March 10

This week we are going to explore a comment from Tosafot! If this is your first time learning Tosafot, take some time to clap yourself up. Learning Tosafot is a great opportunity to practice your Rashi script. If that’s a growing edge in your learning, you can this handy resource to help guide you.

Why are we doing this?!

First, we’re taking the time to explore a bit deeper on the daf to get a taste of what it feels like to bring the voices of (a) commentator(s) into our learning. When we’re learning Talmud, we can often feel the power of inter-generational time travel, and the way it puts our ancestors in conversation with each other–and us. It can be hard to remember that this inter-generational conversation continues throughout our history. When we learn commentators, we expand and deepen these conversations, and get to add new voices into the mix. Second, we (Elaina, Frankie, and I) want to give ourselves a chance to work this (new, for many of us) muscle together as a learning community as we continue to build our tools as players in and through this tradition.

WTF is/are Tosafot?!

Below is an excerpt from the Bet Midrash Reference Guide:

Tosafot | תוספות

  • Location in Talmud: Outside of page, written in Rashi script with bigger diburei hamatchil 
  • Author: Different tractates contain commentaries written by specific authors, and some tractates contain commentary written by a combination of authors. Various authors (called Tosafists or Ba’alei Tosafot), include Rabbeinu Tam (Rabbi Jacob ben Meir), Rabbi Samuel ben Meir, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, Rabbi Isaac of Dampierre, Rabbi Samson of Sens; 12th-13th Centuries in France & Germany
  • This takes you to: Tosafot Shelanu (“Our Tosafot”), Medieval commentary assembled by Rashi’s descendents
  • You would go here to: surface questions and dilemmas that are at stake in our sugya or see how our sugya interacts with other sugyot that might seem to contradict or support it

For more information, context, and guidance about Tosafot and their project, check out these highlights from Tools for Tosafos by R’ Haim Perlmutter.

Guidance for your chevruta:

Step 1: Check in with your chevruta. Share what’s coming up for you as we get ready to dig into this comment from Tosafot, and what your prior experiences and expectations are.

Step 1a (OPTIONAL)Read through some sections of Tools for Tosafos (linked here). Tools for Tosafos is a great book / resource for unpacking comments from Tosafot, learning about their project, etc. We’ve compiled some scans of key pages that will help you get some good background knowledge in your learning. This is totally optional!

Step 2: Read through the following tips for learning Tosafot, and begin learning the comment from Tosafot on our sugya:

  • Find the Tosafot comment that starts with זה בגופו וזה בממונו and put a sticky on it or mark it off somehow so you can find it again. Comments from Tosafot are on the outside margin of our daf. The beginning words (diburei hamatchil) for Tosafot are typically bolded and in a larger font size than those of Rashi. Take a look!
  • Make sure you and your chevruta fully own the sugya, especially the section that Tosafot is commenting on. While Rashi is our friend and tries to help us understand the sugya, Tosafot are *not* our friends (but they can be our comrades!). Tosafot’s comments attempt to complicate the sugya rather than elucidate it, so make sure you feel good in the sugya itself before digging into this comment.
  • Begin moving through the comment from Tosafot the way we do: eliminate prefixes/suffixes/infixes to find the root and make your best guesses as you move through the text! While there is not a Hint Sheet for this text, below are some hints on the first few words of this comment:
    • והא דאמרי׳ is a phrase that is introducing a statement from another place in the Talmud
    • פרק הגוזל בתרא is the name of the place/chapter in the Talmud from which this new statement is being brought
    • (.ב״ק קיט) is the actual citation of the new statement (ב״ק = Masechet Bava Kamma, .קיט = daf number)

NOTE: In Tools for Tosafos, R’ Perlmutter says it best: “When we are first starting to learn Tosafos, we do not need to immediately begin studying every single Tosafos on the page or finish every Tosafos we start…It is not necessary to finish every Tosafos at first. In the beginning it is sufficient to learn one question and answer, or one idea, and then proceed with the study of the Gemara.” You do not need to, nor should you plan to, learn the entire comment. Wherever y’all get to is absolutely perfect. If you’re present and curious, you’re doing it right!

Questions?! Elaina, Frankie, and I are here for you! Don’t hesitate to grab us in Fairy Hours or over email.

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