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)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Shabbat 62 – Men and Women: Rings and Straps

On the list of things that a woman cannot wear in public on Shabbat is a ring with a signet. The exact opposite is true for men – rings without signets are forbidden to be worn in pubic on Shabbat. They are not “ornaments” which would are allowed – they are, technically, “burdens.” We read it most clearly back a few pages:

“if it has a signet, it is a man's ornament; if it has no signet, it is a woman's ornament” (Shabbat 60a)

There is a practical side here. Signet rings were items of official identity used for business purposes. Official documents would be sealed with wax and impressed by an identifying signet. So it would be normal for a man to wear one, and unusual in those days for a woman to.

The Gemara commentary does grant an interesting exception to a woman who is a “charity overseer” – evidently someone who needs an official signet to approve charitable disbursements. Interesting to see that this was a position where it was not unusual for find a woman in charge.

More commonly, though, is the clear division between women and men in these texts. For example on our page:

Thus we see that ‘Ulla holds that whatever is fit for a man is not fit for a woman, and whatever is fit for a woman is not fit for a man.

In fact, Ulla seems to hold woman as “a separate people.”

Interestingly, though, there seems to be room for women to do something which had long been considered (even today) only the purvey of men – wearing tefillin.

R. Meir holds that night is a time for tefillin, and the Sabbath [too] is a time for tefillin: thus it is a positive precept not limited by time, and all such are incumbent upon women.

Yes, Rabbi Meir’s view did not hold – either on the times when tefillin worn or on women’s wearing them. But it is interesting that this opening is given.

Strict divisions – and sometimes not so strict.

1 comment: