The other day I posted over at EdibleTorah about a Passover law found in Talmud – which essentially said that you can’t hope to control EVERYTHING. The specifics were that, if a weasel carried a piece of bread into your home, it wasn’t a violation of Passover kashrut. Likewise, if your dog dragged some chametz into a room where you had already cleaned, it wasn’t your responsibility.
Dogs will be dogs, weasels will be weasels.
The key point (for this conversation) was the final phrase: “There is [then] no end to the matter”
I am told that this phase, used to limit potential excesses in observant behavior, appears often in Talmud.
I find that deeply comforting.
BUT… this phrase is never used in the context of every-day (versus special Passover) kashrut. Never.
Now maybe it’s just where I am right now – struggling with whether I need a pareve (in addition to milk and meat) set of silverware. “Enough!” my mind shouts out. “Will we also need milk, meat and pareve toothpicks? Napkins? Seat cushions? Is there no end to the matter??”
I haven’t found out yet whether the lack of this phrase is
- indicative that there is, in fact, no end to the matter. People need to go to whatever extent they can to feel that they are “in bounds” with regard to kashrut
- a mere oversight and not significant of anything. In this case, the Talmudic intent is still that one should exercise reasonable restraint in pursuing this mitzvah.
I sincerely hope it’s the latter. Not just because I am currently feel tired and bedraggled and frazzled by the onslaught of hekshur and hagalah, of separating and then recombining my kitchen items, of kashering for everyday only to kasher for Pesach. No, that is a piece but not just because of that.
I hope reason has a place in this process because, especially at this time of year, I am painfully aware that my own Yetzer HaRa (often translated as “inclination to do evil” but more accurately as “inclination to unrestrained passions”) goads me to nit-pick every observance, to question the validity of the way I have performed it. Between my Yetzer and I, there is no “good enough” or even “good enough for this year”. My Yetzer HaRa gleefully acknowledges “no end to the matter”, and I don’t want to be left standing without the protection of Rabbinic reason to keep myself in check.