There is a common theme running through most of the sections of today's reading. "When you increase (the prohibition) you decrease (the effectiveness)"
Starting with the Torah reading that sparks this discussion: The snake and Eve. We've all heard the story. G-d tells Adam don't eat from the tree. And when we next hear about the tree, we hear Eve say, "G-d says not eat from the tree, or even touch it, or we'll die." So she touches the tree (or the snake pushes her against it) and she doesn't die and then she doubts. And then she eats. And the lesson here is that one needs to be very clear about what is the law and what is the fence. Ethics of the fathers says it's praiseworthy to build a fence around the Torah and some of the commentaries point out the praiseworthiness of Adam (if it was he who added the touching thing) for building that fence, but where the focus was lost, it wasn't clear what was G-d's law and what was just a personal protection on the theory of if you're not touching the tree, you're certainly not eating anything off it.
My little niece, who is something of a diva, is afraid, or more likely pretends to be afraid, of all manner of things such as fans and guitars. Her mother probably told her once that she shouldn't touch the fan while it was running, and she generalized it to not even wanting to walk near the fan while it's on. And near is a pretty broad term. This discussion sorta reminded me of that. I think of the things she deprives herself of because she's generalized a specific warning to a general situation.
The Mishna continues on this theme. The text states that as the time nears the Sabbath, the tailor shouldn't carry a pin, even though it's permitted, lest he come to violate the Sabbath by forgetting about it. Similiarly, the scribe and his pens. The Gemorah asks, why these two? A couple of reasons are given: A pin is very small, and a pen is bigger, so it shows that size of the object doesn't affect it, that's the first thing we learn. The next thing, and to me, the really important element, these items can be carried in a way that's permitted, by wearing them. You can stick pins in your coat and that's permitted since it's part of a garment and you can stick a pen behind your ear. For the average person, that's not typical, so if you were wearing a pen, it wouldn't be the norm, so you wouldn't accidentally, habitually reach for it without thinking. For the person who, day in, day out, always carries a stock of pins or pens on his person, they might accidentally reach for it. So the Rabbis erect this fence to protect them from the mundane daily activities of their lives.
The question of the day is where else does the snake show it's enmity for people?
The Ethical thought of the day continues with this same thought. It points out that a fence with a hole in it won't keep a field safe. And the evil inclination is always looking for a way in to despoil the field. So in order to protect the field, it's vital to know the difference between the field and the fence. Otherwise, you have a similar situation where the snake finds the hole in the fence, and convinces you the fence isn't protecting anything, then you go in and get shot for a poacher. I'm sure they didn't say it like that.
And the answer of the day is actually the same incident as yesterday's answer. The snake is ready to kill Moses son because he's circumcised. Also there was a plague of snakes after the manna whining incident.
There was a new section in today's reading that I don't totally remember.
Cassie, missed you last night, but Bunny said she'd send you the book list. Also I'm going to bring my current favourite comfort book to the next book club since after I described it, there was some general interest.