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)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Shabbat 31 – Lessons

This page is so filled with great stories! It’s a shame the whole thing gets ruined by one of the most unfortunate Mishnaot at the end – “reasons” women die in childbirth. But maybe we’ll look at that one – and it’s aftermath – tomorrow.

But staying with the early parts of the page: the famous story of Hillel – “standing on one foot.” You remember – the person who comes to both Shammai and Hillel with the proposition that he will convert to Judaism if the rabbi will teach him all of Torah while he performs the short-lived childish feat. Shammai beats him with a stick, Hillel teaches him the “Golden Rule” and tells him that the rest of commentary – “go and learn it.”

But, this is just one of – count ‘em – four “mocking proselytes vs. Hillel and Shammai.” In the first a heathens make a bet that they can make Hillel angry. He asks a series of absurd and even offensive (what we would call racist) questions. Hillel maintains his cool and the questioner loses the bet. But we gain a picture of equanimity.

In the second story the heathen in given a lesson in trust. Refusing to believe in the concept of the “Oral Torah” Hillel teaches him the “aleph-bet” in order. The next day he teaches him the “aleph-bet” in reverse order. “But yesterday you taught it to me the other way!” he complained. “Does this mean you have to rely on me?” Hillel answered “then you have to rely on me about the Oral Torah as well.”

Lessons learned!

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