Talmud Study - Lesson 7

11 Unresolved Questions - Part 1

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Talmud Study - Lesson 7: 11 Unresolved Questions - Part 1

In this class, the Sages of the Talmud brainstorm all sorts of rare and complex variations of the basic scenario discussed in the Mishnah. We are then introduced to a ubiquitous Talmudic phenomenon--unresolved questions.
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Bava Metzia, Talmud

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LaDonna Maryland April 1, 2017

I remember when I was a very young adult, I was staying with a friend. While she and her husband were out, I decided to use their hot air popper to make popcorn (I had never used one before). I put oil in the bottom with the popcorn, with the predictable result that I burned up the appliance. I was horrified, so I walked to the nearest store (one mile away) and bought another one. When she came back, she was almost in tears when I explained what happened and what I had done to repair the damage. She could not believe I went to that much trouble as well as spending money she knew I could not afford. It never hurts to do the right thing whether it is an accident or not. Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org January 18, 2016

Re: Why not say so? / Lesson 7 That is indeed what the Talmud is trying to determine, and your understanding is one option it presents.

Of course, the Torah is relevant at all times, even if the scenarios change. Reply

Peter Cassirer Sweden January 8, 2016

Why not say so? / Lesson 7 If one is obliged to pay but refuses because at the moment he can't afford to, why does the mishna think he is going to say: I won't pay??? Any man would instead say that at the moment he is not able to.
By the way it is quite amusing how you intertwain the reality of the times in whichthe mishna was thought out and later written (with oxens plouhging field) with our times with watches bought for $200 and banks! Reply

Laurie Julian Winnetka, CA/USA January 19, 2012

Thank you Thank you for this lesson. It was so interesting as was the story you told us at the end. So much to think about. I really appreciate these lessons. Reply

Nosson Klein Jerusalem, Israel October 31, 2010

Excellent Great lesson Reply

Larry Hirsch Boca Raton, Fl August 3, 2010

lesson 7A Brilliant analysis as usual. Question then is if the talmud leaves these questions unresolved. How do we or the rabbis arrive at answers in real life that mimic the same circumstances in these cases? I would think that all the answers if not overtly described are at least hidden somewhere in the talmud. Reply

Mr. Manuel Gwiazda Buenos Aires, Argentina June 13, 2010

On this lesso I have no questions, but I have enjoyed the class very much. I benefit a lot when I pause so as to let a new idea to sink in Reply

Miss Kayo Kaneko June 13, 2010

It is very pleasurable to learn Talmud It is difficult sometime to follow the meticulous setting of Halachah. But it is such a pleasure to learn Talmud. The story you shared us at the end of the lesson was so beautiful, thank you for making Talmud accessible to all. Reply

Maria Martinez Monte Vista, Colorado June 4, 2010

Talmud For Beginners Lesson 7 Part 1 I enjoyed the lesson very much. It answered some of the questions I had. Looking forward to Lesson 7 Part 2. Have a blessed Shabbat. Reply

Rivka Ziino Barrington, RI, USA June 3, 2010

2nd generation decisions Despite all the details, I find it interesting that much of the discussion revolves around relationships between people and the depth of those relationships. Reply

Eliezer Wolf June 8, 2010

To Anonymous, Jesse and Akiva Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and as you can see, an intriguing discussion evolved.

If I can add my two cents: Everything in life is made up of body and soul, which respectively reflects the external and the internal aspects of its being. The human body consists of body and soul. The Torah possesses both body and soul. And in fact, G-d also - anthropomorphically - consists of body and soul.

The body element is one which is defined by limitations, relates to the physical arena, and obscures any G-dly element that is contained within. The soul is that which mirrors the Divine, contains infinite powers of selflessness and creates a feeling of transcendence.

The human being has a choice of allowing his modus operandi to be governed by either his body paradigm, or by his soul paradigm. Most of us are people who straddle between the two - we have times in our lives (or in our days) when we manage to transcend our human frailties and express our soul paradigms, and then there are times when we succumb to being regular human beings governed by our body paradigms.

Because if this, G-d gave us a Torah which addresses and relates to both these aspects of our lives. Most of the Talmud and Judaic law are considered to be the body of Torah. They are G-d's wisdom and teachings when relating vis-a-vis the body paradigm of our life. On this level, we are as human as it gets, and the Talmud's lessons are needed to guide and constrain our weaknesses. Conversely, Judaic mysticism and much of the 'aggadaic' sections of the Talmud are the soul of Torah, and speak a language that penetrates and empowers one's soul paradigm.

It's important not to confuse the two. Both of them are necessary, for different parts of our lives. On the other hand, it's also important not to separate and compartmentalize the two - both are the word of G-d, and both make up the wholesome Torah experience. Each one complements the other, much like it is with the human body and soul. Reply

Mr. Akiva Schoen June 3, 2010

RE: lesson #7 extreme minority opinion In reply to Anonymous:

This isn't about making money over an unfortunate occurrence but about ensuring that people are treated fairly. This isn't about our faith; it's about our law. In fact, many of the questions posed actually rely on the good intentions of people (such as reneging on promising to pay meaning that the unpaid guardian wants to pay but is unable to currently).

People have such negative stereotypes because they don't understand the core essence of what the Talmud is: a legal document expressing what Micah taught: 'To do justice and to love goodness and to walk modestly with your G-d.' If this came naturally to us, we wouldn't have need of the Talmud (or Torah!). However, people aren't always good-intentioned but those who are have a right to seek protection from those who aren't and here the Rabbis struggle to determine how to protect while being fair to both parties so that not even by accident is someone mistreated.

Or at least that's my take on it! Reply

Jesse G Boston, MA June 3, 2010

Re: "lesson #7 extreme minority opinion" Do you mean that these laws display a particular and systemic interest in exploitation? It definitely doesn't seem that way to me. When something bad happens, of course nobody should look to exploit the victim. Still, allowing needless loss of resources doesn't help anyone. This might sound shallow and crass, but this is also an idea that every legal system reflects. It's not unique to Judaism.

If I understand correctly, you make two points, essentially. First, these types of laws feed negative stereotypes. Second, the level of detail here does not "enhance the basic principles of our Jewish faith".

In response to the first: if these types of laws are common to all legal systems, the fact that they feed negative stereotypes about Jews reflects the discrimination of bigots, not something about the legal system itself.
In response to the second: though it's hard to see it in the details sometimes, a complete Halakhic system is a powerful thing-Jewish law applies to all parts of life. Reply

Anonymous ny, ny/usa June 2, 2010

lesson #7 extreme minority opinion Once again a superb lecture by Rabbi wolf. My gut feel, however, is that this whole discussion feeds the classic stereotype of Jews; that they are money grubbers etc. Everything here discusses how to make money over an unfortunate occurrence, namely a theft. The detail presented here in my opinion does not enhance the basic principles of our jewish faith but dwells on on serious character defects inherent in all of us . Reply

Eliezer Wolf June 8, 2010

To Mr Akiva There is no official starting point in the Talmud for beginners. Traditionally, many schools begin teaching their students with chapters such as the one we're studying "Hamafkid", or Chapter 2 "elu metzios", or chapters 4-5 in tractate Brochos, or various other chapters.

Ultimately, the Talmud need not necessarily be studied in order, from the beginning until the end. For some, tractate Shabbos is most relevant in their individual lives. For others, a tractate discussing civil jurispudence is most relevant.

However, it should be one's pursuit to attempt to study the entire Talmud throughout one's life. Reply

Mr. Akiva Schoen June 2, 2010

Traditional First Talmud Teaching I apologize if this has been asked in a previous class but I know that Bava Metzia is often where new Talmud students are instructed to begin but is it common to begin where Rabbi Wolf has has chosen to begin; do they begin at the beginning, with two people contesting over a found item; or is there another part of Bava Metzia (or another tractate) where new students usually begin? Reply

These Talmud classes will be studying and analyzing the third chapter of tractate Bava Metzia, which presents the Jewish approach in many matters of civil law, particularly vis-à-vis the different degrees of liability assumed by guardians, renters and borrowers.
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