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)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Shabbat 136 – Infant Mortality

A newborn who is deemed to be non-viable – do we circumcise him if the eighth day falls on Shabbat?

Said R. Adda b. Ahabah: We circumcise him in either case: if he is viable, he is rightly circumcised; if not, one [merely] cuts flesh (which is permissible on Shabbat).

However, this does get to the issue of a non-viable infant. According to tradition any child who lives more than 30 days is considered “viable.” Mourning customs are not done for one who dies earlier. And yet:

A child was born to the son of R. Dimi b. Joseph, [and] it died within thirty days. [Thereupon] he sat and mourned for it.

The same happened with R. Kahana. Both are visited by others who tell them the law and reprimand them for mourning. They both come up with answers for why they are mourning anyway.

The law may be what it is – but it hard to interfere with human emotion. And that is a good thing.

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