Note from Micha: The following was copied from Eliot's
web site shortly after his passing. I limited myself to copying his
words of Torah, but to give some more perspective on who Eliot a"h,
I pasted his summary of his work in psychology on
the bottom of this page. Hopefully, the University of Maryland Baltimore
County (which hosts the original web site) or a professional peer will
hold onto Eliot's professional work.
Tehei nafsho tzerurah bitzror hachaim,
PS: The Baltimore Sun carried this
which they mentioned on the first page of the Metro section Jan 30th,
Please dedicate your learning in memory of Dr. Eliot Shimoff:
Eliyahu Chaim ben HaRav Ephraim
Eliot Shimoff's Talmud Page
- Introducing the email talmud study
- Texts that have been posted to the email list
- Sanhedrin 2a. We begin with one of the
longest mishayot in the talmud, outlining the number of judges required
for various kinds of legal decisions.
- Sanhedrin 2b. The distinction between monetary
and personal injury cases, and special procedural leniencies in monetary
cases to foster commerce.
- Sanhedrin 3a. Amateur judges, insolent courts,
and compensatory damages.
- Sanhedrin 3b. Detailed rabbinic exegesis of
biblical verses to determine the minimum number of judges required for
- Sanhedrin 4a. More detailed exegesis on such
matters as sacrificial rites. the number of walls required for a Sukkah,
and the prohibition of mixing meat and milk.
- Sanhedrin 4b. Exegetical details on such
matters as t'fillin.
- Sanhedrin 5a. Who decides who can serve as
a judge? Does authorization extend to all judicial decisions? Where can
judges serve? And if a judge makes an error, is he liable?
- Sanhedrin 5b. The gemara discusses judges
whose authority was in specialized areas of halakha, as well as instances
in which inexperienced judges made errors. The text also includes the
ruling that one is not permitted to rule in the presence of his own
teacher, and the extent to which a judge whose decision is incorrect
can be held personally liable.
- Sanhedrin 6a. The gemara discusses the number
of judges required for judicial compromise, and the question of whether
compromise requires formal transfer of ownership.
- Sanhedrin 6b. Aaron and Solomon exemplifying
the value of compromise. And a reminder that both witnesses and judges
must remember before Whom they stand.
- Sanhedrin 7a. More on the value of compromise,
and when compromise is appropriate. We also find exegesis of biblical
verses, and several instances in which popular sayings are supported by
- Sanhedrin 7b. Warnings to judges about the
gravity of their decisions, cases of unqualified judges, and instances
of judicial humility.
- Sanhedrin 8a. Wicked judges, judicial summons,
court-imposed penalty payments, and the case of the slandering husband.
- Sanhedrin 8b. More on the slandering husband,
and the dispute between R. Meir and the Sages on how many judges are
required to judge the accusation of a slandering husband. The talmud also
discusses the degree to which the warnings by witnesses must be specific,
and whether it makes a difference if the wife of the slandering husband
is herself scholarly.
- Sanhedrin 9a. Disqualified witnesses. If one
witness is disqualified, does that have an impact of the acceptability
of the other witnesses?
- Sanhedrin 9b. The talmud here discusses
some basic principles of halakhic jurisprudence. Can warnings (required
before an act can be judicially punished) be done by someone other than
the witnesses? What is the difference between examining witnesses and
investigating them? Between contradictory or discredited testimony?
Can a person incriminate himself?
- Sanhedrin 10a. More on halakhic
jurisprudence, covering such questions as whether we can "split"
testimony, the punishment administered to discredited witnesses, and
whether a person can testify about his own property. Finally, the talmud
describes some basic rules about the administration of judicial lashes.
- Sanhedrin 10b. The gemera discusses some of
the basic principles of intercalating the month of Adar II, to establish
a leap year.
- Sanhedrin 11a. The gemara begins a discssion
of the circumstances in which the court might decide to declare a leap
year ... and the reasons that were insufficient. There is also extensive
aggadic treatment of the virtures of humility, and the extent to which
the rabbis would go to avoid embarrassing someone.
- Sanhedrin 11b. Intercalation depends in part
on the season, but also on the status of the crops; it was important
that some of the crops be ready for harvesting for the Omer sacrifice.
The gemara here discusses this issue, as well as when the crops ripened
in Israel and adjacent areas.
- Sanhedrin 12a. The gemara here discusses
the effects of famine on intercalation, when one intercalates in a
Sabbatical year, and raises questions about importing crops into Israel.
The text includes a fascinating discussion of an encoded rabbinic message.
The last two classes did not make it to Dr. Shimoff's
web site in his lifetime. Dr. Amitai Halevi kindly emailed them to me to
include here. The summaries on this page are mine.
- Sanhedrin 12b. The gemara continues the
rather difficult discussion of intercalation, focussing on its impct on
the Tishrei holidays.
- Sanhedrin 13a. The conclusion of the
discussion of intercalation, and whether allowing impure people time
to become pure and share in the offering is a valid motivation for the
dealy of Passover.
- Baba Metzia 21a. An object is found; under
what circumstances can the finder keep it, and under what circumstances
must the finding be announced? The gemara begins by analyzing the
mishna's statement that scattered produce can be kept by the finder.
But what is the precise definition of "scattered?" And we see the style
of one sage known for demanding precise definitions.
- Baba Metzia 21b. If an object is lost and the
owner has given up hope of recovery, the object belongs to the finder.
But what if the finder discovers it before the owner knows of the
loss? This is the issue of despair without awareness. Two major sages
disagree, and we see the first 8 (of a total of 15) proofs aimed at deciding
the issue one way of another.
- Baba Metzia 22a The dispute continues, and we
see proofs 9 - 13, along with an anecdote on rabbinic manners.
- Baba Metzia 22b. We see some classic rabbinic
exegesis of a phrase from the Torah, and the dispute over despair without
awareness is finally resolved. Then the gemara focuses on a new issue:
What constitutes a valid indentifying mark?
- Baba Metzia 23a. Amora'im seek tanna'itic
support in a rather complicated debate. But the halakha is finally stated.
- Baba Metzia 23b. The gemara discusses details
of identifying marks; can the size, weight, or number of items serve
as identifying marks? Can the location of the loss serve as an
identifier? And we see some fascinating material on rabbinic honesty,
and under what circumstances they felt it appropriate to dissemble.
- Baba Metzia 24a. The gemara discusses the
status of items found in heavily populated areas, and whether that status
depends on whether the majority in the area was Canaanite or Jewish.
- Baba Metzia 24b. The gemara continues its
analysis of items found in areas with a Canaanite majority, with a special focus
on the kashrut of meat found in various places.
- Baba Metzia 25a. A new mishna, with
discussions of special rules that apply when the found items are fruits or
- Baba Metzia 25b. Coins arranged to suggest idolatry,
birds found tied together, and items found in a garbage heap.
- Baba Metzia 26a. Items found in rubble, items left by
renters, Ma'aser (tithe), and what to do with an item dropped by one person in a
- Baba Metzia 26b. The biblical sources for the
requirement for returning a lost item, and what to do with an item found in a
- Baba Metzia 27a. The "side-benefits" (e.g., the wool
of a sheep) that come about when holding a found item, and the minimum value a lost item
(e.g., must one announce a lost item that is almost worthless).
- Baba Metzia 27b. Such issues as identifying a corpse,
identifying a get, and what to do if one finds an IOU.
- Baba Metzia 28a. More on the biblical source. Details
of how and when found items must be announced, with an interesting discussion of
rabbinic travel times and how lost items were announced in the Second Temple era.
- Baba Metzia 28b. Precisely how does the owner identify
a lost item, and how can we avoid returning an item to a dishonest claimant?
- Baba Metzia 29a. If cash is found, is the finder
permitted to use the money until the owner comes to claim it? And what are
the precise custodial responsibilities of the finder?
- Baba Metzia 29b. How to care for scrolls, tfillin,
and garments, along with a rabbinic lesson on home economics.
- Baba Metzia 30a. Does the finder have the right to use
the found item while waiting for the owner to claim it? And exactly what counts
as use? Is everyone obligated to retrieve a lost item? Who is exempt?
- Baba Metzia 30b. More on exemption from the obligation
of retrieving a lost item. A discussion of "going beyond the letter of the law."
And we begin a new mishna, focussing on how one knows that an item has been lost?
- Baba Metzia 31a. The obligation to save property from
destruction. How to return a lost item. Finally, the gemara begins an extensive
discussion of the exegesis of repeated biblical phrases, addressing such issues as
the requirement to send away a mother bird before taking the chicks, the
obligation to rebuke a sinner, and the requirement to assist in loading and
unloading beasts of burden.
- Baba Metzia 31b. The gemara applies its exegesis of
repeated biblical phrases to such diverse topics as capital punishment, collateral
for loans, and the treatment of servants. The gemara then begins its analysis
of whether one pays the finder for the time spend retrieving the lost item.
- Baba Metzia 32a. How can one be sure that an animal
is lost? Under what circumstances can a child disobey a parent? Is there a
difference between the obligation to load and the obligation to unload an
- Baba Metzia 32b. The rabbis attempt again and again to
determine whether the obligation to relieve an animal's suffering is biblical or
- Baba Metzia 33a. The question of the obligation to
relieve an animal's suffering is finally resolved. The rabbis then address the
question of whether a teacher takes priority over a parent, and how much does a
person have to teach to become one's teacher.
- Baba Metzia 33b. We complete our study of Chapter 2 of
Baba Metzia with aggadic material -- a rabbinic discussion of the relative merits
of different kinds of study.
- Baba Metzia 33b. We begin a new chapter, focussing
on the rights and responsibilities of four different kinds of custodians. If
a custodian voluntarily takes responsibility for a theft, does he gain the right
to punitive damages paid by the thief?
- Baba Metzia 34a. When a custodian takes responsibility
for a theft, he gains the rights to punitive damages paid by the thief. But
does "taking responsiblity" mean actual payment, or can even a promise to
pay effect the transfer of rights?
- Baba Metzia 34b. We start with eleven hypothetical
(and unresolved) questions about cases in which the custodian would rather pay
than take an oath that he is not holding the collateral. The gemara then
addresses the question of who takes the oath (the lender or the borrower)
- Baba Metzia 35a. Who takes the oath, and exactly
what is the nature of the oath. Who trusts whom ... and why? Court-ordered
seizure of property, and the seizure of a woman's property.
- Baba Metzia 35b. More details on court-ordered
seizures of property. We begin a new mishna, dealing with the liability
of an owner who rents an animal, and then borrows it back from the renter ...
leading to a surprising outcome in terms of liability.
- Baba Metzia 36a. The biblical liability for a
false oath. Can one custodian transfer a deposit to a second custodian.
The mental competence of custodians, and the issue of an accidental loss
following negligence by the custodian.
- Baba Metzia 36b. Suppose a custodian is
negligent ... and the animal under his care dies not because of the negligence,
but for unrelated reasons. This is the issue of accidental loss after
custodial negligence, and is the focus of our talmudic text here.
- Baba Metzia 37a. We begin with a mishna that
introduces the question of the responsibility of returning an item when
it is difficult (or impossible) to identify the correct recipient. For
example, what if a robber knows that he robbed someone, but not exactly
who? What if a custodian received items from two depositors, but cannot
recall who deposited what?
- Baba Metzia 37b. Exactly what does it mean when
we rule that the robber can place a disputed item among the claimants and
leave? And precisely what is the responsibility of a person who accepts
custody of several items from different depositors, but can no longer recall
which depositor left which items?
- Baba Metzia 38a. If a custodian is holding
produce, and the produce begins to spoil, should he limit the owner's
losses by selling the deposited produce? And to what extent does the
custodian's responsibility depend on the degree of spoilage or the nature
of the produce?
- Baba Metzia 38b. If a person is taken captive, and
we are not certain of his fate, who takes care of the captive's property, and
how is the caretaker compensated?
- Baba Metzia 39a. What is the definition of "abandoned property?
Are there any special problems that arise when a man serves as "custodian" for property
owned by his minor wife? And when the gemara says that we do not appoint a relative
to care for a minor's property, how close does one have to be to be considered a
- Baba Metzia 39b. The gemara discusses the principle of
presummptive ownership, and then goes on to discuss how presumptions of
ownership helped resolve the disposition of the assets of a woman and her
daughters who were held captive. Finally, the gemara describes an instance of
"judicial activism" in a case in which the defendant intimidated potential
witnesses for the plaintiff.
- Baba Metzia 40a. When a person deposits grain or
liquids (e.g., wine or oil), there is often inevitable loss; rodents or
insects deplete the grain, and liquids can be absorbed by their containers.
Clearly, the custodian cannot be held responsible for such natural and inevitable
depletion. The gemara discusses the principles behind how the acceptable degree
of depletion is determined.
- Baba Metzia 40b. A person can always relinquish some
rights, but can these rights be relinquished implicitly, without explicit statements?
When liquids are stored, there is often sediment; what is that status of that
sediment? Finally, the gemara begins to address the issue of the liability of
a custodian who moves an item; if the item is damaged while being moved, under
what circumstances is the custodian liable?
- Baba Metzia 41a. Our text focuses on misappropriation -- when
someone (for example, a custodian) "borrows" an item for brief use. At what point does
the misappropriator become liable ... and what is the extent of the liability?
- Baba Metzia 41b. Here we have details of the exegesis of
the law of misappropriation.
- Baba Metzia 42a. How should a deposit be guarded? We see
some fascinating text on how the increasing sophistication of thieves demanded more
and more sophisticated guardianship. In addition, we get some rabbinic advice on
how to allocate one's assets.
- Baba Metzia 42b. Some difficult decisions in specific cases,
and some general principles ... along with a discussion of some of the problems
in manufacturing beer.
- Baba Metzia 43a. The mishna and the gemara tackle some
practical questions. When a moneychanger or merchant serves as a custodian for
cash, is he permitted to use the money, and if so, what are the implications for
his liability. If an item is stolen, and changes in value by the time the
robber makes restitution, does he pay the original value or the new value?
- Baba Metzia 43b. If a stolen item changes in value,
does the thief pay according to its value at when it was stolen, or when he was
found guilty and liable? And precisely what does value mean in this case -- is
it market value, or changes in an item's inherent value? Finally, the gemara
describes some of the difficulties in making the halakhic rulings.
- Baba Metzia 44a. A custodian decides to misappropriate
some wine; after doing so, the keg breaks. Is the custodian liable for the keg?
And, if the contents of the keg deteriorated, is he liable for that too? And
we finish the third chapter!
My general approach to psychology is the experimental analysis of
behavior, a perspective on behavior that focuses on the environmental
causes of behavior. The overarching theme of it all is that causes of
behavior are best sought in the history of the individual and the species,
and can be best revealed by careful experimental analysis.
Over the years, I have looked at such diverse issues as Pavlovian
conditioning, reinforcement and punishment, and verbal behavior.
I have worked with a broad range of species: rats, pigeons, monkeys,
pre-school children, college students, and college professors; the focus
is not on the species, but on the behavior.
My current interests involve complex visual discriminations and delay
of reinforcement in pigeons, and complex learning in college students.
A parallel interest -- really the conjunction of my work in the
laboratory and my classroom teaching, is the development of interactive
software to give college students a sense of the fun, excitement, and
pure thrill of getting real behavioral data, a nd to teach students what
psychology is really all about -- the joy of finding out about behavior.