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 24, 2013

Shabbat 144 – Fruit Juice: Who Decides?

The Mishnah (on the previous page) makes a distinction on squeezing fruit for juice. This forbidden as form of “threshing.” However, Rabbi Judah allows it if the juice flows naturally, so long as the fruit is edible by itself – i.e. dates which are eaten, the juice is incidental. However, if they are used as a fruit juice, i.e. dates which are used as honey, the naturally flowing juices are excluded.

The rabbis discuss which fruits fall into which category. Among the fruits discussed are pomegranates. Now since they are primarily eaten, it would seem that according to Rabbi Judah their juice which came out naturally on Shabbat should be allowed. However the text notes that:

the household of Menasia b. Menahem used to express pomegranates.

R. Nahman said: The halachah is in accordance with the household of Menasia b. Menahem.

This sets up an interesting problem. How does this one example get to set up a law? Raba asks sarcastically:

Was then Menasia b. Menahem a Rabbinic sage (tanna)?

Does Menasia b. Menahem represent the majority of people?

Well, no. Yes, actually. Reasons are for found for following this practice and excluding pomegranates. But it is interesting to see the tension – one example should not be used as majority precedent. 

Who decides matters in terms of how the practice unfolds. And is accepted.

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