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 25, 2013

Pesachim 35 – Wake Up!

Ah, back to Passover related laws! The Mishanah deals with the kinds of grain out of which matzah can be made:


The text refers to “discharging his obligation” because the Passover commandment is not only to refrain from eating leaven, but also the responsibility to eat matzah – at least on the first night. (see Ex. 12:18)
These five listed grains are also the ones which are forbidden during Passover if they have not been prepared as matzah. However, the exact grains are somewhat unclear. The Talmud continues by giving Aramaic names to the species. Other grains like rice and corn are discussed

R. Johanan b. Nuri prohibits [the use of] rice and millet, because it is near to turn leaven. The scholars asked: does ‘because it is near to turn leaven’ mean that it quickly becomes leaven, or perhaps it is near to leaven, but is not completely leaven? — Come and hear: For it was taught, R. Johanan b. Nuri said: Rice is a species of corn and kareth (Divine punishment) is incurred for [eating it in] its leavened state, and a man discharges his obligation with it on Passover.

A fun story is told about the rabbis discussing a particular pastry made with dough kneaded with wine, oil or honey. Is eating it subject to kareth or not?

Now, R. Papa and R. Huna son of R. Joshua sat before R. Idi b. Abin, while R. Idi b. Abin was sitting and dozing. Said R. Huna son of R. Joshua to R. Papa: What is Resh Lakish's reason? — He replied, Scripture saith, Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it etc.: [In the case of] the commodities with which a man discharges his obligation in respect of unleavened bread, kareth is incurred for [eating them in] their leavened state; but [with regard to] this [dough], since a man cannot discharge his obligation therewith, because it is “rich matzah”, kareth is not incurred for its leaven.

Matzah is supposed to be the “bread of poverty” – not a rich treat! The argument continues for some time, when suddenly:

R. Idi b. Abin awoke [and] said to them, Children! This is the reason of Resh Lakish, because they are fruit juice, and fruit juice does not cause fermentation.

Wake up and smell the fruit juice!

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