The Joy of Having Cooked

Daf 96-102 (Shabbas 33a-39b)


The peculiar story of R’Shimon ben Yochai’s betrayal, his miraculous sustenance, and the deadly power he develops is a chilling tale, perhaps calculated to humble the uneducated so they will not dare to challenge rabbinic authority, directly or indirectly. It is wild and crazy and full of pre-kabbalistic mystery. No wonder the Zohar is falsely attributed to this dark character! Who else among the “Sages” could have written such a document? How better to give it standing than to suggest it was written by such a Sage?

The text veers from this fearsome story to a consideration of setting the right tone to encourage a household to make Shabbes preparations, cautioning the head of the household to “take care to say these things gently, so that his family members will accept the reminder from him and not reject it out of resentment.” A man’s home may be his castle, but he is no king.

The other topics covered in this week’s dapim are the uncertain status of liminal time and the rules for cooking on Shabbes. On the former topic, the twilight preceding the onset of Shabbes (called bein hashemashos) is divided by six shofar blasts; the first five call workers from distant fields to near fields, from near fields to the marketplace, from the marketplace to home, and then to finish preparng the home. The sixth blast signals that Shabbes has begun. This creates a dilemma for he who blows the shofar: how to properly store the shofar securely without desecrating Shabbes. A lenient interpretation resolves the dilemma.

The rules around cooking, on the other hand, expose the danger inherent in lenient rulings. Examples abound of leniency in cases where appearance and intent may be at odds. In such situations, people become accustomed to lying.

Daf 96 (Shabbas 33a-33b)

Various sins are enumerated– corrupt judges, false oaths, sabbath violations, murder, forbidden sexual relations, idolatry, cessation of observance of sabbatical and jubilee years, employing obscene language (“Everyone knows why a bride enters the chuppah . . . but if anyone perverts his speech and actually expresses this . . .”)– and their consequences.

When R’Shimon ben Yochai is overheard speaking disparagingly of the Romans, his life is endangered and he and his son go into hiding in a cave where they are miraculously nourished for 12 years, until Elijah comes to inform them of the death of Caesar. Their return to civilization has deadly consequences. God sends them back to the cave for 12 more months. On their second return, R’Shimon announces, “Since a miracle was performed to rescue me, I shall go and remedy something to benefit the community.”

Daf 97 (Shabbas 34a-34b)

R’Shimon encounters the fellow who had reported his remarks to the Romans many years earlier. “He set his eyes upon him and turned him into a heap of bones.”

Mishnah. There are three things one must say at one’s home on the eve of Shabbes.

Gemara. The gemara asks, “From where in Scripture can this be seen?” and considers possible answers. Rabbah bar Rav Huna adds, “One must take care to say these things gently, so that his family members will accept the reminder from him and not reject it out of resentment.”

The gemara is concerned about the uncertain status of the eve of Shabbes but concludes “any doubt in matters of Rabbinic law is treated leniently.” Even so, “we place upon it the stringencies of two days”– i.e., we assume whichever status will yield the greater stringency.

Daf 98 (Shabbas 35a-35b)

Rabbah considers bein hashemashos a longer interval than Rav Yosef. The gemara discusses where Rav Yosef is more lenient than Rabbah.

Alternative ways of measuring bein hashemashos are explored. Six shofar blasts alert the people to the approach of Shabbes; only five in Babylonia. R’Yose bar Chanina says, “I heard that if one came to kindle Sabbath lights after all six blasts had sounded, he may still kindle them, because the Sages provided a certain amount of extra time to allow the sexton of the community to bring the shofar back with him to his house after he had finished blowing it.” Another sage rejects this: “There was a hidden place for the sexton . . . where he would place his shofar.” (There is further disagreement over whether the shofar may be carried on Shabbes.)

Daf 99 (Shabbas 36a-36b)

The disagreement over the rules surrounding the transporting of a trumpet versus the transporting of a shofar may be explained by the evolving use of terminology. This leads to a review of other objects whose names have changed over time and whether there are practical significances to the changes of their names. (The place previously called Babylonia was renamed: “It is relevant to divorce documents of women.”)

Perek 3. Mishnah. The use of a stove around Shabbes depends on the fuel used and the contents of the pots. Shammai says only hot water may be placed there; Hillel says cooked foods may also be placed there. Shammai permits only removing the pots; Hillel also allows them to be returned to the stove.

Gemara. The gemara strives to understand the mishnah.

Daf 100 (Shabbas 37a-37b)

Heating cooked food on the top of the stove may be permitted, but heating inside the stove is definitely not (because it creates the appearance of cooking). The gemara considers whether placing the food alongside the oven is permitted and if it may be placed on or near the heat “if the food is of a type that improves as it condenses.” The latter is not permitted in Babylonia, but is permitted elsewhere.

Daf 101 (Shabbas 38a-38b)

R’Chiya is asked “If one forgot a pot of uncooked food on an unbanked kirah before the Sabbath and it cooked on the Sabbath, what is the law?” R’Chiya remained silent until the next day, when he finally replied that there is no distinction in this case between intentional and unintentional cooking, but he did not say if the food is forbidden. The gemara attempts to determine the law. It wonders if R’Chiya ruled as he did before or after a decree prohibiting food left unwittingly (a decree enacted “when the Rabbis saw that some people left food . . . intentionally and claimed they had done so unwittingly”). Perhaps he lived after the decree was issued but was unaware of it?

The gemara looks at the portion of the mishnah that permits returning a pot to the stove after removing it on Shabbes. It does not resolve the issue of when this is, and when this is not, permissible.

Mishnah. The laws regarding status of an oven heated with straw or stubble.

Gemara. Different interpretations of the mishnah are debated.

Mishnah. The laws prohibiting “unconventional” sources of heat (e.g., placing an egg adjacent to a hot kettle or burying it in sand, or placing a pipe through a hot spring to heat cold water that flows through the pipe).

Gemara. The gemara seeks to determine if these laws are stringently enforced.

Daf 102 (Shabbas 39a-39b)

Any act that might be considered cooking is prohibited. Cooking “in the sun itself” is permissible. Cooking with “derivatives of the sun,” such as a scarf that had been baked in the sun, is disputed.

Bathing the entire body on Shabbes with hot water is rabinically prohibited because bathhouse attendants were lying about when the water was heated, falsely claiming it was heated before Shabbes. The entire body may be bathed in cold water on Shabbes.

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