RABIN MISHNAH STUDY GROUP


TRACTATE PESAĤIM, CHAPTER SEVEN

Mishnah 1 | Mishnah 2 | Mishnah 3 | Mishnah 4 | Mishnah 5 | Mishnah 6 | Mishnah 7

Mishnah 8 | Mishnah 9 | Mishnahs 10 & 11 | Mishnah 12 | Mishnah 13



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How is the paschal lamb roasted? A skewer made of pomegranate wood is brought, which is inserted through its mouth and its anus. Its legs and entrails were put inside according to Rabbi Yosé ha-Gelili; Rabbi Akiva says that that is a kind of broiling so they must be hung outside it.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
When we started our study of this tractate I noted that its essential arrangement is chronological, following the developments associated with the eating of the paschal lamb at the seder service. The first three chapters were concerned with the search for and elimination of all leaven, which had to be done before the paschal lambs were slaughtered in the Bet Mikdash during the afternoon of Nisan 14th (chapters 5 and 6). (Chapter 4 had been concerned with the halakhic norms concerning Nisan 14th.) Chapter 7 now brings us to the moment when each group begins to prepare its lamb for the seder.

2:
The Torah [Exodus 12:3-9] requires the lamb to be prepared for consumption at the seder in a very specific way:

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Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month, each person shall take a lamb... and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall kill it towards evening... They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted with fire, accompanied by unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat it rare, nor in any way boiled in water, but roasted by fire; with its head, its legs and its inner parts.

In particular we note that the lamb was to be well roasted and not boiled, and that even those inner (intestinal) parts which had been removed at the time of slaughter were to be included in the roasting process.

2:
The lamb was to be skewered on a pole made of the wood of the pomegranate tree. It is the prohibition of boiling that prompts this requirement. The Torah requires the lamb to be 'roasted with fire' and 'in no way boiled'. The wood of most trees has moisture inside, however dry it may be on the outside. The concern was that when the heat of the fire releases that moisture, which would then come into contact with the meat of the lamb, parts of the lamb would be thus 'boiled in water' and not 'roasted by fire'. The wood of the pomegranate tree is very dry, which would lessen or obviate that danger.

3:
This pole was thrust right through the animal so that it could thus be suspended above the fire to roast. Rabbi Yosé ha-Gelili understands the biblical requirement 'roasted by fire with its head, its legs and its inner parts' to indicate that these items were to be stuffed inside the cavity created by the removal of the entrails. Rabbi Akiva disagrees, since then these items would be cooked by the heat of the animal itself and not by direct contact with the fire. He, thus, requires these items to be s uspended together with the animal's carcass. Halakhah follows the opinion of Rabbi Akiva.

DISCUSSION:

Two short items. Firstly, as regards my response to the question of Avraham Arbiv concerning the telling of the time in the ancient world. Arieh Abramowitz adds:

Of course, a sundial would make it even easier - including the ability to discern half and quarter hours or even minutes.


The whole of Chapter 5 had been dedicated to the convoluted intricacies of the slaughter of the paschal lamb on Shabbat. Michael Mantel writes:

My remembrance is that Pesaĥ cannot be on Shabbat. If that is wrong, stop reading. If the Pascal sacrifice can be done on Shabbat, why did the rabbis prohibit its replacement, the seder, from occurring on Shabbat?

I respond:

Even though Mike's memory is playing him false this time I bring his question because it elicits further information.

The first day of Pesaĥ can certainly fall on Shabbat: just look at the very first pages of your Haggadah to verify that during Kiddush provision is made for additions to be made when the Seder is celebrated on Friday night. (As the calendar is at present regulated, the first day of Passover never falls on a Monday, a Wednesday or a Friday, which means that the Seder is never celebrated on Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday evenings.)

Also, strictly speaking the Seder does not replace the paschal sacrifice. The Haggadah, as we shall see when we reach chapter 10, was designed to accompany the eating of the paschal lamb together with matzah and maror. It is the shankbone on the seder dish which today 'replaces' or commemorates the paschal lamb.

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The paschal lamb may not be roasted on a [metal] spit or on a [metal] grate. Rabbi Tzadok says: [But,] there is an account which tells of Rabban Gamli'el telling his servant Tavi to 'go and roast our paschal lamb on the grating'. If it comes into contact with the earthenware [sides] of the oven those spots must be sliced off. If its juices dripped onto the earthenware and then back onto it that spot must be removed. If its juices dripped onto the flour a handful must be removed from that spot.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
Our mishnah may be divided into three parts, technically termed Reisha, Emtza'ita and Seifa. The Reisha states that the paschal lamb may not be roasted on a metal spit or skewer. This is a continuation of what was begun in the previous mishnah: the lamb must be roasted by the direct heat of fire; if the meat is in contact with the metal spit it will be the heat of the spit which cooks the meat and not the heat of the fire. The Emtza'ita records a differing opinion in this matter. The Seifa is concerned with what to do if parts of the animal's meat come into contact, even indirectly, with a barrier between it and the flames.

2:
The Reisha and Emtza'ita have a Halakhic significance far beyond their simple meaning, and they are key elements in the modern halakhic discussions concerning the use of the electric light on Shabbat and Yom Tov.

DISCUSSION:

Recently, on two occasions, the mishnayot that we were learning had developed examples of the application of the logical process known as Kal va-Ĥomer (inferring the law in one case from a known law in a related case). Art Werschulz writes:

Perhaps it's worth pointing out that 'kal vachomer' could be translated as 'light and heavy', or perhaps as 'lenient vs. strict'. The Birnbaum siddur translates 'mikal vachomer' as: Inference is drawn from a minor premise to a major premise or from a major premise to a minor one. As good as Birnbaum's translations usually are, this one probably isn't as enlightening as the example he gives in the footnotes: If, for example, a certain act is forbidden on an ordinary festival, it is so much the more forbidden on Yom Kippur; if a certain act is permissible on Yom Kippur, it is so much the more permissible on an ordinary festival. The first instance Birnbaum gives is an example of 'mikal vachomer', i.e., an inference from a lenient to a strict situation. The second instance is an example of 'michomer vakal', i.e., an inference from a strict to a lenient situation.


Ze'ev Orzech writes:

I know you closed the discussion on the subject, but it just occurred to me that the righteous are promised to feed on the shor habar in the Messianic age. Does this not contradict your 'prediction' of a general vegetarianism?

I respond:

First of all it is not 'my' prediction, but that of rabbis far greater than I can ever hope to be. Secondly, our sages warned us on many occasions that 'Eyn meshivim min ha-Aggadah'". This means that Aggadah should never be understood literally (nor should it be used to derive Halakhah). As Rambam says on many occasions: we won't know till we get there!


Irwin Mortman writes:

You stated: On Shabbat in general it is forbidden to slaughter animals (it is even forbidden to trap them!) Doesn't trapping an animal cause an injury to the animal rendering it non-kosher, or did they have a way of trapping animals without causing an injury?

I respond:

My apologies for the misunderstanding. 'Trapping' in the context of Shabbat observance means holding an animal against it's will - even your pet dog! It's their Shabbat as well. Thus selecting an animal for slaughter becomes forbidden on Shabbat from the moment one takes hold of it in any way. 'Trapping' in this context does not necessarily imply the use of mechanical means to arrest an animal.

EXPLANATIONS (continued):

3:
We have already noted that the Reisha and Emtza'ita of our present mishnah (i.e. the first two of the three sections into which it may be divided) have halakhic repercussions that reach out from a reality of two thousand years ago into the technology of the 20th and 21st century. The issue is the nature of electricity and the halakhic considerations concerning the uses to which electricity can be put. In our mishnah Tanna Kamma states that the paschal lamb may not be roasted on a metal spit or grating, because then it would be the heat generated by the metal which would cook at least some of the meat and not the direct heat of the flames of the fire, which is what seems to be required by the Torah when it states [Exodus 12:9] that the paschal lamb must be 'roasted by fire'. However, in the Emtza'ita we see that Rabban Gamli'el was not at all perturbed by this consideration.

4:

A logical understanding of this maĥloket [difference of opinion] between Tanna Kamma and Rabban Gamli'el would suggest that Tanna Kamma holds that the heat generated by heated metal does cook food and that is why he prohibits its use in the preparation of the paschal lamb. Rabban Gamli'el, it seems, has no qualms on this matter: he seems to think that the metal is merely a receptacle for holding the food while it is being cooked and that the actual cooking process is performed by the flames themselves; and that, therefore, such an arrangement is in accordance with the requirement of the Torah.

5:
Electricity is a phenomenon that exists in nature, but which can also be created (generated) by mechanical means. The mechanical generation of electricity involves several actions which the Torah prohibits on Shabbat (the boiling, for example, which takes place within the generator itself). In the diaspora, however, this is no consideration at all, since the generation of electricity is done by non-Jews for the benefit of (mainly) non-Jews with no certain consideration of directly benefiting Jews. There is no reason why on Shabbat any Jew should not benefit incidentally from something done by a non-Jew for his or her own purposes with no direct thought of benefiting the Jew. Thus, in the diaspora the circumstances of the generation of electricity create no halakhic problem concerning the use of electricity on Shabbat and the discussion will only be concerned with the permissibility or otherwise of the uses to which generated electricity can be put. In the State of Israel, of course, this is not the case. However, when it wishes to do so the established rabbinate has no qualms at using methods of inference which, had they been proposed by a Conservative rabbi, for example, would have been roundly condemned by the orthodox rabbis as being unacceptable. The reasoning is that since electricity is a commodity that is absolutely necessary for hospitals and the security forces to have in order to be able to save human lives, which is certainly permitted on Shabbat, it is permissible for Jews to generate it on Shabbat. Since we have already permitted its generation on Shabbat anyway, goes the reasoning, there is no objection to other Jews using the generated electricity as well, even though they are not directly involved with the possibility of piku'ach nefesh. [Piku'ach nefesh is the saving of a human life in the face of immediate and present danger.]

6:
This is not the place to go into the intricacies of what may or may not be done on Shabbat with generated electricity. There seems to be general agreement that the current (as its name suggests) is simply flowing along the conductor wires. The current is enabled to reach an appliance (let's say an electric light bulb) or is prevented from doing so by use of a switch which simply breaks the electrical circuit or does not do so. There are two views concerning this. One, logically, holds that making and breaking an electrical circuit is no different from turning on and off a faucet to control the flow of the current of water in the pipes. The water is there; the closed faucet is merely preventing the continuance of the flow and opening the faucet merely removes that prevention (which is certainly permissible according to specific Talmudic law). This argument sees no difference between the faucet and the flow of water and the switch and the current (flow) of electricity. Another view holds that making and breaking a circuit is a derivative of the Torah prohibition of 'building up' and 'tearing down'. This view was vociferously offered by Rabbi Avraham Karelitz (Ĥazon Ish) of Bnei Berak more than 50 years ago.

7:
This leaves only one consideration: is the heat and light generated by electrical means essentially no different from the heat and light spoken of in the Torah? Tanna Kamma in our mishnah holds that it is not, Rabban Gamli'el holds that it is different. (In the matter of the paschal lamb at least, of course, halakhah follows Tanna Kamma.

8:
It is well-known that Conservative halakhists have accepted both possibilities. However, those Conservative authorities that permit the making and breaking of an electric circuit on Shabbat and YomTov did not and do not intend to permit the use of electricity for any purpose which is directly prohibited by Torah. Thus, accepting that halakhah follows Tanna Kamma, while they permit the making and breaking of a circuit they would not permit the electricity thus released from being used, say, to cook food on Shabbat.

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If one basted it with Terumah oil: if the subscription party consists of priests they can eat it; if the party consists of Israelites and the meat is still raw they can wash it off; if it is roasted they must slice off the outer layer. If one basted it with Second-Tithe oil one should not calculate the share of each member of the subscription party because Second-Tithe [produce] cannot be redeemed [when already] in Jerusalem.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
Our mishnah is concerned with a further aspect of the problems that can beset the eating of the paschal lamb. This time the problem centres on what is used for basting the animal while it is roasting. Two items are mentioned in our mishnah, both with different considerations.

2:
The first item is what happens with a lamb that has been basted with oil that is Terumah. We have had occasion to explain Terumah on several occasions, but the explanation bears repeating in order that the situation be understood. Here is an explanation that I have offered in the past:

In the age when the Bet Mikdash was in existence, every agriculturalist in Eretz Israel had to set aside certain 'taxes' from his produce. The first in our list is 'Terumah'. Terumah was to be given to any Kohen [priest] the farmer chose...

  1. The Main Terumah (Terumah Gedolah) consisted of an amount of produce that was left to the farmer to determine. According to strict Torah law any amount of the produce was sufficient ('even a single ear of wheat'). However, rabbinic enactment gave the farmer three actual options: one fortieth of his produce (for the generously-minded), one fiftieth (for the average person) or one-sixtieth (for the tight-fisted). The Terumah Gedolah was to be given, as we have already mentioned, to any bona-fide Kohen that the farmer might choose. There are several midrashim that suggest that there were indigent - or lazy - priests who made a living out of doing the rounds of the threshing-floors. However, the farmer did not have to give Terumah to them, but he could give it to the deserving Kohen of his choice.

  2. Terumat Ma'aser (Terumah from the Tithe) consisted of 10% of the Tithe that had been given to a Levite; this donative the Levite had to set aside to give to a Kohen (any Kohen).

  3. Apart from the Terumah (which amounted to something between 1.7% and 2.5% of his yield) the farmer had to give Ma'aser [a tithe] of 10% to the Levi of his choice (from which, as we have already mentioned, the Levi had to give a priest a 10% cut).

  4. After the farmer had separated off the Terumah and the (first) Ma'aser, he had to deduct a further 10% from what was left. This (second) Ma'aser was to be expended in Jerusalem. However, in the third and sixth year of each sabbatical cycle of seven years, instead of being expended in Jerusalem it was given to the poor of the farmer's choice.

3:
Item (c) in the above list is of no consequence to our present mishnah. Let us assume that a party of priests has joined together and subscribed to a common paschal lamb, and let us assume that one of them has provided oil with which to baste the animal while it is roasting, and that the oil he has provided is oil that he was given by a farmer as Terumah. Terumah is considered to be sacred produce and can be eaten only by a priest and his immediate family [Leviticus 22:10-16]. To a party that consists entirely of priests and their immediate households this is no problem. However, to a party which also has non-priests in it this is a problem, since the non-priests ['Israelites"' may not partake of the oil. In such a case two solutions are offered, depending on the circumstances. If the problem was noticed before the roasting actually began it is enough to wash off the oil and start the roasting again using a differing baster. However, if the meat was already cooked or partly cooked this was not sufficient since at least part of the oil would have been absorbed by the heat into the meat of the animal. In such a case the only solution is to slice off the outer layers of meat and see to it that the non-priests in the party eat only meat from the inner layers which would not have been reached by the terumah oil.

4:
The second problem mentioned by our mishnah is that of the Second Tithe. The Torah thus institutes the Second Tithe [Deuteronomy 14:22-27]:

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You must tithe all the increase ... which comes forth from the field year by year. You shall eat it before the Lord your God, in the place which he shall choose, to cause his name to dwell there, the tithe of your grain, of your new wine, and of your oil... If the journey be too much for you, so that you are not able to carry it, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God shall choose, to set his name there... then shall you turn it into money and ... go to the place which the Lord your God shall choose: and you shall bestow the money for whatever your soul desires, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul asks of you; and you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.

The 'place which God shall choose' obviously refers to the Bet Mikdash in Jerusalem. If one of the subscription party has brought to Jerusalem oil which is Second Tithe and has offered that oil for the basting its value can not now be shared out between all the subscribers, each one paying his share (as most likely was the case with regards to the animal itself). This could have been done before the donor reached Jerusalem, but once inside the borders of Jerusalem the Second Tithe produce can no longer be exchanged for money.

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Five items may be slaughtered in ritual impurity but may not be eaten in ritual impurity: the Omer, the two loaves, the shewbread, the public peace-offerings, and the New Moon goats. The paschal lamb, which may be slaughtered in ritual impurity, may be eaten in ritual impurity, since it is only slaughtered in order to be eaten.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
This mishnah has the function of an introduction to the following mishnayot, which will be concerned with various aspects of ritual impurity in the sacrificial system in general and concerning the paschal lamb in particular.

2:
We studied the whole concept of ritual impurity in detail when we studied tractate Yadayyim recently, so I will not repeat all that here. In any case, such a repetition is unnecessary for the understanding of our present context.

3:
There are certain public sacrifices (as opposed to private sacrifices which are brought by an individual for his or her private reasons and purposes) which ought to be slaughtered by someone in a state of ritual purity. Most forms of ritual impurity can be easily rectified by bathing in a mikveh (ritual pool), and, as we saw when studying tractate Tamid, priests on duty in the Bet Mikdash would bathe in a mikveh before starting their duties. (Indeed, in all probability it is their mikveh which has been excavated in the Temple Mount.) However, the greatest source of ritual impurity cannot be disposed of so easily and so quickly. As we noted in our study of tractate Yadayyim the supreme major source of ritual impurity is contact with a corpse. A priest could become ritually unclean by coming into physical contact with a corpse or even just by being under the same roof as a corpse. But the purification process involved the use of the ashes of the Red Heifer and took seven days. Our present mishnah is concerned with the situation created when a public sacrifice must be offered and all the available priests are in a state of ritual impurity through contact with a corpse.

4:
Our mishnah tells us that under these circumstances there are five public sacrifices which may be slaughtered even by a priest who is ritually impure. However, parts of these sacrifices were priestly perquisites and the priest on duty had the right to certain parts of the animal which he could consume himself. Our mishnah also teaches that even though a priest who is in a state of ritual impurity through contact with a corpse is permitted to slaughter one of these sacrifices, he is not permitted to consume his share, which must be incinerated since it has become ritually impure through contact with him (at the moment of slaughter).

5:
The five sacrifices mentioned by our mishnah are:

The Omer. The Torah [Leviticus 23:10-14] states:

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...When you have come into the land which I give to you, and you reap its the harvest, then you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you. On the next day after the day of rest [the first day of Pesaĥ] the priest shall wave it. On the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb without blemish a year old for a burnt offering to the Lord... an offering made by fire to the Lord for a sweet savour... You shall eat neither bread, nor roasted grain, nor fresh grain, until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God...

The two loaves. These were offered on the festival of Shavu'ot [Pentecost]. The Torah [Leviticus 23:17-21] states:

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You shall bring out of your habitations two wave-loaves of two tenth parts of an ephah: they shall be of fine flour, they shall be baked with yeast, for first fruits to the Lord. You shall present with the bread seven lambs without blemish a year old, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the Lord, with their meal offering, and their drink offerings... You shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old for a sacrifice of peace offerings. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to God for the priest...

The Shewbread. This was twelve loaves which the Torah [Leviticus 24:5-8] commands to be placed on the Golden table in the sanctuary every Shabbat.

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You shall take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes of it: two tenth parts of an ephah shall be in one cake. You shall set them in two rows, six on a row, on the pure gold table before The Lord... Every Sabbath day he shall set it in order before the Lord continually. It is on the behalf of the children of Israel an everlasting covenant. It shall be for Aaron and his sons; and they shall eat it in a holy place: for it is most holy to him of the offerings of the Lord...

The Public Peace-Offerings. Peace offerings were usually brought by private persons, but on Shavu'ot the Torah requires that, among the other required sacrifices, two lambs must be brought as a peace offering on behalf of the whole people. Previously we quoted the whole passage from Leviticus [23:17-21], so here we can just review the salient passage:

[On Shavu'ot] You shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old for a sacrifice of peace offerings. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs.

The New Moon Goats. The Torah [Numbers 28:11-15] institutes that every Rosh Chodesh, in addition to a large number of sacrifices, a goat is to be offered as a sin-offering. Again, sin-offerings were usually brought by individuals, but the goat offered on Rosh Chodesh was a public sin-offering. (It is mentioned at the very end of the passage, almost as an afterthought.)

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In the first day of your months you shall offer a holocaust to the Lord: two young bulls, one ram and seven unblemished yearling he-lambs, together with three tenths of an efah of fine flour as a cereal- offering, mixed with oil, for each bull, and two tenths of fine flour as a meal-offering, mixed with oil, for the one ram; also one tenth of fine flour mixed with oil for a cereal-offering for each lamb - as a sweet-smelling holocaust, an offering made by fire to the Lord. Their libations shall be half a hin of wine for each bull, one third of a hin for the ram, and a quarter of a hin for each lamb: this is the monthly holocaust, throughout the months of the year. One male goat for a sin-offering to the Lord; it shall be offered besides the regular holocaust, and its libation.

6:
Our mishnah states that these five sacrifices may be offered even by priests who are still ritually impure because of contact with a corpse; however, those priests may not eat their share of these sacrifices while they are in an impure state and the meat that is their share must be burned.

7:
Rabbi Ovadyah of Bertinoro [Italy and Eretz-Israel early 16th century], in his commentary on our mishnah, explains that these five sacrifices are the only public sacrifices parts of which are eaten by the priests. He further explains that it is only when the majority of the priests available are ritually impure that the sacrifice may be offered by them. This concession was derived by the sages from a similar concession connected with the paschal lamb, which is the subject of the Seifa of our mishnah.

8:
Chapter 9 of our present tractate will introduce the incidence of Pesaĥ Sheni (Second Pesaĥ). When we reach that chapter we shall give a full explanation; at this time we shall be as brief as possible. So important was the participation in the eating of the paschal lamb considered, that the Torah provides for this ceremony an alternative that is not provided for any other festival ritual - even Yom Kippur. The Torah states that if, on Nisan 14th, someone was ritually impure because of contact with a corpse, and therefore not able to take part in the Seder service and the eating of the paschal lamb, they may hold their own private ceremony one month later, on Iyyar 14th, and at this later ceremony all the rituals connected with the paschal offering may be observed. The question therefore arises: if provision is made in the Torah for such an eventuality, how can our present mishnah permit both the offering and the consumption of the paschal lamb when in a state of ritual impurity?

9:
Rambam, in his commentary, explains that the sages understood that the postponement of the Seder ceremony because of ritual impurity was only for individuals. If the majority of the priests or the people were ritually impure on Nisan 14th the ceremonies should proceed as usual. This is stated explicitly by mishnah 6 in our present chapter. Our present mishnah clarifies that not only may the paschal lamb be slaughtered in ritual impurity, but it may also be eaten in ritual impurity, since it is only slaughtered in order to be eaten: there is no other purpose to the sacrifice of the paschal lamb.

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If the meat became ritually impure but the internal organs intact, the blood must not be sprinkled. If the internal organs became ritually impure but the meat remains intact, the blood is sprinkled. [In the case of other] holy sacrifices this is not the case, but even if the meat became ritually impure and the internal organs remain intact the blood must be sprinkled.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
Our mishnah appears to be recondite, but in fact it is very simple (however irrelevant it may be to modern conditions). The previous mishnah was concerned with the offering of the paschal lamb when the people who were to slaughter it and/or eat it were in a state of ritual impurity. Our present mishnah is concerned with a paschal lamb which itself becomes ritually impure. Such a lamb may not be eaten. However, we learned incidentally in our study of 5:3 that the blood that gushed from the lamb's throat at the moment of slaughter was collected in a bowl by an attendant priest and passed down the line so that it could be sprinkled on the altar. Our mishnah states that if the carcass became ritually defiled, even if the internal organs that were to be burned on the altar were intact and usable the animal was an invalid sacrifice, it could not be served at the Seder and the blood should not be sprinkled. (On the matter of the burning of the internal organs see on 5:10.) If the situation is reversed and it is only the internal organs that had become ritually defiled the meat may be served at the Seder and the animal's blood must be sprinkled on the altar.

DISCUSSION:

In our last shiur I brought a quotation from the Torah:

In the first day of your months you shall offer a holocaust to the Lord... this is the monthly holocaust, throughout the months of the year. One male goat for a sin-offering to the Lord; it shall be offered besides the regular holocaust, and its libation.

Two participants have written with the same question:

Jordan Wosnik writes:

I am curious about the word 'holocaust' here. This is for the Heb. word 'olah' (or 'olat' if required) right? I had always thought of this word as 'offering' or literally 'something that is raised up' and the use of the word 'holocaust' - especially with all of its connotations - puzzles me. Any insight you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

And Victor M.J. Ryden writes in similar vein:

I'm curious about your use of the word 'holocaust' in the translation. Could you comment on the actual Hebrew word?

I respond:

The Merriam Webster online dictionary includes the following information:

Etymology: Middle English, from Old French holocauste, from Late Latin holocaustum, from Greek holokauston, from neuter of holokaustos burnt whole, from hol- + kaustos burnt, from kaiein to burn.

The dictionary brings three meanings:

  1. a sacrifice consumed by fire

  2. a thorough destruction involving extensive loss of life especially through fire (a nuclear holocaust)

  3. a often capitalized : the mass slaughter of European civilians and especially Jews by the Nazis during World War II - usually used with the b : a mass slaughter of people...

My explanatory comments:

The use of the term holocaust to denote the destruction of our people by the Nazis is a borrowed connotation, the original meaning (first used in English, it would appear, in 13th century) was a sacrifice completely consumed by fire - and thus eminently and deplorably appropriate for the secondary meanings associated with the term during 20th century.

When we were studying tractate Tamid we had to distinguish between two Hebrew terms used in the sacrificial system: Isheh, which obviously is connected with the Hebrew word for fire, 'esh'; and Olah, which is connected with the Hebrew root which indicates ascent. Here is part of the shiur in Tractate Tamid:

I gave a translation of the command of the Torah in connection with the Tamid and I translated the Hebrew term 'Isheh' as 'holocaust': "Command the Israelites: You shall be diligent in offering Me my food, deliciously-smelling holocausts".

Aryeh Abramovitz writes:

I heard an interesting explanation on the meaning of 'isheh', which is usually translated 'holocaust' or 'burnt offering' from the root 'esh' - fire. According to Prof. Israel Knohl, 'isheh' is the feminine form of 'shai', as in 'akriv shai lamora'. So it would be a 'deliciously-smelling gift'... It also seems to me that 'holocaust' is a good translation for 'olah' which is a completely burnt offering (as these were, but 'isheh' is used in conjunction with partially burnt offerings as well).

Originally I was not convinced that Aryeh's suggestion was appropriate. I have since changed my mind, and I adopted the suggestion that the term 'olah' is best translated in English as 'holocaust' - an offering completely consumed by fire.

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If all or most of the community became ritually impure, or if the priests were ritually impure but the community pure, it should be offered despite the ritual impurity. If the minority of the community had become ritually impure, those who are pure should offer it on the first one and those who are ritually impure should do it on the second one.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
We have already explained this mishnah, since its meaning was subsumed in part of our explanation of mishnah 4. The Torah states that if, on Nisan 14th, someone was ritually impure because of contact with a corpse, and therefore not able to take part in the Seder service and the eating of the paschal lamb, they may hold their own private ceremony one month later, on Iyyar 14th. Rambam, in his commentary on mishnah 4, explains that the sages understood that the postponement of the Seder ceremony because of ritual impurity was only for individuals who had been in contact with a corpse and had not had sufficient time to complete the purification process.

2:
Mishnah 4 is now easily understood. If the majority of the people are ritually impure the ceremony should go ahead on Nisan 14th because the postponement was only for individuals and the majority of the people cannot be subsumed under such a category. The same applies if the available priests are ritually impure. It follows that if only a minority of the people have become ritually impure in circumstances explained above the impure ones must wait until Iyyar 14th while the ritually fit perform their ceremonies on time.

DISCUSSION:

Our study of mishnah 2 of this present chapter included a long exposition of the relationship of the implications of that mishnah to the halakhic status of electricity in our own times. Amit Gvaryahu writes:

The most common use of electricity is the light bulb, which is 'cooking', or heating the filament. Thus prohibited. Rabbi Shlomo Salman Auerbach held the electricity (which did not involve melachot) is 'Asur Derabanan'. This ruling is used by soldiers in the army in order to determine the actions they may do with a greater degree of ease on shabbat, It may be a real melecha derabanan, shvut, or uvdin deĥol, but prohibited by the majority of orthodox halakhists just the some, with good reason, I believe.

I respond:

I must leave it to those who are much more technically knowledgeable than I am concerning the nature of electricity and its uses to respond to Amit's comment. In my technical ignorance I would think that there are certain aspects which require consideration: the process of cooking requires that the material being cooked change its structure through the application of a heat source; but the filament in an electric light bulb does not change its structure; can it therefore be said to have been cooked? Also, electricity itself is not a heat source, the heat being created by the friction of the current on the filament. Thus the filament itself would be what halakhah calls 'toldot ha'ur' [a 'kind' of heat] and only a substance whose structure is changed by the heat of the filament would be cooked. However, as I said, I would appreciate input from experts in the nature of electricity and its uses. (Regardless of what might be the halakhic status of electricity and the uses to which it can be put, I personally hold that one should not directly open and close an electric circuit on Shabbat because of the consideration of 'uvdin de-ĥol'. As Rabbi Avraham Yehoshu'a Heschel taught, Shabbat exists as a temple in time because of what we do and do not do on that day. It becomes sanctified - and therefore exists - by our abstaining from doing on that day things that we habitually do on other days. Our sages wisely, in my view, prohibited 'uvdin de-ĥol' - doing secular, mundane tasks, doing on Shabbat what you would do anyway on any other day.)


We have discussed the application of the term 'holocaust' to the sacrificial system. Bayla Singer writes:

Many of us are uneasy about the term 'Holocaust' for the destruction of our people by the Nazis. Yes, they were burnt whole - but, as a sacrifice to what god? Surely not HaShem! Yet we also say that they perished 'kiddush HaShem', for the sanctification of the Name. In America, at least, the word 'holocaust' is divorced from its meaning as burnt-offering, and used exclusively to describe mass death. Habits are changed with difficulty, but we are trying to substitute the word 'Sho'ah' to refer to the Nazi activities. Failing that, perhaps it would be best to avoid the word 'holocaust' in describing the burnt-offerings. If people are willing to mis-spell the Name (Elokeinu instead of Eloheinu"), to avoid inadvertent transgression, how much more so should we avoid associating the mitzvot with grievous evil.


In that same discussion I quoted an original contribution by Aryeh Abramowitz. Benjamin Fleischer adds further information:

Olam haTanakh VaYikra 21:6 points out: 'It is customary to interpret the term 'Isheh' as an offering burned in fire on the altar, and its original derivation comes from the word fire ('Esh'). However, it is possible that its meaning is: a present consecrated to the Lord, which is derived from the Ugaritic ITh'Th, that means 'present', or from the Arabic ATh'aTh, things of any sort (Chafetzim mikol sug shehu).

, , . , , , , , . , :

If the blood of a paschal lamb was sprinkled and it then became apparent that it was ritually impure, the headband makes amends. If a [person's] body became ritually impure, the headband does not make amends, for they have said that for the nazirite and the person offering his paschal lamb the headband makes amends for blood impurity, but the headband does not make amends for the impurity of a [person's] body. If one contracts ritual impurity from the deep the headband does make amends.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
On several occasions we have explained that on Nisan 14th after a paschal lamb was slaughtered its blood was collected in a basin which was then passed down the line from one priest to the next until the last one in the line would dash the contents of the basin on the main altar. Our mishnah states that it, after the blood had been sprinkled, it became apparent that somehow it had contracted ritual impurity the ceremony is not invalid and the paschal lamb may be roasted and consumed at the seder service later that evening. (Rambam in his commentary says that 'it' refers to the blood; Rabbi Ovadyah of Bertinoro in his commentary says that 'it' refers to the lamb itself.) However if it becomes apparent that the person making the offering had been ritually impure the ceremony is invalid and must be postponed to Iyyar 14th as is the case with all ritually impure individuals, as we have seen. (Rambam in his commentary says that 'a person' refers to one of the priests involved; Rabbi Ovadyah of Bertinoro in his commentary says that 'a person' refers to the owner of the lamb.)

2:
Our mishnah states that in the former case 'the headband makes amends' but in the latter case it does not. The headband referred to here is one of the items of the vestments of the High Priest. Its specifics are to be found in Exodus 28:36-38:-

: : :

You shall make a headband of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engravings of a signet, 'Sacred to God'. You shall put it on a piece of black lace which shall be on the sash; on the front of the sash shall it be. It shall be on Aarons forehead, and Aaron shall bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the Israelites shall make holy in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always on his forehead, that they may be accepted before God.

Thus this headband was held to make amends for errors that might have crept in to a sacrificial ceremony while those affected were unaware of this fact.

DISCUSSION:

All the mishnayot of this chapter are concerned with problems associated with the paschal lamb and ritual impurity through contact with a corpse. Concerning mishnah 5 Ed Frankel writes:

Today's mishna seems to suggest two central concepts regarding the Pesaĥ. The most important seems to me to be the involvement of the people. Were this not the case, why sprinkle blood of an animal whose innards were impure? Also, why still allow the carcass to be eaten? Further, why ban the sprinkling of animals whose inner organs are fine when its carcass cannot be eaten. More than it was a classical sacrifice, the mishna suggests to me, the Pesaĥ was a celebratory feast that is begun at the Temple Mount in order to fimrly establish its importance.


Comments are beginning to come in concerning the halakhic status of electricity, a discussion started by Amit Gevaryahu. Amit wrote: The most common use of electricity is the light bulb, which is 'cooking'... Yesterday I made some comments on that, and now Keith Bierman adds:

Aside from your reasoning, it should be noted that only incandescent bulbs result in much heat. LED bulbs (rare) and fluorescent (very common) result in almost none. As far as I know, the people who forbid use of electricity don't permit some bulbs and forbid others... so it would seem that there is some other principle that they appeal to. As for making and breaking circuits, one could employ dimmers to avoid completely 'breaking' or 'making' a circuit.

Amit also wrote: or heating the filament. Thus prohibited. Keith comments:

Also, as you no doubt already have observed, this incidental heating (outside of a childs toy or special purpose devices, we don't typically turn on lights to create heat) akin to dragging a bench .... while tilling is forbidden, if one is doing something permitted it may have side effects that wouldn't have been permitted in and of themselves.

I explain:

Halakhah recognizes that certain permitted actions, done in all innocence on Shabbat, may have consequences that involve a prohibition. In Mishneh Torah [Shabbat 1:5] Rambam gives the example of someone pulling a bench (which is permitted) and by doing so inadvertently uprooting grass or making a groove in the ground (which is not permitted). Rambam states that it is quite permissible to drag the bench under such circumstances. I think that Keith is saying that even if the electric light bulb were to give off heat it should still be permitted to turn it on and off since it is not one's purpose to do so in order to create heat, and the heat would be purely incidental. In all halakhic honesty I must point out that in the very next halakhah [Shabbat 5:6] Rambam states that if a prohibited event is the inevitable consequence of a permitted action then the permitted action becomes prohibited.

Keith continues:

And if it is 'cooking' what's the minimum temp at which cooking begins ... and where must one measure it?

I respond:

The sages define the temperature at which cooking begins as one 'which would scald the hand' [Tur Orach Chayyim 318, for example]. In his modern work Shemirat Shabbat Kehilkhatah, the ultra-orthodox Rabbi Yehoshu'a Neuwirth states that this temperature is now held to be 45 degrees centigrade.

, . , , . :

If all of it or most of it contracted ritual impurity it is to be incinerated before the Shrine using wood from the fire stack. If a small part of it contracted ritual impurity, and what was left over, it is to be incinerated in their own courtyards or on their own roofs using their own wood. The miserly incinerate it before the Shrine so as to benefit from the wood of the fire stack.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
We have already learned that a paschal lamb whose meat had contracted ritual impurity was thus invalidated and could not serve as the paschal lamb to be eaten, together with matzah and maror, at the Seder service. If all or most of the animal were contaminated by ritual impurity (through contact with a corpse) the carcass had to be disposed of by incineration. This was done immediately, using wood from the stock that fueled the fire stack on the main altar. According to the Talmud of Eretz-Israel [Pesaĥim 53a] it was done this way - immediately and publicly - in order to shame the owner who had been so careless as to let his animal contract ritual impurity. If only part of the animal had contracted ritual impurity that too had to be incinerated, but this could be done privately and at the owner's expense.

2:
Concerning the consumption of the paschal lamb at the seder service the Torah stipulates:

You shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; but that which remains of it until the morning you shall burn with fire.

Our mishnah explains that if the subscription party was not able to consume a whole lamb the 'left-overs' were to be treated in similar fashion: they were to be burned privately at the owner's expense.

3:
Our mishnah adds one further detail. It seems that certain people who could have burned their left-overs privately chose to do so publicly, in the Bet Mikdash, at public expense, using the fire stack wood instead of their own. This is put down to miserliness on their part.

4:
Our mishnah uses a Hebrew word 'Birah'. In 3:8 I translated this term as 'shrine', an oblique reference to the Bet Mikdash. This is based on the interpretation of the Hebrew term by the 2nd century Amora of Eretz-Israel Resh Lakish, who says in the Talmud of Eretz-Israel [Pesaĥim 53a] that the term is biblical [1Chronicles 29:19] and there clearly indicates the Bet Mikdash. His even greater friend, Rabbi Yoĥanan, holds that the Hebrew word 'Birah' is an attempt to render the Greek word 'Baris'. According to Yosef ben-Matityahu (Josephus) this was a citadel overlooking the courtyard of the Bet Mikdash. In Roman times it was called Antonia and was used to house troops to prevent and deal with riots [Antiquities of the Jews 15:11:4]. The whole context of our mishnah strongly suggests to me that Resh Lakish is correct in this matter.

DISCUSSION:

Concerning the use of electricity on Shabbat, Bayla Singer writes:

It might help the discussion of electricity if it were more widely realized that the current in the utility system flows regardless of the status of any given switch. The function of the switch is similar to that of a gate or valve, allowing the current to be diverted through another channel. Only if the generator itself were turned off would the current cease to flow. (Battery operation is an entirely different matter.)

I respond:

Unless I have misunderstood Bayla's comment I think that I already indicated this in my original response to Amit's message. In a different response to also wrote that cooking involved a change in the structure of the food by the application of a heat source.

Bayla continues:

'Cooking' does indeed refer to a change in structure by application of heat. In the case of food it generally refers to the denaturation of proteins, making them more easily digestible by humans. Since proteins are denatured at relatively low temperatures, blurring of the distinction between 'heating' and 'cooking' is understandable. 'Heating' is a separate activity, but I believe it is covered by other halacha. I seem to remember, for instance, a talmudic prohibition against adding a small amount of cool water to a larger amount of hot water, in order to raise the temperature of the small amount. However, I do not know what the halacha would be in reference to, say, leaving a jug of water out in the sun in order that the temperature of the water should rise.

I respond:

Rambam [Mishneh Torah, Shabbat 23:9] states that warming something in the direct heat of the sun is permitted, but warming through the indirect heat of the sun is prohibited. Thus in the case of Bayla's example there would be no halakhic objection to using the warm water on Shabbat; however, leaving an egg (or cat!) to cook on a hot tin roof is prohibited.

, . , . , , :

A paschal lamb that left or became ritually impure must be incinerated immediately. If its owners became ritually impure or died it is to be held over and incinerated on the 16th. Rabbi Yoĥanan ben-Baroka says that this too should be incinerated immediately since there is no one to eat it.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
First we must explain the enigmatic 'paschal lamb that left'. We learned in 3:8 that the portions of sacrificial meat intended for human consumption must not be removed from Jerusalem (one of whose boundaries was defined as passing Mount Scopus). Such meat must be burned as it may no longer be eaten. Our present mishnah applies this principle to the paschal lamb: if, after slaughter and during the afternoon of Nisan 14th, a paschal lamb was removed from Jerusalem or contracted ritual impurity it must be burned before the onset of the festival because it cannot be eaten.

2:
In his commentary on our mishnah Rambam gives a different explanation: the Torah [Exodus 12:46] stipulates:

In one house shall it be eaten; you shall not carry forth anything of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall you break a bone of it.

Rambam explains our mishnah as disqualifying the meat of a lamb which was removed from the house in which the Seder was to be celebrated.

3:
If, after its slaughter, the owners of the lamb could not eat it (either because they died or because they came into contact with a corpse) the meat is not incinerated immediately but held over until the first day of ĥol ha-Mo'ed, Nisan 16th. The meat may not be burned immediately because it is 'sacred meat' which, of itself, is not disqualified. Therefore it is held over and incinerated on the third day as all sacrificial meat that became 'pigul' [Leviticus 19:6]; an alternative explanation is that by the third day it would have begun to putrefy and thus is disqualified.

4:
Rabbi Yoĥanan ben-Baroka disagrees with Tanna Kamma in this last matter. He holds that since the only purpose of the paschal lamb is to be eaten at the Seder service by its subscribed owners it has become disqualified by the death or incapacity of its owners, and therefore should be incinerated immediately. Halakhah follows Tanna Kamma.

DISCUSSION:

Still on electricity. Zackary Berger writes:

I very much appreciate the discussion of electricity and hilkhot Shabbat, but there is something that hasn't been mentioned yet. When a new phenomenon makes its appearance on the halachic scene, it's only natural to try and compare it in some fashion to something already known to halachah. That's the way systems expand, by applying already existing principles to new problems. However, none of the metaphors I've seen on this list or others are convincing. In an important sense, electricity is not like cooking, turning on or off a faucet, tying a temporary knot, building a structure, or lighting a fire. Electricity is not like any phenomenon known to the Rabbis because it is a controllable, microscopic phenomenon with macroscopic consequences. Halachah must concern itself with the macroscopic consequences - light, heat, etc. - but cannot do so by applying macroscopic categories to microscopic phenomena. It does not make any sense to talk of 'cooking' when electrons are involved any more than it does to speak of 'writing' when we talk of recording information on a compact disc. The processes are different enough to invalidate the old metaphors. Where does this leave us? Most satisfying to me are the esthetic, general categories, like uvdin d'ĥol (which you mentioned), or molid. These recognize the nature of Sabbath rest and do not try in literalist fashion to stretch Tannaitic and Amoraic examples beyond the breaking point. These are the categories I use when explaining to my non-Jewish and non-observant friends why I do not turn lights on and off on Shabbat.

I respond:

During the past 100 years or so several ideas have been put forward by orthodox poskim [decisors] as to why electricity should not be operated (as opposed to used) on Shabbat. (At the end of 19th century a prevalent view was that it was permitted.) The most salient are, of course, connected with some aspect or other of the creation of an electrical circuit which seems to fit into the category of one or more of the 39 melakhot - actions which the Torah forbids on Shabbat. It was the ultra-orthodox Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz (Chazon Ish) who, fifty years ago, suggested that the opening and closing of an electric circuit was molid [creating something that was previously non-existent] or boneh [constructively putting together two or more items to create a new whole]. Later orthodox poskim realized that these categories are not appropriate to the nature of the electrical current. Amit Gevaryahu originally suggested that currently orthodoxy prohibits the turning on of an electric light because of bishul [cooking - the element]. Personally, I think that current orthodox thought is that this is an action involving hav'arah [ignition, causing a spark]. However, I see this as being no less problematic scientifically.


I wrote: The sages define the temperature at which cooking begins as one 'which would scald the hand' [Tur Orach Chayyim 318, for example]. In his modern work 'Shemirat Shabbat Kehilkhatah', the ultra- orthodox Rabbi Yehoshu'a Neuwirth states that this temperature is now held to be 45 degrees centigrade. Ed Frankel writes:

Forty-five degrees seems awfully low for cooking. I can almost remember experiencing that much heat in a ĥamsin.

I respond:

I assume that this is a degree of heat which is presumed to answer to the Talmudic definition: a heat which would scorch the skin of a newborn.

, , , . , , :

, , . , . , :

The bones, sinews and meat which are left over should be incinerated on the 16th. If the 16th should fall on a Shabbat they should be burned on the 17th. This is because they do not supercede either Shabbat or YomTov.

Anything part of a large ox that can be eaten can be eaten in a kid goat - the shoulders and cartilage. Anyone who breaks a bone of a ritually clean paschal lamb is liable to the thirty-nine lashes, but someone who leaves over meat from a pure animal or breaks the bone of an impure one is not liable to the thirty-nine lashes.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
Mishnah 10 is concerned with those parts of the paschal lamb which will remain after the Seder service is concluded: the bones and sinews, which are inedible, and meat which was not eaten. In previous mishnayot we have seen that none of the lamb may be left over; therefore what was not consumed at the Seder service must be incinerated. This incineration does not override the sanctity of either Shabbat or YomTov; therefore it cannot be done on the first day of the festival itself (which is YomTov) nor even on the second day (the first day of Chol ha-Mo'ed - the intermediate days) if that day happens to be Shabbat. (As we have seen in our discussions on the nature and uses of electricity, ignition, incineration, burning, causing a flame or spark are all subsumed under the Torah prohibition of "hav'arah" which is a violation of the sanctity of Shabbat.) We should perhaps note that as the calendar has been regulated for the past 1650 years or so the first day of Chol ha-Mo'ed can no longer fall on Shabbat in any year. 2: Mishnah 11 is also concerned with parts of the paschal lamb which were not consumed. This time the consideration is which parts of the meat of the paschal lamb may be considered inedible, and therefore if not consumed would not be a violation of the prohibition of the Torah [Exodus 12:10] not to leave any meat unconsumed. The general rule given is that all parts of the body of a properly cooked ox which would be eaten must be eaten in the case of the paschal lamb. Traditional commentators indicate that the problematic parts (from the ancient gastronomic point of view) were the meat covering the animal's shoulders and various limbs that consisted mainly of cartilage: ear lobes, breast etc. Our mishnah teaches that all these must be consumed.

3:
Concerning the consumption of the paschal lamb at the Seder service two verses of the Torah [Exodus 12:10 and 46] underlie mishnah 11:

:

:

You shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; but that which remains of it until the morning you shall burn with fire.

In one house shall it be eaten; you shall not carry forth anything of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall you break a bone of it.

The Torah prohibits the breaking of any of the animal's bones. Therefore, anyone who willfully does so is liable to the punishment of 39 lashes. (We described this aspect of the rabbinic criminal code when we studied tractate Sanhedrin.) However, if the animal was ritually unfit to serve as a paschal lamb this, of course, would not apply. The Torah also prohibits leaving any of the meat of the paschal lamb uneaten, as we have seen. However, in this case an infraction of this rule is not punishable since the Torah itself recognizes that this might happen and provides for such an eventuality: left-over meat must be incinerated.

DISCUSSION:

Mishnah 8 of this present chapter read (in part): If all of it or most of it contracted ritual impurity ... If a small part of it contracted ritual impurity ...

Ze'ev Orzech writes:

I'm intrigued by the notion of localized impurity. It implies that ritual impurity is a physical phenomenon; as if a person who has touched a dirty abject with one hand is remains clean except for the hand that got sullied. That's not how I perceived tum'ah. Since only the contacted areas are affected, I have trouble visualizing a case where the whole lamb becomes ritually impure through contact with a corpse.

I respond:

I think that the mishnah is referring to parts of the carcass that had been separated off from the body when they became ritually contaminated. (We learned that immediately after slaughter various internal organs were removed from the carcass, for example.) After the lamb had been slaughtered it was taken by its owners out of the precincts of the Bet Mikdash to wherever the Seder was to be celebrated. Is it not possible that somewhere, somehow, the animal might come into contact with a corpse - however remote the possibility might be?

, , , . , . , . , , :

In the case where part of a limb went outside one should cut it off down to the bone, slice it as far as the joint, and cut. In the case of [other] most holy sacrifices one may use a chopper, because the prohibition of breaking a bone does not apply. From the door jamb inside is considered inside; from the jamb outside is considered outside; windows and the depth of the wall are considered as inside.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
This long and rather strange chapter is gradually drawing to its close. We have already seen that the Torah [Exodus 12:46] requires the paschal lamb to be eaten in one place and that none of the meat may be removed from the house where the Seder is being celebrated. Our present mishnah is concerned with a situation which must seem to us to be bizarre and far-fetched: what to do when part of the lamb which is being roasted and eaten leaves the boundaries of the house!

2:
However, upon deeper consideration our mishnah points to the sociological facts of the situation. There was overcrowding of people living in hovels: while many (maybe most) Jews lived in reasonable housing, the poor and the indigent (of whom there must have been very many) lived in huts, some of which may not have been large enough to contain a full-grown modern person! But even the more affluent in Jerusalem at Pesaĥ time suffered from severe overcrowding: most were from out of town and were celebrating their Seder in temporary accommodation (hotel rooms, guest houses, rented rooms etc). Here I add something which is very unusual: I am going to offer a quotation from the Christian scriptures [Mark 14:12-16] because it is most apposite historical indication of what we are saying:

On the first day of unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the paschal lamb, his disciples asked him, 'Where do you want us to go and make ready that you may eat the paschal lamb?' He sent two of his disciples, and said to them, 'Go into the city, and there you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and wherever he enters in, tell the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"' He will himself show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make ready for us there.'

3:
To all this add the consideration that most of the subscription groups were very large indeed: one only had to eat 'an olive's bulk' of the roast lamb, so the more people who subscribed to a lamb the cheaper the subscription would be all round. But, as we shall see in the next chapter, all the subscribers had to be in the same place at the same time in order to eat the paschal sacrifice. These considerations lead us to understand more fully the problem of what to do when part of the animal 'leaves' the premises. Today we would use the term 'protrudes'.

4:
There is no need to go into details here. The offending limb may be cut off, taking care not to break a bone, and the meat that was still 'within the precincts' could be sliced off and consumed. The Seifa of our mishnah sheds light on the actual problem: the rooms were so crowded that people were jammed into the doorways and onto the window sills, so that inevitably some part of the animal being held by a celebrant might be pushed 'outside'.

DISCUSSION:

Still on electricity. In answer to a comment from Ed Frankel I wrote: I assume that this is a degree of heat which is presumed to answer to the Talmudic definition: a heat which would scorch the skin of a newborn. Now Keith Bierman writes:

The question of precise temp aside, where must one measure it? Consider a standard light bulb, the element reaches some temp which we can't directly measure, there is the temp at the bulb 'face' and there is the temp we can touch directly (controlled by the lamp fixture). In any event, if 'cooking' is the category, we can construct lighting systems which don't exceed 45 degrees ... I am sure that the orthodox decisors which hold that electricity is forbidden wouldn't permit them either (perhaps it is my lack of understanding, but it seems to me that they start with the presumption that it is forbidden and have spent decades figuring out why).

I respond:

Keith writes of the problematica of considering the electric light bulb as involving the prohibition of cooking. While not disagreeing with what he writes I feel that I should repeat my opinion that the cooking reference (in the original comment which started this thread) is mistaken, and that modern orthodoxy sees the prohibition of 'ignition' as being involved. My (comparative) ignorance tells me that there is no ignition within a light bulb, but those with greater expertise must relate to this point.

As to Keith's second point: after much thought I must agree with him. I have already written that in the early days of mass-generated electricity many respected orthodox poskim [decisors] did not see it as being prohibited on Shabbat. About a decade later a reaction set in. I think that in earlier times the Sanhedrin would probably have made a decree [gezerah] prohibiting the essentially permitted use of electricity because of its acute similarity to other forms of light and heat which are prohibited - 'lest one confuse the two'. Orthodoxy, not wishing to issue a gezerah in modern times, has become bogged down in an attempt to demonstrate that there is a Torah prohibition where such a prohibition is not tenable on the basis of the empirical facts.

Personally, I have already expressed my view that whatever the halakhic status of electrical circuits might be, Conservative Jews should consider refraining from opening and closing them on Shabbat because of 'Uvdin de-ĥol'.

, , , . , . , :

When two groups are eating in the same house each must face in a different direction to eat, with the samovar between them. When the waiter comes to mix he must shut his mouth and turn his face until he returns to his group, when he may eat. A bride turns her face away and eats.

EXPLANATIONS:

1:
This is the last mishnah of the present chapter. It is, in fact, a kind of bridge between this chapter and the next. In my view it has more connection with the next than this present chapter, therefore, before we begin its explanation I want to make a short general comment about chapter 7 (and many elements in chapters 5 and 6 as well). It must seem to all of us that the detail into which Tractate PesaƉim goes concerning the paschal lamb itself is strange, to say the least. Three whole chapters have been concerned with this matter solely, and the next chapter is also connected with it, though less directly. To us, this seems strange, maybe even obsessive. However, if we look at the matter from the historical point of view I think we should be able to place the matter into a perspective. When we started our study of this tractate I pointed out that the name of the tractate should really be translated as 'Paschal Lambs'. The demise of the worship in the Bet Mikdash was the catalyst in creating a paradigm shift in the very ethos of the Seder service. For our ancestors the central feature of the Passover Seder service was the fulfillment of the Torah command to eat the roast meat of a paschal lamb together with matzah and maror, according to all its minute regulations of how, who, when, and where. For us, this major element has almost completely disappeared: what was, for our ancestors, the central feature of their celebration is now, for us, reduced to a symbolic 'shankbone' on the Seder dish which is referred to once in the ceremony and never actually physically used in even the least meaningful way. Perhaps this should be noted at the Seder service when we read the admonition of Rabban Gamli'el concerning the Paschal Lamb (but we must wait until Chapter Ten for further elucidation).

2:
Chapters 5, 6 and 7 have been concerned with the 'how' of the slaughter of the paschal lamb in the Bet Mikdash, with the 'when' of this ceremony (at what time on Nisan 14th and what to do when that day falls on Shabbat and so forth), and the 'where' of its consumption (the regulations that derive from the requirement that it be eaten 'in one house'. Chapter 8 will be concerned with the 'who': the regulations that apply to the people actually participating in this ceremony and their manner of doing so. It is in this sense that I see our present mishnah as a bridge between the two chapters.

3:
We have already mentioned the sever overcrowding that was a usual concomitant on the celebration of the Seder in Temple times. Our present mishnah is concerned with the fact that it was no uncommon occurrence for two discrete subscription groups to have to share the same accommodation for their celebration. The Torah [Exodus 12:3-4] stipulates, as we have seen, that people must subscribe to a particular lamb and that they may then only fulfill the mitzvah by eating of that particular animal. Our mishnah describes what is required of two groups sharing the same room. They must form two discrete groups, which must be physically separated by the samovar - a utensil for dispensing hot water. The members of each group must take care to be facing in opposite directions so that there may be no danger of their being combined in any way.

4:
We have often had occasion to mention that one of the customs in ancient dining was that one of the diners serve as waiter. Perhaps wine-waiter would be a better indication. (This task was usually performed by the eldest son in the family or a student for his rabbi and so forth.) It was this person's task to make sure that all the diners had wine and to mix it for them. (Wine was 'neat' and had to be diluted with water before being drunk.) From our present mishnah it seems that it was also customary to use warmed water to dilute the wine. It seems that table manners were not the same as those we are used to today, and our mishnah describes what a waiter must do if he is called upon to fulfill his function which he still has his mouth full of the meat of the paschal lamb. If he is serving the 'other' group (the one to which he personally is not subscribed) he must keep his mouth closed - i.e. he must be careful not to chew or swallow the meat that is in his mouth while he is serving the other group.

5:
The bride is mentioned because she is considered to be extraordinary in this context. I suppose it is but natural that people should show an acute interest in a newly-wed. Given the rather sheltered nature of many women in those times it could be an embarrassment for a woman to have people looking at her while she is eating. She is thus given permission to face in the 'wrong' direction when eating the paschal lamb - away from her own group - so as to avoid her embarrassment.

This concludes our study of Chapter 7.