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 17, 2013

Eruvin 9 – Legal Fictions: Horizontal and Vertical

Several conditions of alleyways and side posts to define them are described on this page – so complexly that only illustrations included in the commentaries make them intelligible.

One more direct example invokes a legal fiction known as labud:

If a cross-beam was drawn away or suspended [at a distance of] less than three handbreadths [from the walls of the alley] there is no need to provide another beam, [but if the distance was] three handbreadths another beam must be provided.

It is then argued whether 3 or 4 handbreadths is the correct amount. What is described here is a beam which stretched over the entrance to an alley but which does not reach one or both sides. The can happen if there are pins in wall which the beam is resting on, or if it is suspended from the ground T-shaped by a pole in its middle. Either way the principle of labud is invoked. Literally meaning “joined” it states that if the gap is small enough (less than 3 or 4 handbreadths depending on which authority you follow) it is treated as if it is actually joined to the wall.

A similar principle known as chabut (“pressed down”) works in the vertical realm – that is pins which are inclined and holding up a beam are treated as if they are level in terms of the height of the beam (making legal a beam suspended too high on them).

These kinds of legal fictions make complicated situations a bit more reasonable. A kind of “benefit of doubt” made possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment