Babies, Bread, Eggs and Corpses

This week’s Talmud reading was largely devoted to the legal concept of muktzeh, a category of items that may not be moved or used on Shabbat. It is a fairly technical discussion, but in the course of it, in Shabbat 43b, the Talmud comes up with a bizarre image that makes all the abstractions immediately memorable: a baby or a loaf of bread placed deliberately on top of a dead body. This is Rav’s solution to one of the difficult Shabbat-related cases the rabbis consider: What can you do on Shabbat with a corpse that is decomposing in the sun? “One should place a loaf of bread or an infant on the corpse and then move it,” Rav says.

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