Sunday, 20 April 2014

Beitza 22 a, b

We are learning about how Festival halachot are different from halachot of Shabbat.  The rabbis teach us about varied ideas, from food preparation to lighting incense.  In yesterday's daf, Rabban Gamliel described the three stringencies he followed based on Shammai's teachings.  Some of the ideas discussed today include:

  • are we acting with Shabbat in mind when we prepare food on a Festival?
  • what should be included in an eiruv tavshilin, a meal that connects Shabbat and a Festival
  • the labour involved in righting a disassembled menorah
  • trimming a burned wick
  • extinguishing a light for a different purpose
    • marital relations, where darkness is considered a holier practice: people can get creative about getting around the brightness of the light without extinguishing it.  To actually put out the light, the action must benefit all people there and not just the marital couple, thus it stays on.
    • putting out a fire, where we must be certain that we will lose our home, possessions and food before we are permitted to extinguish the fire.
  • medical treatment for eyes 
    • not permitted when the ailment is not serious or is ending
    • if treated by a Gentile and the Jew is only 'assisting' minimally during the treatment itself, it is permitted
  • thick loaves on Pesach
    • how thick is thick?
    • how thick are the shewbread loaves?
    • does thickness refer to quantity rather than to the size of one loaf?
    • how does a metal oven differ from an earthenware oven usually used for baking bread?
    • Beit Shammai say that we may not bake a large quantity of bread on Festivals while Beit Hillel permit it.
A new Mishna teaches that Rabban Gamliel also said three things as leniencies which were against the views of most other Sages.  One may swept the room of the couches on a Festival (the dining room); one may place incense of herbs on burning coals to perfume the house on a Festival;  One may roast a kid goat whole (with its entrails over its head) on erev Pesach.  The rabbis disagree because the floor could become level if holes were filled in by crumbs, because the incense does not meet the guidelines for prepared foods, and because the whole kid is too much like Temple practice and people might denigrate Temple rituals.

The rabbis discuss a number of interesting arguments regarding each of Rabban Gamliel's leniencies. It seems that these leniencies are in no way 'short cuts'.   Each is an expression of passionate adherence to the halachot.  For example, the type of broom and the type of floor were not at issue - for in Rabban Gamliel's home, they swept and then covered the floor with a sheet, removing it on the Festival or Shabbat to find a perfectly clean floor.  Not exactly a leniency!  But the rabbis are concerned with the wording of specific interpretations and how those interpretations might be used in the larger communities.

Fragrance is discussed similarly.  Rabban Gamliel would prepare an incense vessel or pan before Shabbat or the Festival and then plug its holes.  The following day, the holes were unplugged and it would seem that the room perfumed itself.  This is permitted, though the rabbis are concerned about leniencies that might encourage people to put incense directly on top of burning coals on sanctified days.  

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