כ״ב בניסן ה׳תשע״ד (April 22, 2014)

Beitza 23a-b: Eating Roasted Meat at the Seder

The Mishna (22b) teaches that Rabban Gamliel rules leniently on three issues concerning Yom Tov. He permitted the floors to be swept (he was not concerned that sweeping the floor would fill in holes), he allowed incense to be burned and he encouraged people to eat a roasted goat on the night of the Passover seder.

The Gemara on our daf  discusses the case of the Passover seder, which was a point of disagreement because the other Sages felt that it looked too much like the actual Pesaḥ sacrifice. The question at hand was: following the destruction of the Temple, what is the best course of action? Should we eat meat at the seder roasted in commemoration of the Passover sacrifice that had to be roasted (see Sh’mot 12:8-9) or would doing so present a problem because it would appear that the sacrifice was being eaten outside the precincts of Jerusalem?

It is taught in a baraita in this regard that Rabbi Yosei says: Theodosius [Todos] of Rome, leader of the Jewish community there, instituted the custom for the Roman Jews to eat whole kids on the night of Passover, in commemoration of the practice followed in the Temple. sent a message to him: Were you not Theodosius, an important person, we would have decreed ostracism upon you , as you are feeding the Jewish people consecrated food, which may be eaten only in and around the Temple itself, outside the Temple.

The Gemara in Pesahim (53a) asks whether the reluctance to place Todos under ban stemmed from the fact that he was a talmid hakham, or, perhaps, because he was a powerful figure who could not be punished. The Hatam Sofer points out that this is not merely a theoretical question, but a practical one from which we can deduce that a talmid hakham should not be punished for making an error, but should simply be warned about it.

In response, the Gemara in Pesahim offers two stories about him.

The first story quotes Todos as teaching an aggadic homily, in which he explained the actions of Hananiah, Misha’el and Azariah who allowed themselves to be thrown into a fiery furnace (see Daniel chapter 3 ) by comparing their situation to that of the frogs of the second of the ten plagues in Egypt who willingly jumped into burning ovens (see Sh’mot 7:28). According to this story, since we have records of Todos teaching Torah publicly, apparently he was a scholar.

Rabbi Yosei bar Avin relates the second story, that Todos was someone who supported Torah scholars by lending money or merchandise to them, thus allowing them to support themselves. It should be noted that the Rambam lists eight levels of charity (see Rambam Hilkhot Matnot Aniyim 10:7) ranging from giving a hand-out to a poor person to offering assistance in a secretive way. The highest level enumerated is someone who enters into a partnership with a poor person, allowing him to become self-sufficient, which, apparently, was Todos’ relationship with the Torah scholars in his community.

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