Dead birds in the US Capital (Daf Yomi Pesachim 47)

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“Do we say the principle: Since, etc.?”

Today’s Daf Yomi returns to the principle of since which upon further contemplation, is really a form of rationalization. This is never more meaningful than in light of the events that unfolded yesterday in the US Capital, which I have always considered as sacred to democracy as the golden Temple. It belongs to all citizens and stands in Washington as a solid symbol of democracy. When the Capital’s gates are stormed as the Temple was so many years ago, our foundations are shaken to the core.  What I saw yesterday was a desecration.

We know from past Talmudic readings that plowing is not allowed on certain religious days. But the principle of since can come into play and create a certain justification for conducting prohibited activities. An example is presented in today’s Daf Yomi portion through the obligation to cover the blood of a dead bird. And since the blood must be covered, plowing is allowed even on prohibited days. This is because one must not leave the carcasses of dead birds exposed to the elements to decay. And so, we have the justification for not following the prohibition against plowing.

The activity of covering blood winds its way through today’s reading and my heart, which is heavy from the image of blood being spilled as unruly gangs break through the Capital Building in an attempt to disrupt the constitutional process of certifying an election. And this was a very special election which demonstrated the strength of our democratic process even during a pandemic when showing up at a voting booth could result in exposure to the coronavirus. The election was conducted through a combination of in-person and mail-in ballots and its accuracy was certified by election officials who in some states came under attack for simply doing their job. The people who stood up and went forward with the count no matter what the are heroes.

The concept of since is prevalent in all the protests of the election results by people who do not like the outcome. Accepting the outcome of a fair election where all citizens have the right to vote and graciously conceding is the heart of the democratic process and the foundation of the US political system. Peaceful transfer of power is not a sinceproposition. The outgoing administration is expected to lead during the transition and to represent all the people’s interest – not just those of its base.

And to call the people who are sitting in the offices of members of congress with their feet up on congressional desks or sitting at the front of the senate chambers patriots is to deploy the concept of since in the most inappropriate way. A patriot is someone who respects the US constitution, and the democratic process. It is not someone who says since the vote did not go my way, it must have been rigged. I have a friend who believes the US Presidential election was stolen because his candidate did not win and when I asked him to stop talking about it for the sake of our friendship, he said, you don’t understand, I love this country, and my family fought for it. It is as though he thinks he is more patriotic than those of us with different political beliefs. It must take a great deal of personal rationalization to believe it is permissible to question the results of an election without hard facts.

I consider myself and everyone who tries to do the right thing a patriot. There is no since in respecting the constitution and no contingencies or justifications if one’s favored political party loses an election. Today, there are dead birds piled on the ground around the US Capital building, and no amount of digging or plowing or disturbing the dirt will be sufficient to cover the blood of what has transpired.

I want to say that the US democratic process can withstand this, and it will, but I also fear there will be more bloodshed to come over the next few days. I have no doubt that there will be a transfer of a power, but it has already proven to not be a peaceful one. It is a truly a sad time for democracy. My heart is broken.

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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