Its Own Reward

Daf 194-202 (Shabbat 131a-139b)

Comment

I have mourned three deaths since my last post. In the interim the daf was never read on its yomi. I fell behind as much as two weeks and caught up slowly, rarely studying more than two dapim a day. (I was sipping the wine rather than gulping it down.)

I am 82 dapim behind in posting summaries,but they are written (in longhand) and I hope to succeed in keyboarding them over the next two weeks. I am not sure this is possible, but I will give it my best shot. The backlog is a serious impediment to sharing observations beyond the simple summaries, but before I get down to the chore that I have set myself, I do want to offer a few general comments.

One of the motivations I have for maintaining this blog is to advance the notion that studying Talmud is its own reward– except when it isn’t.

Talmud is its own reward in its unique structure, which often successfully evades being definitively prescriptive. I risk a generalization on two counts when I say that it is a document that generally advocates more strictness than Biblical sources would seem to require, while usually leaning toward the more lenient of two stringencies (Hillel over Shammai). However, no generalization applies in all cases, and a recent daf notes that a reader may not assume that the citation of an exception to a generalization should be taken as the only exception to the generalization, but should, rather, be seen as a reminder that there are exceptions. Disputing the exact context of recalled rulings is such a common feature that no reader can ever suspect that the claimed divine origins of the “oral Torah,” which may or may not have been received with perfect understanding by the earliest generation, have prevented the message from losing some luster or becoming distorted in transmission over time prior to transcription. (See for example the argument summarized in Daf 201 on whether the Torah will be forgotten.)

On the other hand, Talmud does not directly reward the reader who seeks guidance in how to navigate the complicated world of courtship and marriage in an age where women are people, love is a prerequisite for marriage, gender identity is not always defined by genital equipment, etc. A reader must make an imaginative leap to think Talmudically about issues the Talmud could not imagine, but the imaginative use of extreme examples in the texts in front of us encourages me (and I hope others) to think of the dapim that might yet be created reflecting our current values and a model of disputation that is more often than not playful and open to consideration of the world as it finds it.

That said, I take up the task of summarizing the text, taking up where I left off many, many days ago.

Summary

Daf 194 (Shabbat 131a-131b)

The gemara inquires, “which preliminaries do not override the Sabbath restrictions?” It is suggested that mitzvot that have no “fixed time for their performance” do not override the Sabbath restrictions.

Daf 195 (Shabbat 132a-132b)

The gemara wonders why each mitzvah permitted on Shabbes must have its own teaching and then seeks to determine the restrictions on circumcising one older than eight days.

Daf 196 (Shabbat 133a-133b)

Is an unintentional act permitted? For example, removing a blemish in the act of circumcision? Is it permitted if it is inevitable?

Mishnah. Here are rules on how to perform a circumcision on Shabbes.

Gemara. Who is liable for an incomplete circumcision– the patient or the operator?

Daf 197 (Shabbat 134a-134b)

Abaye’s mother has advice for newborns in distress.

Mishnah. Here are the rules for giving warm baths on Shabbes before and after circumcisions, as well as the prohibition on circumcising an androgyne on Shabbes.

Gemara. The gemara disputes the proper way to give the bath.

Daf 198 (Shabbat 135a-135b)

The gemara debates whether or not circumcising an androgyne overrides the Sabbath, and whether circumcision is necessary for “one who was born circumcised” (though others argue that the dispute was actually regarding whether it was necessary to circumcise a convert who had already been circumcised). The practice of circumcision in the time of Abraham is not considered a model, since “Once the Torah was given, a new law went into effect.” The gemara considers how the timing of a baby’s circumcision– a baby born of a slavewoman– is affected by the relation of the mother’s terms of purchase and when she was impregnated. (The resolution depends on whether or not one holds that “ownership of the right to the produce of a property is tantamount to ownership of the essence of the property.”

Daf 199 (Shabbat 136a-136b)

Citing the requirement to wait until a child has survived 30 days after birth before redeeming a first born, and deriving from this thyat a child is not considered “viable” until it has survived 30 days, the gemara asks, “If so, how can we circumcise any child on the Sabbath when, if he is not viable, there is no obligation to circumcize him, and the circumcision is therefore a violation of the Sabbath?” Some suggest that a “non-viable” child is considered legally dead. Abaye notes that a child killed by a lion or who fell from a roof at less than 30 days is assumed to have been “viable.” The gemara asks, “Since the child is now dead, what practical difference is there whether we assume that it was once viable or not?”

Daf 200 (Shabbat 137a-137b)

May androgynes be treated as males? R’Yehuda does not . . . except for circumcision.

Mishnah. Here is the penalty for performing a circumcision on Shabbes on a child who is either more or less than eight days old (for example, “one who had two infants to circumcise, one . . . after the Sabbath . . .”).

Gemara. In the case of two infants with one to circumcise on Friday: it is reported that R’Yehoshua exempts the one who confuses them because “here . . . a mitzvah is being performed.” A conflicting report says he used this reasoning, not in the case of one to circumcise on Friday, but in the case of one to circumcise on Sunday. (In the latter case, no mitzvah is actually performed because the infant being circumcised is less than eight days old and there is no mitzvah remaining to be performed because the infant who should have been circumcised on Shabbes was circumcised on Friday.

Mishnah. Here are rules concerning situations when circumcision must be postponed.

Gemara. The gemara determines the interval between recovery from an illness and circumcision.

Mishnah. Here is a method to determine if a circumcision is not valid: “If a child was fleshy and thus gave the appearance of being uncircumcised even after its foreskin was removed, he should rectify it because of the appearance of wrongdoing.”

Perek 20. Mishnah. Here are rules regarding using a strainer to prepare food on Shabbes.

Gemara. The gemara disputes whether liability for constructing a strainer is Biblical or rabbinic.

Daf 201 (Shabbat 138a-138b)

Abaye asserts the prohibition against constructing a strainer on Shabbes is rabbinic for no other reason than that “one should not act in the manner in which he hacts during the week.”

On the question of using the strainer, it appears that there is a dispute that prompts Rav Sheishess to protest, “Surely the two disputing opinions cannot be that far apart!” Rav Yosef offers examples that are at least that far apart. Ultimately, it is determined that the act of straining on Shabbes is Biblically prohibited.

Other “temporary tents” are examined. some of which may be erected on Shabbes. A bridal canopy is permitted unless its dimensions create a pronounced slope. A felt hat is permitted unless it has a wide brim that functions as protection from the sun or rain.

Rav teaches, “The Torah will eventually be forgotten.” The gemara seeks to imagine what Torah might be forgotten. They look at rules about which they themselves are uncertain. R’Shimon ben Yocahi argues that the Torah will never be forgotten, though it will continue to be difficult to find a consensus on the reason behind halakhic rules.

Daf 202 (Shabbat 139a-139b)

R’Yose ben Elisha says, “All misfortune that comes to the world comes only on account of the Judges of Israel.” Corrupt judges argue in Micah 3:9-11, “Is not Hashem in our midst> Nothing bad will befall us!”

Rav Menashya provides exceedingly strict rulings to the peple of Bashkar “because Bashkarians are not Torah scholars and they would likely adopt other groundless leniencies if they were informed of . . . legitimate leniency.”

The gemara lists a few subterfuges that are permitted to perform normally restricted activities on Shabbes (for example, erecting a strainer “tol hold pomegranates” and then employing it as a strainer).

Mishnah. Here are activities similar to using a strainer that are permitted on Shabbes.

Gemara. The terms of the mishnah are clarified.

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2 Responses to Its Own Reward

  1. elenizl says:

    Rav’s “teaching” that he Torah will be forgotten astonishes me – yes, astonishes me. Rav knows a a world where everything since the the revelation at Sinai is a descent. And when that descent goes so low does it mean that a new revelation will be required? What might Rav have imagined that the subsequent revelation would be?

    • neillitt says:

      Perhaps R’Shimon ben Yocahi is rejecting Rav or perhaps he is interpreting him as saying not that the Torah will be forgotten, but that the reason behind halakhic rules will be forgotten. This is, in any event, the opinion of the majority, and is evident in every dispute recorded in this sugya, wherein rabbinic rulings are linked to Scripture, but the interpretations that justify the rulings are disputed.

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