Monday, 16 September 2013

Pesachim 89 a, b

We continue to learn about registration with a group to partake of the Paschal lamb offering.  To begin, the rabbis extend their debate regarding the five offerings, one of which is blemished.  They consider options including using many priests, surplus Paschal lamb offerings, sin offerings or peace offerings as possible substitutes, and assuming that women were the registrants.   Women do not require the placing of hands on a peace offering as do men (Paschal lambs require no such blessing, and thus this action would disqualify the potential Paschal offering).  

Another mishna introduces a new stipulation.  In this instance a man tells his children that the first of them to enter Jerusalem (his/her head and the majority of his/her body) will acquire his/her portion of the offering.  The Gemara comments that this may be a retroactive registration.  Does this mean that the father registered all of his children and then retroactively withdrew some of his children before the lamb was slaughtered?  A case where the daughters and not the sons arrived in Jerusalem is cited.  The Gemara tells us that the daughters were enthusiastic while the sons were lazy.  There is no further comment, and we do not know whether or not this father was disappointed or proud (or both).

Another mishna tells us that as long as each registrant can eat an olive-bulk of the meat of the offering, many people can register for one Paschal lamb.  Anyone can withdraw, as well, up until its blood is sprinkled.  

Daf (b) begins with a mishna that when one registrant brings in another registrant, that person is to eat from his invitor's portion rather than sharing equally with all members of the group.  This is discussed at some length.  In particular, the rabbis consider a glutton, or one with "fine hands".  What is done when one group member eats quickly, more than his share, gluttonously?  A number of scenarios describe poor, slow-eating Rabbi Huna sharing meals with Rav Pappa and with Ravina.  After Rav Pappa eats four portions of bread to Rabbi Huna's one portion, Rabbi Huna eats with Ravina.  Ravina eats eight portions of bread to Rabbi Huna's one slice.  Rabbi Huna jokes, "better one hundred Pappas than one Ravina!"

The rabbis note that if one is eating with a friend, one might assume that his gluttony is known.  Thus he would certainly eat more than his share unless a statement was made with regard to his portion.  However, the halacha states that a glutton, whether just someone with fine hands or a friend, can be asked to take his portion and leave the company of the group to ensure that each person receives his portion.  

I found it notable that the rabbis speak about communication of intent many times throughout today's daf.  They tell us the importance of stating aloud our intentions.  It is reasonable to set preconditions regarding how the offering will be shared.  It is also reasonable to tell a registrant who is taking more than his share (and not others), "take your portion and leave."

Although this does not appear to be the most polite interaction on first glance, the implications are important.  We learn about how our ancestors were told to speak out regarding what is fair and just; what is difficult to talk about with one's friends.  In learning Talmud we are allowed to witness the recommended social interactions between friends and between strangers who are participating in a community-based religious ritual.    And they were told to be honest, be fair, and be forthright in their speech.  What is uttered aloud seems to represent both a dynamic interaction and a form of contract.

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