A nursing mother once approached the Rogatchover Rebbe, a brilliant 19th century European Torah scholar, with a perplexing problem.
A nursing mother once approached the Rogatchover Rebbe, a brilliant 19th century European Torah scholar, with a perplexing problem. "Rabbi, I don't know what to do!" she exclaimed. "During the week I feed my baby and he eats at regular times like a normal baby would. However, on Shabbat he refuses to eat. I am really worried." The rabbi told the lady that the solution to her problem can be derived from a law found in this week's Torah portion.
In this week's portion many mishpatim (civil laws and ordinances) are transmitted to the Jewish people. One of the more complicated laws is that of damages; more specifically, the damages pertaining to oxen and other animals. First, an owner is always required to watch over his ox. If the owner is negligent in guarding his animal, and the animal somehow damages someone else's property, the owner is required to pay the amount that his ox damaged depending on the personality of the ox. If the ox is known as a tam, an animal that does not have a reputation for damaging, and therefore the incident was unexpected by the owner, a payment of half of the damages is required. However, if the animal has the personality of a muad, an ox that is expected and known to damage, the owner must pay the whole amount of what was damaged because the owner should have done a better job watching over the ox.
In order for the personality to officially change, the ox must damage on three days in a row or in any pattern of three. For example, if an ox gores only on Shabbat three weeks in a row and not during the week, the ox is considered a muad on Shabbat, and a tam during the week. Tosafot, the Talmudic glosses of the rabbis of the 12th and 13th centuries, explain what would provoke an ox to damage only on Shabbat and not during the week (Tractate Baba Kama 37a). On Shabbat, the ox does not recognize anyone because everyone is in their Shabbat attire, and the ox is only used to seeing people in their weekday attire. Not recognizing people makes the ox uncomfortable and causes him to gore and damage.
The Rogatchover Rebbe told the nursing lady that when she goes to nurse on Shabbat she should change into her weekday clothes because the baby is used to the feel of her weekday clothes and may not recognize her. Doing this, will make the baby feel more comfortable.
Joey Wagner, an alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, is studying at Yeshivat Beis Yisrael in Jerusalem.
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