The concept of ‘since’ (Daf Yomi Shabbos 111)

“These have restored me to my youth.”

We learned in previous portions of the Talmud that the overriding principle is that one shall not kill any form of life on Shabbat (except for an exception of creeping animals that are not part of the Talmudic eight and lack the ability to bleed beneath their skin). Today the concept of respecting life on Shabbat (and hopefully every day of the week) is translated into restoring one’s vitality through anti-aging remedies.

We are told that even an old man “can procreate with the proper remedy” as long as he stays away from the cure for jaundice which can lead to infertility. We are told that these Rabbinic anti-aging treatments can help elderly women rediscover their youth. I am left sitting on the edge of my seat because the text never actually tells us what these anti-aging remedies are, but I suspect their ingredients are as secretive as what goes into expensive facial creams.

The Rabbis are more forthcoming with the vinegar remedy for a toothache. Vinegar was previously touted as a remedy for jaundice, but in that case, it had the unwanted side-effect of causing infertility. One who has a toothache on Shabbat is prohibited from sipping vinegar in fear he will give the appearance of engaging in a medicinal act; however, he is permitted to spread the vinegar on a slice of bread. He can then treat his symptoms without giving the appearance that he has consumed the vinegar for medicinal purposes. We learned in an earlier reading that appearance rather than intention matters when the ingestion of medicines is considered on Shabbat. We are told that “if he is healed by the vinegar, he is healed.”

Vinegar combined with wine is prohibited as a treatment for a “pain in the loins” on Shabbat. We are told that one may use oil instead, with the exception of rose oil, which “is very expensive and used exclusively as a cure.” This is not true for a prince who is wealthy enough to smear oil over himself for cosmetic reasons whenever he wants and as a result, would not be culpable of attempting to cure an ill with the fragrant oil on Shabbat. In an equalitarian moment, Rabbi Shimon comments that everyone is entitled to smear themselves with rose oil on Shabbat because “All of the Jewish people are princes.”

We are introduced to the principle of “since” which can become an entertaining word game on a lonely night while sheltering in place. We are told if an activity is permitted on Shabbat, it is also permitted on Yom Kippur. An example is presented involving vinegar: “in the case of sipping vinegar, since it is permitted to sip vinegar before dipping food, it should also be permitted to sip vinegar after dipping food.”  The Talmud often pairs odd concepts together. Today we learned that since it is prohibited to tie a sailor knot on Shabbat, it is prohibited to tie a camel’s knot.

Since is a word that can become a connector between seemingly unrelated concepts: since I am home-bound from the virus, I can have a slice of chocolate babka for dinner. Since I am having babka for dinner, I can have an extra glass of wine. Since I consumed an extra glass of wine, I will have a second helping of babka. Since I had the second helping of babka, I will have a slice for breakfast. Since I have already ruined my diet, I will have a slice of pizza for lunch. And since I had a slice of pizza for lunch, I will take a long nap because I am very sluggish from consuming so many carbohydrates. And since I have consumed so few vegetables today, there is no point to eating any tomorrow because my diet is ruined for the week. And since with sheltering in place, today is the same as every other day, I will have another slice of babka. And as a result, I blame the little word “since” for gaining weight while sheltering in place.

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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