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, November 2, 2012

Shabbat 30 - For the Sake of Our Ancestors

A legal question is asked of RabbI Tanhum of Neway: Is it allowed What to extinguish a burning lamp for a sick man on the Sabbath?

Instead of giving a simple yes or no answer, a full sermon (technically a "Midrash Halacha") is reproduced on this page! It is actually quite wonderful to see.

I won't try to summarize the whole thing. Like all in this genre he begins with a text which has noting to do with the question, and the fun is to see how he weaves it around and ends up exactly where he wanted to be.

I will quote one part in the middle, though. R. Tanhum wants to show how the dead are venerated before G-d. He notes that when Solomon wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant into his newly constructed Temple in Jerusalem, the gates refused to open of him. He sang 24 songs of praise. . . Nothing happend. He called out "Lift up your heads, oh gates!" (Which we sometimes sing today when our ark is opened).

Still nothing.

But as soon as he said "remember the good deeds of your servant, David" the gates opened. This shows that it is not for our own actions but on praise of those who came before that we receive honor. Which is why we start our Amidah prayer with a mention of our Patriarchs (and more recently our Matriarchs).

Oh, and the 24 songs of Solomon are referred to here as "Rina-note." Happy Birthday today to my sister Rina! Named for the song.

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