Friday, June 23, 2017

Bava Basra 152: Mit eyn hintn zitst men nit af tsvey ferd

There is a Yiddish idiom, which appears in various forms, Mit eyn hintn zitst men nit af tsvey ferdמיט אײן הינטן זיצט מען ניט אױף צװײ פֿערד‫.‬
This appears in English as "You can't ride on two horses with one arse."

This idiom appears at the top of today's daf, Bava Basra 152.

"The academy of Rav said in the name of Rav, you are causing him to ride on two steeds / saddles."

The setama degemara proceeds to interpret this as a positive thing, giving the transaction some of the force of a shechiv mera and some of the force of the kinyan of a healthy person. This is problematic, because it contradicts an explicit statement of Rav elsewhere, that it will not work because a kinyan is the opposite of matnat shechiv mera. But the gemara manages to harmonize it.

This idiom only appears once in Shas, namely here. Later posekim seem to employ it in a very different sense than the setama interprets it, namely that of tartei desasrei (two contradictory aspects which will therefore not work.)

Given that it is an idiom, and it is easy to misinterpret an idiom without direct knowledge of its usage, perhaps we can suggest that the setama degemara misunderstood the idiom. (Yes, they are closer in time and place, so maybe we are misunderstanding it, but on the other hand, we have the other statement of Rav.) If its intent is indeed the same as the Yiddish expression, and the same as the later posekim, then the is the same as Rav's position elsewhere, and the contradiction was never a contradiction, but was rather explicit agreement.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Bava Basra 98a and 102

אמר רבא האי מאן דזבין ליה חביתא דחמרא לחנואה אדעתא לסבוייה
See the dispute between Rashbam and Tosafot. Rashbam asserts that he did not purchase the cask of wine, but agreed to sell on the behalf of the owner. Tosafot (responding to "Rashi", but this is changed by Masores Hashas to Rashbam) say that this cannot be, since the word דזבין is employed, implying that he sold it. Instead Tosafot say he did sell it, and explain difficulties that arise as a result.
However, there is a girsa difference in play. Rashbam does not have the text I cited above. He has:
האי מאן דמזבין ליה חביתא דחמרא לחנווני
while Tosafot have:
האי מאן דזבין חביתא דחמרא אדעתא לסבוייה
Many differences might trigger this difference in understanding. Rashbam has mezabein, to Tosafot's and our gemara's zabein. Rashbam and our gemara have leih (to him) while Tosafot lack leih. Rashbam has lechenvani, our gemara has lechenvaah, and Tosafot lacks it.
So we can read our gemara as "a person who engages in sales on his (?) behalf for shopkeeping" (chenvaah), and this would not present the problem which bothers Tosafot.

Bava Basra 102
The Mishna in Ohalos is better understood in light of Bava Basra 82b:
וכמה יהא ביניהן רב יוסף אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל מארבע אמות ועד שמונה רבא אמר רב נחמן אמר שמואל משמונה ועד שש עשרה א"ל אביי לרב יוסף לא תפלוג עליה דרב נחמן דתנן מתניתין כוותיה דתנן הנוטע את כרמו שש עשרה אמה על שש עשרה אמה מותר להביא זרע לשם
[If the buyer of three trees is to acquire possession of the ground]. how much [space] must there be between [the trees]?25 — R. Joseph said in the name of Rab Judah in the name of Samuel: [A distance] of four to eight cubits [between any two trees]. Raba said in the name of R. Nahman in the name of Samuel: From eight to sixteen [cubits]. Abaye said to R. Joseph: Do not dispute with R. Nahman, for we learnt a Mishnah that is in agreement with him. For we learnt:26 He who plants his vineyard [and leaves distances of] sixteen cubits [between the rows] may insert seed there.27
That is, that the distance of 4 to 8 cubits between corpses is parallel to the 4 to 8 cubits between trees. There, as in the Mishna in Ohalos, selling one tree gives you just the tree and the immediate dirt, as does selling two trees. Three trees makes an orchard and so all the land comes with it. In Ohalos, one and two corpses just have the immediately surrounding dirt. Once we have three, then it is a cemetery (shechunat kevarim), and they cannot be moved.
The setama degemara shoehorns the Mishna in Ohalos into the box presented by our local Mishna, such that the "4 to 8" must be the side of a cave, and thus from the edge of the first of three corpses to the last of three corpses, rather than the space between each corpse and the next. But we are not talking about digging through rock, and the term is shecunat kevarim, not that it is a kever, nor is it (to employ the term used in Ohalos for the same structure in earth) a sedei kuchim.
And then the setama has difficulties making the "4 to 8" accord with the dimensions by either the Tanna Kamma or Rabbi Shimon. The same about the 20 cubits, and the difficulties which arise there.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Bread of Affliction, which our Ancestors ate in Egypt

We say ha lachma anya, and it is called that based on the pasuk (Devarim 16:3) which refers to matza by the term lechem oni. One famous answers (from Rabbi Akiva)  is that we say (“onin”) upon this bread many things. Besides the straightforward meaning that we are reciting both Maggid and Hallel upon it, we can also understand this to mean that it is pretext bread. Thus, we see it is unusual and we ask (that is, mah haavodah hazot lachem or mah zot), and it becomes a reason for retelling the story of Pesach. Or, even better, we have many different explanations for why we eat it. The pasuk which gives the putative reason is for matzah for pesach dorot, and wouldn’t account for the matzah consumed in Egypt. And various reasons are given for it. And frankly, while there is presumably one true reason for eat, eat of the devarim harbeh which are given express and develop an interesting idea, all of which have value. So the devarim harbeh is a nice thing.

At a recent shiur in Rinat, a prominent modern Torah interpreter discussed what was meant by דִּי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְּאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם, what matzah they ate at what point, and why. He developed the idea of matzah as the opposite of chametz, leavened bread, which was the Egyptian staple, and which even had a minister of bread (sar ha’ofim).

Along the way, he mocked the idea that the Egyptians were mean and therefore forced their Hebrew slaves to eat this bread of affliction. This, he said, was something kindergarten teachers taught the children in class, but lacks a basis in rabbinic literature.

Here is a basis, which appears in the Avudraham:

“And if you ask as to the meaning of ‘which our ancestors ate in Egypt’ since, after all, וַיֹּאפוּ אֶת הַבָּצֵק [Shemot 12:39] was only after they left Egypt; then, Rabbi Yehosef HaAzovi explains in the name of Ibn Ezra, who had been imprisoned in India, and they would feed him matza[-like] bread, and never gave him chametz. And the reason was that it was tough [heavy] and was not quickly digested like chametz, such that a little would suffice. And so did the Egyptians do to Israel.”

I agree that this explanation is not well supported by the Chumash text. But at the same time, there is some support in rabbinic literature for it. It is not purely an invention of the kindergarten morot.

Besides, even if we don’t find an explicit text to support it, the fact is that matzah is a word in the Hebrew language, and wasn’t invented on the spot. The Hebrews understood Moshe, and so it could make sense that it played some role in society, that some people would make unleavened bread for some purpose. And Ibn Ezra, with his personal experience, is engaging in realia, explaining what role it could play in some cultures. It is possible that the Hebrews made this bread for themselves for similar purpose, because it had to sustain them for a tough day of work. And then we can understand the pasuk of it being lechem oni, bread of affliction, that is bread that they ate in Egypt regularly, during their affliction. And then it is not without some scriptural tie-in.

I’ll close with another possible explanation of lechem oni I came up with. Maybe it is obvious, or maybe it is my own chiddush. The process of making the bread, and the experience of eating a bread of this texture, parallels that of affliction. With chametz, you put in yeast and allow the bread to expand, and you end up with a light, fluffy texture. But in Egypt, there was lachatz, oppression, in which the Hebrews were suppressed and not allowed ease and breathing space. And so too, we do not allow the dough to become chametz and the result is a bread which has been afflicted and has an afflicted texture.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Thoughts on Bava Batra 74-75

An interesting al tikrei X but Y. Don't read yam but sar shel yam. How does this work? You need to know the Chronicles of Baal, where Baal slays Prince Yam and doesn't let him trespass on dry land. Then you know that Yam is a name. So what we are really saying is don't read yam lowercase but Yam capital.

The derasha from Iyov that the righteous will eat a feast of the Leviathan and that merchants will deal in its flesh is interesting. If you read the many surrounding pesukim, you see that they are all preceded with the interrogative ha-. That is to say, "would you think it so that X?!" The implication is obviously that it is not so. This particular pasuk
  יכרו עליו חברים יחצוהו  בין כנענים

is missing the leading ha-, and it is then taken as a statement of fact about the future use of the Leviathan!

In the following section of gemara, a pasuk with the interrogative ha- is brought. How can they ignore the ha-, to say that it is a plaything?
ההשחק בו כצפור ותקשרנו לנערותיך:

It seems that there, it is saying that obviously humans cannot do it, to the exclusion of Hashem, who can do all this. If so, maybe we would say the same about the pasuk without the ha-, that it still is a question, but Hashem's intervention is different.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sources for Bava Basra 45


דף יג, ב פרק ד הלכה ב משנה  ולא את הבור ולא את הדות אע"פ שכתב לו עומקה ורומה וצריך ליקח לו דרך דברי רבי עקיבה וחכמים אומרים אינו צריך ליקח לו דרך ומודה ר' עקיבה בזמן שאמר לו חוץ מאילו שאינו צריך ליקח לו דרך מכרן לאחר ר' עקיבה אומר אינו צריך ליקח לו דרך וחכמים אומרים צריך ליקח לו דרך:
דף יג, ב פרק ד הלכה ב גמרא  לאיזה דבר כתב עומקה ורומה שאם רצה להשפיל ישפיל הגביה יגביה.  רבה בר רב הונא בשם רב הלכה כרבי עקיבה דידן דהוא רבנן דרבי חייה.  ר' זעירא רב ירמיה בשם רב הלכה כרבי עקיבה דרבי חייה דהוא רבנן דבבלאי. 

תמן אמרין אדמון ורבי עקיבה אמר ר' לא בסתם חלוקין. 
מה נן קיימין אם דבר בריא שיש לו דרך כל עמא מודי שאין צריך ליקח לו דרך אם דבר בריא שאין לו דרך כל עמא מודו שהוא צריך ליקח לו דרך.  אלא כי נן קיימין בסתם רבי עקיבה אומר אינו צריך ליקח לו דרך וחכמים אומרים צריך ליקח לו דרך:
 ואע"פ שאומר לו הוא וכל מה שבתוכו אני מוכר לך לא מכר לו את הבאר ולא את השידה ולא את הדותות והיציעים ולא את המערות שבתוכו א"כ למה כתב עומקא ורומא שאם רצה להגביה מגביה להשפיל משפיל 

Friday, March 10, 2017

How modern academic Talmud scholars can fulfill timcheh et zecher Amalek

In yesterday’s Daf Yomi, Bava Batra, Moo amud bet, there is a surprising mnemonic, עמלק סימן. That is, the four cases under discussion in the following section are arev (guarantor), malveh (lender), lokeach rishon (first purchaser) and qablan (a different type of guarantor), who may or may not testify on behalf of a certain other party as to ownership of a field. The letters spell out Amalek.
This is surprising, to use Amalek as a mnemonic, when we are supposed to blot out the memory of Amalek. And Hagahot Yaavetz (Rav Yaakov Emden) has an explanation about how it is OK to use it to remember Torah, and how there is a tipcha (disjunctive accent) on the lo of lo tishkash, לֹ֖א תִּשְׁכָּֽח , somehow telling us that it is sometimes OK for the sake of not forgetting.

The Masoret HaShas, besides pointing us to the Hagahot Yaavetz, points out that the Dikdukei Soferim notes that in many kitvei yad, this mnemonic isn’t present.
Thus, for example, we don’t find it in Ktav Yad Firenze, Paris, or Vatican.

Ktav Yad Vatican
Ktav Yad Firenze
Ktav Yad Paris

If so, perhaps we should cross out this siman, this zecher, from our gemaras. In this way, we can literally fulfill the positive command of תִּמְחֶה֙ אֶת־זֵ֣כֶר עֲמָלֵ֔ק.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Daf Yomi, Bava Batra 31a:

 טוען וחוזר וטוען או אין טוען וחוזר

This is not immediately obvious, but regarding the dispute between Ulla and the Nehardeans, and more specifically, the clarification of which cases are under dispute, is all about the ambiguity of the word chozer.

The way it was intended is almost purely grammatical that after making his first claim, he continues to present to the court another claim. Sort of like "he went and did X".

There are two other possibilities which are ruled out as not under discussion. First, that chozer means a retraction, such that there is an obvious contradiction between his first and second claim. Second, that chozer means physically returning, such that he left the court to go outside, and then physically returned.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bava Basra 25 - sources

How to use sources below:

In which we look at:
1) Rashi says that Rabbi Abahu's derasha on Oryah is either Persian and means West, or Laaz (Latin) and means East. The Latin word would be Orient. We can see the Persian word in the Aruch. We would expect Rabbi Abahu in Eretz Yisrael to be darshening the Latin more than the Persian.
2) Considering the dispute about how the sun gets backs to its position in the east each morning.
3) Rava's reinterpretation of West being tedira as referring to the location of the Shechina seems farfetched. We see in the Yerushalmi that Abaye appears to hold by the simple meaning, that it is the prevailing wind direction. We could interpret the brayta about the constant contribution of the North wind as referring to something else not contradictory.
At WindFinder dot com, you can see historical dominant wind directions for the past twelve years, at various spots in Israel, and at least for Tel Aviv, how that is the one coming from the West.
4) No, bees don't eat their honey after tasting mustard. They love mustard, and beekeepers suggest it as a bee crop. But the mustard nectar does give a distinctive color, aroma, and flavor. Rabbi Yossi famously says regarding this (or the three cases in the Mishna) that each damages the other. So when we have a statement that:
מפני שפי הדבורים חד ומחריבות הדבש
Perhaps we can reinterpret it. Not that they eat their own honey to get rid of the bad mustard taste. Rather, the mouth of the bees is sharp and destroys the plants. And the mustard destroys the honey by making it honey-mustard.
Regarding the image (from peanut butter cups):
"You got your honey in my mustard!"
"You got your mustard in my honey!"

Regarding Rashi, the Laaz / Latin word is Orient. What is the Persian word?


“These things being so we shall say, agreeably to what we find in divine scripture, that the sun issuing from the east traverses the sky in the south and ascends northwards, and becomes visible to the whole of the inhabited world. But as the northern and western summit intervenes it produces night in the ocean beyond this earth of ours, and also in the earth beyond the ocean; then afterwards when the sun is in the west, where he is hidden by the highest portion of the earth, and runs his course over the ocean through the northern parts, his presence there makes it night for us, until in describing his orbit he comes again to the east, and again ascending the southern sky illumines the inhabited world, as the divine scripture says through the divine Solomon: “The sun riseth and the sun goeth down and hasteth to his own place. Rising there, he goeth to the south, and wheeleth his circuit, and the wind turneth round to his circuits.” (Christian Topography, part II) Cosmas Indicopleustes-6th Century

Regarding Tedira: 

Abaye in Yerushalmi appears to dispute the diyuk of Rava, that tedira refers to Shechina.

פרק ב הלכה ח משנה  מרחיקין את הנבילות ואת הקברו' ואת הבורסקי מן העיר חמשים אמה ואין עושין בורסקי אלא למזרח העיר ר' עקיבה אומר לכל רוח הוא עושה חוץ מן המערבה ומרחיק חמשים אמה:
דף ו, ב פרק ב הלכה ח גמרא  ר' אבהו בשם רבי יוחנן עד מקום שעושה גלד.  דבית ר' ינאי אמרי עד מקום שעומד ומריח.  ותני כן ר' עקיבה אומר לכל רוח הוא עושה ומרחיק חוץ מן המערבה מפני שהיא תדירה.  רבי מנא היה מהלך עם מוכי שחין אמר ליה אביי לא תהלוך ממדינחיה אלא ממערביה:
דף ו, ב פרק ב הלכה ט משנה  מרחיקין את המשרה מן הירק ואת הכרישין מן הבצלים ואת החרדל מן הדבורים רבי יוסי מתיר בחרדל:

דף ו, ב פרק ב הלכה ט גמרא  תני מרחיקין את הבצלים מן הכרישין ור' לעזר בר' שמעון מתיר.  א"ר יעקב בן דוסאי מגו אילין מתניתא כשם שזה מרחיק זה מזה כך זה מרחיק זה מזה.  רבי אבהו בשם רבי יוסי בן חנינה מפני שפי הדבורים חד ומחריבות הדבש:

From WindFinder.Com, the dominant wind might indeed be a westerly wind:
Dominant Wind Direction, Tel Aviv/Ben Gurion:

Nes Tsiyona:

Do the bees really suffer from eating the mustard and then consume the honey in the hive? No, but the mustard nectar affects the taste of the honey, perhaps in a good way, but there is no accounting for taste.
Bee Value of White Mustard
Considered an excellent bee plant, white mustard brings nectar along with fair quality yellow pollen. The floriferous plants bloom for about a month.
The nectar is easily accessible to bees. Plants yield quite a bit of nectar, up to 1.1 mg per blossom daily. This contains 50 to 60 per-cent sugar concentration.
White mustard can bring a good honey crop of 25 to 100 pounds per colony. The honey can vary in color, but is typically light colored to mustard yellow. When first extracted, it can have a mustard-like aroma.
Although the flavor is initially so strong it can burn the mouth, this mellows with time. Granulating rather rapidly, the honey should be extracted promptly. It has been known to ferment.

"You got your honey in my mustard!"
"You got your mustard in my honey!"

דף ו, ב

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Bava Basra 20b-21b: zecher vs. zeicher

1) In the Mishna at the bottom of 20b, the simple difference is between the objection to intruders, that is, foot traffic making noise and making the courtyard into a less private area, and noise intrinsic to the work. The children studying (or playing) make noise, but this is not the same as making the courtyard into a public thoroughfare.

The various braytot saying one may not establish a school obviously are contradictory to our Mishna and Rava, and claiming that it refers to gentile schoolchildren is a forced answer. It seems more like a matter of Tannaitic dispute. By reinterpreting those other sources, one establishes like the law in the Mishna and like Rava. Meanwhile, the easy answer was not offered by the gemara, that Rava (or by the setama degamara immediately after Rava) already made the necessary distinction, namely ומתקנת יהושע בן גמלא ואילך. Those other braytot were talking about before this takkana, so there would be more intruders, from far off. Or the takkana placed greater importance on this teaching, such that it would override the objections.

2) In terms of punishing a student:

Artscroll’s footnote #10 is based (at least in part) on the next Rashi, or at least that is what they link to. I wonder if this is deliberate.

3) The story with Yoav and reading zecher as referring to males. Artscroll writes it as זְכַר, zechar, with a sheva under the zayin and a patach under the chaf:
This makes some grammatical sense. The idea is that zechar is the construct form (males-of) and would be vocalized in this way, rather than the absolute form (males), which would be vocalized as zachar.

Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Goldberg told me of an interesting explanation from Rav Meshulam Roth (see here) that the difference is between zecher (segol segol) and zeicher (tzeirei segol). With the improper segol segol, it is parallel to eshen hakivshan, a construct form, where the absolute form is ashan. So with segol segol, Yoav believes that it was the construct form of zachar, males.

Shadal uses this as a proof that they didn’t have nikkud in the times of Yoav, because otherwise, “how did the teacher of Yoav not see any sefer which had the nikkud under ther word zecher in the verse timche et zecher Amalek, such that he taught Yoav z'char with a sheva under the zayin and a patach under the chaf?”

(Artscroll presents Tosafot’s read of the gemara, with the teacher knowing it to be zeicher, and answering the adult Yoav with zeicher, but not having corrected Yoav as a child.)

I would add that if Chazal had written nikkud, and / or names for the nikkud, this would be one of the places in which they would have utilized it, at the very least to disambiguate which reading the teacher had, instead of writing the difficult to disambiguate:
אמר ליה והא אנן זכר קרינן א"ל אנא זכר אקריון אזל שייליה לרביה אמר ליה היאך אקריתן אמר ליה זכר

This and other instances in which Chazal should have used nikkud or referred to nikkud by name is telling.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Thoughts on Bava Batra 10b-11b

רבי אבא אמר מהכא (ישעיהו לג, טז) הוא מרומים ישכון מצדות סלעים משגבו לחמו נתן מימיו נאמנים מה טעם מרומים ישכון מצדות סלעים משגבו משום דלחמו נתן ומימיו נאמנים
The derasha might well be also a revocalization, of sela'im mishegavu, *coins* (rather than rocks) when collected.

אלא א"כ ממונה עליה כרבי חנניא בן תרדיון.
See Tosafot. It is a common mistake to judge the value of a person, particularly in the religious sphere, based on a single measure. More accurate would be a vector of characteristics, such as honesty, trustworthiness (like R' Chananya ben Tradyon), mindfulness (like Elisha), empathy, commitment to God, fear of sin, and so on.

3) Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai had his own understanding of the pasuk, yet still encouraged his students to develop their own paths and their own novel interpretations. Interestingly, almost all the students' interpretations line up and have a novelty only in one feature, based on different prooftexts. And none of these really like up with Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai's own interpretation.

אבותי גנזו במקום שהיד שולטת בו ואני גנזתי במקום שאין היד שולטת בו
Wouldn't they have eventually melted?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Bava Basra 8

Considering the Rashi about dogs and ravens

Raven Feeding Young:

Medieval Bestiary
Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 10, 15): When raven chicks are strong enough to fly, their parents drive them far away from the nest, so that in small villages there are never more than two pairs of ravens. Ravens experience 60 days of poor health due primarily to thirst, before the figs ripen in autumn. Some say that ravens mate or lay eggs through the beak, and as a consequence if a pregnant women eats raven eggs or has such eggs in the house, she will experience a difficult birth; but Aristotle says this is not true. Ravens are the only birds that understand the meaning they convey in auspices, and it is a particularly bad sign if a raven gulps down its croak as though it was choking. (Book 10, 60): When Tiberius was emperor, there was a raven in Rome that always greeted him by name. Another raven was seen dropping stones into an urn of water, causing the water to rise high enough for it to drink.
Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (De proprietatibus rerum, book 12): The raven beholdeth the mouths of her birds when they yawn. But she giveth them no meat ere she know and see the likeness of her own blackness, and of her own colour and feathers. And when they begin to wax black, then afterward she feedeth them with all her might and strength. It is said that ravens' birds are fed with dew of heaven all the time that they have no black feathers by benefit of age. Among fowls, only the raven hath four and sixty changings of voice. (Mediaeval Lore from Bartholomew Anglicus (London, 1893/1905) Steele edition of 1905)

Ravens will eat all sorts of food, though, including the feces of the chicks.

Dog Digestion, Source 1:
There is no simple answer though as passage timedepends on several factors. Each dog is an individual. In general, raw dog food takes about 4 to 6 hours to move through your dog. Dry dog food takes a bit longer to digest and spends about 10 to 12 hours inside your dog.

Dog Digestion, Source 2: (Study)

Body weight and GI transit times in dogs

Dogs with the lowest body weight appeared to have longer gastric and small intestinal transit times than did large- and giant-breed dogs

The objective of this study was to assess the relationship between body weight (BW) and gastrointestinal (GI) transit times in healthy dogs, measured by a wireless motility capsule (WMC) system. Food was withheld overnight from 31 healthy dogs. The following morning, each dog received an orally administered WMC, then a test meal that provided a fourth of the daily energy requirements. Measurements were obtained from each dog in its home environment via a vest holding a receiver that collected and stored data from the WMC.
Gastric emptying time (GET) ranged from 405 to 897 minutes, small bowel transit time (SBTT) ranged from 96 to 224 minutes, large bowel transit time (LBTT) ranged from 427 to 2,573 minutes and total transit time (TTT) ranged from 1,294 to 3,443 minutes. There was no positive relationship between BW and GI transit times. A nonlinear inverse relationship between BW and GET and between BW and SBTT best fit the data. The LBTT could not be explained by this model and likely influenced the poor fit for the TTT.
Dogs with the lowest BW appeared to have longer gastric and small intestinal transit times than did large- and giant-breed dogs.
Source : C.S. Boillat et al., 2010. Assessment of the relationship between body weight and gastrointestinal transit times measured by use of a wireless motility capsule system in dogs. AJVR 71: 898-902. doi: 10.2460/ajvr.71.8.898


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