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 23, 2012

Shabbat 81 – The Rabbis and the Witch

Much of the page discusses bathroom etiquette, mostly involving stones which are carried to be used for “sanitary” purposes. I will not go into details (although the Talmud does! Including 10 foods and actions which lead to hemorrhoids.)

However, I point out that the privy was considered a place where one was susceptible to demons and witchcraft. The second point is illustrated by a wonderful story told on this page:

R. Hisda and Rabbah son of R. Huna were travelling in a boat, when a certain [non-Jewish] matron (matronita) said to them, ‘Seat me near you,’ but they did not seat her. Thereupon she uttered something [a charm] and bound the boat; they uttered something [a counter-charm?], and freed it.

Said she to them, ‘What can I do to you, seeing that you do not cleanse yourselves with a shard (in the privy), nor kill vermin on your garments, and you do not pull out and eat a vegetable from a bunch which the gardener has tied together’ (but untie the bunch first)?

The story is told to indicate things which expose one to witchcraft. Uncommented upon is the fact that the rabbis knew the magical words to counteract the witch’s incantation. 

You go, rabbis!

No comments:

Post a Comment