Month: January 2021

Pesachim 71

 Throughout rabbinic literature, the Hebrew word אַךְ is understood to be a word of “exclusion” – meaning that whenever it is used, it informs us that though a particular rule broadly applies, it doesn’t apply in all cases.This is relevant to today’s daf (Pesachim 71a) where we are told with reference to Sukkot that שִׁבְעַת…

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Pesachim 70

 In today’s daf (Pesachim 70b) we are told about Yehuda Ben Dortai and his son who, one year when the 14th of Nissan fell of Pesach, separated themselves and travelled to the south of Israel which thereby exempted them from the obligation of participating in the offering of the Korban Pesach.Significantly, Yehuda Ben Dortai agreed…

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Pesachim 69

Among the many different responsa volumes on my shelves is ‘Melumdei Milchama’, in which Rabbi Dr. Nahum Rabinovitch addresses questions posed to him by his students (who combine their Yeshiva study with service in the Israel Defence Forces) on matters of Jewish law and army service. Of course, there are occasions when the protection and…

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Pesachim 68

 Towards the end of today’s daf (Pesachim 68b) we are told how Rav Sheshet (who, we should recall was blind and who was renowned for memorizing not only Mishnayot, but also Beraitot and Tosefotot) would not let a month go by without reviewing the Torah which he had learnt. Furthermore, he would often do so…

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Pesachim 67

Toward the end of yesterday’s daf (Pesachim 66b), reference was made to the law of ‘Pesach Sheni’ concerning which we are told: אִישׁ אִישׁ כִּי יִהְיֶה טָמֵא לָנֶפֶשׁ – “If any person is ritually unclean from contact with the dead” and are therefore not spiritually suitable to participate in consuming the Korban Pesach, אוֹ בְדֶרֶךְ…

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Pesachim 66

Twice in today’s daf an exquisite phrase is used which, since the time of the Gemara, has been invoked in numerous halachic writings and rulings. Firstly, in Pesachim 66a when Bnei Beteira asked Hillel HaBavli – with reference to a wider discussion initiated by the Mishna (Pesachim 6:1-2) about the actions that may or may…

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Pesachim 65

 There are times when the Gemara records a halachic opinion that is supported by proof, or a halachic opinion that is supported by consensus, or a halachic opinion that is supported by authority. And then there are times when the Gemara records a non-halachic opinion of an individual scholar – which while of interest to…

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Pesachim 64

Within today’s daf (Pesachim 64b), we read of a disagreement between Abaye and Rava concerning the events that occurred in the Beit HaMikdash when the Korban Pesach was offered. According to Abaye (as explained by Rabbeinu Hananel), as many people as possible were allowed to enter the Temple Courtyard, and we rely on a miracle…

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Pesachim 63

In today’s daf (Pesachim 63b) we read of a disagreement concerning the efficacy of התראת ספק – which has been variously translated as a ‘doubtful’ (Soncino), ‘questionable’ (Artscroll) or ‘uncertain’ (Steinsaltz-Koren) warning. To give some context, for a punishment to be meted out by the Jewish court, the prohibited action for which the individual is…

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Pesachim 62

 In today’s daf (Pesachim 62b) reference is made to a now-lost work called the ספר יוחסין (literally, ‘a book of lineages’), which is explained by various commentaries to be a profound book that explained various ancestral roots and different spiritual values from verses and names found in sefer Divrei HaYamim (The Book of Chronicles).We are…

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Pesachim 61

 The Mishna (Pesachim 5:3) in today’s daf (Pesachim 61a) teaches us that the Korban Pesach may not be offered before midday on the 14th of Nissan, with this being derived from Shemot 12:6 (which we will be reading this Shabbat) which states that: וְשָׁחֲטוּ אֹתוֹ כֹּל קְהַל עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם – “and the entire…

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Pesachim 60

 In today’s daf (Pesachim 60a) we are introduced to a fascinating halachic rule of מקצת אוכלין לא פסלא (literally ‘if only some are able to eat, it is not invalid’) – which I would like to explain both in its context in our daf, as well as in terms of how it can be applied…

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Pesachim 59

 We are taught in the Mishna (Pesachim 5:2) in today’s daf (Pesachim 59b) that the Korban Pesach must be slaughtered ‘lishma’ (literally ‘for its own sake’). What this means is that even if, while being slaughtered, the slaughterer intends that this animal be used for any other purpose or offering than a Korban Pesach, they…

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Pesachim 58

 Given the commandment that the Korban Tamid be offered every day in the morning and afternoon (see Bemidbar 28:4), the Mishna (Pesachim 5:1) in today’s daf (Pesachim 58a) teaches us the time when the afternoon Korban Tamid was slaughtered and offered, and how these times were brought earlier on an Erev Pesach to ensure that…

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Pesachim 57

 Today’s daf (Pesachim 57a) contains a number of stinging critiques towards spiritual leaders – including Kohanim Gedolim (High Priests) and members of their family – who used their position for personal gain and power. As the Gemara states elsewhere (Yoma 86b), ‘power buries those who wield it’.Reflecting on this teaching, Rabbi Sacks remarks that ‘it…

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Pesachim 56

 In today’s daf (Pesachim 56a) we encounter the interpretation of Rabbi Yehuda on the Mishna (Pesachim 4:8) who explains that residents of Yericho did not say the words בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד to separate between the proclamation שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ ה’ אֶחָד (Devarim 6:4) and וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל…

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Pesachim 55

 Today’s daf (Pesachim 55a) refers to the halachic concept of יוהרא (hubris) – which is the word used to describe the actions of those individuals who choose to practice laws or customs from which they are exempt, or to adopt certain religious behaviours that are not required by the halacha, as a means of suggesting…

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Pesachim 54

 We are taught in today’s daf (Pesachim 54b) that שבעה דברים מכוסים מבני אדם – ‘seven things are concealed from people’ and they are: יום המיתה (‘the day of death’), יום הנחמה (‘the day of consolation’, i.e. when we will be alleviated from the anxiety and stress that we are experiencing), עומק הדין (‘the depth…

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Pesachim 53

The Mishna (Pesachim 4:4) in today’s daf (Pesachim 53a) notes how there were divergent customs concerning the eating of roasted meat on Seder night. For some, the eating of roasted meat – which was suggestive of freedom, abundance and the ability to share food as a family – was the ideal food to consume on…

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Pesachim 52

 Until COVID, I visited different communities around the world as a scholar-in-residence – with the Chag where I was almost always away being Shavuot.Significantly, while Shavuot lasts just one day in Israel, it is celebrated for two days outside of Israel, and this meant that – at least once a year – I was confronted…

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Pesachim 51

 Chapter 4 of Massechet Pesachim is called מקום שנהגו (“In a place where it is the custom to…”), and it is here where many of the rules pertaining to מנהגים (customs) are derived. For example, in yesterday’s daf (Pesachim 50b) we were taught that once a custom has been adopted by a community, it then…

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Pesachim 50

 Much of the final lines of the third chapter of Massechet Pesachim is dedicated to exploring the difference between עולם הזה (this world) and עולם הבא (the next world), and embedded in the discussions found in our daf (Pesachim 50a) is a fascinating story involving Rav Yosef, the son of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi who…

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Pesachim 49

 The Mishna (Pesachim 3:7) lists a number of places where a person may find themselves on the fourteenth of Nissan without having already removed their chametz including a סעודת אירוסין – a betrothal feast – and this leads the Gemara to (Pesachim 49a) to discuss whether attending a סעודת אירוסין is a רשות (optional) or…

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Pesachim 48

 As we know, any act of baking dough on Pesach runs the risk of it rising and becoming chametz especially if it is not constantly being handled during the kneading process. Given this, we find a teaching from Rav in today’s daf (Pesachim 48) which states that there is a maximum amount of dough which…

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Pesachim 47

 There is a beautiful rabbinic aphorism, based on the words of Mishlei 31:14 (הָיְתָה כָּאֳנִיּוֹת סוֹחֵר מִמֶּרְחָק תָּבִיא לַחְמָהּ – ‘she is like a merchant ship; she brings her sustenance from afar’), that דברי תורה עניים במקומן ועשירים במקום אחר – ‘the words of Torah are poor in their place and rich in other places’…

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Pesachim 46

 Today’s daf (Pesachim 46a) tells us about the (literal) lengths that one should go to in order to perform a mitzvah: ‘Rabbi Abahu said in the name of Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish: “With regard to a kneader (who kneads dough for others but who needs to immerse their utensils before doing so), or with regard…

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Pesachim 45

 We are taught in the Mishna (Pesachim 3:2) in today’s daf (Pesachim 45a) that dough which has become stuck in the cracks of a kneading bowl must be removed and disposed of before Pesach if its volume is the equivalent to, or greater than, a כזית (the size of an olive). However, if its volume…

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Pesachim 44

 Much of today’s daf (Pesachim 44) explores the halachic principle of טעם כעיקר – which is the idea that we treat remnant flavour of a food as if it is the food itself.According to the Sages, this principle is derived from a Beraita which states that a Nazir – who is forbidden to eat grapes…

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Pesachim 43

The previous Mishna (Mishna Pesachim 3:1, see Pesachim 42a) listed a number of different chametz-based products including ‘kutach’ – which is a Babylonian dip made from sour milk, bread crumbs and salt, and in today’s daf (Pesachim 43a) we are taught that the reason why the Sages specifically listed these products was כדי שיהא רגיל…

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Pesachim 42

  We are taught by Rabbi Yehuda in today’s daf (Pesachim 42a) that ‘a woman should only knead [the dough for matzah] with מים שלנו (literally ‘water that had slept’, meaning water that had been collected the previous day)”’. As Rashi explains, given the fact that the water drawn from wells and springs in the month of…

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Pesachim 41

 Today’s daf (Pesachim 41) deals with the Korban Pesach, and specifically, how the Korban Pesach must be cooked. This is because the Torah states that there is requirement for the Korban Pesach to be eaten roasted (Shemot 12:8), and that there is a prohibition for it to be eaten raw or cooked in water (Shemot…

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