Day: June 19, 2020

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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