June 19, 2020

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 לשלום to Moshe as he left Midyan to return back to Egypt. From here we learn that whenever a friend begins a physical journey, they should be blessed with a safe and successful journey.

Rav Avin then teaches us a further lesson that if someone departs from the deceased, they should bless them with the words לך בשלום, ‘go in peace’. This is learnt from God who, when speaking to Avraham about a time after his passing (see Bereishit 15:15), said that he will then come to his ancestors בשלום – in peace. From here we learn that whenever someone begins a spiritual journey, and especially their ultimate spiritual journey, they too should be blessed.

The final teaching on Brachot 64a comes from Rabbi Elazar who states how students of Torah increase peace (שלום) in the world. To my mind, this is a form of commentary on the above-mentioned teachings of Rav Avin, and a blessing to all those who have reached the final lines on the final page of the first Massechet of Gemara.

Gemara study in general, and Daf Yomi specifically, is a physical and spiritual journey which takes considerable effort, focus, grit and determination. Some can struggle, and some can get confused. Yet it is telling that when Rabbi Akiva entered into the ‘pardes’, meaning the spiritual world containing the secrets of the Torah, he both ‘entered in peace (נכנס בשלום), and left in peace (ויצא בשלום)’ (see Shir HaShirim Rabba 1).

So as we leave Massechet Brachot, a tractate particularly interested in prayers, blessings and the world of the spirit, I hope that we too are leaving it בשלום, and as we begin Massechet Shabbat, a tractate particularly interested in space, actions, and the physical world, I bless us all לך לשלום, and may our journey be safe, successful, and help us increase peace (שלום) in the world.

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