Thursday, 29 August 2013

Pesachim 71 a, b

Today's daf focused on two different conversations.  The first was with regard to rejoicing on the Festivals.  We are commanded to rejoice, and rejoicing can mean eating & drinking (in the time of the Temple, Steinsaltz tells us that this was clearly the case), wearing clean clothes -- new clothes for women (and who washed the clothes  to make them clean for the rejoicing?? but I digress...), and drinking old wine.  The rabbis wish to clarify the logistics of rejoicing.  For example, if we must rejoice and eating sacrificial meat is rejoicing and the holiday falls on Shabbat, how do we know whether the roasting of the offering is permissible as it trumps Shabbat halachot?  And the rabbis mostly agree that eating raw and not roasted meat of the offering is no celebration.

The second conversation is a long, new mishna.  We learn about what to do when something goes wrong with the offering of the Paschal lamb.  The start of this mishna teaches that a Paschal lamb that is slaughtered on Shabbat inappropriately (ie. for the wrong 'reason'; when it was not actually a mitzvah to sacrifice that lamb), a sin offering is required as the halachot of Shabbat were broken without the excuse of a mitzvah.  However, the remainder of the mishna is filled with examples of unintentional offerings -- when there was an unknown illness and thus the lamb was later disqualified, or when an owner changed his mind about the slaughter but did not tell the person making the offering, for example.

The rabbis speak about communal offerings, as well.  It seems that there is greater leniency regarding offerings made by diverse groups of people as a rule.  Why would this be the case?  To create fewer potential issues within the larger community?  To encourage group registration for sacrifices?

One point that stood out for me was the notion of the disqualified blemished animal.  Steinsaltz reminds us of the origin of this rule in Leviticus (22:17-25) and further discussions (masechet Bechorot).  The basic idea is that we offer our best: our first, freshest, most enticing fruits; our perfectly unblemished animals.  Any permanent blemish disqualifies the animal (missing a limb, etc).  Any temporary blemish disqualifies the animal only temporarily; it can be offered up when the blemish is gone.  A tereifa is an animal that is disqualified because it has an illness that will cause it to die within the year.

With all of ancient Judaism's discrimination against people with 'blemishes' - when one is deaf, for example, one is considered to be a less competent witness in all matters - it should not surprise anyone that animals are treated similarly.  But today I thought about it slightly differently.  If we are offering an unblemished animal, so to speak, perhaps we are offering an animal that simply is worth a lot of money.  Just like the first fruits.  Perhaps the idea is that we are giving up something that we value with our pocketbooks.  Thus we are forced to care about the sacrifice, because we are giving up something worth money.  If we sacrifice an animal that costs us nothing, why would we care about losing it?

But that brings me back to people.  How can we possibly believe that a person with a 'blemish' is of less value?  People have no monetary value.  So a person with a developmental disability, for example, would not be counted as a witness in ancient Jewish law.  But shouldn't we be encouraged to think about people as valuable beyond our monetary worth?

I know that I am comparing two forms of 'demonstrating respect' that are not truly comparable: the disqualification of animals with blemishes in sacrificial rites and the devaluing of people with 'blemishes' as witnesses in court.  However, our treatment of people with disabilities continues to be horrendous, for the most part.  I hate to think that even ancient Jewish law might assert that physical 'perfection' is anything more than a hollow shell.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Pesachim 70 a, b

In an attempt to clarify when and how the Paschal lamb will be sacrificed - particularly when the 14 or 15 of Nissan fall on Shabbat - the rabbis compare and contrast this offering to that of the Festival peace-offering.  The rabbis disagree about many factors: which should be sacrificed first, how they should be sacrificed (roasted, etc.), where they can be slaughtered, etc. etc.  Steinsaltz explains that one rabbi, Yehuda ben Dortai, moves with his son far from the Temple to physically distance himself from the rabbinical rulings about the Festival peace-offering on Shabbat - a ruling with which he vehemently disagrees.

The rabbis include both Yehuda ben Dortai's argument and their misgivings about sharing the opinion of a nay-sayer.  However, Yehuda ben Dortai's comments and his indignation survive until today.  Again, one of my very favourite things about reading the Talmud: even when dissident voices are overruled and chided, they are included as part of the text.  

It would be helpful to have greater clarity regarding the actual practices of the rabbis of the time of the Talmud.  If the Temple was already destroyed, would the rabbis not be speaking about what happened in the past, rather than about their current practices?  If I am correct and these conversations regarding Temple sacrifices are somewhat theoretical, why so much time and energy on the small details?  Perhaps the rabbis were attempting to create instructions for all of us should the Temple be rebuilt again.  Or perhaps I am wrong in my understanding and the rabbis were indeed continuing to practice these rites of sacrifice.  

Part of my fascination with Talmud has to do with this highly developed system of internal logic.  Another part has to do with the historical record left for us to explore and understand.  Daily I am witness to rabbis as people -- brilliant people, yes, but people, who just like us are grasping and searching for meaning, letter by letter, metaphor by metaphor.  

As we prepare for Rosh Hashana in our current timeline, I am drawn away from the idea of repentance by my study of Pesach rituals every day.  I work to refocus myself on the relationships between the daily daf and my Jewish life.  Today, I feel a clear connection between the lives of the rabbis, filled with struggles and searches for meaning, and my own small life, where I too struggle and search.

Pesachim 69 a, b

Today's daf introduces us to Eliezer (the great) through an argument with Abaye.  The substance of their argument has to do with whether the preparation for the observance of a mitzvah can override the prohibition of performing those acts and/or the mitzvah itself on Shabbat.  They are attempting to understand the particular rites performed to facilitate the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb.

What I find fascinating about this argument is the discourse that follows.  The rabbis are very concerned that Abaye and Eliezer disagree with each other so strongly.  Steinsaltz shares with us some of the background of these two scholars - both of them came to study later in life, and both were considered to be great minds.  Eliezer's ability to memorize, his leaning toward Shammai's views, and his ability to concede to the opinions of the majority set him apart.  Abaye was so humble that he said not a word to his teacher Eliezer in their many of years of study together - until this particular argument.

The notion of timing is applied to the rite of circumcision.  When does the obligation to fulfill the mitzvah of circumcision override the rules of Shabbat?  How might this apply to those who wish to partake of the Paschal lamb?  What is the difference between a child and an adult who have not yet been circumcised when they wish to fulfill the mitzvah of eating the Paschal lamb?

I am curious about these rites of circumcision and how they can be managed.  For example, we in a note that a child is not liable if his father (or his father's agent) has not circumcised him before the age of 12.  However, turning 13 and continuing to be uncircumcised does not automatically result in karet.  The logic is that a person can choose to circumcise himself at any time, thus there is no need to punish an adult who might still be circumcised.  However, he is not allowed to partake of the Pachal lamb.

I know more and more people who are choosing not to circumcise their Jewish sons.  Their reasoning is complex, but much of it relies on the notion that a covenant with G-d need not be imprinted in the flesh, particularly the flesh of a human being at our most vulnerable.  Because of assimilation and because of the acceptance of detailed discussion with our children, parents are not terribly anxious about "but he won't look like his dad" or "but he won't look like the other kids in the change room"concerns.  Further, there are other options, including the "brit shalom" that invoke the covenant with no pain or permanent physical mark.

I have very mixed feelings about this rite myself.  Girls are not required to do this and yet we are understood as part of the covenant, right?  Or is our connection lesser than that of men?  If it is the same, why do men require this rite of early potential trauma?  At the same time, circumcision connects boys and men with each other across generations.  Who are we to change that tradition at this particular point in time?  If we choose not to circumcise, are we blocking our sons from their physical, emotional and historical connections with a higher power and with their larger community?

We chose to circumcise our son.  I cannot say with certainty that we would make the same decision if he were born today.  According to today's daf, he would have always had the opportunity to circumcise himself in the future.  Ultimately I believe that the most important piece of this decision making is the decision-making process.  When we act without thought, we are more likely to be cruel to ourselves in the future when we have made poor decisions.  However, when we think carefully about the choices that we make, the future is likely to bring us a more compassionate view of ourselves.  When we are kind to ourselves we give ourselves permission to think through our decisions again, to confirm them at a different time, or to change our minds.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Pesachim 68 a, b

Today's daf seemed somewhat longer than usual, and a number of interesting concepts were discussed. I won't share the details of those discussions, but here's an overview:

  • Which ritual impurity is the worst?  The rabbis debate the similarities and differences between different sources of ritual impurity and their prescribed consequences.  In particular the rabbis are interested in how a ritual impurity might affect a person's ability to be present in the camp of the Divine presence and/or the camp of the Levites when the mishkan was the centre of our religious observance.
  • We cut out the waste from the Paschal lamb's intestine.  We learn that the disgusting nature of this part of the sacrifice was threatening to the process of offering and thus must be removed.
  • Once we begin to interpret Isaiah, we have to go all the way.  To explain the point above, Chiyyah bar Rav uses Isaiah 5:17, where the word mechim is translated as wicked; something with similar qualities to the stuff removed from the intestine of the Paschal lamb.  However, the rabbis elaborate on that full passage, making connections far beyond those first intended.  They transition to speaking passionately about the World-to-Come (hints about prophets who will indicate the messiah's arrival, everlasting - or, perhaps, just extended - life, differences for Jews and Gentiles, changes in the light of the sun and the moon, healing at the time of the messiah compared with healing in the World-to-Come, to name a few).  Of course, the rabbis pull in many other proof texts in this discussion.
  • Time and place matter, particularly when removing warts from our sacrifice.  Different rules for moist and dry warts.  Different rules for inside and outside of the Temple.  Does a wart disintegrate?  When and where can we use an instrument (as opposed to our fingers) to remove a wart from the sacrificial lamb?  Why are our rules different for lambs and priests with warts?
  • How and when do we rejoice on a Festival?  Since we are allowed to override Shabbat rules to sacrifice the Paschal lamb on Shabbat, and we are commanded to rejoice on Festivals/feasts (Deuteronomy 16:14), how do we behave on Festivals?  Does "to rejoice" really mean "to eat and drink"?  Or does it refer to the soul (Rav Sheshet)? Does it matter whether the Festival is Sukkot or Pesach or Purim or Shemini Atzeret -- or even the day before Yom Kippur (Mar ben Ravina)?  How do we balance the joy of eating/drinking with the joy of learning?
Far too much to capture.  Fascinating... and continually inspiring other questions.  Some off of the top of my head: how often did people lie about their state of ritual purity?  Why would we model our society after our time in the desert (ie. camps surrounding the mishkan) when the Temple service was in place -- and why would we continue to model our rituals after the Temple service after the Temple was gone?  Did the rabbis - and the rest of the community - ever question whether the World-to-Come existed? Why warts?  Why not tumours or dandruff or another ailment - did this indicate the ubiquity of warts?  How did people balance their attempts to control their appetites with the mitzvah to rejoice?  Were those who fasted excessively like Mar son of Ravina lauded for their discipline or chided for their failure to rejoice as commanded?

And those are just a few...

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Pesachim 67 a, b

The rabbis are working to define who was permitted to participate in the Temple rites.  They consider those who are deemed as having ritual impurity, zavin and zavot, those with tzorah, women who are menstruating and women who have recently given birth.  The rabbis wonder about the difference between those who have had first degree contact with a corpse and others.  They wonder about groups verses individuals.  They ask about these people when they travel beyond their boundaried limits.  They question whether these Jews might attend the second Pesach instead of the first.** 

Some of their conversation refers to three camps of Jews.  Those closest to the Temple, those surrounding the Temple, and those in the rest of Jerusalem or other walled cities of Eretz Yisroel, we learn from Steinsaltz.  We also learn from his note that these three camps are parallel to the three camps of Jews in the desert: the holiest with the mishkan, the Levites surrounding that group, and the rest of the Israelites further from that centre point.  He tells us that notions of ritual purity coincide with these three levels as well.

The rabbis discuss how a negative mitzvah might become a positive mitzvah.  I was not aware of this possibility, but Steinsaltz shares that negative mitzvot were usually repaired by fixing the action; for example, a stolen object could be returned. In this way severe punishments often were avoided completely.

We are witness to a long conversation about differences between a corpse and the carcass of a creeping animal; restrictions on a zav and on a tzorah.  It seems that stringencies are more severe on a tzorah than on a zav.  I had not realized that a zav imparts ritual impurity through movement.  Steinsaltz offers some helpful information regarding a zav - someone who has gonorrhea.  He tells us that the first white discharge found requires the same actions as those for a man who has had a seminal emission.  They are impure for the day and must immerse in the evening.  Should a discharge appear again, the man takes on the status of zav and can impart ritual impurity to vessel he causes to move, anything he sits or lies upon, anyone or thing he touches.  He is forbidden to have marital relations (and, I would assume, non-marital relations :).  After seven clean days the zav can immerse. If discharge appears again, he must offer a special sacrifice.  

The tzorah, on the other hand, can impart ritual impurity to anything or anyone s/he touches, much like a corpse.  After two weeks of seclusion and a final determination of tzar'at, the tzorah grows his/her hair, rents his/her clothing, and wears a special head covering.  S/he is much more isolated than the zav.

A number of disturbing issues are stirred up by today's daf.  First, the concept of ritual impurity.  Was gonorrhea curable through waiting a few weeks?  Immersion, sacrifice... should we be offering that treatment today?  Or were people zavin/zavot forever once diagnosed?  And what about tzara'at - we still don't know whether we are speaking about leprosy, psoriasis, or some other unknown skin disease.  Was this ever cured?  And was it actually contagious, requiring isolation from the community?  I wonder how common these afflictions were in the times of the Talmud.  Was this so common that there was little stigma?  Or, more likely, was this uncommon enough that those diagnosed were shunned and rejected without any recourse?

I cannot help but continually connect ritual impurity with the experience of having a communicable disease.  The zav, someone with gonorrhea, and the tzorah, someone with a specific skin condition, should be isolated lest they infect others with these untreatable conditions.  These seem to be medically connected.  Further, I can understand that semen or other genital discharge might be seen similarly - these are almost sacred emissions, and they could be thought to carry power thus people should be isolated and immersed following contact.  And a corpse or the carcass of a creeping animal might carry germs that could make others very ill.  But how does menstrual blood or discharge/blood following childbirth fit into this group?  Were women's blood thought to carry disease, or be contagious in some way?  IS it dangerous, medically speaking?  Is it in the same category as semen, which is not what we want to touch accidentally, but not actually harmful?

As a feminist and someone who believes that people, not G-d, wrote these specific interpretations, I cannot help but see menstruation as somehow scary, powerful, and difficult to understand.  I want to believe another woman-affirming interpretation is available, but I haven't found myself convinced.  

Fortunately I have much to look forward to as other tractates examine this material in great depth.

** The "second Pesach" is not commonly observed in modern times except by some Chasidic/ultra-orthodox groups.  It occurs one month after Pesach, on the 14 of Iyar.  When Temple rites existed, this holiday allowed all people to participate, not just those who were 'ritually pure'.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Pesachim 66 a, b

Yesterday's daf moved us from Perek V to Perek VI, and from the first volume of Koren's Pesachim to the second.  Yesterday's daf was Shabbat for me, so I'm sharing that news now.

Today the rabbis look at comparisons between the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb and of the daily sin offering.  They discuss what to do when a person has forgotten his knife because Pesach falls on Shabbat and one does not carry a knife on Shabbat.  They tell of how Hillel would consecrate and sacrifice his offerings.  The rabbis share some fascinating suggestions about what happens to different people when they behave with haughtiness or in anger.  Finally, they begin a discussion about how those with ritual impurity might share in the communal gathering at Pesach.

Steinsatlz shares a long note in today's daf regarding Hillel - his origins, his temperament, his relationship with Shammai, his influence.  Twice today we are told that Hillel does not have the answer to a question asked of him.  Instead, he shares this response: "I heard this halacha but I have forgotten.  But leave it to the Jewish people; if they are not prophets, they are the sons of prophets."  Not only does Hillel admit that he has forgotten halacha, he does not insist on finding or redeveloping new halacha.  Instead, he tells the rabbis: I trust the Jewish people to find an answer.  Either we will hear the will of G-d directly, or we will be close (genetically, emotionally, physically) to those who have heard G-d's intentions directly.

The rabbis try to understand Hillel's words.  How could such a great scholar lose his memory?  They speak of his haughtiness: in a baraita, Hillel is said to have rebuked others.  The consequence for this haughtiness is that he loses his memory for the halachot of today's daf.  Thus haughtiness leads to a lack of wisdom in Torah scholars.  Using a number of other proofs, the rabbis teach us that haughtiness and anger lead to the departure of wisdom for Torah scholars and a departure of prophecy for prophets.  Anger is also said to lower those who are great (with Eliab, David's older brother, as the proof text).

Without moving into a detailed discussion of the rabbinical disdain for haughtiness and anger, I am going to spend a few more moments on Hillel's comment regarding the Jewish people.  Hillel seems to believe that the Jewish people will understand what we are intended to do when faced with challenging halachic questions.  In fact, he is telling us that we have direct - or almost direct - lines to G-d.

When I speak with people about my Talmud study or about prayer, questions about G-d arise quickly.  Do I really believe that the G-d of the Torah is real?  How can I be comfortable, as a feminist, with such an inherently patriarchal and inflexible system of thought?  I respond by explaining my understanding of G-d, which is more of a positive, energetic constant than a 'being'.  When I am struggling with a question, I do trust that I can find an answer through G-d, as Hillel would say, but through my own voice.  At my best, I quietly face myself to understand what I want and need. However, that turning inward is simultaneously a turning outward, as I focus on tapping into that ever-present energy.  Hillel's version of G-d seems to be in sync with mine; however, it is close to 2500 years old. Hillel is not telling us that we know best for ourselves, he is telling us that we will be able to hear what G-d wants us to do.  And he trusts that we will listen to "G-d" and arrive at the appropriate halacha.

Certainly I will write more about this at other points in time.  Hillel's ability to trust in our own closeness with G-d when it comes to halacha was very meaningful for me.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Pesachim 64 a, b

After additional considered thought regarding the intentions of the Priests when slaughtering the Paschal lamb, we move into a very different mishna and Gemara.  The mishna is the longest I can remember seeing, covering much of the rituals associated with the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb.  The Gemara seeks to clarify the actual rites intended in the mishna.

This new mishna is filled with detailed information.  We are told that groups made up of no less than 10 people wait outside of the Temple and then three groups are admitted.  Always the third group is small, as most people are accommodated earlier.  Israelites are the ones who do the sacrificing.  Levites sing part of Hallel (the rabbis dispute which part) while the Kohanim stand in two lines, collecting the blood of the offerings in their gold or their silver bowls.  These bowls have rounded bottoms so that they cannot be put down, allowing the blood to congeal.  They are held by their long handles.  The blood is passed from priest to priest until the last Priest sprinkles the blood of the sacrifice.  We are told that even on Shabbat, this ritual takes place on the 14th of Nissan.  In fact, the floors are washed on Shabbat as well, against the wishes of the rabbis.

I can't help but be astonished at the detail of these rituals.  They feel so arbitrary to me; so distant from my understanding of Judaism.  And yet these rituals are much closer to our Jewish roots, which begs another question: is there such a thing as 'authentic' Judaism?  And if we accept that there is not one way of living a Jewishly observant life - because certainly we are so far removed from the time of the Temples that our our subsequent interpretations are equally 'inauthentic' -  then how do we validate each other as Jews rather than tear each other down?  (See on "Patrilineal Descent: What's Right Isn't Easy" for a great examination of this idea)

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Pesachim 63 a, b

We continue to learn about the intention of the Priests when they are offering the Paschal lamb. In daf (b), we also look at how halachot regarding the Paschal lamb offering might differ from those regarding other offerings: thanks offerings or sin offerings.

The rabbis are clear that the transgression of a Torah law refers to the "blood"; the rite that includes the actual slaughter of the lamb.  Not the sprinkling, as was discussed in yesterday's daf, but the actual killing of the animal.  I found the descriptive passages quite disturbing.

In daf (a), we are told that the Priests' intentions are critical during the time of slaughter.  More specifically, the severing of the windpipe versus the severing of the esophagus.  If the priest intends to atone for the sins of a group of circumsized and uncircumsized men, he may disqualify the offering altogether if his intention regards uncircumsized men first.  

Again, I wonder about how intention is measured.  Certainly the priest would not call out, "I intend to accept this offering on behalf of this group of circumsized men - and then uncircumsized men."  So the intention must have been silent.  And how can we know another person's intent?

The idea that a priest would consciously shift his intention from one group of people to another at the moment that a blade passes from windpipe to esophagus is implausible to me.  But this is a notion considered seriously by the rabbis.

In daf (b), we learn about another even more gruesome rite, 'pinching'.  In Steinsaltz's note, we learn more about that practice.  While holding a bird's wings and legs with his left hand, the priest would use his overgrown index finger to slice through the bird's upturned neck, severing the head for a sin-offering.  This rite is included here as the rabbis discuss how the Paschal lamb offering differs from other offerings on Pesach.

I am imagining the priest's and their bloody fingers, their bloody fingernails.  Did priests incur ritual impurity through performance of sacrificial rites?  How carefully did they wash the blood from their hands (and that reminds me -- I have wondered whether anyone cleaned the sprinkled blood from the wall of the Temple or whether that built up over time, creating quite a mess?)?  How did they function if they had a fingernail so much bigger than the others? What if a priest's nails were not strong?

Witnessing the rabbis debate these points without touching on my personal questions is both frustrating and a an important practice for me.  I need to learn patience in almost all parts of my life.  Why not start with Talmud study?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Pesachim 62 a, b

Today's daf extends the conversation regarding who is permitted to eat of the Paschal sacrifice.  They are particularly focused on those who are not circumcized, either because they are in the process of conversion or because they are Jews who are not yet circumcized.   Of note is the concern for those who might benefit from the atonement acquired through the sprinkling of blood and the eating of the lamb.  The rabbis seem to want to ensure that people are able to atone thoughtfully .

Of greater interest to me is the anecdote regarding Rabbi Simlai who approached Rabbi Yochanan and asked to be taught the hidden Book of Genealogy.  When asked where he was from, Rabbi Simlai answered Lod and Neharde'a.  Rabbi Yochanan attempted to refuse the request based on the low level of learning in those places.  However, Rabbi Simlai asked a question related to our mishna, and Rabbi Yochanan is impressed.  He offers to teach Rabbi Simlai, who then demands to be taught the Book of Genealogy in three months.  To indicate the impossibility of his request, Rabbi Yochanan mentions Berurya, who once learned 300 halachot from 300 rabbis in only one day.  Even a person of her genius took over three years to learn the Book of Genealogies.

I believe that this is the second reference to Berurya in the daf yomi ordering of the masechtot.  Steinsaltz tells us in his notes that she was married to Rabbi Meir and was the daughter of Rabbi Chanina ben Teradyon, one of the ten martyrs.  Berurya was known for her many exceptional qualities: her memory, her quick mind, her charisma, her modesty, her compassion.  She was thought to be a genius and the Talmud records her disagreements with rabbis leading to halachot in accordance with her arguments.

Why would one woman stand out in this way?  How was she able to master the texts and enter the world of male learning to better her skill?  I am certain that I will come across much more regarding Berurya.  The fact that she was used to demonstrate unusual genius is compelling; however, once the rabbis recognized that a woman was capable of this level of learning, how could they justify closing off Talmudic learning to all women?

The Book of Genealogy is said to be a list of families and their status regarding ritual impurity.  In fact, it listed the details regarding impurities.  This was so upsetting to many prominent families, who insisted that the book be hidden away.  After that time, every seven years the lists would be reviewed by the priests, and families would be told of their impurities privately.  Apparently it was extremely difficult to learn because it held many, many detailed lists of names.

Again we learn that our traditions were shaped by the desires of the wealthy and powerful.  Certainly there is a stream of thought within these texts that is advocating for the rights of those who are disadvantaged.   However, much of what I am learning is based on the maintenance of the powerful through interpretation and practice.  Pretty disappointing, but perhaps not terribly surprising, as even our Sages were human beings, plagued with the same vulnerabilities as the rest of us.

Pesachim 61 a, b

Daf 61 begins with a question: what if one's status changes because s/he dies?  This sparks a conversation about the nature of disqualification.  Is an offering communal or individual? Can an offering be disqualified on the basis of a thought alone?  These are some of the questions that I have been asking throughout our discussion of the Paschal lamb offering.

A new mishna tells us that a Paschal lamb is permitted if all have paid for it and if the group is comprised of those allowed and those not allowed to partake of it (uncircumcized, ritually impure).  However, the Paschal lamb is disqualified if the group is made up of only those who are not allowed to partake of it.  The mishna then tells us that the offering is disqualified if slaughtered before midday (based on Exodus 12:6).  It also describes what should be done if it is slaughtered before the afternoon offering - the blood must be stirred to prevent congealment before it is sprinkled.  Finally, the sprinkling is permitted even after the afternoon offering.

Among other details, the Gemara looks at the importance of each person receiving their portion. Clearly, in Exodus 12:4, the exact numbers are counted and thus are extremely important.  We come across this frequently in the Torah, the 'counts'.  If every word, every letter, in the Torah is meaningful, how can we argue leniency in the name of an elderly person who cannot partake of the Paschal lamb and thus might disqualify his/her offering?  To some degree, the rabbis are forced to grapple with the inherent inequality of this process.

Rav Ashi and Rav Chida disagree regarding atonement for those who are uncircumsized.  Does the rite of sprinkling result in atonement, and thus even those who are uncircumsized can atone?  Or if the priest intends to do these rites for the circumsized and the uncircumsized, has he disqualified the offering?  The rabbis continue to break down this question and argue about whether or not there can be any leniency in this situation.  

I am guessing that this decision confirms that we are not supposed to invite non-Jews to the Passover seders.  Steinsaltz uses a note to tell us that uncircumsized men were not allowed to partake of the Paschal lamb in any circumstance (Sefat Emet).  Families continue to suffer because of this ruling.  I do not know whether there is a direct connection between being disallowed from eating the Paschal lamb and being disallowed to eat the seder meal.  However, the similarity in manner of exclusion is striking. 

Again, faced with the black/white, boxy, legal designations of the rabbi's rulings, we must balance between inclusion and exclusion.  So much of Judaism (and of every religion, of course) is predicated upon building a community.  The foundation of community is a feeling of inclusion.  However, as soon as we experience inclusion, exclusion exists as well.  How might we create a world where we can derive the significant benefits of 'feeling part of something bigger' without creating the likelihood that others will be pushed away, left out, etc.?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Pesachim 60 a, b

The rabbis continue their conversation regarding the importance of Priests' intentions in sacrificial rites. Most of the basics of this debate are discussed in yesterday's daf (59).  A couple of notes that I had not known are shared in Steinsaltz' notes:
  • rites concerning the Paschal lamb/sin offerings are specific when looking at intent (re: rites of different offerings)
  • uncircumsized or ritually impure people and those who cannot physically consume it cannot eat from the Paschal lamb and thus it is disqualified, even when the Priest's intent is clear
Daf (b) extends the rabbi's question: is a Paschal lamb kosher if it is slaughtered at a different time of year for its own purpose? for a different purpose?  What if it is sacrificed for both?  We learn that in the last case, the different purpose is valid.  But then the rabbis argue whether or not the other purpose is nullified.   

We are told in a note that often the rabbis are referring to a case where the initial intent can be for one purpose but then the intent changes - a different purpose.  The offerings in these cases can be designated as peace-offerings, for these are valid even when brought for a different purpose.

The rabbis continue to argue about what the Priest has said - what is his intent?  And thus if he intends to sacrifice on behalf of two groups, for example those who can and those who cannot eat the Paschal lamb, is the offering disqualified?  And what if the lamb changes owners - might that disqualify the offering?

Steinsaltz again explains in a note about the traditions regarding consuming the Paschal lamb.  Apparently a person can register - pay - to be with one group of people who will all partake of the Paschal lamb together.  And then, if s/he wishes, that same person can change groups.  If one member of the group cannot partake of the mitzvah, the offering is valid.  Further, all members of a given family within a group will partake of the Paschal lamb.

The rabbis continue to look at intention.  I have found that intention is not always the most important factor in Jewish practice; it is not necessary to believe at all times, but the mitzvot - the obligations - are required.  Why is intent so important in this context?  Perhaps we are not looking at intent as something internal but as something primarily public, a statement of intention or designation.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Pesachim 59 a, b

The rabbis are in deep discussion regarding sacrifice of the Paschal lamb, general halachot regarding sacrifice, and the importance of intention with regard to this rite. 

  • the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb
  • when the sacrifice should occur: meanings of "in the evening" and "in the afternoon"
  • rites that are valid "from evening to morning"
  • the order of occurrence: lighting lamps, burning incense, sacrificing the Paschal lamb
  • how one word might determine our rites, for example, the word "it" in  Exodus 30:8: "And when Aaron lights the lamps in the afternoon he shall burn it" might suggest that the incense is already burning when one lights the lamps.
  • what delays these rituals (the  immersions of a zav, one who lacks atonement on other days, the strength of the positive mitzvah to eat sacrificial meat, etc.)
  • when birds alone are used as sacrifices
  • when animal sin-offerings are left atop the altar to be sacrificed in the morning (and thus observing the positive mitzvah of completion)
  • the sacrifices brought by a zav
  • the sacrifices brought by a woman following childbirth
  • what priests may eat after the sacrificial parts are offered (breasts and thighs)
  • requirements of full atonement
  • different requirements for ritually impure offerings and for fat
  • different requirements for Pesach offerings
  • the requirement that Shabbat and Festival burnt-offerings are not shared

In a new Mishna, we are taught that a priest must intend to sacrifice  either a peace-offering or a burnt-offering or a Paschal lamb at all stages of the offering for it to be valid.  Rav Pappa raises a question in the Gemara: did the priest in question have two different intentions during one of the four rites of one offering?  Or, perhaps, did he have two different intentions during the first and third parts of the offering?

  • Steinsaltz tells us of three types of disqualifications:  
    • when blood is sprinkled/limbs are burned at the wrong time (thus the sacrifice will be rendered piggul).  
    • when the place of sacrificing is incorrect.  
    • only applies to sin-offerings and the Paschal lamb: when the sacrifice is offered with an incorrect intention. 
    • The four rites that can disqualify an offering regarding intent are:
      • slaughtering the offering
      • receiving its blood in a consecrated vessel (collected in a vessel from the neck)
      • carrying the blood to the altar 
      • sprinkling the blood on the altar (of great consequence regarding atonement)
  • Steinsaltz shares a fascinating note regarding Rabbi Yosei's idea regarding sacrificial animals:
    • a person is accountable the conclusion of his statement
    • if one intended to make both statements but must say one first, then the second is valid
    • if he changed his mind after the start of his first statement, the conclusion is irrelevant
    • simply making the first statement changes the status of the animal in question
    • one may retract one's statement in other halachot for changing his mind
    • Rabbi Shimon ben Nannas believes that only the conclusion of one's statement is the most important part of the statement as it holds the person's intention
It is wonderful to note the rabbis' concerns regarding intention. No one can measure another's intention.  This is an internal process.  Thus priests could lie about their thoughts and feelings at the time of sacrifice and no one would know the difference.  Often we are told that rabbis and priests are vigilant - in today's daf,  kohanim zrivin hen.  They are understood to hold themselves to a higher standard that the rest of us.  But who knows whether or not another person, even a priest, is vigilant in his heart?

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Pesachim 57a, b

Today's daf is the last of Perek III.   We learn about a few more salient arguments/concepts:

1) Bohayan's son allowed the corner of the garden's vegetables to the poor.  Bohayan stops people on their way out, offering twice the produce but tithed.  The issue: vegetables must be tithed, but the corners of our fields are not tithed. 

2) Priests gave the hides of consecrated animals to other priests in the Parva chamber.**  In the evening, rather than distributing these hides to the families of priest who just finished serving, the most powerful priests would "take them (the hides) by force".  To solve this problem, the rabbis decreed that the distribution of hides would take place on the eve of Shabbat when all priests were together.  However, some powerful priests continued to bully others and took the hides for themselves.  On realizing this, the owners of the sacrifices consecrated the hides to heaven so that the priests could not take them at all.  There is a commentary on when and how items can be properly consecrated.

3) Days later, the hides had been sold and the community witnessed the gold bought with that money.  Then the sanctuary was entirely covered with these gold plates.

The Gemara shares peoples' complaints about the corrupt priests.  Some detail is provided, including complaints about Yissakhar of Kfar Barkai, who would wrap his hands in silk to perform the Torah service.  This invalidated the service because of the barrier between his hands and his work, and it demonstrated a reluctance to 'dirty his hands' with the work of the High Priest.  Yochanan ben Narbbai was said to be exorbitant in his indulgences, possibly excluding - or including, the commentators tell us - the poor of his community.  

The Perek ends with a discussion of what is preferred for the daily sacrifice, goat or lamb meat.  While the rabbis debate this point and decide that there is not a clear preference based on available proof-texts, Yissakhar of Kfar Barkai does not benefit from their decision.  A gruesome story of his losing not one but both hands.  The first was a punishment for his indifference regarding the King's decision regarding lamb as the preferred meat for sacrifice.  The second was another punishment, this time for having bribed the official to cut off his left hand instead of his right.

A blessing is recited, "Blessed is G-d who took retribution".  In our notes, Steinsaltz reminds us that the rabbis debated about whether it was preferable to be punished in this lifetime or the next.

Today's daf allows us an honest voyage into the world of power and its abuses.  Punishments could be severe - beatings, dismemberment - and the rabbinical courts sometimes condoned this behaviour.  At times I find it simple to put aside the distracting differences between my values - those of this time and place - and those of my ancestors.  At other times, like today, I find these ancient behaviours repugnant and without rationale.  But tolerating those differences also are part of my daily learning.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Pesachim 56a, b

Last daf we looked at the six actions performed by Jews of Jericho, three of which were condemned by the rabbis.  The Gemara notes that a similar situation occurred in Judea under the rule of King Hizkiah.  King Hizkiah performed six actions where three were allowed and three were condemned by the Sages.  

The forbidden actions of King Hizkiah were cutting off the doors to the Sanctuary and sending them to Assyria, sealing the water of the Gihon without relying on G-d to do so, and making a non-traditional change to the calendar year.  The Sages agreed that he was just in giving his father non-traditional, less than respectful burial rite, he ground the copper snake used in the desert, and he forbade use of "the Book of Cures", sefer refuot.

The Gemara comments further on the actions of the Jews of Jericho: grafting palm trees on the 14th of Nissan, bundling the shema, and harvesting/piling grain before offering the omer.  The rabbis speak about why these actions might have been prohibited. They share some interesting reasons for these traditions.  Of note - any hint of connection to idolatry, any potentially disrespectful behaviour toward the Sages - these are good reason for the Sages to disapprove of the actions of a community.

Amongst other things, the discussion turns to dates that have fallen from a tree.  They may have fallen onto a lower branch.  Are these permitted? or are they considered to be 'set aside'? and how does this relate to pe'a, where the corners of fields are set aside for the poor?

And what IS food, anyway? Anything that a person might consume?  Pe'a includes 1/60th of each field, vineyard or olive grove.   To qualify as pe'a, food must grow from the ground, be gathered as one, and brought in to be preserved.   But what can be preserved? Vegetables cannot be stored for long periods of time -- but turnips, cabbage and leeks might be stored.  And perhaps vegetables could be preserved if one were to use vinegar.  Is this what the people of Jericho are speaking of when they allowed the collection of vegetables?

I love that the rabbis are able to define even the most ephemeral concepts.  There is always a clear answer; the Torah tells us if we just look.  Thus the question,  what is food?, has a simple - if reasoned - answer.  I often wish that I could live by those same rules.  But my mind is not satisfied with the reasoning of anyone other than myself.  A disadvantage, certainly, but apparently not something that will change any time soon.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Pesachim 55a, b

At the start of today's daf, we are reminded of the notion of presumptuousness, yohara.  They speak of the bridegroom's option of 'forgetting' to say the shema on his wedding night because of his preoccupation with completing the very important mitzvah in the bridal chamber.  If he says the shema anyway, is this simply a custom? or is his demonstrating his superior focus and thus being presumptuous?  How might this appear to other people?

In daf (a), the rabbis examine custom verses prohibition with the introduction of a new mishna.  They use 'performing labour on the 9th of Av' and 'performing labour in the Judea/the Galleli before the eve of Pesach' as their examples.  They note the typical conduct of Jews in different places at regarding different holidays.  They note the difficultly understanding what is minhag and what is halacha.  They follow a debate between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel.

Another mishna focuses both on when work must be completed on erev Pesach (midday) and what work might be granted exceptional (tailors, barbers, launderers and possibly shoemakers). But can one initiate a new project at that time? or simply complete an order?  And of course the order should be directly related to the Festival and not for another purpose. 

An interesting idea: on the intermediate days, people are permitted to sew, as usual. People who come in from overseas, people who are released from jail, those who cut hair or do laundry, and those who repair shoes can do so on intermediate days.  Why?  Because these things are necessary to fulfill the mitzvot of the Festival.  Especially for pilgrims, who will need to walk home again in those same shoes.

Two more mishna in this daf.  The first tells us about caring for animals on the 14 of Nisan: hens may be placed on their eggs, returned to their eggs, and placed on another deceased hen's eggs.  We can sweep under an animal's legs on the 14 of Nisan, and on the intermediate days we can clear it to the sides.  Finally we may take vessels to the craftperson's home for repairs and bring others home, even if they are not for the Festival.

In the Gemara, we witness a conversation regarding how long it might take for the eggs to be ruined and the major financial loss that could incur from these issues.  Not only can dung be swept away, but it can be removed to the dump if it becomes 'filty', Rava tells us.  One has to wonder why vessels are allowed to be repaired in a craftsperson's home, even on erev Pesach, even if the repair is unrelated to Pesach. Was one of the rabbis a craftsperson who would benefit from such a ruling?  

This larger conversation regarding the laws of intermediate days and the laws/customs regarding erev-Festivals is quite complex and I can't say that I understand the logic behind the rulings yet.

A final mishna is shared with us at the end of daf(b).  The Jews of Jericho performed six actions against common practice.  Only three of these were reprimanded by the rabbis.  These were permitting use of consecrated carob/sycamore branches, eating fallen fruit on Shabbat, designating the corners of vegetable fields for the poor.  The customs going unpunished were grafting palm trees all day on the 14th of Nisan, bundling shema, harvesting and piling grain before the omer offeriing was brought.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Pesachim 54a, b

Today I will share some ideas gleaned from the daf:

  • prayer over fire at the end of Shabbat, havdala, is recited because 
    • fire was created at the end of Shabbat
    • the fire has 'rested' over Shabbat and is now benefitting us
  • Because "There is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9), these ten miracles were created in heaven at twilight on erev Shabbat to be revealed later:
    • Miriam's well
    • manna
    • rainbow
    • writing
    • writing instrument
    • tablets (10 commandments)
    • Moses's grave
    • the cave where Moses and Elijah stood
    • Balaam's donkey's mouth
    • the earth opening to swallow the wicked (with Korah)
  • The rabbis list a number of items, like tongs, and debate whether they were designed in Heaven or whether man created the first prototype
  • Was the fire of Gehenna (hell?) created on the second day, the sixth day, or in the second week?
  • Perhaps Anah (and Aiah, sons of Zibeon), created the mule, as he too may have been the result of a prohibited relationship
  • perhaps other things were created at twilight on erev Shabbat, including:
    • Aaron's staff with almods and blossoms
    • demons
    • the garment of Adam, the first man (perhaps animals skins or perhaps made of light)
  • Seven matters are hidden from people:
    • the day of death
    • the day of redemption (of the Jewish people for our sins)
    • finding true justice in some disputes
    • what is in another's heart
    • how one will earn his/her profit
    • when the monarchy of David will be restored
    • when the wicked Roman monarchy will end
  • Fundamental to the existence of the world are these three thoughts of G-d:
    • corpses will rot
    • the deceased will be forgotten from the heat over time
    • grain will rot (thus we must sell rather than hoard our produce)
    • and perhaps: currency will allow us to make payments
A new mishna tells us
  • where people work on the 9th of Av, it is permitted to work
  • where people do not work onthe 9th of Av, it is forbidden to work
  • Torah scholars should do no work on the 9th of Av
  • Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel: people should conduct ourselves as Torah scholars and not work that day
The Gemara elaborates:
  • outside of Eretz Yisroel, we may not be called a community, and we are weaker
  • thus we don't follow the prohibitions on intimacy, wearing leather shoes, and studying Torah over the 9th of Av and for mourners
  • the 9th of Av and other communal fast days are different re: number of prayers, stringencies, bathing, etc.
Particularly interesting to me is the rabbi's conversation about what was created by G-d at the time of creation and what might have been created by human beings.  Did the rabbis all believe that the world was created by G-d in accordance with the particular creation myth in Genesis?  Or was it possible that they questioned the existence of a G-d who demonstrated intention, agency, etc.?  If they believed that the word of G-d was true and unquestionable, how might they explain the existence of any number of things?  Without attributing those creations to G-d, of course, created "in advance" but hidden from us until the time was right.

I wonder why I enjoy bumping these two ideas together - creationism and evolution in the Torah world.  Certainly I'm not the only one!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Pesachim 53a, b

The rabbis are discussing halachot of the Sabbatical year, shemita.  For example, can we chop down a palm tree that has stunted grapes over the shemita year?  Until when are we allowed to eat the produce of palm trees, olives, pressed figs, grapes?  Do we wait until a poor person can only collect a quarter-kav of the olives that have fallen on the trunk or branches?  Do we wait until the all fruits have ripened in Gush Chalav, the place where fruits ripen last?  And what is considered 'fruit', anyway?  Is a grape a grape from the time it is a tiny bud? or must we be able to see the seed, or perhaps the liquid, through its skin?   

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel tells us how to determine which trees and other vegetation will grow well in different locations.  We are told to watch for signs.

A new mishna tells us what livestock can be sold to Gentiles and Jews.  This is an example of what to do about different customs in different places when considering the halachot applying to Pesach.  The mishna continues with eating roasted meat outside of Jerusalem.  Interestingly, a note tells us that we certainly are not allowed to eat roasted goat to commemorate the Paschal lamb.

But does that hold?  The Gemara debates whether or not we are allowed to eat roasted meat - perhaps we should say something to our guests about the meat to ensure that people do not think that it is consecrated.  And in fact, many rabbis agreed that it is permitted to eat even a whole roasted kid on Pesach.  Different customs in different places.

We are introduced to Theodosius of Rome, who is said to have taught customs to Jews in Rome without the sanction of a Torah scholar.  Some rabbis called for his excommunication. The rabbis debate whether or not Theodosius is a great man, a violent man, someone who assisted Torah scholars start businesses, and/or one who taught that we should give our lives before worshipping idols.  Theodosius taught publicly, which suggests that he was a great man.

Another mishna tells us that we should light a lamp on Yom Kippur evening when that is the custom and not when it is not.  But even in the latter case, lamps should be kindled in synagogues, study halls, dark alleyways, and next to the sick.  Because the mishna does not say "in every place", we understand that this practice of lighting is voluntary and not a mishna.

The Gemara begins with a commentary from the Tosefta.  Becasue Rava taught that "Your people are all righteous, the shall inherit the land forever...", we understand that people are always endeavouring to fulfill mitzvot.  In this case, we are talking about sexual relations on Yom Kippur, which are forbidden.  So those who want the lamp believe that light discourages intimacy; those who want the dark believe that darkness discourages intimacy.  Incidentally, Steinsaltz notes that we do indeed light a lamp in deference to Shabbat if Yom Kippur falls on that day.

The daf concludes with a story about Ulla bar Yishmael, an amora and a student of Rabbi Yochanan who delivered words of Torah learning  between Eretz Yisroel and Babylonia.  He was highly regarded in both communities.  In this story, Ulla did not immediately speak when he was annoyed with another rabbi's misquoting regarding saying a blessing over fire burning in a synagogue, fire burning on Shabbat, at havdala, and after Yom Kippur.

Although the rabbis seem to want to share the principle of following the customs of different places, there is also much talk of excommunication or other consequences for those who practice 'incorrectly'.  There is a very delicate balance between allowing different practices in different places - actually sanctioning those differences - and maintaining an unbending set of rules for all Jews, everywhere.  I should be clear that we are not speaking of unambiguous Torah dictates, but of rabbinic rulings.  It is impressive that the rabbis endeavoured to allow minhag; to avoid disputes.  

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Pesachim 52a, b

The themes of daf 52 are all worthy of more attention than I can give this evening.  The rabbis are speaking about differences in halachot between two different places.

Some highlights:
  • the rabbis decide upon punishment for Torah scholars who transgress halacha
  • they discuss the merits and severity of flogging versus excommunication
  • the rabbis discuss three areas of Israel, each with three district: Judea, Transjordan, and Galilee
  • animals in each region will not eat their region; the foods available in their 'home' are their desired diets
  • the rabbis examine halachot regarding the Sabbatical year
  • they consider a person who brings fruit from a crop that has ceased in the fields to another field where the crop has not ceased
  • some believe that produce from a ceased crop should be offered up to the poor, others believe that excess fruit should be burned or thrown to the sea. The former argument is preferred
  • produce given to domesticated animals is available only as long as it is available to undomesticated animals
  • the relationship between fruits stored in barrels and the availability of those fruits in the fields
  • the relationship between fruits brought from one field already left alone to another field
  • older trees cannot be chopped down during the Sabbatical year if they have begun to bear fruit
Lots of interesting information to day about the treatment of animals and plants. I am not at all knowledgeable about the laws of shemita, and so today's daf began some of that learning.  Further, the rabbis continued discussion of each other - their practices, their punishments, their confidence in their own superiority and the protection that they have from G-d... this is simply golden.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Pesachim 51a, b

Hillel and his older brother Yehuda, sons of Rabban Gamliel, bathed together when in the town of Kabul.  Although this is permitted by Torah law, the custom in Kabul was to prohibit brothers from bathing together.  Hillel ran from the scandalized townspeople, afraid to tell them that their ruling was an error.  In the city of Birei, these brothers ran into a very similar problem when they wore wide shoes on Shabbat.

51(a) shows the rabbis' deliberations around keeping the halachot of a different town.  They consider whether Torah scholars also follow these erroneous decrees, whether or not the halacha is significant or insignificant, whether we are referring to Samaritans (Kuti) or Jews, whether some people (Chozai or Samaritans... or us?) would use extend a leniency.  Some of their suggestions include:

  • visitors should follow significant customs that are guided by Torah scholars of that area
  • visitors do not need to follow insignificant customs not guided by Torah scholars of that area
  • when prohibition of a local stringency will result in a transgression, the stringency should be followed
  • a man cannot bathe with his father, step-father, father-in-law, step-father, or sister's husband (though leniencies exist when pants are worn in the bathhouse)
The rabbis share examples of cultural differences and thoughts on managing different practices:
  • sitting on Gentiles' stools in Akko
  • Rabbi Yehuda ruling that one can bathe with one's father (and from the Tosefta; with one's teacher) to help assist him with bathing
  • Rabba Bar Channa's eating of disputed fat
  • Eretz Yisroel's customs are dominant to those of Babylonia when one travels
  • in the presence (The Me'iri: during my lifetime) of Rabbi Shimon ben Yosei ben Lakonya, Rabbi Yochanan ben Elazar was permitted to eat the after-growth of cabbage in the Sabbatical year
How do we resolve these differences?  The Gemara tells us that if one intends to return home, one should keep his or her own customs -- but privately -- while in another town.  Abaye notes that we should be stringent regarding this last point based on Proverbs 1:8, "Listen my son to the rebuke of your father".  Clearly the rabbis are torn between maintaining one's own practices/respecting the wishes of one's parents and minimizing dispute with other Jewish communities.

Again, we are faced with similar circumstances today.  To what degree is minhag important?  And does one leniency beget a larger lenience, which begets another leniency... But while the rabbis believe that this is a negative development, I can't help but wonder whether Judaism at its core has survived because of people's creativity regarding practice in different places at different times.  Certainly something to reflect upon with some seriousness.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Pesachim 49a, b

We begin with a mishna: Rabbi Meir says that all leaven should be removed (save that which is required for the first part of Shabbat) on the 14th of Nissan that falls on Shabbat.  The rabbis say that this should be on ordinary situation.  And Rabbi Eliezer says that terumah should be removed before Shabbat, but non-sacred food should be removed as per usual, on the 14th of Nissan.  His view is backed up in the Gemara by an anecdote.

Another mishna follows: If a man remembers that he has left leaven in his home while he is en route to a betrothal feast, sacrificing the Pascal lamb for Pesach, or to his son's circumcision, he can nullify his ownership of the leaven "in his heart".  If there is time to return home and attend the event, he is required to return home immediately.  Similarly, if a man is travelling to save Jews from an attack by Gentiles, a flooding river, bandits, a fire, a collapsed building, the leaven remembered at home can be nullified in his heart.  If a man is travelling to create a Shabbat boundary, or any other personal, optional need, however, he must return home.

Notes remind us that burning leaven - or anything - would be forbidden on Shabbat.  Meir only burns leaven to remove it.  

The mishna continues, comparing this with the requirement to burn the meat or return to Jerusalem if one is carrying consecrated meat out of Jerusalem.  They discuss how much meat determines the requirement to return.

The Gemara moves into a debate working to reconcile a baraita with these mishnayot.  One of the questions is whether or not the betrothal meal is also the meal where gifts are presented; whether one or both of these meals is considered to be a mitzvah and thus required.  The Gemara notes that a Torah scholar cannot benefit from a feast that is not a mitzvah.  Thus if the daughter of a Torah scholar marries "an ignoramus" or an Israelite, the event is inauspicious.  Steinsaltz tells us in a note that Torah scholars are to eat only their regular meals, to eat extra food only in their homes, and not to eat in the company of ignoramuses.  Thus they attend only the simchot of Torah scholar or Torah scholar's daughters' weddings.

Thus begins a fascinating side conversation that demonstrates an urgent need to distance the priests from other Jews.  Rav Chisda tells us that the marriage of the daughter of a Priest to a non-priest will result in death, divorce, or no children.  A baraita adds that he will bury her or she will bury him, or she will cause him to become poor.  An interesting statement.  Without the support of their families, would such a relationship be possible?  Certainly, it would not result in an early death or with infertility.  However, the marriage might end in poverty at the woman's hands, as she would be accustomed to much greater material resources than could be provided by an am ha'aretz.  

The rabbis discuss the ways in which the kehuna can maintain its wealth, status, and power through in-marriage.  Then again, they argue against this therory as well - sometimes regarding their own marriages.  The rabbis seem to believe that they might be at great peril because of marrying incorrectly - they could be widowed, impoverished, exiled.  And if the benefit from partaking in an optional feast (not a mitzvah), they will be exiled.  And if they feast indiscriminately, they will "destroy their houses", widow their wives, orphan their chicks (ie. children), forget their studies.  Their words will be twisted and used against the name of G-d, their masters, their fathers.  Their bad name/reputations will affect their children and all descendants.   They will be called the son of the baker, or the son of one who dances at inns or licks bowls, the one who folds his own clothes and who crouches (falls asleep drunk).  Pretty heavy consequences for eating at Abe's birthday party.

Men should be willing to sell everything to marry a daughter of a scholar - or to marry his daughter to a scholar.  The children will benefit from this match, regardless of what happens to the marriage over time.  An ignoramus is translated from "am ha'aretz", a person of the earth.  Insulting stereotypes of people 'below' Torah scholars include "they are vermin and their wives are like creeping animals" (violating prohibitions).  Pecking order of desirable daughters: daughter of a Torah scholar, a great person of the generation, a head of congregation, a charity collector, a schoolteacher.

The Gemara continues to berate amim ha'aretz: they can't eat meat, as only Torah scholars can distinguish between properly and incorrectly slaughtered animals; amim ha'aretz will create disease in animals causing them to become treif as they will die within 12 months (Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, based on Leviticus 11:46, "This is the law of the beast and of the fowl").   More:
  • We are told that it is permitted to stab, and not slaughter (for slaughtering requires blessings) ignoramuses even on a Yom Kippur falling on Shabbat
  • We cannot accompany an ignoramus in travel, for "it is your life and the length of your days", Deuteronomy 20:30 - Rabbi Elazar believes that amim ha'aretz are concerned only with their own lives
  • Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani quotes Rav Yochanan: Ignoramuses can but torn open like fishes.  Rabbi Shmuel bar Yitzchak adds that they can be cut open from the back, pinching the spinal cord, rather than simply by piercing their stomachs
  • Rabbi Akiva speaks of himself earlier in his life, as an ignoramus, when he said that he would ask for a Torah scholar so that he could bite them like a donkey? Not like a dog?! Ask his students.  A donkey bites and breaks bones in the process, answers Rabbi Akiva
  • Rabbi Meir is quoted in a baraita: marrying one's daughter to an ignoramus is like binding her before a lion.  Why? As a lion mauls and eats and has no shame, an ignoramus hits his wife and then has sexual relations with her with no shame
  • a man who divorces his wife immediately after marriage and watches her marry a better man will be anguished; an ignoramus will be anguished when he sees the Torah scholar engaged in study
  • Rabbi Eliezer notes that we need the ignoramuses for business purposes.  Otherwise, there would be even more hate and boundaries between the two groups.
We move briefly into a slightly different perspective:
Rabbi Chiyya teaches that it is insensitive to engage in Torah study in the presence of an ignoramus - so bad that it is as though he had sexual relations with the ignoramus's betrothed bride in his presence: "Moses commanded us the Torah, an inheritance" (Deuteronomy 33:4).  Inheritance, morasha, can be read as betrothed, me'orasa.

Back to the hatred:
  • Rav Chiyya believes that ignoramuses hate Torah scholars more than Gentiles hate Jews; Israelite wives hate Torah scholars even more so.
  • Sages taught six things about ignoramuses:
    • they cannot be appointed as witnesses in court & they cannot offer testimony
    • they cannot be trusted with secrets
    • they cannot be trusted as stewards for orphans' estates
    • they cannot be guardians over charitable funds
    • they cannot be travel partners (as mentioned above),
    • their lost items may be kept without searching for the owner
Finally, the rabbis return to their original conversation.  They debate about who tells us what regarding the meanings of eating, being satisfied, and bless the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:10).  Is an olive bulk or an egg bulk required?  Does 'satisfied' refer to the process of consumption, or does it refer to drinking?  This debate will continue into daf 50.

The side conversation in today's daf regarding the marrying of priest's daughters and the animosity between Torah scholars and amim ha'aretz was quite fascinating.  We learn about the divisions between those with power (the rabbis writing the Talmud) and those without influence.  It is easy to imagine the degree of hatred between these two very distant groups.  And of course it was in the interests of the Sages to maintain this power imbalance.  Why did the rest of the Jewish community continue to bring tithes to the priests when the priests were so dismissive of their brethren?  And how vulnerable were the women in both of these communities, reliant upon the decisions of the men in their lives to ensure their well-being?