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, June 22, 2013

Pesachim 2 – When is Light?

Today we begin a new tractate, the third in the cycle of reading: Pesachim.

This tractate investigates all the laws of Passover. This most significant spring-time holyday (week, really) has several essential elements including abstaining from any leaven, eating of matzah, holding a seder and pilgrimage and pascal sacrifice (in the days when the Temple still stood).

It begins, though, with a discussion of the night before Passover begins. The Holiday begins at sunset on the fifteenth of Nisan. The Mishnah begins:


The Rabbis discuss at some length the meaning of the Hebrew word “or” in this context. Usually translated as “light” it is an odd word to use in this context because it is an unclear time. Does it mean when light begins or when light ends? Daybreak or Sunset? Rather important to know!

Many different texts are marshaled to show what “or” means in context, in effect proving both sides. Ultimately it is shown that in this situation “or” means “evening” - that is as the light is leaving. It is proven by the case of bonfires which were lit to announce the new moon:

And when were the bonfires lit? On the evening [‘or’] after [the intercalated day]. This proves that ‘or’ is evening. This proves it.

We search for leaven after sunset, 24 hours before Passover begins. Now we know when. How about where and what? Stay tuned!

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