Beitzah 40

Divvying up the leftovers.

We’ve made it to the end of another tractate! And what a tractate it’s been: It all started with a debate about eggs and discussions of the minutiae of cooking, as well as carrying and sacrificing on festivals. It also brought us many stories about rabbis and their adventures, and lots of biblical interpretation to boot. We learned why Jews outside the land of Israel celebrate two day festivals, the origin of the notion that we receive an extra soul on Shabbat, sat in on a debate about the wording of the Amidah, learned something about the history of Talmud manuscripts, and much more. It hasn’t been an easy tractate, but it’s been a rich one for us to learn together. Mazal tov!

One of my favorite things about the Jewish holidays is all the delicious food. Many of us have been guests (or hosts) at tables groaning under the weight of delicious holiday food, more food than guests can reasonably eat. Of course, leftovers cause their own problems — even more so in the days before refrigeration. Today’s daf therefore asks a very important leftover-related question: Given that carrying over long distances is not permitted on festivals, if one is invited to someone else’s house for a holiday meal, can they carry home leftovers? 

The mishnah at the top of today’s daf tells us that:

One who invited guests, they may not carry any portions (of the food) in their hands unless he transferred ownership of their portions to them on the eve of the festival.

We’ve already learned that there are strict limits to how far anyone can travel on Shabbat and festivals. We’ve also learned that those distances are calculated individually, for each specific person relative to their home, their personal property, and their regular routine. According to the Gemara, then, the only way that these guests can take home leftovers is if the host intentionally designated them owners of their portion of the feast before the holiday started.

But, you may be thinking, even if the host designates these portions for their guests to take home, they are actually still in the host’s house and need to be carried. And doesn’t their physical location matter? The Gemara asks and answers this same question:

It is considered as a case of one who designated a corner for him.

The Gemara concludes that the host actually designates not just the food but even the part of the house where the leftovers are kept as belonging to the guests, so they can in fact take possession on the holiday, and carry the leftovers away.

What will you carry away from this tractate? Jews traditionally end every tractate by ritually declaring “Hadran alach Massekhet [insert name of tractate]” – we will return to you, Tractate X. We hope to return to each tractate because there is still much for us to learn from them. Though I know we have all taken much wisdom from this tractate, the sages remind us that there is still plenty left over (pun intended) for us to take. And if today’s daf is a sign, that wisdom was already designated as ours before we even showed up to learn. Hadran alach Massechet Beitzah!

Read all of Beitzah 40 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on October 10th, 2021. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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