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)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Pesachim 14 – Impure Weapons

The discussion on this page is about issues of ritual impurity. The Mishnah brings it up here because of the question of burning unclean trumah (ritual offering) alongside leaven before Passover.

We will be reading a great deal about the transmission of ritual impurity in other tractates. But one fascinating aside mentioned on this page caught my eye. That is the special case of transmission of impurity through a sword:

[And whosoever . . . toucheth] one that is slain by the sword, (Num. 19:16) [which intimates], the sword is as the slain; hence it is a principal defilement

We’ll see this again several times in this tractate (Pesachim 19b and 79a). A corpse is a principal source of defilement (that is ritual impurity). The sword which slays becomes impure though the contact with a corpse – that is, but killing someone. It then creates impurity by those who touch it, just as a corpse does.

It’s a powerful and unique case. Thinking about weapons as objects which, when used, defile.

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