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)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Berachot 13 - Prayer and Intent

"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." This is the core, required statement of prayer. But recital is not enough. Intentionality matters.

If one happens to be reading the Sh'ma in the Torah and reads it with the intention to fulfill the commandment of reciting it in prayer, then it counts. Otherwise it doesn't. In fact, intention-attention (kavana) is required to make prayer count. No passive, empty recital of well-known words.

And it works both ways I.e. you can over intentionalize. So while it is meritorious to elongate the Sh'ma by drawing out the last word (echad - One), Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba says "once you have declared [G-d] king over everything above and below and over the four quarters of Heaven - nothing more is required." 'nuff said.

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