Monday, 31 March 2014

Beitza 2 a, b

Are we allowed to take an egg from a chicken that has been muktze, set aside (ie. not to be used) on a Festival or on Shabbat? Beit Hillel says no and Beit Shammai says yes.  Usually Beit Shammai is stringent; why is it lenient regarding a chicken and an egg?  

The rabbis wonder whether the egg is part of the chicken and not its own entity.  They wonder whether or not a chicken can be slaughtered on a Festival or Shabbat.  They debate about the status of objects that are created during a Festival or Shabbat.  They compare this situation to one where items on a table might be moved after the fact.  And of course the rabbis remind us of other issues where Beit Hillel is stringent and Beit Shammai is lenient.

Back to the egg.  The rabbis want to understand what we can move, what we can carry, what we can prepare, what we can consume.  We are reminded that we cannot prepare food on Shabbat for a Festival the next day - and vice versa.  An egg moved on Shabbat can't be cooked, of course, because it is Shabbat.  In fact, on Shabbat we are not permitted to use things that have 'fallen' - even a fruit - that same day that it has fallen.  And what if the egg is still in the chicken?  This is very unusual.  We know that halachot are not intended to influence unusual situations, so that egg can be used. 

Our rabbis begin Masechet Beitza with interesting, multi-layered concepts that grab the attention of their students. Although it is not discussed directly, the rabbis touch on the notion of  'being'.  When is an egg a separate being?  When is it part of its mother?  This debate - and a similar debate regarding a woman and her fetus - is openly discussed by our ancient Sages.  Amazing that the depth of modern conversation is so meaningless much of the time.

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