By fire (Daf Yomi Pesachim 41)

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“Roasted with fire.”

Today’s Daf Yomi discussion of roasting the paschal lamb reminded me of the opposing qualities of fire. We learn that the Paschal lamb must be roasted with fire in order to meet the requirements of a positive mitza. The mitza is not fulfilled by boiling, and we are offered the example of dunking the lamb into the hot springs of Tiberias, which sounds like an environmental disaster.

The Paschal lamb must be fully roasted and the fire that it rests upon is important to the mitzva. We are told that this is critical due to the text in Exodus that stipulates that “you shall only eat it roasted with fire.” Exodus also states that “nor shall it be boiled in any way in water.” The Rabbis return with their terrifying lashes. We are told that if one boils the lamb “he shall receive two sets of lashes.”  And if one eats the Paschal lamb partially roasted he is to receive three sets of lashes – one for eating it partially roasted, one for eating it boiled, and one for failing to roast it in the first place.

We have lived through a year where fire devastated parts of Australia and California. I experienced the devastating the effects of fire when I was a small child and my family house burned down. There is so much destruction and grief when flames rampage through one’s land and the home that provides shelter from the world. And there are the invisible flames of the rampaging virus that has burned through the world and resulted in so much illness and death.

Fire can also create beautiful works of beauty through glass blowing. I was incredibly excited as a child to visit glassware shops where a glass blower would demonstrate how to create a translucent vase. The fire that terrified me as a child and destroyed my childhood home was harnessed in a way that created beauty. And naturally occurring fires that are contained are not always as destructive as the ones we witnessed this year. They can help clear densely forested land and make room for young plants. From the ashes is new growth.

That is the dichotomy of fire: it is destructive in its essence but can also signify renewal. Happy New Year everyone. Hopefully, you have been able to put everything bad from the past year into a symbolic fire of your own and watch it burn and burn. Welcome to 2021!

About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at
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