Pesachim 12

Is it lunchtime yet?

Today’s daf focuses on when a person must stop eating hametz on Erev Passover. As part of that discussion, the rabbis discuss when people usually eat. Rav Papa starts with a blanket statement about breakfast:

The fourth hour is mealtime for everyone.

The Gemara then cites a beraita which offers a more complicated picture:

Eating in the first hour of the morning is the time of eating for ludim. The second hour is the time of eating for robbers. The third hour is the time of eating for heirs. The fourth hour is the time of eating for workers. The fifth hour is the time of eating for Torah scholars. The sixth hour is the time of eating for all people.

To get grammatical for a minute, the Hebrew word ludim is actually the Greek word ludos with a Hebrew plural ending. This word refers to specifically to gladiators and gladiatorial schools. As bodybuilders today can attest, building muscle requires frequent meals to supplement a rigorous physical exercise regimen. Apparently, gladiators would therefore get up early to eat before they began their extensive training for the day.

Why would robbers eat a little later than gladiators? Since they have spent the whole night thieving, this is when the rabbis imagine robbers would have their meal before going to sleep for the day.

The term “heir” refers to anyone who has inherited anything. But in this context, it refers to those who have inherited wealth and thus don’t have to get up early and get to work. These people have the privilege of sleeping a bit later and taking a long and leisurely breakfast starting in the third hour.

According to the beraita, laborers, Torah scholars and everyone else eats later in the day, when their labors allow it.

Now, of course, we must address the disagreement. Rav Papa stated that everyone eats at the same time, specifically the fourth hour. The Gemara then cited an earlier source which suggests that people with different occupations eat at different times. Back to the Gemara:

But didn’t Rav Pappa say that the fourth hour is the time of eating for all? Rather, reverse the fourth, fifth, and sixth hours: The fourth hour is mealtime for all people, the fifth hour is the time of eating for workers, and the sixth hour is the time of eating for Torah scholars.

Curiously, the Gemara doesn’t explicitly state that Rav Papa is wrong, but revises the statement of the sages on when all people, laborers, and Torah scholars eat breakfast. This version makes the sages the most hard-working and the latest to dine! It also brings us into closer agreement with Rav Papa by assigning “all people” to the fourth hour.  But by insisting that eating times are differentiated by occupation, the Talmud implicitly sides with the sages over Rav Papa.

Our jobs shape our bodies and our experiences of time — everyone has different schedules and different bodily needs. Even in a moment of profound unity – preparing to celebrate the nation’s exodus from Egypt — the Gemara reminds us that within that unity is difference. Today’s daf highlights the need to take account of that difference in shaping our collective experience of the holiday.

Read all of Pesachim 12 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on December 3rd, 2020. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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