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)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Shabbat 63 – Battle Garb

This page is so full of wonderful things it is hard to choose. I’ll just note that there is a description of how much G-d loves rhetorical arguments, the idea that Torah study and financial reward go together, an insulting statement to left-handed people, and the idea that it is better to lend money to a poor person than to give charity (presumably because it preserves dignity and the donor is likely to give more under that circumstance). Oh, and an injunction not to keep or breed angry dogs.


But, let’s just focus on the beginning:

The Mishnah states that is forbidden for a man to go out in public on Shabbat wearing implements of war (sword, bow, shield, lance or spear). Now these many be considered “ornaments” (which would be permissible) but they are not allowed because they are “shameful.”

Why are they “shameful”? Because Shabbat is considered a foretaste of the messianic era, which the prophet describes in the famous vision: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4) So wearing items of war – even ornamental ones – on Shabbat is an insult to that vision.

But what if they are considered beautiful? Abaye says “It may be compared to a candle at noon.” I love that – while a candle looks beautiful at night, at midday it is irrelevant. Context matters!

Notice that neither the Mishnah nor Gemora say anything here about self-defense. It is just assumed that no one would want or need to be armed on Shabbat. The peacefulness of the day is like the sun shining at noon.

So for gun supporters – a least let’s have one day of rest!

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