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)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Shabbat 156 – Astrology: Hebrew Style!

The gemara states:

It was recorded in R. Joshua b. Levi's notebook: He who [is born] on the first day of the week [Sunday] shall be a man without one [thing] in him — What does 'without one [thing] in him' mean? . . . it means either completely virtuous or completely wicked.[What is the reason? Because light and darkness were created on that day.]

He who is born on the second day of the week will be bad-tempered — What is the reason? Because the waters were divided thereon.

He who is born on the third day of the week will be wealthy and unchaste. What is the reason? Because herbs were created thereon.

He who is born on the fourth day of the week will be wise and of a retentive memory. What is the reason? Because the luminaries were suspended [thereon]

He who is born on the fifth day of the week will practice benevolence. What is the reason? Because the fishes and birds were created thereon.

He who is born on the eve of the Sabbath will be a seeker. R. Nahman b. Isaac commented: A seeker after good deeds.

He who is born on the Sabbath will die on the Sabbath, because the great day of the Sabbath was desecrated on his account. Raba son of R. Shila observed: And he shall be called a great and holy man.

Even after more examination of astrological convention, the rabbis go on to declare that “Israel is immune from planetary influence.” How do we know?

Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the nations, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the nations are dismayed at them: (Jer. 10:2)

They are dismayed but not Israel.

Astrology is for "them" - not "us". Which is not to say that the Talmudic rabbis disavowed Astrology is worthless - but that they believed that they had a secret weapon to counter it.

There follows a series of stories about Israelites who survived events even when astrologers predicted they would die. Upon investigation it was found that they had recently performed an unusual act of kindness. Thus prompting the reading from Proverbs 10:2 regarding tzedakah:

but righteousness delivereth from death.

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