Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Yoma 82 a, b

We begin with a Mishna that could have been written today: How can we not afflict the children on Yom Kippur and yet train them on or two years in advance (of adulthood) so that they will be used to fulfilling the mitzvot?

The Gemara begins by stating that one year of training is for weak children while healthy children begin training two years in advance.  Three opinions:
Rav Huna speaks to girls: at ages 8/9, training for several hours
                                          at ages 10/11, complete the fast by rabbinic law
                                          at age 12, complete the fast by Torah law
Rav Nachman speaks to boys: at ages 9/10 training for several hours
                                                 at ages 11/12 complete the fast by rabbinic law
                                                 at age 13 complete the fast by Torah law
Rabbi Yochanan asserts that there is no fast by rabbinic law.
Instead, at ages 11 and 12, girls prepare to fast by fasting for several hours, completing the fast at age 12 by Torah law.

The rabbis then argue whether healthy children are intended to complete the fast two years in advance of the age of maturity; feeble children are then intended to complete the fast one year in advance.  A difficulty arises with regard to rabbinic law.  If Rabbi Yochanan is right and rabbinic law does not apply, how can we agree with everyone's reasoning for preparing all children two years in advance?  And how do we measure whether or not a child completed their obligation to train - to become familiar with the feeling of afflicting oneself?

Notes teach us that in antiquity, the rabbis argued whether and when children under the age of majority should complete the fast by rabbinic law.  The exact age of the child is vital in these arguments.  In another note referring to current halacha, we learn that while children under age 9 are never allowed to fast, children between 9 and 11 years of age should be encouraged to learn to fast.  By age 12 for girls and 13 for boys, they are obligated to fast.  However, if they are not physically mature, they complete the fast to comply with rabbinic law only.  And so even very physically immature (ie. not CLOSE to being ready for physical adulthood, not to mention emotional adulthood) girls will fast at age 12, and they may or may not know that when they 'afflict their souls' they do so based on rabbinic law rather than Torah law.

Our next Mishna focuses on vulnerable populations.  Pregnant women's cravings should be satiated lest they lead to life-threatening situations.  Sick people are fed according to medical experts.  If no medical expert is available, sick people are allowed to eat until they themselves determine that they do not need more food.

A fabulous instruction in the Gemara: if a woman craves forbidden food*, including consecrated meat or even pork, she is offered a thin reed dipped in the juice of that food.  If that does not meet her craving, she is offered gravy.  And if that is not enough, she is offered fat of the forbidden food. This because her life could be in jeopardy, and nothing comes before saving a life except for idol worship, forbidden sexual relations, and murder.

The resulting joke:
Q: When can a pregnant Jewish woman eat pork fat?
A: On Yom Kippur.  But only when pork gravy isn't satisfying.

The Gemara turns to the question of idol worship.  How can this prohibition supercede saving someone's life?  Rabbi Eliezer is quoted in a baraita: Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us that "you will love the Lord your G-d with all of your heart and with all of your soul"... and then "with all of your might".  which one of these statements is superfluous?  The baraita suggests that "might" refers to possessions, so that if a person actually loves his/her possessions more than his/her life (as one might in old age, where money is the only way to find food and shelter), s/he still must give his/her life before worshipping a false G-d.

We learn about connections between forbidden sexual relations and murder: in halacha regarding a betrothed woman who is raped, the rapist may be killed as he is committing a forbidden sexual act.  Even murder is allowed in order to prevent a forbidden sexual relation.

We learn that someone came to Rava, saying that the master of this person's village said "Kill this other person or I will kill you." Rava siad that he should let himself be killed: "What did you see, that your blood is redder?  Perhaps the other man's blood is redder."  We never know the importance of anyone else's life.  It is not our job to decide who should die.  It is not logical, therefore, to take a life for this reason.

The daf ends with the story of a pregnant woman who craved food on Yom Kippur and others approached Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi asking for help.  He told them to whisper to her that "today is Yom Kippur" - they did this and it helped.  Later, he read a verse that suggested that the fetus was known and sanctified already (Jeremiah 1:5).  The resulting baby was in fact Rabbi Yochanan.  Well, not as a baby (I can picture an infant dressed as Rabbi Yochanan would dress).

Another pregnant woman smelled food adn others came to Rabbi Chanina for help. Similarly, he suggested that they whisper to her that it was Yom Kippur.  Later, he read a verse from Psalms (58:4) suggesting that the baby was already estranged while in the womb.  I truly hope that this woman did not hear that reading.  The baby who emerged was Shabbetai, the hoarder of fruits, charging more for his wares during a famine.

Today's daf offers a number of opportunities for personal agency and intercession.  A pregnant woman and an ill person are able to communicate their own needs.  Granted, for the most part others are evaluating the depth of those needs, but to have a say at all regarding how much we afflict our souls on Yom Kippur is significant.

*the craving is said to come from smelling a forbidden food.  The Ba'al Halachot Gedolot suggests that we are concerned with the health of the fetus, but the Rambam asserts that we are mainly concerned with the health of the mother.
* She is fed bit by bit until she feels that she has had enough.  The look on her fact tells us whether or not this is a strong craving, and a whisper of "it is Yom Kippur" is not enough to calm her.

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