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, December 1, 2012

Shabbat 59 - Horseshoes and Brooches

One way of deciding what is unfit to be worn as an separate item in pubiic on Shabbat (as opposed to something woven in or sown on to clothing) is determining if the object is succeptable to defilement should it comes in contact with someone ritually unclean. Which brings us to an interesting historical factoid: what horseshoes used to look like.

           "For we learnt: an animal's shoe, [if] of metal, is (subject to be) unclean. For what is it fit? — Rab said: It is fit for drinking water from in battle."

Now that's interesting! These battle horseshoes were not the open hoops we know. They had volume - fitting around and enclosing the horse's hooves, even serving as improvised drinking cups. And they might have had another dual use:

       "R. Johanan said: When one is fleeing from the field of battle, he places this [shoe] on his [own] feet and runs over briars and thorns."

The other basic principle of deciding what it forbidden to wear is value and removability. This is shown in the case of a "Golden City" presumably a brooch with an engraved image of Jerusalem:

         "R. Eliezer ruled: A woman may go out with a golden city at the very outset. . .the Rabbis hold that it is an ornament, [and it is forbidden only] lest she remove it to show [to a friend], and thus come to carry it [in the street]."

Interesting that this was apparently common enough that it needed its own ruling. Also interesting that it does not seem to violate the (historically flexible) rule against graven images. A city is not an animal or human which could be confused with a deity!

And you can't play horseshoes with a drinking cup!

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