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)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pesachim 39 – Bitter Botany


On Passover one is required not only to eat matzah but also bitter herbs. This comes from Ex. 12:8: and with bitter herbs (m’rorim) they shall eat it. The question is, what species are specially included?

The rabbis list several, with names that were in common parlance. For example:

. . .with endives, with tamka, with harhallin, with harhabinin, and with hazeret (bitter lettuce). R. Judah said: Also with wild [field] endives and with garden endives and with lettuce. . . R. Meir said: Also with ‘aswaws, and tura and mar yero'ar. Said R. Jose to him: ‘Aswaws and tura are one; and mar is yero'ar.

Yeah. Me, too.

Eventually, it is agreed that rather than listing names (which change over time) it would be better to list observable features – and not even just a bitter taste:

Others say: Every bitter herb contains an acrid sap and its leaves are faded. R. Johanan said: From the words of all of them we may learn [that every] bitter herb contains an acrid sap and its leaves are faded. R. Huna said: The halachah is as the ‘Others’.

And, finally, a lesson is taught about the bitter herbs (maror):

R. Samuel b. Nahman said in R. Jonathan's name: Why were the Egyptians compared to maror? [and they embittered (va y’marraru) their lives (Ex. 1:14)]
To teach you: just as this maror, the beginning (top) of which is soft while its end (stalk) is hard, so were the Egyptians: their beginning was soft [mild]. but their end was hard [cruel]!

A lesson in a plant: subjugation doesn’t happen immediately, it starts with small restrictions, but ends up with great oppression.

No comments:

Post a Comment