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Talking Talmud

Talking Talmud

By Yardaena Osband & Anne Gordon

Learning the daf? We have something for you to think about. Not learning the daf? We have something for you to think about! (Along with a taste of the daf...)
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Shabbat 84: Little Boxes, Impure Boxes (for Friday, May 29, 2020, Shavuot)

Talking Talmud

Shabbat 84: Little Boxes, Impure Boxes (for Friday, May 29, 2020, Shavuot)

Talking Talmud

Eruvin 43: When We're Too Busy to Welcome the Messiah
Does the concept of techum apply to a space that's over 10 tefachim? Again the overlap with eruv chatzerot, and so on. Seven teachings were taught twice, first in Sura, and then in Pompedita. How could that happen - at that distance? Eliyahu HaNavi! He could fly and bring the information. Alternatively, a demon. Pertaining to the vow of a Nazir. And the eruv and 10 tefachim. But can the messiah come, if he has to travel out of techum? Eliyahu has to travel and also the messiah to come the following day... And each day that Eliyahu doesn't come, the one who takes an oath that he'll be a Nazir as soon as the messiah arrives can drink that day. And then everyone will celebrate Shabbat and the non-Jews will help the Jews keep Shabbat. How hard would it be for everyone if the messiah came when everyone is preparing for Shabbat or yom tov. Also: again, on the ship - can they disembark on Shabbat? Rabban Gamliel says they had entered the techum before Shabbat, so they can depart the ship. He had a device that enabled him to scope out the shore from 2,000 amot away, using geometry to calculate the distance (astrolabe). Likewise, geometry was used to determine the height of a date palm, by measuring and comparing the lengths of shadows.
September 21, 2020
Eruvin 42: Blurring Eruv Techumin with Eruv Chatzerot
THIS IS SUNDAY'S DAF. Eruv techumin vs. Eruv chatzerot - note that they're really different (which means that there's no carrying for the distance of eruv techumin). What if you don't know exactly how far the 2,000 amot of the techum takes you? What if your extended techum runs into a non-Jewish private domain? What if you need an eruv chatzerot to be able to carry where you're going? Plus: Another discussion of the partitions on a ship. If the walls are broken... But how does a boat function? ie does the movement of the boat through the water change how your own movement through the space is assessed?
September 20, 2020
Eruvin 41: Fast Days, Feast Days, and When They Meet
THIS EPISODE IS SATURDAY'S DAF. What happens when Tisha B'Av falls out on Friday (which cannot happen in the era of a fixed calendar)? Namely, nobody should enter Shabbat in a state of affliction. But how can one eat on a fast day?! Note also that we do not have public fast days on Rosh Chodesh or Chanukah or Purim, with exceptions that don't establish a fast on one of the happy days. And then some rabbinic intrigue in terms of whose p'sak to follow - when Rabban Gamliel was alive, but does his p'sak stand when he's no longer alive? R. Yehoshua is willing to say no (granted, their disputes are well-known). Rigging the calendar made all of these difficult-to-navigate scenarios moot. Plus: In the new perek, the new mishnah, and when people went out of the Shabbat boundary, perhaps at the hands of non-Jews or one who forgot himself. When the sages ended up in a ship that was traveling on Shabbat, the ship went beyond techum, but the question was how much walking could they therefore do on the ship outside of the techum? Some walked the length of the ship and some stuck to 4 amot. Note that these cases might have been helped with an eruv.
September 20, 2020
Eruvin 40: Taking Time Seriously
On R. Dosa's statement that the person who davens on behalf of the congregation should pray conditionally, depending on the true date. The sages had gathered and were deliberating whether to mention Rosh Chodesh in the Rosh Hashanah liturgy. They disagree, of course, but the dispute us over the conditional factor, not the Rosh Chodesh factor (R. Dosa always favored the conditional approach!). Plus: An investigation into Shehechyanu, which can be an especially poignant blessing at the time of the holidays. The time of saying it may be less precise than any one moment. And the observation that the pilgrimage festivals are different from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
September 18, 2020
Eruvin 39: When Rosh Hashanah Falls on Rosh Chodesh
The establishment of Rosh Chodesh, based on witness testimony, and the implications of that for Rosh Hashanah, which, by definition, falls out on Rosh Chodesh, as it were. The Gemara says, set up two eruvin as possible for each day that might be the day of the new moon, vs. the day that retroactively will have been determined to be a regular day. But the sages reject this approach of dividing the holiness of Rosh Hashanah into two. With implications to separating terumot and maaserot as a conditional statement. Likewise, the question of an egg that was laid on the first day. Plus: when the shaliach tzibur goes up to daven on behalf of the community, he would also make the davening a conditional statement. But the sages did not accept the conditional approach to Rosh Hashanah. Also, more "real life with the Tannaim and Amoraim": when a deer was captured by a non-Jew on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, and slaughtered on the second day, is that venison permitted? Machloket. And the sages acted in accord with their respective positions. With many elements to unpack. Plus: when the non-Jews wised up to this two-day conditional day, and how they would purchase fresh produce, etc. Note that Rav Sheshet's more stringent approach isn't a matter of strife.
September 17, 2020
Eruvin 38: One Kedushah, Two Kedushah
When yom tov is next to Shabbat... Making one eruv going to the west, and another one going to the east. From there, he follows the procedure for two days of eruv. When can he leave the eruv in the direction he's walking? And what if he ate the eruv on the first day? He won't have an eruv on the second day, because it's been eaten! Does that have implications for the holiness of the day? The significance of whether the two different days have one blended holiness, or are they separate? This discussion takes on a life of its own, as it were, in exploring the opinions of "the four sages" - who certainly appear to conclude that there are two holinesses between Shabbat and yom tov. Until the Gemara raises a question, swaps their opinions, and then raises a more intense question on those switched opinions. Including a question on whether the sages were presenting views, in the abstract as possible opinions, or what they themselves actually believed (what a can of worms that could open). R. Hisda tries to figure out Rav's view on the holinesses, alas without R. Huna to consult. Should there be other sources to answer this question directly, rather than sussing out the logic?
September 16, 2020
Eruvin 37: Retroactive Designation
Terminology/What's What: Bereirah. Can an eruv techumin kick in retroactively, as determined by whether it is used? This kind of planning and thinking ahead, with a verbal declaration that designates a change at another time may be uniquely human, certainly far-ranging. Plus: A complete reversal of the sages' opinions, apparently after the fact - a "Fokh." A fluidity in the text itself that is no longer in evidence.
September 15, 2020
Eruvin 36: Wherefore Eruv Techumin?
How accessible does the food in the eruv need to be? What if you're a kohen, and you know that some of your food is terumah, and some is terumah that has been rendered impure? What can you eat? What happens if the status of your food is about to change (the next day, for example)? Is it sufficient to be available before Shabbat? What about the case of "tivul yom" (What's What)? It seems that the pre-Shabbat timing is critical for determining the accessibility of the eruv itself. Plus: The new Mishnah, with a rationale for eruvei techumin. Moreover, based on what's happening, the person making the eruv may set one up in different directions outside of the city. And that's true whether your reason to head out of the city is negative (to avoid people) or positive (to seek out those who are outside if the city to begin with). The Gemara establishes apparent contradictions, and then resolves them. Including reasons why you would want to get out of town.
September 14, 2020
Eruvin 35: If You Come to Move It, Move It
A detour: When someone becomes a "zav" and is impure, that impurity can be transferred to an item simply by moving the item. But only if it's a kli, utensil, not if it's a tent that moves. And depending on what makes it move. Back to Eruvin: What happens if your eruv techumin is no longer available to be an eruv - if it rolls outside of the techum, if it's been destroyed, or rendered impure... Plus: The eruv meal - symbolic or your main food?
September 13, 2020
Eruvin 34: Accessing the Physical Eruv (Or Not)
Do you really need to bring the eruv techumin to the place where you want to set up the eruv? (In the case where Shabbat follows yom tov) Perhaps the concept of the eruv is sufficient, without having a physical eruv set up. But the case of when yom tov falls *after* Shabbat is exactly one that poses a difficulty for that theoretical eruv approach - the theoretical has to be possible! Also, if you put an eruv deep in the ground, that makes sense if it's a private domain, which goes up to the sky, and deep into the earth. But what if the pit is in the public domain - where, then, is the temporary residence supposed to be? Above the pit - in which case the eruv is in the private domain of the pit? Or in the private domain deep in the pit - that's certainly the same domain. So the question hinges on a pit that's located in a karmelit, and where you want the residence to be above the pit. Plus: A case where the eruv is in a cupboard, and the key is lost... Is that eruv still valid? Is there another way to access the eruv?
September 12, 2020
Eruvin 33: Oh, Go Hang Your Eruv in a Tree
If you put your eruv good low in a tree, note that if it within 3 tefachim of the ground, it's as if it were on the ground itself. What if you put the eruv food in a basket that hangs from the tree? Will that hanging make a difference? Will it be valid? Can you move the food? Perhaps the eruv first must be in a makom patur, in its own defined domain. Also, how Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi uses the opinion of Rabbi Meir. Plus, when yom tov falls out on Friday, and you want an eruv techumin that will work for both for yom tov and Shabbat (since it's not an issue of cooking or carrying).
September 11, 2020
Eruvin 32: Trusting the System
Following from the discussion of shlichut, sending an emissary - when can you trust that the system will function the way you've set it up to run? When you appoint a shaliach, can you act thereafter as if the shaliach has done his (or her) job? Or so you need to check in before you take the next step? For example, a woman who has given birth and offers a korban before she can dunk in the mikveh to purify. Namely, her dunking presumes that the kohen did his assignment. Plus the case of the "chaver" (one who is learned, knowledgeable) vs. the "am ha-aretz" (one who is ignorant). With the example of Demai - food that isn't clear whether it has had terumot/maaserot taken from it. Making the case for who is more reliable in both directions, perhaps with a little focus to the chaver. Also, a new mishnah! What if you put your meal establishing your eruv techumin up in a tree? Or deep in the ground? The same distance up is not acceptable, while the same distance down counts as a legitimate establishment of your residence, to count as a residence.
September 10, 2020
Eruvin 31: Letting Yourself Off the Mitzvah Hook
The case of an eruv for a kohen who can eat the terumah (which is pure), and he himself is pure, but the location for the eruv is on a grave (which is impure). Ah, but the terumah has to be prepared or readied to be eligible to be rendered impure. The Gemara gets into a number of details pertaining to the care the kohen must take - an example of the far-reaching permutations for the case, the kind that we have seen fewer of in Eruvin. Also, the Gemara makes the point that we do not do mitzvot for the sake of our personal benefit, but for the sake of doing a mitzvah. Note that this gets complicated implications for prohibited items... Also, an entirely new area of discussion -- using a shaliach, or emissary, to do the mitzvah on your behalf. But what about someone who doesn't accept that the mitzvah is a mitzvah? Or that any mitzvot are binding? What if your shaliach were a monkey or an elephant - will that work? With differences here between the erev chatzerot vs. the eruv techumin.
September 9, 2020
Eruvin 30: Not Everyone Agrees that the Loopholes Work
When the eruv meal is made on food that the person using the eruv cannot eat (a Nazir and wine, a Yisrael and terumah). That's acceptable to Beit Hillel, but not to Beit Shammai. And then, for a change, Beit Hillel actively attempts to convince Beit Shammai, making a logical argument about an eruv for an adult on Yom Kippur. But Beit Shammai has an answer why they agree with Beit Hillel for the Yom Kippur case, and not for the Nazir/Yisrael scenarios. Also, Beit Shammai insists that if you are extending your Shabbat residence, with an eruv techumin, you can't do so with a small meal, but move your residence there - as in: move your bed! Their reluctance to accept the figurative symbolism of an eruv is appealing for its straight-shooting, but would make living on Shabbat much more challenging. Another challenging loophole: beit ha-pras, where the kohen cannot walk easily - and yet a kohen can make an eruv in the cemetery, as long as he's in a container or a carriage. Plus, crossing into the Diaspora from the Land of Israel in a carriage - will that protect you from the impure land of the air outside of Israel? Noting that the distinction between Israel and the Diaspora in this way is not comfortable for modern sensibilities...
September 8, 2020
Eruvin 29: Wine, Beer, and Food Coloring
How much of certain foods do you need for them to be part of the meal upon which an eruv is established? 2 meals worth of the given food, now jointly owned (for eruv chatzerot), or left in the place of extending your distance (even if you don't eat it). We focus on the beverages this time. First, wine. Depending on the wine, you might need more or less of it. For beer, the discussion revolves around how beer is not water (it was drunk as though it was). How much beverage do you need to make an eruv? Half a log of beer. As compared to a quarter of a log of wine (in 3/4 water). There has to be value to the meal in the beverage.
September 7, 2020
Eruvin 28: That Food Isn't Food, But Isn't That Food Food?
More on the food that is not just food, when it comes to establish an eruv. Greens, herbs, however they are identified by the Gemara's names (which Anne stumbles over): cress and sweet clover and more. Unused (for people) parts of wheat and unripe dates are not eligible for the eruv meal. But what about that sweet clover? It's not good for everyone, so how can it be eligible for this meal? The Gemara limits the statement to those who can eat it. Or maybe the clover is a different clover.... How would this food-that-isn't-food be translated into today's terms, when it comes to foods that aren't good for most people or for some people (allergies)? Similarly, should "hearts of palm," which in the Gemara is not considered food for an eruv meal, but today are eaten straight from the can... would we have other foods to add to the list of acceptable? (We know there are people who pasken these issues, and may well speak to them and circle back to this question).
September 6, 2020
Eruvin 27: Don't Take the Language of the Mishnah Too Literally (says the Gemara!)
The 3rd perek of Eruvin - beginning with a mishnah that ranges many topics. A joined meal to establish an eruv, also for Eruv Techumin (to extend one's city environs by another 2,000 amot). What about a meal made on maaser sheni?! You sell that produce, and use that money down the road (I'm Jerusalem). [What's What: They cycle of maaser sheni and maaser ani in the shemittah cycle]. What about someone who swore off food? That oath doesn't include water or salt, by definition. Note that establishing an eruv can made over wine, even if the person to use the eruv is a Nazir, who can't have wine (that's fine), or a Yisrael over terumah (machloket). And extending the techum through a "beit ha-pras" (when you don't know where the bodies are buried) - a kohen can go through to eat the eruv meal, in between the graves... The Gemara on the textual formula of the mishnah, instead of its content: Don't take the text too literally, when it comes to a statement of "all" - even when it gets more precise, to make exceptions. The example here is positive time-bound commandments from which women are exempt (except for when they're not) - and the inverse as well (the positive non-time-bound commandments from which women are also exempt). But the notion that the Gemara would treat the language of the mishnah as less than precise is very surprising. Perhaps the question really is what counts for food for the seudah that makes an eruv. What about brine (which is neither salt, nor water, but both, and more of a good than either alone). The Gemara gives us the key manner of deriving interpretation: mi'ut ribui mi'ut. Amplification and specific restrictions... And amplification again. Likewise, klal u-prat u-klal. The logic may not be intuitive (or second nature!), but as long as you're relying on one of the accepted methodologies, you're set.
September 5, 2020
Eruvin 26: When the Sages Do Well (and When They Do Not)
Terminology: Karpef! (finally). Also, the case if the karpef near the home of the Resh Galuta. Who, in the end, has harsh words for the sages Andrew their figuring and configuring of the eruv. We see some of the tension between the political power, as compared to the sages themselves, in Babylonia, specifically. Plus: Comparing the verse used to criticize the sages to its meaning in its original context (Jeremiah). Also: When the group of people in homes on a courtyard join together to make an eruv on that area, and one person/family does not participate in the eruv - how can that person carry in the courtyard? By relinquishing ownership over the courtyard, which allows the rest of the cooperative (for this purpose specifically) to host that person/family as a guest. And a second comparable version of the case, used to flesh out R. Eliezer's view that one relinquishes ownership of the home as well. We see creativity in the loopholes, and the practicality of them.
September 4, 2020
Eruvin 25: Hosting in Your Pavilion on Shabbat
More on the karpef. What if you demarcate the space with another partition, in addition to the original partition that demarcates it. Also, the inheritance rules for the convert (ger), or acquiring the property from the ger, are a little unexpected. To take possession, one would have to actively improve the land. Plus, the case of a woman who doesn't improve the land to take possession in the accepted way - so the halakhah didn't accept her claim. The challenging additional factor is that one may not know what one does as a mourner until this case is a done deal. Also: moving beyond the karpef, to an orchard that is adjacent to a mansion, when a wall of the mansion falls down. But it was also the wall that helped enclose the orchard - now what? Plus: A cryptic insult by R. Papi to R. Bavei, for speaking cryptically. And one more case that sets up a Shabbat gathering in a pavilion, through the orchard, from the mansion. Plus: Doing more than is required just might make it required.
September 3, 2020
Eruvin 24: Seeing the Water for the Trees
"New faces": More on the courtyard garden area - set up to be part of one's residence, where people may we'll need to carry. What if you take one amah at a time and fence it off? What if you broach the fence and seal it off, to the size of a pomegranate - will that be sufficiently redone, such that it's fundamentally a new item (as per the impure and its repair vs. reconfiguration to a new sandal, a case from Masekhet Shabbat, if you recall). Also: What happens if a residential courtyard has been flooded - does that water function like planted trees or does it make it uninhabitable, and then not a place where it would be permitted to carry? Abaye and Rava have different solutions to re-establish the area as a place to carry.
September 2, 2020
Eruvin 23: When a Mishnah Steers You Wrong
The focus on the cisterns and wells. Plus, the new mishnah - including 3 unusual statements that are not the halakhah, but are in the mishnah, giving us a window into the crafting of the Mishnah. Also: In determining measurements of the area of an eruv, the daf takes us back to the dimensions of the Mishkan, with all the implications of that comparison.
September 1, 2020
Eruvin 22: A Road Runs through It
One who makes himself cruel for the sake of Torah, or Torah study... isn't doing the right thing, which of course should be obvious, but the fact that self-sacrifice for the sake of Torah can go wrong is a worthy point. Now, back to Eruvin topics - what happens when you have an apparent public domain passageway through what would otherwise be a private domain? Do you have to divert the path? Note that the topography of a given area can make a difference, how you block off private domains. Note that the "physicality" of an eruv is somehow acknowledged as less than the actual lay of the land, or physical boards, and so on.
August 31, 2020
Eruvin 21: The Infinite Oral Torah
Extending the private domain via the boards around the well, which fundamentally come to include it - and the limitations on this extension. There's a need for access to water - for animals, for people on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, etc. And on this daf, that measure of specificity comes into play. Also: Those limitations become even clearer in the context of "burganim," watchman's towers, and whether they were allowed outside of the Land of Israel... And whether those well extensions were permitted in an area that did not have yeshivas, to justify their use by those in pursuit of a mitzvah (learning Torah). Also: the rabbinic enactments get a big push on this daf, using verses to present how important they are. But if that's the case, shouldn't the rabbinic enactments be part of the Written Torah?! Yet, the Oral Torah has infinite expansive possibilities that go beyond the written word. Plus: Who's Who: The self-sacrifice of Rabbi Akiva for the sake observing rabbinic enactments (specifically, washing his hands before eating), and how he represents exactly the importance of rabbinic interpretation and application.
August 30, 2020
Eruvin 20: Watering the Animals
Note: Apologies for the interference from Yardaena's outdoor setting to record. Setting an enclosure around a well from before Shabbat - what if it dries up over the course of Shabbat? Or dries up and then is filled again by rain, both over the course of Shabbat? Namely, the status over Shabbat has shifted from what it was at the beginning of Shabbat. Does that change the standing of the enclosure? Is the eruv legitimate, insofar as permitting carrying? The need for access to water clearly made the enclosure necessary, but that only makes sense when the water is in the well. Another question - how close to the well can those boards be? Maintain your presence in the private domain even if you take a swig from a public domain. But is that the same concern for an animal who is partially in the public domain, and partially in the private? Will the animal wander away? Will the animal bring its trough to the other domain? In a nutshell, what do you do when variables that can't be controlled come into play? Once they permit some measure of this eruv, they work to limit how far the leniency goes.
August 29, 2020
Eruvin 19: The Jewish Hell
More aggadot. The gold on the gold-plated altar did not melt in all the years of sacrifices. So too the nature of the Jewish people, who may sin, but have enough mitzvot to their individual credit that the sin has no power over them. Also: 3 entrances to Gehinom - the wilderness (Korach), the sea (Yonah), and Jerusalem. Plus 7 names for Gehinom. How do you get there? By means of mistaken actions or sin, that still does not resemble the grim Christian conception of punishment, at least not from this daf. Also: Gan Eden! Where is heaven on earth? And to finish up, back to Eruvin topics - The number of boards contributing to an enclosure - as long as the gaps between them is within the measurement required. Plus: What's What: Mnemonics (and the orality and precision of the Oral Law). Note the scholarship of William A. Graham (Beyond the Written Word) and Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Elman z"l (Authenticity and Tradition).
August 28, 2020
Eruvin 18: If She Walks in Front of You, You May Not Follow
A small portion of a long mishnah: the case of arranging boards as an enclosure around a well, where 4 boards look like 8, or 8 that look like 12. The key being the "dyumadim" - double-boards. Then the daf moves on to aggadot connected to that "dyu" (two). Specifically, Adam and Eve, who were also two, but one. Also an observation on Eve as a receptacle for a baby. And the image of God as Adam's "best man," accompanying him at his wedding, putting God into the equation for both of them. Plus: A man should not walk behind a woman, for reasons of modesty... Which several biblical men seem to defy. Manoach (father of Samson) is singled out as an ignoramus. And finally, a hierarchy of following behind a lion, a woman, and idolatry.
August 27, 2020
Eruvin 17: A Permit to Carry on Shabbat
What happens if the terms by which you established your eruv change over that Shabbat? Also: The mishnah that closes the chapter - 4 exemptions for those involved in military encampments, including, of course, eruv. Plus: burial of a soldier in the place where he fell. Is he considered a "met mitzvah"? Or does that particular mitzvah only kick in when there's nobody to do the burial? Certainly, in this case, you don't dig up the seat to bury him there. Do the least amount of damage to the surroundings. And: An exemption from ritual handwashing before food. But ritual handwashing after the meal is... obligatory? What is "melach s'domit" (Sodomite salt) anyway? And what about the exemption from setting up an eruv?!
August 26, 2020
Eruvin 16: A Wall Made of 3 Ropes and Air
Terminology: Parutz, breach. The case of "Parutz ke-omed," when the breached part and the wall part are equal - as disputed by R. Papa and R. Huna. Where the sources and the bottom line don't quite line up. Also, the new mishnah, that follows the previous mishnah. Setting up an eruv out of ropes, when you're on the go, and you need to make camp for Shabbat. Note the debate of horizontal vs. vertical elements of the enclosure. Is the caravan case (on the go) an example because it happened often or because it's the parameter? Plus trying to suss out how large an enclosure an individual could make in a personal camp.
August 25, 2020
Eruvin 15: Live Animals May Wander Away
What if the lechi was there, in the right spot, with the necessary dimensions, naturally? What if that naturally occurring architecture element can be used as part of your sukkah? And, what if your naturally occurring architectural element is actually alive - not a tree, but an animal? The mishnah indicates that that would be fine, but R. Meir says otherwise. That said, writing a get (a bill of divorcement) on a live animal would be fine (R. Yosi HaGelili disagrees). Which leads to a list of other circumstances for which a live animal is not acceptable. Plus a shout-out to Ne'ot Kedumim. Also, a basic run-down of the details of how we arrive at the need for a written get. Plus the case of a caravan of people camping out who make their enclosure from the stuff they have with them. What if they can't quite finish the enclosure? A certain amount of a gap is acceptable, but no more. Bottom line: The length of wall must exceed the gap - because Hashem taught Moshe that detail (in contrast to "halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai," for example). What does this really mean?!
August 24, 2020
Eruvin 14: Rabbinic Geometry Represent!
Parameters needed for a koreh and lechi, and a round koreh, with its circumference and diameter... leads to a tangent... King Solomon's pool that was 10 amot across, and 30 amot in circumference (an approximation of our knowledge of πd, or, if you prefer, 2πr). This Yam shel Shlomo answers a question about the brim of a koreh. And what about the volume? As compared to mikvaot (at 40 seah!). Also, the next mishnah, defining the lechi: 10 tefachim by amount (or 3 tefachim, according to R. Yosi). How does this align with the requirement for one or two lechis? Plus, a definition of "any amount" for the width/depth of the lechi.
August 23, 2020
Shabbat 13: Why Beit Hillel Trumps Beit Shammai
Who's Who: R. Meir. Including the differences of interpretive approach by R. Yishmael and R. Akiva, and we we don't always pasken halakhah according to R. Meir. Also: Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel - long-term disagreements between them, where both sides are treated as legitimate views, and the halakhah is according to Beit Hillel (who actually taught the Torah of Beit Shammai before presenting their own view). Lo and behold, that humility is essential to one in the midst of machloket. Indeed, one who seeks greatness, it will elude that person, and the one who flees from greatness will be pursued by it. Likewise, one who learns patience in the present moment will find the moment to be most effective. Plus: The debate whether it is better or not that God created humanity, and what we can do with our time, once we're here.
August 22, 2020
Eruvin 12: Panels and Posts
Eruvin 12:  Terminology: Pas/pasim. R. Eliezer visits his student, R. Yosi ben Preida, and the topic of conversation is the student's need for a second lechi on his alleyway. But how big of a need is it? Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai debate the need for lechi and koreh (is that both or either?!). And their debate answers R. Yosi ben Pereira. Now, another case - with only one board (pas) in a courtyard that has a breach, in this case, by the sea, and the need is to close it up. Do you need 2 pasim? Plus: A new case on the shape of the alleyway or courtyard. How wide do those pasim need to be? Length vs. width? How really are the different from a lechi? 
August 21, 2020
Eruvin 11: Doorways of... Eruvin
Terminology: Tzurat ha-petach. Pitachei shima'ei. Avkata. The need to visualize, and how that plays out, runs throughout the daf. So, what type of space does "tzurat ha-petach" permit? What does it have to look like? How like a door must it be? 2 lechis and a koreh do, fundamentally, create a doorway... Also, the case of an arch, as part of tzurat ha-petach. And: a strange story about R. Nachman, R. Sheshet, R. Gadda, and the Resh Galuta. What is the nature of your arch, on terms of determining its need for a greater distance across (as on this example). Plus: More on the basic case of what needs to be done to turn an alleyway where you can carry (from the new mishnah? Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagree, and the discussion moves from the rabbinic space to the Torah concerns of carrying in the public domain.
August 20, 2020
Eruvin 10: Of Sideposts, Wide Alleyways, and a Toilet
A sidepost that is visible from the outside, as from within, and R. Yosef says he never heard that halakhah. Who's Who: R. Yosef. Now, the case of a sidepost that ends beyond the wall of the alleyway... works as a lechi, within a certain measurement. If longer, the alleyway is treated as not having any lechi. The next case: A 20-amot-wide alleyway... a couple of suggestions how to divide it and make it usable for an eruv. Also: Another example of R. Dimi's comments, having come from Israel to Babylonia (also Ravin's similar travels), where the discussion of establishing measurements for what amounts to be a toilet, with regard to tumah/taharah, provides an important example of the challenge of "interhalakhicality."
August 19, 2020
Eruvin 9: When Like Finds Like
Topics recurring with more development on each pass, like a spiral passing through again, but at a distance reflecting that development (as an observation of organization). With a focus on Lavud, today - the extension of the material to cover a gap before the wall. As long as that gap is less than 3 tefachim (or 4), you don't need to add an additional koreh (crossbeam). What about a fully suspended beam, with gaps on both sides? In that case, it seems too much to expect lavud to work. Though the Gemara seems to indicate that it would after all. Who's Who: Rabbi Zakkai. The case? For a "makom patur," carrying under the beam, but not between two sideposts. But there are different opinions here. How many sideposts are necessary to establish the area underneath the koreh and between the two lechis?! And what about only one lechi? Isn't that area akin to the public domain? The Gemara answers, No! And uses biblical allusion to do so. The karmelit essence extends itself, type going after type, as it were. Basically, extending rabbinic jurisdiction.
August 18, 2020
Eruvin 8: The Case of the Kahanas
Some thoughts on learning Eruvin. Plus: What happens when a backyard is owned by more than one person... Or when the alleyway runs between sites that are nobody's property, but also not a public domain. For example, the sea. For example, a garbage heap. Even R. Yehudah HaNasi didn't have an easy answer -- which leads into the question of how the alleyway itself was going to be treated, and whether it will be set off by a partition or just demarcation. Also: A centipede alleyway. And: An alleyway with different lengths of bordering walls, so should the koreh (crossbeam) be placed diagonally across the alleyway, from the shorter one to the longer one...? In doing so, the conspicuous marker that identifies the transformed space as being rendered a private domain. But that's a matter of dispute. Until the case of a diagonal that is longer than 10 amot... Also, can you use the space under the koreh? Is it whether the koreh is a demarcation? Or an actual partition? The daf traces these positions to their logical implications. Note too that the rabbinic nature of this question (by definition) of partition vs. recognition, or an identification of both together.
August 17, 2020
Eruvin 7: How to Not Be Wicked - and Also Not a Fool
What do you do when you want to follow the stringencies of two opinions, and they contradict?! Bottom line principle: Follow Beit Hillel! What if you like Beit Shammai's position better? Sure, go ahead. What you should *not* do is follow only the leniencies of both Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. *Nor* only the stringencies of both. Example: Is the new year for the trees on the first or the fifteenth of Shevat? There are practical differences... and Rabbi Akiva kept the stringencies of both dates. Also: The intertextuality of this Gemara - going back to the principle that the ruling is always in accord with Beit Hillel, as told by a bat kol. But that position only works as long as you accept the notion that a bat kol is authoritative - which R. Eliezer does not. Our daf presumes knowledge or the background... And is thereby engaging in a nuanced discussion about the multiplicity of approaches within halakhah.
August 16, 2020
Eruvin 6: Lock Up Your City at Night
Terminology: (Mavoi) Mefulash. Also Mavoi Akum. We start with the premise that the in-between status of alleyways as a karmelit will be next to a public domain, and expand the private domain into the karmelit. But this daf suggests that an eruv could be made in a public domain. Could that be done with a lechi (sidepost)? Perhaps you need actual doors at every exit point? Jerusalem becomes a counterpoint - where the doors (gates) were locked at night. Similarly, Mehoza (another city). Those locks seem to make all the difference. But that what happens with alleyways that open into the public domain? That needs a "tzurat ha-petach," lechi, and koreh. Challenge case of Manhattan - a very complicated place to make an eruv, if you can at all. Note that Eruvin is a lot of real-life cases, perhaps less exploratory for the sake of the parameters of halakhah.
August 15, 2020
Eruvin 5: Creating a Wall Out of Thin Air
Terminology: Gode, Lavud, Lechi, Koreh. And: The crossbeam is there to demarcate the space, distinguishing between the alleyway and the public domain... Or is it a partition? Recognizing that the space within and outside of an eruv is different. Plus: A lechi that protrudes 4 amot into an alleyway - when is that sufficient? Also: Safek d'Rabbanan lehakel - leniencies for rabbinic requirements, when in doubt.
August 14, 2020
Eruvin 4: The Seven Species and What They Teach
More on the phrasing of tefachim and amot: they're happy and sad! Also: All those measurements are "halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai." Or are they from the Torah itself? Or are the Torah sources an asmakhta? The verse of the seven species has implicit in it the measurements that each of those species represents, from the amount of time before which a house of tzaraat would render a visitor's clothes impure... to the smallest amount of food that is prohibited on Yom Kippur. Are the seven species convenient, as the produce of the Land of Israel, or are they some kind of prototype for the measurements? Plus: chatzitzah - barriers in the mikveh, and the potential subjectivity of what defines something as a barrier.
August 13, 2020
Eruvin 3: Someone Will Take Care of It, Right?
Terminology: Amaltra - cornice. Amah - cubit. The implication of having amaltrot, even as high as 20 amot, in your alleyway (in contrast to a sukkah). The subjectivity of the measurements (how many tefachim in an amah, without expressed concern for whose tefach, but a concern for expanded vs. contracted amot). The implication of a larger amah in the context of kilayim (hybrid growth). Also, the implication of a minimum amount for a space to be considered an alleyway. Plus: kila'ei ha-kerem, the distance of seeds from the vineyard, and how to plant without this problem. And: How shared responsibility can mean nothing gets done.
August 12, 2020
Eruvin 2: A Loophole to Protect Shabbat
Some words of introduction to the tractate. The phenomenon of this loophole that allows us to carry - on the one hand, feels very permissive, and on the other hand, was limiting for the sake of keeping Shabbat. Also some technique and recommendation for managing the new tractate and its more extensive halakhic (rabbinic) discussion. Note that eruvin bring the community together. Plus: explaining the term, in the context of the several kinds of eruvin. And the different domains, in brief. Now, to the daf, with its opening mishnah: When an alley has 3 homes, that are united somehow, and open out to a public alley - you can't carry there, unless you add a crossbeam to essentially join those homes together. How high can that crossbeam be? The Gemara jumps in to compare the case and thereby find some answers, among comparable architectural areas of halakhah.
August 11, 2020
Shabbat 157: Anticlimactic Measuring of Water in a Tub
More on muktzah! "Machmat mi'us" -- you can't handle because it has no purpose, because it's disgusting. When you have debris from your meal on your table, how can move it? Also: Lining up the halakhot of Shabbat with R. Shimon's approach. With an old oil lamp being the prime example of something that has no purpose on Shabbat, and would be unpleasant to handle. Plus: The last mishnah in Masekhet Shabbat - annulling vows on Shabbat, which is less than ideal, but under certain circumstances, can be done. Also: measuring the space/water of a mikveh to make sure it's large enough to be a mikveh. And - shuttering a window to prevent transfer of tumah. A couple of detail-intensive scenarios to finish off the tractate. Plus a story of measuring water in a tub in just this way, though not for the purpose of a mitzvah, just to occupy himself. Hadran alakh - please God, we will return to Masekhet Shabbat.
August 10, 2020
Shabbat 156: When God Moved Jupiter to Help Abraham
Astrology, and whether the celestial bodies impact our lives. Namely, depending on which day of the week you were born, your traits and/or success will follow the events of the days of creation. Alternatively, the determining factors in our fates were the hours of the day. And yet, the very strong statement that "ein mazal le-Yisrael" - that astrological sign does not hold sway over Israel. Or perhaps - Israel has the means to overcome the astrology that was otherwise accepted to be governing lives.
August 9, 2020
Shabbat 155: Camels, Dogs, and Feeding Them
First, in memoriam: Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, z"l. Then: how far can you to prepare food (for animals) on Shabbat? You cannot overfeed or force-feed animals on Shabbat (especially camels, and excepting chickens). Watering those birds that can't fly to get its own water is also acceptable. Tension between real world application of these laws vs. the true practices and concerns re forcefeeding. Plus: Feeding dogs. How long a food remains in a dog's stomach - but why? Could metaphors be afoot? (audio issues in the middle of this issue sort themselves out, and hopefully we have passed them fully, at least for the foreseeable future).
August 8, 2020
Shabbat 154: Why Rabban Gamliel's Donkey Died
(Again with audio issues - it's all here, but you'll hear the separate recordings we did...) Who's Who: Rav Mari bar Rahel. How one can be not obligated to bring a korban chatat for a case of shogeg, and yet be obligated s'kilah (stoning) when intentional? And how does intent with regard to idolatry teach about intent with regard to the rest of Torah? Plus: A prime example of Gemara logic to explain why the s'kilah doesn't take place in the end. And why lashes aren't exacted either. Also: The donkey of Rabban Gamliel - where he didn't want to unload the animal until motzash, but then the donkey died! Why did he delay, when this daf explicitly teaches the halakhah that he could have?! What about "tza'ar ba'alei chayim," treating animals humanely? Two rabbinic precepts come into conflict - which is to take precedence?
August 7, 2020
Shabbat 153: "Repent, for tomorrow ye shall die"
Apologies for audio issues - it turns out that we missed ~20 seconds of Anne, but all the key content from the daf is here || If you do teshuvah every day, you'll always be ready to meet your Maker. The value of this approach is illustrated by a parable of servants invited to a feast by the king. The Gemara offers a couple of different ways of ending the parable. Plus: Last chapter of Masekhet Shabbat! Carrying money into Shabbat... An important discussion of why asking a non-Jew to carry money is acceptable, even in the context of asking for melakhah to be done on a Jew's behalf, which is, of course, prohibited.
August 6, 2020
Shabbat 152: Confronting Human Mortality
A request from the Roman Caesar that R. Yehoshua Ben Chananiah show up at the House of Avidan. Plus: Riddles! Fundamentally, on aging. (Addendum: the Queen of Sheba's riddles for King Solomon, as part of the culture of riddles). Note the challenge of this kind of reminder of our own mortality. So: biblical interpretation where a person's soul mourns over him. From there, an inference that the soul mourns for 7 days, as we keep 7 days of shiva. Also: R. Yehuda made sure to bring a minyan to a home of someone who died with no mourners. And he is given comfort that he did the right thing in providing this comfort. Plus: The purity of the soul and the challenge of living up to giving back your soul in purity.
August 5, 2020
Shabbat 151: King David Can't Do Mitzvot Now
A difficult daf: When someone dies on Shabbat, don't close their eyes; when someone dies on a weekday, don't risk hastening their death. Note that once a person has died, the body is muktzah. Also, a comparison: break Shabbat to save a newborn, but don't handle any dead body on Shabbat, not even that of King David. Plus: A lion does not pounce upon two people, except when it does. Also: Do mitzvot when you can. And wealth can be lost in an instant... Nobody's material success is inherently permanent. And we learn to treat everyone with compassion. "There but for the grace of God go I."
August 4, 2020
Shabbat 150: Going to the Circus on Shabbat
The mishnah reflects two issues: what can we talk about and think about on Shabbat, and what can we plan to do after Shabbat? Tchum Shabbat - how far can one go on Shabbat in preparation to hire workers after Shabbat? The Gemara then applies the mishnah, to determine its specific case, including explanations why it can't mean the more general case. Also: when you cannot say something on Shabbat, but you can hint to it. And: Some of the things that appear on this daf as permitted are surprising - apparently, for the sake of Heaven, but still surprising. Plus: Waiting to bring harvest in right after Shabbat, and discovering a hole in the fence... Which he can't fix on Shabbat, so a bush grows to fill in the gap. To some extent, that kind of miracle involves paying attention. Note: And the Gemara asks this question: what about Havdalah? Namely, if you're sitting waiting for Shabbat to end to take care of hiring workers, etc., you need to make Havdalah! Apparently, this point at the edge of tchum Shabbat was near a winepress... Alternatively, say "Hamavdil"!
August 3, 2020
Shabbat 149: The Writing on the Wall
Today, a halakhah section and an aggadah section. First, halakhah: no written lists for that which will appear at the table, lest one erase items off the list as they happen -- or lest one start dealing with business documents. The Gemara tracks through the different views, and the rationale and implications of each. Fundamentally, what it means to explore the "nafka minah," the practical difference between the two views. Also: being involved in punishing another person distances one from God. Plus: strange aggadot re Nebuchadnezzar.
August 2, 2020
Shabbat 148: Better That People Should Sin Less
Financial dealings on Shabbat - or at least goods: borrowing without saying "borrow." If Erev Pesach (in Jerusalem in the time of the Temple) fells out on Shabbat, certain negotiations could be done for the sake of the korban pesach. Also: Several cases based on the mishnah's concern re the specific language of the loan, which leads to the difference between a larger, longer-term loan vs. spotting someone for a short time. But isn't the shorter-term loan at risk of getting written down? During the week, the language is less significant, but on Shabbat, the language matters. Plus other cases between Rava bar Rav Chanan and Abaye, whether one must use a shinui (difference in practice) for certain practices, and when one is not required. And: we avoid certain practices to guard against coming to fix an instrument, but people do those practices! And people don't correct them! Better that people do what they're going to do anyway and not be rebuked so that they're not violating the halakhah intentionally. But why prohibit it if people aren't going to keep it?! Alternatively, there's a paternalistic assumption that they're not going to do the right thing, why not give people more of a chance. Also: The principle that halakhah follows the anonymous voice of the Mishnah. And: Don't write down your guest list or your meal's menu; keep track in your mind. Likewise, people can draw lots for some aspects of who gets what at a meal, but not the size of the portion.
August 1, 2020
Shabbat 147: Why We Don't Go Swimming on Shabbat
If you shake crumbs or dust, etc., off your tallit, or garment, that's akin to laundering, and incurs a korban chatat, at least for a new garment. And yet, this was not a universal approach - as some people were not concerned about it, and for them, shaking off the dust, crumbs, etc. did not matter, and therefore did not incur a korban chatat. Ulla, the key personality here, does seem to like to get involved, as he fears that those who were not particular about their garments in this way were violating Shabbat! They reassure him. Also: R. Yehudah HaNasi wore his tallit piled on his shoulders - wouldn't Rabbi Meir (son-in-law of R. Chananyah Ben Tradyon) obligate him in a korban? Or was it R. Akiva's son-in-law, citing R. Akiva? It seems that R. Yehudah HaNasi has an open ear to other's comments. Also, a new mishnah: If you bathe (or go swimming on Shabbat) in the waters of the hot springs of Tiberias, the case of one person drying off with 10 towels vs. 10 people drying off with one towel, and veering into the prohibition of squeezing on Shabbat. And other interesting tidbits here, including the notion that making yourself throw up is a problem of bal taschit. Note: The halakhot on this daf seem to contradict our current practices. Plus: an indictment of wine and bathhouses as a path to forgetting Torah, and the claim that such pleasures are how we (ahistorically) lost the 10 Tribes. The sages were clearly concerned with assimilation and the harm it was causing the Jewish people - how modern of them.
July 31, 2020
Shabbat 146: A Legacy from the Serpent
(Recorded in advance of Tisha B'Av) The Gemara claims that non-Jews were considered contaminated - why? They never had the contamination from the Garden of Eden serpent removed, as Bnei Yisrael did. It's a difficult presumption in a world where we generally claim that people are born good, or at least innocent (which would mean not contaminated!). And what about converts? The implication is that they were always going to be part of the Jewish people. Also: Making a hole in a cask of dates - depending on how it's done, either you're strengthening the cask or your preserving it. Likewise, opening up a house... depending on your actions, impurity will or will not be removed... again, the difference between strengthening and preserving. Which also brings us back to intention, but in these cases, the physical manifestation of the action reveals the intent more than any verbalized statement. Plus: a cloth that can be a blanket or a cloak - depending on the fabric, you can wear it (or not) on Shabbat. The Gemara provides the rationale for the dispute here, including when one is lenient.
July 30, 2020
Shabbat 145: Don't Yuck My Yum, or: There's No Accounting for Taste
More on squeezing fruit on Shabbat, specifically over food, and not over an empty bowl - salad dressing! Also, hearsay testimony (one witness) is accepted only for allowing women to remarry, instead of leaving them agunot. Is there no other arena of halakhah where one witness's testimony would be sufficient? There is - when one claims that an animal is a first-born animal, and not available for the food of the kohanim. Plus: Certain unsavory foods that we're not considered tasty, yet some still go for it: tarnagolta of R. Abba and kutach. And: A competitive chat praising the Babylonian experience over experiences in the Land of Israel, and the take-down in response, eg: the talmidei chachamim in Babylonia were not bnei Torah (and then R. Yochanan rebukes them and tempers the discussion).
July 29, 2020
Shabbat 144: Pomegranate Juice
That ongoing discussion about liquid that unintentionally comes out from fruit on Shabbat... Blood is also one of the liquids that can grant the food it comes in contact with (!) the capacity to become impure. R. Akiva is more stringent for the milk, over the blood. What do intentional and unintentional mean, in this context? What about other fruit (berries and pomegranates, for example)? And how do our expectations of what the fruit will be used for (to be squeezed for juice or not, for example) affect the bottom line psak? Again, the categories here are more than they appear to be, with more sub-descriptions and distinction. Note the focus on R. Menashye ben Menachem - is that too much emphasis on the practice of an individual, or is the halakhah that individualized? An example from the thorns in the fields - kilayim or not (well, are you in Arabia or not). The tension here is about a difference of opinion, a difference of practice, and an individual vs. the larger population. Plus: the statistics of it - and what point does the standard of practice change?
July 28, 2020
Shabbat 143: Toss the Date-Pits behind the Couch
More on moving muktzah. Removing bones and husks from the table - or removing the board of the table altogether. Crumbs and left over pods are less problematic, as they can be eaten by animals, and thereby have a purpose on Shabbat. Also, using a sponge on Shabbat is tricky in that it may entail automatic squeezing, unless it has a strap as a handle. Note the implications for cleaning our own Shabbat tables are not necessarily clear from this. Plus: A barrel that breaks on Shabbat - taking the food from it for the 3 meals for Shabbat, and invite others to take for themselves (reminiscent of examples we've seen before). Also: that which has become wet from one of the "mashkim" then has the capacity to be rendered impure - what about the fruit juice that ekes out of the fruit, or honey squeezing out of its honeycomb... your goal for the fruit makes a difference (are they for juicing or for eating?). Olives and grapes may have a more lenient treatment, but that's a matter of machloket. Now, regarding that juice that ekes out of its own accord is to be explained via a nursing mother's milk that can be expressed intentionally or unintentionally - either way will give that which it comes in contact with the capacity to be rendered impure. R. Akiva recasts the case, based on the logic of a kal vachomer. And the fruit that has been rendered impure has no purpose on Shabbat... Stay tuned for pushback against R. Akiva, tomorrow.
July 27, 2020
Shabbat 142: Put a Child on the Brick and Carry Them Both
More on moving muktzah, for the sake of needing its place or the item itself. Specifically, terumah, where some is pure and some is impure, in the same basket. Also, coins on a pillow. Notably, the Gemara's careful and close reading of the Mishnah. A side comment on "Gemara logic," and its associative nature, as compared to the linear approach of Greek logic, which underpins much of modern thinking. And: some more cases of moving muktzah: a stone at the mouth of the barrel. And more on the coins on the pillow. With a question on what item needs moving, as the muktzah item. Plus: Moving something valuable that was left in a public place, for example, a wallet - make it a carrier for something that is permissible to carry. Plus: Work-arounds, and whom Chazal suggest use them, and the subjectivity of what we need to move.
July 26, 2020
Shabbat 141: New Shoes!
Moving muktzah - when and how can you manage that? When you need the space where the muktzah item is, or when you need the muktzah item for a non-muktzah use. Examples include straw and a press, depending on the rest of the circumstances. Also: Scraping mud off your shoes with a tool... as long as the shoes are new. Similarly, how one can use oil as a moisturizer without working the shoe leather, or the leather of a covering akin to tanning. Plus: Don't go out wearing shoes that are way too big, lest you come to taking them off and carrying them in the public domain. Likewise, a woman should not go out wearing a torn shoe, lest she remove them and carry in the public domain, to avoid disgrace. And: Don't go wearing new shoes on Shabbat - if you're a woman - lest they be uncomfortable, and you come to carry them in the public domain. But if you break them in before Shabbat, you remove the risk if taking them off and carrying in the public domain. Also: Starting Chapter 21 - the first mishnah sets us up for going forward: working around muktzah issues, plus some terumah.
July 25, 2020
Shabbat 140: The Advice of R. Hisda
A brief comment on the range of homegrown practices of amud alef. And then the wisdom of R. Hisda (Who's Who), including the general advice and then his personal experience, to Torah students: 1. Don't eat vegetables; 2. Don't share out your bread if you don't have enough; 3. Don't pass up barley bread or beer for wheat bread or wine, because of bal taschit (the Gemara recasts that). Plus his advice to his daughters: 1. Don't eat too much in front of your husband; 2. Don't have food/drink that results in stomach rumbling; 3. Don't relieve yourself where your husband does; 4. Speak to unknown visitors to your home in the feminine form; 5. Hiding something away can make it more valuable. That last one becomes an interesting lesson in translation, between Sefaria and Artscroll's English translation, on the original. His advice might not all be suited for nowadays, but his love for his daughters and his good cheer with regard to the students is evident.
July 24, 2020
Shabbat 139: Leadership and Leniencies
Cause and effect: If there are troubles in your world, look to what's wrong with the judges of Israel. The rebuke here is explicit, even if we are less comfortable with ascribing blame that directly in this day and age. And so we ask, punishment, or a natural consequence of the messy messiness? Also: 3 questions asked if Levi: spreading a canopy on Shabbat, planting hops in a vineyard, and burial on yom tov. But another rav needed to answer: there were ways to pasken with leniency, but he didn't want to, because of who they were as people. And yet, another case of applying leniencies specifically because of who they are. Is that elitism? Plus: R. Mesharshya was careful to task a non-Jewish child when planting hops in his vineyard, to avoid miseducating a Jewish child and also the mar'it ayin of a non-Jewish adult. The themes of this daf are all of a piece, whether the approach is lenient and looking for loopholes, or restrictive - either way, the question is taking responsibility for effective leadership.
July 23, 2020
Shabbat 138: Forgetting Torah
How straining wine for its sediment is a concern of making a tent. More, the range of opinions in the dispute about that wine is fodder for concern (on the daf) about how disparate they are (recall the Jerusalem of Gold ornament). Also: A promise, as it were, that the Torah will be forgotten by Israel (the people) in the future, with a prooftext from a verse in Amos. Which is, or course, of great concern. The daf tries to suss out what "word of God" will be forgotten, and the focus of that concern shifts to the details of the laws of ritual purity/impurity. And then, interestingly, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, never known to be a moderate, seems more confident that Torah won't be forgotten after all. Does this discussion itself protect against that Torah being forgotten? It certainly reflects their fear.
July 22, 2020
Shabbat 137: Possible Confusions in Brit Milah
Finishing off this chapter on brit milah. What if you do a brit milah on Shabbat that wasn't supposed to happen until Sunday? Or Friday? Interestingly, the dispute here is rooted in a parallel of idolatry. And: Brit milah takes place on the 8th day of the baby's life, but it also can happen in the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th days, simply because of how the calendar works out. And of course the brit delayed for the sake of the health of the baby. Also: Precision on removing the foreskin. Plus: The blessings made for each person who might need a brit milah. Hadran alakh R. Eliezer de-Milah.
July 21, 2020
Shabbat 136: The Significance of 30 Days
Warning: Infant mortality. In the world of the Talmud, a baby was viable if carried to term at 9 months, and also viable at 7 months, but not those delivered at 8 months. Also, 2 stories of rabbis who mourned their babies, even though they seemed to have died within the first 30 days after birth. Both sages insist that the child was born to term, and they each mourn, despite those who raise questions on their doing so. And: The question of yibum in a case where a father died, and then his baby dies before 30 days. Plus: The case of the "androgynous" - a hermaphrodite - is the brit milah done on Shabbat, or is it too great of a question? Noting the very modern sensibilities of Chazal in this case, with no hesitation in treating the complex case. What's What: Erkhin.
July 20, 2020
Shabbat 135: Born Circumcised
More on brit milah... When a child is born circumcised, what to do? You can take a drop of blood. Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai seem to disagree. R. Adda bar Ahava fathered a son who was born circumcised, and took that drop of blood, to his detriment. Also: If a baby is born to a woman who does not become impure in childbirth, what day should the brit milah be? Plus: Who's Who/What's What: Eved Kna'ani.
July 19, 2020
Shabbat 134: Talmudic Neonatalogy
Dedicated by Lisa Droski, in memory of her parents Bertrand and Florence Sandweiss. || A story about Rabbi Meir not keeping the halakhah he himself had paskened - an object lesson of not doing something just because you can. Also, medical lessons taught to Abaye by his mother, specifically about newborns. Notable is the level of care, given the times of the Talmud, without molecular knowledge. And: Two stories of women whose infants had died and whose next babies, one for each of them, were saved by the medical advice by R. Natan, science being within the scope of the talmid chacham.
July 18, 2020
Shabbat 133: "Metzitzah BaPeh"
[With apologies for the audio issues at the beginning. They do diminish pretty quickly.] The Gemara asks why verses are needed when logic should be enough, in that the unintentional act is permitted. Rava and Abaye explain that the verses are necessary to make the point here to R. Yehuda and R. Shimon - as, when it comes to intent, they each take the less popular position. More on brit milah: You can do anything pertaining to the brit on Shabbat, including all ways of caring for the injury. Plus the factor of beautifying the mitzvah. And...the controversy of Metzitzah BaPeh - part of the post-brit milah care for the child. Including Anne's report back from a conversation with mohel Dr. Daniel Kaszovits.
July 17, 2020
Shabbat 132: The Rock Paper Scissors of Overriding Shabbat
More brit milah on Shabbat - everyone accepts that milah overrides Shabbat: it's Halakhah! From brit milah, we infer that saving a life also overrides Shabbat. What's What: Kal va-chomer. In the context of different approaches of rabbinic interpretation. Plus: The Rock Paper Scissors of what overrides Shabbat - meaning, when there's a conflict between mitzvot that compete for the time (namely, on Shabbat), which takes precedence: brit milah, the Temple service, tzara'at.
July 16, 2020
Shabbat 131: Overriding Shabbat
Gezerah shavah again. The Omer sacrifice and the Shtei HaLechem sacrifice - both of which involve grinding of flour to prepare. Not all gezerah shavahs are created equal. Also: Not all mitzvot override Shabbat, but the following do: lulav, sukkah, matzah, shofar, brit milah. These inferences do not arrive at modern day halakhah, because the overriding sometimes applied only in the Temple. And a brief reflection on the challenges of this kind of daf.
July 15, 2020
Shabbat 130: Peacock Parmesan
A mohel who needs to perform a circumcision on Shabbat should make sure his tools are at the site of the brit from before Shabbat. If he has to bring the tools with him on Shabbat, he makes sure they're visible, so everyone know what he's carrying. But why visible? And what if the era involves oppression of Jews, where "visible" is not a good idea? Rabbi Akiva's rule: that which can be done before Shabbat cannot be done on Shabbat. Also: Eating poultry with milk. Including peacock. R. Yehudah HaNasi explains why that practice was tolerated there. Note the value of the "da'at yachid," the solitary opinion. Also: Keeping the mitzvot with joy, despite the given that there will be some conflict (as per marriage). And: More on those brit milah tools, and a look at the arena through which why were to be carried.
July 14, 2020
Shabbat 129: Lenient about Shabbat, Strict about Health
To be stringent or lenient when it comes to not quite a case of pikuach nefesh? Note that lenient with regard to Shabbat in this context means being stringent with regard to health - and that is the psak. Also: Bloodletting - seems to have been done frequently, for the sake of basic health, and even nourishment. Look at the extent to which Chazal were focused on health, even if their bloodletting approach does not align with current medical practice. Namely, a fully rounded sage is well-versed in this practice. Plus: A post-partum woman who is no longer at risk to her life, but still within 30 days of having given birth - turn to a non-Jew to do the necessary actions to accomplish what she needs. Note this key distinction between "no danger to life" vs. "a question whether there's danger to life." And: what about the baby? What are you allowed to do for the baby upon a Shabbat birth? Answer: everything necessary, which is aligned with an otherwise metaphorical passage from Ezekiel.
July 13, 2020
Shabbat 128: Ostriches and Elephants and Chickadees (Oh My!)
Food for ravens - muktzah or no? Food for deer? For doves? What about food for ostriches? Or elephants? Who knew?! Plus: All of Israel are the children of kings. Namely, even exotic pets area reasonable. Note the application to a debtor collecting from one of our princes. Back to the animals - chicks, chickens, calves, foals... and toddlers: help them to walk. How do we navigate the muktzah aspect of animals with the need to care for them too? What if the animal is stuck in the water? What if the animal needs help giving birth? Lehavdil, what about a women giving birth? (Spoiler alert: women and animals are not in the same category, halakhically)
July 12, 2020
Shabbat 127: Giving Credit Even If It Isn't Due
Muktzah does appear! R. Yehudah HaNasi cleared the baskets, but not actually himself - an example of what it meant to be the Nasi. Also: That passage about moving the baskets for the sake of the guests rolls into a discussion about hachnasat orchim - hospitality. Which rolls into the beraita that lists the mitzvot for which we real the real rewards in the World to Come, though they seem to focus on the here-and-now. As well as the interplay between bein adam la-chaveiro (human-focused mitzvot) and those that, underlying all the humanity, are a matter of giving honor to God, our partnership in keeping mitzvot. Plus: Another list, of the comparable, mitzvot. Leading into judging our fellow people favorably.... and the Talmud's stories on successful giving the benefit of the doubt. With the lesson of avoiding cynicism, and approaching others with positivity. Even if you're wrong, and are giving too much credit where it isn't even due. Note also the obligation to pay a day-laborer on time, that same day, and how judging favorably kicks in as part of the employer/employee dynamic.
July 11, 2020
Shabbat 126: Hanging Doors, Container Covers, and Cleaning Up for Guests
The distinction on practice at the Temple vs. outside of it. In this case, door bolts that are not tied to the door - which is fundamentally the melakhah of building. So there's a work-around for places outside the Temple, but not within it. Also: window shutters, even if they aren't attached to the building.... are permitted. Note: What's What: Anonymous mishnayot are usually authoritative - but in this case, they supplement with knowledge of the practice, and that "ma'aseh rav" trumps. Also: Covers that have handles can be moved on Shabbat - distinguishing between utensils in the home vs. covers for pits in the ground...or is that about an oven? More What's What on how the Gemara works: "lishna acharina" - another version of the same text, with edits. The Gemara preserves both. Plus: Moving the baskets for the sake of guests. As long as the things that you're moving *can* have a purpose on Shabbat.
July 10, 2020
Shabbat 125: Leaving Muktzah
What do you do with the broken shards of an item that was (or wasn't) designated before Shabbat? The daf follows the process of argumentation that emerges on this discussion. Side-point: A paradigm of impurity. Also: A contraption that involves filling it up on Shabbat -- and introducing the "basis" category of muktzah, depending on your intent. But how can you tell what happened how?! And the daf offers the same structure of argumentation as above, and that familiarity helps us understand the less familiar cases. Plus: Did R. Yehudah HaNasi require an action to pull something out of muktzah status, or is designating alone sufficient? Recommended: Point by Point Daf.
July 9, 2020
Shabbat 124: Turning Broken Vessels into Vessels
The term "muktzah." Shabbat vs. yom tov - when it comes to items with a permissible purpose on yom tov that is prohibited on Shabbat. But shouldn't all details of Shabbat and yom tov be the same outside of food prep? And yet, that's not necessarily the case. Also: the shards of broken vessels can be treated like the vessels themselves would have been, as long as they serve a purpose.... more of less specifically. Depending on when the vessel broke, in terms of determining its Shabbat use. Note: Designating a purpose to every given vessel for use on Shabbat must take place before Shabbat. And again, the question of the permitted melakhot on yom tov that are more limited because of the details of Shabbat.
July 8, 2020
Shabbat 123: The Extreme Origins of Muktzah
The mishnah on daf 122 explains that every item is permissible to move on Shabbat - and provides permitted activities to do that designate items that otherwise have a prohibited purpose on Shabbat for use on Shabbat. But what is this really all about? For that, we need today's daf. And the mishnah here says - you can move all items on Shabbat, except 2. But why? Again, what is this really all about? Which brings us to the decree against carrying *anything,* (except 3 small things for the table), and how it was rescinded over time. That decree came on the heels of Shivat Tzion, the return to Israel in the time of Nechemiah, when people simply were not keeping Shabbat. The decree was slowly rescinded, and the Gemara acknowledges that sequence of events in subsequent discussion - the recognition that the Oral Law changed. And indeed, the way Shabbat was kept changed too.
July 7, 2020
Shabbat 122: Light One Candle
Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi - a man of great wealth, and why that matters. Even the non-Jews wouldn't think of starting up with him; such was his power and influence. Which segues nicely into a mishnah from generations earlier on the relationships between Jews and non-Jews. Namely, when a non-Jew does melakhah on his own behalf vs. on behalf of a Jew. For example, one candle lights the way for 100. And a story about Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai disembarking from a ship, where the halakhah explains the narrative, rather than the narrative illustrating the Gemara (though it technically does that too). Also: a city that has Jews and non-Jews living in it - how does that have impact on the public bathhouse, for specific example? When can the Jews piggyback on the non-Jews melakhah, and when is that not acceptable? Plus: A visit to Beit Avin Toren that leaves us wanting to know more.
July 6, 2020
Shabbat 121: The 5 Dangerous Creatures
A footnote to the Who's Who on Rabbi Yosi ben Halafta. And: Amira le-Akum, and how Jews are not responsible for non-Jewish activities on Shabbat. But Jews are responsible for the activities of Jewish children on Shabbat. Also-ran: When a miracle put out a fire on Shabbat, and that's not the focus of the story of putting out a fire on Shabbat. Also: a focus on determining Halakhah based on real-life stories. And: overturning a bowl to do actions indirectly on Shabbat - including to protect against scorpion bites, except that that seems to violate the melakhah of tzad (trapping). The Gemara lists 5 dangerous animals that you can always kill on Shabbat, and then expresses ambivalence re that plan. But isn't this a pre-pikuach nefesh situation? Would it be an exemption to break Shabbat, or an obligation in the fulfilment of keeping Shabbat, to the nth degree?
July 5, 2020
Shabbat 120: (Not) Burning Down the House
Getting the community in on rescuing foods from the fire, and calculating who owns whom what. But are pious people going to take payment for this helping out on Shabbat? (Answer: quite possibly). Also: Smothering a flame on Shabbat, one-step removed - when is this allowed? Note that this Gemara reads a little nonchalant, given the context of fire in the home. Though their homes may have been less flammable.
July 4, 2020
Shabbat 119: Preparing for Shabbat
The source for Kabbalat Shabbat is here - going out to greet the Sabbath - and the implicit honor to the day. And a list of rabbis attests to what each of them did special in preparation for Shabbat. It's a real lesson to our efforts today too. Plus: One of the most famous stories about Shabbat - Yosef Moker Shabbat - is next, with a special guest. This telling includes a detail that we think is left out of many renditions for kids. Its message - getting back from Shabbat what he'd invested. How does this narrative play out a discussion of astrology? Also: Angels! Who accompany us in the way we already choose to go, in terms of Shabbat preparation. Lastly, the desecration of Shabbat, in the context of the destruction of the Temple - counterpoint to the stories we tell children, as their education was interrupted... Also problematic was the equivalencies made in that society, a critique that sounds difficult to our modern, democratic ears.
July 3, 2020
Shabbat 118: The Five Sons of Rabbi Yosi
Eating the 3 meals of Shabbat protects you from 3 harsh periods of travail - inspirational fear, if you will. Also: What happens when people don't keep Shabbat? Even from the very beginning of the mitzvah of Shabbat! In some ways, this is disheartening; in others, the capacity for return is inspiring. Plus: A series of statements by Rabbi Yosi - and our Who's Who. And the story if his 5 sons, his reported yibum, and his apparent asceticism.
July 2, 2020
Shabbat 117: Literally, a Bun (or Several) in the Oven
More rescuing from a fire on Shabbat - this time, food: for the 3 meals of Shabbat (or maybe all food), and enough to feed your animals. Also: An example of needing to save your bread from the fire - in the event of forgetting your bread in the communal bakery (what you can do to salvage your bread). Note how the day is designed to cultivate the "sparkles" of Shabbat in us. Plus: Prooftexts from the Torah for getting up early on Friday to prepare for Shabbat, for having lechem mishnah (2 loaves of challah for each meals), and having 3 meals on Shabbat. Also, cutting one large slice of challah to last the whole meal - which might be too gluttonous for every meal, but not when it's clearly an unusually Shabbat practice.
July 1, 2020
Shabbat 116: Fighting Evangelism
NOTE: Something went wonky with the audio for the first few minutes - then it clears up. Apologies! Now: What about breaking Shabbat to save blank folios that will become kitvei kodesh once they are written on? No dice. What about breaking Shabbat to save heretical scrolls from destruction? Even worse. Notable is the way this daf addresses the question of heresy head-on, here, from both the halakhic perspective and with a narrative recounting the activities of Chazal. Who's Who: Ima Shalom. Taking issue with Christianity, without naming it culprit, but otherwise direct critique (no elaborate code here). Recognizing that the Christian position is that its texts replace the Torah, and setting up a Christian philosopher to acknowledge that his stance was truly anti-Torah stance, and mock him for it.
June 30, 2020
Shabbat 115: Holy Letters
A new chapter: If holy writings are threatened by a fire, save them on Shabbat, no matter what language they're written in. Also: A story to Rabban Gamliel about Rabban Gamliel, his grandfather, who hadn't allowed the same policy re texts - and then the accuracy of that story is disputed. And: The essential value of scrolls in translation. Plus: the parameters of the texts that are holy enough or texts enough to count as worthy of breaking Shabbat to save. Also: what's the shortest text worth saving? 85 characters or "Vayhi benso'a aron," which is a smaller unit, and sufficient, but the exception to prove the rule. And: what about those 85 letters? Do they have to be consecutive? That's a dispute between Rav Huna and Rav Hisda. An important aside: Owning scrolls in that era was a much bigger deal than our default of owning books.
June 29, 2020
Shabbat 114: Torah Scholars Who Build the World
Honoring the Torah scholar, the talmid chacham. In the context of defining "Derekh Eretz" - the Torah teaches us manners, etiquette, and how to be a mentsch. Changing clothes, not wearing patched shoes, oil-stained garments as matters of respect. Note the higher standard for the talmid chacham, presumably given what he represents. The significance of presentability goes beyond what we often recognize in our casual era. Also: Stains on a donkey's saddle - when is it a barrier? A comparable case is brought to answer the question - about those who have stained garments on both sides. Linguistically, the term "bana'in" needs explanation, and is linked to the Torah scholars who "build" the world. The expectation is that Torah scholars are so meticulous that even uneven stitching on a garment wouldn't be seen, and that same meticulousness is evident in his Torah knowledge as well. And distinguishing between talmidei chachamim who are leaders as compared to those who have a depth and breadth of knowledge, but don't undertake that role.
June 28, 2020
Shabbat 113: The Spirit of Shabbat
When there's no dispute... really. Also: A new topic: folding your garments and bedclothes in Shabbat, as long as you're not preparing for Saturday night. Including from Yom Kippur (before the calendar was set and rigged against that possibility). What is permitted to be folded depends on how many changes of clothes one has - to allow the treatment of Shabbat as special. That different treatment is sourced in Isaiah/the haftara for Yom Kippur, and applies to clothes, the way of going, what you say, in terms of manner and content. Note: The Gemara here moves past the 39 melakhot to get to our experience of Shabbat. Also, how we apply the principles today. Plus: A comment on the remnants of the Flood in Babylonia. And: The Book of Ruth and the midrashim on it - why the risque overtone, and why Chazal diminish it with their interpretations. Mini-Who's Who: The wealth of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi.
June 27, 2020
Shabbat 112: The Donkeys Who Kept Kosher
Tying knots: professional, unprofessional, and knots that won't last. The Gemara says: well, obviously (!) a woman is permitted to knot her robe, and goes on to explain why it's a specified case. Especially because of knots that are not permanent, yet remain in place... permanently. Also: Halitzah. Plus: Rabbi Yochanan, Rabbi Yehudah, and Hizkiah on the impurity of vessels and how repairs change the original. A bit of Who's Who, including the generational shift from Tannaim to Amoraim, and the diminishment from one generation to the next. Which all provides the context for the story about the donkeys who wouldn't eat from untithed food.
June 26, 2020
Shabbat 111: All of Bnei Yisrael Are Princes
Are people permitted to castrate themselves (with a potion)? What about indirect castration? What about drinking such a potion if you're already sterile? What if the person drinking the potion is an old woman? The mishnah seems to be a far broader statement than the cases that whittle down its meaning. Also: Vinegar for medicinal purposes vs. as a condiment at a meal. Or rose water. To what extent do economic advantages dictate what substances are limited to medicinal use? Rabbi Shimon's implicit answer: not at all.
June 25, 2020
Shabbat 110: A Snake Who Desires a Woman
Is the Gemara talking in code? For part of this daf, it seems so. Beginning with remedies to cure someone who was bitten by a snake - presented as an event that happened, even Abaye relates to the case as going beyond its physical example. Which leads into other cases including snakes like you've never seen before, including a woman and a sexually promiscuous snake (is it code? We explore this question with the help of Dr. Shai Secunda and his excellent treatise that includes discussion of this case). Plus: how far does the mishnah's statement that all foods are permitted to eat on Shabbat, even if they also are used for healing. Likewise, all drink. And, the Gemara notes, people do not ever drink urine. Also: A book on biblical and talmudic medicine turns up in Yardaena's house.
June 24, 2020
Shabbat 109: A Cornucopia of Talmudic Pharmaceuticals
Talmudic medicinal treatments, on Shabbat - some of them sound quite in line with practices today. Also, the first-thing-in-the-body spirit that we wash out of ourselves every morning, and the different reasons (elsewhere) for this take. Also, using wine on Shabbat, when vinegar is the real cure (and a bigger issue on Shabbat, unless wine itself will cure). And: a story of Chazal's practice with regard to these substances... and when is the injury so bad that the need is for vinegar's healing properties. Plus: an "ika de-amrei" alternative text providing a more explicit explanation of the Shabbat violation (or lack thereof) in the case of serious injury. Also: when your food has medicinal properties - can you eat it on Shabbat? And the connection between now and then, in terms of our return to an awareness of the impact of various foods, both in diet and less-alternative medicine.
June 23, 2020
Shabbat 108: When Rav Curses Shmuel and It Works
Shmuel and Karna, and Rav. Sniffing a keg to make sure it's doing well. The word of God should be "in your mouth," so kashrut. Similarly, fruit trees and orlah have a literal meaning and a symbolic one. All of which leads to drama between Rav and Karna. Rav's curse (of Shmuel) comes to pass... Do Chazal have powers? Also: A new mishnah, prohibiting making brine on Shabbat (vs. salt water, which seems to be a difference in quantity of product and/or salt). How much you can or cannot your food on Shabbat becomes an interesting subjective topic, which is a curious instruction on Shabbat. Plus: The Dead Sea - as a natural salty phenomenon, may it be used on Shabbat, in its healing capacity. Who's Who: Bitusim (Boethusians).
June 22, 2020
Shabbat 107: Would You Rather Be a Camel or a Louse? (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)
The 3 cases where "exempt" means not "no korban, but don't do it," but "no korban, and it's even allowed." Also: The new chapter of "8 crawling animals" - including discussion of what these creatures are, and the fact that wounding them leaves you exempt... Some significant disputes are these animals - what has separate skin? Plus: Killing a louse on Shabbat... How differently Chazal related to live, as compared to other animals, specifically with regard to their procreation (which we know today was not via spontaneous generation). Which, of course, raises questions of what to do when Chazal's halakhah is based on faulty science.
June 21, 2020
Shabbat 106: Fly High, Free Bird
When a destructive act can actually constitute "melekhet machshevet," even though it's not constructive in the least. Also: Trapping, which can depend on the size of the place used to capture the animal. And a discussion about a free bird... that does not accept authority (!). Plus: Another animated discussion among Chazal. And: Deer! What happens if the deer you're trapping can't run away? Well, it depends why it can't run. And what about grasshoppers and hornets and so on?!
June 20, 2020
Shabbat 105: When You Rend, in Anguish or Anger
Abbreviations - in the Torah itself?! Apparently so, and with the claim that it's part and parcel of the Torah itself. Then: moving on to "sewing 2 stitches," and "tearing in order to sew 2 stitches." That is, constructive tearing for the purpose of sewing. Also, tearing keriyah - as a sign of mourning, in anguish. Or one who tears in anger. Mourning obligates tearing keriyah! One who is present at the moment that a person dies is also obligated to tear keriyah - according to this Gemara at least. When the deceased as a Torah scholar, tearing keriyah is incumbent on all - as if all were relatives. It's so raw... and constructive in one's grief... It can't incur a korban. Also: the anger... One who is caught in the throes of emotion - the halakhah recognizes that loss of control, and accommodates it, but truly encourages moderation instead.
June 19, 2020
Shabbat 104: Writing (and Not-Writing) the Name of God
From the melakhah of writing to the Hebrew alphabet. Discussion about the letters themselves, and letter-play, apparently in the hands of the young students. "At-Bash" and other midrashim about the letters. And: Back to the halakhot about writing... All kinds of inks and other substances that are visible and lasting if you write with them. And where you write is pretty flexible too, wherein the two letters don't necessarily have to be next to each other, if they are legible and combine to make words. All that to make you chayav. Followed, of course, by all kinds of ways of being exempt from the korban (the substance if the writing, the location of where you write the two letters, etc.). Plus: what happens if you write over writing that is already there? And what happens if you write just one letter, not two, but with that one letter, you finish the book?
June 18, 2020
Shabbat 103: A Chicken without Its Head May Run Around, But Then It Surely Dies
A closing general note that emerges from the discussion on the previous daf. And: plowing, etc. In any amount incurs a korban -- because it is inevitable that all of these cases are beneficial to the the land and its growth potential. Which means it doesn't matter if you intend to enhance the land - you're doing it anyway. Inevitability removes the excuse of "unintentional" melakhah. [What's What: Psik Reisheih] And then what matters is how beneficial it is to you, how much do you care about the benefit? Also: Writing. Ever put together a sukkah and indicate what goes where with symbols? That was writing in the Mishkan. The typical writing was presumed to be right-handend. What about a lefty? The Gemara addresses this directly (also ambidextrous). And what about those marks vs. writing 2 letters?
June 17, 2020
Shabbat 102: Sticking the Landing
Finishing off HaZorek, the chapter, and our (current) discussion of carrying on Shabbat. A reminder of the two-part requirement for "carrying" to take place, and what it means to be obligated to offer the korban. Namely, if you throw an object on Shabbat, to be required to bring a korban, you must have forgotten that it is Shabbat, or that the action is prohibition on Shabbat, for the entire time of transfer of domains, from when you throw it to when it lands. Thus, we are reminded of the complexity of the nature of this melakhah, including its effect on both time and space. Also, beginning the next chapter of the tractate, with its next complex melakhah: Boneh/building. Any amount of building will incur the requirement of bringing a korban. For something to constitute "building," it must be established in certain ways (not just placing a speck of dirt on top of another speck of dirt). And, of course, the connection to the Mishkan. Plus: there's no poverty in a place if wealth (aka, no half-measures... in the Mishkan, specifically).
June 16, 2020
Shabbat 101: Boats and Little Goats
Can walls extend into the empty space near them to establish a private domain? The answer lies in the little goats who can run around in that space. Also: Ships that are tied together - carrying from ship to ship. And a challenge regarding the language of the mishnah - can it mean carrying from a large ship to another large ship, with a small one attached between them? Can these ships join together to make an eruv? Love and behold, boats can combine for this purpose. But can you do so on Shabbat? Note what appears to be a practical angle to this exploration of the parameters of the halakhah.
June 15, 2020
Shabbat 100: 4 Mishnayot and a Hanging Question
Tannaitic halakhah... What happens when you throw an object 4 amot within the public domain? 4 different scenarios that fulfill this description.... When would you be obligated to bring a korban? When exempt? Plus: Now add bodies of water into the equations. Why is the water itself considered a karmelit, as compared to the public or private domain? Also, inconvenient passage vs. inconvenient usage. Plus: ships and boats, when you can carry from one to the next. How do we count the depth of the area around the boat? Where are the 10 tefachim?
June 14, 2020
Shabbat 99: When a Rabbi's Answer Doesn't Sit Well with Another Rabbi
More on the Mishkan, but more concrete: the colorful curtains, made of goat hair. Spinning goat hair required exceptional taken or skin, especially because they did the spinning on the animal. Especially when you consider the wayward, stubborn nature of sheep or goats... Also: back to private/public domains, when one throws above 10 tefachim (air space that isn't in the domain) to land on top of a 10 tefachim. But here, R. Moredechai has a complaint that Chazal do not address his question thoroughly enough - which speak to a culture of learning that includes challenging others' take. Plus: Changing the status of a karmelit (to reshut hayachid)...on Shabbat - can that change if status make you obligated (or exempt) in the korban chatat... a real conundrum. And: don't sit in a chair all shabbat, lest you incur an obligation for a korban; rather, live your life and learn the halakhah!
June 13, 2020
Shabbat 98: For the Visual Learners among Us (and Also for Everyone Else)
The Mishkan, in glorious description of its architecture - what it means to turn the inherently abstract words into a concrete physical structure. Constructing a visualization from the text - some people are exceptional at this, of course But what if you're not a visual person? There are different ways of thinking, of course. Plus: Making the attempt to "translate" the words of one section of the daf into more of a visual description.... How the curtains adorn the Mishkan. Part if what's tricky is being sure we know what each term means to begin it, of course. The visual then helps explain function, in this case, of the curtains. Also, consider the scope on the text and the capacity for interpretation that is expected of Bnei Yisrael, on building the Mishkan, as per God's description.
June 12, 2020
Shabbat 97: The Road to Gossip
The suggestion that Rabbi Akiva's interpretation on Miriam and Aharon goes too far. Which leads into a discussion of "choshed be-kesherim" - speaking I'll of those who are blame-free, and the punishment is to the speaker's body... A la Miriam and Aharon. Moshe also is presented as one who failed to believe, even as Bnei Yisrael are represented as believers in God's promise of redemption. Moshe's lack of belief bring attributed to when he hit the rock, if course. Nobody wants to be spoken *about* with that lack of benefit of the doubt, but it's not so simple to keep ourselves from engaging in this kind of gossip or prelude to gossip. Also: recapping R. Yehudah HaNasi's position that there's a fixed number if melakhot (namely, 39). With implications for one who throws 4 amot into the public domain from the private domain... Does that incur a second korban (for the 4 amot themselves)? Not surprisingly, that's the crux of the dispute. Also, how this all relates to our conception of Shabbat - and the nature of a moment of sin, as compared to a time spectrum of ongoing capacity to sin.
June 11, 2020
Shabbat 96: Catch!
The new chapter, HaZorek: Throwing an item between public and private domains; throwing an item from a private domain to another private domain, through a public domain; passing from private to privately domain, through public domain... The last there case there having been learned from the Levites practice in constructing the Mishkan (passing from wagon to wagon). Note: the Gemara explains the camp of the Levites and the "shabbat" completion of the Mishkan. Sanctifying time (Shabbat) and place (Mishkan!). Also: Bringing IN vs. Taking OUT. Which leads to avot and toladot, and incurring korban obligations, according to Rabbi Eliezer. What's What: "Nafka minah." Plus: Tzlophchad - a tzadik or deserving of the death sentence? How rabbinic midrash answers this question.
June 10, 2020
Shabbat 95: God Created Eve from the Rib of Adam
Wait, how is braiding your hair the same as building? The Gemara makes sense of exactly this. Plus: Slice of Talmudic Life - making cheese. homegrown insults, and beit midrash consultation (still about the melakhot). What happens when Chazal shop study halls? Also - A new member of Chazal? Plus - sprinkling water to tamp down the dust in your home on a hot and dusty day. Namely, ancient air conditioning.
June 9, 2020
Shabbat 94: We Are Very Hygienic Today
Can a Jew lend a horse to a non-Jew for use on Shabbat? Ben Beteira says yes, even despite the strong requirement that the entire household rest on Shabbat. Why a horse? Note: The discussion here is matter-of-fact, without tension, on the topic of interaction between Jews/non-Jews. Also: transferring a piece of a corpse leads into a discussion of tzaraat. Wherein interfering with the skin ailment is prohibited (despite a possible human inclination to try to tweak what the kohen would see before diagnosing tzaraat or no). And: the prevalence of issues of tumah and taharah in a daily way, and in the context of Shabbat. Plus: A list of cosmetic routine actions that are prohibited on Shabbat, but don't incur a sacrifice if you do them. What's What: "Shevut." (A curious placement of this list that gets some unpacking).
June 8, 2020
Shabbat 93: Making a Show of Support
When two people go carrying.... A case where one person was capable to carry and the other was not - who is obligated to bring a korban and why? Being nice may not always be the best course of action, if you aren't truly helping. So, what are the parameters? Basically, always check it out. Plus: Carrying less than the measure of food that would require a sacrifice in a container - the container doesn't count - after all, you can't carry soup in your bare hands. Similarly, carrying a live person on a bed, but that's not the case for carrying a dead body on a bed. What's What: a refresher of ikar/tafel.
June 7, 2020
Shabbat 92: "Regular" Carrying - Right Hand, Left Hand, Lap, Shoulder... Head?
Shifting focus from the object that is carried to the subject who is doing the carrying. Right hand, left hand, in your lap, on your shoulder. Alternatively, carrying in an alternative way - with a "shinui," not the normal way of carrying - that exempts the carrier from culpability for the act of carrying. What about carrying on your head?! Anshei Hotzel (or Hutzal) did regularly carry their baskets on their head. The Gemara emends this text itself... Also, a woman who wears a "sinar" (pants? pantaloons? a skirt over jeans?) - indusputed (!) halakha. Plus: When carrying must be divided among 2 people. Who's Who: Bnei Kehat.
June 6, 2020
Shabbat 91: Carrying Is Never Just Carrying
Purpose and intent, when it comes to carrying tiny amounts. And how that differs across people, and across plans, which change. Plus: Lining up the opinions of the mishnah. Also: what happens when the act of carrying even this tiny amount is not completed? And what happens when one person completes the plan of another - can we really transfer intent? And if so, how far does that principle go? Finally, when changing your mind doesn't change your obligation.
June 5, 2020
Shabbat 90: Chasing Crows
Back to Shabbat topics, and minimums for carrying to be obligated in bringing a sin-offering - including a list of items that require an offering no matter how little of them you carry. In contrast: When it comes to metals, various substances were used to protect the Temple, to clean the lamps, etc. That is, when it comes to donations to the Temple, "any amount" is too little - rather, the amount has to be of actual use to the Beit HaMikdash. Plus: The "mekek," and the need to protect the scrolls in the Beit HaMikdash.
June 4, 2020
Shabbat 89: Where the Satan Goes, There Go Questions That Best Mankind
When the Satan went to God, asked for the Torah, searched the world for it, and finds it, as per God's instruction, with Moshe Rabbenu. What is this all about? Namely, what is "the Satan" in rabbinic literature? Again, what's going on here? What is this passage all about? Exploring the place of Torah and humanity in creation - and the need for people doing mitzvot. How could the perfect Torah be given to imperfect mankind?! Where's the sense in that?
June 3, 2020
Shabbat 88: Who Needs Free Will Anyway?
Were Bnei Yisrael forced to keep the Torah? That seems inappropriate. But was there any other way for God to give the Torah? An encounter between humanity and the Divine seems to go beyond human experience. Also: the semblance of free choice, from former refuseniks to our post-Israel experiences, and the potential paradox of choice. So is that coercion per se, or helpful? That close encounter with God may not be all that comfy - just because we want it to be. Yet, Bnei Yisrael do accept the Torah freely in the time of the Purim story. Plus: the words of the Torah shatter into 70 languages, a message of accessibility, across nations and cultures.
June 2, 2020
Shabbat 87: Which Do You Want First -- Good News or Bad News?
When did the giving of the Torah actually take place? Figuring the precise date of the first year. Also: preperatory separation between husbands and wives. And his personal kal vachomer, to separate from his own wife,in perpetuity. Breaking the tablets. Moshe's own sense of the right thing to do. Also: an interplay between God, Moshe, Bnei Yisrael, in the context of getting the chronology of events right. Plus: the relay conversation from God to Moshe to Bnei Yisrael, and back again. What was the substance of that conversation? The mitzvah of setting boundaries, or the punishment and reward system of mitzvot (or the reward and punishment system, if you will).
June 1, 2020
Shabbat 86: No Comfort Hugs at Mount Sinai?
The fourth of the four asmakhtah mishnayot, with four topics within the one mishnah: polatet shikhvat zera, bathing an infant who has undergone brit milah on Shabbat, separation of husband and wife, anointing on Yom Kippur. Which leads into a discussion of the separation between husbands and wives during the giving of the Torah. Via hints of non-legal verses from Tanakh. Also, how the Gemara delves into the first category at length, and why that feels prurient. Plus: separation between husbands and wives at Mount Sinai - when, exactly, did that begin? How, exactly, did they handle it? Also: the importance of careful reading of the entirety of Torah.
May 31, 2020
Shabbat 85: How Much Agriculture Did the Rabbis Really Know?!
Asmakhtah, again. And a whole new discussion: kilayim, the prohibition against sowing seeds together. Mapping out the garden... And on to the salvation of the Jewish people at the end of days. Which leads into a question about rabbinic authority when it comes to agriculture, of all things. Yet the Torah itself, claims the Gemara, teaches a great deal about agriculture - for example, the inference possible from the concerns not to encroach on your neighbor's land. Which has implication for planting. And the all-encompassing nature of Torah and halakhah.
May 30, 2020
Shabbat 84: Little Boxes, Impure Boxes (for Friday, May 29, 2020, Shavuot)
What's What: Midras tumah. When boxes are contaminated, as it were, with tumah - when they open from the side or from the top. Whereas a very large box is not rendered impure. Now, what about earthenware? That's not able to be rendered impure in this way. So, what about the ship? The difference between midras tumah and the handling of an object that renders it impure.
May 30, 2020
Shabbat 83: A Ship Is Not Impure
The importance of context, when the backdrop of idolatry shows up here. Also: What's What: Tumat Heset - the tumah that is transferred when moving an object of idolatry. Plus: A new mishnah, with another divergent, and somewhat cryptic topic, and the unpacking of it by the Gemara, about the impurity - or lack thereof - of a ship.
May 28, 2020
Shabbat 82: When Everyone Has a Remedy for You
A nod of appreciation to the topic of witchcraft. Also: When a father tells his son that learning the basics is important. Plus: Those basics - some moral lessons about going to the bathroom when you need to. Also, some health lessons to assist one who is constipated -- so many recommend solutions. And: a new (unusual) chapter begins. Asmakhtot.
May 27, 2020
Shabbat 81: Bathroom Etiquette (and Shabbat)
How heavy is the rock you throw at a bird? What's the amount that makes a rock a problem to carry on Shabbat? It can't be muktzah, because it has essential use. Namely, bathroom etiquette involved setting aside rocks and leaves and more as functional toilet paper in a world that didn't have indoor plumbing. Plus: Kavod ha-briot, in its essential form.
May 26, 2020
Shabbat 80: How Not to Prepare Your Daughter for Marriage
More on blue eye shadow: whoever shadows just one eye?! Modesty vs. hypermodesty - not just a tension of the modern era. Plus: Lime qua depilatory and emollient - as applied to R. Bivei's daughter, in contrast to R. Bivei's neighbor's daughter. Until R. Nachman shuts it down. Also: Maaseh Merkavah - with a stinging hornet, no less. With incorrect study (appropriately blamed on the instructor). And: Plaster mixed with straw in mourning the Temple.
May 25, 2020
Shabbat 79: Recycling Sifrei Torah (No)
When carrying becomes a topic of documents and of receipts or promissory notes, it's only logical that the discussion would veer to parchment and tefillin and mezuzot. Which leads us to ask, to what extent does the purpose of the act determine the nature of carrying. Plus: More on animal hides than we ever knew before. Also: A truncated quote on repurposing, and the going up in holiness. What's What: "Duchsustos." And practically speaking: go look up the cited texts!
May 24, 2020
Shabbat 78: Blue Eyeshadow
The liquids that are beverages or food, and are also used for medicinal purposes - on which measure is used to determine how much one would need to carry to be obligated to bring a korban? It seems leniencies are bred into the system. Also: Blood - using blood to heal... a sty? A cataract? From a chicken? From a bat? Plus: Blue eyeshadow. And still more on the measurements for carrying all kinds of things.
May 23, 2020
Shabbat 77: The Need for Mosquitoes in the World
Dedicated for the yarzheit of Dr. Michael E. Osband Melech Gershom Channa Ben Eliezer v’Chasya Hesha. Alef vs ayin - the Gemara is figuring out the Mishnah's spelling. Also: the purpose of every (annoying) thing in the world, including mosquitoes. Plus: Rabbi Zera pays a visit to his father-in-law.
May 22, 2020
Shabbat 76: Food for a Cow, Food for a Camel, and Luggage Weight Limits
Where what you value has impact on what is: namely, is the amount for which one is held accountable an objective measurement, or dependent on the individual's values? More specifically: when you're feeding a cow, that's different from feeding a camel. And how all of the above pertains to the phenomenon of carrying, in terms of violating Shabbat. The different component values do not usually combine. Plus: the measurements for violating carrying with various liquids - wine, milk, and more (or maybe those are objective measures too). Rabbi Shimon plays a role throughout.
May 21, 2020
Shabbat 75: Killing Is Not in the Spirit of Shabbat
Mazalot - divination vs. astronomy, that which at worst carries a death sentence for those who practice it vs that which is a mitzvah to undertake, as a means to appreciate the Divine. Also, the hilazon and the number of korbanot hatat one who uses it to make tekhelet... on Shabbat, if one would. Touching on bigger discussions for another time: "mitasek"; "psik reisheih." Plus: Another view (rejected) of avot and toladot that could entail a lot more korbanot. And the next mishnah, which brings us back to carrying.
May 20, 2020
Shabbat 74: The Problem of Seedless Watermelon
Who's Who: Nachmani. Borer - what are the parameters of this melakhah? A tannaitic statement needs rereading by the Amoraim, to establish just that - 5 attempts, 4 refutations. Also, the halakhic upshot of borer. Plus: the melakhah of "ofeh," baking, and not "bishul" - language choice. Also: counting up melakhot in any creative endeavor.
May 19, 2020
Shabbat 73: The 39 Melakhot of Shabbat
First, Abaye vs Rava on throwing an object in reshut harabim -- if the resultant action alines with your own concerns, don't you have to bring a korban? Which brings us to the component parts of a complete action of melakhah: your act and your intent. Plus: The 39 prohibited creative labors of Shabbat - a list worthy of its own discussion. Including the groupings that help us remember the list better, as mnemonics.
May 18, 2020
Shabbat 72: My Mitzvah Can Beat Up Your Mitzvah
The Gemara claims: Shabbat is a more stringent area of halakhah than other mitzvot - and where it is less so. And then the Gemara twists and turns to figure out exactly what this case is. Which bring us to different applications of "shogeg." And what makes a moment of sin? Which raises questions about the nature of sin itself, and the opportunity to atone for it.
May 17, 2020
Shabbat 71: When Eating Fat Is Literally a Sin
R. Yochanan vs. Resh Lakish on the number of sin-offerings one brings upon eating "chelev," the prohibited fats. Delving in, the biblical verses and beyond. Can the sin multiply, if you discover it at different times? Or is one period of ignorance enough to make it one sin and one sin-offering? To what extent does the sacrifice's designation have impact?
May 16, 2020
Shabbat 70: Keeping Shabbat Is Hard
How did we come by these 39 individual melakhot? The Gemara finds an answer in the biblical text on the severity of the punishment. Which, of course, distinguishes between mezid (intentional) violation and shogeg (unintentional) violation. How this teaches the severity of Shabbat! Also: Gematria! Plus: Isn't lighting a fire the quintessential violation if Shabbat? R. Yosi's position suggests otherwise. That kind of dispute is one of the times where we just pause to recognize the challenges in the Oral Torah, too.
May 15, 2020
Shabbat 69: On the *Second* Day, Adam (and Eve) Rested
Why do we need to know that there are 39 melakhot? After all, there's a list! It's all about what happens in a time period of forgetting (he'eleim). Defining "shogeg" with regard to Shabbat (again). Also: understanding the korban chatat. Plus: The case of the person who loses track of time and doesn't know what day is Shabbat. Do we resolve that in accord with God's count of 7 days or the human experience of Shabbat? Also, what does it mean to start keeping Shabbat again out there in the wilderness (if that's where you lost track of time)? The significance of Kiddush and Havdalah and the nature of Shabbat in our experience of the day (when keeping the melakhot is not the overwhelming experience of the day).
May 14, 2020
Shabbat 68: When You Forget What Day It Is, and That Day Is Shabbat
Back to basics: The categories (avot) of prohibited labor on Shabbat, their sub-categories (toladot), and the significance of having both avot and toladot. Now, if one forgot that it was shabbat or forgot that the given action violated shabbat... the avot and toladot lead to careful bookkeeping, which minimize the number of sin-offeringa that would be needed. Also, note that this is all the negative aspect of Shabbat (making sure not to violate Shabbat, "shamor"), but don't forget the positive side of things (as found in the mitzvah to remember Shabbat ("zakhor"). Also, a couple of cases where these rules apply, where one truly forgets that it is shabbat. Who's Who: Munbaz.
May 13, 2020
Shabbat 67: The Big Red Tree
When folk remedies don't heal, and might be worse - superstitious nonsense or "darkei haEmori"? Rabbi Meir and the Sages disagree. But Abaye and Rava agree: that which heals is not superstitious. But do the talismans listed in the gemara fit that bill? Plus: Painting a tree with red paint to spur prayers for mercy. And: when we need to reach out and ask for help, with no guilt or shame (and when we need to offer help to those who have reached out).
May 12, 2020
Shabbat 66: Transferring a Fever to a Passing Ant (Not on Shabbat!)
Is a prosthetic leg to be considered a shoe? What about going out on Shabbat with prosthetics? The Gemara's discussion does not address what we might think is the key concern. Plus: Some Who's Who: Abaye. Also: Healing practices that don't involve grinding medicine - including... superstition? Some folks remedies seem more medicinal than others (and some of which were allowed on Shabbat).
May 11, 2020
Shabbat 65: Are We Wearing Our Masks - or Carrying Them?
More things a woman might wear. Including strings in pierced ears, holding the place for future earrings. Medean garments. Etc. With all the implications for the masks we wear today... (eruv aside). Thus, the lasting strength of the Oral Law. Also: Shmuel's father, the girls in the household, and going to the river or mikveh. Sourcing rain water and mixing it with river water. This seems to be a stringency, and opens the question: what about the rest of Babylonian Jewry?
May 10, 2020
Shabbat 64: Erotic in the Eye of the Beholder
Different ornamental items - how internal and external pieces of jewelry might be treated differently in halakhah. Context matters, and individual sensitivities matter too, with the onus on the person doing the "looking." Also: Hair decor, including wigs, all presumably for beautification - and therefore needing adjudication as to whether that's carrying on Shabbat. Conclusion: appearance always has been, and always is going to be important to people. Rabbi Akiva: and so a person doesn't have to go out of her way to look unattractive.
May 9, 2020
Shabbat 63: Swords into Ploughshares
The smell of cinnamon in Jerusalem. The time of the messiah - the perpetual question of how different it will really be after all. Plus: Never forget the plain sense (pshat) of the text. Namely, discovering the layers of meaning of the biblical text, and the possibility of misinterpretation of R. Kahana, without contextual reading. Also: 4 kinds of chavrutot, learning partnerships. And: the best way to give tzedakah - support a business (with all the ramifications for current events).
May 8, 2020
Shabbat 62: Rabbi Meir: Tefillin Are Not a Positive, Time-bound Commandment (Wait, what?!)
First, defining some terms of armor. Then, a new mishnah introduced several topics: starting with balsam oil, and the absence of a decree when there's no post-Temple joy in the item (how recent the destruction must have seemed). Plus: additional Torah prohibitions for women, in terms of wearing them on Shabbat... In contrast to what a man cannot wear. From shepherds to every man. Also: Are women a nation unto themselves? Plus: Tefillin as an example for what women do not wear....except that here they do! Why don't women wear tefillin after all? What's What: Chisurei Mechsera, when the text is lacking.
May 7, 2020
Shabbat 61: Medicinal Amulets
Going out on Shabbat with one shoe and an injured foot: why do we wear shoes? Plus: Amulets! (What is going on with them?? How are they okay? How do they heal? And reliably, no less? Nonetheless, they seem to have been used without critique.
May 6, 2020
Shabbat 60: The Story of the Nailed Sandal
Parallel structuring, on what a man cannot wear out on Shabbat. The hobnailed sandal and the reason it was prohibited get the focus of this daf. This decree follows tragic events, and finds a culprit in this shoe, with 3 versions of the narrative that led to the decree. The lessons go beyond the danger of the shoe, however. For starters, why would you ever wear something to injure people on Shabbat?! Yet the prominence seems clear, given the attention of this daf. Also, the specificity of Chazal's decrees. Plus: R. Hiya's concern for his reputation as a posek.
May 5, 2020
Shabbat 59: The Queen of England Does Not Show Off Her Crown
The city of gold, which is to say, more ornaments, to be worn (or not) in the public domain. Rabbi Akiva's gift to his wife, Rachel. But in this case, the korban hatat might be required, in contrast to the previous ornaments, this far. The difference that being a particularly distinguished woman makes. Plus, the discussion of the kelilah, that tiara-like adornment, and which of the sages are cited as permitting the item as one of clothing. Including: Levi, his identification, arrival in Babylon, and the transfer of rabbinic power in Jerusalem. Also, how the women react to hearing that this kelilah was permitted attire.
May 4, 2020
Shabbat 58: What Makes a Bell a Bell?
What's What: "Atarot Kallot." More on clothing that is decreed against wearing on Shabbat, lest one come to carry. Extending the discussion to focus on a bell - that is worn, that's a "kli," and the importance of the clapper. The value of adornment, including decorative elements in the home - which may not have "kli" status.
May 3, 2020
Shabbat 57: With Ribbons in Her Hair
A new chapter! The decree against women wearing certain kinds of adornments on Shabbat - lest they take them off to show them off and forget to put them back on, and thereby carry. Plus how all that relates to tevilah, immersion in the mikveh. Also: Sussing out what an unfamiliar name is for one such clothing item, for which multiple halakhot apply.
May 2, 2020
Shabbat 56: In the Footsteps of Repentance
On the practice of close reading of the biblical text, and the strong interpretive tradition of Chazal. Understanding biblical personalities via the reinterpretation of them. Focus on reinterpreting King David, as a non-sinner, despite the biblical text, and because of it. Who's Who: R. Shmuel bar Nachmani.
May 1, 2020
Shabbat 55: The Scarlet Tav
Selecting good people to be protected from the angels of destruction and wicked people to be identified for them. But Justice asks: how different are they really?! The Gemara goes on to explain the rebuke in place here. The discussion as to how and why the the tzaddikim were marked at all emerges from why it was done with the Hebrew letter Tav. Also, Zekhut Avot, and what it means to not rely on it. Plus: the story of Reuben and Bilhah in the biblical text as prep for tomorrow's daf, which elaborates on those who never sinned, despite all appearances to the contrary (including Reuven).
April 30, 2020
Shabbat 54: The Place of Rebuke
First, an addendum to the one-armed woman of yesterday. Next: limits on what animals can wear, as it were, on Shabbat -- and the implication of those limits on the animals' human owners. Plus: R. Elazar ben Azariah, and how he apparently let his cow go out on Shabbat wearing exactly the prohibited item - how can that be? A refresher as to who he was and the implications of this decision. Also: wishing you a happy Yom HaAtzmaut! Dedicated in memory of Anna Rutner Sara bat Yom Tov v’Rachel. (Some audio overlaps/cut-offs today; apologies - we'd get rid of them if we could!)
April 29, 2020
Shabbat 53: Why Coffee Is Allowed on Shabbat (a good thing, too)
First, the distinction between medicine for a person as compared to an animal; next, no medicine on Shabbat at all. Plus: 2 very strange stories, one involving the miracle of a nursing man, and the other, a man's hypermodesty (are either of these things good? we discuss). Also: a meaningful Yom HaZikaron to you all - may Israel know no more pain.
April 28, 2020
Shabbat 52: An Unruly Red Heifer
Animals in the public domain - what can they wear, what counts as "carrying"? We focus on the parah adumah, the red heifer, and today what extent wearing some bridle, bit, reins, etc. would invalidate its status as a parah adumah (or what it doesn't). The means to control the animal does not "work" the animal, which would invalidate it. Also, questions of definition with regard to Shabbat, as compared to tumah and taharah - rings, and their function, their composition, etc. Plus: observing the range of the topic and pace and process of the journey of the daf.
April 27, 2020
Shabbat 51: Herding Cats
Can you insulate to keep things cold? R. Yehudah HaNasi contradicts himself - until Abaye resolves the contradiction. Also, a lesson in rabbinic authority, and just how oral the Talmud was. Plus: Perek 5: What about your animals' melakhah on Shabbat?
April 26, 2020
Shabbat 50: Washing Your Face in the Service of God
Again, the overlap of hatmanah and muktzah, and again, the importance of intent, as we set items aside... for use on Shabbat. Also: Pursuing beauty, in celebration of God's world Dedicated in memory of Chaya Bayla bat Yeshayahu Yaakov v'Sarah Tziporah
April 25, 2020
Shabbat 49: Doves' Wings
More hatmanah/insulation. Elisha (not the prophet). Explaining why the dove. Plus: The important discussion of the 39 Melakhot and their ostensible source in the Mishkan, with its attendant machloket and absolute agreement.
April 24, 2020
Shabbat 48: Keeping the Soup Hot Friday Night
The new perek! Insulating food on Shabbat, without cooking it. What substances protect the heat without increasing it and cooking. Plus, two stories that happened in the house of the Resh Galuta, specifically regarding violations of Shabbat (different practices, rightly and wrongly, seems to have been an age-old problem).
April 23, 2020
Shabbat 47: What Do Clothes Mean to You? Halakhic Subjectivity (in a good way)
First, an unusual use of a biblical verse that we found delightful. Next: Carrying ashes on Shabbat - muktzah, no? Which leads into an important discussion about the value of clothing for the poor and the wealthy. Also, "mi'us" in the text! Plus: the final mishnah of the perek, with a new contraption to accompany the ancient candles that leads to concerns of muktzah (they get resolved, not to worry).
April 22, 2020
Shabbat 46: Living Proof
Stories of Hazal - how they kept the laws of Muktzah themselves, as per the Gemara's account. Sussing out halakhic positions from observed practice. Also: undoing vows on Shabbat, specifically those that a husband undoes for his wife, and the vow and its nullification relates to Shabbat, Plus: how sha'atnez connects to this discussion of Muktzah. Also: keep in mind the maximalist/minimalist divergence of approach.
April 21, 2020
Shabbat 45: When You Hang a Burning Lamp in Your Palm Tree
More on Muktzah. Including the case in the title, and how it relates to bein hashmashot. Plus: R. Shimon's minority opinion on the dried figs and raisins that are on the category of "muktzah" (a minimalist approach) vs. R. Yehudah's majority opinion (a maximalist approach).
April 20, 2020
Shabbat 44: Ick, don't touch that! Exactly.
More Muktzah. Still no statement to that effect by the Gemara. That which is disgusting, that which is designated not for use before Shabbat, and that which serves as a "basis" for other things that cannot be moved.
April 19, 2020
Shabbat 43: The Untranslatable Muktzah
Some overview, and some cases from this daf - of these things that are prohibited to carry on Shabbat. Also: Defining "nolad," which is, of course, muktzah too.
April 18, 2020
Shabbat 42: When You Dig a Hole, Do You Need the Hole, or Do You Need the Dirt?
So many ways of not *meaning* to do melakhah. Partially defining "melekhet machshevet," and its requirements. Intent (davar she'eino mitkaven). And needing the physical outcome of the action (melakhah she'ainah tzerichah legufah) (as per the dispute between R. Shimon and R. Yehudah (and everyone less). Plus: Cooking spices indirectly, away from the heat source. That is, kli rishon, sheni, etc. And what happens when herbs cook very rapidly.
April 17, 2020
Shabbat 41: Role Models
Who's Who: Rabbi Zera. Also: What the Gemara learns from Rabbi Yehuda's conduct in the bathhouse. Plus: Warming devices for heating on Shabbat.
April 16, 2020
Shabbat 40: No Showers on Shabbat
The decree against full showers or baths on Shabbat, even when the water has been heated prior to Shabbat. Plus: the hierarchy of rabbinic authority, in which " Tannaim trump Amoraim. Two caveats from Anne: 1) when I said 3 days of yom tov in "America," I did not intend to exclude the rest of the Diaspora!; 2) in the discussion of long-haired bathing, yes, I'm well aware that there are women with short hair and men with long hair. Also: Who's Who: Rabbah.
April 15, 2020
Shabbat 39: Heated by Hellfire
Still more cooking - frying your egg on the sidewalk ( is the sun)? Acceptable or not? What about-face hot springs. Also: Drawing inferences vs. a tradition handed down -- and who gives in in matters of dispute?
April 14, 2020
Shabbat 38: Putting One Over on Hilkhot Shabbat - Temporarily
More cooking! A decree that sheds light on halakhic cooking - and human nature. Defining terms: acting be-mezid, be-sho-geg, or forgetting. Also: Why intention matters, and how forgetting means you're not cooking anyway. How completing the prohibited action doesn't automatically mean the outcome (cooked food) is prohibited too - except it is. Plus: Ovens - the cooking apparatus, if you will - and how heat matters, as does an oven's structure.
April 13, 2020
Shabbat 37: None of These Melakhot Is Exactly as It Seems
Cooking! When more time on the fire is better or worse for the food. Also: Understanding the variables in cooking as a melakhah. Including how Yardaena likes her steak (just so you know) and why that matters.
April 12, 2020
Shabbat 36: We Don't Always Know What the Words Mean - and the Gemara Agrees
Shofar, aravot, and the name of Babylonia - definitions in the absence of the Temple and losing the nuances of language. Also: Cooking! We begin the discussion of leaving food on fire on Shabbat, or returning it to fire on Shabbat.
April 11, 2020
Shabbat 35: The First Pre-Shabbat Siren
Erev Shabbat preparation, beginning with the 6 shofar blasts announcing the coming day. And the 5 shofar blasts of the Babylonian diaspora - of some concern to those in Israel.
April 10, 2020
Shabbat 34: The Twilight Zone, Literally
A brief mention of "hatmanah" and crock pots. More: The checklist going into Shabbat. Keeping tension in check, and welcoming Shabbat well. Also: Bein Hashmashot - between the suns - and different kinds of definitions for this amorphous time.
April 9, 2020
Shabbat 33: Unfair Stereotyping of Women in the Ancient World - Unlocked! (Maybe)
One of those dapim we were eager to get to - it's got drama and conflict and religious pathos; it's got spying and flighty women; it's got the ability to provoke a serious discussion about whether Judaism is ideally integrated into the world, or held apart from the world. Namely, the story of how Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son came to live in a cave for more than a dozen years. Plus the connection to Shabbat that makes the placement of this narrative in this tractate logical.
April 8, 2020
Shabbat 32: Scare Tactics
Three sins for which women die in childbirth - from "women's mitzvot," such as they are. Why these are so severe, and the cautionary mishnah. Also: Rabbi Yannai and not relying on miracles. Plus: Theodicy (again). And: Cause and effect between sins and negative outcomes for society.
April 7, 2020
Shabbat 31: "Go and learn!"
Hillel and Shammai themselves, the famous stories. The dare to anger Hillel, who takes every question seriously, patiently. "Convert me while I stand on one foot." The ways Hillel and Shammai were so different, and yet also the same. Also: The value of Yirat Hashem.
April 6, 2020
Shabbat 30: When King David Tried to Cheat the Angel of Death
Extinguishing a flame to prevent the flame from being seen vs doing so to save the candle... For example, saving a life... Or improving the sick person's situation. Also: King David's death and what God doesn't tell man, and how nobody outsmarts the Angel of Death, not really. Plus: The effort to keep Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) out of the canon of the Bible, and why it didn't work.
April 5, 2020
Shabbat 29: MacGyvering Shabbat Candles
Repurposing a garment to be wicks - yea or nay? Plus: The prohibition of getting up an oil dispenser for candle from an egg shell (never mind the challenge in securing eggs in Israel right now), and it would be permitted. Also: The need for context in understanding halakhah and how psak works (including what happens on social media).
April 4, 2020
Shabbat 28: It's a Unicorn!
Still talking about ritual impurity... Including non-kosher animals. Holy endeavors must use a kosher animal, and the Gemara explains where this rational doesn't apply to tefillin, which are defined by Halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai - and no argument. Plus: The "tachash" - an unknown animal (kosher? unkosher?) used in making this Mishkan.
April 3, 2020
Shabbat 27: Strange and Stranger Mitzvot, and What We Learn from Them
The impurity of Tzara'at and the impurity of the creepy-crawlies -- can one be inferred from the other? Different ways one happens upon tumah - vs. the tumah and experience of Tzara'at. Also: Tzitzit. With Sha'atnez. Literally. Plus: Learning from verses in proximity to each other. And: Some musing on the surreality of the discussions of these mitzvot (and Yardaena's story of sha'atnez). Also: why the blind are obligated in Tzitzit.
April 2, 2020
Shabbat 26: Don't Let Your Daughter-in-Law Catch on Fire
The audio is a little wonky today - with gaps and overlaps - we don't know why (why tried to fix it) - we are sorry about that....... Back to the oils for Shabbat candle use (or not-use, as the case may be). And: a very strange drama that illustrates the volatility (flammability) of balsam oil and some family dynamics... What if you don't have olive oil? Because plenty of locales did not.
April 1, 2020
Shabbat 25: Who Is Rich? Those Who Have Indoor Plumbing
Some basic terms of what invalidates kodshim - the sanctified offerings - including immediate mourners who cannot partake. Also: welcoming Shabbat with nice candles, with washing in hot water. Preparing for Shabbat, with a focus on what matters. The complications of the current era and our changes under the coronavirus. Who's Who: R. Yehuda bar Ilai.
March 31, 2020
Shabbat 24: Ambivalence about the Sages' Ambivalence about Chanukah
The influence of Chanukah: should it be mentioned in Birkat HaMazon? What about Musaf? How do we incorporate new-fangled holidays into the liturgy, without casting aspersions on the biblical holidays?
March 30, 2020
Shabbat 23: Like It or Not, People Gossip
Blessing the "commandment" of Chanukah. Lighting at every entrance to prevent suspicions. Pe'ah - leaving gleanings the right way. Also: human nature. And concern for community norms and well-being. Plus triage for when you can't afford everything, and don't want to diminish the value of any mitzvah.
March 29, 2020
Shabbat 22: Repurposing Chanukah Candles? Nope
How do we treat ritual objects? Disgracing a mitzvah. Are the tools and byproducts of a mitzvah inherently holy? 3 debates between Rav and Shmuel, including R. Shimon's opinion on the physical outcome of melakhah.
March 28, 2020
Shabbat 21: There's No Masekhet Chanukah
Bad oil, bad wicks. Also: Chanukah! Embarking on everything you wanted to know about the holiday and its halakhot, at least from the texts of the Sages.
March 27, 2020
Shabbat 20: Does My Toast Have Crunch?
What does it mean for something to be cooked? How much must be cooked before Shabbat starts? The measurement of Ben Dorsai. Welcoming Shabbat - to exclude a whole host of possible candle materials (ch. 2). Plus a discussion of vocabulary.
March 26, 2020
Shabbat 19: Your Dog Can Break Shabbos
All kinds of things come together: Jew/non-Jew interaction, Pesach, selling chametz... Kutach. Shabbat responsibility (when those who are not obligated in Shabbat do what would be violating Shabbat for Jews). Plus: Passive Shabbat "violation." And: When the talmudic text is absent and that changes psak. Also: Muktzah, and the limits of local authority (or: how halakhah is supposed to function).
March 25, 2020
Shabbat 18: "Set It and Forget It" - A Daf of Modern Shabbat Issues
A new mishnah, a new machloket between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai: beginning a process before shabbat that continues into shabbat, with no new involvement on your part. Namely letting your tools and vessels rest on shabbat. Plus: the concept of a "shabbos clock" (timer). And the concept of mar'it ayin (the appearance gives the wrong impression). Also, the beginning of the conversation of Jew/non-Jew interactions when it comes to shabbat.
March 24, 2020
Shabbat 17: The Sword in the Study Hall
Hillel and Shammai. Harvesting grapes in purity, sure, but what about olives? Preserving Hillel's honor in the face of Shammai's decree. Also: the passions riding high when it comes to figuring out the last of the 18 decrees, including using and avoiding non-Jews.
March 23, 2020
Shabbat 16: When All of the Vessels in the Palace Were Impure
The oddity of the decree to make vessels made of metal impure. Breaking vessels to renew their pure status. What makes rain Waters become standing water, and the significance of intent. Plus: A very strange decree rendering the Kutim/Samaritans impure. Also: the impulse to protect the halakhah with stringent decrees.
March 22, 2020
Shabbat 15: When Rabbinic Decrees Create Stability
Impure land - who said, and when? Six decrees out of Usha (Who's Who and What's What). What's the purpose of a rabbinic decree? Specifically: When terumah comes in contact with possibly impure ground, garments, vessels, spit, or urine.
March 21, 2020
Shabbat 14: Making the Torah Off-Limits
The impurity of the Sefer Torah - what? Why?! Busy hands. With a note that pure/impure are not value judgements. Now, who decided what? What was ascribed to Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai was really Hillel and Shammai themselves - and those great men really got along.
March 20, 2020
Shabbat 13: A Fool Is Not Harmed (or: The Dead Feel No Pain)
R. Hananya ben Hizkiyah ben Garon, who saved the Book of Yezhekel (Ezekiel). Plus, Megillat Taanit. We're a product of our times, whenever that may be.
March 19, 2020
Shabbat 12: Did Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha Break Shabbos?!
Tefillin on erev Shabbat, and the message of awareness of God at all time. Bikur Holim, and God's presence in the visit. Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha - and the prohibition against adjusting a candle on Shabbat (was he an "adam chashuv" or not?).
March 18, 2020
Shabbat 11: If All the Seas Were Ink
A powerful statement that encompasses the Talmud's action, in full. Then, small actions to avoid on erev Shabbat, lest you forget, into shabbat (the Mishnah picks up where the last one left off). Who's Who (what): Matos Mechasya. What's What: Seyag - a fence for the Torah.
March 17, 2020
Shabbat 10: Is Prayer Like a Good Meal?
Rav Kahana's exceptional approach to prayer - and the fact that we can turn to God in different frames of mind. Plus: The potential conflict between prayer and learning Torah - coming down heavily on the side of the eternal life earned in talmud Torah (with an aside for the proper mentality for prayer).
March 16, 2020
Shabbat 9: Get Your Hair Done in the Morning
Examining the essence of the threshold - inside, outside, fluctuating? Establishing space before time... And now on to time: What activities to avoid before Mincha, until after you have davened. What's What: Sha'ot Zmaniot, Minchah Gedolah, Minchah Ketanah.
March 15, 2020
Shabbat 8: It Doesn't Matter How You Use Your Domain
The definitions and oddities of these four domains, from a large barrel to a basket -- objects vs. domains. Also some reflections on our definitions of space in this challenging time of redefining space, inside and outside of quarantine, closing of public spaces, and ongoing community.
March 14, 2020
Shabbat 7: Throw a Juicy Cake of Figs against a Wall
The Karmalit - defining what it is and what it is not, in relation to reshut ha-rabim and reshut ha-yachid. Plus: Exploring the outer parameters of the karmalit, including why the Gemara cares about throwing that juicy cake of figs. And why we care about the karmalit.
March 13, 2020
Shabbat 6: Looking for the Beginning, Middle, and End
Defining the 4 domains (well, two of them). Paying attention to the differences in our space. Carrying in and carrying out, including from an "exempt place" (mekom patur).
March 12, 2020
Shabbat 5: What If You Never Stop Walking?
Answering Rabbi Akiva (from Shabbat 4). The importance of one's hands in completing the act of Hotza'ah. Probing what counts as a resting place to constitute completed "hanachah." What's What: Teiku
March 11, 2020
Shabbat 4: When Is Flying through the Air Like Resting on the Ground?
The Gemara tries to figure out why the poor person in the first mishnah of the masekhet would be in violation of Hotza'ah on Shabbat. Rabbi Akiva has an interesting take.
March 10, 2020
Shabbat 3: Uprooting and Letting Rest - Carrying in Halakhah
Each tractate is a unit unto itself. Levels of violation of Shabbat. Who's Who: Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, Rav, Rav Hiya. What's What (Shabbat edition): Mezid, Shogeg, Patur aval asur. Melakhah definition: Hotza'ah
March 9, 2020
Shabbat 2 use this link
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March 8, 2020
Shabbat 2 (Re-release): That's No Introduction to Shabbat!
Recognizing the terms and definitions we need for this tractate: "av" melakhah, "toladah," and the two main domains from and to which one is not permitted to carry. Note: An unedited version made its way to Apple (at least) - we have no idea how, and this extra text is an attempt to see how and when it updates. Apologies to the 76 of you who listened to the original (hopefully correct!) version - when we previewed it, we only heard the edited version. Thank you for bearing with us while we figure out what went wrong (esp. if it didn't affect you)
March 8, 2020
Berakhot 64: The Finish Line of Masekhet Berakhot
In this episode, and in a departure from our usual mandate, we learn through the entirety of the very short daf. Basically, tune in for some wise statements from a few rabbis, including the peace that Torah learning brings to the world. Plus the Hadran itself - please God, we will return to Masekhet Berakhot.
March 7, 2020
Berakhot 63: Power Play (and Win)
Some wise moral one-liners (no, they're not funny, but they're good). The surge to maintain religious authority from Israel over Babylon. And... the primacy of learning Torah, what else? Also: apologies for audio issues today (we're not sure why it's spotty today)
March 6, 2020
Berakhot 62: Sex Ed, Up Close and Personal
When one rabbi spies on another -- learning bathroom practices and sexual practices by observation. The true meaning of tzniut (modesty). Also: The theological challenge of King David's punishment.
March 5, 2020
Berakhot 61: Rabbi Akiva's Moment of Death and Shema
The yetzer hara and male/female norms of social interaction. And: Rabbi Akiva, his refusal to stop teaching Torah, his capture by the Romans, and his "deathbed" recitation of Shema - and what all that means to us, philosophically and religiously.
March 4, 2020
Berakhot 60: Happy Is the Person Who Is Always Scared
The prayers to say when you traverse a city of criminals. The prayers to say when you enter a Roman bathhouse. Plus: Taking a positive stand re any news - framing our experiences, framing our days - anchoring ourselves with prayer.
March 3, 2020
Berakhot 59: We Don't Bless God for the Suez Canal
The cycle of time and how it gives rise to the requirement for new blessings over our experience of the natural world. And "Ha-tov ve-ha-Metiv," redux
March 2, 2020
Berakhot 58: We Are All Individuals!
A large gathering of Jewish people gets a bracha too. Also: Rav Sheshet and the power of a steely blind gaze. Celebrating the power of the individual in the congregation as a whole.
March 1, 2020
Berakhot 57: Deepest, Darkest, Fearsome Racy Dreams Writ Well
Sightings in your dreams that indicate miracles coming your way. And the spin that renders dreams positive taken to the extreme. Also: Sixtieths.
February 29, 2020
Berakhot 56: Dreaming of Elephants
Abaye and Rava dream the same dreams, which are consistently interpreted differently in the same way. How can that be? Plus: What it means when Yishmael shows up in your dream. Or when those elephants do.
February 28, 2020
Berakhot 55: Say You Had a Good Dream, and Your Dream Was Good NOTE: RELEASED PRE-EDIT. FIXED NOW
Witnessing the supernatural. What shortens a person's life? God gives wisdom to the wise. Interpreting dreams, dreams, dreams. NOTE: THIS WAS FIRST RELEASED PRE-EDIT. IT IS FIXED NOW.
February 27, 2020
Berakhot 54: Hailstones Hovering in the Air
The glorious and different 9th chapter: When prayer is in vain. The radical prohibited requirement of greeting people with God's name. Miracles and their blessings. Larger than life, Moshe Rabbenu. Bentsching gomel.
February 26, 2020
Berakhot 53: The Flame of the Candle Is Always a New Flame
Taking fire from a non-Jew for Havdalah (when is that okay?), and what that means about the dynamic between Jews and non-Jews (or the nature of talmudic exploration). Also: What if you forgot to bentsch?
February 25, 2020
Berakhot 52: Ignore That Voice from Heaven Telling You What to Do
Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai may have been more argumentative than was strictly necessary, but their disputes populate this daf, with a lot of food for thought. Also: The bat kol, a voice from on high, gets into the debate.
February 24, 2020
Berakhot 51: What Would Make YOU Smash 400 Barrels of Wine?
Yalta! Also: 3 things that you can do to prevent a visit from the Angel of Death. And: 10 things pertaining to the proper handling of wine at kiddush.
February 23, 2020
Berakhot 50: Transformations
The Gemara borrows from a foreign field to understand the current topic, in this case: from the impure bed to zimun. Also: How wine becomes wine and stays wine.
February 22, 2020
Berachot 49: Eat When You Want
Who's Who: The Resh Galuta (Exilarch). And: What is the difference between Birkat HaMazon and prayer?
February 21, 2020
Berakhot 48: When Abaye and Rava Were Little Kids
More on zimun: when a child is eligible. When Yannai left nearly nobody left alive to lead the zimun. And: Finally, the basic texts and structure of Birkat HaMazon . Who's Who: Abaye and Rava (and Rabbah). Yannai and Shimon Ben Shetach. What's What: Kal VaChomer.
February 20, 2020
Berakhot 47: Ignoramuses in Our Midst
Etiquette, as dictated by Halakhah -- we'd still have manners without the Gemara, right? Also: The talmudic category of "am ha-aretz" and its halakhic applications, against the backdrop of our contemporary sensibilities.
February 19, 2020
Berakhot 46: God's Favor: The Corpses Did Not Decompose
Honoring your guests, honoring your betters - who breaks bread for the meal? The Persian banquet and its divans. "Ha-tov ve-ha-metiv" - in and out of context.
February 18, 2020
Berakhot 45: Zimun vs. Bentsching (Also Women)
Ignorance is not bliss when you don't know the halakhah. Also: The honor of leading is truly an honor. Also: The holy congregation that is formed when 3 people sit down to eat together. What's What: The Meturgaman
February 17, 2020
Berakhot 44: Were Hazal on Drugs?
A very sweet fruit, eaten in large quantities, and needing a salty fish accompaniment. The intoxicating beauty of the world. Also: Back to some basics, putting in place some building blocks of the past several dapim (Birkat HaMazon, 7 species, etc.).
February 16, 2020
Berakhot 43: Dress Up a Pig and It Will Still Roll in the Mud
The personal and the halakhic loss that happens with the death of Rav. Also: The naturalist blessings for all of us in God's perfect world. And: Don't disgrace others or yourself.
February 15, 2020
Berakhot 42: Warning: Gluten Ahead
Pat HaBa BeKisnin: If you fill up on cakes and cookies and pretzels (snacks and desserts), you may not need to say Birkat HaMazon. You said you had HOW MUCH? You might have to daven as it is. If you fill up, you might need to bentsch after all. And a question a claim that IF this, THEN that -- immediately (what exactly does that entail? Perhaps you know.
February 14, 2020
Berakhot 41: A Barley-grain-sized Piece of Bone from a Corpse (Understanding the 7 Species)
The power of HaMotzi. The 7 species and their halakhic meaning in our land, including impurity because of Tzaraat. What's What: Asmakhta
February 13, 2020
Berakhot 40: Adam and Eve Ate What?!
Identifying the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Also, how flexible is the formula for blessings? And the very flexible Shehakol blessing. Note: Talking Talmud is now on Facebook.
February 12, 2020
Berakhot 39: What's Better Than Sliced Bread?
Also, the story of how two students incurred Bar Kapara's wrath. And: how big an olive?
February 11, 2020
Berakhot 38: Breaking Bread
The careful wording of HaMotzi, and the transformative partnership we recognize from the blessing's allusion to the Exodus from Egypt. Also, Who's Who: Ulla.
February 10, 2020
Berakhot 37: So, You Think Rice Is HaMotzi?
What do we do when the a Gemara gets detailed in the different halakhic intricacies on one daf. Plus: Rice and Rabban Gamliel vs. Rabbi Akiva.
February 9, 2020
Berakhot 36: Medicine Is Not Food
Promoting a deep appreciation for the world around us, from time to the land, and the food we eat. Applying the blessings over food. Also: Orlah, the one "land" mitzvah that applies outside of the Land of Israel.
February 8, 2020
Berakhot 35: Don't Steal from God!
[WE HAVE MUSIC! (Still fine-tuning, literally, but excited to include our theme here)]. Birkat HaNehenin. Plus: tending your fields vs. learning Torah - How should we spend our time in this world? The eternal challenge of finding a balance.
February 7, 2020
Berakhot 34: God Knows Who You're Praying For
Prayer is not magic. The Messianic Era won't be magic either. Also: Some "chazzan" etiquette. And the powerful need and effect of praying on behalf of others.
February 6, 2020
Berakhot 33: Lions and Snakes and Scorpions, Oh My!
Clear demarcations on the expected violence from various specious of wildlife, and the miraculous doings of R. Chanina Ben Dosa in withstanding all that nature. Also: Who's Who/What's What: Anshei Knesset HaGedolah and the institution of Havdalah.
February 5, 2020
Berakhot 32: The Golden Calf Was All God's Fault
How much are we masters of our own fate? If God influences our actions, do we have free will? To what degree must human beings overcome themselves to reach the Divine?
February 4, 2020
Berakhot 31: No, of course Hannah wasn't drunk
More on prayer (of course). Giving rebuke even when it turns out that you're wrong (and standing up for yourself!). Also, focus in prayer... And the unsung model of prayer: Daniel.
February 3, 2020
Berakhot 30: Kavanah, Kavanah, Kavanah!
We begin with location, we continue to constituency, and close with context - the many factors that are designed to drive our focus and intent in prayer. Do they work for you?
February 2, 2020
Berakhot 29: The Advantages of Praying by Heart
The Amidah, its 19th blessing, its abridgement, and the Traveler's Prayer. Also: What's What: Sadducees
February 1, 2020
Berakhot 28: Leadership and the Value of Machloket
The daf we've all been waiting for, with the story Yardaena has been telling us about: Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Yehoshua, and Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah.
January 31, 2020
Berakhot 27: If Maariv Is Optional, Why Do We Daven 3x/Day?
Treating one's Torah teacher right.... Buy a watch and you'll know what time to daven!... And that critical evening service.
January 30, 2020
Berakhot 26: Now We Have Prayer
Our daf finishes the discussion of bodily fluids with some practical details for our day too. And then: Our Shacharit, Mincha, Maariv that replace the Temple sacrifices...or originate with the Patriarchs... Or both!
January 29, 2020
Berakhot 25: We're Not Angels
When the daf is all cases of urine and excrement, we found some important cases of nakedness. Special guest appearance by Maya, aged 4 (listen if you can spot her).
January 28, 2020
Berakhot 24: Naked!
What does it mean that a woman's thigh, voice, and hair are "nakedness"? Is that for always, or is it about Shema? Also: How many people did sleep in the same bed? And: Elevating ourselves above the physical.
January 27, 2020
Berakhot 23: Distractions
When you gotta go... and it gets in the way of your tefilah, not to mention everything else that can too. Also: Tefilin, and why a prostitute shows her face in the beit midrash.
January 26, 2020
Berakhot 22: What Can a Ba'al Keri Who Hasn't Dunked Do?
And why are we talking about a ba'al keri anyway - that's not tzanua (modest)?! [Some odd audio issues we can't explain - apologies]
January 25, 2020
Berakhot 21: It Takes 10 to Make a Minyan
It's the human condition to make mistakes! Also, the renewal of prayer in the collective experience. What's What: Mitzvot in their ideal and "after the fact" (lekhathilah/bedieved). Also, gezarah shavah.
January 24, 2020
Berakhot 20: Generation Gaps
From the "imposter syndrome" of the Amoraim to the women who do positive time-bound commandments to the men who no longer sit outside the mikveh when women go to dunk. Let's just say, our norms shift. Whether they should is a different question.
January 23, 2020
Berakhot 19: The Case of Kilayim and Stripping in the Marketplace
Personal dignity vs. Halakhah -- which should win? What does halakhah have to say about that? Also some loose ends from daf 18, including an understanding of that difficult story from the graveyard.
January 22, 2020
Berakhot 18: Death Be Not Proud
Almost everyone who lives long enough experiences the death(s) of close relatives. The Gemara relates to this natural course of events with lessons for the modern era.
January 21, 2020
Berakhot 17: The Power of Unique Prayer
A collection of prayers and proverbs by Chazal makes us think about the meaning of each as well as the fact that they are collected, from across time and place, onto the page.
January 20, 2020
Berakhot 16: The Shema You Recite Up in a Tree
"Real world" halakhah for when you can't do more, and Rabban Gamliel, who always did more anyway.
January 19, 2020
Berakhot 15: What If You Don't "Hear" Shema?
Who says what in the mishnah on this daf, and why it matters to the Gemara. Also, deafness, then and now.
January 18, 2020
Berakhot 14: If women don't lay tefilin, can they say Shema?
When you lie down and when you get up, Shema is to be your first and last event of the day. Can we manage that? Also, crafting the text of Shema. And, yes, women and tefilin.
January 17, 2020
Berakhot 13: Focusing Your Heart
Avram, Avraham! Also: Hello, chapter 2! Do mitzvot need performative intent (kavanah), and if so, which kind?
January 16, 2020
Berakhot 12: How Wrong Is Wrong?
You misspoke your berakhah - now what? Also introducing our "Who's Who and What's What" segment.
January 15, 2020
Berakhot 11: "Your beard is very full" - A Matter of Debate
Saying Shema lying down or sitting up, and when what you're learning counts as learning Torah.
January 14, 2020
Berakhot 10: Beruriah and Praying from the Depths
It's about humility (always), whether you're avoiding judging people or reaching out to God. Plus Barkhi Nafshi.
January 13, 2020
Berakhot 9: Different Opinions (Shocking, We Know)
Not everyone agreed with R. Shimon Ben Gamliel. The very fact that Halakhah is not a dictatorship is clear in multiple voices of psak. Plus some historical background. NOTE: Correction: Yerushalmi is attributed to R. Yochanan. The Tosefta is attributed to R. Hiyya (you'll hear when you get there)
January 12, 2020
Berakhot 8: The Dramatic Innovation of Those 4 Cubits of Halakhah
In the absence of the Temple and its sacrificial ritual, how can we reach God? And can we do it as a group?
January 11, 2020
Berakhot 7: Blessing God
When God's traits seem exceedingly human (including how He handles anger), what does it mean to draw near to Him To hold ourselves back?
January 10, 2020
Berakhot 6: Encountering God
How many people need to gather for God to grace a group who turn to Him with His Presence? And where?
January 9, 2020
Berakhot 5: The Problem of Evil
When bad things happen to good people, is it a punishment? A sign of God's love? A reason to learn Torah? Ah, the incomprehensibility of it all.
January 8, 2020
Berakhot 4: Moshe, David, and Redemption
Being a leader means you never - always! - having to say you're sorry. Also: redeeming prayer.
January 7, 2020
Berakhot Daf 3: When the dog barked, it was much later than midnight
Halakhic Aggadatah. Or is that Aggadic Halakhah?
January 6, 2020
Introduction and Berakhot 2
A discussion of ideas from the daily daf, hosted by Yardaena Osband and Anne Gordon.
January 5, 2020