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 9, 2013

Shabbat 157 – Annulling Vows and the End of the Tractate

This relates to the Torah section on vows (Num. 30:1ff)

If a woman also vows a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by a bond. . . And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it; then her vows shall stand, and her bonds with which she bound her soul shall stand.

But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, with which she bound her soul, of no effect; and the Lord shall forgive her. (Num. 30:4, 8-9)

Of course the Talmudic rabbis do not comment on the gross unfairness of the idea that a woman’s words could be annulled by her husband. This was simply their reality – as it was even until very recent times in America. They do ask, though, why this Mishnah is here – what, exactly is the point. Specifically, why are they two separate sentences?

The scholars asked: Is annulment [permitted] whether it is required [for the Sabbath] or not, whereas absolution [may be granted] only when it is necessary, but not otherwise, and for that reason they are divided from each other? . . .

Come and hear: For Zuti, of the School of R. Papa, recited: Vows may be annulled on the Sabbath when they are required for the Sabbath: thus, only when required for the Sabbath, but not otherwise.

That bears on the question of what “on the day” means. Is it 24 hours, in which case one could most likely wait until after Shabbat, or is it a lesser amount of time in which case they would often have to be annulled during Shabbat or risk standing.

It is not resolved:

It is dependent on Tannaim: [The period for] the annulling of vows is all day; R. Jose son of R. Judah and R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon maintain: Twenty-four hours

And there is a short discussion on measuring.

Rabbah b. R. Hunah was found measuring water while sitting in a bathtub:

“I was merely occupying myself”, he replied.

And with that – the tractate Shabbat abruptly ends.

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