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)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pesachim 40 – Shemurah Matzah

And ye shall guard the unleavened bread (Ex. 12:17)

It is not easy to guard against fermentation of wheat or other grains. Even washing can be a problem, as is outlined in this page.

Rabbah said: A conscientious man should not wash [corn]. Why particularly a conscientious man: even any other man too, for surely it was taught: One may not wash barley on Passover? He says thus: He should not wash even wheat, which is hard.

And yet, wheat has to be washed in order to make the fine flour needed. In fact, the argument is made, specifically because of the command to “guard” the grain must be washed:

Raba said: It is obligatory to wash [the grain], for it is said, And ye shall guard the unleavened bread. Now, if not that it requires washing, for what purpose is the guarding?

Since grain can only ferment if there is moisture on it, there would be no guarding without washing! Or maybe it can be applied to other stages?

If guarding for the kneading, the guarding of kneading is not “guarding”, for R. Huna said: The doughs of a heathen, a man may fill his stomach with them, providing that he eats as much as an olive of unleavened bread at the end (of the first night of Passover). [Thus] only at the end, but not at the beginning: what is the reason? Because he had not afforded it any guarding.

So, “guarding” is saving for the end? Or others:

Then let him guard it from the baking and onwards?

 Hence this surely proves that we require guarding from the beginning. . . .Yet even so, Raba did not retract. For he said to those who handled sheaves, Handle them for the purpose of the precept. This proves that he holds [that] we require guarding ab initio, from beginning to end.

Thus the custom some have of a special “shemurah (guarded) matzah” – a matzah used specifically to fulfill this commandment – guarded, or watched, from harvest to baking that no water or moisture touches it until moments before baking. Not very palatable, but useful for its purpose.

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