Discussion on the Daf - Pesachim
  Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  Next  Last >>
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Forum -> Judaism

View latest: 24h 48h 72h



Post Thu, Jan 28 2021, 9:44 pm
Pes 62

Babylonian Talmud is far from the only text the rabbis produced. In addition to the parallel Jerusalem Talmud, we also have the Tosefta (a text that parallels the Mishnah but contains many teachings not found in the Mishnah), and quite a few compilations of midrash. There may well have been more books that no longer survive. In fact, today’s page hints that there were.

After a long run of pages with incredibly technical conversations about what qualifies or disqualifies a paschal offering, the Talmud suddenly offers us a story about a mysterious book:

Rabbi Simlai came before Rabbi Yohanan. He said to him: Would the Master teach me Sefer Yochasin (the Book of Genealogies)?

Rabbi Yohanan said to him: Where are you from?


And where you live now ...

He said to him: In Neharde’a.

Rabbi Yohanan said to him: I have a tradition that we teach these subjects neither to Lodites nor to Neharde’ans, and certainly not to you who comes from Lod and your residence is in Neharde’a, such that you have both shortcomings.

Rabbi Simlai wants to study Sefer Yochasin but Rabbi Yohanan wants to dissuade him. His response echoes a bartender near Fenway Park to a patron wearing a Yankees hat: “We don’t serve Yankees fans here.”

Rabbi Simlai is persistent, however, and Rabbi Yohanan finally agrees to teach him. Pushing his luck, Rabbi Simlai has a further request: Can we finish in three months? At this, Rabbi Yohanan picks up a clod of dirt and throws it at the would-be student, exclaiming:

Beruriah, wife of Rabbi Meir and daughter of Rabbi Hananya ben Teradyon, learned three hundred halakhot in one day from three hundred sages, and nonetheless she did not fulfill her responsibility to properly learn the Book of Genealogies in three years. And you say that I should teach it to you in three months?

If Beruriah (we met her back in Tractate Berakhot), known for being exceptionally intelligent and wise, couldn’t finish Sefer Yochasin in three years, how could Rabbi Simlai expect to do it in three months?

It’s not clear if Rabbi Simlai ever got the chance to study Sefer Yochasin — the Talmud is silent on the matter. Some commentators suggest that as he was shooed away by the clod of dirt and, on his way out, asked a question about the mishnah on today’s page (which is why this story is here). Others suggest that he posed his question only after the completion of his course of study — perhaps in as little as three months.

So what is Sefer Yochasin, this Book of Genealogies, that took the famous Beruriah three years to learn and which Rabbi Yohanan was so reluctant to teach Rabbi Simlai? That information is lost to us — and likely to the sages who wrote the Talmud itself. Further down the page Rami bar Rav Yuda says that Rav elaborates:

From the day the Book of Genealogies was hidden and no longer available to the sages, the strength of the sages has been weakened, and the light of their eyes has been dimmed.

There are no other references to Sefer Yochasin in the Talmud outside of today’s daf. Of course, we can speculate on what it was about. Rashi explains that the book contains the reasons behind many of the mitzvot, so perhaps Rabbi Simlai is looking to deepen his understanding of Jewish practice. Many scholars suggest, based upon a geonic commentary, that Sefer Yochasin was a commentary on the Chronicles, the last book in the Hebrew Bible, which contains many genealogical lists. In the end, we can’t be sure. But there is one more comment about it on today’s page that suggests it sure wasn’t short:

Mar Zutra said: From “Azel” to “Azel” bore four hundred camels of expositions.

Mar Zutra suggests that from the first reference to a person named Azel in 1 Chronicles 8:38 to the second reference, later in the same verse (or perhaps in 9:44) there were four hundred camel loads of commentary. (Rashi’s introduction to his commentary on Chronicles says thirteen thousand camel loads, but who’s counting?) No wonder Beruriah couldn’t complete her study in three years!
Back to top



Post Fri, Jan 29 2021, 11:41 am
Pes 63

days ago, we learned in a mishnah that while one may not offer a paschal lamb for a group of people who are all uncircumcised, one may slaughter a paschal lamb for a group of people that includes both those circumcised and uncircumcised members. At the bottom of yesterday’s page, we came to an additional tannaitic (early rabbinic) teaching about these mixed (circumcised/uncircumcised) groups:

Aherim (literally “others,” understood to be Rabbi Meir) say: If one sacrifices a paschal lamb for both circumcised and uncircumcised people and had in mind first the circumcised people and then the uncircumcised people, the offering is valid. But if he had in mind first the uncircumcised people and then the circumcised people, it is disqualified.

We are dealing with a case where one decided in his mind to slaughter the offering for both of them (circumcised and uncircumcised) and he verbally expressed his intention with the phrase “for uncircumcised people” but did not have a chance to say “for circumcised people” before the slaughter was already finished.

Even though the lamb was intended for a mixed group, Rava explains, one can imagine that the person who starts listing the names of people intended for the sacrifice might not finish the list before the not-so proverbial axe comes down. In that case, only the names of uncircumcised people would have been expressed and we might now have an invalid offering (as per the mishnah on page 61).

Rava explains the underlying principle behind this concern: (Aherim/Rabbi Meir) hold that we do not require that one’s mouth and heart be the same. In other words, what is legally significant is the verbal expression. Even though the sacrifice was intended (in the mind) for both circumcised and uncircumcised people, since only uncircumcised people were mentioned aloud, the sacrifice is effectively made only on behalf of these people — and therefore invalid.

Judaism is famously a religion of deeds and so it is not surprising that Rabbi Meir holds that what one says is more important than what one thinks — at least, when determining whether the paschal offering was made on behalf of the right people. It turns out, however, that his is a minority opinion. The majority hold the opposite: we require that one’s mouth and heart be the same. In other words, according to the majority, in Rava’s hypothetical scenario there is no real problem. Since the offerer’s intention was to offer for a mixed group that included circumcised members, his offering is still valid — even if he didn’t get all the names out in time.

As we have seen so many times before, intention — one’s inner mental state — matters materially for the rabbis. For the majority of rabbis, it matters more than what is actually said. Nonetheless, we see here that there is also a value to making our mouths and hearts the same, in representing our inner intention accurately with our words.

Of course, as the rabbis well knew, it is not always possible. Not only do we make mistakes, sometimes we fail to get words out in time or do not find the right words — and sometimes we outright lie. In a memorable midrash found in Genesis Rabbah 8:5, the heavenly angels argue about whether human beings should be created at all, knowing that they would engage in lies and other misdeeds. God, undaunted, throws truth to the ground and creates human beings anyway because though highly imperfect, they are capable of remarkable deeds of kindness and tzedakah.

We may never be able to perfectly align our mouths and hearts, but it’s something to strive for.
Back to top



Post Sat, Jan 30 2021, 8:53 pm
Pes 64

TOday’s daf details much of the choreography of the paschal offering. We learn that all Israel would enter the courtyard of the Temple in three shifts, each shift taking its turn to sacrifice their lambs while a special sequence of psalms, known as Hallel, was chanted. We learn that the priests would stand shoulder-to-shoulder in two lines, one line holding gold bowls and the other silver as, bucket brigade style, they would pass the blood of each paschal sacrifice all the way to the altar on which it was poured. This method allowed the highest number of priests to participate in the ritual — a gorgeous lesson of inclusion.

Inclusion is in fact a theme found elsewhere on the daf. Further down the page, the rabbis describe temple doors opening and closing between each of the three shifts, and they wonder whether the priests physically closed the doors or if the doors were perhaps miraculously closed of their own accord (naturally, there is no agreement on this point). This leads to the following observation by Rabbi Yehudah:

Who was this Akavya ben Mahalalel and why was he banned? Today’s page doesn’t say, but stories of him are found scattered in rabbinic literature. Akavya ben Mahalalel was an early Tanna — so early he apparently lived while the Temple still stood — who is best remembered for refusing to change his firmly-held convictions to match the opinions of the majority.

According to Sifrei Bamidbar (a rabbinic collection of midrashim on the book of Numbers), Akavya made one of his famous stands with regard to the infamous sotah ritual. Outlined in Numbers 5:11–31, the sotah ritual is invoked by men who suspect their wives of adultery. To test a woman’s fidelity, her husband can bring her to the Temple where she is made to drink a strange concoction of water, dust and ink called “bitter waters.” According to the Torah, if the wife is guilty of adultery, this potion will cause her “thigh to sag and belly to distend.” If not, she is granted immunity — and fertility.

Akavya ben Mahalalel’s colleagues felt any wife could be called up for the sotah ritual, but Akavya himself disagreed — he thought it could apply only to a free-born Jewish woman (not a slave or former slave). In support of their view, the majority remind Akavya that distinguished leaders of the Sanhedrin, Shemaiah and Avtalyon, once administered the test to a former slave woman.

Now it gets really spicy. In disgust, Akavya ben Mahalalel insultingly remarks: “they offered a drink to one who is like them.” In other words, like the former slave woman to whom they administer the bitter waters, these great sages are of dubious lineage. Burn! (Trust me, the insult really zings in the Hebrew.)

Swiftly, Akavya ben Mahalalel was excommunicated. To use a modern turn of phrase, he was cancelled. The sages even stoned his coffin for good measure. But on today’s daf, Rabbi Yehudah comes to Akavya’s rescue, noting the Temple doors refused to close on him because of his unmatched brilliance and righteousness.

Akavya ben Mahalalel had his prejudices and felt himself superior because of his birth. In many ways, he represents the definition of the privilege. His way of thinking was wrong and needed to be checked. By contrast, his esteemed colleagues Shemaiah and Avtalion, who were of humble birth, had risen to top leadership roles.

Rabbi Yehudah reminds us that people are complex. The same person who is capable of prejudice and nasty barbs can also be a person full of wisdom and fear of God. Like Akavya and his colleagues, we are all both flawed and prejudiced and we all also have capacity for great wisdom and kindness. Rabbi Yehudah reminds us that excommunication — cancelling — is not the answer to this complexity. He invites us to ask ourselves: how do we learn to reprove and call out misdeeds without cancelling? How do we reproach with love to invite change instead of distance?
Back to top



Post Sun, Jan 31 2021, 1:18 pm
Pes 65

The paschal lamb was slaughtered in three groups, as it is stated: And the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall slaughter it. (Exodus 12:6) Assembly, congregation, and Israel. The first group entered, and when the Temple courtyard became filled with them they closed the doors of the Temple courtyard.

The Gam goes on to explain

After the first group exited, the second group and then the third group would enter. It was taught: It was called the lazy group because it was the last of the three groups.

It seems that the tried and true “first come, first served” method is used. Those who hurry to perform the mitzvah get to go first. And even though the ceremony is repeated in full for each group, it is also better to be first. In fact, members of the third shift were named “the lazy group” because they didn’t hurry to offer their sacrifice. As we touched on just a few weeks ago on Pesachim 4a, zrizim makdimin l’mitzvot: one should always rush to perform a mitzvah.

After the first group exited, the second group and then the third group would enter. It was taught: It was called the lazy group because it was the last of the three groups.

It seems that the tried and true “first come, first served” method is used. Those who hurry to perform the mitzvah get to go first. And even though the ceremony is repeated in full for each group, it is also better to be first. In fact, members of the third shift were named “the lazy group” because they didn’t hurry to offer their sacrifice. As we touched on just a few weeks ago on Pesachim 4a, zrizim makdimin l’mitzvot: one should always rush to perform a mitzvah.

But doesn’t it seem harsh to disparage the last group — especially as we are required to have a last group — with the derogatory term of “lazy”? The Gemara, too, points out that though these later-comers might have been less punctual, they were also necessary. And since everyone gets to participate in the same ceremony, why the name calling? The Gemara answers:

Nonetheless, the members of the third group should have hurried themselves. As it was taught that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi says: The world cannot function without a perfume merchant or without a tanner (who works with strong-smelling chemicals). But fortunate is he whose profession is perfume merchant, and woe to him whose profession is tanner. Likewise, the world cannot exist without males or without females; yet fortunate is he whose children are males, and woe to him whose children are females.

Even though we need the late comers to constitute the third group, we should strive not to be in this group. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s statement sounds insensitive but it also reflects reality. The world needs all sorts of people in all sorts of roles. We need those who work in nice offices and those who work in smelly factories; those who come to shul early to set up chairs and those who come just in time to make a minyan. The rabbis of the Talmud needed sons for Torah study partners and daughters whom they would worry about supporting until marriage. Each human being is just as essential as the other.

The tension between sympathy and disdain for those in less exalted roles is allowed to stand. All three groups bringing the paschal sacrifice are equally necessary from heaven’s perspective — but it is preferable to be in one of the first two groups.

Sometimes people have choice and sometimes they do not. One does not choose to be a daughter but a tanner might seek to become a perfume merchant and women have achieved significant roles of Torah scholarship in modern society. And if you hurry up you don’t have to be in the third group slaughtering paschal lambs. It is on all of us, whatever role we have been dealt or chosen for ourselves, to make our lives as fragrant as possible — to live lives of alacrity rather than sloth, to choose to be the first to come, and the first to serve.
Back to top



Post Sun, Feb 07 2021, 12:32 pm
Pes 66

As we’ve seen throughout this tractate, the 14th of Nisan, Erev Passover, is no ordinary day. It’s neither a regular weekday nor a festival: it’s the day devoted to preparing for Passover. In the morning, all of one’s hametz is to be removed and burnt; by afternoon, only unleavened food may be eaten. Back when the Temple stood, Jews would gather in the Temple courts to slaughter their paschal lambs.

When the day before Passover falls out on Shabbat, questions arise: can all the normal procedures for preparing the paschal lamb — transporting it to the Temple, slaughtering it, roasting it and preparing to eat it — still be performed even though these activities normally violate Shabbat? How does one square the circle of being commanded to offer the paschal lamb and also being commanded to observe the Sabbath?

The Gemara on today’s daf offers a compelling story to demonstrate that this question stumped even experts in the days of the Temple. I can remember exactly where I was when I first encountered this story, almost fifty years ago, because it opened my eyes to the delights of moralistic rabbinic storytelling.

It begins like this: when the sons of Beteira (leaders in their generation) forget whether one can offer the paschal lamb when Erev Passover coincides with Shabbat, they ask around and are informed that one man might be able to answer: “a certain person who immigrated from Babylonia named Hillel the Babylonian.” They immediately send for this new, foreign expert.

Of course, Hillel is now known to us as one of the most famous sages of all time, full of wisdom and empathy. In this story, however, he’s relatively new and unknown. While we might have expected him to give a pithy response, Hillel instead responds in the proverbially Jewish fashion by answering a question with a question:

And do we have only one paschal sacrifice during the year that overrides Shabbat? We have more than 200 “paschal sacrifices” throughout the year that override Shabbat!

Like the paschal offering, the daily Temple offering (known as the tamid) was also a yearling lamb. Hillel then uses a gezerah shavah, a verbal analogy between two texts to prove that just as the tamid, which the Torah says is given “in its appointed time,” (Numbers 28:2) overrides Shabbat — so too the paschal offering, which also is given “in its appointed time” (Numbers 9:2) overrides Shabbat.

How brilliant! As if it weren’t dazzling enough to both know the correct answer and offer scriptural proof, Hillel gives another proof in the form of a kal va’chomer (a fortiori) argument: since the tamid, which is not punishable by karet (premature death) overrides Shabbat, surely the paschal offering, which is punishable by karet (and therefore is more significant) must override Shabbat. His exposition is so erudite that:

Immediately, they appointed Hillel the Nasi (the head of their Sanhedrin) and throughout the day, he taught them the laws of Passover.

Demonstrating one’s brilliance has its rewards! But now, there’s a sharp turning point in the story:

Then, Hillel began rebuking and demeaning them (for their forgetfulness).

They asked him a specific question: What if a Jew forgot to bring the slaughtering knife with him on the eve of Shabbat — what is to be done?

Hillel responded: I once learned this law, but I’ve forgotten it.

But, he continued, leave it to the Jewish people — if they’re not prophets, they’re the children of prophets.

So, the next day (the 14th of Nisan), what did they see? Jews who were bringing lambs to be slaughtered brought the knives stuck in their lamb’s wool; those bringing goats stuck them between their goat’s horns.

When Hillel saw this, it jarred his memory, and he said: This is the tradition I received from my teachers.

Even the great Hillel, known for being slow to anger, when suddenly elevated from relative unknown to head of the Sanhedrin was susceptible to not only losing his temper but succumbing to arrogant rudeness. And what happens when he does this? He forgets his learning. The very flaw that he criticized in the people became his own.

And from whom does Hillel relearn the law that he had forgotten? ordinary Jews. In this case, they show him that if one forgets to deposit a slaughtering knife at the Temple ahead of time, one can tangle the knife in the animal’s wool or horns in order to avoid violating the Shabbat prohibition of carrying.

As important as it is to hear the law expounded by our scholars and teachers, there is wisdom to be gleaned from the behavior of ordinary Jews — even for the best of those teachers. Hillel was not immune to the corruption of power, but at least he didn’t forget this fundamental truth.
Back to top



Post Sun, Feb 07 2021, 8:33 pm
Pes 67

Jewish rituals of purity and impurity are still practiced today — perhaps most notably in the somewhat euphemistically named practice of taharat mishpacha (family purity), which boils down to the rule that men may not have relations with menstruating women.

This is but a shadow of the massive labyrinthine system of Jewish purity that was practiced in antiquity — a system far more complex and far more pervasive in everyday life. A full order of the Talmud is devoted to the subject. If you visit the archaeological remains of the ancient Jewish community in Qumran (whose library, known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, was discovered in the mid-20th century hidden in some cliffside caves), you’ll likely be struck by just how many mikvehs (ritual baths used for purification) are found amongst the other communal buildings.

For ancient Jews, impurity came about through contact with corpses, with certain creatures, with all manner of bodily emissions, childbirth, leprosy and more. Impurity was also contagious — it could be caught from other people, objects, indoor spaces, and grave sites. Certain classes of impure people, particularly lepers whose impurity was difficult to reverse, were actually removed from the community altogether. Others who could more readily remedy their impurity did so before re-engaging in certain aspects of communal life.

Since purity was in large measure about ensuring that offerings made to God in the Temple were fit, it makes sense that much of the system fell out of use after the destruction of the Temple. It can be difficult for us moderns to wrap our heads around a whole system that we don’t practice. Bible scholars and anthropologists alike have made detailed studies of various Jewish purity systems and yielded many valuable insights, but no one has been able to offer a grand theory that explains every detail.

A teaching on today’s page illustrates just how complex and counterintuitive the purity system can be:

A leper, who went beyond his boundary (and entered the Israelite camp) is punished with forty lashes. Similarly, zavin and zavot (who are prohibited from entering the Levite camp) who went beyond their boundaries, are punished with forty lashes. And one who is ritually impure due to contact with a corpse is permitted to enter even the Levite camp.

A leper, one suffering from a skin condition that may have been psoriasis, was prohibited from entering the camp or Israelite community. Zavin and zavot, men and women who were impure by dint of emission (seminal in the former case and menstrual in the latter) were prohibited from entering the camp of the Levites, who served with the priests in the Temple and had to maintain a state of purity. But here’s a surprising kicker: impurity that happens from contact with a corpse does not actually prohibit one from entering any encampments, including that of the Levites who serve in the Temple. In fact, even a corpse itself can enter the camp:

And not only did they say that one who is ritually impure due to a corpse may enter this area, but even a corpse itself may be brought into the Levite camp, as it is stated: And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him (Exodus 13:19), the words “with him” implying that the bones were taken within his boundary.

Even a corpse, which conveys impurity not only through touch but even through certain kinds of proximity, could be brought into the Levite encampment. The reason given here is not logical or practical, but midrashic. When Israel escaped slavery in Egypt, they took the bones of their forefather, Joseph, who had died in Egypt with them. The rabbis read the text very closely here: Moses (a Levite) took the bones of Joseph with him. This means that the bones travelled in Moses’ Levite encampment.

The primary teaching about impurity and Passover on today’s page is equally counterintuitive. If an individual is impure with corpse impurity, that individual may not offer the paschal lamb — they can participate in a make-up Passover, called “Passover Sheni,” a month later. But if the majority of the community is impure from contact with a corpse, well, they just go ahead and offer their paschal lambs in a state of impurity.

In future tractates, we’ll spend much more time on the details of the purity/impurity system. At that time, it will be helpful to try to set aside whatever assumptions we may have and allow the rabbis to explain the system according to its own logic and rules — however foreign they may seem.
Back to top



Post Sun, Feb 07 2021, 11:35 pm
Pes 68

Every thirty days, Rav Sheshet would review what he had learned over the previous month and he would stand and lean against the bolt of the door and say: Rejoice my soul, rejoice my soul, for you I have read scripture, for you I have studied Mishnah.

Study, says Rav Sheshet, is for the benefit of the soul. He may be suggesting that by studying one nurtures one’s soul and provides for its needs in this world, or perhaps that by studying Torah in this world one ensures a future for one’s soul in the World to Come. Either way, the beneficiary of Torah study is the individual.

“Is that so?” asks the Gemara with a conflicting source at hand:

But didn’t Rabbi Elazar say: If not for the Torah and its study, heaven and earth would not be sustained, as it is stated: If not for My covenant by day and by night, I would not have set up the laws of heaven and earth. (Jeremiah 33:25)

With this verse from Jeremiah, Rabbi Elazar suggests God created the world for the purpose of Torah study and that its very continued existence depends on the continuous study of Torah, day and night. In other words, if not for the study of Torah, the world need not exist. And, if not for those who studied Torah around the clock, the world would cease to exist. So, who benefits from the study of Torah? The entire world and all who live in it.

True to form, the Gemara does not choose between the two perspectives. Torah study is for the individual, and it is also for the world. At the outset, perhaps, when a person studies Torah, they do it for themselves, and later on they come to appreciate the ways in which their study benefits the world at large.

This talmudic teaching resonated with me, especially in light of the fact that we recently marked one year of learning Daf Yomi. Learning certainly benefits individuals. Studying Daf Yomi has provided me with an opportunity to engage the text of the Talmud in new ways. I’ve encountered famous texts in their original context and become more familiar with the broad themes of entire Tractates. The daily commitment has provided structure and purpose during a time when many routines have been disrupted. I feel a deeper connection to a text for which I already had warm feelings and found a place in a community of learners with whom I can go swimming in the sea of the Talmud.

At the same time, I appreciate that studying Daf Yomi has wider benefits as well. It builds community, bringing people together around shared purpose. It expands the universe of souls that are engaging in talmud Torah and ensures that the wisdom, knowledge and insight that is embedded in Jewish tradition is passed on to the new generation of learners. It allows for new ways for people to express their Jewish identity and to share the knowledge and wisdom of our people with others.

As the Talmud suggests, both are true. Studying Talmud is beneficial to individuals and to the larger world. As you read on, know that not only are you nourishing your soul, but you are also sustaining the Jewish community and the world at large.
Back to top



Post Mon, Feb 08 2021, 1:10 am
I have so many questions on this section. Mingling of flavors... how on earth does a cold loaf of bread absorb the essence of a closed cask of wine? I get the hot bread over the open cask..

And I also wonder why the Gemara discounts the hot milk falling into a bowl of cold meat? Shouldn’t both hot into cold and cold into hot be problems? I’d love a Kashrus shiur based on this section, with sources as to why we do it a certain way today.

And also, why do we spend so much time outlining how to best burn a woman? (The daughter of a kohein. I was seriously horrified at the different methods recommended.) Do we ever burn the male perpetrator?
Back to top



Post Tue, Feb 16 2021, 7:21 pm
Pesachim 69

Anyone who has studied Talmud — even one day, let alone many hundreds — has surely encountered the most basic feature of this great
compendium of rabbinic law and lore: the argument. With the exception of some stories and legends, just about every sentence on every page is an argument of some sort or another. That argument forms the basis of the entire work has become so banal that it is not unusual for the Talmud to be invoked as proof that we can and should all disagree together comfortably. And, for the most part, the Talmud would seem to agree.

But not today. It can be hard, sometimes, to know which arguments will stretch the interlocutors past their breaking points and pitch them headfirst into a more serious realm of invective. One wouldn’t necessarily expect it from today’s dispute, which ends with a dire curse

The issue under discussion is whether or not certain actions taken as part of a sacrificial ritual can override Shabbat, a discussion that began with the mishnah at the beginning of this chapter on page 65b. We have already established that sacrificing the paschal lamb (which must be done, according to the Torah, “in its appointed time”) overrides Shabbat. But what about other Passover preparations?

Rabbi Eliezer argues that the sprinkling of water that is part of the ritual for removing the impurity contracted through contact with the dead overrides Shabbat when it coincides with Erev Passover. Although this sprinkling would normally be prohibited on Shabbat by rabbinic law, it is allowed in this case because the person upon whom the water is sprinkled needs to purified in order to eat the paschal offering on Saturday night — a mitzvah that must be done in a state of purity.

The issue under discussion is whether or not certain actions taken as part of a sacrificial ritual can override Shabbat, a discussion that began with the mishnah at the beginning of this chapter on page 65b. We have already established that sacrificing the paschal lamb (which must be done, according to the Torah, “in its appointed time”) overrides Shabbat. But what about other Passover preparations?

Rabbi Eliezer argues that the sprinkling of water that is part of the ritual for removing the impurity contracted through contact with the dead overrides Shabbat when it coincides with Erev Passover. Although this sprinkling would normally be prohibited on Shabbat by rabbinic law, it is allowed in this case because the person upon whom the water is sprinkled needs to purified in order to eat the paschal offering on Saturday night — a mitzvah that must be done in a state of purity.

As we have already seen previously in the mishnah, Rabbi Akiva disagrees, arguing that such sprinkling does not override Shabbat. What is more, the fact that something prohibited only by rabbinic law (sprinkling) does not override Shabbat could be used to argue that something that is prohibited by biblical law (slaughter of the paschal offering) should also not override Shabbat.

Rabbi Akiva’s response is difficult to parse. Clearly, he disagrees with Rabbi Eliezer. But what’s especially strange is that from this position he “proves” something that everyone knows to be untrue: that the paschal offering does not override Shabbat. (It does override Shabbat without question — recall the story of the people forgetting this rule and learning it from Hillel that we read on page 66.)

Rabbi Eliezer is not pleased. In the mishnah, where we find a similar disagreement between the two, he accuses Rabbi Akiva of “uprooting that which was written in the Torah”— a fairly serious charge. But it’s nothing next to what we see Rabbi Eliezer say on our daf today.

Today Rabbi Eliezer doesn’t just accuse Rabbi Akiva of uprooting Torah, he curses him:

Rabbi Eliezer said to him: Akiva, you have responded to me with regard to slaughter. His death will be with slaughter.

According to Rashi, Rabbi Eliezer felt that the Rabbi Akiva’s argument was made contemptuously, since clearly Rabbi Akiva was aware that the Torah is clear on the point: we sacrifice the paschal offering “at its appointed time” meaning even on Shabbat. The fact that Rabbi Akiva would even make such a ridiculous argument shows that he was not taking the discussion seriously. His response is extraordinarily hostile. All the more so if we recall that Rabbi Akiva’s life did end in martyrdom — he was executed by the Romans in an exceptionally grizzly manner. His death will indeed be a slaughter.

It is striking to see such a brutal rejoinder in what seems to a fairly anodyne example of Talmudic dispute. It provides an interesting codicil to the standard trope about the Talmud being the proof that we can argue and yet still be friends; perhaps that is so only so long as we feel that those with whom we argue share our reverence for the subject, or our respect for the rules of debate, or for the honor due to those with whom we disagree. Some of that was missing between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Akiva, and the result was deadly.
Back to top



Post Wed, Feb 17 2021, 11:50 am
Pes 70

you have ever planned a social event — be it a wedding, bar mitzvah or dinner with friends — you have likely asked for an RSVP. The term comes from the French respondez s’il vous plait: please respond. The politeness of the expression obscures some of the anxiety many hosts feel in planning a large event — planning made much more difficult if one doesn’t know how many guests to expect.

We have already learned that people must register for a paschal offering ahead of time — so that by the time the lamb is slaughtered it is known exactly on whose behalf and there is a designated group to consume the animal (the Torah requires the entire animal be eaten on that very night, with no leftovers).

And we have learned that on Erev Passover, the regular daily tamid offering was also made in the Temple, even on Shabbat.

As we learn on today’s page, there is yet another offering, the festival peace offering, that is made on the 14th of Nisan. Unlike the tamid and the paschal offering, the festival offering does not override Shabbat. But like the paschal offering, it is made in a state of purity and it too requires advanced registration.

Indeed, the festival offering has quite a bit in common with the paschal offering, as a beraita on today’s page specifies:

Come and hear: The festival peace-offering that comes with the paschal offering is like the paschal offering in every respect. It comes from the flock (e.g. goats and sheep) and does not come from the herd (e.g. cows), it comes from males and does not come from females, it comes from an animal that is a year old and does not come from an animal that is two years old, and it is eaten for only a day and a night, and it is eaten only roasted, and it is eaten only by those who registered for it in advance.

This beraita neatly summarizes many of the requirements for the paschal offering (species, relations, age, cooking method, time of consumption, and advanced registration) and clarifies that these are the same requirements that apply to the festival peace offering. (No wonder we saw all those discussions about what to do if a person suddenly confused their paschal offering with a peace offering!)

That last clause in this beraita requires that individuals register partake in this offering. The word translated here as “to register” also means to make an appointment. In other words, you must RSVP for your sacrifice. And if you’re not on the list, you’re not getting your portion.

What’s interesting about this is that not only is the pre-registration important for the person who would like to receive their portion, but it is also important to everyone else. Only if a certain threshold of participants is reached (thus guaranteeing there are enough people to consume the entire animal) will the offering be made. If too few people register in advance, the offering will not be made.

On a spiritual level, we learn that there must be buy-in from a large swath of the community to be able to merit the additional festival peace-offering. The community must be invested in one another, and this ritual, to be able to offer this special sacrifice. When they do, they can sit down satiated from the prior festival peace-offering, and enjoy the paschal lamb in a state of pure joy.
Back to top



Post Thu, Feb 18 2021, 12:55 pm
Pes 71

oday’s daf continues a discussion of a topic we have seen in recent pages about what happens if someone slaughtered the paschal lamb for Passover with the incorrect intention. Recall that for sacrifices to be done properly, all the steps involved need to be done for the purpose of offering that specific sacrifice. If someone slaughtered the paschal lamb but intended for it to be used for some other purpose, their offering is considered invalid.

In a lengthy mishnah toward the bottom of today’s daf, the rabbis consider a significant implication of this principle. What happens if someone slaughtered the paschal lamb on Shabbat without the proper intention?

As a general rule, it’s forbidden to kill animals on Shabbat, even insects, unless they pose a serious threat to humans. For this reason, some strict Shabbat observers take care not even to step on insects, lest they be killed. But this prohibition does not apply to sacrifices that must be offered on Shabbat. The question then becomes, if you slaughter an animal on Shabbat with improper intention, thus rendering the animal invalid for the very purpose that made it permissible to slaughter it on Shabbat in the first place, has the person committed a sin?

This mishnah’s general rule here seems intuitive: If the paschal lamb is disqualified for use because it was slaughtered without proper intention, the act of slaughter is considered a violation of Shabbat. Similarly, if a person slaughtered an animal on Shabbat for the purpose of offering it as a paschal sacrifice, but the animal was later deemed unfit for that purpose for one reason or another. One can only kill an animal on Shabbat for the purpose of bringing a permitted sacrifice. If that sacrifice is deemed ineligible for whatever reason, then the killing was not permitted and the person who slaughtered the animal must bring a sin-offering to atone for the Shabbat violation.

Note that the person in question is liable for a sin-offering because the action was considered to be unwitting. Had they intentionally slaughtered an animal they knew was unfit, no offering would have sufficed since, in the realm of sacrifice and many other halakhic matters, there is no atonement for deliberate sins. But the slaughter is also not considered an involuntary action, for which no act of atonement is required. The slaughterer had an obligation to first get their head straight and conduct proper due diligence before taking a life.

This distinction is captured in a later halakhah found in this mishnah:

If he slaughtered it and it was found to have a blemish, the offering is disqualified, and he is liable to bring a sin-offering for having unwittingly performed a prohibited labor on Shabbat. If he slaughtered it and it was found to have a hidden condition that would cause it to die within twelve months (rendering it a tereifa and therefore unfit) that could not have been discovered before the slaughter even if it were examined properly, the offering is disqualified, but he is exempt from bringing a sin-offering.

In the first instance, the slaughtered animal is deemed unfit for sacrifice because of a blemish that could have been discovered earlier. In that case, the sacrifice is disqualified and the slaughterer must bring a sin offering for violating Shabbat. But if the animal is disqualified because of the discovery of a condition that no pre-slaughter examination could have uncovered, the Shabbat violation is considered to have been involuntary and no act of atonement is necessary.

Both these examples underscore a general principle about both sin and atonement and the paschal sacrifice: intention matters — and so does attention!
Back to top



Post Fri, Feb 19 2021, 3:20 pm
Pesachim 72

Anxiety about ritual errors doesn’t only apply to weddings, of course. On today’s page, the rabbis note some of the things that can go wrong with the rituals of Passover and, many others.

Not surprisingly, making a long pilgrimage to Jerusalem, securing the right animal, ridding oneself of leaven, entering the Temple with not one but, as we’ve recently learned, two important sacrifices that must be performed by sundown (paschal offering and festival peace offering), can all be a source of confusion and stress. All kinds of accidents can happen, as detailed on today’s page: an unfit animal might be offered up, an animal might be offered with wrong intention, or an animal might be offered at the wrong time. Other complications can arise as well if an animal’s owner becomes ritually impure or even dies (hopefully not from stress!) in the lead-up to Passover.

How should we approach these errors? The rabbis disagree. For example:

As for all other offerings that one unwittingly slaughtered on Shabbat for the purpose of a paschal offering, if they were not fit for the paschal offering, he is liable to bring a sin-offering. And if they are fit, Rabbi Eliezer deems him liable to bring a sin-offering, whereas Rabbi Yehoshua exempts him.

This is a fairly obscure error. An animal not previously designated as a paschal offering is slaughtered on Shabbat as a paschal offering. Why might this happen? Perhaps someone got mixed up and brought the wrong lamb or goat to the Temple. In any case, if it was not the sort of animal fit to be a paschal offering in the first place, the person brings a sin offering to atone for this mistake. But if the animal was fit to be a paschal offering (just not designated as one), the rabbis disagree about the offerer’s culpability. Consistent with their personalities, Rabbi Yehoshua is more lenient and does not require a sin offering, while Rabbi Eliezer still does.

The page continues on past paschal offerings to examine mistakes made in the ritual of circumcision, the consumption of sacrificial meat, with regard to s-xual relations, and the rituals of Sukkot. For example, perhaps one has two babies to circumcise, one of which is scheduled for a Shabbat bris, the other for the day before Shabbat. Anxiety about circumcising the wrong baby on Shabbat could, ironically, lead to just that error.

We also learn that a person might forget to check and engage in s-xual intercourse to consummate a levirate marriage with his sister-in-law. But, in that case, the rabbis recognize that the offender may have been too shy to ask his sister-in-law if she was menstruating at that time.

Even when it comes to the most sacred obligations toward God, or the most potent taboos, stress can lead people to make mistakes. In my experience, dress rehearsals can help a great deal, but even they do not guarantee a seamless experience. But, at least in the case of weddings, as a wise colleague of mine once said, “in rituals, there are no mistakes; only good stories!” And for everything else, there’s a sin offering.
Back to top



Post Sun, Feb 21 2021, 1:39 am
Pes 73

On today’s page we consider the case of a paschal sacrifice made on Shabbat on behalf of someone who cannot eat (perhaps someone ill or elderly who cannot chew the meat). According to the Torah, eating the paschal offering is an obligation, as is finishing all the meat in a single night. Sacrificing on behalf of someone who will not eat the meat has the potential to disrupt these obligations. And if you make this mistake on Shabbat, you have now violated Shabbat for no reason. But is it a sin offering worthy offense?

Rav Huna bar Hinnana argues that sacrificing on behalf of people who cannot eat is equivalent to inflicting a “destructive wound” — one that creates no benefit. Since the rabbis have a principle that making a destructive wound on Shabbat does not incur the penalty of a sin offering, we might suppose that this hypothetical scenario of sacrificing on behalf of someone who cannot eat on Shabbat should not incur liability for a sin offering, contra the Mishnah.

But no, the Mishnah is in fact right, as the Gemara explains:

He has improved it in that if the sacrificial parts of the offering ascended to the top of the altar, they do not descend.

If the paschal sacrifice made on behalf of non-eaters on Shabbat ascends to the altar before the mistake is discovered, the Gemara explains, then the meat is not taken off the altar — it is allowed to burn there. This effectively elevates the meat. Since meat incurred benefit, the sacrifice violated Shabbat and therefore requires atonement in the form of a sin offering.

A similar argument further down the page shows that one is liable also for accidentally sacrificing an animal with a disqualifying blemish as a paschal offering on Shabbat. In doing so, this animal too finds its way onto the altar when it otherwise would not have — elevating the status of the meat. And this benefit means the sacrifice has violated Shabbat. The case is even clearer in the case of an animal that has a condition which means it will die within the year. Had it died on its own (explains Steinsaltz) it would have become a neveila (a carcass that imparts ritual impurity). But proper slaughter elevates this animal such that its remains do not impart impurity.

All of this is very complicated and specific. However, I believe this text has something to teach us about the skill of finding the good in the bad. These animals were sacrificed when they should not have been, and yet the rabbis discerned benefit in it, be it meat that makes it to the altar when it would not otherwise have, or a carcass that is prevented from becoming a source of impurity.

On today’s page, finding the benefit is unfortunate in that it means the sacrifice has violated Shabbat and the person responsible must bring a sin offering. But it is also a gift to be able to look for and find the good in a situation. I’m reminded of the Yiddish song “Hob Ich Mir a Mantl” (“I Had a Little Overcoat” — turned into the children’s book Joseph Had a Little Overcoat). In that Jewish folktale, a coat that becomes worn out is turned into a jacket. When the jacket wears out, it becomes a vest, and so on until all that is left is enough to cover a button. When that button too is lost, the story of the coat remains. Maybe today’s page will never be a riveting story, but it does teach us something about finding the benefit in a bad situation. And, of course, atoning for your mistake.
Back to top



Post Tue, Feb 23 2021, 2:42 pm
Pes 74

Large ovens were constructed for this purpose. The animal was spitted and lowered in to be cooked over the fire.

But what kind of spit should be used? The rabbis prohibited the use of a metal spit. Why? Metal is a conductor of heat: if part of it is hot, all of it is hot. If one uses a metal spit, technically the inside part of the animal will be cooked by the hot metal rod and not the fire itself, and thus violate God’s command

If you have ever roasted marshmallows over a campfire, you only have to use a metal hanger once to know that it conducts heat so well that it can melt the marshmallow from the inside while the open flame roasts the marshmallow from the outside. This doesn’t happen with a wooden stick because wood doesn’t conduct heat.

And that is exactly what the rabbis suggest — using a wooden spit so the meat doesn’t cook from within. Specifically, pomegranate wood.

Various types of wood are discussed on today’s page but most are ruled out because they emit water which would then steam the animal from the inside, again precluding all the flesh from cooking by means of the flames. Palm wood has grooves between the leaves which give off water; fig wood is hollow and gives off water; oak, carob and sycamore are hard, but they have knots which must be cut to straighten the branch — and anyway, those give off water too.

Pomegranate, however, though it has knots, has smooth knots that do not need to be straightened with a knife. You may even use a pomegranate branch that is less than a year old which doesn’t yet have knots. And, crucially, it doesn’t emit steam, so it won’t cook the meat from within.

A wise sage brings up the point that with all wood, the place where the branch is cut from the tree will emit water, even in the case of pomegranate wood. So the rabbis specify that this section should not be inserted in the animal, rather left outside so it doesn’t steam the inside of the animal.

Just when it seems everything is settled, Rabbi Yehuda wonders aloud if metal might actually be used after all. Maybe one shouldn’t be worried about the spit of metal becoming hot and cooking the roast from inside because, he says, since it is inside the animal and not exposed directly to the fire maybe it will not get hot enough to cook it from within.

Ok, so maybe Rabbi Yehuda missed the lesson on thermal conductivity in physics class. Fortunately, his colleagues quickly correct him: even the metal inside the roast that is not directly exposed to fire will still conduct the heat from the part that is directly exposed. They remind him: if one part of it is hot, all of it is hot. And pomegranate wood is the way to go.

So, next time you look to roast a hot dog or marshmallows over the campfire, remember the wisdom of the sages and choose your implements wisely
Back to top



Post Wed, Feb 24 2021, 2:50 pm
Pes 75

We have often remarked that the Gemara is fully comfortable allowing contradictory opinions to coexist side-by-side. And yet, when the Mishnah appears to contradict itself, the rabbis often feel compelled to explain. Today’s page offers a great example:

One may not roast the paschal lamb on a metal spit nor on a metal grill.

However, Rabbi Tzadok said: There was an incident with Rabban Gamliel, who said to his slave Tavi: Go and roast the paschal lamb for us on the grill.

The Torah requires that the lamb be roasted by fire. Here, the mishnah first prohibits the use of a metal spit or grill to ensure that the lamb will be roasted exclusively by the fire and not by the heated metal of a cooking utensil. But then, in the same mishnah, Rabban Gamliel seems to undermine this ruling by ordering his slave Tavi to bring out a metal grill for roasting the paschal lamb.

How do we resolve this machloket (a difference of opinion about the law) in the mishnah? The Gemara usually takes one of two routes.

The first option is to preserve the contradiction by suggesting that the contradictory example comes to show the ruling is incorrect. The Gemara refers to this approach as ma’aseh listor, an example that contradicts. In our case, that would mean that Rabbi Tzadok has brought evidence the first line of the mishnah is incorrect: the mishnah initially said you can’t use a grill, but if Rabban Gamliel did it, so can you. However, this is not the route the Gemara takes in this case.

The second option — and the one taken by the Gemara today — is to find a way to harmonize the ruling and the example by making each more specific. Here’s how the Gemara accomplishes that:

The mishnah is incomplete and is teaching the following: If it is a perforated grill, so that the fire reaches each part of the meat and the animal will not be roasted from the heat of the grill itself, it is permitted. And with regard to this Rabbi Tzadok said that there was an incident with Rabban Gamliel, who said to his slave Tavi: Go and roast the Paschal lamb for us on the perforated grill.

Here, the Gemara suggests that the mishnah is missing information, namely that a solid metal grill is prohibited but a perforated grill is permissible because the gaps in the grill ensure that the lamb will be roasted by the fire and not by the heated metal. With this additional information, Rabban Gamliel’s actions serve as support for the exception rather than to undermine the rule in its entirety.

Hold on a second, you might be saying to yourself, by adding new information, the Gemara has changed the meaning of the mishnah! Is this really allowed?

Traditional scholars can be uncomfortable with the notion that a mishnah is incomplete and reject the notion that the Gemara is changing it. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, for example, explains that, in cases like this, the Gemara is not suggesting an actual emendation of the text of the mishnah; rather it is a “necessary elaboration” for a mishnah which is “insufficiently clear in its current form.”

Modern scholars, however, are more likely to ascribe bolder intent to the Gemara. Dr. Aryeh Cohen asserts that the phrase the mishnah is incomplete and is teaching the following, “more often than not … is used to introduce a law which would harmonize a contradiction between two other laws, or between a law and a precedent-story. The claim is that this is really what the Mishnah says. The result is changing what the Mishnah says.
Back to top



Post Wed, Mar 03 2021, 7:21 pm
Pesachim 76

For two days now, we’ve been discussing the Torah’s law that the paschal lamb must be roasted by fire. The rabbis take it very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that they forbid inserting a metal spit into the animal lest the metal heat up and cook the animal from the inside. Every bit of meat must be cooked by the flames alone.

On the bottom of yesterday’s page, we encountered a mishnah that addresses the concern that even an animal properly spitted on pomegranate wood (which does not conduct heat) might still accidentally come into contact with heat that doesn’t come directly from the flames. For instance, the animal might brush the side of the oven and cook from the heat of the bricks. Or some of the drippings might fall and be cooked by the hot floor and then splash back up on the animal.

It becomes apparent in the mishnah that any part of the paschal lamb not cooked by fire is forbidden. Those splashed drippings present a problem not just because they cooked incorrectly, but because they are now a forbidden substance on the lamb itself.

From here, both the mishnah and then the Gemara proceed to a discussion of what to do when a forbidden food accidentally mixes with a permissible food. And likewise, when meat accidentally mixes with milk. And what even constitutes mixing? When a lamb and a pig are roasted side-by-side, do the aromas of the pig enter the lamb and render it forbidden? 

Flavor transfers, as we learned some time ago, when a food is hot. Or when it is salty or marinated. Two cold foods don’t transfer flavor; two hot foods do. Much of the ambiguity centers on the mixture of hot and cold food. Rav maintains that it’s a problem when hot forbidden food is added to cold permitted food. Shmuel says the issue is when cold forbidden food is added to hot permitted food.

In the midst of all this, we encounter a surprising ruling:

Wait a minute! How could this possibly be OK? This is an entire animal (albeit a small one) falling into a dairy dish. It just seems wrong. The Gemara explains Rav Hinnana’s logic: the bird is raw (and therefore cold) and the kamka is salty, but not salty enough to cause flavor to transfer. All you need to do is fish the bird out, rinse it off, and you’re good to go.

We might expect pushback here. After all, we’ve seen that the rabbis abhor even the appearance of transgressing halakhah. This certainly looks like a blatant violation of kashrut. But the Gemara takes an opposite tact here:

Rava said: Who is wise enough to permit something as complicated as this, if not Rav Hinnana, son of Rava of Pashronya, as he is a great man?

Rava (the well-known Amora, not the father of Rav Hinnana who has the same name) praises Rav Hinnana for proving something profoundly counterintuitive. The Gemara loves this kind of display of brilliance. Famously, it was said that to qualify as a member of the Sanhedrin, a sage was required to construct a plausible argument that the carcass of a sheretz (a creeping animal) — something the Bible states explicitly is impure — is actually pure (Sanhedrin 17b). Being able to prove black is white, or impure is pure, serves as a kind of proof of mental and argumentative acuity. Is this what Rava is praising?

Or perhaps Rava is praising Rav Hinnana for finding a way to render the dish permissible, to reduce the burden on people so that they need not throw out otherwise edible food. Following Jewish law is difficult enough. Praise goes to those rabbis who don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.
Back to top



Post Wed, Mar 03 2021, 7:53 pm
naturalmom5 wrote:

Or perhaps Rava is praising Rav Hinnana for finding a way to render the dish permissible, to reduce the burden on people so that they need not throw out otherwise edible food. Following Jewish law is difficult enough. Praise goes to those rabbis who don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.

This is somewhat of a disparaging statement to make about Chazal and the rabbis.
Back to top



Post Wed, Mar 03 2021, 8:17 pm
amother [ Jetblack ] wrote:
This is somewhat of a disparaging statement to make about Chazal and the rabbis.

You think so..

Its not my original thought , I saw it in an achron..
Back to top



Post Wed, Mar 03 2021, 8:29 pm
Back to top



Post Thu, Mar 04 2021, 6:44 pm
Pes 77

Picture an engraved crown or headband, worn low on the forehead. But why does the high priest wear this item? Again, according to Exodus:

It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may take away any sin arising from the holy things that the Israelites consecrate, from any of their sacred donations; it shall be on his forehead at all times, to win acceptance for them before the Lord

Back to top
  Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  Next  Last >> Recent Topics

Page 4 of 6 View latest: 24h 48h 72h

Post new topic   Reply to topic    Forum -> Judaism

Related Topics Replies Last Post
Discussion on the Daf - Shekalim
by Aylat
36 Today at 1:31 am View last post
WWII vs Holocaust discussion with ds
by amother
3 Yesterday at 12:46 am View last post
Seminary discussion for 2021/2022
by amother
81 Sun, Mar 14 2021, 12:47 am View last post
Discussion on Perek Echad - Rambam
by amother
0 Sun, Jan 24 2021, 1:11 am View last post
Discussion on Nach Yomi
by amother
64 Fri, Jan 22 2021, 1:48 pm View last post