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, July 20, 2013

Pesachim 30 – The Real World

Loyal readers of this little guide through the Talmud might be excused for thinking that the rabbis were often obsessed with small details which old little practical relevance. For you, this page of Talmud offers a few dispatches from the real world – and how acutely aware the rabbis were of the implications of their rulings.

For example, there is the ongoing question from the past several pages of what happens with leaven which might accidently be kept in a Jewish home throughout Passover – can it be used afterwards? This is all very well, but once Passover is over where is one to get hametz? Wouldn’t it take a day or two to get some flour to bake some bread? Not necessarily:

For Raba said: When we were at R. Nahman's house, when the seven days of Passover were gone he would say to us, ‘Go out and buy leaven from the troops (billeted nearby).’

The scrupulous might think that this bread baked during Passover would be forbidden even though it was baked by Gentiles (and soldiers, no less! Or at least those supporting the soldiers). But no, Rabbi Nahman allowed it.

Another point, there is an argument that clay pots which had held leaven had to be broken before Passover so that even absorbed leaven would “not be found.” But then, once Passover was over, wouldn’t there be a rush on new pottery? And wouldn’t that cause a rise in the price? The rabbis were aware of the pressure of the marketplace and leant a hand:

For Samuel said to the pottery merchants: Charge all equitable price for your pots, for if not I will publicly lecture [that the law is] in accordance with R. Simeon. (i.e. that pots do not have to be broken)

I love that! Rabbi Samuel intervening in the marketplace. What would Adam Smith say?!

And lastly:
Rabina asked R. Ashi: What does one do about the knives on Passover? — I provide [make] new ones for myself, he replied. That is well for you, who can [afford] this, said he to him, [but] what about one who cannot [afford] this? I mean like new ones, he answered: [I thrust] their handles in loam, and their blades in fire, and then I place their handles in boiling water.

Maybe it would be ideal to buy all new knives for Passover – but in the real world not everyone could afford such an expenditure. So there is a procedure for kashering the knives and other vessels. Ultimately the procedure is even easier than R. Ashi suggests: the whole knife simply needs to be placed in directly boiling water (not boiling water poured into another pot).

There is theory. But in the real world, there have to be simple solutions.

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