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I didn’t even finish half of my favorite book of 2020

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

• hypocrisy

• 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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IJN Executive Editor | hillel@ijn.com

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