I did not even finish half of my favorite book of 2020. This is no reason to complain. What I read is so rich that I have already reread many parts. They’re all intriguing, and speed is not a positive.
My favorite book of 2020 addressed all of these topics:
• proper etiquette when visiting the ill
• what’s worse: forgetting or never knowing
• the consequences of an election when the vote seems stacked in favor of one side — controversies in an ancient attic where votes affected a nation
• who owns airspace?
• the sustainability of the hot springs in Tiberias
• the potential effect of revealing notes taken secretly at a public lecture
• the relationship between music and prophecy
• the relationship between depression and spiritual integrity
• the virtues of patience, illustrated with outrageous attempts to provoke a person’s anger
• a search for the causes of premature demise
• a sense of impending doom
• sunrise, sunset — is there a precise astronomical definition?
• careless supervision of one’s own animal — who is responsible for damage the animal causes?
• the beautiful properties of olive oil
• the mistakes people make by drawing conclusions based on mistaking the evidence
• personal tranquility and public work — related?
• the dismal science, reduced to its basics: why poverty will never disappear
• do good intentions — if unrealized — mean anything?
• what seafarers know that others do not
• how ink is manufactured
• is there a sense in which sowing and reaping are the same?
• is it right for me to do something wrong if, by doing so, I can prevent someone else from doing something worse?
• how many meals a day is a food bank required to supply to a destitute person?
• the dangers of saying bad things about oneself, even if one doesn’t really mean them
• if you sell food according to its weight, is it dishonest to subsume in the weight, the weight of a preservative?
• at a sentencing hearing, how much evidence of good done by the criminal must a character witness provide in order to secure parole for the criminal?
• nepotism — evidence that it goes back at least 3,000 years
• “I didn’t do it on purpose” — to get out of the punishment, must this mean, “I didn’t know it was wrong?” or “I didn’t know how serious this was?” or “I thought I was actually doing something else?”
• left-handed, right-handed — does it matter?
• the parameters of disrespect
• the mysterious animal that appeared just in time for Moses to produce gorgeous textile coverings for the ancient Tabernacle from the animal skin — then went extinct
• if you give someone a present, is it best to do so anonymously, or to tell the recipient that you are the giver?
• the advisability — or non-advisability — of wearing a face mask on the Sabbath
• why there is an “eternal light” in synagogues
What is my book, which I have not yet half-finished, which addresses all of these matters? It is tractate Shabbat in the Babylonian Talmud.
The Talmud is a free-association discussion. In the tractate dedicated to the Sabbath laws, many, many more topics emerge. The list above barely covers the tractate Shabbat waterfront.
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