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)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pesachim 10 – Let's Assume

We are continuing to think about situations in which a space which has already been searched for leaven might have to be searched again – because a rodent is suspected of having carried some in. (Nasty pests!)

Now the question becomes: when do we assume that it has done so and when do we not? For example, if there is a package of leaven in front of two clean houses and mouse comes and takes it, but we don’t know which house it has gone into – do we re-search one house, both houses, or neither? This, actually, is compared to another entirely different situation:

If there are two paths, one clean and the other unclean (because it is known that there is a grave on one of the paths, but we don’t know which!), and a person went through one of them and then touched clean [food], and then his neighbor came and went through the other and he touched clean [food], —

R. Judah said: If they each inquire separately - they are clean (that is, given the benefit of the doubt); if both together, they are unclean.

This is like flipping a coin. Each flip will come up randomly (has a 50% chance of being heads), but if it is definitely known that one is heads and you flip the other and it comes up tails – you know with certainly what the other is. One of these two is unclean – if you question them one at a time, either one could be unclean and the presumption is that it is the other one. But if you question them both together, one of the two has to be unclean so you assume they both are. Or at least R. Judah does!

R. Jose said: In both cases they are unclean. Raba — others say. R. Johanan — said: If they came together, all agree that they are unclean; if consecutively, all agree that they are clean. They differ only where one comes to inquire about himself and his neighbor: R. Jose compares it to [both coming] together, while R. Judah likens it to each coming separately.

And if you think this is getting a little far down the logical “rabbit hole,” I leave you this example:

Raba asked: What if a mouse enters with a loaf in its mouth, and a mouse goes out with a loaf in its mouth: do we say, the same which went in went out; or perhaps it is a different one? Should you answer, the same which went in went out, — what if a white mouse entered with a loaf in its mouth, and black mouse went out with a loaf in its mouth? Now this is certainly a different one; or perhaps it did indeed seize it from the other? And should you say, mice do not seize from each other, — what if a mouse enters with a loaf in its mouth and a weasel goes out with a loaf in it’s mouth? Now the weasel certainly does take from a mouse; or perhaps it is a different one, for had it snatched it from the mouse, the mouse would have [now] been found in its mouth? And should you say, had it snatched it from the mouse, the mouse would have been found in its mouth, what if a mouse enters with a loaf in its mouth, and then a weasel comes out with a loaf and a mouse in the weasel's mouth? Here it is certainly the same; or perhaps, if it were the same, the loaf should indeed have been found in the mouse's mouth; or perhaps it fell out [of the mouse's mouth] on account of [its] terror, and it [the weasel] took it?

The question stands over.

Why, yes. It certainly does.

1 comment:

  1. The dilemmas of deciding if a mouse switches loaves or a weasel makes the mouse drop his loaf, sounds a bit circular, like the story of a country-fellow who came to his Rabbi.

    “Rabbi,” he said, “It puzzles me not to know what Talmud is. Please teach me Talmud.”

    "Talmud?” the Rabbi smiled tolerantly, as one does to a child. “You’ll never understand Talmud; you’re a peasant.”

    “Oh, Rabbi,” the fellow insisted. “I’ve never asked you for a favor. This time I ask. Please teach me, what is Talmud.”

    “Very well,” said the Rabbi, “listen carefully. If two burglars enter a house by way of the chimney, and find themselves in the living room, one with a dirty face and one with a clean face, which one will wash?”

    The peasant thought for a while and said, “Naturally, the one with the dirty face.”

    “You see,” said the Rabbi, “I told you a farmer couldn’t master Talmud. The one with the clean face looked at the one with the dirty face and, assuming his own face was also dirty, of course, he washed it, while the one with the dirty face, observing the clean face of his colleague, naturally assumed his own was clean, and did not wash it.”

    Again the peasant reflected. Then, his face brightening, said, “Thank you, Rabbi, thank you. Now I understand Talmud.”

    “See,” said the Rabbi wearily. “It is just as I said. You are a peasant! And who but a peasant would think for a moment that when two burglars enter a house by way of the chimney, only one will have a dirty face?” (shortened version)