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)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Eruvin 55 - Not in Heave and a Surveyor's Geometry

An exposition of one of my favorite Torah texts:
For this commandment which I command you this day, is not hidden from you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it, and do it? Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it. (Deut. 30:11-14)

How is it understood?

Raba expounded, ‘It is not in heaven’, it is not to be found with him who, because he possesses some knowledge of it, towers in his pride as high as the heavens, ‘[neither is it beyond the sea’] it is not found with him who, because of some knowledge of it, is as expansive in his self-esteem as the sea.R. Johanan expounded: ‘It is not in heaven’, it is not to be found among the arrogant;‘neither is it beyond the sea’, it is not to be found among merchants or dealers.
Humility in knowledge.

And speaking of knowledge, we get back to the Sabbath boundaries around a town. How is the imaginary 2000 cubit limit to be drawn? It is based on the shape of the town itself:

Our Rabbis taught: How are the sabbath boundaries of towns extended? 
[If a town is] long the sabbath limits are measured from its normal boundaries. 
If it is round corners are added to it. 
If it is square no corners are added to it. 
If it was wide on one side and narrow on the other it is regarded as if both its sides were equal. 
If one house projected like a turret, or if two houses projected like two turrets, they are to be treated as if a thread had been drawn beside them in a straight line, and the two thousand cubits are measured from that line outwards. 
If the town was shaped like a bow or like a gamma, it is to be regarded as if it had been full of houses and courtyards, and the two thousand cubits are measured from the imaginary boundaries outwards.

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