Avodah Zarah 8 ~ 2,000 Pages Done!

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Page eight of Avodah Zarah, is the 2,000th page of the Talmud.  There are only 711 pages left until the completion of this Daf Yomi cycle. We commemorated 1,000 pages learned back in April 2015. Now let's do the same for this new milestone.

Pagination in Manuscripts of the Talmud

The first complete edition of the Babylonian Talmud, the edito princeps, was printed from 1519/20-23. The Bomberg Talmud became a standard for the editions that followed, almost all subsequent editions adhered to his layout and foliation.
— Marvin Heller. Earliest Printings of the Talmud. In Mintz and Goldstein. Printing the Talmud 2002. p 73

It should be noted that counting  Avodah Zarah 8 as the 2,000th page of the Talmud is a fairly recent development. By which we mean it has only been around since the saintly Daniel Bomberg and his 1519 edition.  Here, for example, is a page showing tomorrow's daf, from the handwritten manuscript found in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.  It was completed in 1337. (Avodah Zarah 8 begins with the second word on the second line.) The pagination and layout is entirely different to the standard format of the Talmud we are used to seeing.

Avodah Zarah  7b-8a. Circa 14-15 century. From Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Suppl. Heb 1337.

Avodah Zarah 7b-8a. Circa 14-15 century. From Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Suppl. Heb 1337.

Visualizing 2,000 pages

1 Back on August 3, 2012 we opened the new cycle of Daf Yomi with Berachot 2. That day just happened to be ט׳ו באב.

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10 pages looks like this:

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100 looks like this

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1,000 pages looks like this. We reached the 1,000th page of Talmud on April 29th, 2015.

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And here are 2,000 pages, represented as dots:

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Fun Facts about 2,000

The last big deal we made out of two-thousand was Y2K, the year our secular calendar tiptoed into the twenty-first century.  But 2,000 is an interesting number in itself. Like all numbers, it can be written as the sum of two primes: 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 × 5 × 5 × 5=2,000. It is a Harshad number, which is to say, it is an integer that is divisible by the sum of its digits.  

2,000 seconds is equal to 33 minutes, 20 seconds. To count from 1 to 2,000 would take you about thirty-three minutes. And a cube with a volume of 2000 cubic inches would be around 1 feet tall.

Alpayim (אלפיים, lit. "2,000") was also the name of a literary magazine published in Israel between 1989 and 2009. You can see a picture of one of its covers above.

2,000 in the תנ׳ך

The number 2,000 in the Hebrew Bible, the תנ’ך, appears in a number of places.

1. In the Book of Joshua, the people are warned to stay at least 2,000 cubits away from the Ark which they are following.

יהושע 3:4

אַ֣ךְ ׀ רָח֣וֹק יִהְיֶ֗ה בֵּֽינֵיכֶם֙ ובינו [וּבֵינָ֔יו] כְּאַלְפַּ֥יִם אַמָּ֖ה בַּמִּדָּ֑ה אַֽל־תִּקְרְב֣וּ אֵלָ֗יו לְמַ֤עַן אֲשֶׁר־תֵּֽדְעוּ֙ אֶת־הַדֶּ֙רֶךְ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תֵּֽלְכוּ־בָ֔הּ כִּ֣י לֹ֧א עֲבַרְתֶּ֛ם בַּדֶּ֖רֶךְ מִתְּמ֥וֹל שִׁלְשֽׁוֹם׃ 

but keep a distance of some 2,000 cubits from it, never coming any closer to it—so that you may know by what route to march, since it is a road you have not traveled before.

2. In the sad story of the פלגש בגבעה, there is a civil war. Thousands die and a note is made of 2,000 killed, in addition to the other deaths. 

שופטים 20:45

וַיִּפְנ֞וּ וַיָּנֻ֤סוּ הַמִּדְבָּ֙רָה֙ אֶל־סֶ֣לַע הָֽרִמּ֔וֹן וַיְעֹֽלְלֻ֙הוּ֙ בַּֽמְסִלּ֔וֹת חֲמֵ֥שֶׁת אֲלָפִ֖ים אִ֑ישׁ וַיַּדְבִּ֤יקוּ אַחֲרָיו֙ עַד־גִּדְעֹ֔ם וַיַּכּ֥וּ מִמֶּ֖נּוּ אַלְפַּ֥יִם אִֽישׁ׃

They turned and fled to the wilderness, to the Rock of Rimmon; but [the Israelites] picked off another 5,000 on the roads and, continuing in hot pursuit of them up to Gidom, they slew 2,000 more.

3. King Solomon took thirteen years to complete the building of the first Temple. Among its contents was a large circular metal tub that sat on twelve statues of oxen.  It held the volume of 2,000 baths.

מלאכים א, 7:26

וְעָבְי֣וֹ טֶ֔פַח וּשְׂפָת֛וֹ כְּמַעֲשֵׂ֥ה שְׂפַת־כּ֖וֹס פֶּ֣רַח שׁוֹשָׁ֑ן אַלְפַּ֥יִם בַּ֖ת יָכִֽיל׃

It was a handbreadth thick, and its brim was made like that of a cup, like the petals of a lily. Its capacity was 2,000 baths.

4. In the war between the Israelite King Hezekiah and the Assyrian King Shalmaneser of Assyria, Hezekiah is taunted by the Assyrian leader:

מלאכים ב, 18:23

וְעַתָּה֙ הִתְעָ֣רֶב נָ֔א אֶת־אֲדֹנִ֖י אֶת־מֶ֣לֶךְ אַשּׁ֑וּר וְאֶתְּנָ֤ה לְךָ֙ אַלְפַּ֣יִם סוּסִ֔ים אִם־תּוּכַ֕ל לָ֥תֶת לְךָ֖ רֹכְבִ֥ים עֲלֵיהֶֽם׃

Come now, make this wager with my master, the king of Assyria: I’ll give you 2,000 horses if you can produce riders to mount them.

5. Among the donations made to rebuild the Temple during Nechemia's rein was a collective donation of 2,000 pieces of silver.

נחמיה 7:71

וַאֲשֶׁ֣ר נָתְנוּ֮ שְׁאֵרִ֣ית הָעָם֒ זָהָ֗ב דַּרְכְּמוֹנִים֙ שְׁתֵּ֣י רִבּ֔וֹא וְכֶ֖סֶף מָנִ֣ים אַלְפָּ֑יִם וְכָתְנֹ֥ת כֹּֽהֲנִ֖ים שִׁשִּׁ֥ים וְשִׁבְעָֽה׃ 

The rest of the people donated: gold—20,000 drachmas, silver—2,000, and 67 priestly robes.

6. In the Book of Chronicles, we are reminded of a battle in which tribes of Reuven, Gad and (half of) Menashe prevailed against the Hagarites. Here is what they plundered:

דברי הימים א, 5:21

וַיִּשְׁבּ֣וּ מִקְנֵיהֶ֗ם גְּֽמַלֵּיהֶ֞ם חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים אֶ֙לֶף֙ וְצֹ֗אן מָאתַ֤יִם וַחֲמִשִּׁים֙ אֶ֔לֶף וַחֲמוֹרִ֖ים אַלְפָּ֑יִם וְנֶ֥פֶשׁ אָדָ֖ם מֵ֥אָה אָֽלֶף׃

They carried off their livestock: 50,000 of their camels, 250,000 sheep, 2,000 asses, and 100,000 people.

All of this suggests that the number 2,000 might not need be read literally. It seems to mean instead "a really big number."

2,000 in the Talmud – and in Avoda Zarah

Perhaps the most famous use of the number 2,000 in the Talmud is the distance beyond which a person may not travel on Shabbat.

עירובין נא, א

׳הני אלפים אמה היכן כתיבן דתניא ׳שבו איש תחתיו׳ אלו ארבע אמות ׳אל יצא איש ממקומו אלו אלפים אמה

These two thousand cubits, where are they written in the Torah? It was taught in a baraita: “Every man shall remain in his place” (Exodus 16:29); these are the four cubits, [which constitute the minimum Shabbat limit for one who ventured beyond his prescribed limit]. “Let no man go out of his place”(Exodus 16:29); these are the 2,000 cubits of the Shabbat limit for one who remains in his place.

On today's 2,000th page, the number 2,000 makes a cameo appearance where it can be found in Rashi explaining the word תחום:

תחום. אלפים אמה סביבות העיר

The boundary: this is 2,000 cubits around the city

Unfortunately, a really interesting appearance of the number 2,000 comes the day after reaching our important milestone.  On Avodah Zarah 9a we learn that that the number 2,000 is part of a critical eschatological calculation:

עבודה זרה ט, א

תנא דבי אליהו ששת אלפים שנה הוי העולם שני אלפים תוהו שני אלפים תורה שני אלפים ימות המשיח

The school of Eliyahu taught: The world is destined to exist for six thousand years. For 2,000 years the world was waste, as the Torah had not yet been given. The next set of 2,000 years are the time period of the Torah. The last set of 2,000 years are the period designated for the days of the Messiah.

Too bad that discussion didn't come a page earlier. That would have made for a wonderful coincidence.  Ah well. Congratulations to all those who have travelled this far.  And welcome aboard to all those whose journey is just starting. 


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