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, September 14, 2012

Berachot 44 - the Fruits of Gennesaret

With the recent debate about the benefits or lack of benefits to organic food, it is fascinating to read that the arguments about what kinds of foods are good for you or not has been going on for millennia. This page of Talmud, for example, contains such wisdom as: “Milt is good for the teeth but bad for the bowels; horse-beans are bad for the teeth but good for the bowels. All raw vegetables make the complexion pale and all things not fully grown retard growth.” Not to mention that one should not eat vegetables before breakfast, because it will give you bad breath.

But there is a fascinating reference to the “fruit of Genessaret.” Gennesar (often spelled “Ginnosar”) is the narrow and very fertile plain along Lake Kinnert or the Sea of Galilee.  Kinnert, so called because it’s fruit is as sweet as the sound of the kinor or harp, is the Biblical and modern word for the Greek form: Gennesar.

The Plain of Gennesar shows up in Rabbinic literature, Josephus and the New Testament. Clearly well known the fruit from this fertile area are described as being large, easy to digest and causing the skin to grow smooth. “R. Abbahu used to eat of them [so freely] that a fly slipped off his forehead” – his skin being so smooth it could gain no foothold! The fruit seemed to have other, more interesting effects: “R. Ammi and R. Assi used to eat of them till their hair fell out. R. Simeon b. Lakish ate until his mind began to wander.”

According to legend, the fruits of Gennesaret were not allowed in Jerusalem during the pilgrimage, out of fear that people will come to Jerusalem just for these fruits and forget about their religious obligations.


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