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 25, 2012

Shabbat 83 – Always Study

The page contains extended discussion on the analogies of idol worship. For example, what is the minimum size of an idol which contaminates? Evidently there was a fly-sized idol of the Phoenicians, Baal Ekron (or Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron (II Kings 1:2) which was commonly carried about. A reptile (sherez) which contaminates is the size of a lentil. But a corpse which contaminates is the size of an olive (we are talking, of course, about parts – not the whole). The more lenient ruling applies.

The Mishnah also explains that ships are not subject to being ritually unclean. The gemara contrasts it to a sack which can be carried both full and empty – but a ship cannot be carried, it carries! Fine but what about a canoe which can be carried both full and empty? Ah… there is a digression:

Rab Judah said in Rab's name: One should never abstain from [attendance at] the Beth Hamidrash even for a single hour, for lo! how many years was this Mishnah learnt in the Beth Hamidrash without its reason being revealed, until R. Hanina b. Akiba came and elucidated it.

The answer is less important than the lesson: one never knows when an opportunity for learning, for enlightenment, may arise. This is learned from the text:

This is the Torah, when a man dies in a tent . . .(Num. 19:14).
[That is to say,] even in the hour of death one should be engaged in [the study of] the Torah.

This was a rabbinic ideal – there is always an opportunity to learn. And learning is valuable for its own sake.

Keep studying!

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