Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Talmud on the the Talmud's organization

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Order of Things. The reasoning behind the Talmud’s categories and sub-categories isn’t always apparent. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the Talmud wonders about its own organization.
The beginning of Tractate Shevuot, which Daf Yomi readers started last week, is one of the rare places where the Talmud wonders explicitly about its own organization. In the order of tractates, Shevuot follows Sanhedrin, which deals with capital crimes, and Makkot, which discusses crimes punishable by lashes or exile. The main subject matter of Shevuot is the taking of oaths—that’s the meaning of the word shevuot—and in its later chapters, we will learn about the oaths administered to witnesses in court. This explains why Shevuot is in Seder Nezikin, following Sanhedrin, which laid out court procedures and the laws of witnesses. It also answers the question of why Shevuot does not follow Nedarim, the tractate devoted to personal vows, even though the subjects of oaths and vows might seem to belong together. The vows in Nedarim were voluntary and had to do with making gratuitous promises to God (which the rabbis generally discourage), while the oaths in Shevuot are part of court procedure.

Yet while the first word of Shevuot is “shevuot,” the first chapter turns out to discuss oaths barely at all. ...
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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