Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Talmud on oaths about quantity and substance

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: In the Talmud, Size Matters. This week’s ‘Daf Yomi’ helps Jews swear in disputes of the kind they might encounter in small claims court. Plus: if an oath must be taken in the name of God, can the literal name be spoken? And is Abraham’s penis a sacred object?
In general, the mishna says, “one takes an oath only concerning an item that is defined by size, by weight, or by number.” That is, the dispute must be about the quantity of a substance, not about the substance itself. But the question of what defines a substance, what makes a thing the thing it is, is one that always creates problems for the rabbis. Thus the Gemara in Shevuot 43a asks about a situation where the plaintiff claims a large candelabrum from the defendant, and the defendant admits only to possessing a small candelabrum.
Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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