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 11, 2012

Shabbat 69 - Personal vs Communal Shabbat

Continuing the discussion of ignorance vs willful disregard of the laws of Shabbat - the penalty for the first being a sin-offering sacrifice (in the days when it was possible to bring sacrifices) the latter being excommunication.

How is it possible to ignorant of a particular Shabbat? The case of a traveller who gets lost and loses track of time. If he cannot figure out which day is Shabbat, what should he do?

According to Rabbi Huna, he should "count six days and observe one."

According to Hiyya b. Rab, he should "observe one and count six."

Now that's a big difference! How do they reason?

"One Master holds that it is as the world's Creation; the other Master holds that it is like Adam."

In other words Huna models after G-d: six days of work, followed by a day of rest. Hiyya says the traveller thinks of himself as Adam: the day after his creation (i.e. the day he realizes he's lost track of time) is Shabbat!

Shabbat, in this sense, is not an existential reality - it is defined by human experience. In perfection it is a shared communal experience, but in isolation (and desperation) it is defined by the experience of the individual.

But then is he liable for a sacrifice when he returns to the community (and realizes his Shabbat) differs from everyone else's? Ignorance vs willful defiance.

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