י״ג במרחשון ה׳תשע״ג (October 29, 2012)

Shabbat 26a-b: Standing in the Study Hall

While discussing the limitations on the different types of oil that may be used for lighting Shabbat candles, the Gemara repeats the restrictive ruling in the Mishna (see above, daf  24 .

Rabbi Tarfon says: One may only light with olive oil alone.

In response to this teaching the Gemara relates the following incident:

Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri stood on his feet and, contrary to this statement, said: And what shall the people of Babylonia, who have only sesame oil, do? And what shall the people of Medea, who have only nut oil, do? And what shall the people of Alexandria, who have only radish oil, do? And what shall the people of Cappadocia, who have neither this nor that but only naphtha, do? Rather, you have a prohibition only with regard to those substances with regard to which said: One may not light with them. All other oils are permitted.

Generally speaking, all of the Sages sat in the study hall and voiced their opinions on different topics while seated. Since certain Sages wanted to rule stringently with regard to enhancement of the mitzva, Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri stood up in order to emphasize his objection to these stringencies. He asserted that the restrictions would eventually become too burdensome and would ultimately prevent people from fulfilling the mitzva of kindling the Shabbat lights.

Aside from naphtha that was discussed above (see daf 24), most of the other oils are of plant origin.

Radish oil is produced from radish seeds, probably from the radish species Raphunus sativus, whose seeds contain a high concentration of oil. Ancient writers indicate that radish oil was prevalent in Egypt during the talmudic period.

Regarding gourd oil, the gourds mentioned in the Bible and the Mishna have been identified with the plant known as the bitter apple, the Citrullus colocynthis L. of the gourd family. This plant is similar to a watermelon and is found along the coastal plain and the other sandy regions of Israel. The plant has finger-like leaves that are somewhat similar to grape leaves and round fruits that are approximately 10 cm in diameter with a thick rind. The fruit is spongy, filled with seeds, and has a bitter taste.
It is possible to extract oil from the seeds, generally as much as 15 percent of the weight of the seeds. The oil can be used for food or light.

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