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We know from the torah (and last week's daf post) that one who steals an ox or sheep and sells or slaughters it owes five-fold payment for the ox and four-fold payment for the sheep. The g'mara on today's daf expands on this: in addition to selling or slaughtering it, he owes the extra payment if he:

  • gives it to somebody else who then sells or slaughters it
  • consecrates it
  • gives it as a gift, including as a betrothal gift
  • barters with it or uses it to settle a debt
This list includes some transfers of ownership that don't involve payment (so not sales but similarly beneficial to the thief), but the case the g'mara calls out further is the first. We learn here that an agent's actions -- selling or slaughtering the animal -- are as if they were done by the principal (the person who appointed him as agent). That's normal for "positive" cases of agency -- for example, a man is considered to have circumcised his son if he hires a mohel to do it. But (according to the g'mara), nowhere else in torah does agency reflect on the principal for a transgression -- but it does for selling or slaughtering stolen livestock. (79a)

I presume that if you, say, hire a hit-man, while you might not be liable for capital murder under Jewish law, you'd still be liable for other penalties from the hiring/conspiracy.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Short takes from Pennsic:

  • At the A&S display we casually walked past high-quality displays just because we couldn't see everything and there were other high-quality displays. Well, that and crowds. Nifty. No musicians in evidence, but I'm not surprised -- that kind of setup doesn't work well for performance arts.
  • Our camp was visited by Duke Cariadoc, who entertained us with poems about William the Marshal. For all our years at Pennsic this is actually the first time he's visited a camp while I was there. I had the impression he didn't get up to the Serengeti much, but maybe I've just been unlucky.
  • The choir concert went pretty well, I thought. We had a pretty good audience, too -- something I always worry about with a 30-minute performance, given people's tendencies at Pennsic to have a pretty approximate relationship to time.
  • A couple months ago I'd seen a note that Yaakov HaMizrachi was going to be performing (storytelling), right after the choir concert but across camp. I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to attend (or, at best, would miss the first 15 minutes getting there). But I was in luck -- the performance immediately after the choir was cancelled, so they moved him to the main tent from the smaller stage he was to be on, so I got to hear him. He told a single hour-long story with nesting (three levels deep). I enjoyed it. (Alas, I didn't get to talk with him after.)
  • Day-tripping Pennsic (we were only there for two days) is a PITA, mainly because of the parking. The first day we happened to catch a bus up to the parking lot, but they'd stopped running by the time we were leaving on the second day, which was also my first experience with the overflow area.
  • Also, the food court has basically nothing to offer a vegetarian. I always take my own food to Pennsic, but that requires a cooler and we were just day-tripping and I figured maybe it's gotten better in the years that I've been ignoring the food court, so I hoped I'd be able to find a tossed salad or something. Eventually I found tuna salad at the Coopers-run place up by the barn (where one can also buy produce).
  • Note to future self: if you ever day-trip Pennsic again, which you shouldn't because it really stinks, bring a flashlight. Walking along an unfamiliar, rock-strewn, uneven dirt road just a couple days after the new moon was difficult. Because of the aforementioned unevenness and rocks, I wasn't really interested in carrying an expensive cell phone in my hand to use its flashlight app.
  • The weather cooperated the days we were there -- on the warm and humid side, but not unbearable and it didn't rain.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Me: books hotel in foreign city.
Me: books tour in that city.
Me: books another tour in that city.
Me: attempts to book tour in a different city.
Booking site: couldn't get approval.
Me: tries a different tour (and different vendor).
Booking site: nope, we don't like your credit card either.
Husband: tries (joint card) and fails.

Phone rings.

Caller: Hi, this is (bank).
Me: Oh good; I was just about to call you.
Caller: There were these transactions...
Me: Yes that was me.
Caller: Ok, better safe than sorry. We'll unblock your card now.
Me: By the way, here are some travel dates and locations.
Caller: Got it.

I'll gladly accept those five minutes of inconvenience for that level of fraud protection. I even still had a valid session for the failed transaction, so retrying was easy.

I would have called them with the dates and locations closer to the trip to avoid card declines, but I didn't think about how the advance charges would look.
 
 
 
 
 
 
We know from the torah (Ex 21:37) that if a man steals an ox and kills or sells it, he must pay five oxen in compensation (five times damages). The mishna on today's daf discusses this case. If the thief is convicted of the theft on testimony of two witnesses and the slaughter or sale on testimony of those same witnesses, and the witnesses are shown to be schemers (who plotted together to testify falsely), the witnesses must pay the fivefold damages in full. (The torah says that false witnesses are subject to the penalty they sought to impose on the other. In this case they're testifying against the thief who would owe fivefold damages if guilty, so they pay the damages.) If, however, the theft is established by one pair of witnesses and the slaughter/sale by another and all the witnesses turn out to be schemers, then the first two pay twofold and the second pair pays threefold (for the total of fivefold). If only the second pair are schemers, the thief pays twofold and the latter witnesses threefold. If just one of the second pair is a schemer the testimony of the second pair is thrown out, but if one of the first pair is a schemer then everything is thrown out, because if there was no theft then there could be no illegal sale/slaughter. (72b)

For a sheep it's fourfold damages, according to the torah. I don't know why four for a sheep but five for an ox.

 
 
 
 
 
 
In past weeks we've talked about liability for damages caused by one's animals. The next category of damages occupies only a few pages here (maybe there will be more later). Rather than skipping over it because I only post these once a week, I'm backing up a few days to compile some of the mishnayot about fire:

  • If a man sent out something burning through a deaf-mute, an idiot, or a minor, and damage resulted, he is not liable for judgements of men (because it is the actions of the other that led to the damage, even though the other is not deemed competent), but he is subject to the judgement of heaven. If he sent it through a "normal" person, that normal person is liable. If someone fans the flames, that person is liable. (59b)
  • If somebody allowed fire to break out from his property and it caused damage, he is liable. (60a) But if it crossed a wall four cubits high or a public road or a canal, he is not liable. (61a)
  • If a man sets fire to a stack of corn and there's other stuff buried in the corn that gets destroyed, the sages say he is liable only for damage to corn. If, however, he sets fire to a castle he is liable for all the contents. Why the difference? Because it is customary to keep valuables in one's home. (61b)
  • Now let's talk about indirect cause. If a spark escapes from under a hammer and does damage (I assume the context here is blacksmithing), the one hammering is liable. If a camel laden with flax was passing through a public thoroughfare and some flax got into a shop and caught fire from the shopkeeper's candle, the owner of the camel is liable. If, however, the shopkeeper left his candle outside, he (the shopkeeper) is liable. R' Yehudah says if it was a Chanukah candle he is not liable (because those are placed outside and can't be high up). (62b)
Today's daf is 65, part of a multi-page discussion about fines for theft of livestock.

 
 
 
 
 
 
We went up to Cooper's Lake on Sunday to help with Pennsic camp setup. It sure is weird to not have the house in camp. But we're only going to be there for a couple days (middle Sunday and Monday), because we have other plans for that vacation time later in the year.

There is now a solar panel on the pantry roof in our camp. It has begun.

Earlier this summer I finally read Pangaea, a shared-world anthology that also has an overall story. It includes a story by mabfan, which is how I became aware of it in the first place. I quite enjoyed it and wrote a post about it on Universe Factory. A second volume is due out later this year.

I picked up the first three books in Jody Lynn Nye's Mythology series (the first book is Mythology 101) in a Story Bundle a few months back. I almost didn't get it because I see Story Bundle as a way to get exposure to new authors/series/concepts, so having three of the ten (? around ten, anyway) books in the bundle be from the same series was counter to that. But I've now read them all and bought the fourth separately, so that turned out to be a win. The books revolve around an eccentric college student who finds out that the Little Folk are real, and living under his college's library. Antics ensue.

In June my employer sent me to a conference (to work, not to attend) in Las Vegas. Now I know, from TV and general media, that Las Vegas is larger than life. And I was still surprised. I was also not prepared for it to take a long time to get anywhere within the hotel complex, because of course they need to route you through the casinos that are everywhere. Casinos are not smoke-free, so I hurried through. Also, my hotel room -- the base room type, nothing fancy -- was larger than my first apartment.

No, I did not play any casino games. Casinos have two kinds of games: games of chance that favor the house, and games of skill that I'm not good enough at and that favor the house. I don't like those odds.

I've been with my current employer for a bit over two years now and I'm still loving it. My coworkers are great, I get a lot of control over what I work on, and I can tell that even though I am the single remote member of my group, I'm still able to teach and mentor and inspire. I think I know a thing or two about technical writing in the software world, and I am glad that I can flex those muscles and impart some of what I've learned. And they appreciate me (including tangible demonstration of same), and that matters too.
 
 
 
 
 
 
A mishna teaches: if a man puts sheep in a barn and latches the gate properly, and the sheep get out and do damage anyway, he is not liable. If he did not secure the gate, however, he is liable. If robbers break in and the sheep later get out, nobody is liable. But if robbers take the sheep out and leave them to wander, the robbers are liable for the damage they do. If a man hands his sheep over to a shepherd, the shepherd becomes liable in all ways that the owner otherwise would have been. And finally (for now), if a sheep accidentally falls into a garden and derives benefit payment is due for the amount of the benefit, but if it got there in the usual way, payment is due for the damage (change in value). (55b)

Today's daf is 58, where the g'maara is discussing this last point further. I think the distinction being made is between market price and property value -- what you could have gotten if you'd been able to sell, say, the fruit it ate, versus the cost of replacing plants that it damaged.

 
 
 
 
 
 
From the torah we learn that if one digs a pit on public land and an animal falls in it and dies, the one who opened the pit is liable. A mishna explains that this includes pits, ditches, trenches, and similar constructs, so long as they are at least 10 handbreadths deep. (The rabbis consider this the depth at which falling in is fatal.) The next mishna then talks about cases of joint digging: if two people dug, one after the other, and death results, who is liable? The mishna says the second digger; the g'mara explores this more and concludes that everybody who caused the pit to be at least 10 handbreadths, or who found it in that state and left it thus, is liable. So if somebody digs to nine handbreadths and then somebody else comes along and digs one more, the latter is liable, but if the first man dug to ten, both are. (50b-51)

 
 
 
 
 
 
Last Shabbat, friends introduced us to a new-ish board game, Splendor. Here's how Board Game Geek describes it:

Splendor is a game of chip-collecting and card development. Players are merchants of the Renaissance trying to buy gem mines, means of transportation, shops — all in order to acquire the most prestige points. If you're wealthy enough, you might even receive a visit from a noble at some point, which of course will further increase your prestige.
The game setup includes chips for each of the five gem types, cards in three levels of value that you can buy, and a small number of patrons who becomes yours if you satisfy their individual conditions. Every card counts as producing one gem of its color, and cards cost varying numbers of gems in different combinations. So, for example, if a card requires one red, one blue, and one black, and you have a black card, then you can buy the card for one red chip and one blue one. If that card produces blue, then the next time you can automatically pay black and/or blue without expending chips. So, the more cards you acquire the fewer chips you need... except that higher-level cards have higher costs, so you still need chips throughout the game.

Victory points come from higher-end cards (the lowest-level cards confer no points, only gem production) and from patrons. Patron conditions are based on cards, for example if you have four red and four green cards.

On your turn you can take chips, buy cards, or reserve cards (set a card aside that you will buy later, so someone else doesn't beat you to it). There are several cards available for purchase at any given time, so you're trying to balance costs (what can you afford), card type (you might want particular colors either to help with future purchases or for patrons), and what other players might do (if you spend this turn getting the chips to buy that card you want, will the card still be there next turn?). It's a well-balanced game, allowing for future planning without bogging down in it. We played several four-player and three-player games, and each took about half an hour.

The game is well-made; the plastic chips are hefty enough to saty where you put them on the table, the cards are sturdy, and -- rare for board games these days -- the molded compartments in the game box actually match up with the pieces. The game is pretty without the art impeding function.

The gem theme is just a theme; it's not intrinsic to the game the way, say, trains are intrinsic to Eurorails or building settlements is intrinsic to Settlers of Catan. The game would not play differently if rubies, emeralds, sapphires, onxy, and diamonds were replaced with wood, brick, stone, grain, and sheep. But the theme also doesn't get in the way, and even if we called the elements "red", "green", etc, there's no reason you couldn't treat them as gems.

 
 
 
 
 
 
The talmud has previously discussed direct damages from animals, such as the ox that gores and kills someone, and we have learned that if the ox was mu'ad (known to gore) there is full financial liability but if it was tam (not so known) there is less liability. The talmud now turns to indirect or misdirected damages. A mishna teaches: if an ox, by rubbing itself against a wall, causes the wall to fall on and kill somebody, or if it was trying to kill a beast and accidentally killed a person, or if it was aiming for a heathen but killed an Israelite, or was aiming at non-viable infants but killed a viable one -- for all these there is no liability. (But there might be according to the g'mara; it's a little hard for me to tell.) There is, it appears, some evaluation of intent, even for an ox, though how precisely it is judged is not stated here. (44a)

 
 
 
 
 
 
The talmud has previously talked about compensation that is due if your animal damages another, distinguishing between those that are known to be damaging (the ox that gores, mu'ad) and those that are not (tam). On today's daf the mishna talks about relationships between the owners. If a privately-owned ox gores an ox consecrated to the temple, or vice-versa, there is no liability, because it says "the ox of his neighbor" -- the temple is not "his neighbor". If an ox belonging to an Israelite gores one belonging to a Cana'anite there is no liability, but if an ox belonging to a Cana'anite gores one belonging to an Israelite, full compensation is due. (37b)

I don't see an explanation here about the asymmetry between the Israelite and the Cana'anite. According to a note in the Soncino edition, Maimonides, centuries later, explains: Cana'anites did not recognize the laws of social justics, and they were thus not entitled to claim protection under a law they did not respect. They could, however, be held liable under Israel's laws for damage they do to Israelites. That doesn't explain, however, why full compensation is due from the Cana'anite regardless of whether the ox is mu'ad or tam; an Israelite would owe another Israelite half damages in the latter case.

 
 
 
 
 
 
The talmud moves on from damages caused by animals to damages caused by people unintentionally. The mishna says: if a man pours out water into public ground and somebody is injured as a result, he is liable. And similarly if he dumps thorns or broken glass and someone is injured, he is liable. A second mishna adds: if a man places straw and stubble into the public ground to be turned into manure and damage results to some other person, he is liable and whoever seizes them first gains title. R' Shimon ben Gamliel generalizes this: whoever creates any nuisance on public ground causing damage is liable to compensate, and whoever seizes the items first gains title to them. (30a)

 
 
 
 
 
 
Tonight outside the grocery store a man holding a clipboard approached me.

Him: Are you registered to vote?
Me: Yes.
Him: Would you be willing to sign a petition to get a third-party candidate onto the ballot?
Me: Quite likely -- which party?
Him: Libertarian.
Me: Oh good; I've been hoping a petition for Gary Johnson would cross my path. Gimme that.
Him: Sounds like you're politically active.
Me: If I were active I'd have my own petition.
Him: Sounds like you're politically informed.
Me: Yeah, that's closer.

Ballot access is rigged by the two major parties to, as much as possible, keep everybody else out. Other parties need to gather a disproportionate number of signatures, for each race, to get a candidate onto the ballot. And it's pretty much a given that the major parties will challenge the petitions for other candidates, so in practice you need to collect three or four times as many signatures as you officially "need", just to be safe. This is why I was very likely to sign the petition even before knowing who it was for (though if it had been someone repugnant I'd've said no).

Smaller parties are better served trying to gain local and state offices; the White House and probably Congress are out of reach. But there's more publicity to be had for national races, and this year especially I think it's worth giving serious consideration to alternatives. Gary Johnson is a pragmatist, not a hard-line idealist, and he has experience with the realities of the political world (he was governor of New Mexico). I hope we get more of a chance to passively hear what he has to say.
 
 
 
 
 
 
We talked last week about the categories of mu'ad and tam. A mishna on today's daf describes them, saying: cattle become mu'ad (known to cause damage, so the owner has to take precautions) after the owner has been warned for three days (regarding the act of goring), but return to the state of tam (it couldn't have been reasonably foreseen) after refraining from goring for three days. These are the words of R' Yehudah. R' Meir, on the other hand, says cattle become mu'ad after the owner had been warned three times, even on the same day, and become again tam when children keep touching them and they don't get gored. (23b)

In the g'mara they discuss the other two permutations -- that we follow R' Yehudah for mu'ad and R' Meir for tam, and the reverse. Final answer? I don't know.

 
 
 
 
 
 
The talmud describes two categories of damages, mu'ad and tam. The first, mu'ad, means cases where an outcome could reasonably be expected -- an animal will eat anything palatable and available, animals don't walk gently so if they step on something delicate you expect damage, and the ox that gores is known to gore. The other, tam, means cases where there is no such expectation.

If damages are done through mu'ad -- for example, a man doesn't restrict his goats and they go eat somebody else's crops -- then the responsible person owes full payment out of the best of his estate. If damages are done through tam, on the other hand, the responsible person and the victim share the damages (which are further limited) -- this is a case of "accidents happen". (The torah covers full versus half payments explicitly in Exodus 21 in talking about the ox that gores.)

The mishna says that a wolf, lion, bear, leopard, panther, and snake are all mu'ad. R' Eleazer says they are not mu'ad if they have been tamed, except that the snake is always mu'ad. (15b-16b)

In Jewish law, mu'ad applies to the custodian, not to the victim. "You should have known that would happen" is something we say to the owner of an animal as an explanation for why he must make full restitution -- not something we say to the victim to absolve the other of any responsibility. Your animals (or children or own behaviors) are your obligation to manage, not others' to dodge. (I suspect this doesn't apply to provocation or trespass, though; the talmud talks about things like not keeping your animals in, not about people climbing your fences and getting themselves hurt by your animals. There is probably also halacha on attractive nuisances, but I don't know what it is.)

 
 
 
 
 
 
Shavuot night I went to an interesting class at our community-wide tikkun leil shavuot, the late-night torah study that is traditional for this festival. The class was taught by Rabbi Danny Schiff on "the real context of the oven of Achnai".

We started by reviewing the famous story in the talmud (Bava Metzia 59b): Rabbi Eliezer and the rest of the sages are having an argument about the ritual status of a particular type of oven. After failing to win them over by logic, R' Eliezer resorted to other means: If I am right, he said, let this carob tree prove it -- and the carob tree got up and walked 100 cubits (some say 400). The sages responded: we do not learn halacha from carob trees. He then appealed to a stream, which ran backwards -- but we do not learn halacha from streams either. Nor from the walls of the study hall, his next appeal. Finally he appealed to heaven and a bat kol (heavenly voice) rang out: in all matters of halacha Rabbi Eliezer is right. But the sages responded: lo bashamayim hi, it (the torah) is not in heaven. That is, God gave us the torah and entrusted it to the sages, following a process of deduction given at Sinai, and that torah says that after the majority one must incline (in matters of torah). So, heavenly voices aren't part of the process. (It is then reported that God's reaction to this response is to laugh and say "my children have defeated me".)

That much of the story is fairly widely known, and I've also heard a joke version that ends with "so nu? Now it's 70 to 2!". The g'mara goes on from there, though, and it takes a darker turn. After this episode they brought everything that R' Eliezer had ever declared to be ritually pure and destroyed it, and, not satisfied with that, they excommunicated him. Rabbi Akiva agrees to be the one to tell him, and the g'mara describes a fairly roundabout conversation in which it's clear that R' Akiva is trying to let his colleague down gently. But even so, R' Eliezer is devastated and, the g'mara reports, on that day the world was smitten: a third of the olive crop, a third of the wheat crop, and a third of the barley crop were destroyed.

But wait; we're not done. Rabbi Eliezer's wife, Ima Shalom (literally "mother of peace"), was the sister of Rabban Gamliel, the head of the Sanhedrin that had ruled against R' Eliezer. Ima Shalom was careful to keep her husband from praying the petitionary prayers at the end of the Amidah, for fear that he would pour out his heart to God and God would punish her brother. But one day something went wrong, she found him praying these prayers, and she cried out "you have slain my brother!" (And yes, he had died.) How did she know this, he asked? Because tradition says that all (heavenly) gates are locked except the gates of wounded feelings.

And that's the second level of the story, which I also knew before this class. The real "aha" moment for me came, instead of reading on, we backed up.

Why is the g'mara talking about this now? Sometimes we do get things that just seem to pop up out of nowhere, but usually there's context. In this case, that context is the previous mishna (the g'mara expounds the mishna). (Rabbi Schiff: "ok, everybody turn back four pages in the handout now".) That mishna says: Just as there is overreaching in buying and selling, so is there wrong done by words. One must not ask another "what is the price of this item?" if he has no intention of buying. If a man was a repentant sinner, one must not say to him "remember your former deeds". And if he was the son of proselytes one must not say to him "remember the deeds of your ancestors".

We talked about each of these cases. On the repentant sinner, he said, every married person knows this one: you do something wrong, you make amends and beg for forgiveness, your spouse forgives you... and then, five years later, in the midst of an argument, it comes out again. It feels terrible, right? The other cases can be just as bad. (You ask the price knowing you're not going to buy, then don't buy, and the seller tries to figure out what he did wrong. And for the proselyte, you're reminding him of things that somehow taint him that he didn't even do!)

Right after this mishna the g'mara begins discussing verbal wrongs, saying they're worse than monetary wrongs and that one who slanders another is as if he shed blood. The rabbis discuss all this for a while, and then we get to the oven of Achnai.

The episode with Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Schiff says, is not about rules of derivation, or proofs from miracles, or divine will versus human will. That's all just back-story. The main point is the hurt that the sages caused after the dispute. Disputes are fine; we get that all the time. But they over-reacted, hurtfully, and that is the point the g'mara is trying to make by putting this episode here.

Interesting class, and well-presented. (This writeup doesn't really do it justice, but it's the best I can offer.)

 
 
 
 
 
 
giovanni-landing

I adopted Giovanni from Animal Friends in 2012 (along with Orlando). He wasn't shy in our first meeting; he was immediately comfortable with me and purred non-stop. The folks at the shelter thought he was around 6 or 7.

A week ago I didn't know what FIP was. Giovanni had been losing weight for a little while, but about a month ago his appetite dropped and we started looking in earnest for the cause. The ultrasound suggested possible lymphoma, and a week ago yesterday he went in for surgery to get samples for a biopsy. That's only diagnostic, not corrective, so I didn't expect his appetite to pick up when I brought him home, but he became even more disinterested, no matter what I offered him (or forced into him). Wednesday night he was very lethargic, and Thursday morning he was jaundiced. Back to the vet we went.

The biopsy results had just come back -- no lymphoma, but the lab suggested testing the sample for FIP because that was consistent with all the symptoms we were seeing. We admitted him to the hospital so they could give IV fluids and nutrients. I began reading veterinary articles online about FIP.

FIP is progressive, incurable, and fatal. We thought we might have weeks or perhaps a couple months left, but he continued to decline and today Giovanni decided he was done fighting. He was a sweet kitty with a non-stop purr who was content to sleep in my lap for hours at a time on Shabbat afternoons. I miss him.

We don't know how old he was, but the consensus of the vets who've seen him recently is that there's no way he was only ten. I gave him a good home for his last years; I was just expecting more of them.

another pictureCollapse )
 
 
 
 
 
 
Today we begin a new tractate (in a new order), Bava Kama. Bava Kama ("first gate") is the first of a trio addressing civil damages; the others are Bava Metzia ("middle gate") and Bava Batra ("last gate"). Bava Kama begins with accidental (non-criminal) damages. The first mishna enumerates four broad categories: the ox, the pit, the mav'eh (to be defined), and the fire. The g'mara then derives other categories from these.

The ox, as in the ox that gores (Exodus 21), or more broadly, damages done by your animals. The pit, as in when you open a pit in the public way and someone falls into it (ibid). The mav'eh seems to mean accidental damage caused by people (this isn't clear to me). And the fire, as in a fire that you kindled that then goes out of control (Exodus 22:5). In all of these cases the person -- owner of the ox, digger of the pit, person who did the damage, kindler of the fire -- will be held responsible. (2a)

 
 
 
 
 
 
There's a lot of hysteria, much of it fabricated, about who can use which bathrooms. Every public bathroom I've ever encountered has been one of two types: a single-seater, in which case any label on the door is superfluous (and sometimes obstructive), or a multi-seater with individual stalls, in which case each user has privacy and thus it reduces to the single-seater case. I grant that men's rooms have an additional complication with urinals, though people who use urinals can also use toilets in stalls so, again, I don't see the problem. Bathrooms with privacy should be a non-issue for reasonable people.

But locker rooms are getting tacked onto this discussion, and that case is a little different. There's no privacy in locker rooms, at least the ones I've been in, and that matters.

I understand -- as much as one not in that situation can, which I admit is limited -- that some people feel profoundly uncomfortable using a gender-based facility that conflicts with their self-perceived gender. I get that. Transgender people feel that their rights to be themselves are being restricted if they have to use locker rooms that match their anatomy instead of being able to use ones that match their inner identity. And the wing-nuts who want to check birth certificates at the door, or who think that any of this is the purview of government, are making things even worse. Members of the transgender community rightly feel that they are under attack, and that stinks. I don't want to be part of making that worse.

But I worry that another concern is being lost. When using a shared space for women -- locker room, Pennsic shower house, women's mikvah, etc -- I would be extremely uncomfortable being undressed in front of someone with male anatomy. (Edit to bold that, as it seems to be being lost.) I don't care how the person identifies; it's about the parts. I'd also (secondarily) be rather uncomfortable seeing exposed male anatomy belonging to anyone other than my husband. While not judging anybody else, I feel that this violates my personal standards of modesty.

Do I have rights too?

I'd like to understand what the thoughtful response to this is. One possible argument is that the levels of discomfort are unequal, that trans people in the wrong place are way more distressed than I am in a mixed setting. Another possible argument is that we need to take turns -- people like me have had our way for a long time and it's time for others to get to call the shots for a while. I'm probably missing other possibilities. I'd like to understand; please educate me.

And yes, the real solution is privacy for all, but when that isn't attainable, what should we do?

(Also, for me this isn't at all a concern about safety or fear of inappropriate behavior, which can come from anybody.)
 
 
 
 
 
 
The mishna teaches that before marrying, a man should investigate his prospective wife's lineage to verify her status. (The mishna has previously discussed categories of people who are and are not allowed to intermarry.) For a daughter of a priest he looks back two generations; for Levites and other Israelites, three. (The mishna is more complicated, but that's what it boils down to.) However, if the investigation reaches a priest who served at the altar in the temple, a Levite who sang in the temple choir, or a judge or public officer, he can stop there -- they've already been vetted.

The g'mara, however, says that this investigation isn't required: families are presumed to be fit, and we only investigate if there is some question. This mishna, the g'mara says, is about cases where the matter is contested. (76a)

 
 
 
 
 
 
According to the mishna, ten genealogical classes of people returned to Israel from Babylon after the first exile. These are: kohanim (priests), Levites, Israelites ("regular" Jews), halalim (disqualified priests), proselytes, freedmen, mamzerim (products of a forbidden union), netinim (temple assistants, possibly Cana'anites), shetuki (to be defined), and foundlings. On these last two, the mishna says that the shetuki knows who his mother is but not his father (so he knows he's Jewish but doesn't know his tribe), while a foundling was gathered in from the street and knows neither his father nor his mother (but if he's circumcised the g'mara assumes he's Jewish).

The mishna goes on to list who may marry whom (which may be why it bothered to enumerate these ten groups). Kohanim, Levites, and Israelites may all intermarry. (These are, by the way, the three main groups; if you hear people talk about three categories of Jews, this is what they mean.) Levites, Israelites, halalim, proselytes, and freedmen (but not kohanim) may all intermarry. And prosselytes, freedmen, mamzerim, netinim, shetuki, and foundlings may all intermarry. (69a)

If you map this out, you'll see that these last few categories, who mostly have uncertain or non-Jewish parents, are pretty limited in whom they can marry. One reason for the restriction is to prevent accidental forbidden marriages -- for example, we don't want a foundling who doesn't know who his parents are to accidentally marry his sister. I guess the rabbis see the odds of this being very low if they stick within these groups; in principle two foundlings could have the same parents, but the only alternative would be to forbid them from marrying at all. (Skimming ahead a bit, it looks like they do in fact make the rarity argument on 73a.)

 
 
 
 
 
 
TIL #1:

Somebody linked to this question on Stack Overflow about some unexpected results when doing math on dates in Java. The problem, according to Jon Skeet, is that the date being used in the calculation is near midnight on December 31, 1927 in the Shanghai time zone -- when Shanghai moved its clocks by 5 minutes and 52 seconds. So the time in question existed twice, and Java chose the one that the programmer wasn't expecting.

That answers the programming question, but my question from that was: why in the world would somebody move clocks by 5 minutes and 52 seconds? I understand shifts of an hour (that happens all the time), and there are timezones out there that have 30-minute offsets and even one with a 15-minute offset, so that wouldn't have much surprised me either. But 5:52???

So I asked Google, which led me to a question on History Stack Exchange about this, where an answer explained that 1927 was not a good year for political stability in Shanghai, and one of the side-effects was a change in who had control over the central astronomical institution, with the result that the reference point moved east from Beijing to Nanjing. Greenwich was apparently not yet a thing as far as they were concerned.

A comment on the answer, from Taiwan, casts doubt on whether there was a time shift at all -- but, if not, doesn't explain where Java got the idea. Curious.

TIL #2:

A few days ago on Mi Yodeya somebody asked if, during the Exodus, the commandment to place the blood on the doorposts and lintel was just on one door or all of them. (Is it like mezuzot, which are on every door, or like the chanukiyah, which we place next to one door only?) My first thought was that there might have only been one door in ancient Egyptian slave housing. Last night I learned a little about ancient architecture and then wrote an answer about the four-room house, which appears to have had one outside door. I argued that we're given the reason for the commandment: it's to mark which houses are to be passed over. To me, that says blood on exterior doors, of which there was one.

Not TIL #3:

Today on Mi Yodeya somebody asked how many people the Pesach offering would feed. The torah says to use a lamb or kid, that it all has to be eaten that night, and that if you don't have enough people to do that, get together with your neighbors. So how big a group are we talking about? One can find plenty of information (not always in agreement, mind) about the weights of modern livestock animals, but animal husbandry has worked its magic over the centuries -- heck, even within my lifetime we've seen "standard" chickens for food get a lot bigger. So knowing how much a yearling lamb weighs today doesn't necessarily tell us what it might have weighed in ancient Egypt or in the time of the first or second temple, when this was done.

I considered asking on History SE, but I haven't yet. Anybody happen to know?
 
 
 
 
 
 
A mishna on today's daf teaches: if a man betroths a woman thinking she is the daughter of a kohein and it turns out she's the daughter of a levite only, or the reverse; or he thought she was poor and she is actually rich, or the reverse -- she is betrothed, because she did not deceive him. (He failed to properly investigate what he thought to be true.) On the other hand, if a man says: be thou betrothed... after I become a proselyte, or after you become a proselyte, or after you are liberated, or after your husband dies -- in all these cases she is not betrothed. The g'mara explains why not -- these are actions that are not in his power. But, the g'mara asks, surely becoming a proselyte is in his power? No, because you need the approval of a beit din, a court of three judges. (62a-b)

The g'mara does not here comment that in order to say "after you become a proselyte", the man must be betrothing a non-Jewish woman (at the time). I don't know if a betrothal to a future Jew would be held to be valid, or if the discussion just never gets that far because of the other issue raised.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Today is Yom HaShoah (Holocaust remembrance day). I don't know what is done elsewhere, but my Conservative morning minyan adds a short service after the torah service. It consists of some psalms and some modern writings, and ends with an unusual Kaddish. The Kaddish text is the usual text, but it's interspersed with the names of camps -- Aushwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, and so on through the entire list. The reader reads the Kaddish; the congregation reads the names.

I led the service today, but someone else, someone who is old enough to remember first-hand, always leads this special service. So after he finished he turned to me to continue and it was time for...Aleinu. Aleinu is the prayer where we look forward to the day when the whole world will follow God.

I stumbled, tripped up by the cognitive dissonance.

I know that, even in the light of outrageous suffering at the hands of monsters, individuals can retain faith in God. People did, then and in earlier times (the Nazis were far from the first). People do today when murderous Nazis have been replaced with murderous Arabs. People will in the future too. Not all people, but some. This I believe.

This morning I found it a little harder to believe that at some time in the future the whole world will come around. I realize that Aleinu is looking ahead to messianic times, but the messiah will come only after we have done the groundwork. God won't send the messiah when we've sunk into the depths and all hope is lost; rather, God will send the messiah when we collectively deserve it. I hope that day will come. This morning I found it a bit harder to know that it will.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The mishna is still discussing the objects with which a man may or may not betroth a woman. (Betrothal calls for a gift of a certain, small, monetary value.) Today we learn: if a kohein (priest) betroths a woman with his portion of the offerings (the part designated for the priests), she is not betrothed. This is true whether it is of the higher degree of sanctity (the sin-offering, eaten only by priests) or of the lower (peace-offering, eaten by priests and the person who brought it). This is, it will be explained later, because these offerings belong to God; the priests may eat them, but they do not belong to the priests, and a man must own the object he uses to betroth a woman. The mishna then makes a similar statement about the second tithe, which also goes to the priests -- no betrothing with them, either. This is the view of R' Meir. R' Yehudah says: if he did it unwittingly she is not betrothed but if he did it deliberately, she is. (52b)

(Today's daf is 55, and part of a long discussion arising from this mishna.)