Daf Yomi Shabbos 100: One-hundred days of living through the Talmud

“The object must actually land in order for the one who threw it to be liable.”

It is worth mentioning that we Daf Yomers have reached the 100th portion of the Shabbos Tractate. This has been an especially difficult text with a lot of analysis on what it means to cross public and private domains on Shabbat, impurity and the aerodynamics of throwing. Along the way, there has been insight into what it was like for our ancestors to live in the desert and their remarkable feat of building the grand Tabernacle under the open sky. There was an examination of great men such as King David who were also human and flawed in the way that human beings can be. And it has all been told within the context of what is allowable in the public domain on Shabbat.

This Tractate started about one week before New York instituted a shelter-in-place order and it has been a little more than 100 days that I have been living my life mostly virtually on Zoom in my one-bedroom apartment. I have found relevancy to the coronavirus in the daily readings that discussed impurity and traversing private and public domains. There was a passage on the biblical form of leprosy that required a 14-day quarantine period before a Rabbi could determine if the afflicted was able to return to society, which is the required quarantine period if someone is exposed to the virus. And there was the joining of balconies in the text a few days ago to form a single private space across a public thoroughfare that resonated with how many of us in New York City are living our lives in rear windows.

This has been a rapid reading exercise and I have never tried to both keep up and delve deeply into the text. I have settled for simply keeping up. I anticipate doing this 7 ½ year cycle again (God willing) when I can go deeper into the text. If I tried to dissect the richness of the text each day, I would never have been able to keep up. So, I find one thing in each day’s reading that resonates. There are so many other posts by those much more expert than I that explain in more detail the meaning of each day’s text. I have been trying each day to just find a small sense of relevancy to the life I live now.

What resonated with me today is the description of the sea as a karmelit, or an intermediate domain. I love the sea and have been desperate to travel to any body of water since the great shut-down in March. As a child I would stand with my feet in the Atlantic Ocean at the New Jersey shore and imagine who was standing at the other side of the immense ocean perhaps wondering the same thing. I have always considered the sea the great connector between geographies and people, in the same way that we have learned domains can come together.

And what a journey it has been for everyone who started this back in January before we knew the world was about to change (although some knew and issued warnings, but most of us just went about our lives). It is a difficult endeavor and I was recently asked why I am spending so much time on such an ancient text when I could be reading great literature. And there is certainly a long queue of books in my iPad that I want to read next. And many poems and a novel deep within me that I would like the time to excavate.  I do not have much of an explanation except that when the cycle started in early January it was chance to jump in and find out what was in the mysterious book – the name Talmud is imbued with so much knowledge and tradition in and of itself. I also love the idea that every day all around the world a diverse community of self-learners are reading the same text from the Talmud, and often shaking their heads in an attempt to make sense of a group of Rabbis who seemingly argued over every fine point imaginable of what is allowed on Shabbat.

And now that I have come this far, it seems that I traveled through too much sand and dust to turn back now. So fellow Daf Yomers – let’s continue to support each other with our blogs and postings and study groups as we keep on reading on.

https://brokentabletsfrompennycagan.me/shabbos/shabbos-100

About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at https://brokentabletsfrompennycagan.me
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