Monday, 28 April 2014

Beitza 30 a, b

It seems that amud (a) of daf 30 finally allows the rabbis to make their point regarding work on the Festivals.  Through the use of numerous examples, the rabbis teach that on Festival days, we should modify our weekday work practices.  As long as there is a change in how we are working, our action is permitted.  If we cannot change our action, for example, how women carry water in jugs, then the action is similarly permitted.  

Most interesting to me is the distinction between Torah and Rabbinical halacha.  We are told not to admonish people for their non-compliance with rabbinic halachot.  However, we must remind people to keep Torah law.  Why this difference?  We may tell people that they cannot behave in a particular way when they are almost certainly going to behave in that manner.  In 'teaching' them, we have upgraded their sin from an unintentional sin to an intentional sin.  Thus we are encouraged to refrain from pushing people to keep rabbinic halachot.

We are learning about the rabbis' sensitivity to the needs of women and to the needs of those who are less observant.  The rabbis are willing to let go of some of their control.  Why is it today that observant communities can be so stringent in their demands when our Sages were able to recognize the need for flexibility?  I'm sure that there are many answers to that question...

Amud (b) teaches that we cannot take wood from a sukka on any Festival because this is 'dismantling'.  We are permitted to take wood from near the sukka.  The Gemara wonders how a sukka differs from a tent, where we are not permitted to use the wood - or even bundles - placed near a tent.  The rabbis question whether we might be speaking of a sukka that is not sturdy; they wonder whether we are in fact discussing items that are muktze, set aside.

The rabbis consider a sukka that is decorated for Sukkot.  This sukka is a mitzvah - we are obligated to build, decorate, sit and eat in this sukka for one week each year.  We hear a fascinating question about the mitzvah of etrog compared with the mitzvah of sukka.  Why might a person use seven etrogim but only one sukka?  Because the blessing over etrog lasts for only the day and not the night.  The blessing over sukka lasts for the full week.  This notion of designating blessings based on units of time or time-based brachot is a fundamental principle of Jewish practice.  The rabbis' interpretations of whether or not a mitzvah is time-bound determine much of our practice, including who is obligated to perform the mitzvot.

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