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)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Berachot 30 - Imagination and the Physical

The power of the human mind to effect a simulation of reality. Someone who is blind, or for another reason cannot tell what direction to face during prayer, is instructed to “incline the heart” that is, mentally direct prayer to “Avinu Sh’bashamyim” – our Father in Heaven. Outside the Land of Israel, directing that prayer towards Israel. If inside Israel, towards Jerusalem. If in Jerusalem towards the Sanctuary. If on the Sanctuary (the Temple Mount) then towards the Holy of Holies. If at the Holy of Holies then towards the Mercy Seat. If behind the Mercy Seat, imagine oneself to be in front of the Mercy Seat. “In this way all Israel will be turning their hearts towards one place.”

I love the image of all the Jews in the world, in prayer, facing towards a single spot: the axis mundi linking Heaven and Earth. A circle of human awareness facing revolving around the central spoke. Even those who are not physically able to turn, imagine themselves to be. Imagination, Intention and Reality merge in prayer – and we are all united. Far from being a solitary experience, prayer is unifying – even in imagination.

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