Shabbat 157

 Today, after 157 days, we reach the final page of Shabbat, and with this, the final lines of this Massechet close with reference to the rabbinic decree against measuring on Shabbat as well as the exemption, as noted in the Mishna (Shabbat 24:5, 157a), that water may be measured on Shabbat for the sake of […]

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Shabbat 156

 Today’s daf (Shabbat 156), which is the penultimate page of Massechet Shabbat, primarily focusses on two quite different themes: i) A brief analysis of the laws of kneading on Shabbat, and ii) A lengthy discussion about the concept of ‘Mazal’ (i.e. the extent to which the day or time or month that a person is […]

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Shabbat 155

In today’s daf (Shabbat 155b) we are told that Rabbi Yona shared a biblical exposition at the entrance of the house of the Nasi.Basing himself on the words of Mishlei 29:7 stating that ‘the righteous one knows the status of the poor’, Rabbi Yona interpreted the phrase ‘the righteous one’ to refer to God and […]

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Shabbat 154

In yesterday’s Mishna (Shabbat 24:1, 153a) we were taught that if someone arrives at a city once Shabbat has commenced, they may directly remove any non-mukzeh items from their donkey. However, if their donkey is carrying any bags of mukzeh items, these can only be indirectly removed from the donkey by releasing the ropes that […]

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Shabbat 153

Having already spent much of the past few pages presenting various philosophical teachings relating to the preciousness of life and how to lead a good life based on the wisdom of Kohelet and Mishlei, today’s daf (Shabbat 153a), which contains the final lines of Chapter 23 of Massechet Shabbat, are dedicated to exploring the meaning […]

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Shabbat 152

This morning I will be delivering my penultimate shiur on Sefer Mishlei (The Book of Proverbs) to a fabulous and incredibly learned group of women. Yet, notwithstanding the significant Jewish learning accomplishments of many of those in the shiur, most of the participants would admit that this year has been the first time that they […]

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Shabbat 151

While much of today’s daf (Shabbat 151b) considers the halachot pertaining to what may and may not be done for the dead on Shabbat, it also includes various philosophical teachings relating to the preciousness of life and our need to maximise the opportunities that we have in life to do good and to help others. […]

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Shabbat 150

Today’s daf (Shabbat 150a) explores the halachic implications of the verse ממצוא חפצך ודבר דבר – “[Refrain] from pursuing your business [on Shabbat] and [from] speaking words [about non-Shabbat] issues [on Shabbat]” (Yeshaya 58:13), and it lists a range of topics that may and may not be spoken about on Shabbat. However, before proceeding to […]

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Shabbat 149

Much of the 23rd Chapter of Massechet Shabbat concerns permitted and forbidden actions and expressions that may lead to, or that appear similar to, financial dealings on Shabbat, and in this spirit the Mishna at the end of yesterday’s daf (23:2, 148b) – which is discussed at length in today’s daf (Shabbat 149b) – teaches […]

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Shabbat 148

In today’s daf (Shabbat 148b), reference is made to the rabbinic decree, originally stated in Mishna Beitzah (5:2, 36b), that one may not clap hands together, clap one’s body (thigh/chest), or dance on Shabbat and Yom Tov.Interestingly, though all three of these practices are generally assumed to be forbidden on account of the concern that […]

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Shabbat 147

Having made reference to the exceptional wine that was produced in Phrygia (a small kingdom in Asia Minor), along with the unique therapeutic powers of the waters of the river Deyomset (found near the Judean city of Emmaus), today’s daf (Shabbat 147b) informs us that Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh travelled [alone] to Phrygia where he […]

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Shabbat 146

Today’s daf (Shabbat 146a) teaches us a key principle about the biblical melacha of מכה בפטיש (literally ‘one who strikes with a hammer’, but understood to refer to any activity – such as striking the final hammer blow – that completes the manufacture of an item) which I believe resonates deeply with the essence of […]

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Shabbat 145

Today’s daf (Shabbat 145b) cites a heartrending verse from Sefer Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 9:9 describing the emptiness and loneliness of the land of Israel following the destruction of the First Temple and the exile of the people:“For the mountains I will raise [My voice] in weeping and wailing, and for the pastures of the wilderness a […]

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Shabbat 144

In yesterday’s daf, the Mishna (Shabbat 22:1, 143b) stated that ‘we may not squeeze (סוחטין) fruits [on Shabbat] to extract liquid from them’ because, as Rashi explains, סחיטה (squeezing) [certain] fruits on Shabbat falls under the forbidden Shabbat melacha of דש (threshing).Today’s daf (Shabbat 144a-b) continues the discussion of סחיטה (squeezing), but with a particular […]

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Shabbat 143

Today’s Mishna (Shabbat 21:3, 143a) discusses the treatment of seemingly purposeless small crumbs of food that remain on a table after a meal – which we are told may be removed from the table because they can be used for animal fodder. However, as the Gemara proceeds to explain, if the crumbs are not used […]

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Shabbat 142

Today’s daf (Shabbat 142a-b) discusses a number of questions concerning various forms of בורר (selecting/separating). Firstly, it addresses the words of Rabbi Yehuda taught in the previous Mishna (Shabbat 21:1, 141b) that ‘one many remove [a measure of] terumah from a mixture with one hundred parts of chullin (non-sacred) produce’, and later, it cites a […]

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Shabbat 141

Today’s daf (Shabbat 141a-b) discusses the question of whether it is permissible to scrape mud/clay from shoes with a sharp object on Shabbat. As Rashi explains, this is due to the concern that by doing so the leather sole of the shoe will be smoothened (ממחק) which is one of the 39 Biblically forbidden Shabbat […]

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Shabbat 140

Two brief incidents recorded in today’s daf (Shabbat 140a) raise the important question of finding the right balance between loyalty to halachic strictures and maintaining Shalom Bayit (harmony in a home).In terms of the laws of Shabbat, one of the 39 prohibited Shabbat transgressions is לישה (kneading), and in today’s daf we consider the case […]

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Shabbat 139

In today’s daf (Shabbat 139a) we are told that members of the community of Bashkar sent a question about creating a canopy on Shabbat, and in response, Rav Menashya wrote them a responsum saying: ‘We have reviewed all aspects concerning [your question of creating] a canopy, but we have not found grounds to permit [you […]

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Shabbat 138

As someone who spends much of their life either learning, writing or teaching Torah, it is difficult to express the spiritual and emotional fright that I felt when reading the chilling words of Rav found in today’s daf (Shabbat 138b) and based on Devarim 28:59 that ‘There will be a time in the future when […]

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Shabbat 137

While we often presume that the text that we have in our Gemara is a perfect rendition of what was originally said by the Tanaim and Amoraim in Israel and Babylon, the many different Talmud manuscripts containing many textual variants provides us with ample evidence that there are words and phrases that appear in the […]

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Shabbat 136

Towards the end of today’s daf (Shabbat 136b) Ravina testifies that he had heard Rava render a particular halachic ruling which then confused, surprised and even seemingly angered one of his peers. However, to understand the ruling itself, a little background is necessary.Firstly, there is a Torah rule – although one that many of us […]

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Shabbat 135

TRIGGER WARNING: MY ANALYSIS OF TODAY’S DAF ADDRESSES STILLBIRTH & INFANT DEATHEarly on in today’s daf (Shabbat 135a) we are taught a Beraita stating that while it was assumed that babies born in the 7th month were viable (i.e. have the physical ability to survive), it was also assumed that babies born in the 8th […]

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Shabbat 134

Not long after Abaye was conceived his father sadly died, and during childbirth, his mother tragically died (see Kiddushin 31b). From then on, while much of Abaye’s Torah training was provided to him by his uncle Rabah, he was nursed and raised by a foster mother whose name is sadly not known but whose wisdom […]

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Shabbat 133

Today’s daf (Shabbat 133b) cites a Beraita presenting two approaches to the verse זה אלי ואנוהו – ‘this is my God and I will beautify God (lit. ‘Him’)’ (Shemot 15:2).According to the first approach (expressing the view of Rabbi Yishmael – see Mechilta Beshalach 3, Massechet Sofrim 3, Yerushalmi Peah 1), our task is to […]

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Shabbat 132

Much of today’s daf (Shabbat 132a) is dedicated to identifying a suitable biblical prooftext to support the halacha that a Brit Milah (circumcision) may be performed on Shabbat, and though a number of different prooftexts are analysed, two different prooftexts are ultimately identified in the Gemara (Shabbat 132a) with a further valid prooftext being offered […]

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Shabbat 131

In the Mishna (Shabbat 19:1) found in yesterday’s daf (Shabbat 130a) we were introduced to the halachic principle, conceived by Rabbi Eliezer, that ‘Machshirei mitzvah dochin et hashabbat’ – which means that just as certain mitzvot such as brit milah (circumcision) may be performed on Shabbat, so too, any activity that enables this mitzvah to […]

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Shabbat 130

In today’s daf (Shabbat 130a) we are taught a principle that ‘any mitzvah that [the Jewish people] accepted upon themselves with joy (בשמחה)…is still performed with joy (בשמחה)’, while ‘any commandment that [the Jewish people] accepted upon themselves with a sense of resentment… is still performed with resentment’.What this suggests is that when children and […]

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Shabbat 128

Today’s daf (Shabbat 128b) contains a ruling with respect to the laws of childbirth on Shabbat which provides us with profound insight and considerable halachic precedent with respect to the permissibility of ‘breaking’ Shabbat for emotional, psychological and mental health reasons.Having stated in the Mishna (Shabbat 18:3, 128b) that a midwife may travel in order […]

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Shabbat 127

Today’s daf (Shabbat 127b) contains three stories relating to the virtue of הדן את חבירו לכף זכות – judging your friend favourably, and while each are fascinating, I would like to focus on the first story.We are told of man from the upper Galilee who travelled to the south of Israel to work for, and […]

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Shabbat 126

The Mishna in today’s daf (Shabbat 18:1, Shabbat 126b) informs us that the moving of boxes of straw or grain, which is both a highly strenuous activity and is also considered a weekday activity, is permitted on Shabbat for the purpose of making room for guests or for creating more space for more people to […]

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Shabbat 124

Today’s daf (Shabbat 124b) contains a fascinating teaching about the laws of Mukzeh and how we indicate our intentionality towards certain objects.As we know, בונה (building) is listed as one of the 39 prohibited Shabbat Melachot (see Mishna Shabbat 7:2, Shabbat 73a), and given this, bricks would be presumed to be ‘Mukzeh’ as they cannot […]

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Shabbat 123

In today’s daf (Shabbat 123a), reference is made to the previous Mishna (Shabbat 17:1-2, 122b) beginning with the words כל הכלים (‘these are all the utensils that may be moved on Shabbat’) which states that while a needle’s normal usage should mean that it is categorized as ‘Mukzeh’ (set aside from Shabbat usage since sewing […]

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Shabbat 122

Today’s daf (Shabbat 122b) returns to the topic of ‘Mukzeh’, i.e. objects that are ‘set’ aside as having no purposeful use on Shabbat which therefore may not be moved on Shabbat. However, what we are not told is why the laws of Mukzeh exist.Addressing this question, Rambam (Shabbat 24:12) writes that, ‘the Sages forbade the […]

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Shabbat 121

For many years I have worked in the field of curriculum development, and around 12 years ago I was invited to suggest learning topics and reading references for a soon-to-be-launched MA in Jewish Education study programme that was to be run by the London School of Jewish Studies (LSJS).Having already taught Judaic Studies for over […]

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Shabbat 120

The Mishna (Shabbat 16:3) found in today’s daf (Shabbat 120a) informs us that if a fire is consuming a home on Shabbat, the homeowner can tell others to retrieve food ‘for themselves’. However, it then adds that if those who assist are savvy, they will arrange getting paid for their help after Shabbat. As the […]

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Shabbat 119

In today’s daf (Shabbat 119b) we find 8 different teachings attempting to answer the question of why Jerusalem was destroyed, and some years ago I wrote explanations to each of these teachings, along with a further teaching answering this same question found in Bava Metziah 30b. I called this project ‘9 Thoughts for 9 Days’ […]

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Shabbat 118

Today’s daf (Shabbat 118a) examines the duty to eat three meals on Shabbat, and among the sources it brings in support of this halacha is Mishna Peah 8:7 which teaches that if a poor person is passing through a town during the week then the townspeople must give them enough food to last them two […]

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Shabbat 117

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 117b) teaches us about the duty to have two loaves of bread for each of our Shabbat meals, and it then relates how, upon reciting the bracha of Hamozi, Rabbi Zeira would break a large piece of bread for himself that would be sufficient for him to eat for his entire […]

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Shabbat 116

Today’s daf (Shabbat 116a) makes reference to ‘The House of Avidan’ which was a location where scholars of various nations and faiths met to conduct philosophical discussions and debates. We are told that Rav would not attend the debates at ‘The House of Avidan’, while Shmuel was prepared to do so. We are also told […]

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Shabbat 115

As we know, the Jewish people have been referred to as ‘the people of the book’, and since the beginnings of Jewish history, Jews have revered the word of God and the sacred scrolls in which the words of God are found. Given all this, the halachot presented in today’s daf (Shabbat 115a) aren’t merely […]

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Shabbat 114

Having previously been discussing Shabbat clothes, today’s daf (Shabbat 114a) relates a story about a form of clothes as well as an important lesson about the extent to which we must respect and follow the instructions of those who are near death.We are told that when Rav Yannai was near death he told his sons: […]

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Shabbat 113

Today’s daf (Shabbat 113a-b) informs us that a person should wear different clothes (מלבוש) on Shabbat than those that they wear during the week, they should walk differently on Shabbat than they do on the week, and they should speak different on Shabbat than they do on the week.Interestingly, it is often thought that ‘Shabbat […]

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Shabbat 112

Whenever a halachic decisor is approached by someone with a halachic question, their task is to listen very carefully to every word and inflection of the questioner before starting to think about how to answer, because quite often, embedded in the question are clues that speak volumes about the questioner.A case in point is today’s […]

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Shabbat 111

When reading the first few lines of the Mishna (Shabbat 15:1) in today’s daf (Shabbat 111b), I was reminded of an incident that took place 20 years ago which shocked me and moved me all at once – but to explain, I must first review some basic principles that emerge from our daf. Chapter 15 […]

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Shabbat 110

Today we continue the exploration of the rabbinic prohibition on healing on Shabbat. The mishnah on Shabbat 109b informs us that specific herbs that are only consumed for their medicinal properties may not be eaten on Shabbat, while foods that have medicinal properties but are also consumed for their nutritional benefits may be eaten: ‘One […]

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Shabbat 109

Today we continue the exploration of the rabbinic prohibition on healing on Shabbat. The mishnah on Shabbat 109b informs us that specific herbs that are only consumed for their medicinal properties may not be eaten on Shabbat, while foods that have medicinal properties but are also consumed for their nutritional benefits may be eaten: ‘One […]

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Shabbat 108

Bathing in salt water has long been considered to have medicinal benefits, and bathing eyes in salt water has long been regarded as being beneficial for the health of the eye. However, when it came to Hilchot Shabbat, our Sages (see Shabbat 53b) established a rule that non-essential healing was forbidden, and that medicines should […]

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Shabbat 107

Amid our discussion concerning the prohibition of ‘trapping’ an animal on Shabbat, today’s daf (Shabbat 107a) explores the Shabbat prohibition of החובל – inflicting a wound to an animal. As we know, there is an overall Torah prohibition against צער בעלי חיים (causing anguish to animals), and consequently it should be immediately obvious that none […]

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Shabbat 106

The Mishna (Shabbat 13:5) on today’s daf (Shabbat 106a) presents a fascinating debate concerning the melacha of צוד – trapping. According to Rabbi Yehuda, when a bird is trapped in a closet or when a deer is trapped in a house, the melacha of צוד is transgressed. Though the Chachamim (Sages) agree with the law […]

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Shabbat 105

The Mishna (Shabbat 13:3) in today’s daf (Shabbat 105b) discusses the forbidden melacha of weaving, and in doing so it teaches us that someone who tears a garment in anger or someone who tears their clothes in response to the death of a close relative are פטור – exempt (nb. throughout the laws of Shabbat, […]

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Shabbat 104

Today’s daf (Shabbat 104a) contains some of the most exquisite Torah insights that can be found throughout the Gemara – insights that are both incredibly simple, yet also incredibly profound.Having previously been discussing the laws of writing on Shabbat and the different shapes of the hebrew letters, the Gemara relates how a group of students […]

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Shabbat 103

The Mishna (Shabbat 12:3) in today’s daf (Shabbat 103a) informs us that the melacha of כותב (writing) is contravened when two letters are written together to form a word or part of a word on Shabbat. Rabbi Yossi adds that this rule also includes the writing of two related symbols, since symbols were marked on […]

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Shabbat 102

Today’s daf (Shabbat 102b) begins the 12th Chapter of Massechet Shabbat titled ‘HaBoneh’ (one who builds), and having reached this point it should be clear that to transgress – at least on a biblical level – many of the Shabbat melachot, an individual must perform that action for a certain distance (4 amot) or carry […]

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Shabbat 101

Much of today’s daf (Shabbat 101b) discusses the case mentioned in the Mishna (Shabbat 11:5, 100b) involving two boats that are tied together thereby enabling carrying from one to the other. Here, each boat is a ‘reshut hayachid’ (private domain) and the water on which the boats are floating is a karmelit (open area). Consequently, […]

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Shabbat 99-100

Towards the end of today’s daf (Shabbat 99b) and continuing into tomorrow’s daf (100a) is a fascinating halachic discussion about what it means to be at rest which I believe has so much to teach us about our personal places of comfort and rest. As a quick reminder, the laws of carrying on Shabbat are […]

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Shabbat 98

In today’s daf (Shabbat 98a) we find a debate about whether carrying in a covered public area is prohibited since the דגלי מדבר (literally ‘the flags of the wilderness’ but a term used to refer to the original encampment area of Bnei Yisrael in the wilderness) did not contain any public covered areas. Having seen […]

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Shabbat 97

Today’s daf (Shabbat 97a) makes reference to an important principle about the pursuit of good vrs. bad which has significant implications on how we speak and how we should live our lives. When Moshe told God that Bnei Yisrael were unlikely to believe that he had experienced a divine encounter, God demonstrated three miracles to […]

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Shabbat 96

At the end of today’s daf (Shabbat 96b), Rabbi Akiva – on the basis of a gezera shava (where identical words or expressions found in different places in the Torah are used to give greater understanding or meaning to each other) – identifies the מקושש (i.e. the individual who transgressed the Shabbat laws by gathering […]

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Shabbat 95

Today’s daf (Shabbat 95a) tells a story of which variations have sadly been repeated many times since and which illustrates how Torah knowledge can often be weaponised to insult others. The story begins when Rav Nachman (Chama*) bar Guyra visited Nehardea. Significantly, Rav Chama was a loyal student of Rav who was head of the […]

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Shabbat 94

Sometimes when reading a Talmudic story it seems quite clear that there is more to the story than meets the eye, and in today’s daf (Shabbat 94b) I think we have such a story which, if examined sufficiently closely, reveals tensions between two people about Torah knowledge, rabbinic authority, and perhaps even some sibling jealousy. […]

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Shabbat 93

Much of today’s daf (Shabbat 93a) is dedicated to examining the debate introduced in yesterday’s daf (see Shabbat 92b) concerning the liability of two people who, together on Shabbat, carry an object from one domain to another (or what we call שנים שעשוהו – ‘two people in partnership’). Based on the conclusion of this debate, […]

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Shabbat 92

One of the 39 melachot is הוצאה (carrying from one domain to another), and in today’s daf (Shabbat 92a) our Sages attempt to define the usual way of carrying that contravenes this prohibition: ‘One who carries [in a usual manner], whether with their right or their left [hand], in their lap or on their shoulder […]

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Shabbat 91

Today’s daf (Shabbat 91b) contains a fascinating philosophical discussion about the extent to which individual items remain distinct within, or coalesce into, a large whole when held together in a singular unit. The specific question being discussed in our daf concerns the Shabbat transgression incurred when carrying a basket from a private domain onto the […]

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Shabbat 90

In today’s daf (Shabbat 90b) reference is made to locusts and how carrying a locust in a public domain contravenes the laws against carrying on Shabbat. At the same time, we are also told that – at least in the time of the Mishna – children enjoyed playing with live locusts, that some families kept […]

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Shabbat 89

Among the many fascinating aggadic teachings found in today’s daf (Shabbat 89a) is a cryptic and curious story which I believe communicates an incredibly powerful lesson that is incredibly important and relevant for us today: ‘Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi taught that when Moshe ascended on high, he found the Holy One, Blessed Ben He, attaching […]

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Shabbat 88

Today’s daf (Shabbat 88a) contains one of the most challenging aggadic insights in the entire Talmud. We are told that when Bnei Yisrael were to receive the Torah they stood בתחתית ההר (Shemot 19:17) which, though generally translated as ‘at the foot of the mountain’, can also be translated as ‘underneath the mountain’. Given the […]

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Shabbat 87

Today’s daf (Shabbat 87a) cites a Beraita informing us of three decisions, each on first glance seem hard to justify, that Moshe made מדעתו (‘from his own understanding’) which God then retrospectively agreed with: i) He added a third day of abstinence for the people in their preparation to receive the Torah, ii) He separated […]

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Shabbat 86

Today’s daf (Shabbat 86b, as well as the first few lines of Shabbat 87a) records a debate between the Sages and Rabbi Yossi concerning the date when the Jewish people received the Torah on Mount Sinai. As Rava points out, both the Sages and Rabbi Yossi agree that the people arrived at Sinai on Rosh […]

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Shabbat 83-85

Unfortunately, due to a variety of work pressures as well as the need to prepare a number of shiurim I did not have the time to learn the daf from Erev Shavuot (Shabbat 83), and yesterday, having delivered four different talks/shiurim throughout the night I was fairly tired and was unable to get to the […]

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Shabbat 82

Today’s daf (Shabbat 82a) begins with a record of a conversation that took place between the 3rd century Amora Rav Huna and his son Rabbah about Rav Huna’s friend, disciple, and one of the leading Torah teachers of the time, Rav Hisda. By this stage Rav Hisda was already renowned for his brilliance in Torah […]

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Shabbat 81

Continuing the theme of this chapter concerning the measure of an item/items that is deemed to have inherent purpose, value and importance and that would render someone liable if they carried it/them מרשות לרשות, today’s daf (Shabbat 81b) records a fascinating incident discussing the size and quantity of stones that a person may carry on […]

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Shabbat 80

In today’s daf (Shabbat 80b) we find fascinating story about a Galilean who came to Babylon, likely in the late 2nd century, and who was asked by a group of people to teach and explain מעשה מרכבה) which is a term used in Mishna Chagigah 2:1 to refer to the mystical messages embedded in the […]

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Shabbat 79

Among the various items previously listed in the Mishna (Shabbat 8:2, see Shabbat 78b) as having inherent purpose, value and importance is a קלף (i.e. a small piece of parchment that can be used to write one of the tefillin scrolls). Given this, today’s daf (Shabbat 79b) discusses a variety of laws relating to the […]

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Shabbat 78

As previously explained in my comments to Shabbat 76a-b, ‘if a product is of sufficient value or use to a person that they would deliberately store it for future use, then this affords the product with inherent purpose, value and importance’. What this means is that if such a product was consciously carried from one […]

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Shabbat 77

Today’s daf (Shabbat 77b) contains a number of fascinating aggadic (non-legal) passages but one which particularly stood out for me was the following Beraita: ‘There are five instances of fear [cast] by the weak over the strong: (1) the fear of the ‘mafgia’ (possibly the Ethiopian gnat) over the lion; (2) the fear of the […]

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Shabbat 76

Towards the end of yesterday’s daf (Shabbat 75b) was a Mishna (Shabbat 7:3) outlining the general rules (כללים) pertaining to the type of product or size of product that, if consciously carried from one domain to another, would require the carrier to bring a sin offering for having transgressed the melacha of המוציא מרשות לרשות. […]

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Shabbat 75

To my mind, the most intriguing of all the 39 prohibited Shabbat melachot listed in the Mishna (Shabbat 7:2) is המכה בפטיש, literally ‘one who strikes with a hammer’, but understood to refer to any activity – such as striking the final hammer blow – that completes the manufacture of an item. In today’s daf […]

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Shabbat 74

Today’s daf (Shabbat 74b) discusses some of the 39 prohibited melachot listed in the Mishna (Shabbat 7:2) including the melachot of הקושר (tying) and המתיר (untying). As we know, we derive the prohibited Shabbat melachot from the actions necessary for the construction and maintenance of the Mishkan. Given this, the Gemara begins its discussion about […]

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Shabbat 73

Within today’s daf (Shabbat 73a) is the Mishna (Shabbat 7:2) listing all of the 39 prohibited Shabbat Melachot. Yet rather than simply stating that there are 39 melachot, the Mishna uses a roundabout phrase of ארבעים חסר אחת – forty minus one, and this leads a number of commentaries to consider why it does so. […]

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Shabbat 72

Having discussed the spiritual liabilities of someone who unintentionally transgresses the melachot of Shabbat, today’s daf (Shabbat 72b) considers the spiritual liabilities of someone who involuntarily worships an idol. However, a closer look at this discussion as well as the origin of this discussion in Massechet Sanhedrin 61b reveals a profound theological debate between some […]

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Shabbat 71

There are times when the biographical background of Talmudic scholars should not be presumed to frame their particular position on matters of Jewish thought and law. However, there are other times when it seems – at least to a certain degree – that the position of a specific Talmudic scholar can be better understood by […]

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Shabbat 70

In today’s daf (Shabbat 70a) we are taught that there are 39 ‘melachot’ (i.e. creative acts) that are prohibited by the Torah. But while the Written Torah does not explicitly list all these prohibitions (Shemot 35:1-2), it does make explicit reference to the prohibition of הבערה – the kindling of a fire on Shabbat (see […]

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Shabbat 69

In his book ‘Faith in the Future’, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains that ‘the clearest contrast between communal faith and an individualistic culture’ can be seen in how we relate to time. In our individualistic culture, time is defined by the ‘personal organiser’ which represents time as a ‘private project’, while the Jewish communal faith ‘speaks […]

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Shabbat 68

The opening Mishna of Perek Klal Gadol (7:1, 67b) informs us that השוכח עיקר שבת – anyone who “forgets the essence of Shabbat” is only obligated for one sin offering even if they commit many Torah transgressions on Shabbat, whereas someone who is יודע עיקר שבת, meaning who “knows the essence of Shabbat” is liable […]

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Shabbat 67

Mishna Shabbat (6:10, 67a) lists a number of curious objects which Rabbi Meir allows to be carried on Shabbat and which the Sages forbid because they constitute דרכי האמורי – “the ways of the Emorites”, and the subsequent Gemara then proceeds to discuss a variety of other items while considering whether their usage falls into […]

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Shabbat 66

There are times when a curious or cryptic Gemara beckons its learner to dig beyond its initial reading, and a case in point is today’s daf (Shabbat 66b) which, based on the particular reading I shall present below, moved me to tears. The Mishna (Shabbat 6:9) informs us that boys may go out on Shabbat […]

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Shabbat 65

Having been taught in the Mishna (Shabbat 6:6-7, Shabbat 65a) that a woman may use a stone, nut or coin as a button to fasten her cloak on Shabbat, Abaye raises the question (Shabbat 65b) whether this may be done deliberately to enable a mother to carry a nut from her home through the public […]

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Shabbat 64

Continuing its discussion of various ornaments that may be worn on Shabbat, the Mishna (Shabbat 6:5, 64b) informs us that a woman may go out on Shabbat wearing a פאה נכרית – a wig (or what is commonly referred to as a ‘sheitel’), and according to the 16th century Shiltei Gibborim (page 29a in Dapei […]

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Shabbat 63

The Mishna (Shabbat 6:4) in today’s daf (Shabbat 63a) opens with a clear statement that a man may not go out in the public domain on Shabbat with a sword, bow, shield, club, or spear, and that if he did, he would transgress the Torah law of ‘Hoza’ah’ (carrying) on Shabbat. Rabbi Eliezer disagrees, arguing […]

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Shabbat 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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Shabbat 61

Today’s daf (Shabbat 61a) begins by relating how Rav Yochanan, whose tefillin (like all right-handers*) were worn on his left arm, would first put on his left shoe in order to reflect the sanctity of the left of his body which was wearing tefillin. However, it then informs us of a contradictory Beraita stating that […]

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Shabbat 60

While our clothes and shoes may have a functional purpose to provide us with protection from the elements, our clothes and shoes are also reference points for some of our most significant life memories. For example, when putting on a particular pair of shoes a person might momentarily be taken back in the time to […]

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Shabbat 59

Among the head and hair ornaments discussed in today’s daf (Shabbat 59b) that according to rabbinic law may or may not be worn in a public domain on Shabbat is a כלילא, a tiara. Significantly, the Gemara discusses two types of כלילא: (i) One that is made from a hammered piece of gold or silver, […]

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Shabbat 58

I have always thought that the reason why bells are often attached to the Torah cover and atop of a Sefer Torah was merely ornamental in order to add further splendour and regality to the honour we give to a Torah scroll. However, according to Rashi’s commentary, the מטפחות ספרים which is referenced in a […]

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Shabbat 57

Whenever halacha as codified does not allign with halacha as lived I am fascinated to explore why this is the case, and a great example of this is the first Mishna introducing Perek ‘BaMah Isha’ on Shabbat 57a which lists the ornaments that may and may not be worn by women in public areas on […]

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Shabbat 56

In today’s daf (Shabbat 56a) we are told that an edict was made during the period of King David that the (male) soldiers who went out to war wrote a bill of divorcement for their wives. This means that before going to war, any married soldier would write a conditional ‘War Get’ (writ of divorce) […]

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Shabbat 55

Today’s daf (Shabbat 55a) records an incident that I wish I could say has not been repeated since. It describes how a woman came to a court where the senior sage Shmuel and the more junior sage Rav Yehudah were sitting and cried out (צווחה) to them about something terrible that had happened to her […]

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Shabbat 54

In our previous Mishna (Shabbat 5:2, 52b) we were taught that ewes may go out in a public domain on Shabbat while כבולות. In today’s daf (Shabbat 54a) the Gemara inquires what the word כבולות actually means, to which it responds that it refers to the tying together of the ewes tails in order to […]

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Shabbat 53

In our previous Mishna (Shabbat 5:2, 52b) we were informed that rams may go out in a public domain while לבובין. In today’s daf (Shabbat 53b) the Gemara asks what the word לבובין actually means, to which the answer is given that it refers to being ‘bound together’ and thus the Mishna is informing us […]

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Shabbat 52

Today’s daf (Shabbat 52a) continues its discussion of the previous Mishna (5:1, 51b) concerning the use of a halter or a leash on an animal on Shabbat, and whether a halter or a strap – whose primary purpose is not for pulling an animal but instead for adorning an animal – may be worn by […]

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Shabbat 51

In today’s daf (Shabbat 51a) Rav Huna cites a teaching of Rebbi (i.e. Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi) that הטמנה (insulating) of cold food is forbidden on Shabbat. However, the Gemara then cites a Beraita stating that Rebbi actually permitted הטמנה (insulating) of cold food on Shabbat. Acknowledging this contradiction, the Gemara then explains that both sources […]

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Shabbat 50

Today’s daf (50a) records a debate whether date-palm branches intended for firewood may be used as a seat on Shabbat. According Rabbi Chanina Ben Akiva this can only be done if, prior to Shabbat, a person has the conscious intention to use the branches for this purpose and also expresses this intention by tying the […]

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Shabbat 49

In today’s daf (Shabbat 49a) we are taught in a Mishna that it is permitted to insulate a hot pot of food for Shabbat with clothing, with produce (e.g. wheat or beans), with dove’s feathers, with sawdust or with flax combings. Ordinarily, we would expect the subsequent Gemara to discuss one or more of the […]

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Shabbat 48

Towards the end of yesterday’s daf (Shabbat 47b) we started our study of Chapter 4 with the question: ‘With what may we insulate (במה טומנין) [hot food for Shabbat] and with what may we not insulate (ובמה אין טומנין) [hot food]?’, which was then followed by a list of those items that we may not […]

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Shabbat 47

The final Mishna in Perek Kirah (Shabbat 47b) – as understood by the Gemara – states that it is permissible to place a plate or bowl under a lamp on Erev Shabbat to catch the sparks that fall from the lamp, but that it is forbidden to place water in that plate or bowl ‘because […]

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Shabbat 46

As previously mentioned, Mishna Shabbat (3:6, see Shabbat 44a) records a debate whether an unlit lamp is mukzeh on Shabbat. According to the Sages any lamp may not be handed on Shabbat, while Rabbi Shimon takes the view that only a lit lamp is considered mukzeh. At the same time yesterdays daf (Shabbat 45b) suggested […]

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Shabbat 45

Today’s daf (Shabbat 45a) continues its examination of the laws of mukzeh, but rather than examining items that are mukzeh by dint of their prohibited use (eg. a Shabbat lamp), the focus here are items that are deemed mukzeh by dint of their mitzvah use (eg. sukkah decorations). Specifically, it was customary – as it […]

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Shabbat 44

Today’s daf (Shabbat 44a) discusses the question of whether a lamp – which in this case would have been an earthenware lamp either simply shaped like a cup or more likely with a nozzle and handle – is considered mukzeh and therefore may not be moved on Shabbat. Though Rabbi Yehuda distinguishes between an ‘old […]

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Shabbat 43

Today’s daf (Shabbat 43a-b) focusses its attention on the laws of mukzeh and the situations that may justify infractions of, or the overriding of, the mukzeh laws. Specifically, much of Shabbat 43b discusses the laws of moving a corpse on Shabbat (which halacha categorises as being ‘mukzeh machmat gufo’) either due to it being directly […]

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Shabbat 42

Today’s daf (Shabbat 42a) addresses a very practical question that arises in my house every Friday night, but to explain the details of the question a little background is necessary. Jewish law forbids ‘bishul’ – cooking – on Shabbat, and this means that one may not use a fire or other comparable heat source to […]

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Shabbat 39

Having discussed the prohibition of cooking with fire on Shabbat as well as any act that manipulates an already lit fire on Shabbat, today’s daf (Shabbat 39a) addresses whether it is permitted or prohibited to harness the heat from more indirect sources that a person cannot directly manipulate to cook on Shabbat. For example, may […]

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Shabbat 38

In today’s daf (Shabbat 38a) we encounter a rabbinic disagreement with significant halakhic ramifications – especially for those who are religious who are living in a less religious home. As mentioned, Perek Kira addresses the laws of cooking on Shabbat, and though there are ways in which food can be heated on Shabbat in a […]

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Shabbat 37

Today’s daf (Shabbat 37a-b) intensely debates the implications of the case presented in the opening Mishna of Perek Kira: Does it refer to the retaining of food on a Kira oven from Erev Shabbat (Shehiya), or does is address the returning of food to such an oven on Shabbat itself (Hazara)? The primary driving force […]

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Shabbat 36

 Today’s daf (Shabbat 36a-b) ends our study of Perek BaMeh Madlikin (i.e. the 2nd chapter of Massechet Shabbat primarily focussing on the types of oils and wicks that may be used to kindle the Shabbat lights) and begins our study of Perek Kirah (i.e. the 3rd chapter of Massechet Shabbat primarily focussing on the manner […]

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Shabbat 35

   Today’s daf (Shabbat 35b) cites a Beraita recording a custom of how the shofar was blown six times in Jewish villages, towns and cities in Israel on Erev Shabbat which, as explained in Mishna Sukkah (5:5), was a custom dating back to the time of the Temple. We are told that the first of […]

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Shabbat 34

 Moadim LeSimcha! Today’s daf (Shabbat 34a) continues its discussion about Shabbat eve preparations and it reviews the checklist provided in the Mishna of three things that should be verified on Erev Shabbat (Did we tithe? Did we arrange an Eruv? Did we kindle the lights?). However, the Gemara then asks what is meant here by […]

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Shabbat 33

   In today’s daf (Shabbat 33b) we are told the story of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son Rabbi Elazar who, under the threat of death by the Romans, went to hide in a cave. While in the cave they occupied themselves with deep Torah study, and they were miraculously provided with a carob […]

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Shabbat 32

 Much of today’s daf (Shabbat 32b) is very hard to digest since its discussion attempts to attribute specific spiritual transgressions for untimely deaths. For example we read that ‘for three transgressions women die in childbirth’, and ‘for the sin of unfulfilled vows, a man’s wife or children dies’. We are told that parents who ‘neglect […]

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Shabbat 31

 Today’s daf (Shabbat 31a) is the source of the famous story of the prospective convert who approached both Hillel and Shammai and asked to be taught the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Shammai’s response was to dismiss the individual, while Hillel taught that, ‘whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your […]

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Shabbat 30

  In today’s wide-ranging daf (Shabbat 30a-b) Rav Tanchum from the town of Navi poses the question whether a candle may be extinguished on Shabbat to help someone who is gravely unwell who cannot sleep or who is disturbed by the light in their room. Having raised this question, Rabbi Tanchum seemingly turns to other […]

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Shabbat 29

  Shavua Tov! In today’s daf (Shabbat 29b) we continue the discussion concerning which lamps, wicks and oils may or may not be used for the Shabbat lights, and specifically, whether a particular type of oil lamp with an additional oil-feeder may be used on Shabbat given the possibility that some people might draw oil from […]

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Shabbat 28

 While yesterday’s daf explored some of the laws pertaining to tzitzit, today’s daf (Shabbat 28b) addresses a number of laws relating to tefillin including the fact that tefillin must only be made from leather that originates from kosher animals. Yet, what is particularly significant, and particularly exquisite, is how – and from where – this […]

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Shabbat 27

  Having previously made reference to liquids that are susceptible to spiritual contamination (tum’ah), today’s daf (Shabbat 27a-b) begins by discussing different fabrics that are also susceptible to spiritual contamination, and this then leads us to an unexpected practical discussion concerning tzitzit related laws. Within its discussion the Gemara addresses the question of when the […]

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Shabbat 26

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 26a) continues the discussion of the Mishna (see Shabbat 24b) listing the fuels that may not be used to kindle the Shabbat lights, and among those listed by the Mishna is נפט (naphtha) – a flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture – which we are told should not be used מפני שהוא עף […]

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Shabbat 24

  In today’s daf (Shabbat 24a) reference is made to an ancient and discontinued custom of reciting a Haftarah following the Torah reading on Shabbat Mincha. As Rashi notes, “I found in the Responsa of the Geonim that it was a regular practice to read ten verses from the prophets during the Shabbat Mincha service. […]

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Shabbat 23

  While the word ‘Triage’ is most often used to describe the difficult decisions that need to be made when there are insufficient medical resources, it can also be used with respect to other settings when people, homes or organisations don’t have sufficient resources to meet their needs and must therefore consider which to prioritize. […]

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Shabbat 22

  As part of its ongoing discussion about the laws of Chanukah lights, today’s daf (Shabbat 22a) cites a fascinating teaching of Rav Yehuda that one should not use the glow of the Chanukah lights to count money. Upon hearing this teaching, Shmuel challenged Rav Yehuda by noting that while it is mitzvah to kindle […]

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Shabbat 21

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 21b), which outlines laws of kindling Shabbat candles, is also the primary Talmudic source discussing the laws of kindling Chanukah candles, and it is here where we are taught a Beraita informing us of the optimum locations where the chanukah candles should be lit: ‘It is a mitzvah to place the […]

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Shabbat 20

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 20b) concludes the end of the first chapter of Massechet Shabbat and begins our study of the second chapter with the Mishna of במה מדליקין which is read on Friday night in Jewish communities around the world. However, it is of note that the Mishna opens with a curious format. It […]

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Shabbat 19

  In today’s daf (Shabbat 19a) we are taught a Beraita stating that a person may not board a ship within three days before Shabbat. Though there are a variety of reasons offered for this rule, Rambam (Shabbat 30:13), like Rif, states that this rule was established ‘so that one’s mind will be settled before […]

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Shabbat 18

  Shabbat 18a continues to explore questions concerning the initiation of a melacha on Erev Shabbat that continues on Shabbat. As previously noted (Shabbat 17b), we rule in accordance with Beit Hillel that a melacha may be started even if it continues unaided on Shabbat, and this is because, as Rav Yosef explains, as long […]

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Shabbat 17

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 17b) includes Mishnayot (Shabbat 1:5-9) listing numerous disputes between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel about the resting of utensils on Shabbat. According to Beit Shammai, the Torah requires that not only we but also our utensils not ‘perform melachot’ (prohibited activities on Shabbat). Given this, they rule that we may not […]

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Shabbat 16

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 16b) tells a story which appears to imply that the rabbinic leadership at the time of the story were both very strict and very insensitive. However, after a little more research, and after comparing our story with two seemingly unrelated Talmudic stories, it seems that there is much more to our […]

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Shabbat 15

  In today’s daf (Shabbat 15b) we continue our discussion relating to the enactments made by our early sages concerning the laws of ‘tumah’ – spiritual impurity. According to Torah law, earthenware is susceptible to ‘tumah’. However, the Torah makes no mention of glassware. Given this, one of the enactments established by our sages was […]

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Shabbat 14

  Mishna Shabbat (1:4), found on Shabbat 13b, informs us that there were 18 rulings that the Rabbis enacted which reflected the position of Beit Shammai, and in the ensuing pages the Gemara considers what each of these enactments were (while citing from other rabbinic sources such as Mishna Zavim 5:12). However, on closer look […]

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Shabbat 13

  We previously studied the Mishna (see Shabbat 11a) listing a variety of acivities that should not be done on Erev Shabbat. For example, we are told that a tailor should not go out with his needle nor a scribe with his quill on Erev Shabbat, ‘in case they forget [that they are carrying these […]

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Shabbat 12

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 12a) addresses the question of whether one should go to console mourners (Nichum Aveilim) or visit the sick (Bikur Cholim) on Shabbat. According to Beit Shammai we should not console mourners or visit the sick on Shabbat, and though the Gemara does not offer an explicit rationale for his position, Rashi […]

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Shabbat 11

  We previously discussed the Mishna (Shabbat 9b) which listed a range of activities that we should not start just prior to the time for Mincha, and this Mishna then concluded by explaining that all such activities must be interrupted for the purpose of reciting the Shema, but need not be interrupted for reciting the […]

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Shabbat 10

  Having previously noted (see Shabbat 9b) that one should not start a Torah tribunal just prior to the time for Mincha, today’s daf (Shabbat 10a) addresses a number of points concerning Torah tribunals while making specific reference to Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest of judges, who ‘sat to judge the people… from morning till evening’ […]

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Shabbat 9

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 9b) begins with a Mishna (Chapter 1 Mishna 2) which brings us back to the core theme of the first Chapter of Massechet Shabbat, ie. the actions that we may or may not do on Erev Shabbat. However, even prior to getting to Erev Shabbat-specific actions, this particular Mishna lists certain […]

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Shabbat 8

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 8a) contains a fascinating debate between Rebbi and the Sages about the halachic status of a tree versus its branches. The case in point concerns a tree that is in a Reshut HaYachid (private space) whose branches reach over into a Reshut HaRabim (public space), and the scenario being discussed is […]

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Shabbat 7

  Today’s daf (Shabbat 7b) involves a discussion, based on a later Mishna (Shabbat 11:3 – see Shabbat 100a), about the halachic liability of someone who throws a sticky object the distance of four amot (ie. around 6 feet) in a Reshut HaRabim (public area) which then sticks to the side of a wall. As the […]

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Shabbat 6

 In today’s daf (Shabbat 6a) we are formally introduced to four different halachic areas which have significant implications to the prohibition of carrying on Shabbat: (i) Reshut HaYachid – private area (eg. partitioned space or private home); (ii) Reshut HaRabim – public area (eg. open plaza or public street), (iii) Karmelit – a semi public/private […]

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Shabbat 5

 Shabbat 5a presents a fascinating philosophical-halachic question posed by Rav Yochanan. However, to understand the question a little background is necessary. Previously (see Shabbat 3a) we discussed how the Shabbat prohibition of transferring an item from one area (eg. private) to another (eg. public) is biblically transgressed when someone (i) lifts up an item in […]

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Shabbat 4

Much of todays daf (Shabbat 4a) addresses a fascinating halachic question posed by Rav Bivi bar Abaye (see Shabbat 3b) about how we deal with accidental or deliberate transgressions on Shabbat. As we know, one of the 39 Melachot (Biblical Shabbat prohibitions) is ‘baking’ (see Mishna on Shabbat 73a) which occurs when an food item […]

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Shabbat 3

Today’s daf (Shabbat 3a-b) explores the implications of the Mishna discussing concerning the prohibition of transferring an item from one area (eg. private) to another (eg. public) which is biblically trangressed when someone (i) lifts up an item in one area, and, (ii) places it in another area. Here the focus is both on the […]

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Shabbat 2

The first Mishna of Massechet Shabbat (Shabbat 2a) discusses the prohibition of transferring an item from one area (eg. private) to another (eg. public) by giving a practical example of a poor person standing in a public space just outside a private home who then puts their hand into the private home either to give […]

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