Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Talmud on mixtures, mice, and math

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Grapes of Math. In this week’s ‘Daf Yomi,’ the Talmudic calculations that make forbidden wine and food into permitted meals for religious Jews.
Of all the subjects treated in Tractate Avoda Zara, the one that takes up the most space is wine. The rabbis state as a general principle that Jews are not allowed to have anything to do with wine belonging to gentiles. Not only may Jews not drink such wine, they are not allowed to buy or sell it; nor can Jews have anything to do with wine that has been in the custody of a gentile, even briefly, or that a non-Jew has stirred or handled. The ostensible reason for this wide-ranging ban has to do with idol-worship: the rabbis are concerned that a pagan will use wine to pour out a libation to his god, thus rendering it abhorrent to Jews. The ban is also, of course, an effective way of discouraging business and personal relationships between Jews and non-Jews, which is also a goal of the rabbis in this tractate.

In Chapter Five of Avoda Zara, the subject of wine leads the rabbis to take up the issue of mixtures. ...

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.

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