Shabbat 62 - Balsam oil

On Shabbat, a woman may not go out with a needle that has an eye and is used for sowing. Carrying such a needle is prohibited by the Torah, and one needs to bring a sacrifice if she did so inadvertently. This is true even if the needle is pinned to her clothing. Usually, only the normal way of doing an act is prohibited by the Torah. However, since it is quote normal to carry a needle this way, it too is prohibited. Certainly it is prohibited to simply carry it in one's hand.

Nor may she wear a signet ring, although she can wear a regular ring. Ulla noticed: "With men, it is the reverse." Is this logic then always true? On the contrary, since some people (shepherds) wear sackcloth, it becomes permitted for all people? - That is because Ulla considers women as a separate nation: just because a woman wears something, it does not become permitted to men.

A woman may not wear a spice bundle or a flask of balsam oil, and if she does, she is liable to bring a sacrifice - this is the opinion of Rabbi Meir. However, the Sages hold that these items are ornaments, and in fact Rabbi Eliezer completely allows this, since a woman wearing such perfumes will not take them off.

Balsam played a role in the Temple's destruction, and Rabbi Yehudah wanted to forbid its use, but the Sages did not agree. Jewish women used to flaunt their beauty and to seduce young men by spraying balsam perfume over them. However, the decree of destruction was sealed because of the attitude of men, who used flowery language to describe their deeds. They would ask each other, "On what did you dine today, on bread that was well kneaded or on bread that was not well kneaded? On white wine or dark wine? On a wide couch or on a narrow couch?" All these were hints to illicit relations.

The logs of Jerusalem were of the cinnamon tree, and when they burned, their fragrance would waft through all of the Land of Israel. After destruction they were hidden, except a piece the size of a barley grain found in the storehouses of Queen Tzimtzemai.

Art: Thomas Wade - The Seamstress