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)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Eruvin 54 - Pedagogy and Enjoying Life

Beruriah's last word in this section involves rebuking a student who mumbles.

Rebuking him (or kicking him!) she exclaimed: ‘Is it not written: Ordered in all things, and sure: (2 Sam. 23:5) If (Torah) is ‘ordered’ in your two hundred and forty-eight limbs it will be ‘sure’, otherwise it will not be sure.’

That is, use all your body and might, including speech, in your study.

The page contains many pedagogic lessons, including the value of study as a healing for all ailments, and the value of repetition. As in this long example:

Our Rabbis learned: What was the procedure of the instruction in the oral law? Moses learned from the mouth of the Omnipotent. Then Aaron entered and Moses taught him his lesson. Aaron then moved aside and sat down on Moses’ left. Thereupon Aaron's sons entered and Moses taught them their lesson. His sons then moved aside, Eleazar taking his seat on Moses’ right and Ithamar on Aaron's left. R. Judah stated: Aaron was always on Moses right. Thereupon the elders entered and Moses taught them their lesson, and when the elders moved aside all the people entered and Moses taught them their lesson. 
It thus followed that Aaron heard the lesson four times, his sons heard it three times, the elders twice and all the people once. At this stage Moses departed and Aaron taught them his lesson. Then Aaron departed and his sons taught them their lesson. His sons then departed and the elders taught them their lesson. It thus followed that everybody heard the lesson four times. From here R. Eliezer inferred: It is a man's duty to teach his pupil [his lesson] four times.

In fact, R. Pereda is praised for teaching a particularly dull student the same lesson 400 times. And then, because he was distracted while teaching it, another 400 times! That's dedication.

But at the same time, one should not give up on the pleasures of life, for these too are gifts from G-d:

Rab said to R. Hamnuna, ‘My son, according to thy ability do good to thyself, for there is no enjoyment in she'ol nor will death be long in coming. And shouldst thou say: "I would leave a portion for my children" — who will tell thee in the grave?The children of man are like the grasses of the field, some blossom and some fade’. (see Eccl. 14)
Study hard, and enjoy life. Good advice for any student!

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