Month: December 2020

Pesachim 40

 Today’s daf (Pesachim 40) makes reference to halachic strictures on Pesach which, though not demanded by halacha, are encouraged to be adopted by a בעל נפש (literally ‘someone who lives their life with a focus on the soul’, but generally understood to refer to those who have adopted a stricter religious lifestyle as an expression…

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Pesachim 39

 In addition to eating Matzah on Seder night, we also eat Maror, with this requirement being derived from the Torah obligation (see Shemot 12:8 and Bemidbar 9:11) of eating the meat of the Korban Pesach along with both Matzah and Maror (עַל מַצּוֹת וּמְרֹרִים יֹאכְלֻהוּ).Significantly, the Torah does not inform us what Maror is. Consequently,…

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Pesachim 38

 ‘A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. “Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife annual and tosses it over his shoulder. “I’m a panda,” he says at…

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Pesachim 37

 When is bread not bread? This is, in effect, the question addressed in today’s daf (Pesachim 37) while considering which types of doughs require that ‘Challah’ be taken (nb. Challah is a ‘Terumah’ – a donation – taken from dough that has been prepared for bread as commanded in Bemidbar 15:17-21. It is required when…

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Pesachim 36

 Devarim 16:3 describes matzah as לֶחֶם עֹנִי, and in today’s daf (Pesachim 36a), two different explanations are offered as to the meaning of this term.According to Rabbi Akiva, since the word עֹנִי as spelt without a ‘vav’, it must refer to ‘poverty’ and thus the term לֶחֶם עֹנִי means ‘the bread of the poor’.However, since…

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Pesachim 35

 ‘Demai’ is the term given to produce grown in the Land of Israel where a doubt exists whether Terumah and Ma’aser has been removed from it.Of course, were it to be known with certainty that Terumah and Ma’aser has not been taken, then such produce would be considered ‘Tevel’ and may not be consumed until…

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Pesachim 34

 Much of today’s daf (Pesachim 34) discusses the halachic principle of היסח הדעת (i.e. diverting or ceasing to focus one’s attention on a specific matter), and specifically, the necessity, as learnt from Bemidbar 18:8, to safeguard terumah and be attentive that it not be ‘contaminated’ by טומאה (impurity).In general, wherever the principle of היסח הדעת…

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Pesachim 33

Within today’s daf (Pesachim 33b) we find a curious discussion about the spiritual status of the juice squeezed from grapes that are טמא. According to one position attributed to Rav Yochanan, the juice in grapes is מפקיד פקידי – meaning that it is stored inside the grape, but is not part of the grape –…

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Pesachim 32

Undoubtedly, the most referenced Torah law in all of Massechet Pesachim is the prohibition of eating Chametz on Pesach. However, precisely because the Gemara loves to draw comparisons, Massechet Pesachim regularly references other foods that the Torah forbids us to eat either on Pesach or on other occasions such as the Terumah – the food…

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Pesachim 31

 Having discussed the prohibition of owning, eating or benefiting from chametz on Pesach, the Mishna (Pesachim 2:3) in today’s daf (Pesachim 31b) addresses the question of what should be done if chametz becomes totally inaccessible – such as in the case where a wall has collapsed underwhich chametz products, owned by a Jew, have become…

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Pesachim 30

In today’s daf (Pesachim 30a) we are informed of Rav’s position that earthenware dishes which previously absorbed chametz flavour may not be used after Pesach and must therefore be broken prior to the onset of Pesach. This is because Rav is of the opinion that chametz flavour retained in earthenware dishes can imbue a trace…

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Pesachim 29

 Today’s daf (Pesachim 29b) presents a variety of opinions about the status of non-chametz food into which biblically prohibited chametz has been mixed on Pesach, as well as the status of non-chametz food into which rabbinically prohibited חמץ שעבר עליו הפסח (chametz which continued to be in the possession of a Jew during Pesach) has…

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Pesachim 28

We were previously taught in Mishna Pesachim 2:1 (see Pesachim 21a) that while Rabbi Yehuda ruled that ביעור חמץ may only be done by burning the chametz, the Sages disagreed and ruled that chametz may also be disposed of by being crumbled and scattered to the wind, or crumbled and thrown into the sea. Continuing…

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Pesachim 27

Among the different topics addressed in today’s daf (Pesachim 27b) is whether consecrated items which have been burnt nevertheless maintain their sanctity, and as part of the Gemara’s examination of this topic, it makes reference to the ‘Terumat HaDeshen’ – the ash residue that remained on the altar as a remnant from the sacrifices that…

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Pesachim 26

As part of the Gemara’s ongoing discussion about הנאה (deriving benefit) from a forbidden object or substance even when this benefit is unintended, a Beraita is cited in today’s daf (Pesachim 26b) which is initially understood to teach that while a person must look after a lost item that they have found, they may still…

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Pesachim 25

Having spent much of the past few dapim discussing the halachic concept of הנאה (benefit) and the situations when it is permitted to derive benefit from a prohibited substance, today’s daf (Pesachim 25a-b) addresses a variety of cases when it is forbidden to derive הנאה, and the situations when a person must rather give up…

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Pesachim 24

  Today’s daf (Pesachim 24b) contains an important halachic principle which has numerous practical applications, but which also teaches us about how we should eat and thereby enjoy the food that we have.‘We are taught that Rabbi Abahu said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: “No lashes are given [as a punishment] to someone who consumes…

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Pesachim 23

  This Sunday* I will be speaking alongside a number of other disciples about Rabbi Sacks zt’l, and while preparing my talk last night, I was reflecting on the concept of discipleship and what this means in terms of the responsibilities of a disciple to continue sharing the wisdom they have received from their teacher.I mention…

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Pesachim 22

Today’s daf (Pesachim 22b) makes reference to one of the most fascinating mitzvot in the Torah which has, unfortunately, been emphasized too greatly in some areas of Jewish living, and insufficiently in others. ‘Rabbi Natan says: How do we know that it is prohibited to stretch out your hand holding a cup of wine to…

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Pesachim 21

Shavua Tov & Chanukah Sameach! In today’s daf (Pesachim 21b) two different Amoraim offer a biblical prooftext for the prohibition of deriving benefit from chametz on Pesach. Chizkiyah teaches that this is learnt from the words וְלֹא יֵאָכֵל חָמֵץ – “chametz shall not be eaten” (Shemot 13:3) which he interprets to mean לא יהא בו…

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Pesachim 20

Today’s daf (Pesachim 20b) returns to the question – previously examined earlier on (see Pesachim 14a) – regarding the disposal of chametz of terumah, and specifically whether chametz of terumah which is certainly טמא may be burnt along with chametz of terumah that is possibly, but not certainly, טמא.According to Rabbi Shimon based on the…

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Pesachim 19

Towards the end of today’s daf (Pesachim 19b) the Gemara uses a curious phrase with reference to objects whose spiritual provenance is unknown.Specifically, the topic being addressed in the daf is whether we should presume that an object, such as a needle or knife, is טמא (and has therefore conveyed טומאה to an animal)? Or…

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Pesachim 18

The biblical word that sits at the centre of much of the discussion in today’s daf (Pesachim 18a-b) is יטמא, with the debate being whether this word – which is used in Vayikra 11:33 and 11:34 with reference to foods and liquids that have been in contact with a source of טומאה and is generally…

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Pesachim 17

A central element of the Chanukah story is that the oil that was used in the Beit HaMikdash was spiritually tainted by the Syrian-Greeks. This point is made in Gemara Shabbat 21b which informs us that they טמאו כל השמנים שבהיכל – meaning that they deliberately rendered all the oil in the sanctuary to be…

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Pesachim 16

The topic of much of today’s daf (Pesachim 16a) concerns the extent to which liquids are susceptible to טומאה which, though often translated as ‘spiritual impurity’, is better described as an association with death of any sort including the unrealized potential for life.Yet while the liquids that are discussed in the Gemara are those that…

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Pesachim 15

Today’s daf (Pesachim 15b) quotes a Beraita which informs us of a fascinating qualification which has a significant impact on determining what products are or are not considered chametz and, therefore, may or may not be used on Pesach.Specifically, the Beraita teaches us that bread which has become mouldy and unfit for human consumption, but…

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Pesachim 14

There is a rule, as derived from Devarim 12:4, that we may not destroy the name of God which is why we therefore either put aside (‘geniza’) or bury (‘kevura’) sacred writings containing the name of God that become unfit for use. However, while Sifrei Torah, Tefillin, Mezuzot must be treated in this manner, other…

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Pesachim 13

 A major idea in Judaism, one that I particularly focus on in my (upcoming) book on the Shehecheyanu blessing and which is concretized in a variety of halachot, is that to be religious is not to dismiss the physical (as some of my former high school teachers would do by speaking about the physical and…

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Pesachim 12

Today’s daf (Pesachim 12) discusses time-precision in halacha, and the extent to which margins of error are or are not permitted in terms of witnesses testifying in a court, or the disposal of chametz prior to Pesach. Yet on first glance, this comparison is exceedingly hard to comprehend, because what does the laws of disposal…

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Pesachim 11

In today’s daf (Pesachim 11a-b) we are taught that אדם בהול על ממונו – ‘a person is in turmoil about their money/income’, and given this observation, the Sages – both in our daf and elsewhere – debate the extent to which halachic latitude should be given to people in financial straits. As the Encyclopedia Talmudit…

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Pesachim 10

Today’s daf (Pesachim 10a-b) expends much time discussing the laws of searching for chametz and specifically, the chance that mice (and by implication, other animals and also children) may find, move or remove chametz in a home. This is why, having searched the house for chametz and successfully found chametz, the Mishna (Pesachim 1:3, 10b)…

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Pesachim 9

In today’s daf (Pesachim 9a), we consider the case where chametz has certainly entered a property but may possibly have been destroyed or removed. In such a situation, does the doubt surrounding the possible status and location of the chametz mean that it is now no longer certain that there is chametz in the property?…

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Pesachim 8

Today’s daf (Pesachim 8a) invokes one of the most fascinating yet misunderstood principles relating to mitzvah performance, namely שלוחי מצוה אינן ניזוקין – ‘those on a mission to perform a mitzvah are not harmed’. In terms of the daf, this principle is invoked in response to a Beraita which teaches that someone need not check…

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Pesachim 7

Much of today’s daf (Pesachim 7a-b) explores the various formulae used in the brachot that we recite, beginning with the question of whether the bracha recited upon searching for chametz should be לבער חמץ (to remove chametz), or על ביעור חמץ (on the removal of chametz). In fact, as the Gemara continues, it is clear…

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Pesachim 6

‘It was taught in a baraita: One asks about and teaches the halachot of Pesach thirty days before Pesach’ (Pesachim 6a). This teaching, for which the Rabbis of the Talmud find biblical support in the fact that ‘Moshe was standing at the time of the first Pesach, on the fourteenth of Nisan, and warning the…

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Pesachim 5

Today’s daf (Pesachim 5a) contains a cryptic aggadic teaching which, upon first glance, seems almost impossible to make sense of. However, having pondered the teaching, and then drawn inspiration from the explanations offered by various commentaries including the Torah Temimah (on Bereishit 25:25), I would like to offer my thoughts. The teaching, which originated from…

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Pesachim 4

Today’s daf (Pesachim 4a) draws a comparison between the laws of בדיקת חמץ (searching for chametz) in a rented home, and the laws of קביעת מזוזה (affixing a mezuzah on the doorposts) of a rented home which, together, point to a wider Jewish ethic concerning human responsibility. In terms of בדיקת חמץ in a newly…

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Pesachim 3

Much of today’s daf (Pesachim 3a-b) is dedicated to the topic of using refined language, and by citing Bereishit 7:8 as an example, Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi demonstrates how the Torah goes out of its way (i.e. it uses more letters and words) to use refined language by referring to certain animals as איננה טהורה…

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Eruvin 105

  Dear friends, Over the past 104 days we have studied Massechet Eruvin. During this period, we have examined the relationship between the sacred time of Shabbat and the physical spaces in which we are allowed to carry or walk on Shabbat – and what can be done to one in order to enrich the…

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Eruvin 104

Having reached the penultimate daf of Massechet Eruvin (nb. I hope to share something special tomorrow to celebrate our completion), I am drawn to the Mishna in today’s daf (Eruvin 10:14, 104a) which states that ‘one may break up salt [and scatter it] on the ramp [of the Altar in the Temple], so that [the…

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Eruvin 103

Sometimes you can read a text in one way, while nevertheless feeling that there is more to it than meets the eye. Then, you can encounter a different reading to this same text, and subsequently reach an altogether different understanding of what is going on. This is precisely what happened to me last night when…

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