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, October 26, 2012

Shabbat 23 - It's Commanded

The first Hannukah blessing (remember, there are 3 on the first night, 2 on all the others) is quoted: ". . . Who sanctified us by His commandments and commanded us to kindle the light of Hanukkah." But, where is it written in the Torah that we are "commanded" to light Hannukah candles? Ah, you'd think that is a trick question - Hannukah isn't mentioned in the Torah since it's events take place after it was written! But, no - there is an answer: Nehemiah quoted: Ask thy father, and he will show thee; Thine elders, and they will tell thee. (Deut. 32:7).


Actually, what's going on here is a justification for rabbinic enactment. "Fathers", "elders" are stand-ins for the rabbis. They set certain laws and traditions which are observed as if written in the Torah. This is the nature of "Oral Law."

On this page is also a powerful statement about the rationale for the "corners of the fields" being left for the poor. Why not the middle? "R. Simeon said: On account of four considerations . . .as a precaution] against the robbing of the poor, against wasting the time of the poor, against suspicion, and against [transgressing] the commandment."

How great that this element of Tzedakah places the responsibility of consideration on the donor - including not wasting the recipient's time!

This also is commanded.

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