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, May 25, 2013

Eruvin 78 – The Ladder is a Hypotenuse

Continuing the discussion of a wall separating two courtyards and the desire to join them into one eruv so that the inhabitents can freely move objects between them on Shabbat.
Of course, there has to be some way to travel between the two courtyards. We’ve dealt with “through the wall” by means of a opening or breach. And we continue to look at “over the wall” by means of, for example, a ladder.

Ok. So how tall must the ladder be?

Rab Judah citing Samuel ruled: A wall ten handbreadths high requires a ladder of fourteen handbreadths in length to render it permissible for use R. Joseph ruled: Even [a ladder] of thirteen handbreadths and a fraction [is sufficient]. Abaye ruled: Even one of eleven handbreadths and a fraction suffices. R. Huna son of R. Joshua ruled: Even one of seven handbreadths and a fraction suffices.

What’s going on? The point is that travel between the two sides of the wall should be easy. So the foot of ladder is set at a distance from the wall to make it comfortable. If the wall is 10 handbreadths high and the foot is set 10 handbreadths away the length of the ladder forms the hypotenuse of a right triangle making it 14 handbreadths long. Reducing the distance from the wall, and therefore the slope of the triangle, changes the length. Can it go all the way to zero?

Rab stated: That a ladder in a vertical position effects a reduction is a tradition but I do not know the reason for it. ‘Does not Abba’, Samuel said to him, ‘know the reason for this ruling? The case is in fact similar to that of a balcony above a balcony’.

From which one can climb from balcony to balcony.

And maybe it doesn’t even have to be a ladder?

If grooves to supplement the width of the ladder, were cut in the wall, up to what height must this be carried?— To ten handbreadths, the other replied. If, he again asked him, all the ladder was cut in the wall up to what height must this be carried? — Up to its full height, the other replied.

Wherein, however, lies the difference? In the former case the other replied, one can easily ascend [to the top of the wall], while in the latter case this cannot be done.

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