“One who winnows, and one who selects, and one who grinds, and one who sifts.”
I am coming down from the high of yesterday’s poetic treatment of labors. Today we are provided with a lesson in the law of selecting that has consequences for eating at a buffet on Shabbat (which is perhaps forever off-limits now on any day of the week because of the coronavirus.) We are told that one is prohibited from gazing upon a selection of food and selecting something to eat now and putting aside something for later. There is more to it than that but in essence one is prohibited from selecting food on Shabbat and must eat what is before him. We are told that this is because selecting food for later is tantamount to storing food, which is prohibited on Shabbat.
The continuing discussion on what is prohibited on Shabbat walks us through the process of creating an earthenware vessel through seven steps which would result in seven sin-offerings. The process starts with crumbling lumps of dirt through grinding and takes us through building the mold, kindling the fire and placing the vessel in the oven. And if one builds the oven itself, he would be liable for an eighth sin-offerings. (In other words, it is expensive to be a pottery maker on Shabbat.)
I have some deep-rooted survivalist tendency in me that is compelled to select and put aside food. An old boyfriend would tease me that no matter what size portion you give me, I would always leave a share on the side (which he would usually eat.) When I was growing up, I would bring home cupcakes and cookies from birthday parties and put them aside in the family refrigerator for later. My growing brother who had a bottomless appetite would find my saved baked goods and eat them before I had a chance to. It seemed like a great injustice. I was unable to declare possession even when I would label the baked goods with my name. No matter what, my brother would find my cupcakes and eat them.
I would protest to my father who would just laugh and tell me that I would have never survived in a large family where each child needed to eat what was before him or starve. In other words, selecting and putting aside was not a great survivalist tendency. In his own way, my father was teaching me to just toughen up and learn how to get along in the world.
Living today where there is fear that the coronavirus could impact the supply chain has brought out the worst tendencies in me to put aside food. I order too much from online delivery services and have to throw away staples as they go bad. I am so afraid that something that I need will not be available that when I see it on the shelf at the supermarket, I buy not one, but two or three of the items and put them aside for later. A friend told me to make sure I have extra bottles of water at home. Why water? Is the virus going to infect the water supply? So, I bought water. It gives me comfort for just a moment that with a refrigerator full of milk and eggs and cheese and bottled water, that maybe everything will be alright.