Thursday, 24 April 2014

Beitza 26 a, b

Responding to the Mishna introduced at the end of daf 25, the Gemara wishes to clarify the rabbis' arguments.  Are they disagreeing about whether we can examine a firstborn animal that has fallen into a cistern?  Or whether we can pull it up?  Or feed it?  Or whether it is muktze?  A good part of the argument regards whether or not we can examine blemishes just before a Festival.  Such a legalistic question.  What are the implications of this one simple action, undertaken in a specific place at a specific time?

Hillel wonders whether something can be muktze for half of Shabbat or all of Shabbat.  The question is not about something that is fit or unfit before Shabbat and stays that way.  Instead, Hillel is asking Rava about an item that is fit but then becomes unfit during Shabbat - and then become fit again.  

Further discussion uses food items to ask similar questions.  If food is fit and then changes status, what do we do with that food on Shabbat?  Rav Kahana offers an example.  If we put aside grapes for drying into raisins - they are muktze - and they become dried and thus fit for eating on Shabbat BUT their owner did not realize their readiness until Shabbat, they are permitted.  If they continue to be muktze, however, for they had not dried out yet, they are cannot be eaten on Shabbat.

The rabbis also want to understand the interplay between prior designation and muktze.  How can we designate food that is muktze?  They explain that we can designate food that is fit for some and not for others.  Tat way, everyone can eat the food on Shabbat. 

We end with a clever idea shared by Rabbi Zeira about uncooked lentils and beans, which are permitted because they can be eaten raw and thus are not muktze.  Once boiling in the pot, though, they cannot be eaten and thus they are prohibited.  They are again fit to be eaten when their boiling is complete.  Thus an item can be in a temporary state of muktze even on Shabbat.

Fun to untangle these concepts!

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