Slowly catching up with where I ought to be with Daf Yomi… Why did I agree to this? As if I don’t have enough on my plate; I’m dipping into so many different massechtot that I’m not sure where I am at any given moment. But my Havruta had suggested that we compare notes and I wasn’t about to say no!
“It’s a problem of peer pressure,” said Pixel, as she settled down next to me. She made a great show of turning around to get her tail curled around her just so.
“See, cats don’t have such problems. We’re individualists. We couldn’t care less what other cats are doing.”
“Oh yeah… So how come you hide underneath the dog whenever other cats are fighting outside?”
“Simple love of quiet,” says she.
“Hmmph! OK, let’s get started. We’re discussing issues of single doubt and issues of double doubt. Now, in a case of a law from the written Torah…”
“I know, I know… We tend toward stringency if it’s d’Oraita and leniency if it’s d’Rabbanan.” Pixel licked her shoulder as if to say this is much too easy for a cat of her abilities.
So. Pessachim 10a:
If there were two piles, one of matzah and one of chametz, and in front of the piles were two houses, one searched for chametz and one not searched, and two mice came, one taking a piece of matzah and one chametz, and we do not know which house the mice entered…
Pixel’s ears perked up. “Aha! You ask the cat which house she caught the mouse in!”
“That isn’t the point. The mouse is just a logical construct to illustrate factors beyond our control. The question is whether we have to search the house again.”
“But a mouse isn’t beyond our control…”
“Pixel! There is no mouse! It’s a logical fiction!”
She subsided. “Alright, Alright… In that case, we assume the mouse went into the house that had not yet been searched.”
“Right. It’s a case of a double doubt. So how about this one, which is used to illustrate the situation when doubt is not as easily assigned:
This is similar to the case where there are two paths, one path is tamei because it has a grave and the other path is tahor. If a person walked down one of the paths and he then came into contact with food that was tahor, and then another person walked down the other path and the second person came into contact with other food that is tahor, there is a dispute regarding both people’s status.
“That’s easy,” said Pixel. “You can use quantum physics. Refer to the double-slit experiment, wherein a beam of light travels through two slits—analogous to the two travelers in the Gemara.”
I was a bit bemused that she would think quantum physics worked on Talmudic sugyot, but hey, once you start arguing with a cat, there’s no telling where you’ll end up.
“Pet the cat,” she said. “Now, if you question each traveler separately, you have a double doubt and can assume that each one is tahor. However, if you question them together, or if you allow them to communicate with one another, you have resolved one level of doubt and you have to assume that they’re both tamei.”
I scanned the next few lines. Sure enough. She was right!
“But what does a cat know of quantum physics?”
“Who do you think taught Schrödinger?” she asked. And with that, she fell asleep, purring softly.