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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

A Thin Line

When Masechet Moed Katan began, I understood it to be about the intermediate days of holidays, such as Sukkot and Passover. I anticipated that the rabbis would discuss the fine distinctions of types of work that people could do and could not do during the intermediate days, because, after all, the rabbis were trying to preserve the special nature of these unusual days. The Masechet started by describing irrigating fields and what was permitted and what was discouraged. As the Masechet continued and the rabbis continue to speak about what is suggested to be permitted and what is suggested to be forbidden, the text takes a turn to the laws of mourning. Indeed, the masechet that deals with joy makes the connection that joy and mourning are intrinsically connected and proceeds to spend many

dapim (pages) speaking of mourning practices.

I have to admit that I was taken by surprise at this Masechet. A few weeks ago when we began to learn, I told my weekly study partners that this is the Masechet that focuses in on joy. How wonderful!!!! I even wrote a poem on the topic of joy which I will post here at some point. However, the further we traveled into the book, the more I realized I was not correct; but was I? The rabbis clearly see a connection between joy and sadness and actions that reflect each of those states. Actions taken during the connecting days of a Yom Tov suggested the same actions taken during mourning, so the rabbis delve into the customs of mourning, which are not derived from Torah, but from the rabbis.

I am always awed by what I find on the Daf. It is a river that swerves and swerves and I am on

a rickety canoe, there for the ride. This week, all being well, we will finish this Masechet and begin the final book in the first of the major sections of the Talmud, called Moed.

This poem explores the fine line between happiness and sadness; between joy and mourning.


Voices fly above the city,

Songs of joy and sorrow.

The source of both songs,

the same heart


There is a thin line

barely perceptible

stretched on the horizon

of time,

of events;


it separates

joy from sorrow,

smiles from tears,

celebration from


The invisible thread

divides, yet connects;

people, souls,


We step over it,

status changes.

We cannot avoid it.

In every joy

is a hint of sorrow;

and in every sorrow

is a ray of hope

a glimmer of good

a sparkle

a beam of light

in the darkness.

Light and dark,

sorrow and joy,

joy and sorrow,

darkness and light

Two strands twined

black and white,

the colors blend

and blurs

the lines.

It is just a blink

between two states.

An overflowing cup,

a broken glass.

connected by a

cord of red.


Voices fly above the city,

The sounds of weeping

The joy of song.

The source of both

the same heart.

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