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, September 10, 2012

Berachot 40 - Animals First

Well, the truth is I cannot be considered a “foodie” even though I live in Portland (!). I like to eat well enough, and appreciate a good meal (especially when Ida Rae makes it – my wife is a wonderful cook and I am a lucky man!) But when it comes to ingredients and sources of food, my eyes glaze over. Grocery stores are a source of anxiety to me. I am a stranger in a strange land.

All of which makes reading some of this section of Berachot a little difficult for me. This page, for example, has lists of various kinds of fruits and herbs and the appropriate blessings for each. We learn, for example, that morils and truffles are included in the generic blessing (sh’hacol bara lichvodo – “by whose word all things are created”) rather than the specific of blessing of things growing from the earth (borei pri ha’adama – “creator of the fruit of the earth”) because those fungi “spring from the earth but do not get their sustenance from the earth.” Who knew?

But the beginning of the page talks about breaks in benedictions. This caught my attention.

Usually, when one says a benediction for food, a least a morsel of it must be eaten right away so that it is not a “wasted blessing.” Action immediately follows prayer. However the case is given of a host who says the blessing and then invites the company to eat – he does not have to repeat the benediction. However, if he says the benediction and then instructs that condiments (“salt and relish”) be brought for the bread – he has to say the benediction again (R. Johanan disagrees).

If after the benediction and before eating he says “mix fodder for the oxen” R. Sheshet says he does not have to repeat the benediction. Why? Rab Judah says in the name of Rab: “A man is forbidden to eat before he gives food to his animals.” How do we know this? Because it says in the Torah: And I will send grass in your fields for your cattle, that you may eat and be full. (Deut. 11:15). Note the order: animals eat first, then you can eat.

Feed your animals – pets or cattle. Even if you forgot and have already sat down to your meal - even if you have already said the blessing (!), get up and feed your animals first.

Even to a non-Foodie, this makes sense.

No comments:

Post a Comment