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)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Shabbat 96 - Father of Daughters

Throwing, carrying and other principal and derivative labors are discussed. But the Torah also gives an example of "gathering" which is forbidden.

And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. (Num. 15:32)

That unnamed man is put to death for his crime.

R. Akiva here identifies him as Zelophehad, the father of daughters who challenged the law of inheritance which excluded women - even if there were no brothers to carry on the family name. Their father "died in the wilderness" (Num. 27:3), while unnamed gatherer was found (and executed) "in the wilderness" the rabbis decide that they are one and the same.

But Akiva gets in a bit of trouble for this:

"Said R. Judah b. Bathyra to him, ‘Akiba! in either case you will have to give an account [for your statement]: if you are right, the Torah shielded him (by not naming him), while you reveal him; and if not, you cast a stigma upon a righteous man.’"

Akiva's trouble arrives in part because there is no tradition of this reading. Be careful when you touch someone's reputation - especially a father of daughters!

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