ג׳ במרחשון ה׳תשע״ג (October 19, 2012)

Shabbat 16a-b: Impurity of Metal Vessels

The Gemara on today’s daf discusses a teaching quoted in the name of Shimon ben Shatah that decreed impurity on metal vessels. This teaching is odd because it is clear that the laws of impurity regarding metal vessels are Biblical laws (Bamidbar 31:22-23). The Gemara explains that this refers to a very specific case.

This ordinance of Shimon ben Shataḥ with regard to the impurity of metal vessels in general was only needed with regard to previous impurity reassumed by metal vessels after they are recast. As R Yehuda said that Rav said: There was an incident involving Shimon ben Shataḥ’s sister, Shel Tziyyon the queen,who made a wedding feast for her son. All of her vessels became impure, and she broke them and gave them to the smith, and he welded the broken vessels together and made new vessels. And said: What she did was ineffective, as all the vessels will reassume their previous impurity.

Shel Tziyyon the queen was a queen of the Hasmonean dynasty, the wife of King Alexander Yannai, and the sister of Shimon ben Shataḥ. Shel Tziyyon, or Shlomtziyyon, and in some sources Shalminon or Shlomit, was originally the wife of the Hasmonean king Aristobolos. After his death, his brother Yannai performed an act of levirate marriage with her. Although the Hasmonean kings, and specifically Alexander Yannai, had Sadducee tendencies, Queen Shlomtziyyon followed the Pharisees, and even during her husband’s reign she labored to achieve unity. After the death of Alexander Yannai, she continued to rule over Israel for nine years. Those years, in which she served as the political leader, and her brother Shimon ben Shataḥ guided daily life and religious life, were considered the happiest years for the people of Israel during the Second Temple period.

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