This post has been significantly updated on 09/27/09 at 3pm JT and on 10/09/09 at 1:30am JT. Please re-read if you have read the original post.
|Tractate Berachot, Chapter 6
All endings of Berachot2 (blessings) that were [said] in the Bet Hamikdash (Temple) [included the phrase] Ad Haolam (until the [next] world).3 After the heretics4 became more virulent [and] they said that there is only one world,5 [the Rabbis] decreed that [in the Bet Hamikdash in the endings of Berachot] they should say Min Haolam Vead Haolam (from [this] world and until the [next] world).6 And [thus] they would let [everyone] know that this world in front of the World to Come is like a vestibule7 in front of the banquet hall.8, 9
מסכת ברכות פרק ו
כל חותמי ברכות שהיו במקדש היו עד העולם. משקלקלו המינין יאמרו אין עולם אלא אחד התקינו שיהיו אומרים מן העולם ועד העולם ומודיעין שהעולם הזה בפני העולם הבא כפרוזדור בפני טרקלין.
- Mishna 9:5 stated that originally in the Bet Hamikdash all Berachot would end with the phrase Min Haolam and later it was changed to Min Haolam Vead Haolam due to the heretics. This Tosefta changes the wording of this ending phrase a little bit and provides an explanation for it.
- This is referring to all Berachot that have an ending with the words Baruch Ata Hashem. For example, Berachot of Shemah or Shmoneh Esreh all end with the phrase Baruch Ata Hashem … It is not referring to single Berachot that do not have an ending such as Berachot on food or on smell. In fact, based on the context of the next Tosefta it would seem that all of these deviations from the common standard of Berachot applied only to the prayers of Shema and Shmoneh Esreh and not to individual Berachot. Rabbi Baruch Tzvi Gruner proves this in his book Berachot Shenishtaku (ברכות שנשתקעו, Mosad Harav Kook, 2003, p. 38) from the fact that the Tosefta (Berachot 5:23) quoted various Berachot that were said in the Bet Hamikdash before eating various sacrifices without any of the changes mentioned in this Tosefta.
- The way that the Berachot were said in the Bet Hamikdash is not exactly clear. If we would take as an example our version of Shmoneh Esreh then if a person was praying Shmoneh Esreh in the Bet Hamikdash he would conclude the first Beracha of Shmoneh Esreh as follows: Baruch Ata Hashem Ad Haolam Magen Avraham (ברוך אתה ה’ עד העולם מגן אברהם) – Blessed You Hashem Until the World [to Come] The Shield of Avraham. However, see Talmud Bavli (Taanit 16b), where it quotes the 7th Beracha of Shmoneh Esreh of Goel Yisrael (the Redeemer of Israel) with a slightly different beginning (Baruch Hashem Elohey Yisrael Ad Haolam …) Also, see Rashi (Sotah 40b, Kumu) who explains that the source for such phrasing of Berachot in the Bet Hamikdash is the book of Ezra. That seems to be a mistake as no such thing appears in the book of Ezra. Most probably Rashi is referring to King David’s prayer mentioned in the book of Divrei Hayamim (1 16:36) where such a Beracha does appear in the context of a prayer that was said in front of the Aron (the Ark) which can be interpreted as something that should have been said in the Bet Hamikdash. Also the same phrase appears in two places in Tehillim (41:14 and 106:48). It should be noted that the Mishna (Berachot 9:5) that is printed in the Mishnayot instead of saying Ad Holam says Min Haolam (from [this] world) implying that it is referring to this world and not to the World to Come. It is not clear which one of these phrases is more correct as there are multiple sources that quote each one of them. Talmud Bavli (Berachot 63a) learns out the source for this change in the phrasing of Berachot in the Bet Hamikdash from verses in Nechemiah.
- The word מין generally means a sectarian or a heretic. It is often used to refer to Jewish Christians, but I do not think that is the meaning in this case, because the Christians did believe in the World to Come and the events referred to in this Tosefta are of much earlier origin than Christians, as will be explained in the next note. The etymology of the word Min is unclear. Aruch Hashalem (Vol. 5, page 168, entry מן) cites a few possible explanations. Either it is simply a play on the word מין (Min) meaning “type” or “kind”, referring that they were comprised from various types of people with different beliefs. Or it is an abbreviation of the word מאמין (Maamin) meaning a “believer” which is how the heretics referred to themselves in response to which the Rabbis cutoff the word and gave them a nickname Min. A 3rd possibility that it comes from the Hebrew word מאן (Meen) meaning “deny” or “refuse”, meaning that they refused their original religion and adopted a new form of it. He cites that the Greek word σχίσμα (Skisma) meaning a “schism” or a “religious split” also comes from the Greek word σχίζω (Skizo) which means “split” or “divide”, which is a similar type fo etymology. Based on this explanation the correct translation of the word מין is “schismatic” meaning someone who split off from the original religion and formed a new form of it.
- Meaning that this world is the ultimate end and there is no World to Come (i.e. Afterlife) where God executes final judgement over people. The Tosefta is most probably referring to Hellenized Jews who followed the school of Epicureanism who primarily rejected divine intervention and afterlife and followed a hedonistic lifestyle. The Hebrew word Apikorus, meaning heretic, comes directly from the Greek word Ἐπίκουρος (Epikouros) which was the name of the Greek philosopher who founded Epicureanism. Since Epikouros founded Epicureanism around 307 BCE we can conjecture that this change in the Berachot in the Second Bet Hamikdash was a relatively early inactment passed as early as the 3rd century BCE. The words Min and Apikorus in Talmudic literature are often used interchangeably so it should not pose a problem of why the Tosefta specifically used the word Min and not the word Apikorus, which would better fit in this particular case. It is also possible that the Tosefta is reffering to Tzedukim (Sadducees) who among other things followed the teachings of Epicurians and rejected the belief in Afterlife. But most probably the Tosefta is referring to all of these groups together which is why it uses a more generic word Min and nto the more specific words such as an Apikorus or Tzeduki.
- Following the earlier example mentioned above in note 3 of the first Beracha of Shmoneh Esreh, the Beracha would look as follows: Baruch Ata Hashem Min Haolam Vead Haolam Magen Avraham (ברוך אתה ה’ מן העולם ועד העולם מגן אברהם) – Blessed You Hashem From [this] World and Until the World [to Come] The Shield of Avraham.
- The word פרוזדור (Prozdor) comes from the Greek word πρόθυρον (Prothuron) meaning a vestibule.
- The word טרקלין (Traklin) comes from the Greek word τριχλίνιον (Triklinion) and the Latin word “triclinium” meaning a dining room or a banquet hall.
- The emphasis of the decree of the Rabbis was on the fact that this physical world is not the main place where the people are destined to be, but rather it is the spiritual World to Come where the soul goes after death and receives final judgement. The Rabbis have emphasized the cruciality of the belief in the World to Come in Judaism in various places through out the Talmudic literature.