Talmudic Synchronicity

Daf 173-179 (Shabbat 110a-116b)


Herein we are told that there is no cure for one who is bit by the snake of the rabbis. This is followed by interactions between snakes and women and tales of castration. Is it any wonder that psychiatry came to be know as the “Jewish science”?

Knots are discussed at great length. It is clear that a woman is permitted to tie the opening of her chemise on Shabbes, but not much else.

Herein also is the discussion on what books may be rescued from a fire on Shabbes. In a happy case of talmudic synchronicity, the dapim (115a-116b) with this discussion coincided in the present daf yomi calendar with the shabbes on which the Torah portion contains the account of the first offering of manna. The rabbis suggest in these dapim that there are in fact seven books of Torah, effected by the interruption of the text of Numbers to effect a separation between “evil and evil”– two serious transgressions of the People, one of which is their ultimate rejection of the manna– by placing a piece of text in the Torah where it “doesn’t belong.” I was fortunate on that Shabbes to have been invited to facilitate the Torah discussion.


Daf 173 (Shabbat 110a-110b)

An “officer of Pumbedisa: is bitten by a snake and seeks to be cured (the cure involves procuring the embryo of a white donkey, ripping it open, and applying it to the wound). After examining many donkeys and determining that they are unfit, the officer hears of a donkey on the other side of town; however, before he can reach it, it is eaten by a lion. Abaye says, “Perhaps a snake of the rabbis bit him, for which there is no cure.” From this follows several tales on how to evade snakes in various situations, including interactions between snakes and women.

Potions for curing various ailments are described. The gemara seeks to determine if indirect castration is permitted (by drinking a potion that cures an ailment but with the side effect of making the patient sterile).

Daf 174 (Shabbat 111a-111b)

“Everyone agrees that if one castrates a person after another has already castrated him, he is liable.”

Mishnah. Here are additional medical treatments forbidden on Shabbes.

Gemara. The gemara seeks to determine why it is forbidden to sip vinegar on Shabbes to relieve a toothache; and then, whether an “ordinary person” may apply rose oil to a wound on Shabbes.

Previously it was stated that acts are permitted that may result in a forbidden consequence. Here it is suggested that this does not apply to cases “where its forbidden consequence is inevitable.”

Perek 15. Mishnah. Here are rules regarding tying and untying knots on Shabbes. The Sages forbid tying and untying knots on Shabbes. R’Meir says, “Any knot that one can untie with one of his hands, one is not liable for it.”

Gemara. Rav Achadoi wonders if R’Meir is referring to a bow or to all knots when they are only loosely tied.

Mishnah. Here are the rules of “impermanently” tied knots.

Gemara. The gemara wonders which knots the mishnah intends to permit.

Daf 175 (Shabbat 112a-112b)

On Shabbes, “a woman may tie the opening of her chemise.” The gemara asks if this teaching is “necessary,” then moves on to consider if a broken sandal still retains the status of a “utensil.” R’Yochanan suggests that if the sandal is repaired it is as if it is new (had never before existed), which moves Chizkiyah to say of R’Yochanan, “This is no mere mortal!”

Daf 176 (Shabbat 113a-113b)

Mishnah. “R’Yehudah states a general rule: Any knot which is not permanent, one is not liable for it.”

Gemara. The gemara attempts to explain the mishnah by studying baraita that apparently contradict it.

Mishnah. Here is another rule regarding handling garments on the Sabbath: folding garments and making the bed are permitted on the night of Shabbes for the day, but not on the day for the following night.

Gemara. The gemara puts conditions on the rules in this mishnah, limiting its scope. It goes on to make distinctions regarding how one dresses on the Sabbath unlike weekdays and inquires, “What is meant . . . ‘that your walking on the Sabbath should not be like your walking on weekdays’?” Several possible explanations are considered.

Daf 177 (Shabbat 114a-114b)

The gemara describes the kinds of clothing appropriate for various occupations. R’Yochanan is reported to have said that a Torah scholar should not venture out in patched shoes. The gemara notes that R’Acha bar Chanina went out in patched shoes. Another rabbi notes that  R’Acha’s shoes were patched only once and that the disgrace is when the shoes “have patches upon patches.” The conversation expands to consider how a Torah scholar may be recognized by his deportment and his response to questions of escalating difficulty.

The rabbis debate whether it is permitted to trim vegetables on Yom Kippur when it coincides with Shabbes.

Daf 178 (Shabbat 115a-115b)

Perek 178. Mishnah. “All Holy Scriptures . . . may be saved from a fire on the Sabbath.”

Gemara. Rav Huna and Rav Chisda argue over whether scrolls written in Aramaic may be saved, and whether or not they may be read aloud in public. The gemara goes on to inquire if it is permissible to save scrolls written in Hebrew with “inferior” ink. There must be “sufficient writing to gather 85 letters.” Numbers 10:35-36 (which is 85 letters) is cited because it is separated from the text surrounding it “to teach that this is not in its proper place. Rebbi disputes this: “Say, rather, that it comes to teach that this section ranks as a significant book unto itself.”

Daf 179 (Shabbat 116a-116b)

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says, “This section is destined to be uprooted here and be written in its proper place. And why was it written here? In order to separate between the narrative of the first punishment and the narrative of the second punishment.”

The gemara inquires whether it is permitted to save the books of Jewish sectarians. R’Tarfon says, “Even if a person were pursuing him to kill him . . . he would enter a gentile house of idolatry to save himself, but he would not enter the house of these Jewish sectarians. Because these . . . are aware of God and yet deny Him, whereas . . . gentile idolators are unaware of God and deny Him.”

Mishnah. Here are additional rules regarding rescuing writings from a fire on Shabbes; here, writings it is permissible to save with their containers.

Gemara. The gemara seeks to understand if permission to save the container has implications for the treatment of a hide while it yet remains on the animal.

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