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, October 22, 2012

Shabbat 19 - Going Postal

"Our Rabbis taught. . .letters may not be sent by a Gentile on the eve of Sabbath, [but] on Wednesday or Thursday it is permitted."

The issue is preventing an object from a Jew being handled or delivered on Shabbat. But what if the distance is further and it would not arrive before Shabbat? Some argue never to send a letter with a gentile! Shammai says it can be sent, so long as there is time enough to reach the addressee's house. Hillel says so long as it can reach the addressee's city. (there is also a seperate conversation about negotiated fees. we'll leave that aside for now)

How to reconcile? Rabbi Shesheth says in the second case there is a permanent post office in town to which the letter is delivered so that the gentile doesn't risk delivering it to a Jew by hand on Shabbat.

I did not know that the institution of fixed Post Offices was so ancient and ubiquitous! this would make a fascinating research paper. And what does it mean in our era when the postal system is failing? Does it apply to e-mail? Be careful with you "send" button!

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