“Eat it today.”
Today’s Daf Yomi continues the discussion from the previous day of how much food one should rescue from a fire that ignites on Shabbat. One is allowed to rescue just enough food for three meals if the fire breaks out on Shabbat eve, two meals if the flames ignite on Shabbat morning and one meal if the blaze appears mid-day on Shabbat. This is based on the premise that one eats three meals a day, although at least one Rabbi believes that one should eat four meals on Shabbat (perhaps he believed in the theory that it is better for our digestive system if we eat smaller meals more often.) At the center of all this carrying out of food from a fire on Shabbat is the concept of just enough. One should salvage, store, or eat just enough and no more or less.
We are told that one can subsist on two meals a day if he is economically stressed and in need of assistance. Two meals a day is just enough. If he has enough food to eat two meals a day, he should refrain from eating from the “charity plate.” We are told that “he is not considered needy and would be taking food at the expense of people who are worse off than he.” The always practical Rabbi Akiva, who knew poverty as a young man and may not have always been able to scrape together three meals a day, says if one cannot afford to splurge on Shabbat, it is better to eat as he would any other day of the week than to accept charity. Rabbi Hidka appears a bit parsimonious and says that the poor traveler is really only entitled to two meals because there is a presumption that he has food with him already and should be told to eat what he has before he accepts a meal from the “charity plate.”
Rabbi Yosei has a starring role in today’s Daf Yomi. He lists punishments that one would suffer if Shabbat is violated. This includes extreme suffering that precedes the coming of the Messiah, the fiery judgment of Gehenna and the war of Gog and Magog. After Yosei was done with his doomsday threats, he says that our portions will be boundless if we honor Shabbat completely. (I suspect Rabbi Yosei may have been spending time in the house of Abidan where he picked up some of these fiery references.)
Rabbi Yosei is presented as a man who expresses himself in exaggerated terms. He tells us that he would give up a portion of his food to one who prays in the morning and afternoon, one who dies from an intestinal disease (because only the good die in this way), to those who give up their seats in his study hall to standing students (like giving up a seat on the subway to someone who needs it more), who collect charity for others, or are falsely accused.
Rabbi Yosei extends the discussion of “just enough” to procreation. He indicates that he is so virile that he conceives every time he has intercourse, when he says: “I engaged in relations five times, and I planted five cedars in Eretz Yisrael.” We are told that he produced a great tribe of five Rabbis: Rabbi Yishmael, Rabbi Elazar, Rabbi Ḥalafta, Rabbi Avtilas, and Rabbi Menaḥem. In a statement that can be seen as great affection for his wife and also terribly chauvinistic, he says that he calls his wife “my, home, because she is the essence of the home.” He compares her with his ox, who is the “primary force in the fields.” It is nice that he appreciates his wife as the center of his home, but it is not so great that she is compared with his ox with the suggestion that both are domestic working animals.
Rabbi Yosei reminds me of a certain leader who never backs away from something he says when he indicates that “in all my days I never said something and then retreated from it.” This suggests that he is the kind of person who never admits he is wrong, and revises his opinion based on a new set of circumstances or facts. Retreating from a statement, after discussion, friendly challenges, new information, and listening to others is not the sign of weakness. Just by saying something is so and standing steadfast no matter what the science says and ignoring the opinions of knowledgeable experts who know of such matters, is self-centered, egotistic, and when there is a nation at risk, just plain dangerous. Saying something does not make it so.