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 27, 2013

Pesachim 37 – Syrian Cakes!

Not only must you refrain from eating leaven on Passover, but there is also the obligation to eat matzah. (Ex. 12:15 and others). So, the discussion continues, what kinds of unleavened bread are considered matzah for the sake of fulfilling this obligation?

Our Rabbis taught: You discharge [your obligation] with fine bread, with coarse bread, and with Syrian cakes shaped in figures; although [the Sages] said, ‘Syrian cakes shaped in figures must not be made on Passover.’

So you can eat Syrian cakes if they’re made – you just can’t make them! Why? Glad you asked:

Rab Judah said: This thing Boethus b. Zonin asked the Sages: Why was it said [that] Syrian cakes shaped in figures must not be made on Passover? Said they to him: Because a woman would tarry over it and cause it to turn leaven. [But], he objected, it is possible to make it in a mold, which would form it without delay. Then it shall be said, replied they, [that] all Syrian cakes [shaped in figures] are forbidden, but the Syrian cakes of Boethus are permitted!

R. Jose said: One may make Syrian cakes like wafers, but one may not make Syrian cakes like rolls. We learned elsewhere: Sponge cakes, honey cakes, paste-balls, cakes made in a mold, and mixed dough are exempt from hallah (the obligation to set aside or burn a portion of the dough).

And therefore, one would assume, are not really “bread.” The text goes on to describe breads made in a stew pot called an ilpes. These might be placed in the sun to bake. And the dough might be placed into a mold to form a shape. Maybe this is professional bakers, maybe home-based. 

There is more discussion – but it’s all making me too hungry!

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