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)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Shabbat 120 – Indirect Causes

One can make a barrier on Shabbat, the Mishnah states, to prevent a fire from spreading. Even barrier of vessels filled with water. But R. Jose forbids new earthenware vessels filled with water because they can burst and extinguish the flame.

Remember that putting out a fire is one of the primary categories of work, just as lighting a fire.

So what about this kind of indirect extinguishing. After all, the primary purpose is to make a barrier, not to put out the fire. It was not the plan (intention) that the vessels burst.

Our Rabbis taught: If a lamp is on a board, one may shake [tip up] the board and it [the lamp] falls off, and if it is extinguished, it is extinguished. The School of R. Jannai said: They learnt this only if one forgot [it there]; but if he placed [it there], it [the board] became a stand for a forbidden article.

Again, intention.

Another example:

A Tanna taught: If a lamp is behind a door, one may open and close [it] naturally, and if it is extinguished it is extinguished.

Rab cursed this [ruling].

While there is disagreement, it seems that the indirect is permissible as long as it is not used as an excuse to intentionally do something forbidden, and reasonable precautions (i.e. using fire-resistant vessels)  are taken.
Oh – and by the way:

If one has the [Divine] Name written (temporarily) on his skin, he must not bathe nor anoint [himself] nor stand in an unclean place.

Bathing is not the intention to erase the Divine name. But it is an inescapable consequence.

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