"O DEAR me, I've done it again! Again I have poured the milk into that fleischig (meat) pot. (You know that many Jews keep their meat dishes separate from their milk dishes.) Since Aaron has become sick, I have simply lost my head. I don't seem to remember anything. I just don't know what I am about."
Suddenly Peninah ran into the child's bedroom. She thought that little Aaron had called her. But she found him sleeping rather quietly. For the past three days, Aaron had been very sick. The doctor had ordered a fresh mustard-plaster every three hours on the boy's chest.
Peninah ran back to the kitchen, just as her husband was entering the house.
"I'm so glad you've come," she said. "Aaron is sleeping. Now I can run over to the College to ask them about the pot that I made tref. And at the same
time I can find out if I may make the plasters for Aaron tomorrow even if it is the Sabbath."
"All right. Go ahead and don't worry. I am here. Watch where you are going and don't be so upset," Peninah's husband said kindly.
When Peninah came into the school at Sura, all the students were seated and were discussing various questions.
As Peninah was ushered in by the doorkeeper, they stopped talking. Saadiah, the Head Gaon or president, asked her:
"What is the matter? What brings you here, my dear woman?"
Peninah could hardly catch her breath, for she had been running all the way.
"You will excuse me for running in this way," Peninah said as she sat down, "but you see, my little son is sick at home. And I do want to rush back to him. Since he became sick, I hardly have a kosher pot left in the house. When I should take a fleischig pot and spoon, I take a milchig (milk) one. When I should take a milchig pot, I take a fleischig one. Now I would like you to tell me whether I am to throw away all those dishes."
Saadiah thought a while and then turned to the assembly and asked:
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"What do you folks think about that?" One scholar arose and said:
"It's not for us to say one way or another. Let us look up and see what the rabbis teach us about such matters."
At this point a rather stern-looking man asked to be allowed to speak. As he arose, he looked around impatiently. Saadiah called the assembly to order. "We will now hear what Anan ben David, the Karaite, has to say," he said.
In a very low voice, Anan began. "My friends," he said, "this way of doing things is becoming too tiresome. Let us look up what the rabbis say,--and again let us look up what the rabbis say! Have we not the Bible? Can't we read what the Bible says? The Bible says very clearly:
"'You shall not cook the kid in its mother's milk.' That, my friends, means exactly what it says. It's bad enough that you have to be cruel and kill the little lamb. Then, after that, don't go and cook it in its mother's milk. The laws in our Bible are very kind, my friends--very kind. They have nothing to do with dishes. You may cook meat in the one pot. Then take that same pot and boil milk in it. But, the Bible says, don't cook the two at the same time. Don't boil the kid in its mother's milk."
Peninah sat by quietly and listened. But she became very impatient in her eagerness to get back. And besides, she didn't understand what Anan was trying to show. She arose and quietly said to Saadiah:
"Please, Gaon, please. All I want to know is whether or not I must throw all those pots away. That's all."
The Karaite looked even sterner than before. He was about to say something to the woman, but Saadiah turned to her and again very kindly said:
"That is just what Anan is trying to tell us. According to him, there is no milchig and no fleischig, so you can just keep all your dishes."
"But, don't I have to do anything to make them kosher again?" the woman asked in surprise.
"Don't you see, my dear woman, nothing is tref because there is no fleischig or milchig ."
"I'm afraid, I don't understand what Anan is saying. Does he expect me to eat tref and spoil my whole household?" The woman spoke in an angry tone and shut her lips very tightly, as she finished talking.
"Please sit down again and we will soon tell you just what you have to do," Saadiah said.
Then he turned to the assembly and said:
"I am sorry that I cannot agree with Anan the
[paragraph continues] Karaite. Of course, we know what is written in the Bible. And we must make sure that we do know it. But we must also know how the rabbis have explained it. Then we shall be able to help this woman and others, too."
Another scholar arose and began to explain the law:
"Not to boil the kid in the mother's milk, means to have separate dishes for milchig and fleischig. That is what the rabbis here taught us. Now then, if this woman poured her milk into the fleischig pot, she must throw that pot away."
At this point Saadiah Gaon interrupted again and said:
"No, my dear friend. Now that we know what the Bible has written down, now that we know what the rabbis taught, we can judge this case.
"We agree that the pot is tref. It cannot be used as it is. But neither does it have to be thrown away."
Turning to Peninah he said:
"You throw a red hot stone into that pot and pour water over it. Then you may use the pot again. It shall be kosher again."
That decision Peninah understood. She thanked the scholars very much. Peninah was just about to rush out, when she stopped and said:
"O yes, I almost forgot. Since I am here I might as well ask you everything."
"Surely, surely," Saadiah said kindly. "We shall be glad to answer you."
"You see, my Aaron has a very bad cough. The doctor ordered that we put a mustard plaster on his chest every three hours. Now may I make the plasters on the Sabbath?"
"What!" again called the Karaite. "On the Sabbath. To work on the Sabbath! Of course, you are not allowed to make a plaster on the Sabbath."
"But he is so sick--so sick, and the plaster keeps him from coughing," the woman begged.
"That would make no difference. The Bible says you must not work on the Sabbath. You must work to make a plaster. Therefore it is settled. You may not make a plaster on the Sabbath."
"But maybe the rabbis can find a way of explaining the law. Maybe to do it for a sick person wouldn't really be working," Peninah pleaded. She had already learned something from the other decision and she was hopeful.
"You are right, my dear woman," Saadiah said kindly. "The rabbis teach us that the Sabbath is not to be considered when the welfare of the sick is concerned."
"Oh, I knew the law would be kind," said the woman as she dried her tears.
Peninah thanked the scholars and quickly rushed home to Aaron. As she came into the house, she found Aaron sitting up, drinking some milk.
"God is good," Peninah cried for joy. "It seems the child is getting better and I shall not have to make the plasters on the Sabbath after all." Then she quickly ran into the kitchen to kosher her pots.
Aaron became well. When he grew up, his mother sent him to study in the School of Saadiah, the Gaon, where he too learned to explain the Torah.