Shabbat 111 Anointing and Knots
What kind of oil would be permitted? The default in the area was likely olive oil, but the Mishnah clarifies that rose oil (implied to be more expensive) would not be allowed. However, b’nay malakhim [royal children] may do so since they do so anyways, and Rabbi Shimeon claims that all Israelites are “royal children,” and thus should be entitled to do the same. At the end of the Talmud’s discussion, it is agreed (according to Rab) that the halakha [religious law] is with Rabbi Shimeon but not for his reasoning – Shimeon would allow it even if its performance were rare, whereas Rab allowed it only because rose oil was common where he lived. Such are the vagaries of geography and halakha.
The other variable in today’s daf concerns manual dexterity – certain knots are permitted and other are forbidden to tie or untie on Shabbat. A camel driver’s or a sailor’s knot are prohibited, but for those unfamiliar with “knot-ology,” Rabbi Meir gives a much easier rule of thumb: any knot that can be untied with one hand creates no guilt. And many other knots are permitted, like a woman tying up her blouse or anyone tying up an animal to prevent its going out on Shabbat. So the more you practice untying knots with one hand, the more complex life on Shabbat may become – even without Boy Scout training.
Rabbi Adam Chalom