Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Avodah Zarah 17

Towards the top of Avodah Zarah 17, the gemara counsels that one should avoid the "rishus" (the Roman government which ruled when the gemara was compiled). Rashi explains that the rulers might become aware of a Jew's financial dealings and try to kill him and seize his assets. This concept is also seen in Pirkei Avos 1:10 wherein Shmaya teaches that a person should not come close to the rishus. Kehati offers two explanations there, including one which is based on the concern that the ruler will try to take the person's assets.

The discussion about avoiding rishus reminded me of a point that Rabbi Frand made in a shiur a few weeks ago. Within the context of a shiur discussing whether a man can dress as a woman on Purim, Rabbi Frand quoted the Sefer Nitai Gavriel which discusses the root of dressing up on Purim. The sefer explained that Jews were occasionally targeted by pogroms which sought to dispossess them of their wealth. Once wealthy Jews would become poor overnight and would need funds from tzedakah. However, these Jews were proud and did not want to reveal their identities. It was for this reason that they would dress up on Purim, the day when no Jew can turn down another when he asks for charity. The now disguised man would come to the door and ask for money so that he could afford the necessities for Pesach, the holiday which starts a mere thirty days after Purim.

The sefer explained that the Jews who saw these men in costume would recognize that these were formerly wealthy people who had suffered because of the pogrom and as a result the donors would give generously.

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