Our Gemara on Amud Beis mentions the famous Yalta, who was Rav Nachman’s wife and the Nasi’s daughter (see Rashi Gittin 67a). Although ordinarily it’s forbidden to travel on a litter on Yom Tov because it is too conspicuous and resembles weekday activity, they permitted Yalta to be carried this way. She was given this dispensation possibly because she was engaged in community service or that in this regard she had the status of an “istenis”, one who is unusually sensitive and would suffer greatly without this form of transportation (see Shitta Mekubetzes).
Yalta was perhaps one of the most famous women of the Talmud, quoted several times in a variety of adventures and discussions. The most notorious one takes place in Berachos (51b) when the Sage Ulla demurs offering Yalta to drink from the cup of blessing after benching. She becomes so infuriated at this insult, that she smashed 400 barrels of wine. Her husband’s reaction to her behavior is somewhat supportive, and remarkable under the circumstances. He apparently felt she was at least due some respect, although it is hard to believe he condoned the smashing of the barrels. An interesting lesson in and of itself.
In Gemara Chulin (109b) Yalta challenges her husband with the following theological but practical question:
Yalta asserts that every item or activity forbidden by the Torah has a permitted analogue. She cites a few examples such as adultery can be experienced, so to speak, by marrying another man’s wife AFTER they divorce. A certain kind of fish has a similar taste to pork. In our modern day terminology, you can order fake-crab sushi. If you like the taste of forbidden fats, Yalta says, one can eat those same fats in a non-domesticated kosher animal such as a deer. Or if one desires the taste of blood, one can eat roasted liver.
Yalta wanted to find something that had the taste of meat and milk, but was stumped, so she asked her husband Rav Nachman for help. Rav Nachnan was able to procure something that was a permitted form of meat and milk, by roasting a cow’s udder, which was kosher meat but also had residual milk in it.
Various commentators try to understand the significance of Yalta’s request, especially that the Gemara records it for posterity.
The Shalah (עשרה מאמרות שלישי ורביעי ) explains that in order to truly fulfill a negative Torah commandment, one must first desire and then resist solely to honor God. Thus, to taste something similar in taste to the forbidden item or activity makes the choice to resist and honor God’s commandment more meaningful, because you know what you are missing. Along similar lines, Arvei Nachal (Naso א) explains that within every pleasure of this world is a Godly spark that needs to be liberated and elevated. Thus, it cannot be that any pleasure would be categorically and absolutely forbidden, because then there would be no opportunity to restore it back to God.
The Chasam Sofer on Chullin quite simply understands it as God being merciful and not expecting us to fully withstand temptation. God always allows a “back door”, if you will, for situations when the desire is too strong to be utterly resisted. What is powerful about this Chasam Sofer is that it holds a lesson for all persons in authority positions. When imposing rules, we should emulate God and not forbid anything absolutely, but rather allow for some expression of the forbidden impulse.
Translations Courtesy of Sefaria, (except when, sometimes, I disagree with the translation .)