Eruvin 2 – Exaggeration in the Talmud

numbersEruvin 2b

בשלמא לבר קפרא – גוזמא

Granted, according to bar Kapara, [the phrase: Up to a hundred, can be understood as] an exaggeration.

The Koren notes

An exaggeration: This term appears in several places in the Talmud. Its basic meaning is that in certain circumstances a Sage was imprecise in his formulation. He did not intend to deviate from the truth. Rather, it was to express the general idea, without concern for its exact parameters. There are also formulaic numbers employed in exaggeration, e.g., thirteen, sixty, one hundred and others (Tosafot): however, the numbers forty and fifty were never employed by the Sages as exaggerations. Therefore, they mst be precise.

We have seen this suggested elsewhere. One common example is the number 600,000 souls at Mount Sinai. Whilst many Rabbis suggest that this was precise, others say it just means “A LOT!”


About bookabazza

I am an Osteopath and University Lecturer who is trying to keep up with the 7 year daf yomi cycle. I thought I would try and share a few small thought on the daf each week.
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One Response to Eruvin 2 – Exaggeration in the Talmud

  1. Garry Wayland says:

    The problem with interpretating 600000 as being an exaggeration is that the Torah details each Tribe, family etc etc.Ben Gurion made front-page news in his day when he suggested that the word ‘alef’ in this context doesn’t mean 1000, but Chief (as in Aluf Edom) – see eg

    Rashbam and other suggest that some numbers are approximations – eg we give 39 Makkot, because although the Torah says 40, that is an approximation. So too with the number of days of Sefira, when the Torah says to count 50 days.

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