Saturday, June 18, 2005

Shabbos: Don't Bother to Wipe Your Feet

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Philadelphia. I'm in the fifth day of a professional conference that I was preparing for a good part of the two weeks before. (I don't remember the last time I saw a human being who wasn't wearing a name tag!) I haven't had time to post here and I don't have much time now, but I'll be back to full blog in a few days.

But the daf goes on, and I was just reading folio 46 and I just had to share this with you.

First, I need to say that I'm reading the daf in the context of being at a professional conference where my own status as an authority is perhaps comparable to that of Rav Avya making a visit to his colleagues. (Not that I'm a Sage, but if there were Sages in my "field," let's just say I'm not chopped liver.)

So, it is reported on 46a that "Rav Avya once visited Rava's home, and his shoes were sullied with mud. Nevertheless, he put them up on a bed in front of Rava." Of course this disturbed Rava, who "sought to unsettle Rav Avya by challenging him with questions." The answers to these questions serve to elucidate the muktzeh status of several common household objects (a matter of no concern to the Am Haaretz but of importance to anyone intent on a more rigorous Shabbas practice). The significance of this passage is that Rava did not embarrass Rav Avya and was rewarded with new learning.

But he was also left with a muddy bed, which speaks to me and the feeling I have had these past few days as I have been called on to facilitate lengthy roundtable discussions and speak on panels about this and that. I find that focussing on presenting a relaxed and open demeanor and reducing complicated issues to memorable aphorisms does, in fact, come naturally to me, as I can summon up the answers based on years of experience and study BUT that it leaves me with a feeling of exhaustion way beyond what I feel in my ordinary environment (i.e., I need to rest my muddy feet on your bed or I'm going to fall over!).