Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Inscribing Talmudic divorce

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Talmudic Semiotics: I Write Your Name. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ study, a premodern post-modern analysis of what exactly constitutes writing, in the physical act of making indelible marks on surfaces. Plus: Need to deliver a ‘get’ to your wife but out of paper? Talmud says: Write it on a slave!.
As we saw last week, the subject of Gittin is not just divorce, but specifically the get—the legal document by which a divorce is effected. According to the Bible, a husband can divorce his wife (but not vice versa) by writing “a scroll of severance” and giving it to her. In this week’s Daf Yomi reading, the rabbis raise a series of questions about how this scroll is to be written, and in the process they end up questioning the very nature of writing itself. What does it mean to write? Does it require the use of certain materials, or is the “idea” of a text independent of its physical makeup? If so, what kind of being does a text have? These are the very questions that continue to perplex literary theorists today.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.