ו׳ באלול ה׳תשע״ג (August 12, 2013)

Pesaḥim 53a-b: Eating Roasted Meat on Pesaḥ Following the Destruction of the Temple

One example of following the local custom that is discussed in the Mishna on our daf deals with a Pesah issue. 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 Shmot 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? The Mishna rules that either of these customs can be followed, each in the community where it is the accepted tradition.

Rabbi Yosei said: Theodosius [Todos] of Rome, leader of the Jewish community there, instituted the custom for the Roman Jews to eat [goat] kids roasted [mekulas] whole with their entrails over their heads on the evenings of Passover, as was the custom in the Temple. sent a message to him: If you were not Theodosius, an important person, I would have decreed ostracism upon you, as it appears as if you are feeding Israel consecrated food, which may be eaten only in and around the Temple itself, outside the permitted area.

While the tanna’im of the Mishna apparently knew him well, Todos was not a well-known character to the amora’im of the Gemara, who ask whether the reluctance to place him 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 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 Shmot 7:28). According to this story, since we have records of Todos teaching Torah publicly, apparently he was a scholar.

Rabbi Yossi 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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