken as a given), providing for a bride (which surpasses it) also need not be included.”

All this explains why Rabbi Yehuda (or Rabbi Yochanan) did not see the need to include providing for a bride and burying the dead in the Talmudic statement. So why did the compilers of the siddur see the need to include them? Because their work has a different didactic purpose, which required them to be as inclusive as possible. But if that’s the case, why does the siddur omit raising children to study Torah and judging others favorably? The Maharam Schick answers that as well:

“Regarding raising children to study Torah and judging others favorably, it seems that the things in the Talmudic statement in Shabbos… all pertain to acts of kindness.[2] … We learn from the statement of Rabbi Yehuda that raising children to study Torah is included among acts of kindness, as is judging others favorably. This is so even though it is obvious that raising children to study Torah is (also) a part of Torah study and judging others favorably is (also) a part of pursuing peace. …

“Accordingly, Rabbi Yehuda, who does not include pursuing peace and Torah study in his list must include raising children to study Torah and judging others favorably, as these are also aspects of kind acts for which one enjoys the proceeds in this world while the principal remains waiting for him in the Next World. The compilers of the siddur, however, included Torah study and pursuing peace so there was no need for them to include raising children to study Torah and judging others favorably, which would simply be redundant.”

One question remains. The Tosfos in tractate Brachos (11b) that Maharam Schick cites refers to our practice of reciting Eilu Devarim to include a mishna (from Peah) and a braisa (ostensibly from Shabbos). A braisa is a Tannaitic statement, contemporary with the Mishna but not included by R. Yehuda HaNasi in the canon of that work. If the version of Eilu Devarim that appears in out liturgy is not truly from Talmudic literature, how can we call it a braisa and how does it fulfill the obligation to study the gemara portion of our daily Torah study?

Unable to find an answer to this quandary, I reached out to a learned colleague (whom I would gladly credit but he insisted it was unnecessary). He suggested that the answer lies in the fact that the study of Oral Law need not be a verbatim exercise. When we “talk in learning,” that’s gemara even though we may not be using the same words recorded by Ravina and Rav Ashi in the “final cut” of the Talmud. The language used by Rav Yehuda bar Shila in the name of Rabbi Asi in the name of Rabbi Yochanan to describe these ideas, the language used by the compilers of the siddur, and the language you and I use when we discuss this topic are all Torah study, equally deserving of the bracha we recite.

  1. Or Rabbi Yochanan. The statement is from “Rav Yehuda bar Shila in the name of Rabbi Asi in the name of Rabbi Yochanan.” Maharam Schick uses the abbreviation RY, which could refer to Rabbi Yehuda (the first in the chain of names) or Rabbi Yochanan (the third).
  2. To support this assertion, the Maharam Schick cites a Rif that I couldn’t find.