Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Go out and intend."

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN by Adam Kirsh in Tablet: The Power of Positive Thinking: This week, deduction and analogy propel the Talmud from the mundane to the miraculous. Excerpt:
This kind of reasoning grants to intention an almost magical power: If you think that you are going to use something on the Sabbath, you change its legal status, almost its existential status. You see a dramatic example of this with Rabbi Chanina ben Akiva, who once “went to a certain place and found branches of a date palm that were harvested for the sake of firewood, and he said to his students, ‘Go out and intend, so that we may sit on them tomorrow.’ ” “Go out and intend”: With this wonderful phrase, Chanina shows how much power merely thinking can have in Talmudic law. However, the Talmud goes on to explain, there are limits to such intention. It is only when you do not have time to tie the bundles of wood that it is acceptable merely to “intend” them. That is why Chanina’s “go out and intend” was spoken at “a house of feasting or a house of mourning,” that is, a place where people were too busy with other preparations to actually tie the wood together.