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)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Eruvin 5 – Build it up, Dig it down

We’ve discussed the maximum height of a cross-beam over a blind alley. This beam marks the space as enclosed and therefore a “private” domain in which some of the Sabbath laws are relaxed. The beam can’t be too high (over twenty cubits) for then it will not be apparent to the user. The Mishnah (back on 2a) tells us “lower it.” Well how does that happen, practically?

You don’t lower the cross-beam – you raise the ground!

This page discusses how this happens. Specifically, the minimum width of the new ramp underneath the beam. Rabbi Joseph suggests on one handbreadth wide. Abaye suggests four. They differ on the principle. Is it wide enough to “make use” of it, or is it just wide enough to be a “distinguishing mark” ?

And the same question arises for the opposite problem: what if the cross-beam is too low (less than 10 handbreadths high)? Then you have to excavate a ditch under the beam! How wide? Rabbi Joseph says 4 handbreadths, Abaye says four cubits! (of 5 or 6 handbreadths – see previous page).

This and other issues – such as breaches in the side walls – are discussed at length. But how is a decision arrived at? They create uncertainty

in respect of a Rabbinical enactment, (as opposed to a Torah law) and in any uncertainty appertaining to a Rabbinical enactment the more lenient course is followed.

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