What is Talmud Tweets?

What is Talmud Tweets? A short, personal take on a page of Talmud - every day!

For several years now, I have been following the tradition of "Daf Yomi" - reading a set page of Talmud daily. With the start of a new 7 1/2 year cycle, I thought I would share a taste of what the Talmud offers, with a bit of personal commentary included. The idea is not to give a scholarly explanation. Rather, it is for those new to Talmud to give a little taste - a tweet, as it were - of the richness of this text and dialogue it contains. The Talmud is a window into a style of thinking as well as the world as it changed over the centuries of its compilation.

These are not literal "tweets" - I don't limit myself to 140 characters. Rather, these are intended to be short, quick takes - focusing in on one part of a much richer discussion. Hopefully, I will pique your interest. As Hillel says: "Go and study it!" (Shabbat 31a)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Berachot 12 - Heretics!

An ancient tradition is reported in which the Ten Commandments were recited before the Sh’ma. This was done in the Temple, but many people wanted to take up this custom outside: in Jerusalem and even in Babylon. But they were stopped from doing so “because of insinuations of the Minim.” There are many debates about who these “Minim” are (usually Anglicized to ‘Minuth’) but usually known as heretics who deny the existence of G-d or that G-d is not One (see, among many sources, Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1 and Maimonides, Yad, Teshuvah 3:6-8). Here it seems to be concern that the Minim were implying the Ten Commandments were the only word of G-d, therefore deserving unique and singular status, and denying rabbinic interpretations and authority. The Ten Commandments, as far as the rabbis are concerned, are not considered more important than any of the remaining 603! One of several examples in which Jewish practice is changed based on the critiques of those outside.
An additional blessing was said by the Temple priests on Shabbat. This is no longer in our prayers, but is included in the wedding blessings (Sheva Berachot) asking G-d’s blessing in “love and brotherhood and peace and friendship.”

A short section on prayer choreography (more on that later) which contains this wonderful statement: “Rabbi Shesheth, when he bowed, used to bend like a reed and when he raised himself, used to raise himself like a serpent.” Try that, yoga practitioners!

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