Talmudic logic


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Talmudic logic

  1. 1. Consider this lovely anecdote from Eastern Europe, which is all about Talmudic logic:After months of negotiation with the authorities, a Talmudist from Odessa is finally granted a visa tovisit Moscow. He boards the train and finds an empty seat. At the n ext stop, a young man gets onthe train and sits next to him. The scholar looks at the young man and thinks: This fellow doesntlook like a peasant, and if he isnt a peasant, he probably comes from this city. If he comes from thiscity, then he must be Jewish, because this is, after all, a predominantly Jewish area. On the otherhand, if he is a Jew, where could he be going? I am the only Jew in our district who receivedpermission to travel to Moscow.Ahh? Thats no problem; I know that just outside Moscow, there is a little town called Samvet, andJews dont need special permission to go there. Yes, but why would he be going to Samvet? Hesprobably going to visit one of the Jewish families that live there, but let me think; how many Jewishfamilies are there in Samvet? There are only two: the Bernsteins and the Steinbergs. TheBernsteins? No, that cannot be; it is a terrible family. A nice looking fellow like this young man, mustbe visiting the Steinbergs.But why would he visit that family? The Steinbergs have only two daughters. So, my best guess isthat he must be their son-in-law. But if he is, indeed, a son-in-law, which daughter did he marry? Iheard that Sarah married a nice lawyer from Budapest, and Esther married a businessman fromZhitomir; so, I got it: he must be Sarahs husband, and his name, people say, is Alexander Cohen.But, if he comes from Budapest, a city where anti-Semitism is rampant, he must have changed hisname. What would be the Hungarian equivalent of Cohen? It must be Kovacs. But it is well knownthat not everyone is allowed to change his name in Hungary, and if he was able to do so, it must befor a good reason: he must have some special status. And what could that be? Obviously, thisfellow Alexander Cohen must have earned a doctorate from the University.At this point, our Talmudic scholar turns to the young man and says, "How do you do, Dr. Kovacs?""Very well thank you, sir," answers the startled passenger. "But, please tell me, how is it that youknow my name?""Oh," replies the Talmudist, "It was obvious."