January 2, 2022

Rosh Hashanah 12

Almost every year, at some point on January 1st, we read of a similar story highlighting one of the most fascinating aspects of time which describes how, at some point and in some place around the world in the prior 24 hours, twins were born – with one born just before midnight on December 31st – thus being registered as having been born in one year, and another just after midnight on January 1st – thus being registered as having been born in the next year.
Moreover, as Pamela Prindle Fierro points out (see https://bit.ly/3jm70qv), ‘some other twins can make an even greater claim to fame—being born in different millennia. The Wallman twins from Indianapolis, Indiana were born at 11:59 p.m. Friday, December 31, 1999, and 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, January 1, 2000,’ leading Melka, Miller, and Fox to observe in their article on ‘Labor and Delivery of Twin Pregnancies’ that while, ‘an interval of several minutes between births isn’t uncommon for twins, especially if they are delivered via cesarean section, but because they straddle the midnight hour, they gain notoriety.’
As a parent of twins, the topic of time – in our case, the single minute between the birth of Shoshi and Libbi – is a regular source of discussion, and though our twins were not born ‘straddling the midnight hour’, nevertheless that single minute is both meaningless and meaningful in so many different ways.
I mention all this as a prelude to today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 12a-b) which quotes a Beraita that speaks of a similar situation where, ‘if someone picked a vegetable (or asked that someone else pick the vegetable) just prior to the onset of Rosh Hashanah, and then [a non-Jew picked a vegetable for them] after the sun went down (i.e. once Rosh Hashanah has started), we may not separate Terumah or Ma’aser from one for the other. This is because we may not separate Terumah and Ma’aser either from the new [crop] for the old, or from the old [crop] for the new.’
Just like the above-mentioned examples of twins, here we read how vegetables from different years were picked, and since the contribution of Terumah or Ma’aser must be distinct for each year, they need to be treated as two different bundles of produce – even though they were picked just minutes apart. What we see from here is that time can be a divider; it can distinguish between one thing and another, and at times just a few minutes can lead to people being born in different years, or vegetables being identified with different years.
Yet while even just a minute seemingly makes some difference at birth, and even though when we are young we are often guided to seek friends who are in our class and of our age, as I’ve gotten older and valued time even more, I’ve found that the months and years that separate me and my friends actually make much less of a difference. I have friends who are older, and those who are younger, and while there are moments when these differences are pronounced, they are few and far between.
And this brings me back to what I said about our twins where, ‘that single minute is both meaningless and meaningful in so many different ways’, because what I think we learn from today’s daf is that we should individuate between the meaningless and meaningful, and know that while time can distinguish, in so many ways it need not divide.
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