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, April 6, 2013

Eruvin 28 – Contraceptive

The question of what kinds of foods may be left in a space to help constitute it as “private” continues.

Rab Judah ruled in the name Of R. Samuel b. Shilath who had it from Rab: An eruv may be prepared with papuin (cress), chalglugot purslane and godgandanit (melilot) but not with lichen or unripe dates.

The requirement is that the items left in the eruv be edible – or at least things that people will eat. That point is disputed with one of the herbs on the list:

Is it, however, permitted to prepare an eruv with melilot seeing that it was taught: “Those who have many children may eat melilot but those who are deprived of children must not eat it; and if it was hardened into seed even those who have many children should not eat it?”

Since it can be harmful, how could it be considered as part of a meal?

Explain it to [refer to melilot] that was not hardened into seed and [that is used for people who] have many children.

Since it is suitable for some it is considered “food.”

 And if you prefer I might say: It may in fact refer to [people who] have no children [the use of the plant nevertheless being permitted] because it is fit [for consumption] by those who have many children; for have we not learnt: ‘An eruv may be prepared for a nazirite with wine and for an Israelite with terumah’, from which it is evident that [certain foodstuffs may be used for an eruv because] through they are unsuitable for one person they are suitable for another?

So also here [it may be held that] though [the melilot] is not suitable for one it is suitable for another.

An interesting and useful principle – just because something is not suitable for the individual (wine for a nazirite for example, or the terumah of a priest for an Israelite – both are forbidden to the individual named) does not mean that it cannot be used for their eruv. Rather surprising, in fact.

But let’s not overlook the other point: melilot seems to have been considered a natural contraceptive! Forbidden to one who is childless (since they need to fulfill the mitzvah of “be fruitful and multiply” but permitted to one who has enough children!

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