I am currently editing Tosefta Berachot and getting it ready for publication as a printed book. It should be ready within 1 month. For now I will post those Toseftot which have been significantly updated or changed.
|Tractate Berachot, Chapter 3
Tosefta 201[If a person] was standing and praying [Shmoneh Esreh] in a main road2 or on a plaza3 he may move [out of the way] for a donkey, or a donkey driver [who is walking behind a donkey], or a potter [who is selling pots], and he does not stop [his prayer of Shomoneh Esreh].4 They said [a story] about Rebbi Chanina Ben Dosa that [one day] he was standing and praying [Shmoneh Esreh]. [Suddenly] he was bitten by an Arod (snake),5 but he did not stop praying. [Later] his students went and found [the Arod] dead on top of [the opening to] his hole. They said, “Woe to the man who was bitten by an Arod, woe to an Arod who has bitten Ben Dosa.”6
מסכת ברכות פרק ג
הָיָה עוֹמֵד וּמִתְפַּלֵּל בִּסְרַטְיָא וּבִפְלַטְיָא הֲרֵי זֶה עוֹבֵר פְּנֵי חֲמוֹר וּפְנֵי חַמָּר וּפְנֵי קַדָּר וְאֵינוֹ פּוֹסֵק. אָמְרוּ עָלָיו עַל רַבִּי חֲנִינָא בֶּן דּוֹסָא שֶׁהָיָה עוֹמֵד וּמִתְפַּלֵּל, נְשָׁכוֹ עָרוֹד וְלֹא הִפְסִיק. הָלְכוּ תַלְמִידָיו וּמָצְאוּ מֵת עַל פִּי חוֹרוֹ. אָמְרוּ אוֹי לוֹ לְאָדָם שֶׁנְּשָׁכוֹ עָרוֹד אוֹי לוֹ לְעָרוֹד שֶׁנָּשַׁך לְבֶן דוֹסָא.
- The Tosefta continues on the previous subject of not standing still while praying Shmoneh Esreh. Mishna 1 of chapter 5 says that a person may not move while praying Shmoneh Esreh even if there is a snake crawling on his leg. Our Tosefta seems to argue on that statement.
- סרטיא (Sratya), sometimes also spelled סטרטיאה (Stratya), is the Hebrew version of the Latin word Strata, which means a “main road”. Stratae (singular: Strata) were major roads inside a city, roughly 5 meters wide from which side streets, which were dead ends, lead off. See Daniel Sperber, “The city in Roman Palestine”, Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 9, 103, 106. In fact, the English word “street” comes from the Latin word Strata. In the Roman world the Strata roads were paved, hence their name “Strata”, which literally means “paved”. Jastrow’s translation (Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Babli, Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature, 2nd Edition, 1926, p. 1025, entry סרטיא) of this word meaning in this case a “camp” seems to be incorrect, at least in this context.
- פלטיא (Platya) is the Hebrew version of the Greek word πλατεία (Platea) and the Latin word Platea, both of which mean “a wide open area or street”, like a square or a plaza. In fact, the English word “plaza” comes from the Latin word Platea. See Daniel Sperber, “The city in Roman Palestine”, Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 9, 104.
- The Tosefta is teaching us that even though he had to move to get out of the way and he was not standing still he does not have to stop praying and start all over again, but rather he may continue.
- An Arod in our Tosefta is referring to some type of a lizard or a snake, but it is not clear which type. Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachot 5:1, Daf 38a) implies that it is poisonous. Talmud Bavli (Chulin 127a) implies that an Arod is a mythical creature which is born from a union of a snake and a turtle, which even the Talmud itself points out is physically impossible. If that is the case then most probably Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa was bit by a regular snake and later the story was exaggerated to say that it was an Arod to make it more impressive.
- Talmud Bavli (Berachot 33a) brings a slightly different version of this story in which Rebbi Chanina Ben Dosa let an Arod bite him on purpose so that the Arod would die. Rebbi Chanina Ben Dosa said that it is not the bite of an Arod that kills a person, but rather the person’s sins, and since Rebbi Chanina Ben Dosa did not commit any sins, God has killed the Arod instead for biting an innocent person.
Roman paved road in the city of Pompeii, Italy. This is what the Tosefta refers to by Sratya.
The view of the ruins of the Roman city of Bet Shean (Scythopolis), Israel. In the center of the picture is the main city street, Palladius road. Notice a Platea, a circular square, where a group of people is standing, on the bottom center of the picture, from which 3 different streets branch off.