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 17, 2013

Shabbat 137 – Slaves and Proselytes

We have been discussing the fact that circumcision is required on the 8th day of a male infant’s life – and that even the laws of Shabbat a set aside in favor of fulfilling this commandment. There is, however, one essential exception. As the Mishnah on this page state:


Everything is suspended based on the health and safety of the child. The rabbis continue:

Samuel said: When his temperature subsides [to normal], we allow him full seven days for his [complete] recovery.

Not only is circumcision suspended during the time of illness, but we delay a full week just to be sure.
It is also worthwhile to note that the rabbis over a powerful benediction for the circumcision of slaves and for conversion:

'… Who hast sanctified us with Thy commandments and hast commanded us (to circumcise proselytes and) to cause the drops of the blood of the covenant to flow from them, since but for the blood of the covenant the ordinances of heaven and earth would not endure, as it is said, If not my covenant by day and by night, I had not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth (Jer. 33:25).

The cosmic consequence of bringing others into the covenantal relationship is celebrated here. Although Jews do not proselytize, we do welcome those who seek. (The slave, of course, does not necessarily seek – but as noted in an earlier post, circumcision represents obligation towards him).

Without their participation the universe would literally not endure! Far from those who think that converts are not “real” Jews, this benediction gives even greater honor than to one who is a born Jew.

No comments:

Post a Comment