Saturday, 23 March 2013

Eiruvin 15a, b

Maybe I have inhaled too much ammonia from cleaning for Pesach, but I couldn't help but think of comedy routines while I read today's daf.

On a tangent regarding the materials that can be used to construct side posts (and the use of live beings - animals and humans - is debated), the rabbis turn to question which materials are 'kosher' as divorce bills.   I paraphrase: 
Because Deuteronomy says that a man writes a scroll of severance and puts it in her hand, we know that only a scroll is valid.  So what tells us that other objects can be written on?  - Because the Torah states "that he write her", meaning that he can write on any surface.  - Well then why does the verse specifically state "scroll"?   To tell us that a bill of divorce must be written on a surface like a scroll.  "Just as a scroll is neither alive nor food, so too, a bill of divorce may be written on any object that is neither alive nor food".
Is it just me, or does that not sound suspiciously like the witch sketch in Monty Python's The Holy Grail?  Logic trumps all.

This is serious stuff, though, and the rabbis go on to debate whether or not conditions can be included in a bill of divorce. They agree that conditions are allowed, as long as the husband is clearly releasing his wife of all of her obligations toward him.  The rabbis disagree about how long conditions can last; some say 30 days and others say a lifetime.  It seems that the personalities of individual husbands and of those on particular bet dins would determine whether this ruling might be used to the advantage of a husband or a wife.

The descriptions of what a husband does to divorce a wife reminds me of Steve Martin's Wild and Crazy Guy's piece about how his country's solution to breaking up: "we say, 'I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee', and then we throw dog poop on her shoes.  Then we go to the swinging singles bar, and we look for the girls with the dog poop on their shoes..."

When the Mishna in 15b speaks of how to deal with breaks in partitions when created by a caravan in a field, I begin to glimpse the beginning of my understanding of the modern eiruv.  A relief for me when grappling with concepts that hold little meaning to me given my education and my experience in modern Toronto.  

A final thought: I notice hints of obsessive compulsive disorder in today's daf.  I think about OCD and halacha often at this time of year.  I cannot understand how orthodox people kasher their kitchens.  I try to be strict, but how can I get rid of the hametz cutlery while we are still using them?  How can I kasher the sink to cook pesachdik brisket when the sink is being used to wash hametz dishes? The idea of searching out every little crumb is one that can move anyone further on the OCD spectrum.

When the rabbis discuss whether or not segments of the partition are useful for carrying if they are exactly equal to the size of the break (not bigger and not smaller), I can just see those OCD ancestors of mine, pulling out tools to measure to the millimetre the wood over an alleyway.  Observance is not meant for the easygoing personality.

I think it is clear that I have been cleaning for Pesach for too long today.


  1. SNL and Monty Python! Such a fun post.
    The rituals of religion can work both ways in terms of mental illness-- they can ( so easily ) push someone over the edge of ODC as you note, but they can also give absolute structure to some mentally ill people who would be adrift and worse off without it.

    How to kosher your kitchen - you can be halackic, frugal or environmental but not all 3 (people use paper and throw it out or eat out a lot before Passover).

    Such a nice break from my eggs...

  2. Ha!
    I love what you say about the 3 ways we can kasher our kitchens. So true.
    Also I agree with your thoughts about religion (or, more specifically, religious ritual) and mental health. I consciously chose to become more involved with my ritual practice both on my own and in community as "medicine" for my own struggles. And while it might not be as effective as medication or therapy, it is certainly an ingredient in the maintenance of my mental health.

    I'm not looking forward to the egg preparation... I never know if I will have easy shells or tough shells. Tomorrow afternoon I'll find out.

    : )