The principle of ‘since, etc.’ in the Talmud (Daf Yomi Pesachim 46)

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The matter is dependent on the owner’s particularity.”

Today we are presented with a different take on intention, which incorporates the principle of “since, etc.” It is a form of intention that considers past and future inclinations. And in case you have not read the portion yet, we are still living in the world of the kneading bowl, where every small egg-bulk of dough matters. Or not. It depends on an “owner’s particularity.”

It is the owner’s particularity that determines if an egg-bulk size of dough that is wrapped around the kneading bowl should be removed on Passover or simply reside in all its baked-in goodness. And in case you think it would be a waste to rid yourself of the bowl ahead of Passover that has dough baked into its crevices, just imagine that you always considered it to be part of the bowl itself – which is your own specific particularity. In this instance, the dough is no longer food.  But be careful not to push this general principle too far, because Abaye is watching and he has declared that the Mishna “cannot be so drastically emended merely to resolve a difficulty.” So, its best regardless of your own particularity, to put that bowl away where it shall not be seen or found on Passover.

And if that is not enough, we are told that dough can be hearing-impaired. The Talmud, which calls it “deaf dough,” says that such a dough is characterized in this insensitive way because “it is difficult to determine if it has been leavened.” If two doughs reside side-by-side, and one has clearly leavened, the other one is also assumed to have done so, whether it shows signs of being leavened or not.

If you want to take a nice brisk walk with your companion dough (which has taken on many human characteristics in today’s reading, but frankly my preferred companions are cats), we are told that leavening occurs in the time it takes to walk a mil or 2,000 cubits. The notes in the Koren Talmud tell us that this time varies from 18 to 24 minutes. We are told that this is relevant for two reasons: if one is a professional dough kneader and requires water to purify his hands for the sake of ritual purity, he is only required to walk four mil in search of water. Otherwise, he should just make do (with hand sanitizer?) And by comparison we are told that walking four mil also constitutes the length of time it takes to tan a hide, which transforms an impure animal skin into leather. Of course, stringent vegetarians would consider the leather impermissible regardless of the 18-minute rule.

We are introduced to the concepts of “since, etc” and the “benefit of discretion.” There are disputes on the matter, but there is a position that your dough is your dough, and this includes the halla portion that you have put aside for the priests. You can decide a specific priest who you would like to give your halla to, which we are told constitutes the “benefit of discretion.” You have the freedom to give it to the sensitive priest who asks about your health, the young priest who sings modern versions of hymns, or the crankly old priest who always corrects your pronunciation. You can even hold back the halla if you want and have the separation voided. This freedom to determine the fate of your dough can have great value, although the Rabbis debate if it can be monetized.

I have no issues with the word “since.” It is a great connector between the past and the present. It allows one to articulate what has happened in the passage of time it takes to walk the four biblical mils or to tan a hide. But I am not a fan of the use of “etc.” It is an abbreviation for “et cetera” which is a Latin phrase. Et means “and.” Cetera means the “rest.” And I suppose my gripe is not with “and’ which connects thoughts in English and allows us to move on with our ideas. But using an abbreviation for the “rest” seems like short-hand for something not quite articulated.

There is poetry in creating lists and naming things. Even in today’s difficult text, there is a certain satisfaction in naming the kneading bowl with dough attached to its crevices and envisioning what it might look and feel like. There is the imagination of the 4 mil walk with the bowl underneath one’s arm and the tanning of the hide and the determining of which priest should receive one’s halla. So much is lost when the naming of items and people and concepts are circumvented by “etc.” Why not take a moment and say it and name it. It is your own specific human particularity.

https://brokentabletsfrompennycagan.me/pesachim/pesachim-46

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 https://brokentabletsfrompennycagan.me
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