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, January 29, 2013

Shabbat 118 – Charitable Shabbat

A discussion of whether there are three meals eaten on Shabbat or, as R. Hidka suggests, four. He bases it on the Torah text: And Moses said, Eat that (manna) today; for today is a Sabbath unto the Lord: today you shall not find it in the field (Ex. 16:25). There being three “today”s in the text – the fourth being the dinner of Shabbat evening.

This becomes important in relation to the responsibilities of charity.

First, the responsibility of the recipient:

He who has food for two meals must not accept [relief] from the daily charity plate (tamhuy): food for fourteen meals, must not accept from the weekly communal distribution (kuppah)

The community has the responsibility to provide for the immediate needs and for the ongoing needs of the poor. The poor have the responsibility to not take more than they need. But if there are 3 meals on Shabbat the total should be 15, if 4 meals it should be 16! R. Akiva (the author of this text) suggests that one should reduce even the Shabbat joy rather than depend on charity for luxury. Fourteen meals, then, is sufficient.

However, this is counted by a different text:

Now, as to what we learnt: 'A poor man travelling from place to place must be given not less than a loaf . . . if he stays overnight, he must be given the requirements for spending the night; while if he spends the Sabbath there, he must be given food for three meals'

For Shabbat is a delight to all – even those who require charity:

R. Johanan said in R. Jose's name: He who delights in the Sabbath is given an unbounded heritage, for it is written, Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord, and I will make thee to ride upon the high places of the earth; and I will feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father, (Isaiah 58:14).

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