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 17, 2012

Shabbat 45 - Fire Worshipers!

"Surely Rab was asked: Is it permitted to move the Hanukkah lamp on account of the Guebres on the Sabbath? And he answered them, It is well."

This is according to the English translation. The Aramaic is more oblique -which is not unusual when dealing with other faiths, especially those which threated the community.

So who are these "Guebres"? This was a group of Fire-worshipers in ancient Persia. Part of the Zoroastrian tradition, for them Fire was a representation of the deity of light/good, the opposite of darkness/evil. The term "Guebres" is actually a much later term of insult, meaning "infidel" applied by the Islamic majority after their defeat. Following these persecutions, the majority emigrated to India where they were known as Parsees.


However, in our Talmud page, these fire-worshipers clearly did not like having the Jewish population display their Hanukah menorah's in public. Perhaps this was a time when Hannukah would overlap with their own festival, and the Jewish action might be seen as blasphemous. In this time of danger, the Hanukkiah could be moved on Shabbat, after the lights had burned down. But only such a time of danger.

One of the things I love about reading Talmud is this window into the life of a different age. Here a view of the oppressions, perhaps violence, of marauding enforcers of the Fire-Worshipers' tradition. It makes me think of the Taliban.

How little things change. Despite the shifting details, we see the eternal danger of religious fanaticism and enforcing of uniform religious observance, or intolerance of diversity. We Jews have been victims of its effects - we dare not repeat it on our own people!

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