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)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pesachim 12 – Interrogating the Witnesses

In the question of when is the proper time to stop eating leaven on the day before Passover, an analogy is drawn with questioning witnesses at a murder trial (stay with me, here).

In interrogation during trial, two credible witnesses must agree on the details of the crime. There are two forms of questions (see Sanhedrin 40a) hakiroth and bedikot:

We learned: They were examined with seven hakiroth: In which septennate (7 year period) [was the crime committed], in which year, in which month, on what day of the month, on what day [of the week]. at which hour and in which place?

Hakiroth, are facts of the time and place. Bedikoth, deals with other details of the case. The importance of these two kinds of questioning are outlined:

What is the difference between hakiroth and bedikoth? In hakiroth, if one of [the witnesses] replied. ‘I do not know’, their testimony is null; in bedikoth, even if both declare, ‘We do not know’, their testimony is valid.

If factual questions cannot be answered accurately the accused is given the benefit of the doubt.

The rabbis continue to discuss how precise this notion of time must be (again, given that there are no watches or ubiquitous clocks). Can they agree within an hour or two or three? Yes, under some circumstances – and the rabbis disagree as to the specifics. But not between day and night or between hours when the sun is in the East or the West.

This correlates to the discussion of times for eating leaven.

R. Ashi said: As there is a controversy in respect of testimony, so is there a controversy in respect of leaven.

The exact hours may be in dispute, and some latitude is allowed. But there are limits!

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