Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Pesachim 90 a, b

One of the difficulties with Daf Yomi learning is what to do when I don't understand.  It is late, and I had a long work day followed by a volunteer board meeting, and I am met at the end of the day by Pesachim 90.  I have looked online to find a reasonably short elucidation of the text; a waste of the past precious 30 minutes.  Clearly I have to move along, but this lack of clarity sits heavily on my shoulders.

We are looking at the question of a zonah who pays for her registration with an animal (or other payment) received as payment for her services.  Or, alternately, we are looking at a zonah who pays for her registration with her services.  I am not clear about this distinction -- and perhaps the daf is actually discussing something slightly different that I missed.  

A zonah is a woman who is a prostitute.  Or any woman who has had unsanctioned sex, for any reason, with anyone.  It is a word used without derision; a zonah describes someone of a particular group.  However, it is inherently insulting, as it categorizes and names a woman according to her perceived sexual activity.  So this start of 90 (a) is disturbing, yet I cannot quite decipher its meaning.  A very frustrating read.

The focus of 90 (a) is the sanctity of the offering and the money versus the sanctity of the people doing the offering.  In addition, whether or not the animal/payment was consecrated and when that consecration took place is important when understanding whether or not the offering is valid.  

This discussion is followed by a mishna that tells us what to do with a zav or zava.  Both can eat of the Paschal lamb offering if they have immersed (following seven or eight clear days) by the evening of the sacrifice. The Gemara expands on this concept and asks who else can benefit from the Paschal lamb offering.  One who has had contact with the corpse of a creeping animal is considered.  At the end of the daf, the rabbis note some differences between the practices for a zava and for a woman who is menstruating.  

The rabbis again share their considerable concerns regarding how and when people register for an offering.  Their detailed considerations are mind-boggling.  It was clearly very important that each person register properly and partake of the offering according to their exacting rules.  It must have been a balagan - I can just imagine these groups of people arguing, fighting, debating, pushing.  Men and women seemed to be able to participate together in this ritual.

If anyone reading this post can help to better explain today's daf, I will be very grateful.  Hopefully tomorrow will be an easier day.  

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