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, September 18, 2012

Berachot 48 - King Jannai and Grace After Meals

A story is told about King Jannai. Elsewhere in the Talmud (Kiddusin 66a) we learn that King Jannai had all the rabbis assassinated, possibly because of an incident (told in Sanhedrin 19a) in which he was humiliated before the rabbinic court. One who escaped the carnage was Simeon b. Shetah – the Queen’s brother.
In our story, the king and queen are having a meal together, and the king laments that since he has killed all the rabbis, there is no one to say grace for them! (The very definition of chutzpah: the man who murders his parents and then pleads for mercy from the court because he is an orphan).

The Queen invites her brother, after making her husband swear he will be safe. Simeon b. Shetah is brought to the meal, but is not invited to eat. Afterwards he is asked to say grace and is given a cup of wine to say it on. The blessing he gives is a mocking one: “Blessed is He of whose sustenance Jannai and his companions have eaten.” He then drinks the wine. They give him another cup and he says grace over that one.

Thus one must have actually eaten something of a meal before saying grace.

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