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)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Shabbat 107 – Life of Pests

In the Kosher laws enumerated in Leviticus 11, The Torah mentions eight “reptiles” (Sherazim) – really “creeping things” or “vermin” – which are considered “unclean” (note that they do not appear in the parallel Kosher list in Deuteronomy 14).

The Mishnah states that capturing or wounding them on Shabbat is a culpable offense.

Since you asked, the eight are (according to the New JPS translation):

The mole, the mouse, great lizards of every variety; the gecko, the land crocodile, the lizard, the sand lizard, and the chameleon. (Lev. 11:29-30)

For other worms, snakes and insects – capturing them out of need (i.e. milking a snake for its venom) is forbidden, but to prevent biting or just to keep them from away from people is allowed.
But in any case, killing – even vermin – on Shabbat is not allowed.

Said R. Jeremiah, It is R. Eliezer. For it was taught, R. Eliezer said: He who kills vermin on the Sabbath is as though he killed a camel on the Sabbath.


a Master said: ‘The Holy One, blessed be He, sits and sustains [all creatures], from the horns of wild oxen to the eggs of vermin’

You may not care about the life of a vermin – but G-d does! On Shabbat we respect the sacredness of all life. Even pests.

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