Monday, September 12, 2005

Shabbos: Do/Don't Extinguish All Smoking Materials

"In the name of R'Yose bar Yehuda they said: One may employ a subterfuge." (117b1).

As previously noted, on 115a, Rabbah fabricated a ruling in the name of R'Yochanan to build a higher fence around the Torah. But here we see R'Yose bar Yehuda say "One may employ a subterfuge" to save one's property from fire on Shabbat, seemingly lowering the fence. The observance of Shabbat, it seems, is less critical than the awareness of Shabbat and the absence of the appearance of desecrating Shabbat. (Although ArtScroll [fn13] cautions, "Even those who permit the employment of a subterfuge do so only when the subterfuge is credible." Who do we think we're fooling?)

The fire burns but some refuse to even look upon it: R'Yose says, "I performed five marital acts . . . and never gazed at my circumcised member." [118 b]. Others depend on the kindness of strangers: "A gentile who comes to extinguish a fire . . . his resting is not their responsibility." [122a].

But enough about fire! Let's get back to R'Yose's circumcised member, or to circumcised members in general. "Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: Any commandments for which the Jewish people gave themselves over to death at a time of a government edict directed at that commandment such as an edict to perform idolatry or to refrain from performing circumcision is still firmly held in their hands. And any commandment for which the Jewish people did not give themselves over to death at a time of government edict directed at the commandment such as the wearing of tefillen is still held weakly in their hands." [130a].

It's a powerful text, but is it still true? Is the Holocaust unique in simultaneously influencing many of us to fiercely affirm our Jewish identity while abandoning our belief and practice? As the Forward noted in their July 8 editorial, "In today's world, every Jew is a Jew by choice. Most Jews know this; it's only the leadership of the community's institutions that hasn't come to terms with it." Can both these text be true in the same time and place? Is there any subterfuge we might employ credible enough to allow it?

5 Comments:

Anonymous Reed Chopper said...

Who do we think we're fooling?

Clearly, we are fooling the guests who don't realize why they were invited. The dispute is that if there's an action usually forbidden on Shabbat but which is permitted on Shabbat under certain circumstances, is one permitted to create the circumstances so that one can do it? The guests are not aware that they are being invited to save the wine. They are the ones fooled. Also, the Aramaic word is M'armin which could be translated better as "one may act craftily" -- it's the same root which is used in Hebrew in Genesis 3 to describe the snake: It begins: "And the snake was Arum -- meaning sly, crafty, sneaky or somesuch.

The fire burns but some refuse to even look upon it: R'Yose says, "I performed five marital acts . . . and never gazed at my circumcised member." [118 b].

It was where it would have been hard to see.

Others depend on the kindness of strangers: "A gentile who comes to extinguish a fire . . . his resting is not their responsibility." [122a].

I must have read over this citation. But a Gentile is not only not required to observe the Shabbat, s/he's not permitted to ("For it is a sign between Me and the children of Israel").

But enough about fire! Let's get back to R'Yose's circumcised member, or to circumcised members in general. "Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: Any commandments for which the Jewish people gave themselves over to death at a time of a government edict directed at that commandment such as an edict to perform idolatry or to refrain from performing circumcision is still firmly held in their hands. And any commandment for which the Jewish people did not give themselves over to death at a time of government edict directed at the commandment such as the wearing of tefillen is still held weakly in their hands." [130a].

I know this is serious, but I can't help thinking of the circumcision being held firmly in our hands

It's a powerful text, but is it still true? Is the Holocaust unique in simultaneously influencing many of us to fiercely affirm our Jewish identity while abandoning our belief and practice? As the Forward noted in their July 8 editorial, "In today's world, every Jew is a Jew by choice. Most Jews know this; it's only the leadership of the community's institutions that hasn't come to terms with it." Can both these text be true in the same time and place? Is there any subterfuge we might employ credible enough to allow it?

I don't know if one values most what one has sacrificed for, or one sacrifices most for what one values.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Vos Iz Nies said...

cangratulations on finishing shabbos

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