Month: June 2020

Shabbat 116

Today’s daf (Shabbat 116a) makes reference to ‘The House of Avidan’ which was a location where scholars of various nations and faiths met to conduct philosophical discussions and debates. We are told that Rav would not attend the debates at ‘The House of Avidan’, while Shmuel was prepared to do so. We are also told…

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Shabbat 115

As we know, the Jewish people have been referred to as ‘the people of the book’, and since the beginnings of Jewish history, Jews have revered the word of God and the sacred scrolls in which the words of God are found. Given all this, the halachot presented in today’s daf (Shabbat 115a) aren’t merely…

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Shabbat 114

Having previously been discussing Shabbat clothes, today’s daf (Shabbat 114a) relates a story about a form of clothes as well as an important lesson about the extent to which we must respect and follow the instructions of those who are near death.We are told that when Rav Yannai was near death he told his sons:…

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Shabbat 113

Today’s daf (Shabbat 113a-b) informs us that a person should wear different clothes (מלבוש) on Shabbat than those that they wear during the week, they should walk differently on Shabbat than they do on the week, and they should speak different on Shabbat than they do on the week.Interestingly, it is often thought that ‘Shabbat…

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Shabbat 112

Whenever a halachic decisor is approached by someone with a halachic question, their task is to listen very carefully to every word and inflection of the questioner before starting to think about how to answer, because quite often, embedded in the question are clues that speak volumes about the questioner.A case in point is today’s…

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Shabbat 111

When reading the first few lines of the Mishna (Shabbat 15:1) in today’s daf (Shabbat 111b), I was reminded of an incident that took place 20 years ago which shocked me and moved me all at once – but to explain, I must first review some basic principles that emerge from our daf. Chapter 15…

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Shabbat 110

Today we continue the exploration of the rabbinic prohibition on healing on Shabbat. The mishnah on Shabbat 109b informs us that specific herbs that are only consumed for their medicinal properties may not be eaten on Shabbat, while foods that have medicinal properties but are also consumed for their nutritional benefits may be eaten: ‘One…

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Shabbat 109

Today we continue the exploration of the rabbinic prohibition on healing on Shabbat. The mishnah on Shabbat 109b informs us that specific herbs that are only consumed for their medicinal properties may not be eaten on Shabbat, while foods that have medicinal properties but are also consumed for their nutritional benefits may be eaten: ‘One…

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Shabbat 108

Bathing in salt water has long been considered to have medicinal benefits, and bathing eyes in salt water has long been regarded as being beneficial for the health of the eye. However, when it came to Hilchot Shabbat, our Sages (see Shabbat 53b) established a rule that non-essential healing was forbidden, and that medicines should…

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Shabbat 107

Amid our discussion concerning the prohibition of ‘trapping’ an animal on Shabbat, today’s daf (Shabbat 107a) explores the Shabbat prohibition of החובל – inflicting a wound to an animal. As we know, there is an overall Torah prohibition against צער בעלי חיים (causing anguish to animals), and consequently it should be immediately obvious that none…

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Shabbat 106

The Mishna (Shabbat 13:5) on today’s daf (Shabbat 106a) presents a fascinating debate concerning the melacha of צוד – trapping. According to Rabbi Yehuda, when a bird is trapped in a closet or when a deer is trapped in a house, the melacha of צוד is transgressed. Though the Chachamim (Sages) agree with the law…

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Shabbat 105

The Mishna (Shabbat 13:3) in today’s daf (Shabbat 105b) discusses the forbidden melacha of weaving, and in doing so it teaches us that someone who tears a garment in anger or someone who tears their clothes in response to the death of a close relative are פטור – exempt (nb. throughout the laws of Shabbat,…

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Shabbat 104

Today’s daf (Shabbat 104a) contains some of the most exquisite Torah insights that can be found throughout the Gemara – insights that are both incredibly simple, yet also incredibly profound.Having previously been discussing the laws of writing on Shabbat and the different shapes of the hebrew letters, the Gemara relates how a group of students…

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Shabbat 103

The Mishna (Shabbat 12:3) in today’s daf (Shabbat 103a) informs us that the melacha of כותב (writing) is contravened when two letters are written together to form a word or part of a word on Shabbat. Rabbi Yossi adds that this rule also includes the writing of two related symbols, since symbols were marked on…

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Shabbat 102

Today’s daf (Shabbat 102b) begins the 12th Chapter of Massechet Shabbat titled ‘HaBoneh’ (one who builds), and having reached this point it should be clear that to transgress – at least on a biblical level – many of the Shabbat melachot, an individual must perform that action for a certain distance (4 amot) or carry…

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Shabbat 101

Much of today’s daf (Shabbat 101b) discusses the case mentioned in the Mishna (Shabbat 11:5, 100b) involving two boats that are tied together thereby enabling carrying from one to the other. Here, each boat is a ‘reshut hayachid’ (private domain) and the water on which the boats are floating is a karmelit (open area). Consequently,…

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Shabbat 99-100

Towards the end of today’s daf (Shabbat 99b) and continuing into tomorrow’s daf (100a) is a fascinating halachic discussion about what it means to be at rest which I believe has so much to teach us about our personal places of comfort and rest. As a quick reminder, the laws of carrying on Shabbat are…

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Shabbat 98

In today’s daf (Shabbat 98a) we find a debate about whether carrying in a covered public area is prohibited since the דגלי מדבר (literally ‘the flags of the wilderness’ but a term used to refer to the original encampment area of Bnei Yisrael in the wilderness) did not contain any public covered areas. Having seen…

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Shabbat 97

Today’s daf (Shabbat 97a) makes reference to an important principle about the pursuit of good vrs. bad which has significant implications on how we speak and how we should live our lives. When Moshe told God that Bnei Yisrael were unlikely to believe that he had experienced a divine encounter, God demonstrated three miracles to…

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Shabbat 96

At the end of today’s daf (Shabbat 96b), Rabbi Akiva – on the basis of a gezera shava (where identical words or expressions found in different places in the Torah are used to give greater understanding or meaning to each other) – identifies the מקושש (i.e. the individual who transgressed the Shabbat laws by gathering…

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Shabbat 95

Today’s daf (Shabbat 95a) tells a story of which variations have sadly been repeated many times since and which illustrates how Torah knowledge can often be weaponised to insult others. The story begins when Rav Nachman (Chama*) bar Guyra visited Nehardea. Significantly, Rav Chama was a loyal student of Rav who was head of the…

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Shabbat 94

Sometimes when reading a Talmudic story it seems quite clear that there is more to the story than meets the eye, and in today’s daf (Shabbat 94b) I think we have such a story which, if examined sufficiently closely, reveals tensions between two people about Torah knowledge, rabbinic authority, and perhaps even some sibling jealousy.…

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Shabbat 93

Much of today’s daf (Shabbat 93a) is dedicated to examining the debate introduced in yesterday’s daf (see Shabbat 92b) concerning the liability of two people who, together on Shabbat, carry an object from one domain to another (or what we call שנים שעשוהו – ‘two people in partnership’). Based on the conclusion of this debate,…

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Shabbat 92

One of the 39 melachot is הוצאה (carrying from one domain to another), and in today’s daf (Shabbat 92a) our Sages attempt to define the usual way of carrying that contravenes this prohibition: ‘One who carries [in a usual manner], whether with their right or their left [hand], in their lap or on their shoulder…

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Shabbat 91

Today’s daf (Shabbat 91b) contains a fascinating philosophical discussion about the extent to which individual items remain distinct within, or coalesce into, a large whole when held together in a singular unit. The specific question being discussed in our daf concerns the Shabbat transgression incurred when carrying a basket from a private domain onto the…

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Shabbat 90

In today’s daf (Shabbat 90b) reference is made to locusts and how carrying a locust in a public domain contravenes the laws against carrying on Shabbat. At the same time, we are also told that – at least in the time of the Mishna – children enjoyed playing with live locusts, that some families kept…

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Shabbat 89

Among the many fascinating aggadic teachings found in today’s daf (Shabbat 89a) is a cryptic and curious story which I believe communicates an incredibly powerful lesson that is incredibly important and relevant for us today: ‘Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi taught that when Moshe ascended on high, he found the Holy One, Blessed Ben He, attaching…

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Shabbat 88

Today’s daf (Shabbat 88a) contains one of the most challenging aggadic insights in the entire Talmud. We are told that when Bnei Yisrael were to receive the Torah they stood בתחתית ההר (Shemot 19:17) which, though generally translated as ‘at the foot of the mountain’, can also be translated as ‘underneath the mountain’. Given the…

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Shabbat 87

Today’s daf (Shabbat 87a) cites a Beraita informing us of three decisions, each on first glance seem hard to justify, that Moshe made מדעתו (‘from his own understanding’) which God then retrospectively agreed with: i) He added a third day of abstinence for the people in their preparation to receive the Torah, ii) He separated…

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Shabbat 86

Today’s daf (Shabbat 86b, as well as the first few lines of Shabbat 87a) records a debate between the Sages and Rabbi Yossi concerning the date when the Jewish people received the Torah on Mount Sinai. As Rava points out, both the Sages and Rabbi Yossi agree that the people arrived at Sinai on Rosh…

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Shabbat 83-85

Unfortunately, due to a variety of work pressures as well as the need to prepare a number of shiurim I did not have the time to learn the daf from Erev Shavuot (Shabbat 83), and yesterday, having delivered four different talks/shiurim throughout the night I was fairly tired and was unable to get to the…

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Shabbat 82

Today’s daf (Shabbat 82a) begins with a record of a conversation that took place between the 3rd century Amora Rav Huna and his son Rabbah about Rav Huna’s friend, disciple, and one of the leading Torah teachers of the time, Rav Hisda. By this stage Rav Hisda was already renowned for his brilliance in Torah…

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Shabbat 81

Continuing the theme of this chapter concerning the measure of an item/items that is deemed to have inherent purpose, value and importance and that would render someone liable if they carried it/them מרשות לרשות, today’s daf (Shabbat 81b) records a fascinating incident discussing the size and quantity of stones that a person may carry on…

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Shabbat 80

In today’s daf (Shabbat 80b) we find fascinating story about a Galilean who came to Babylon, likely in the late 2nd century, and who was asked by a group of people to teach and explain מעשה מרכבה) which is a term used in Mishna Chagigah 2:1 to refer to the mystical messages embedded in the…

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Shabbat 79

Among the various items previously listed in the Mishna (Shabbat 8:2, see Shabbat 78b) as having inherent purpose, value and importance is a קלף (i.e. a small piece of parchment that can be used to write one of the tefillin scrolls). Given this, today’s daf (Shabbat 79b) discusses a variety of laws relating to the…

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Shabbat 78

As previously explained in my comments to Shabbat 76a-b, ‘if a product is of sufficient value or use to a person that they would deliberately store it for future use, then this affords the product with inherent purpose, value and importance’. What this means is that if such a product was consciously carried from one…

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Shabbat 77

Today’s daf (Shabbat 77b) contains a number of fascinating aggadic (non-legal) passages but one which particularly stood out for me was the following Beraita: ‘There are five instances of fear [cast] by the weak over the strong: (1) the fear of the ‘mafgia’ (possibly the Ethiopian gnat) over the lion; (2) the fear of the…

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Shabbat 76

Towards the end of yesterday’s daf (Shabbat 75b) was a Mishna (Shabbat 7:3) outlining the general rules (כללים) pertaining to the type of product or size of product that, if consciously carried from one domain to another, would require the carrier to bring a sin offering for having transgressed the melacha of המוציא מרשות לרשות.…

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Shabbat 75

To my mind, the most intriguing of all the 39 prohibited Shabbat melachot listed in the Mishna (Shabbat 7:2) is המכה בפטיש, literally ‘one who strikes with a hammer’, but understood to refer to any activity – such as striking the final hammer blow – that completes the manufacture of an item. In today’s daf…

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Shabbat 74

Today’s daf (Shabbat 74b) discusses some of the 39 prohibited melachot listed in the Mishna (Shabbat 7:2) including the melachot of הקושר (tying) and המתיר (untying). As we know, we derive the prohibited Shabbat melachot from the actions necessary for the construction and maintenance of the Mishkan. Given this, the Gemara begins its discussion about…

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Shabbat 73

Within today’s daf (Shabbat 73a) is the Mishna (Shabbat 7:2) listing all of the 39 prohibited Shabbat Melachot. Yet rather than simply stating that there are 39 melachot, the Mishna uses a roundabout phrase of ארבעים חסר אחת – forty minus one, and this leads a number of commentaries to consider why it does so.…

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Shabbat 72

Having discussed the spiritual liabilities of someone who unintentionally transgresses the melachot of Shabbat, today’s daf (Shabbat 72b) considers the spiritual liabilities of someone who involuntarily worships an idol. However, a closer look at this discussion as well as the origin of this discussion in Massechet Sanhedrin 61b reveals a profound theological debate between some…

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Shabbat 71

There are times when the biographical background of Talmudic scholars should not be presumed to frame their particular position on matters of Jewish thought and law. However, there are other times when it seems – at least to a certain degree – that the position of a specific Talmudic scholar can be better understood by…

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Shabbat 70

In today’s daf (Shabbat 70a) we are taught that there are 39 ‘melachot’ (i.e. creative acts) that are prohibited by the Torah. But while the Written Torah does not explicitly list all these prohibitions (Shemot 35:1-2), it does make explicit reference to the prohibition of הבערה – the kindling of a fire on Shabbat (see…

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Shabbat 69

In his book ‘Faith in the Future’, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains that ‘the clearest contrast between communal faith and an individualistic culture’ can be seen in how we relate to time. In our individualistic culture, time is defined by the ‘personal organiser’ which represents time as a ‘private project’, while the Jewish communal faith ‘speaks…

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Shabbat 68

The opening Mishna of Perek Klal Gadol (7:1, 67b) informs us that השוכח עיקר שבת – anyone who “forgets the essence of Shabbat” is only obligated for one sin offering even if they commit many Torah transgressions on Shabbat, whereas someone who is יודע עיקר שבת, meaning who “knows the essence of Shabbat” is liable…

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Shabbat 67

Mishna Shabbat (6:10, 67a) lists a number of curious objects which Rabbi Meir allows to be carried on Shabbat and which the Sages forbid because they constitute דרכי האמורי – “the ways of the Emorites”, and the subsequent Gemara then proceeds to discuss a variety of other items while considering whether their usage falls into…

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Shabbat 66

There are times when a curious or cryptic Gemara beckons its learner to dig beyond its initial reading, and a case in point is today’s daf (Shabbat 66b) which, based on the particular reading I shall present below, moved me to tears. The Mishna (Shabbat 6:9) informs us that boys may go out on Shabbat…

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Shabbat 65

Having been taught in the Mishna (Shabbat 6:6-7, Shabbat 65a) that a woman may use a stone, nut or coin as a button to fasten her cloak on Shabbat, Abaye raises the question (Shabbat 65b) whether this may be done deliberately to enable a mother to carry a nut from her home through the public…

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Shabbat 64

Continuing its discussion of various ornaments that may be worn on Shabbat, the Mishna (Shabbat 6:5, 64b) informs us that a woman may go out on Shabbat wearing a פאה נכרית – a wig (or what is commonly referred to as a ‘sheitel’), and according to the 16th century Shiltei Gibborim (page 29a in Dapei…

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Shabbat 63

The Mishna (Shabbat 6:4) in today’s daf (Shabbat 63a) opens with a clear statement that a man may not go out in the public domain on Shabbat with a sword, bow, shield, club, or spear, and that if he did, he would transgress the Torah law of ‘Hoza’ah’ (carrying) on Shabbat. Rabbi Eliezer disagrees, arguing…

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Shabbat 62

While I endeavour to learn, understand and appreciate the significance and symbolism of the mitzvot that I perform, there are times when I encounter a text which takes my understanding and appreciation to a new level. A case in point is today’s daf (Shabbat 62a) where we are taught about the impropriety of going to…

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Shabbat 61

Today’s daf (Shabbat 61a) begins by relating how Rav Yochanan, whose tefillin (like all right-handers*) were worn on his left arm, would first put on his left shoe in order to reflect the sanctity of the left of his body which was wearing tefillin. However, it then informs us of a contradictory Beraita stating that…

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Shabbat 60

While our clothes and shoes may have a functional purpose to provide us with protection from the elements, our clothes and shoes are also reference points for some of our most significant life memories. For example, when putting on a particular pair of shoes a person might momentarily be taken back in the time to…

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Shabbat 59

Among the head and hair ornaments discussed in today’s daf (Shabbat 59b) that according to rabbinic law may or may not be worn in a public domain on Shabbat is a כלילא, a tiara. Significantly, the Gemara discusses two types of כלילא: (i) One that is made from a hammered piece of gold or silver,…

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Shabbat 58

I have always thought that the reason why bells are often attached to the Torah cover and atop of a Sefer Torah was merely ornamental in order to add further splendour and regality to the honour we give to a Torah scroll. However, according to Rashi’s commentary, the מטפחות ספרים which is referenced in a…

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Shabbat 57

Whenever halacha as codified does not allign with halacha as lived I am fascinated to explore why this is the case, and a great example of this is the first Mishna introducing Perek ‘BaMah Isha’ on Shabbat 57a which lists the ornaments that may and may not be worn by women in public areas on…

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Shabbat 56

In today’s daf (Shabbat 56a) we are told that an edict was made during the period of King David that the (male) soldiers who went out to war wrote a bill of divorcement for their wives. This means that before going to war, any married soldier would write a conditional ‘War Get’ (writ of divorce)…

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Shabbat 55

Today’s daf (Shabbat 55a) records an incident that I wish I could say has not been repeated since. It describes how a woman came to a court where the senior sage Shmuel and the more junior sage Rav Yehudah were sitting and cried out (צווחה) to them about something terrible that had happened to her…

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Shabbat 54

In our previous Mishna (Shabbat 5:2, 52b) we were taught that ewes may go out in a public domain on Shabbat while כבולות. In today’s daf (Shabbat 54a) the Gemara inquires what the word כבולות actually means, to which it responds that it refers to the tying together of the ewes tails in order to…

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Shabbat 53

In our previous Mishna (Shabbat 5:2, 52b) we were informed that rams may go out in a public domain while לבובין. In today’s daf (Shabbat 53b) the Gemara asks what the word לבובין actually means, to which the answer is given that it refers to being ‘bound together’ and thus the Mishna is informing us…

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Shabbat 52

Today’s daf (Shabbat 52a) continues its discussion of the previous Mishna (5:1, 51b) concerning the use of a halter or a leash on an animal on Shabbat, and whether a halter or a strap – whose primary purpose is not for pulling an animal but instead for adorning an animal – may be worn by…

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Shabbat 51

In today’s daf (Shabbat 51a) Rav Huna cites a teaching of Rebbi (i.e. Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi) that הטמנה (insulating) of cold food is forbidden on Shabbat. However, the Gemara then cites a Beraita stating that Rebbi actually permitted הטמנה (insulating) of cold food on Shabbat. Acknowledging this contradiction, the Gemara then explains that both sources…

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Shabbat 50

Today’s daf (50a) records a debate whether date-palm branches intended for firewood may be used as a seat on Shabbat. According Rabbi Chanina Ben Akiva this can only be done if, prior to Shabbat, a person has the conscious intention to use the branches for this purpose and also expresses this intention by tying the…

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Shabbat 49

In today’s daf (Shabbat 49a) we are taught in a Mishna that it is permitted to insulate a hot pot of food for Shabbat with clothing, with produce (e.g. wheat or beans), with dove’s feathers, with sawdust or with flax combings. Ordinarily, we would expect the subsequent Gemara to discuss one or more of the…

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Shabbat 48

Towards the end of yesterday’s daf (Shabbat 47b) we started our study of Chapter 4 with the question: ‘With what may we insulate (במה טומנין) [hot food for Shabbat] and with what may we not insulate (ובמה אין טומנין) [hot food]?’, which was then followed by a list of those items that we may not…

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Shabbat 47

The final Mishna in Perek Kirah (Shabbat 47b) – as understood by the Gemara – states that it is permissible to place a plate or bowl under a lamp on Erev Shabbat to catch the sparks that fall from the lamp, but that it is forbidden to place water in that plate or bowl ‘because…

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Shabbat 46

As previously mentioned, Mishna Shabbat (3:6, see Shabbat 44a) records a debate whether an unlit lamp is mukzeh on Shabbat. According to the Sages any lamp may not be handed on Shabbat, while Rabbi Shimon takes the view that only a lit lamp is considered mukzeh. At the same time yesterdays daf (Shabbat 45b) suggested…

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Shabbat 45

Today’s daf (Shabbat 45a) continues its examination of the laws of mukzeh, but rather than examining items that are mukzeh by dint of their prohibited use (eg. a Shabbat lamp), the focus here are items that are deemed mukzeh by dint of their mitzvah use (eg. sukkah decorations). Specifically, it was customary – as it…

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Shabbat 44

Today’s daf (Shabbat 44a) discusses the question of whether a lamp – which in this case would have been an earthenware lamp either simply shaped like a cup or more likely with a nozzle and handle – is considered mukzeh and therefore may not be moved on Shabbat. Though Rabbi Yehuda distinguishes between an ‘old…

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Shabbat 43

Today’s daf (Shabbat 43a-b) focusses its attention on the laws of mukzeh and the situations that may justify infractions of, or the overriding of, the mukzeh laws. Specifically, much of Shabbat 43b discusses the laws of moving a corpse on Shabbat (which halacha categorises as being ‘mukzeh machmat gufo’) either due to it being directly…

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Shabbat 42

Today’s daf (Shabbat 42a) addresses a very practical question that arises in my house every Friday night, but to explain the details of the question a little background is necessary. Jewish law forbids ‘bishul’ – cooking – on Shabbat, and this means that one may not use a fire or other comparable heat source to…

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Shabbat 39

Having discussed the prohibition of cooking with fire on Shabbat as well as any act that manipulates an already lit fire on Shabbat, today’s daf (Shabbat 39a) addresses whether it is permitted or prohibited to harness the heat from more indirect sources that a person cannot directly manipulate to cook on Shabbat. For example, may…

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Shabbat 38

In today’s daf (Shabbat 38a) we encounter a rabbinic disagreement with significant halakhic ramifications – especially for those who are religious who are living in a less religious home. As mentioned, Perek Kira addresses the laws of cooking on Shabbat, and though there are ways in which food can be heated on Shabbat in a…

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Shabbat 37

Today’s daf (Shabbat 37a-b) intensely debates the implications of the case presented in the opening Mishna of Perek Kira: Does it refer to the retaining of food on a Kira oven from Erev Shabbat (Shehiya), or does is address the returning of food to such an oven on Shabbat itself (Hazara)? The primary driving force…

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Shabbat 36

 Today’s daf (Shabbat 36a-b) ends our study of Perek BaMeh Madlikin (i.e. the 2nd chapter of Massechet Shabbat primarily focussing on the types of oils and wicks that may be used to kindle the Shabbat lights) and begins our study of Perek Kirah (i.e. the 3rd chapter of Massechet Shabbat primarily focussing on the manner…

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Shabbat 35

   Today’s daf (Shabbat 35b) cites a Beraita recording a custom of how the shofar was blown six times in Jewish villages, towns and cities in Israel on Erev Shabbat which, as explained in Mishna Sukkah (5:5), was a custom dating back to the time of the Temple. We are told that the first of…

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Shabbat 34

 Moadim LeSimcha! Today’s daf (Shabbat 34a) continues its discussion about Shabbat eve preparations and it reviews the checklist provided in the Mishna of three things that should be verified on Erev Shabbat (Did we tithe? Did we arrange an Eruv? Did we kindle the lights?). However, the Gemara then asks what is meant here by…

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Shabbat 33

   In today’s daf (Shabbat 33b) we are told the story of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son Rabbi Elazar who, under the threat of death by the Romans, went to hide in a cave. While in the cave they occupied themselves with deep Torah study, and they were miraculously provided with a carob…

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Shabbat 32

 Much of today’s daf (Shabbat 32b) is very hard to digest since its discussion attempts to attribute specific spiritual transgressions for untimely deaths. For example we read that ‘for three transgressions women die in childbirth’, and ‘for the sin of unfulfilled vows, a man’s wife or children dies’. We are told that parents who ‘neglect…

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Shabbat 31

 Today’s daf (Shabbat 31a) is the source of the famous story of the prospective convert who approached both Hillel and Shammai and asked to be taught the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Shammai’s response was to dismiss the individual, while Hillel taught that, ‘whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your…

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Shabbat 30

  In today’s wide-ranging daf (Shabbat 30a-b) Rav Tanchum from the town of Navi poses the question whether a candle may be extinguished on Shabbat to help someone who is gravely unwell who cannot sleep or who is disturbed by the light in their room. Having raised this question, Rabbi Tanchum seemingly turns to other…

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Shabbat 29

  Shavua Tov! In today’s daf (Shabbat 29b) we continue the discussion concerning which lamps, wicks and oils may or may not be used for the Shabbat lights, and specifically, whether a particular type of oil lamp with an additional oil-feeder may be used on Shabbat given the possibility that some people might draw oil from…

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Shabbat 28

 While yesterday’s daf explored some of the laws pertaining to tzitzit, today’s daf (Shabbat 28b) addresses a number of laws relating to tefillin including the fact that tefillin must only be made from leather that originates from kosher animals. Yet, what is particularly significant, and particularly exquisite, is how – and from where – this…

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Shabbat 27

  Having previously made reference to liquids that are susceptible to spiritual contamination (tum’ah), today’s daf (Shabbat 27a-b) begins by discussing different fabrics that are also susceptible to spiritual contamination, and this then leads us to an unexpected practical discussion concerning tzitzit related laws. Within its discussion the Gemara addresses the question of when the…

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Shabbat 26

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 26a) continues the discussion of the Mishna (see Shabbat 24b) listing the fuels that may not be used to kindle the Shabbat lights, and among those listed by the Mishna is נפט (naphtha) – a flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture – which we are told should not be used מפני שהוא עף…

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Shabbat 24

  In today’s daf (Shabbat 24a) reference is made to an ancient and discontinued custom of reciting a Haftarah following the Torah reading on Shabbat Mincha. As Rashi notes, “I found in the Responsa of the Geonim that it was a regular practice to read ten verses from the prophets during the Shabbat Mincha service.…

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Shabbat 23

  While the word ‘Triage’ is most often used to describe the difficult decisions that need to be made when there are insufficient medical resources, it can also be used with respect to other settings when people, homes or organisations don’t have sufficient resources to meet their needs and must therefore consider which to prioritize.…

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Shabbat 22

  As part of its ongoing discussion about the laws of Chanukah lights, today’s daf (Shabbat 22a) cites a fascinating teaching of Rav Yehuda that one should not use the glow of the Chanukah lights to count money. Upon hearing this teaching, Shmuel challenged Rav Yehuda by noting that while it is mitzvah to kindle…

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Shabbat 21

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 21b), which outlines laws of kindling Shabbat candles, is also the primary Talmudic source discussing the laws of kindling Chanukah candles, and it is here where we are taught a Beraita informing us of the optimum locations where the chanukah candles should be lit: ‘It is a mitzvah to place the…

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Shabbat 20

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 20b) concludes the end of the first chapter of Massechet Shabbat and begins our study of the second chapter with the Mishna of במה מדליקין which is read on Friday night in Jewish communities around the world. However, it is of note that the Mishna opens with a curious format. It…

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Shabbat 19

  In today’s daf (Shabbat 19a) we are taught a Beraita stating that a person may not board a ship within three days before Shabbat. Though there are a variety of reasons offered for this rule, Rambam (Shabbat 30:13), like Rif, states that this rule was established ‘so that one’s mind will be settled before…

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Shabbat 18

  Shabbat 18a continues to explore questions concerning the initiation of a melacha on Erev Shabbat that continues on Shabbat. As previously noted (Shabbat 17b), we rule in accordance with Beit Hillel that a melacha may be started even if it continues unaided on Shabbat, and this is because, as Rav Yosef explains, as long…

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Shabbat 17

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 17b) includes Mishnayot (Shabbat 1:5-9) listing numerous disputes between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel about the resting of utensils on Shabbat. According to Beit Shammai, the Torah requires that not only we but also our utensils not ‘perform melachot’ (prohibited activities on Shabbat). Given this, they rule that we may not…

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Shabbat 16

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 16b) tells a story which appears to imply that the rabbinic leadership at the time of the story were both very strict and very insensitive. However, after a little more research, and after comparing our story with two seemingly unrelated Talmudic stories, it seems that there is much more to our…

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Shabbat 15

  In today’s daf (Shabbat 15b) we continue our discussion relating to the enactments made by our early sages concerning the laws of ‘tumah’ – spiritual impurity. According to Torah law, earthenware is susceptible to ‘tumah’. However, the Torah makes no mention of glassware. Given this, one of the enactments established by our sages was…

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Shabbat 14

  Mishna Shabbat (1:4), found on Shabbat 13b, informs us that there were 18 rulings that the Rabbis enacted which reflected the position of Beit Shammai, and in the ensuing pages the Gemara considers what each of these enactments were (while citing from other rabbinic sources such as Mishna Zavim 5:12). However, on closer look…

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Shabbat 13

  We previously studied the Mishna (see Shabbat 11a) listing a variety of acivities that should not be done on Erev Shabbat. For example, we are told that a tailor should not go out with his needle nor a scribe with his quill on Erev Shabbat, ‘in case they forget [that they are carrying these…

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Shabbat 12

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 12a) addresses the question of whether one should go to console mourners (Nichum Aveilim) or visit the sick (Bikur Cholim) on Shabbat. According to Beit Shammai we should not console mourners or visit the sick on Shabbat, and though the Gemara does not offer an explicit rationale for his position, Rashi…

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Shabbat 11

  We previously discussed the Mishna (Shabbat 9b) which listed a range of activities that we should not start just prior to the time for Mincha, and this Mishna then concluded by explaining that all such activities must be interrupted for the purpose of reciting the Shema, but need not be interrupted for reciting the…

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Shabbat 10

  Having previously noted (see Shabbat 9b) that one should not start a Torah tribunal just prior to the time for Mincha, today’s daf (Shabbat 10a) addresses a number of points concerning Torah tribunals while making specific reference to Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest of judges, who ‘sat to judge the people… from morning till evening’…

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Shabbat 9

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 9b) begins with a Mishna (Chapter 1 Mishna 2) which brings us back to the core theme of the first Chapter of Massechet Shabbat, ie. the actions that we may or may not do on Erev Shabbat. However, even prior to getting to Erev Shabbat-specific actions, this particular Mishna lists certain…

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Shabbat 8

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 8a) contains a fascinating debate between Rebbi and the Sages about the halachic status of a tree versus its branches. The case in point concerns a tree that is in a Reshut HaYachid (private space) whose branches reach over into a Reshut HaRabim (public space), and the scenario being discussed is…

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Shabbat 7

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 7b) involves a discussion, based on a later Mishna (Shabbat 11:3 – see Shabbat 100a), about the halachic liability of someone who throws a sticky object the distance of four amot (ie. around 6 feet) in a Reshut HaRabim (public area) which then sticks to the side of a wall. As the…

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Shabbat 6

 In today’s daf (Shabbat 6a) we are formally introduced to four different halachic areas which have significant implications to the prohibition of carrying on Shabbat: (i) Reshut HaYachid – private area (eg. partitioned space or private home); (ii) Reshut HaRabim – public area (eg. open plaza or public street), (iii) Karmelit – a semi public/private…

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Shabbat 5

 Shabbat 5a presents a fascinating philosophical-halachic question posed by Rav Yochanan. However, to understand the question a little background is necessary. Previously (see Shabbat 3a) we discussed how the Shabbat prohibition of transferring an item from one area (eg. private) to another (eg. public) is biblically transgressed when someone (i) lifts up an item in…

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Shabbat 4

Much of todays daf (Shabbat 4a) addresses a fascinating halachic question posed by Rav Bivi bar Abaye (see Shabbat 3b) about how we deal with accidental or deliberate transgressions on Shabbat. As we know, one of the 39 Melachot (Biblical Shabbat prohibitions) is ‘baking’ (see Mishna on Shabbat 73a) which occurs when an food item…

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Shabbat 3

Today’s daf (Shabbat 3a-b) explores the implications of the Mishna discussing concerning the prohibition of transferring an item from one area (eg. private) to another (eg. public) which is biblically trangressed when someone (i) lifts up an item in one area, and, (ii) places it in another area. Here the focus is both on the…

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Shabbat 2

The first Mishna of Massechet Shabbat (Shabbat 2a) discusses the prohibition of transferring an item from one area (eg. private) to another (eg. public) by giving a practical example of a poor person standing in a public space just outside a private home who then puts their hand into the private home either to give…

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Brachot 64

Brachot 64a, the last page of Massechet Brachot, contains a number of fascinating teachings. In one teaching Rav Avin informs us that when we depart from a friend we should bless them with the words לך לשלום, ‘go to peace’. As the Gemara explains, this is learnt from Yitro (see Shemot 4:18) who said לך…

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Brachot 63

Brachot 63 contains a variety of rabbinic teachings on the beauty and importance of Torah study – which is a timely message as we draw near to the end of our study of Massechet Brachot. Today I would like to dwell on just one teaching, and reflect briefly on my experience of sharing a thought…

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Brachot 62

While I endeavour to learn, understand and appreciate the significance and symbolism of the mitzvot that I perform, there are times when I encounter a text which takes my understanding and appreciation to a new level. A case in point is today’s daf (Shabbat 62a) where we are taught about the impropriety of going to…

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Brachot 61

In today’s daf (Brachot 61b) we encounter a profound teaching of Rava who, while addressing the spiritual potential of each human being, stated that לידע אינש בנפשיה – ‘each person should know themselves’ – meaning that each person should know their own spiritual life mission and spiritual potential. Significantly, just a few lines after this…

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Brachot 60

  In today’s daf (Brachot 60b) we are taught about the ‘Asher Yatzar’ bracha which is recited after going to the toilet. However, the Gemara then records a fascinating debate between Rav and Rav Sheshet about the proposed ending of this bracha. Rav asserted that the bracha should end with the words ‘Rofeh Cholim’, meaning…

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Brachot 59

We were taught in Chapter 9 of Mishna Brachot (see Brachot 54a) that if someone sees a comet in the sky, experiences an earthquake, hears thunder, encounters significant winds or sees lightning (ברקים) then they recite the bracha ending with the words שכוחו וגבורתו מלא עולם – ‘whose strength and might fill the world’. In…

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Brachot 58

Today’s daf (Brachot 58b) includes an exquisite rule about my favourite bracha – that if we are overcome with heartfelt joy upon seeing close friends (and family) whom we haven’t seen for over a month then we should recite the ‘Shehecheyanu’ (‘who has kept us alive’) bracha, and if we haven’t seen them for over…

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Brachot 57

While learning today’s daf (Brachot 57) I had a bit of a revelation which I think is deserving of sharing. We learnt in Brachot 55b/56a that כל החלומות הולכים אחר הפה – the meaning of dreams accords with the interpretation given to them. A corollary of this, as confirmed by the story of Bar Hedya…

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Brachot 56

  Today’s daf (Brachot 56) contains a curious collection dreams along with a wider discussion about the relationship between dream interpretation and dream realization, and it is here (56a) where we are introduced to Bar Hedya who was a dream interpreter. We are told that two of Bar Hedya’s clients were the Talmudic sages Abaye…

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Brachot 54

Today’s daf (Brachot 54a) opens with the full text of the final chapter of Mishna Brachot which both begins and ends with a fascinating teaching. The Mishna begins by stating that someone who sees a place where miracles were performed for the Jewish people should recite the bracha ending with the words, “Who performed miracles…

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Brachot 53

Today’s daf (Brachot 53b) makes reference to what I believe is one of Chazal’s most exquisite metaphors describing the collective spiritual identity of Am Yisrael, but to truly understand the metaphor we must take a step back, review some earlier discussions, and consider the difference between an individual Jew, a group of Jews, and a…

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When words flow

Over the past five months on an almost daily basis I have attempted to write a thought on the daf yomi that, at a minimum, sheds greater clarity on a law or story on the daf, and where possible, offers an original approach or an original insight (chiddush) to a law or story. Interestingly, I…

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Brachot 51-52

Chapter 8 of Mishna Brachot (Brachot 51b) lists a series of disputes between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai concerning the laws of Kiddush, Birkat HaMazon and Havdalah, and like each of the 316 occasions throughout the Gemara where Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai disagree, each micro dispute listed in this Mishna apparently expresses their particular…

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Brachot 49

So the story, as recorded in our daf (Brachot 49a), begins with Rav Zeira asking his mentor and teacher Rav Chisda to engage in deep Torah study. Yet rather than the excited positive reply that Rav Zeira expected, Rav Chisda answered ‘Since I haven’t even mastered reciting Birkat HaMazon correctly, am I really in a…

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Brachot 48

In today’s daf (Brachot 48b) Rabbi Nachman informs us that the first bracha of Birkat HaMazon – otherwise known as ‘Birkat HaZan [Et HaKol]’ – was composed by Moshe in appreciate for God’s gift of the Manna to Bnei Yisrael. As we know, the Manna was the divine food that fell onto the Israelite camp,…

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Brachot 47

Today’s daf (Brachot 47b) describes an encounter between Rami bar Chama and Rav Menashya bar Tachlifa that led to a tragic outcome. Rami bar Chama was a highly capable and sharp Torah scholar who, like many of his contemporaries at that time was of the opinion that it was unbecoming for a Torah scholar to…

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Brachot 46

In today’s daf (Brachot 46b) we find a series of discussions about the section of Birkat HaMazon, known as ‘HaTov VeHaMeitiv’, which celebrates all the good that God does for us. According to Rabbi Akiva, when Birkat HaMazon is recited in a house of mourning the ‘HaTov VeHaMeitiv’ section should be replaced by the ‘Dayan…

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Brachot 45

  Today’s daf (Brachot 45b) records a fascinating episode where Yehudah bar Mereimar, Mar bar Rav Ashi and Rav Acha of Difti shared a meal and are just about to recite Birkat HaMazon. As the Gemara describes, according to their understanding the rule is that when three people sit together, the greatest of the three…

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Brachot 44

In today’s daf (Brachot 44a-b) we explore the laws of the ‘Borei Nefashot’ bracha (which is recited after consuming a wide range of foodstuffs) which, as I hope to explain, is a short bracha that packs a significant philosophical punch! In terms of the full-text of the bracha, it reads: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ‑יָ אֱ‑לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ…

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Brachot 43

In his book ‘The Upside of Irrationality’ Professor Dan Ariely describes one of his research projects which sought to understand how people become attached to the things that they create. The subjects of the experiment were asked to create origami frogs or cranes by following a clear set of instructions. These ‘creators’ were then asked…

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Brachot 41

Today’s daf (Brachot 41a-b) contains a fascinating halacha which, embedded in it, communicates an exquisite message. On Brachot 41a we are taught that when food is served from the seven species of the land of Israel (‘a land of wheat and barley and vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil olives and [date]…

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Brachot 37

Brachot 37a-b contains a series of detailed debates about the brachot to be recited on foods eaten during the Talmudic period. According to some, the key question that we must consider when deciding what bracha to recite is ‘What is this food?’, and those who take this view argue that different foods should be blessed…

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Brachot 35

There is a famous story – made even more famous by Rav Yehuda Amital – about the founder of Chabad Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, otherwise known as the Ba’al HaTanya, and his grandson Rabbi Menachem Mendel, otherwise known as the Tzemach Tzedek. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, was studying Torah in the middle of…

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Brachot 34

Today’s daf (Brachot 34a-b) includes a discussion about the spiritual significance of errors in prayers by those leading prayers and also a reference to the spiritual greatness of Ba’alei Teshuva. Of course, it is important for a prayer-leader to be fluent in the prayers they are leading. Nevertheless, it can occur – especially when a…

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Brachot 33

‘And now, Israel, what does God your Lord ask of you? Merely to fear God your Lord, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, and to serve God your Lord with all your heart and all your soul’ (Devarim 10:12) and according to Rav Chanina in today’s daf (Brachot 33b), we learn from…

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Brachot 32

I recently had use of a rental car which had an indicator on the dashboard that lit up when any of the tyres had low pressure. As a driver of an older car I found this impressive as I’m used to looking round my car and checking the tyre level every once in a while…

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Brachot 30

Some years ago I gave a shiur on ‘Why we face towards Jerusalem in Prayer’ (see http://bit.ly/2UjbzpY). In the shiur I made reference to various pesukim relating to the importance of Yerushalayim in Jewish history, Jewish thought and Jewish worship, and I explored the concept of Yerushalayim as the ‘gate to heaven’. Central to my…

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Brachot 27

Gemara Brachot (27b) makes reference to the student-teacher relationship, and in particular, to what extent must a student adopt the teachings of their teacher and when can a student take positions that differ from their teachers. In ‘Seeking His Presence’ – which is a fascinating book recording the responses to questions that R’ Haim Sabato…

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Brachot 26

Gemara Brachot 26b records a debate concerning the origins of our three daily prayers and according to R’ Yossi the son of R’ Chanina, “the prayers were instituted by the Avot (Patriarchs)”. Concerning Avraham we are told that he got up early to stand in his place, which is understood to refer to prayer since…

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Brachot 22

  Today’s daf (Brachot 22a) contains perhaps one of the most exquisite ideas that I have ever encountered in the Gemara –  an idea that I love thinking about, and a principle that I hope informs how I learn and how I teach. In hebrew this idea is often referred to as לימודה כנתינתה, which…

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Brachot 19

Today’ daf (Brachot 19a) includes citation from Mishna Eduyot (5:6) where, in response to the claim that Akavya Ben Mehahalalel was excommunicated, Rabbi Yehuda invoked the phrase חס ושלום to challenge such an asssertion. In general, the phrase חס ושלום – which is often translated as ‘God forbid’ – is used either as an objection…

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Brachot 17

According to Brachot 17a, Rava who would often say: ‘The objective of [Torah] wisdom is [to foster a commitment to] teshuvah and [the performance of] good deeds. [He would also add that it would be an offence to Torah] were a person to read and study [Torah] yet spurn their father, or mother, or teacher,…

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Brachot 9

In today’s daf (Brachot 9b) we read about Rav Bruna who, on one occasion, juxtaposed the blessing for redemption with his amida prayer with such profound focus and intensive concentration that a smile remained on his face throughout the rest of the day. Significantly, the Gemara refers to Rav Bruna as an אדם גדול –…

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Brachot 16

In today/tomorrow’s daf (Brachot 15b-16a) we read a beautiful drasha presented by Rav Chama B’Rabbi Chanina based on the words of Bilam. Having proclaimed ‘How good are your tents (אהליך), Jacob, and your tabernacles, Israel’ (Bemidbar 24:5), Bilam continues by describing how: ‘They stretch out like brooks (נחלים), like gardens beside a river, like aloes…

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Brachot 11

Today’s daf (Brachot 11b) includes a short passage that led me, around 20 years ago, to spend over 100 hours trying to comprehend. The passage itself considers which Torah texts require Birkat HaTorah to be recited before being studied, with Rav Huna stating that ‘For the study of Mikra (Bible) it is necessary to make…

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