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, October 2, 2012

Berachot 61 – Akiva’s Martyrdom

Ok, I was so overly excited by the items in the last post, that I accidently commented on a page and a half – that is 60 a-b and 61a. Sorry, faithful reader.

So I will just note that 61b includes the terrible story of Rabbi Akiva’s torture and death at the hands of the Romans. His execution, metal combs ripping through his flesh, took place at the time of the Sh’ma and so he began to recite. His disciples cried out to him “even now?” He replied that he had always been bothered by the verse “And you shall love Adonai your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). Now, at his moment of death he has the opportunity to fulfill “with all your soul” which Akiva understood to mean even if it is taken away. He dies, prolonging the word “Echad” – “One.” A Divine Voice (“bat kol”) proclaims that Akiva is destined for life of the world to come.

A terrible story, to be sure. But one of faith and martyrdom. And trust. Something to think about when we say the Sh'ma.

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