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)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Berachot 59 - Static Universe

Another fascinating Astronomy/Astrology paragraph is on this page. But I cannot pass up a statement that goes to the heart of the nature of the universe!

The story is told that when G-d wanted to create the flood in Noah's time, G-d plucked out two stars from the constellation Kimah (Pleiades). Presumably this let the waters from the upper heavens (above the spheres that hold the starts) pour down to Earth. When G-d was ready for the flood to end, G-d took two stars from 'Ayish (the Bear) and plugged the holes from the first two stars. The question is asked, why didn't G-d just put the missing stars back where they came from? The answer: "A pit cannot be filled with its own clods." Ok, then why didn't G-d just make two new stars to fill the holes? Here's the answer that astonished me: "There is nothing new under the sun." (Eccl. 1:9)

This is a statement of the classic "static universe" theory of cosmology - the universe is exactly as it was and will be (aside from small, local variations). This was, in fact, the theory Einstein preferred - he invented the "Cosmological Constant" to mathematically keep it that way. It was only with Edwin Hubble's 1929 observations linking redshift and distance that it became clear the Universe is expanding, giving credence to the "Big Bang" Theory. Coupled with 20th century details of stellar evolution we see the universe as a far more dynamic place than previous generations did.

Of course, we don't look to Midrash for details on scientific principles. But it is fun to see a casual statement reflecting classic ideas far different from our own.

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