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)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Shabbat 142 – Permitted over Forbidden

It is not usual for general principles to be given. Rabbinic writing is filled with specifics. For example:

IF A STONE IS ON THE MOUTH OF A CASK [OF WINE], (and one wishes to take out wine on Shabbat) ONE TILTS [THE CASK] ON A SIDE AND [THE STONE] FALLS OFF. IF [THE CASK] IS [STANDING] AMONG [OTHER] CASKS (and damage would be caused from the falling stone), HE LIFTS [THE CASK] OUT, TILTS IT ON A SIDE, AND [THE STONE] FALLS OFF.

Ok, that is a lot of “if’s” – although a pretty practical ruling. Wine was stored in these kinds of barrels and it would not be surprising to have a stone on top holding the lid down. But lifting the stone off would be one of the forbidden labors – even though (ironically) the entire cask can be lifted out of the group so that the stone falls without creating damage (also forbidden).

However, from this a general rule is noted:

wherever there is something permitted and something forbidden, one must occupy oneself with what is permitted, not with what is forbidden

That is, you have two things here – the forbidden stone and the permitted wine cask. The stone is incidental. The attention is on the permitted, not on the forbidden.

Actually, a good way to look at things. Looking at the array of task forbidden on Shabbat can be daunting, and perhaps discouraging. The proper attitude is to pay attention to what is permitted. And enjoy it.

Not a bad way to live life, actually. 

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