Today’s section continues explaining the mishnah. Pagans made a feast on the day that the they shaved their beards/heads. My wife was quite happy when I shaved my beard as well. She owes me a holiday.
According to Rashi, when the pagans cut their hair they would leave a lock on the back. This lock was a sign of idolatry. Once a year they would cut the lock off. The question is—what does the mishnah refer to? The usual cutting of the hair/beard when the lock would be left? Or the once a year cutting of the hair when the lock is removed? The answer is both! Those pagans sure did love their hair-cutting parties.
Okay, this is about as cryptic as they get. Let’s try to explain one thing at a time.
The healthy man—Esau, progenitor of Rome.
The lame man—Jacob, whose leg was hurt wrestling with the angel.
Clothes of the first Adam—according to midrashic legend these were inherited by Esau.
The scalp of R. Ishmael—a high priest killed by the Romans. He was legendarily beautiful and when they scalped him, they preserved it in oil.
The reckoning of the ruler is wrong—The ruler is Jacob who said that the time for the Jews to be redeemed would come. Jacob is the brother of our lord, Esau. Jacob was the one who deceived Esau out of his blessing and birthright.
They do finish the holiday with a warning—Woe to Rome, when Jacob arises.
Steinsaltz explains that there was indeed a Roman holiday that was rarely celebrated and where they would declare something similar to “Let him who will see it, see it…” But the other details are, not surprisingly, not similar.
Ashi notices that there is a way of interpreting the statement Romans’ as if they are saying that their own lord is an impostor. Good one R. Ashi!
The Tanna of the Mishnah includes only holidays that are every year.
The Talmud completes by listing the Persian and Babylonian holidays. I do not know what holidays these are.
Today’s section continues to discuss idol worship outside of Israel.
Rav seems to be saying that only in these places is there fixed idol worship. In such places, business with the idol worshippers would always be prohibited.
These two sages provide a few additional places with fixed idol worship.
Hanan’s maternal grandfather explains what “fixed” means.
The Mishnah stated that it is prohibited to engage in business with pagans for three days before their festivals. Shmuel says that this prohibition does not apply in the Diaspora.
Interestingly, here we see Babylonian amoraim actually engaging in business with pagans on the day of their festivals. While Shmuel was lenient in the Diaspora, he was not this lenient. The Talmud resolves this by stating that this “festival of the merchants” was not a fixed festival and therefore one could engage in business even on the day itself. It seems that there is a different, even more lenient meaning of “fixed” here. “Fixed” means that it happens not all the time, as it meant above, but at the same time every year.
This week’s daf opens with a new mishnah.
The prohibition of conducting business with non-Jews during their holidays is limited to the city that is actually celebrating the holiday. Outside of the city it is permitted to conduct business with them. The type of holiday referred to in this mishnah is probably a local holiday and not one that would have been observed throughout the land.
This section begins with a question, a literary form that is not typical for mishnah. The question is: can one go to this city on the day of the celebration? If the answer to this question were to be categorically affirmative, stating that Jews are not allowed to even travel on the road to that city, it would create another fence to prevent Jews from aiding non-Jews in their celebrations. However, the answer is not categorical. Rather, a Jew may travel on the road to this city as long as the road leads to other places as well. If it only leads to this place then it is forbidden. After all, if the Jew was travelling to this place on the holiday and the road only travels to that city, he is obviously going to transgress the prohibition, or perhaps even worse, to actually celebrate with them.
Today’s sugya begins to explain the mishnah.
Shimon b. Lakish cites the fair in Gaza as an example of a fair that takes place outside of the city.
In this version of the above passage, R. Shimon b. Lakish asks R. Hanina if one can engage in business with pagans at the fair in Gaza. R. Hanina responds that it is permitted, for it is similar to a case where a Jew and a non-Jew placed two pots on the same stove. The Talmud will now delve into this case—what could our concern have possibly been and how is this similar to the case of engaging in business with pagans at their fairs. We should note that Rashi extensively explains how these two issues are similar. I am going to keep my explanation short, on a slightly more superficial level.