Day: June 25, 2020

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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