Saturday, 24 December 2016

Bava Metzia 89: Threshing, Eating While Working

We are privy to a discussion about threshing, which is considered to be a unique activity because it is concerned with labour regarding produce growing from the ground.  It is different from milking, or churning, or other labourer's activities which put a labourer in direct contact with food.  We learn that when a labourer's work is completed, it is time to separate tithes.

The rabbis discuss different foods that a labourer might eat.  They are concerned with the labourer losing work time because the food is carefully prepared.  The rabbis wonder about how that could be relevant if a labourer is with his family and they prepare the food for him?  It seems that labourers are not permitted to sweeten their the fruit that they eat, nor can they salt it. However, the rabbis note that labourers might have contracted to ea their food in any way that they prefer it, and in this cases labourers certainly may salt their food.

At the end of our daf, the rabbis' dilemmas are made more clear.  If labourers dip their food in salt - perhaps one time, but certainly two times - then they may be considered to have eaten a meal.  Eating a small taste of food between meals is permitted as untitled food.  Eating a meal, though, puts food into the category of ready to be tithed.  A conundrum!

It seems that these past few dapim are sharing valuable information with us about how ancient, agriculturally-based societies functioned from a sociological perspective.  How were the working class sustained? Protected?  How was agricultural work completed?  How were families spending their time while one family member was a labourer?

No comments:

Post a Comment