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Monday, June 29, 2009

Talmud FAIL: Yalta vs. Ulla

Most of my favorite Talmud stories center around Yalta. She's a Talmud-era commentator who's sometimes thought to be Rav Nachman's wife (the Talmudic sage, not the Hasidic rebbe) and is also sometimes thought to be the daughter of the Rosh Galuta, the head of the world Jewish community at the time. And she was an arbiter of Jewish law and philosophy in her own right.

We also named our daughter after her. There are two famous stories in the Talmud -- seven in total, but two that are really famous -- that center around her. One involves Rav Nachman coming to her and asking what to do if you hunger for non-kosher food (she schools him). The other goes as follows (courtesy of

Ulla was once at the house of R. Nahman. They had a meal and he said grace, and he handed the cup of benediction to R. Nahman. R. Nahman said to him: Please send the cup of benediction to Yaltha.

(OK -- now Ulla's gonna get really crabby. Especially considering he's a guest in the home of an honored rabbi...not to mention, of course, Yalta.)

He said to him: Thus said R. Johanan: "The fruit of a woman's body is blessed only from the fruit of a man's body, since it says, He will also bless the fruit of thy body." It does not say the fruit of her body, but the fruit of thy body. It has been taught similarly: Whence do we know that the fruit of a woman's body is only blessed from the fruit of a man's body? Because it says: He will also bless the fruit of thy body. It does not say the fruit of her body, but the fruit of thy body.

(That was Ulla showing off and being a smart@$$ -- and, basically, saying that women suck. Now comes the good part.)

Meanwhile Yaltha heard, and she got up in a passion and went to the wine store and broke four hundred jars of wine. R. Nahman said to him: Let the Master send her another cup. He sent it to her with a message: All that wine can be counted as a benediction. She returned answer: Gossip comes from pedlars and vermin from rags.

...and THAT, my friends, is how you deliver the whiz-bang kung-fu punch to an honored rabbi: with a combination of physical force and a good proverb. Apparently, people are still taking this to heart today. Courtesy of FAILblog:


Yonah Lavery-Yisraeli said...

I love that story! And it is so, so awesome that you named your daughter Yalta.

What do you think about Come And Hear? I'm pretty sure they're an antisemitic smear site, as their eyerollingly context-is-for-the-weak readings of certain Sanhedrin passages reveal.

Anonymous said...

that is the best thing i've ever read/seen/heard.

matthue said...


Not to mention the link to their Mel Gibson fan page: "Come and Hear supports Mel Gibson's right to speak freely about his religion. We invite the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith to support — in letter and spirit — the principle of free thought and free speech."

I don't know if they're racist against Jews, per se, but their values are definitely questionable. Especially that part at the beginning of the site that says "as inspired by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks." Dude, try saying that to his face.

Marie said...

Breaking 400 jars of wine= punk as @!$&# !!!!

fudge said...

Thanks for posting this. There are so many intriguing little nuggets like this in the Talmud that I feel like your everday Jews never talk or hear about, and it's a real pleasure to discover striking figures like Yalta.

-Perel S

sara argamon said...

Love it! Yalta had a way with words. Check out my post about history as seen Through Yalta's Eyes:

matthue said...

Sara, your paper is excellent! Tons of stuff that I'd heard once but didn't remember, and even more that I'd never even heard the first time around.

What sources did you use? I'm only asking because your article makes me want to read (even) more....

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