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 30, 2012

Shabbat 88 – Under the Mountain

Some favorite midrashim (rabbinic stories) around Revelation at Sinai. Among the best known is an interpretation of Exodus 19:17 - And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with G-d; and they stood at the lower part of the mount.

“lower part” or “foot of the mountain” - b’tachtit ha-har - means literally “under the mountain.” Thus the midrash that as they gathered there, G-d lifted up the entire mountain and held it over the Israelites'  heads saying “If you accept the Torah, all well and good. If not, this is where you will be buried.”

Nice midrash.

Of course, as the rabbis note, this set up a problem: as R. Aha b. Jacob notes “This furnishes a strong protest against the Torah” – that acceptance was coerced.

Raba answers:
Yet even so, they re-accepted it in the days of Ahasuerus, for it is written, [the Jews] confirmed, and took upon them [etc.]: (Esther 9:27)

[that is] they confirmed what they had accepted long before.

Nice answer. Made even more powerful when we look at more of the sentence:
The Jews confirmed, and took upon them, and upon their seed, and upon all who joined themselves to them. . .

It is an agreement binding on future generations – and explicitly includes converts! Clearly speaking to the realities of their time.

And I love that it is the story of Purim, that fairy-tale of the Diaspora with its grave dangers and unlikely opportunities, which ultimately confirms the agreement of the people to the covenantal relationship. G-d saves us from genocide and the response is a voluntary recommitment to that divine relationship throughout the generations. 

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