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)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Eruvin 3 – Too Many Cooks; It's Somebody Else's Problem

The maximal height of a cross-beam to designate an “entrance” to a blind alleyway continues to be discussed. Again the question continues to be debated: is the standard the maximal of height of a sukkah or the height of one of the entrances of the Temple? In this case, it is even more complicated: do we include the height of the crossbeam itself, or just the lowest portion of it? The limitation on the height of the sukkah seems to be stricter. A sukkah might sag and thus be lower than the 20 cubit minimum – but it might change (say the covering dries up or blows away) and the person would be unaware. The same could happen to a cross beam which might sag just a bit under the minimum height but then change. The latter might be allowed, but the former is not. Why?

Raba of Parazika replied: In the case of a sukkah, since [it is usually intended] for the use of an individual, one might not remember [the altitude of the roof]. In the case of an entrance however, since [it is made] for the use of many, [the people concerned] would remind one another.

Sounds reasonable. Unless it isn’t. Are people really that careful about communal responsibilities?

Raba of Parazika replied: In the case of a sukkah, since [it is usually made] for one individual, that person realizes his responsibility and makes a point of remembering [the conditions of the roof]. In the case of an entrance, however, since [it is made] for the use of many, [the people affected might] rely upon one another and so overlook [any defects in the cross-beam];

for do not people say: ‘a pot in charge of two cooks is neither hot nor cold’.

I love that the same person can have two contradictory opinions. But I also love that last expression. Or, as Douglas Adams might have it, it’s an SEP: somebody else’s problem. 

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