Shabbos 59: Listening to the Opposition

“Whose manner is it to go out with a city of gold ornament?”

Today’s Daf Yomi resumes the discussion on women’s accessories. We are told that a woman may not go out into the public domain on Shabbat wearing a gold tiara. The tiara under discussion rsembles the one Rabbi Akiva made for his wife with an engraving of the city of Jerusalem.  A woman is prohibited from traipsing around in the public domain with such a tiara because she may be tempted to remove it and show it off to her friends. Rabbi Eliezer disputes the logic and proclaims that it is permissible since only “an important woman” would go out into the world with such a tiara and it would be vulgar for her to display it so prominently.

Rav and Shmuel enter the discussion. The topic is if a woman if allowed to wear a kelila (a type of crown or tiara) in the public domain on Shabbat if it is made of woven fabric inlaid with metal. Rav says that such a scenario is prohibited because metal is the primary element. Shmuel disagrees and says that because the woven fabric is the primary element it is permitted. Rav and Shmuel consider the additional circumstance that a woman might remove the kelila and show it off. Shmuel is of the belief that anyone with the resources to wear something so extravagant would not be inclined to flaunt her wealth.

We take a side-trip into a lesson on Rav’s stature. We learned previously in Berakhot that he was so well known that he simply went by the title “Rav.” A great tall man with a limp shows up in Rav’s Babylonia hometown. By the description of the sage, Rav knows immediately that it is Levi. He concludes that the head of the Yeshiva in Israel that Levi was associated with has died and his colleague has ascended to the top post. It is evident that Levi was not able to tolerate being subservient to someone who was previously his equal and traveled to Babylonia to study with Rav, who he considered more learned than himself and worthy of his respect.

Shmuel and Rav had an interesting relationship. Shmuel was very respected and considered an authority on astronomy and medical science. Rav was so famous as a scholar that he only needed to be known as “Rav.” They appear together often in the Talmud where they present their perspective from diametrical points of view. They had differing opinions on almost everything, and yet, they defined their relationship by their open dialog and ability to respect each other. We are told that when Shmuel died, Rav grieved for the loss of the one person who could stand up to him and challenge his point of view.

The friendship between Shmuel and Rav’s serves as a lesson in not just respecting those that have disparate opinions from our own, but in honoring them. They remind me of the friendship between Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Antonin Scalia. They were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, with Scalia an unwavering conservative and Ginsburg a liberal. And yet, they were great friends who were able to contain their arguments within the parameters of the law and share their mutual love of opera. Like Rav and Shmuel they provided a strong blueprint for respect of intellectual discourse and opposing points of view.


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
Related Topics
Related Posts