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)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Eruvin 13 – The Humble are Raised and the Exalted are Humbled

There is are many side notes on this page – the normal kinds of diversions in the Talmudic conversation. But the following is worth repeating virtually whole.

We’ve read often about the disputes between the schools great schools of Hillel and Shammai. We know that the rabbis follow the rulings of Hillel yet reproduce the rulings of Shammai, even though they do not have the force of halachah (Jewish law). Why? Ah, there is a lesson in that – a lesson which comes from a bat kol - a disembodied heavenly voice:

R. Abba stated in the name of Samuel: For three years there was a dispute between Beth Shammai and Beth Hillel, the former asserting, ‘The halachah is in agreement with our views’ and the latter contending, ‘The halachah is in agreement with our views’.

Then a bath kol  issued announcing, “[The utterances of] both are the words of the living God, but the halachah is in agreement with the rulings of Beth Hillel”.

Aeylu v’aeylu divrey Elohim Chayyim – both this and that are the words of the living God. Such a profound statement that opposing sides can disagree but do so out of the best of intentions. God spoke both!

But, of course, since we are not God, we need one answer:

Since, however, both are ‘the words of the living God’ what was it that entitled Beth Hillel to have the halachah fixed in agreement with their rulings?

Because they were kindly and modest, they studied their own rulings and those of Beth Shammai, and were even so [humble] as to mention the actions of Beth Shammai before theirs,

This teaches you that him who humbles himself, the Holy One, blessed be He, raises up, and him who exalts himself, the Holy One, blessed be He, humbles; from him who seeks greatness, greatness flees, but him who flees from greatness, greatness follows; he who forces time is forced back by time but he who yields to time finds time standing at his side.

Re-read that last paragraph. THAT is Torah.

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