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 […]

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Brachot 63

Brachot 63 contains a variety of rabbinic teachings on the beauty and importance of Torah study – which is a timely message as we draw near to the end of our study of Massechet Brachot. Today I would like to dwell on just one teaching, and reflect briefly on my experience of sharing a thought […]

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Brachot 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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Brachot 61

In today’s daf (Brachot 61b) we encounter a profound teaching of Rava who, while addressing the spiritual potential of each human being, stated that לידע אינש בנפשיה – ‘each person should know themselves’ – meaning that each person should know their own spiritual life mission and spiritual potential. Significantly, just a few lines after this […]

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Brachot 60

  In today’s daf (Brachot 60b) we are taught about the ‘Asher Yatzar’ bracha which is recited after going to the toilet. However, the Gemara then records a fascinating debate between Rav and Rav Sheshet about the proposed ending of this bracha. Rav asserted that the bracha should end with the words ‘Rofeh Cholim’, meaning […]

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Brachot 59

We were taught in Chapter 9 of Mishna Brachot (see Brachot 54a) that if someone sees a comet in the sky, experiences an earthquake, hears thunder, encounters significant winds or sees lightning (ברקים) then they recite the bracha ending with the words שכוחו וגבורתו מלא עולם – ‘whose strength and might fill the world’. In […]

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Brachot 58

Today’s daf (Brachot 58b) includes an exquisite rule about my favourite bracha – that if we are overcome with heartfelt joy upon seeing close friends (and family) whom we haven’t seen for over a month then we should recite the ‘Shehecheyanu’ (‘who has kept us alive’) bracha, and if we haven’t seen them for over […]

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Brachot 57

While learning today’s daf (Brachot 57) I had a bit of a revelation which I think is deserving of sharing. We learnt in Brachot 55b/56a that כל החלומות הולכים אחר הפה – the meaning of dreams accords with the interpretation given to them. A corollary of this, as confirmed by the story of Bar Hedya […]

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Brachot 56

  Today’s daf (Brachot 56) contains a curious collection dreams along with a wider discussion about the relationship between dream interpretation and dream realization, and it is here (56a) where we are introduced to Bar Hedya who was a dream interpreter. We are told that two of Bar Hedya’s clients were the Talmudic sages Abaye […]

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Brachot 54

Today’s daf (Brachot 54a) opens with the full text of the final chapter of Mishna Brachot which both begins and ends with a fascinating teaching. The Mishna begins by stating that someone who sees a place where miracles were performed for the Jewish people should recite the bracha ending with the words, “Who performed miracles […]

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Brachot 53

Today’s daf (Brachot 53b) makes reference to what I believe is one of Chazal’s most exquisite metaphors describing the collective spiritual identity of Am Yisrael, but to truly understand the metaphor we must take a step back, review some earlier discussions, and consider the difference between an individual Jew, a group of Jews, and a […]

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Brachot 51-52

Chapter 8 of Mishna Brachot (Brachot 51b) lists a series of disputes between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai concerning the laws of Kiddush, Birkat HaMazon and Havdalah, and like each of the 316 occasions throughout the Gemara where Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai disagree, each micro dispute listed in this Mishna apparently expresses their particular […]

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Brachot 49

So the story, as recorded in our daf (Brachot 49a), begins with Rav Zeira asking his mentor and teacher Rav Chisda to engage in deep Torah study. Yet rather than the excited positive reply that Rav Zeira expected, Rav Chisda answered ‘Since I haven’t even mastered reciting Birkat HaMazon correctly, am I really in a […]

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Brachot 48

In today’s daf (Brachot 48b) Rabbi Nachman informs us that the first bracha of Birkat HaMazon – otherwise known as ‘Birkat HaZan [Et HaKol]’ – was composed by Moshe in appreciate for God’s gift of the Manna to Bnei Yisrael. As we know, the Manna was the divine food that fell onto the Israelite camp, […]

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Brachot 47

Today’s daf (Brachot 47b) describes an encounter between Rami bar Chama and Rav Menashya bar Tachlifa that led to a tragic outcome. Rami bar Chama was a highly capable and sharp Torah scholar who, like many of his contemporaries at that time was of the opinion that it was unbecoming for a Torah scholar to […]

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Brachot 46

In today’s daf (Brachot 46b) we find a series of discussions about the section of Birkat HaMazon, known as ‘HaTov VeHaMeitiv’, which celebrates all the good that God does for us. According to Rabbi Akiva, when Birkat HaMazon is recited in a house of mourning the ‘HaTov VeHaMeitiv’ section should be replaced by the ‘Dayan […]

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Brachot 45

  Today’s daf (Brachot 45b) records a fascinating episode where Yehudah bar Mereimar, Mar bar Rav Ashi and Rav Acha of Difti shared a meal and are just about to recite Birkat HaMazon. As the Gemara describes, according to their understanding the rule is that when three people sit together, the greatest of the three […]

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Brachot 44

In today’s daf (Brachot 44a-b) we explore the laws of the ‘Borei Nefashot’ bracha (which is recited after consuming a wide range of foodstuffs) which, as I hope to explain, is a short bracha that packs a significant philosophical punch! In terms of the full-text of the bracha, it reads: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ‑יָ אֱ‑לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ […]

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Brachot 43

In his book ‘The Upside of Irrationality’ Professor Dan Ariely describes one of his research projects which sought to understand how people become attached to the things that they create. The subjects of the experiment were asked to create origami frogs or cranes by following a clear set of instructions. These ‘creators’ were then asked […]

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Brachot 41

Today’s daf (Brachot 41a-b) contains a fascinating halacha which, embedded in it, communicates an exquisite message. On Brachot 41a we are taught that when food is served from the seven species of the land of Israel (‘a land of wheat and barley and vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil olives and [date] […]

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Brachot 37

Brachot 37a-b contains a series of detailed debates about the brachot to be recited on foods eaten during the Talmudic period. According to some, the key question that we must consider when deciding what bracha to recite is ‘What is this food?’, and those who take this view argue that different foods should be blessed […]

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Brachot 35

There is a famous story – made even more famous by Rav Yehuda Amital – about the founder of Chabad Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, otherwise known as the Ba’al HaTanya, and his grandson Rabbi Menachem Mendel, otherwise known as the Tzemach Tzedek. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, was studying Torah in the middle of […]

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Brachot 34

Today’s daf (Brachot 34a-b) includes a discussion about the spiritual significance of errors in prayers by those leading prayers and also a reference to the spiritual greatness of Ba’alei Teshuva. Of course, it is important for a prayer-leader to be fluent in the prayers they are leading. Nevertheless, it can occur – especially when a […]

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Brachot 33

‘And now, Israel, what does God your Lord ask of you? Merely to fear God your Lord, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, and to serve God your Lord with all your heart and all your soul’ (Devarim 10:12) and according to Rav Chanina in today’s daf (Brachot 33b), we learn from […]

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Brachot 32

I recently had use of a rental car which had an indicator on the dashboard that lit up when any of the tyres had low pressure. As a driver of an older car I found this impressive as I’m used to looking round my car and checking the tyre level every once in a while […]

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Brachot 30

Some years ago I gave a shiur on ‘Why we face towards Jerusalem in Prayer’ (see http://bit.ly/2UjbzpY). In the shiur I made reference to various pesukim relating to the importance of Yerushalayim in Jewish history, Jewish thought and Jewish worship, and I explored the concept of Yerushalayim as the ‘gate to heaven’. Central to my […]

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Brachot 27

Gemara Brachot (27b) makes reference to the student-teacher relationship, and in particular, to what extent must a student adopt the teachings of their teacher and when can a student take positions that differ from their teachers. In ‘Seeking His Presence’ – which is a fascinating book recording the responses to questions that R’ Haim Sabato […]

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Brachot 26

Gemara Brachot 26b records a debate concerning the origins of our three daily prayers and according to R’ Yossi the son of R’ Chanina, “the prayers were instituted by the Avot (Patriarchs)”. Concerning Avraham we are told that he got up early to stand in his place, which is understood to refer to prayer since […]

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Brachot 22

  Today’s daf (Brachot 22a) contains perhaps one of the most exquisite ideas that I have ever encountered in the Gemara –  an idea that I love thinking about, and a principle that I hope informs how I learn and how I teach. In hebrew this idea is often referred to as לימודה כנתינתה, which […]

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Brachot 19

Today’ daf (Brachot 19a) includes citation from Mishna Eduyot (5:6) where, in response to the claim that Akavya Ben Mehahalalel was excommunicated, Rabbi Yehuda invoked the phrase חס ושלום to challenge such an asssertion. In general, the phrase חס ושלום – which is often translated as ‘God forbid’ – is used either as an objection […]

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Brachot 17

According to Brachot 17a, Rava who would often say: ‘The objective of [Torah] wisdom is [to foster a commitment to] teshuvah and [the performance of] good deeds. [He would also add that it would be an offence to Torah] were a person to read and study [Torah] yet spurn their father, or mother, or teacher, […]

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Brachot 9

In today’s daf (Brachot 9b) we read about Rav Bruna who, on one occasion, juxtaposed the blessing for redemption with his amida prayer with such profound focus and intensive concentration that a smile remained on his face throughout the rest of the day. Significantly, the Gemara refers to Rav Bruna as an אדם גדול – […]

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Brachot 16

In today/tomorrow’s daf (Brachot 15b-16a) we read a beautiful drasha presented by Rav Chama B’Rabbi Chanina based on the words of Bilam. Having proclaimed ‘How good are your tents (אהליך), Jacob, and your tabernacles, Israel’ (Bemidbar 24:5), Bilam continues by describing how: ‘They stretch out like brooks (נחלים), like gardens beside a river, like aloes […]

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Brachot 11

Today’s daf (Brachot 11b) includes a short passage that led me, around 20 years ago, to spend over 100 hours trying to comprehend. The passage itself considers which Torah texts require Birkat HaTorah to be recited before being studied, with Rav Huna stating that ‘For the study of Mikra (Bible) it is necessary to make […]

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Brachot 7

In today’s daf (Brachot 7), reference is made to the impact that our blessings can have on others, as well as the importance of acknowleging the emotions of others which may make it hard for them to heard words of appeasement. Significantly, both these messages came into play last night when I was invited to […]

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