Pesachim 26 - Incidental pleasures

Consider a case where one is planning to do something permitted, but in the course of it an additional forbidden pleasure comes his way. For example, he plans to travel to a certain destination, but on his way there is an idolatrous temple, from which there comes a fragrant smell of idolatrous spices. (Of course, we are not talking about a case where he intentionally inhales in order to enjoy the smell, but rather he is just passing by, and it fills his nostrils anyway). Should one avoid this nevertheless? Abaye says it is permitted, and he need not avoid it, but Rava says that it is prohibited, and one must avoid it.

Let’s take a closer look at the circumstances. If he can avoid the trip altogether, and he enjoys the smell, all agree that it is forbidden. Even if he cannot avoid the trip but still enjoys the spices, it is also forbidden. On the other hand, if he must travel on this road and he does not intend to enjoy, all agree that it is permitted. They only argue when he cannot avoid the trip and does enjoy the smell: according to Abaye it is permitted, but Rava will requires him to either avoid the trip or stop enjoying the smell.

The Talmud compares this to laws of Shabbat, of Temple repair, of the priests’ vestments and of a red heifer, and finally refutes at least one version of Rava’s view from the sales of shatnez , as this. The sellers of shatnez are allowed to put the clothes on, as long as they don’t intend to warm themselves with them.

Art: The Spice Shop by Paolo Antonio Barbieri