Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"Catharsis-vendors," cosmetics, and festivals in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: In the Days Between the Major Holidays, Little Clues to Jewish Ritual and Life. Talmudic rabbis debate professional eulogizers, trying to strike a balance between the holy and the mundane.
Tractate Moed Katan, which Daf Yomi readers continued to explore this week, is not one of the more glamorous parts of the Talmud. Where other tractates we have read in Seder Moed dealt with major holidays like Yom Kippur or Pesach, Moed Katan focuses on the middle days of the festivals, which are inherently less dramatic and important than the first and last days. The result, however, is that this tractate offers an unusually close look at the day-to-day life and work of Talmudic-era Jewish society. As the rabbis examine different occupations and activities, to decide whether or not they can be pursued on the intermediate days, they indirectly offer a kind of sociological overview, covering everything from burial rites to bed-making to beautification.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.