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, June 26, 2013

Pesachim 6 – Chronology is Not Linear

A significant and unique principle of Torah interpretation is articulated on this page. Although it is stated several times in midrash, this is the only instance in the entire Talmud.

The problem arises with the attempt to date two events in the Torah.

And the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they came out from the land of Egypt, saying (Num. 1:1)

And the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they came out of the land of Egypt, saying (Let the people of Israel also keep the Passover at its appointed season) (Num. 9:1-2)

Now since the first text occurs in the second month, why does the second text occur in the first month? Shouldn't the second text come first? Instead of explaining it away, a general principle of rabbinic biblical interpretation is articulated:

Said R. Menasia b. Tahlifa in Rab's name: This proves that there is no chronological order in the Torah.

In Hebrew: ayin mukdam u’meachor ba Torah – literally “there is no earlier and later” or “before and after” in the Torah.

Now I find this kind of remarkable: Torah text does not demand a strict order – which in some ways works against a fundamentalist reading of the text. It sees it as more fluid, organized not strictly by time but sometimes by theme and purpose. The point is not the story, which would demand a certain logic, it is the lesson.

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