A volume of Talmud sits open on a table. A learner can be seen sitting next to it. There is a rainbow alef-bet tool placed across the pages.

Bava Metzia 59a/b

This aggadic (narrative) sugya showcases the Rabbinic project in action as the Tannaim battle against one another (and against heaven itself!) to claim the authority to shape our tradition. We’ve divided this lengthy sugya into eleven chevruta sessions, but (as always!) y’all are encouraged to learn at the pace that feels best to you. You can learn the core story in sections 1-7 or keep going through section 11 to explore the profound and tragic aftermath of this formative myth.

Prep the Sugya

Just like in the bet midrash, the SVARA method for DIY Learning starts with prepping the text in chevruta. In this step, you’ll move through a section of the sugya word by word, identifying each word’s root and core meaning, and creating an inside translation. Use the  Hint Sheet to help break down any tricky words and the Kra Sheet to get context for any scriptural quotations you encounter. If you don’t have a bound masechet, you can download a digital daf to learn from.

This sugya begins with the last line of the amud on Bava Metzia 59a. We recommend breaking the sugya down into smaller chunks as you cycle through the four steps of the SVARA method one section at a time. We suggest learning this text in the following chunks:

1) תנן התם חתכו … תנור של עכנאי

2) מאי עכנאי אמר רב יהודה … ולא קיבלו הימנו

3) אמר להם … ראיה מן החרוב

4) חזר ואמר להם … כותלי בית המדרש ליפול

5) גער בהם רבי יהושע … ועדיין מטין ועומדין

6) חזר ואמר להם … לא בשמים היא

7) מאי לא בשמים היא … נצחוני בני נצחוני בני

8) אמרו אותו היום … כל העולם כולו

9) מה עשה ר׳׳ע … שחבירים בדילים ממך

10) אף הוא קרע … עיניו ר׳׳א נשרף

11) ואף ר׳׳ג היה בא בספינה … נח הים מזעפו

Create an Outside Translation

After you’ve prepped a chunk of text, going word-by-word, in chevruta, it’s time to move from your inside translation to an outside translation. Make your best guess by identifying the verbs, subjects, and objects, inserting punctuation, and getting a feel for the back-and-forth structure of the text. In a SVARA Bet Midrash it would now be time for Shiur—time to unpack the text with a teacher all your bet midrash comrades. For DIY learning, listen to these recordings to compare your translation with a SVARA teacher’s. Coming soon, we’ll post some videos of SVARA staffers unpacking this sugya a little deeper in chevruta!

Below are recordings of a teacher reading and translating each section of text.

Go Deeper

Can’t get enough of this sugya? Neither can we! Our DIY Chevruta resources now include a range of SVARA commentary on our all-time favorite texts. Check out the articles below by our faculty and fairies in Hot Off the Shtender and the discussion of this sugya by Rosh Yeshiva Benay Lappe and Dan Libenson on The Oral Talmud.

Did this sugya inspire you to make art, music, poetry, pottery, or another type of creative expression?  We’d love to display your commentary in whatever form it takes in the SVARA gallery. (You can check out what others have made too.)

Want to dig in even further? Let’s connect in fairy hours!