Saturday, 28 September 2013

Pesachim 101 a, b

It has been three days since my last entry - I allow myself that break from the computer on the chagim and on Shabbat.  But now it seems as though I have not written in a very long time.  The subjective experience of time is topic for another time (or, perhaps, another blog, depending upon what I learn in the future).

Daf 101 is the second daf in Perek X.  We are now focusing on some of the more familiar halachot of Pesach.  That labourious examination of the Paschal lamb offering is finally set aside.  Instead, dapim 100 and 101 focus on the halachot of kiddush.

Today's daf is concerned with where one should recite the blessing over wine.  If one recites kiddush at synagogue, should it be repeated at home for those who could not attend?  Why should kiddush be recited at all at synagogue?  Is kiddush recited at the place of one's residence or at the place of one's meal?  And if the meal is interrupted, should kiddush be repeated?  What if one eats on a different floor of one's home - does this require a separate kiddush?

Much of the daf contrasts Shmuel's ruling with that of Rabbi Yochanan.  Shmuel tells us that "there is no (valid) kiddush other than the place of one's (Shabbat) meal".  Rav Anan bar Tahalifa, Rav Huna, Rabba agree with Shmuel.  (The Gemara tells us that in fact Rabba agreed with all of Rav's stringent rulings but not with his lenient rulings).  Rabbi Yochanan shares a different opinion.  He believes that the mitzvah to recite a blessing over the wine is fulfilled if the kiddush is said in one place but the meal is eaten in another.  

This leads to a new set of questions regarding the interruption of a meal.   Rabbi Yochanan tells us that when one changes places - or changes one's wine - during a meal, the kiddush need not be repeated.  The Gemara challenges this with a baraita which allows for the continuation of one's meal without a second kiddush only when the wine has changed.  

Looking more carefully at the rulings regarding change of place, the rabbis wonder small items of food that do not require blessings (fruit, water) and about the Grace after Meals, Birkat Hamazon.  Different rabbis hold different views about which blessings require repetition, whether blessings should be recited, and whether meals should be interrupted.  They ask about whether an introductory blessing, a bracha l'chatchila, should be repeated when people "uproot themselves" from a meal.  And of course there are exceptions to consider: what if people interrupt their meal to greet the bride and groom?  What if they are elderly or sick?  

I have to admit that I am not clear on all of the blessings required before and after eating.  I know the birkat hamazon for Shabbat, but I confuse the prayers said over different items of food and drink.  I wonder whether the rabbis were trying to create balance between the need to treat sanctified objects (and ideas; rituals) with respect and the understanding that people will want to eat and not follow endless, challenging rules around consumption.  

If these writings, as I suspect, are concerned with the ongoing preservation of a of social order (at least in part), each of these discussions helps us to understand the desired behaviour of a particular group of people.  For example, we have learned that it was undesirable to interrupt one's meal, to eat in more than one place, to sleep somewhere away from where one was eating, etc. etc.  Reading between the lines is almost as interesting as reading the lines of the Talmud.

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