August 16, 2022

Ketubot 34

Today’s daf (Ketubot 34a) cites a beraita – quoted in at least six other places in the Talmud (eg. Shabbat 38a) – which raises the question of whether food cooked on Shabbat in a halakhically prohibited manner may be eaten. As I explained in my commentary on Shabbat 38a (see, according to Rabbi Meir, if someone accidentally/unintentionally (בשוגג) cooks food on Shabbat in a prohibited manner, both the person who cooked the food, or any other Jew, may eat that food on Shabbat. However, if they deliberately (במזיד) cooked food on Shabbat in a prohibited manner, neither the one who cooked nor anyone else may eat the food on Shabbat – but they may do so once Shabbat is over. Rabbi Yehuda disagrees and rules that if a Jew accidentally/unintentionally (בשוגג) cooks food on Shabbat, no one may eat that food on Shabbat – although they can eat it once Shabbat is over. However, if someone deliberately (במזיד) cooked food on Shabbat, other people can eat the food after Shabbat, but the person who cooked can never eat the food. A third opinion is offered by Rabbi Yochanan haSandlar who rules that if someone cooks food on Shabbat, whether they do it accidentally/ unintentionally (בשוגג) or deliberately (במזיד), then they themselves may never eat the food (nb. as noted in our daf, this is because he considers such food to be ‘consecrated’). Still, if it was cooked accidentally/ unintentionally (בשוגג), others can eat it after Shabbat, while if it was cooked deliberately (במזיד), then they too can never eat the food.

Having reviewed this debate, I then asked readers to consider the following scenario: ‘What is the law if someone who is less religious (who we presume does not fully know the laws of בישול בשבת and therefore can be considered to be acting בשוגג) cooks on Shabbat in a halakhically prohibited manner who then wishes to serve this food, on Shabbat, to a friend or relative who is particular in their Shabbat observance? May that person eat the food? As should be clear, whom we follow in this debate has a direct bearing on how we answer this question. If we follow Rabbi Yochanan haSandlar, then they can never eat that food. If we follow Rabbi Yehuda, then the more religious person can only eat the food after Shabbat. Whereas if we follow Rabbi Meir, then the food may be eaten on Shabbat.’

So what is the halacha? ‘According to the Rif, Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 318:1), we rule in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda. However, Tosfot and the Vilna Gaon state that the halachah follows Rabbi Meir. As the Mishna Brurah (ibid. note 7) explains, while we generally follow Rabbi Yehuda, in a time of need (במקום הצורך) we can rely on the position of Tosfot and the Vilna Gaon and therefore follow the lenient ruling of Rabbi Meir’. It is on this point that I added that the concept of ‘need’ certainly includes maintaining a positive relationship with one’s family especially if a person wishes to make religious strides towards greater religious observance – for if religious growth means disconnecting from those who have done so much for you, how can that truly be considered growth?

As mentioned, much of the above is taken from my commentary to Shabbat 38a. So why am I repeating it here? Firstly, because this beraita is found in today’s daf – so if the Gemara felt the need to repeat this piece, I’m in good company! But more significantly – because this message needs to be regularly revisited as I regularly encounter individuals and families where religion has been misunderstood and halacha misapplied such that it has brought division and disconnection within families.

Ultimately I believe that we should take God seriously, we should take Torah seriously, and we should take halacha seriously. At the same time we should also take marriages seriously, family seriously, and friendships seriously. So if you are finding that a clash has developed between your religious commitments and your commitment to your family and friends, I urge you to take it seriously – because it is possible that, especially due to your need, an alternative solution can be found.

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