“The legal status of part of the day is like that of the entire day.”
Everything has a time and place in the Talmud. The discussion on observing local customs continues today and for a moment I thought I was back in Tractate Shabbat, except for the fact that the text discusses working on the eve of Passover rather than Shabbat, with a side journey into practices allowed on what is said to be the saddest day of the year, the 9th of Av (Tisha b’Av.)
We have had it pounded into our heads by now that we should follow local customs, except when there is a conflict between leniency and stringency, in which case we should take the more stringent path, except if we are from Israel which allows us to carry our practices with us into a foreign land, but only if we intend to return to our homeland. But we should follow local customs (mostly).
We are told that in respect to working on Passover Eve, there are differences in customs around the world. The people of Judea would work until midday, while those in Galilee would refrain from working at all. The guidance for a traveler is explained quite clearly: “in a place where people were accustomed to perform labor, one performs labor, and in a place where people were accustomed not to perform labor, one does not perform labor.”
I could have used this travel advice when I made my first visit to Jerusalem in October 2019 and planned a full day’s activities on a Friday thinking the shops and sites would be open until sundown. I was surprised to see all the gates come down in the early afternoon which left me with a sinking feeling that I had almost two days of my precious vacation time with nowhere to go. The feeling returned when I watched the gates come down in New York City during the darkest days of the pandemic.
The discussion of allowable work pushes back a day and analyzes what is allowed not on fourteen of Nisan, but on the thirteenth. If someone is busy removing weeds from a field on the thirteen of Nisan and he accidentally uproots a stalk of grain, he is advised to replant it in moist soil so that it will take root before the time of the omer offering on the sixteenth of Nisan. This would give the uprooted stalk three days to anchor itself in solid ground. We are warned that dry soil is problematical because the stalk will not find its bearings within three days, and as a result one would have to wait to eat it until the following year’s omer is offered.
Everything has its time and place. My departed father loved his rose garden. He would nourish the soil of his precious roses with bags of cocoa chips from Hershey, Pennsylvania. The rose garden, with its dusky smell and faint dusting of cocoa, provided a respite from the long hours he spent in his pharmacy. On the day he moved from the house where he lived for 40 years, he was working in his rose garden. The moving truck was in the driveway, but he was in his garden taking care of his beloved roses.
I remember saying “Dad, the truck is packed up, it is time to go, the roses no longer belong to you,” but he was busy pressing the cocoa chips into the soil as if it was the final gift he was leaving for his roses, which of course, would always belong to him. I only now realize how sad it must have been for him to leave behind his roses. He was moving into an apartment in Center City Philadelphia, and would no longer had a garden to work in. He was a quiet man and working in the soil must have been his sanctuary from our noisy household. I only wish that I had found a plot of land for him somewhere in the city.
Today the Talmud reminds us as we move on in our lives, that everything has a time and place.