Sunday, July 29, 2007

More on the 9 Days, and Meat and Wine

In my previous post I discussed how the original prohibition in the gemara, of not eating meat and drinking wine for the seuda hamafsekes when after chatzos, was extended to other times, such as the shavua shechal bo, the full 9 days, the night after Tisha BeAv, the 10th of Av until chatzos (and according to one minhag all the way from the 17th of Tammuz). I suggested that the reason for the initial prohibition is that meat and wine are signs of joy, along the lines of ain simcha ela bevasar veyayin.

There is another aspect, that of containing some aspect of the Temple ceremony, which is brought down in Bava Batra 60b, but which Rif brings down specifically in this context of the practice of not eating meat after chatzot of erev Tisha BeAv for the seuda hamafseket.

Rif, in Rif Taanit 10b in pages of Rif:
גרסי' בסוף חזקת הבתים
תנו רבנן כשחרב הבית באחרונה נהגו פרושים שבישראל שלא לאכול בשר ושלא לשתות יין
נטפל להן ר' יהושע בן חנניה
אמר להן בני מנין לכם
אמרו לו נאכל בשר שהיו מקריבין ממנו ע"ג המזבח ועכשיו בטל
נשתה יין שהיו מנסכין ממנו על גבי המזבח ועכשיו בטל
אמר להם א"כ לחם לא נאכל שכבר בטלו מנחות
אמרו לו אפשר בפירות
אמר להם פירות לא נאכל שכבר בטלו הבכורים.
אמרו לו אפשר בפירות אחרות
אמר להם מים לא נשתה שכבר בטל ניסוך המים
מיד שתקו
אמר להם בני בואו ואומר לכם שלא להתאבל כל עיקר א"א שכבר נגזרה גזירה להתאבל יתר מדאי א"א שאין גוזרין גזירה על הצבור אא"כ רוב הצבור יכולין לעמוד בה
אלא כך אמרו חכמים סד אדם את ביתו בסיד ומשייר בה דבר מועט

וכמה אמר רב יוסף אמה על אמה
אמר רב חסדא וכנגד הפתח.

We learn at the end of Chezkat haBatim {Bava Batra 60b}
The Sages learnt {in a brayta}: When the Temple was last destroyed, the ascetics in Israel adopted a custom not to eat meat and not to drink wine {ever}.
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chanania conversed with them.
He said to them: My sons, where do you get this?
They said to him: Shall we eat meat, where they used to sacrifice from it on the altar, and now it is nullified?! Shall we drink wine, which they used to pour libations of it on the altar, and now it is nullified?!
He said to them: If so, we should not eat bread because the meal-offerings were nullified.
They said to him: It is possible to make do with fruit.
He said to them: Fruits we should not eat, for the bikkurim {first fruits} were nullified.
They said to him: It is possible with other fruits.
He said to them: We should not drink water, for the water libation has been already nullified.
Immediately, they were quiet {and had no answer}.
He said to them: My sons, come and I will tell you: Not to mourn whatsoever is not possible, for a decree has already been decreed. To mourn overmuch is not possible, for we do not decree on the community unless the majority {perhaps multitude} of the community is able to handle it. Rather, so said the Sages: One should whitewash his house with lime but leave a little bit {untreated}.

And how much? Rav Yosef said: A cubit by a cubit.
Rav Chisda said: And opposite the door.
Thus, this ascetic practice developed not to consume meat and wine ever, to be perpetually in mourning for the destroyed Temple. This is taking asceticism too far, and creating and imposing too-stringent practices upon the community. And he also argues using a reductio ad absurdum, to which they finally acquiesce. There is place for perpetual mourning and reminder, but that is within the prescribed parameters defined by Chazal.

Despite the given associations with Temple practice, I still think that what happened here is that they took the two practices associated with joy and said that such joy is never allowed, because of the destruction of the Temple. Just like playing music -- aich nashir et shir haShem al admat neichar? And it is poetic to contrast it to the Temple practice which, because of the destruction of the Temple, they could no longer do it.

It is good that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chanania nipped this ascetic practice in the bud when it first began to take hold, and before the entire community took it upon themselves. Perhaps this should have been (and should be) Rabbinic response throughout the ages as new ascetic expansions took place -- to challenge it at that point, before it flourished into minhag and then binding practice.

More later, about whether you can eat a potato out of the chulent on the 9 days.

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