The Raw and the Cooked

Daf 38. Summary. Are some breads exempt from the obligation to separate halla? It depends on the use the baker has in mind. What blessing is recited over date honey? over terima? (The latter is a Greek word that Rava does not recognize. Before he can rule, he needs to identify what it is called in Aramaic.) Answers depend on whether the ingredients are mixed or diluted; whether the dish is made to be food or medicine.

The mention of medicine introduces a debate on whether medicine is permitted on Shabbat. It is permitted if “the man’s intention is eating and the cure comes about on its own.” No blessing is required for medicine since no “pleasure” is derived from eating it.

There is a disagreement over the exact wording of the blessing over bread, specifically over the tense of the verb. Is God bringing forth bread or has he brought it forth? The rabbis bring forth bread to see how Rabbi Zevid will bless it (“he is a great man and he is expert in blessing”). He disappoints Rabbi Zeira by reciting an undisputed formulation.

The rabbis debate whether there are different blessings over raw and cooked vegetables. It may depend on whether the vegetable is edible in an uncooked state (cabbage, chard, and pumpkin are not) or damaged by being cooked (garlic and leeks).

Rabbi Zeira questions why Ulla would apparently cite Rabbi Binyamin bar Yefet over Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba.

Comment.  Rabbi Binyamin bar Yefet has a poor reputation as a scholar, so why would Ulla choose his ruling over Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba? The question remains unanswered, but perhaps Binyamin brings something to the discussion that none of the others possess: experience cooking vegetables.

This is not the only tense exchange. Rabbi Zevid’s evasion of the question as to the exact wording of the blessing over bread echoes the exchange between Akiva and Gamliel in the previous daf. In both cases, a senior Sage invites a colleague to offer a blessing because the senior Sage has a hidden agenda. In both cases, the colleague finds a way to respond to the honor without taking a stand. This strikes me as the correct course of action. The obligation of the occasion is to offer a blessing in anticipation of deriving a benefit from this world. It is not a moment to be exploited to settle a dispute.

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