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)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Shabbat 28 – Gone Extinct!

The mention of a remarkable creature : the “Tahash.”

Translated variously as “sea cow”, “badger”, “porpoise”, “seal”, and even “goat” – the skin of the Tahash was one of coverings of the Tabernacle. But there is much confusion as to what this animal actually is. Or was.

What is our conclusion with respect to the tahash which existed in Moses’ days? — Said R. Elai in the name of R. Simeon b. Lakish, R. Meir used to maintain, The tahash of Moses’ day was a separate species, and the Sages could not decide whether it belonged to the genus of wild beasts (chayya) or to the genus of domestic animals (behayma);

and it had one horn in its forehead, and it came to Moses’ hand [providentially] just for the occasion, and he made the [covering of the] Tabernacle, and then it was hidden.

(also quoted in Numbers Rabbah 6:3)

Midrash Tanchuma goes further:

Midrash Tanchuma, Terumah 6: "Rabbi Yehudah said: There was a large, kosher wild animal in the wilderness, and it had a single horn in its forehead, and its skin was six colors; they took it and made the tapestries from it.

First of all, the idea of a one-horned animal of indeterminate species – and second, that it seemed to have either been a unique creature or to have gone extinct!

Could it be related to Elasmotherium,  a giant rhinoceros of the Pleistocene era, the bones of which were perhaps known? Or was it simply porpoise or even goatskin?

Whatever it was, prosaic or unique – it is fun to see that the Talmudic rabbis acknowledge some aspects of evolution.

No comments:

Post a Comment