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, July 10, 2013

Pesachim 20 – Beer Brewing Defilement

We come, at last, to (almost) the end of the discussion on levels of impurity. All this stemmed, you may recall, for the mention that both clean and unclean trumah are burned along with leaven on the day before Passover. So we come full circle and explain:

R. Hisda opposed two teachings of Passover, and reconciled [them]. Did R. Joshua say, Both of them (clean and unclean trumah) [may be burnt] together? But the following contradicts it: R. Jose said [to R. Meir]: The conclusion is not similar to the premise. For when our Masters testified, concerning what did they testify? If concerning flesh which was defiled through a derivative uncleanness, that we burn it together with flesh which was defiled through a father of uncleanness, [then] this is unclean and that is unclean. If concerning oil which was rendered unfit by a tebul yom, that it is lit in a lamp which was defiled by one unclean through a corpse, — one is unfit and the other is unclean. So too do we admit in the case of terumah which was defiled through a derivative uncleanness, that we may burn it together with terumah which was defiled through a ‘father’ of uncleanness. But how can we burn even that which is doubtful together with that which is unclean: perhaps Elijah will come and declare it clean!

Yes, I know. Here, maybe this will make it clear:

A tanna recited before R. Shesheth: A sherez (unclean creeping thing) defiles liquids, and the liquids defile a utensil, and the utensil defiles eatables, and the eatables defile liquids, and [thus] we learn three [stages of] uncleanness in the case of a sherez.

But there are four? [actually there are five!]

Delete “liquids” in the first clause.

On the contrary, delete “liquids” in the last clause — [because] we find no other Tanna who maintains [that] liquids defile utensils save R. Judah, and he retracted!

And your sign [for remembering the order] is the brewing process.

That’s right: beer brewing is the model for ritual defilement! (In an empty vat, place solids [dates, hops, etc.] then liquids). 

And also, it is delicious.

By the way, this page also brings up the problem of “stumbling blocks.” More on that later.

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