Category: Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah 25

Rabban Gamliel was a remarkable Torah scholar and religious leader. He was a direct descendent of Hillel, and he was the Nasi of the Sanhedrin for thirty years in the period immediately after the destruction of the Second Beit HaMikdash. As such, he led the community during one of the most turbulent periods of Jewish…

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Rosh Hashanah 24

Today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 24a-b) explores what witnesses must see in order for their testimony about the new moon be acceptable to the Sanhedrin. The problem, however, is that even when the witnesses did come to the Sanhedrin, the spoken questions which were asked of them as detailed in the Mishna (Rosh Hashanah 2:6, 23b)…

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Rosh Hashanah 23

Today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 23a) contains a teaching by Rav Yochanan that ‘whoever learns Torah and does not teach it to others is comparable to a [fragrant] myrtle in the wilderness’ where no one is able to enjoy and appreciate its scent. However, some claim that Rav Yochanan actually taught that ‘whoever learns Torah and…

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Rosh Hashanah 22

Having discussed some laws relating to testifying about a new moon, the Mishna (Rosh Hashanah 1:8) in today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 22a) – paralleling Mishna Sanhedrin 3:3 – informs us that a משחק בקוביא, meaning ‘someone who plays dice’ but also including those who engage in other games where money is gambled (see Aruch Hashulchan…

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Rosh Hashanah 21

The Mishna (Rosh Hashanah 1:6) found in today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 21b) describes a fascinating situation concerning the halacha which allows witnesses who are en route to testify about a new moon to transgress the Shabbat laws in order to reach Jerusalem as soon as possible.In the case described in our Mishna we are told…

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Rosh Hashanah 20

The sole focus of our daf today (Rosh Hashanah 20a-b) are the laws pertaining to Rosh Chodesh and the various factors that would lead the Sanhedrin to add an extra day to a month.According to Rabbah bar Shmuel, the new moon should be sanctified when seen, and any other manipulations of the fixing of the…

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Rosh Hashanah 19

The theme of much of today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 19a) is the Jewish Calendar and the sanctity of the festivals, and it is here where various contrasts are drawn between the rabbinic festivals listed in ‘Megillat Ta’anit’ and the biblical festivals.For example, we are taught in a Beraita that it is forbidden to fast on…

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Rosh Hashanah 18

We are taught a profound idea in today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 18a) that Torah study, together with acts of kindness (gemilut chassadim), can help us foster merit from God, achieve atonement, and can bless us with longevity.Significantly, this is not the only place in the Gemara where we are given a glimpse of the power…

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Rosh Hashanah 17

 Much of the discussion in today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 17a) relates to God’s final judgement of our deeds at the end of our life and the ways in which this judgement can be fused with God’s grace and mercy.On this theme, Rava teaches us that: כל המעביר על מדותיו מעבירין לו על כל פשעיו –…

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Rosh Hashanah 16

Today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 16b) contains many profound theological teachings, including many associations with Parshat Vayera that we just read last Shabbat.Among these is a deceptively simple statement relating to the judgement and evaluation of Yishmael by God, where we are told that כִּי שָׁמַע אֱלֹהִים אֶל קוֹל הַנַּעַר בַּאֲשֶׁר הוּא שָׁם – “God has…

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Rosh Hashanah 15

We have previously learnt (Sukkah 35a) that one of the reasons why an Etrog is referred to with the word ‘Hadar’ (see Vayikra 23:40) – which can be translated as ‘that dwells’ – is because the Etrog can dwell and grow on its tree from one year to the next.The problem with this, as addressed…

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Rosh Hashanah 14

Today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 14b) quotes an oft-cited Beraita – capturing a unique period in Jewish history where personal halachic choice was prioritised ahead of collective consensus – where we are informed that: ‘The law always follows Beit Hillel [when they are in dispute with Beit Shammai]. Someone who wishes to act in accordance with…

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Rosh Hashanah 13

In today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 13a), as part of a broader discussion about the time it takes for fruit to ripen, reference is made to the phrase אֶרֶץ הַצְּבִי (Daniel 11:16), which though understood to mean ‘the cherished land [of Israel]’, literally translates as ‘the land of the deer’. And why is the Land of…

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Rosh Hashanah 12

Almost every year, at some point on January 1st, we read of a similar story highlighting one of the most fascinating aspects of time which describes how, at some point and in some place around the world in the prior 24 hours, twins were born – with one born just before midnight on December 31st…

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Rosh Hashanah 11

Every Friday night, as part of the Kiddush, we recite the words of Bereishit 2:1-3 which begins with the phrase: וַיְכֻלּוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ וְכָל צְבָאָם – ‘And the heaven, and the earth, and all theצְבָאָם were completed.’ Of course, we know that שָּׁמַיִם means ‘heaven’, and that אָרֶץ means ‘earth’, but what does the word…

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Rosh Hashanah 10

Today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 10a-b) explores the question of whether periods shorter than a year can, in particular circumstances and for particular outcomes, be counted as a year. For example, here we are taught that 30 days can, in some situations, be counted as a year, while a further opinion goes so far as to…

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Rosh Hashanah 9

Much of Massechet Rosh Hashanah explores the concept of time, and in today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 9a) we encounter a profound notion about our ability to sanctify time.Significantly, as has been noted by Rabbi Avraham Joshua Heschel in his exquisite book ‘The Sabbath’, Judaism emphasizes holy time above holy space: “Holiness in space, in nature,…

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Rosh Hashanah 8

We are taught in today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 8a) that Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said that the first of Tishrei is the New Year for judgement. And how does he derive this? From Devarim 11:12 where we are told how God observes our behaviour מֵרֵשִׁית הַשָּׁנָה וְעַד אַחֲרִית שָׁנָה – ‘from the beginning of the…

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Rosh Hashanah 7

Many years ago I read a unique book which unfortunately has few parallels before or since. Titled ‘One People, Two Worlds: A Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Explore the Issues that Divide Them’, this book reflects ‘an unprecedented eighteen-month e-mail correspondence on the fundamental principles of Jewish faith and practice’ between Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch…

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Rosh Hashanah 6

Much of today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 6a) explores the laws of נדרים (vows), and it is here that a Beraita explains the words of Devarim 23:24 of: מוֹצָא שְׂפָתֶיךָ – ‘what emerges from your mouth’, תִּשְׁמֹר – ‘you shall observe’, וְעָשִׂיתָ כַּאֲשֶׁר נָדַרְתָּ לַה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ – ‘and you shall do just as you vowed to…

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Rosh Hashanah 5

Yesterday, the 7th of Cheshvan, was the 88th yartzheit of Rav Meir Shapiro (1887-1933) who is regarded by many as being the founder of the Daf Yomi movement. A Hasidic rabbi with a truly brilliant mind, Rabbi Shapiro was a high achiever who, already from a young age, had a reputation for Torah greatness. Over…

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Rosh Hashanah 4

Today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 4b) contains a rabbinic aphorism that I regularly invoke which, though mentioned in our daf as part of a highly specific discussion about delayed sacrifices, has applications to every aspect of our life and our overall philosophy of life itself. In terms of the Gemara’s discussion, the question is raised by…

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Rosh Hashanah 3

There is an interesting phrase used in today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 3b) in relation to Daryavesh (Darius) who, as is claimed by a Beraita, is the same king that is also referred to by the (non-exclusive) titles Koresh (Cyrus) and Artachshasta. In terms of the background of this statement, the Gemara is confused by the…

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Rosh Hashanah 2

Having been taught in the Mishna (Rosh Hashanah 1:1) that the first of Nissan is the New Year for kings, the Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 2b) explains that this is deduced from Melachim I 6:1 where the reign of Shlomo HaMelech is calculated in relation to the Exodus from Egypt: ‘just as the Exodus is counted…

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