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)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Shabbat 150 – Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Thought


Now, this makes sense. You cannot command someone to do something on your behalf that you cannot do yourself. But can you intimate it?

R. Joshua b. Karhah said: One may say to his neighbor  'Well, we shall see whether you join me in the evening'!

That is, one may hint that the worker will be hired after the Sabbath.

What is R. Judah b. Karhah's reason? Because it is written, [If thou turn away they foot form the Sabbath. . .] nor finding thine own pleasure nor speaking thine own words (Isa. 58:13): [explicit] speech is forbidden, but thought is permitted

Now this is fascinating. Unlike some other traditions, Judaism places no restriction on thought. It is putting that thought into action, i.e. speech, which may hold some restrictions. And, in fact, even those boundaries are loosened. One should not conduct business (speech) on Shabbat – and yet:

Now, is speech forbidden? Surely R. Hisda and R: Hamnuna both said: Accounts in connection with religion may be calculated [discussed] on the Sabbath. And R. Eleazar said: One may determine charity [grants] to the poor on the Sabbath. Again, R. Jacob b. Idi said in R. Johanan's name: One may supervise matters of life and death and matters of communal urgency on the Sabbath, and one may go to the synagogues to attend to communal affairs on the Sabbath.

 Also, R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in R. Johanan's name: One may go to theatres and circuses and basilicas to attend to communal affairs on the Sabbath. Further, the School of Manasseh taught: One may make arrangements on the Sabbath for the betrothal of young girls and the elementary education of a child and to teach him a trade! —

Scripture saith, nor finding thine own affairs nor speaking thine own words: thine affairs are forbidden, the affairs of Heaven [religious matters] are permitted. 

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