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Archive for March, 2016

Fun with Talmud and Cycling

Posted by rabbiart on March 10, 2016

This post was originally written as a response on facebook. One of our Israel Ride friends asked the opening question you see below.


Mishnah: R. Spencer asks: If a bicycle falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?

Gemara: Why does R. Spencer ask this question? Surely the bicycle has a rider, and the rider hears the bicycle fall? R. Nigel pushes this answer away. “It is too simple; of course there is a rider. R. Spencer is asking, “When the bicycle falls, the rider is dismounted. If the rider is hurt and cries out, and there is no one there to hear it, has the rider still made a sound?” R. Howie ben Rodenstein asks “are we not taught to always ride with a buddy?” Does the buddy not hear the sound of the bicycle and the cry of the rider? But R. David of Freeman says “R. Spencer obviously refers to the case where the rider has wrongly gone off for a ride on his own”. However R. David ben Rendsburg says, “perhaps this is a case where the other rider has gone to ‘take care of business’ and does not hear the cry of the fallen rider.” R. Jonathan of Miller says “In a forest one does not need to go far away in order to take care of business as there is always a bush nearby”. But R. Beth of Miller responds “only a man would say that! Perhaps the riders are women and it was necessary to wander far in the forest in order to find privacy, so the call of the fallen rider could not be heard.” R. Jillene of Moore supports her position. R. Arthur proclaims “this whole conversation is nothing but silliness, for who but a simpleton would ride his bike in a forest!”

R. Carol of Robinson joins in: “Fool! This not about a bicycle falling in the forest. R. Spencer has asked a deeply important question by way of metaphor. When he says “no one is there to hear” he in fact is asking what misfortune can cause a rider to be alone in the forest of life!” The discussion went on all night, until the other students came and said “My masters! it is time to say the morning Shema.” They davened until the second paragraph of the Amidah, in which we are reminded that HaShem raises those who are fallen, including bicycle riders!

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