Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cleanliness and Safety, traits of the Torah scholar


"What are the characteristics of a Torah scholar's dining table?

"Two-thirds of the surface is covered with a cloth, and one-third is uncovered [on which one places serving dishes which might otherwise dirty the tablecloth], and it holds dishes and greens.

"The protruding ring is pointed inward. [The ring was a pointed attachment which was used to hang up the table when not in use; the same advice would apply to any protruding part, to avoid harming those who pass by the table.]

"But we have learned that one should let the ring point outward [to protect the diners from the protrusion]!

"Some explain that this is only where there are no children around. Others explain that this is only where there is no servant around. Others explain that this is only during the day [so that the ring is visible and therefore less dangerous]."

(Talmud, Bava Batra 57b)

Have a great day,


  1. Looking at the original, I don't get the answers. The gemara reads, "וטבעתו מבחוץ. והא תניא 'טבעתו '?מבפנים..." The wording parallels. I would have no problem is the question was "Don't we see it's all right?" But the question is "Don't we see you are supposed to?"

    If the ring hanging from the inside outward is meant as a preferred option, then why doesn't the beraisa also mean that it's the preferred option? The answers justify not having to be as careful, because without children and servants, or without proper lihting, the risk is negligible. Why would that make it preferable to ignore the risk rather than hang the ring?

    And in any case, why would a talmud chakham do different things for din ner (in poor lighting) and for lunch (in better lighting), if it's marginally safer, even if by a negligible amount, during the day anyway? Why not leave the ring pointing inward from he night before?

  2. Good points, R' Micha, and I see that I need to edit my post to reflect them.

    The answer, I believe, is in the Rashbam ד"ה והא דליכא שמעא, where he notes a separate concern for harming the diners.