~*~ Rose-Colored Glosses ~*~

hovering between the quest for absolute truth and the pursuit of utter nonsense
gloss, n.
  1. A brief explanatory note usually inserted in the margin or between lines of a text.
  2. An extensive commentary, often accompanying a text or publication.
  3. A purposefully misleading interpretation or explanation.
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"The limits of my language means the limits of my world."
-Ludwig Wittgenstein
"An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it."
-Mahatma Gandhi
Segal's Law:
A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.
"Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And East is East and West is West and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste more like prunes than a rhubarb does. Now, uh... Now you tell me what you know."
-Groucho Marx

~ Wednesday, March 17, 2004 ~

Tractate #4
Finally finished this thing that was supposed to be a companion piece for the Purim performance of Rabbi Jastrow, but wasn't. It's intended to be a spoof of the introductory talk Devorah gives us each morning, in which she shares any pertinent Drisha news and then tells us what we're going to be studying that day.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Tractate #4[1].

Five, seven, eight and nine[2],
Everybody up the stairs, cuz we're way behind in our
Schedule for the chapter
We spent five days on the daf[3]
So we've gotta move faster

Whose turn to read this morning?[4]
Nadia's up but she had no warning[5]
Down on the ground floor Hilary's furious[6]
And I hear that[7]
But let's get serious[7]

What can I do? It's hard to function
When you're coping with construction[8]
We have no heat[9] and my markers are drying[10] but
Here is your assignment

A little bit of Rashi, inner margin[11]
A little bit of Tosafot needs enlargin'[12]
A little disagreement written here
Chachamim object to Rabbi Me'ir[13]
A little Yad Remah[14] and when we're through, we'll
Look at the machloket of Rav and Shmuel[15]
Notice how the Rambam[16] makes it clear
Finish to the Mishnah[17], and we'll do shiur[18]

Tractate Number Four!

Go three lines down
Go and read it all around
Say the phrase like you're proud
Of your Ashkenaz sound[19]
Here's one new sheet
And one new packet[20]
It's written in Greek[21]
But see if you can hack it
Analyze once
And analyze twice
And if it makes no sense
You're reading it right

A little bit of Rashi, inner margin
A little bit of Tosafot needs enlargin'
A little ambiguity makes it fun[21]
A little bit of Targum Yonaton[14]
The Ran[14]'s not wrong but his style's sloppy
A little bit of him on a blurry copy
A little Ibn Ezra[14], not too wordy
Finish up tomorrow, cuz it's twelve thirty[22]

The Jastrow!
Tractate number four!

A little bit of Rashi, inner margin
A little bit of Tosafot needs enlargin'
A little disagreement going on
Talia insists that Karyn's wrong[23]
Move a little forward, but at what cost?
Jarah is annoyed[23] and I'm[24] just lost
A little bit of clarity, from Rachel Wainer[23]
A little mental breakdown--we're insane here.[23]

Don't be vexed; these
Texts we're reading are never easy[25]
Ask me questions
All you can
Everyone's gonna understand

Tractate Number Four!

Current Music: I'm going to serve Lou Bega an eviction notice if he doesn't get out of my head.

[1] The entire body of work known as the Mishnah is divided into six orders, which are then subdivided into tractates. This year, we in Devorah's Gemara class are studying Sanhedrin, which is tractate #4 of Nezikin.
[2] Drisha is on floor #9 of the Jewish Center at 86th St. The building is old, and the elevator frequently breaks. Floor #6 is the bottom half of a swimming pool, and thus does not exist.
[3] A daf is a page in the Talmud. Spending five days on one daf is really slow. By the way, you can see what any page of the Talmud looks like if you go to e-daf.com and fiddle with the sidebar to request a specific page. Pretty cool, no?
[4] Each day, one person is elected as Reader, and they read and translate whatever section of the text Devorah is teaching that day. You're supposed to prepare for this job by making certain to read through all the assigned sources before it's your day to read, but sometimes people fall behind in their work and are caught by surprise.
[5] This being caught by surprise seems to have happened to Nadia more than to the rest of us, somehow.
[6] After over a month of having no elevator, Hilary decided she was going to organize a protest. She'd stand in the lobby next to the elevator and refuse to climb the stairs until the elevator was fixed, and she encouraged others to join her. Nobody did. This incensed her even more than the lack of an elevator, and she delivered a message to us, via Devorah, that she thought we were all spineless.
[7] One of Devorah's pet phrases.
[8] The whole building is being renovated, and poor Devorah gets the worst of it. Her office is directly below the 10th-floor bathroom, which is being completely redone, but was somehow still functioning as a bathroom during renovation. Aside from the constant noise and showers of plaster dust on her computer, books, and person, she's related to us tales of what happens when there's a bathroom above your head and all the sound-proofing layers of flooring have been removed.
[9] Around late January they turned off our heat for a while.
[10] Devorah tends to rely heavily upon the giant whiteboard as a teaching aid. She has a charming habit of picking up a blue or black whiteboard marker, beginning to write a word, discovering the marker to have no ink left, and putting the marker back on the metal ledge, as if replacing it and letting it sit there for a while will replenish its supply of ink.
[11] In the standard editions of the Talmud, Rashi's very practical clarifications are printed in Rashi Script in the margins around the main block of text. He's always on the inner half of the page. Why? Good question. He was considered the most important commentator, so they put him closer to the spine of the book because that way the rats, who would nibble the books from the exposed page-edge inward, would get to his words last.
[12] Tosafot is a general term meaning other, non-Rashi, commentators who lived and wrote later. They're printed in Rashi Script, too, and they, like Rashi, appear on the page around the main text, but on the outside half of the margin. Rats used to love Tosafot. I, however, am not a rat, and find them annoyingly indigestible, not to mention quite a strain on the eyes. Spend a few hours staring at the Tosafot and you'll be well on your way to earning a one-way ticket to Myopiland. I get teased for refusing to read Tosafot until after I've made an enlarged photocopy of the page in question. Thank goodness for a working photocopy machine.
[13] Rabbi Me'ir is one of the fellows in the Canon of Rabbis, who frequently tells us his opinion about some mishnah (teaching). Sometimes the chachamim, or "wise guys", disagree with him, and he has to stand and argue his opinion all alone. Poor fellow.
[14] Another commentator.
[15] A Machloket is an educated disagreement. Rav and Shmuel are two of the oldest and most famous members of the Canon. They fought a lot.
[16] The Rambam, aka Maimonides, was an enlightened thinker who could explain everything so that it all worked out perfectly. He sometimes did this at the cost of a literal affirmation of certain creeds, so he's not very popular in some schools.
[17] The central text of the Talmud alternates between mishnayot, or teachings, and gemarot, or discussions on those teachings. If you've finished to the next teaching, you've finished reading and digesting the teaching and discussion that you were assigned to learn.
[18] Shiur is Drishaspeak for classtime, as opposed to Seder or Chavrutah, which means time you spend in the Beit Midrash (study room) working with your partner.
[19] Ever notice how there seem to be two ways of saying every Hebrew phrase you've ever heard? It's shabBAT shaLOM or good SHABbes; yom KIPper or YOM kipPUR; ROSHhaSHANuh or ROSH hashaNAH, talLEET or TALLis, chupPAH or CHUPpuh, and you get the idea. Ashkenazic Jews tend to accent the first syllables and turn some of the t sounds into s or th. Sephardic Jews tend to accent the second syllables. Sephardic pronunciation is generally considered more correct, partly because that's they way they speak in Israel. Ashkenazic pronunciation is Old Skool. Devorah tries to use the Sephardic pronunciation, but she grew up speaking with the Ashkenazic accent and sometimes she forgets, at which point I smile (it's still a little jarring to my ear) and Talia and Karyn (who also grew up using the Ashkenazic accent) cheer because they're being represented. That line was directed more toward them than toward Devorah.
[20] Typical methods of distributing assignments
[21] Not really
[22] Gemara class goes from 9 till 12:30 daily.
[23] This often happens.
[24] That would be me stepping out of character and speaking autobiographically.
[25] This awkwardness of lyric was an attempt to parallel Mr. Bega's rhyme scheme. Check it out:
I do all to
Fall in love with a girl like you
Don't be vexed; these
Texts we're reading are never easy

You can read the complete lyrics to Mambo #5 if you want to.

~ prattled by Miriam at 1:09 a.m. [+]

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