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Hagigah 17a: Too much of a Good Thing?

Texts and questions prepared by Rabbi Dina Shargel for Gems of the Talmud



Babylonian Talmud, Hagigah 17a

תָּפַשְׂתָּ מְרוּבֶּה לֹא תָּפַשְׂתָּ, תָּפַשְׂתָּ מוּעָט תָּפַשְׂתָּ.

If you grasped many, you have not grasped anything; if you grasped few, you have grasped something.



Questions for study:


1. Material resources are necessarily limited. What does the phrase suggest about setting expectations for acquiring material goods or wealth?


2. Time, like space, is a limited resource. What does the saying imply about deciding which areas are worth devoting one’s time? About time management?


3. What implications does the phrase have for balancing quality and quantity?


4. What other associations come to your mind about the Talmudic saying?




Read “The Fisherman and His Wife” by the Brothers Grimm. How does it relate to the Talmud’s message? Are they the same or different?



Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 21a

Rava said: If there are two teachers of children, one who teaches a great deal of material but is imprecise, and one who is precise but does not teach a great deal of material – one hires the teacher who covers much material but is not precise. Why?

–Errors will smooth themselves out in due course. On the other hand, Rav Dimi of Neharde’a said: One hires the instructor who is precise but does not cover a great deal of material. For once an error is introduced, it is difficult to uproot.



Questions for study:


1. Do you agree with Rava or Rav Dimi in the passage from Bava Batra?


2. Does the passage from Tractate Hagigah seem to reflect Rava’s point of view, or that of Rav Dimi?


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