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, February 11, 2013

Shabbat 131 – Preparing for Mitzvah

As we learned on the previous page’s Mishnah, Rabbi Eliezer finds that not only may circumcision be performed on Shabbat, but all the preliminaries – like carrying a knife in public – may be performed on Shabbat as well. This is a bit surprising.

Our page discusses if this is a general principle or not: yes, performance of a time bound mitzvah overrides the Shabbat – but do the preliminaries (that is, the preparations needed) supersede in all cases as well?

R. Hiyya b. Abba said in R. Johanan's name: Not in respect of everything did R. Eliezer rule that the preliminary preparations of a precept supersede the Sabbath. . .

What follows is a long examination of a series of mitzvot which do take precedence over the Shabbat laws:
  1. The two loaves offered on Shavuot (Lev. 23:17) – note: only in Temple times
  2. Lulav on Sukkot (Lev. 23:40) which may be carried in public
  3. Sukkah (Lev. 23:42)
  4. Matzah on Passover
  5. Shofar on Rosh Hashanah (Lev. 23:24)
All these are found to include not only the performance of the mitzvah, but the preparations as well. So why doesn’t R. Eliezer make it a general principle?

Said R. Adda b. Ahabah: It is to exclude (inserting) fringes for one's garment and (affixing) mezuzah for one's door

Why are these particular mitzvoth excluded? R. Joseph says because there is no fixed time for them. Abaye counters that this is not a very good argument - since there is no fixed time, any time (including, presumably Shabbat) is appropriate!

Rather said R. Nahman b. Isaac others state, R. Huna son of R. Joshua: Because it is in one's power to renounce their (tallit, mezzuah’s) ownership.

General principle or no, preparation for mitzvah is part of mitzvah.

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