Day: June 3, 2020

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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