Sunday, 27 April 2014

Beitza 28 a, b

Amud (a) discusses two Mishnayot.  The first tells us about an opinion of Rabbi Yehuda compared with that of other rabbis.  Rabbi Yehuda tells us that a person who sells meat cannot weigh that meat on a scale but can weigh it against a vessel or a cleaver [on a Festival].  the rabbis believe that this is far too lenient; one cannot even look at the pans of a scale at all.  The Gemara considers different ways of weighing meat.  Differences between weighing firstborn animals and other meat are discussed.  The rabbis emphasize the importance of measuring, if at all, in a manner that is very different from weekday measuring.

The second Mishna tells us that we cannot sharpen a knife on a Festival.  However, we can do so in an unusual way, including sharpening one blade against another.  The Gemara considers whether or not it is permitted to sharpen a knife on a wooden sharpener rather than the usual stone implement.

Amud (b) continues this discussion.  Perhaps the knife is rubbed against the side of a basket to sharpen the blade, but one says that s/he is doing this simple to rub fat from the blade.  We run into one of the difficulties in assessing intention versus action.  Jewish thought is predominantly  focused on action.   What if our intent runs against halacha?  Does that matter?

We learn that we cannot show a blade to a Sage before slaughtering an animal on a Festival, likely because the knife could be carried beyond the eiruv limits.  Apparently Sages inspected these blades before slaughter in the times of the Temple.  Rabbi Yehuda and the rabbis continue to clarify how Shabbat and Festivals differ with regard to the preparation of food.  A number of other examples are shared to further this idea, including what to do with bent skewers for food.

We meet Rav Malkiyu, who contributed only a few halachot.  He shared the halacha regarding setting aside a bent skewar.  In addition, he taught that even when a bride is given 100 maidservants as her dowry, her husband can compel her to work so that she is not led by boredom to sin.  Rabbi Malkiyu also decided that 12 year-old girls required only two pubic hair follicles, and not two pubic hairs, she is of legal age to perform chalitza.  Thanks, Rabbi Malkiyu. He also taught that we are to cut the forelocks of Samaritans at three fingerbredths on every side to ensure that they are not grown for the purpose of idolatry.  He taught that burnt ashes cannot be placed on a wound because it looks like a tattoo.  Finally, he forbade eating cheese made by a Gentile because of the use of lard.

The rabbis wish to ensure that Shabbat is different from weekdays and that Festivals are different from both weekdays and Shabbat.  Today's daf demonstrates the creation of halachot that are quite obscure, especially in today's modern world.  Each halacha might on its own give little direction on how to live today - does it matter if I show a blade to a Sage before slaughtering a firstborn?  Not relevant.  But the intention - to walk us through decision-making where we are to ensure that there is a difference between the Festivals and Shabbat - that continues to be useful.

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