Shabbat 50

Speaking up.

In yesterday’s daf, we learned from a mishnah that while one may insulate a pot of cooked food in a woolen fleece before Shabbat starts, once Shabbat starts one may not then move the fleece off the pot. The assumption here is that the fleece is an item that otherwise would be for sale and thus it’s in the category of muktzeh, or things set-aside, that one has no business dealing with on Shabbat. However, this creates a tricky situation. On one hand, before Shabbat we’re allowed to insulate it with the woolen fleece keeping our food warm. But after Shabbat we’re stuck with warm food that we can’t access.

What should we do? Luckily, the mishnah has a solution: lift the cover of the pot, allow the fleece to fall by itself and, voilà, the food is made accessible.

But Rava, a much later Amora, seems to think this is unnecessary. As long as one insulated the cooked food in the fleece, one may indeed move the fleece. It is surprising to see a later sage, an Amora, contradicting a mishnah — a teaching from the generations of the Tannaim. Usually, Amoraim would not contradict these revered predecessors.

Here begins today’s daf and here enters a sage on his very first day in the beit midrash:

A certain sage for whom it was his first day in that study hall raised an objection to Rava by quoting our mishna: “One may insulate food in wool fleece, and one may not move it. How, then, does he act if he insulated food in wool fleece and now wishes to remove the pot? He lifts the cover, which he is permitted to move, and the wool fleece falls by itself.” Contrary to Rava’s statement, even wool fleece in which a person insulated food may not be moved on Shabbat.

Wait a minute, the newbie says to Rava, You can’t be right; that’s not what the mishna taught. The newcomer objects to the senior sage not with hesitation or minced words, but simply quotes the mishna rights back to him.

As a result, the Gemara is forced to reinterpret what Rava said. It couldn’t have been that Rava was granting permission to simply remove the fleece from the pot. Rather, the Gemara concludes, Rava must have meant that one could move the fleece only in a situation in which one had explicitly designated the fleece for the purpose of insulating food before Shabbat, rendering it no longer muktzeh.

So often, when we are the new kid on the block, we are unsure of our position and we find it difficult to speak up, even when we know that we have information that might be valuable to share. We’re afraid to be wrong, we’re afraid to overstep our boundaries, we’re afraid we’ll be dismissed. And yet, our voices might make all the difference.

Read all of Shabbat 50 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on April 25, 2020. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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