MISHNAH. R JUDAH RULED: [IF ON THE EVE OF THE] NEW YEAR A MAN FEARS THAT [THE PRECEDING MONTH OF ELUL.] MIGHT BE INTERCALATED, HE MAY PREPARE TWO ERUV [MEALS] AND MAKE THIS DECLARATION: ‘MY ERUV FOR THE FIRST [DAY SHALL BE] TO THE EAST AND THE ONE FOR THE SECOND DAY TO THE WEST’ . . .
The new month was declared by direct observation of the new moon before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. A month is 29 or 30 days depending on when the moon was seen. However, getting the news from Jerusalem to Babylon or elsewhere in the Diaspora was not a simple matter. It could take more than a day for the news of the declared new month to arrive. This presents a special difficulty for New Years – the only major Jewish holiday to occur on the 1st of a month. So, in order to be safe those in the Diaspora may hold two days of Rosh Hashanah. Now, again, the rabbis debate if these are two separate days of sanctity or one sanctity lasting two days.
And we’re back to the Exilarch (secular leader of the Babylonian Jewish community) to present this problem:
A stag that was caught on the first day of a diaspora festival and slain on the second day of the festival was presented at the Exilarch's table. R. Nahman and R. Hisda ate it, but R. Shesheth did not eat It. ‘What’, said R. Nahman, ‘can I do with R. Shesheth who does not eat the meat of a stag?’ — ‘How could I eat it’, retorted R. Shesheth, ‘in view of what Assi learned . . .: “And so also did R. Jose forbid [such a procedure] on the two festival days of the diaspora”’.
Did they behave rudely or correctly? Maybe it was just the Exilarch himself – for whom the stage was prepared - who would be forbidden the stag meat? Or did an injunction (if such existed) apply to all his guests?
Dinner parties are so complicated!