Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bameh Madlinkin

On Erev Shabbat (Sabbath Eve) during the service, it is customary to read Bameh Madlinkin (Mishna Shabbat, chapter 2.  To read the whole text, scroll down to " "With what [wicks] may one light [Shabbat lamps], and with what [wicks] may one not light?" End with the paragraph "At dusk on the eve of shabbat, a man must make three statements: Have you separated the tithe? Have you prepared the Eruv [the halachic merging of separate domains by means of setting aside an amount of food in a designated place]? Light the lamps!"

I've never actually read all of Bameh Madlikin during the service because it would take me forever--my Aramaic (Mishnaic Hebrew?) is non-existent.  There's also the major detail that I find most of this text irrelevant in this era of electric lighting--the candles that we light these days before Shabbat are not intended to provide the only light in the room, as seems to have been the case originally.  So I've always started with paragraph 5:

"[If] one extinguishes the lamp because he is afraid of non-Jews, of bandits, of an evil spirit, or that the sick may sleep, he is exempt; but [if his intention is] to preserve the lamp, to preserve the oil, or to preserve the wick, he is liable. Rabbi Yose exempts in all [these cases] except the [act preserving the wick], because he thereby creates a coal [Rabbi Jonathan Sacks' translation--"charcoal"]."

And that's where I stopped dead last night, in mid-paragraph--now that I've made my recent decision, the fact of the matter is that I am "extinguishing the lamp . . . to preserve the oil . . . "  Sigh.  But at least I have Rabbi Yose on my side.

I think I also have my late parents on my side.  As children, my siblings and I were told time and time again never to leave the lights on when we left a room.  And I remember well that, after we'd all grown and flown and they didn't have to worry about being responsible for our health, our parents turned the heat down during the winter and wore sweaters indoors.  The importance of not wasting home-utility energy was a lesson I learned from Mom and Dad.

Bameh Madlikin also challenges me on a completely different topic--I've always simply refused to recite the next paragraph:

"Women die in childbirth for three transgressions: If they are not careful with [the laws] of menstruation; and if they are not careful [to separate some] dough [when baking to give to the priest]; and if they are not careful with the lighting of the [Shabbat] lamp."

I've always had a problem with the belief in reward and punishment because that belief seems to lead too often to a classic case of "blaming the victim."  It's not bad enough that women die in childbirth?  Are we truly supposed to believe that the reason for their deaths is that they sinned?  Does not our tradition teach us to refrain from speaking ill of the dead because they can no longer defend themselves?

Women die in childbirth because that's the way our bodies work, or, in this unfortunate case, don't work, or because of poor health and/or poor medical care.  I find the whole idea that a woman's death in childbirth is her own fault insulting.

See also my Reward and punishment:  Blaming the victim, which includes a link to my "Meteorological Judaism:  What did *anyone* do to deserve a tsunami?" and some interesting links provided by my commenters.

Speaking of tsunamis, let's keep the people of Texas in our thoughts and prayers--Hurricane Harvey isn't over yet.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't have anyone on your side. You have stepped outside the halachic process by saying "I'm doing what I want to do, halacha be damned." Why don't you own that instead of pretending that what you are doing is justified?

Thu Aug 31, 12:34:00 PM 2017  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Very well, then, I'll "own" my decision and admit that I don't have anyone on my side. That said, I do feel better not wasting electricity every Shabbat. If that decision puts me "outside the halachic process" on this particular matter, so be it. That doesn't mean that I'm going to treif our kitchen and/or eat chametz during Pesach.

Thu Aug 31, 10:59:00 PM 2017  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

although being m'challel shabbat means you are no longer reliable for kashrut.

Tue Sep 12, 12:03:00 PM 2017  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Oy. I guess that, if we host anyone observant enough for our kashrut to be an issue, we'll have to waste resources by using disposable plates and tableware. :(

Tue Sep 12, 05:49:00 PM 2017  

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