Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Today's Twitter Torah: Chanuka and Unicorns

This morning a Twitter conversation about lighting Chanuka candles developed into a discussion of the agadic view of unicorns. A quick summary (all paraphrased):

@hsabomilner: If my husband is lighting candles in a different city, in his own house, am I covered? Or do I light candles in my own house? And what about the brocha?

Almost everyone said yes, light the candles and say a blessing. (My own view was "who cares?" If you want to light, light; if not, don't.) I say "almost" everyone, because @noahroth took the view that she's not supposed to light because both houses are part of her husband's halachic domain, and his lighting in one houses covers both. According to @noahroth only one person (the husband, naturally) lights per house/halachic domain.

A discussion about @noahroth's approach to halacha ensued, as his answer does not take into account the view of ashkenazi psak halacha, which says the mitzvah is made more beautiful if as many people as possible in each house light candles. @tikun_olam_ asked him to explain how @hsabomilner's own personal house, where she pays rent, could be part of someone else's domain. @noahroth answered,but torts and domains bore me, so I didn't really follow it. I got the sense his reply irritated some of the women, however.

I started paying attention again when @noahroth said that if @hsabomilner is going to bless the candles, she might as well say a blessing on a unicorn. (From his perspective neither are legitimate blessings) I responded that there is a blessing on unicorns (meshaneh es habriyos) and anyway, the aggada says they are real. Using notes, I quickly provided several sources:

[The] lxx translates re'em as unicorn. JT shabos says tachash has one horn. BT chulin says keresh has one horn. koheles raba says keresh has one horn midrash tanchuma says tachash has one horn. 

@IsraeliMom objected that unicorns are similar to horses, which are not kosher. I replied that the unicorn that Jewish lore seems to presume existed was more like a goat. @judahe said that according to Slifkin, the giraffe   fits the midrashim. I replied that, in my view, the giraffe answer is apologia, as there's no question chazal were thinking of a one horned animal. I supplied the quote from the Talmud BT Chulin 59b vkeresh af al pi she ain lo ela keren achas mutar. [The Keresh, even though it has one horn, is permitted [i.e. as food] Rashi: daled yud yud nun (old french) [Can anyone translate that?]

... and on and on it goes.  Our name for this new type of Torah study? How about Bet Twitrash (I think @hsabomilner coined that, but I can't locate the Tweet. Was it her?)

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