February 14, 2023

Nedarim 38

Today’s daf (Nedarim 38b) makes reference to a כּוֹס שֶׁל שָׁלוֹם (literally, ‘a cup of peace’). However, we are then told that there is a debate as to what this is referring to.
According to the Torah scholars of Babylon, it is a כּוֹס שֶׁל בֵּית הָאֵבֶל – the cup offered to a mourner while mourning the loss of their close relative. Alternatively, the Torah scholars of Israel suggest that it is a כּוֹס שֶׁל בֵּית הַמֶּרְחָץ – meaning, the cup offered to those who have just been in the hot-water bathhouse.
Clearly these two explanations are very different (in fact, it is noteworthy that among the various limitations placed on a mourner in their week of mourning is going to a hot-water bathhouse – see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 381:1 based on Moed Katan 15b). Given this, how could these different scholars reach such different conclusions from this same expression of כּוֹס שֶׁל שָׁלוֹם? The answer, I believe, is based on how we understand the word שָׁלוֹם – peace.
In terms of the latter interpretation, the hot-water bathhouse was a place not just for cleansing but also for socializing. In this context, כּוֹס שֶׁל שָׁלוֹם refers to the inner peace one feels when their ‘cup’ is full; when they are able to enjoy the hot water of the bathhouse and then spend time with friends in a relaxed setting. It is the שָׁלוֹם of having what you want.
In contrast, the explanation of כּוֹס שֶׁל שָׁלוֹם as כּוֹס שֶׁל בֵּית הָאֵבֶל refers to when a person feels that their cup is low or even empty and when they are in a state of pain and distress. But if this is the case why is the cup called a כּוֹס שֶׁל שָׁלוֹם? Because when someone feels like they are falling and then looks around and sees that others are there for them and will be there for them, it not only refills part of their metaphorical cup, but it also provides them with peace when they most need it. This is the שָׁלוֹם of receiving what you need.
Our Rabbis tell us (Avot 4:1) that one who is rich is someone who is happy with what they have – so if you are blessed to have what you want, it is important to be at peace (שָׁלוֹם) with what you have.
At the same time, we are also taught that we should do what we can to give chizuk and to help people who may be suffering or falling (see Vayikra 25:35), because sometimes, by just being there for someone in need, you provide them with more peace (שָׁלוֹם) of mind than you will ever know.
Ultimately, our task is to find peace and help others do the same. It is to appreciate and to drink from our כּוֹס שֶׁל שָׁלוֹם, and also to do whatever we can to fill the כּוֹס שֶׁל שָׁלוֹם of others. It is to value שָׁלוֹם, to seek שָׁלוֹם, and do what we can to provide שָׁלוֹם to the lives of others.
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