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, February 10, 2013

Shabbat 130 – Defiance in Times of Oppression

Rabbi Eliezer states in our Mishnah that if the circumcision knife had not been brought before Shabbat one carries it openly (normally something forbidden on Shabbat). In times of danger, he continues, the knife can be hidden so long as there are witnesses to testify that it was carried.

The question arises – why should it be carried openly? It is “out of love for the precept” – that is to make clear that fulfilling the laws of circumcision override the laws of Shabbat.

And the “times of danger” were real – when circumcision was outlawed as one of the means to destroy the Jewish people (i.e. before the Maccabean revolt and in the Hadriatic persecution). Even in those times, circumcision continued – but surreptitiously and at danger.

These acts of defiance are noted and celebrated. For example, this story is told about someone who was called “Elisha-the-man-of-the-wings”

And why is he called 'the man-of-the-wings'? Because the wicked State(Rome) once proclaimed a decree against Israel that whoever donned tefillin should have his brains pierced through; yet Elisha put them on and went out into the streets. A quaestor (Roman officer) saw him: he fled before him, and the latter gave pursuit. As he overtook him, he [Elisha] removed (the tefillin) from his head and held them in his hand, 'What is that in your hand?' he demanded, 'The wings of a dove,' was his reply. He stretched out his hand and the wings of a dove were found therein. Hence he is called 'Elisha-the-man-of-the-wings.'
And why did he tell him the wings of a dove rather than that of other birds? Because the Congregation of Israel is likened to a dove, as it is said, as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her pinions with yellow gold (Ps. 68:14) just as a dove is protected by its wings, so with the Israelites, their precepts protect them.

No comments:

Post a Comment