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, March 10, 2013

Eruvin 2 – How Big the Doorway? Fix it!

We begin today a new tractate (and yes, remember that all Talmudic tractates begin on page 2): Eruvin. This, the second Order of Mo’ed is a continuation of the laws of Shabbat from the previous tractate.

However this one focuses on a special issue: the eruv - a device which allows public space to be considered “private” for the purpose of Shabbat laws.

Remember that in a private space there is far more permissible on Shabbat than in public ones. The moving of objects, for example.

Our Mishnah begins with a discussion of a blind alley. Presumably bounded on three sides by private courtyards but opening onto public space, it is defined as an enclosed space with the presence of a cross beam over the entrance. However:


There is extensive discussion of where these numbers come from. Is it from the measurements of the entrance to the Tabernacle, the Sanctuary? Or perhaps it comes from the limits on the size of a sukkah?

Elsewhere we have learnt: A sukkah which [in its interior] is more than twenty cubits high is unfit, but R. Judah regards it as fit.

This seems to fit! But what is strange is that the Mishnah here suggests a fix (lower the beam!) That is not the case for the sukkah. Why not?

[In respect of a] sukkah, since it is a Torah ordinance, it [was proper categorically to] rule it, ‘unfit’; in respect of the ENTRANCE, however, since [the prohibition against moving objects about in the alley is only] Rabbinical, a remedy could well be indicated.

Thus the distinction between d’rabbanan and d’orita. There is more flexibility in the laws imposed by the rabbis through interpretation than those directly written.

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