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)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Shabbat 61 - Defining Effective Treatments - Amulets and their Writers


So there are amulets and there are amulets. What's the difference? Professional standards!

Amulets were magical items; lockets, which were worn as protection. Sometimes they contained written text, sometimes special herbs. But in all cases they served a purpose health or protection.

Of course, to save a life or protect health - the laws of Shabbat may be suspended. So it makes sense that an amulet should be permitted to be worn in public when other items are not - so long as it works!

So how do you decide if you have a working amulet or not?

"Our Rabbis taught: What is an approved amulet? One that has healed [once], a second time and a third time"

So the amulet (either the actual amulet or one exactly like it) must have a proven track record.

But what about the amulet writer? How can you trust his work? Glad you asked:

"R. Papa said: Do not think that both the man [issuing it] and the amulet must be approved; but as long as the man is approved, even if the amulet is not approved."

According to Rabbi Papa there are 3 tests for an approved amulet and/or writer:

A. If 3 amulets are successful for 3 people and each works 3 times: the amulets and the amulet-writer are approved.

B. if 3 amulets are successful for 3 people and each works 1 time: the amulet-writer is approved, but not the amulets.

C. If 1 amulet is successful for 3 people: the amulet is approved but not the amulet-writer.

So there is an evidence-based standard for approving a particular amulet or for assuming the efficacy of a professional's work.

If only our modern medical system, which often pays for new medicines and therapies even if their effectiveness is unproven, worked the same way!

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