Talmud

"In many respects, the Talmud is considered as the most important book in Jewish culture and is the central pillar supporting the entire spiritual and intellectual edifice of Jewish life..." Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinsaltz

Shabbat 30a-b: Desecrating Shabbat on Behalf of the Sick
05/04/2020 - 11th of Nisan, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
On yesterday's daf the Mishna taught that someone who extinguishes a fire so that someone who is ill will be able to sleep will not be held liable for desecrating Shabbat. This ruling is discussed in detail on today's daf.
This question was asked before Rabbi Tanhum from the village of Nevi: What is the ruling with regard to extinguishing a burning lamp before a sick person on Shabbat?
The Gemara relates that Rabbi Tanhum delivered a lengthy homily touching upon both aggadic and halakhic materials surrounding this question. Ultimately the Gemara concludes with Rabbi Tanhum's ruling:
A lamp is called ner and a person’s soul is also called ner, as it is written: “The spirit of man is the lamp [ner] of the Lord” (Mishlei 20:27). It is preferable that the lamp of a being of flesh and blood, an actual lamp, will be extinguished in favor of the lamp of the Holy One, Blessed be He, a person’s soul. Therefore, one is permitted to extinguish a flame for the sake of a sick person.
According to the Gemara in Massekhet Yoma (85b), the halakha that requires one to perform prohibited labors on Shabbat in order to save human life is not based on this homily. The actual source is the verse that states that the mitzvot of the Torah were given so that one should “live by them” (Vayikra 18:4–5), from which it is inferred that, as a rule, one is not commanded to give his life in order to fulfill a positive mitzva or to avoid violating a prohibition. Since this teaching was presented before an unlearned crowd, it was expounded in a manner that would appeal to a wide audience. This style of teaching, which opens with a halakhic question and proceeds to deal extensively with aggada and ethical teachings, only to conclude with a halakha, is typical of the teachings of the Sages beginning with the generation of Rabbi Tanhum. Here, the Gemara presents a complete homiletic interpretation of a Sage with all the external trappings. This style was especially common in Eretz Yisrael and in the aggadic Midrash Yelamdenu, as well as Midrash Tanhuma, which is attributed to Rabbi Tanhum. In those two anthologies of midrash, the halakhic question opens with the words: Teach us, our Rabbi [yelamdenu rabbeinu], switches to an aggadic discussion, and ultimately returns to a halakhic conclusion. The She’iltot of Rav Ahai Gaon was also influenced by this style of presentation. This tradition was also preserved in the teachings of the Sages in many Jewish communities.
Shabbat 29a-b: Complicated Lamps on Shabbat
04/04/2020 - 10th of Nisan, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
While lighting Shabbat candles is a rabbinic obligation, the Sages remained concerned lest the proximity to a burning candle might lead to prohibited actions of kindling or extinguishing the flame. The fundamental dispute in the Mishna on today's daf is with regard to the determination whether or not indirect acts of kindling and extinguishing fall within the parameters of the prohibition on Shabbat. The Mishna teaches:
A person may not pierce a hole in an eggshell and fill it with oil, and place it over the mouth of a lamp so that the egg will drip additional oil into the lamp and thereby extend the time that it burns. And this is the ruling even if it is not an actual egg but an earthenware vessel. And Rabbi Yehuda permits doing so. However, if the craftsman, who crafts ceramic vessels, attached the egg to the lamp from the outset, one is permitted to fill it with oil because it constitutes a single, large vessel. The Rabbis decreed that a person may not fill a bowl with oil, and place it beside the lamp, and place the unlit head of the wick into the bowl so that it draws additional oil from the bowl and thereby extend the time that the lamp burns. And Rabbi Yehuda permits doing so.
In the Babylonian Talmud, the rationale for this halakha is the concern lest one come to use the additional oil. However, in the Jerusalem Talmud, the Sages questioned this reason and offer a different one in its place. Only in the case of an oil lamp with a wick can one claim that the burning of each and every drop of oil began before Shabbat and is merely continuing on Shabbat. However, oil added from an eggshell or from an additional vessel will only reach the wick on Shabbat itself. It will only begin burning then, which is tantamount to having been lit on Shabbat.
Shabbat 28a-b: The Unique Tahash of the Desert
03/04/2020 - 9th of Nisan, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The discussion of tent impurity and the materials that can become ritually defiled when suspended over a dead body (see yesterday's daf, leads the Gemara to discuss another famous biblical tent - the Tabernacle of the desert. The Tabernacle was made up of several layers of different types of materials, one of which was made from an animal called a tahash. In investigating the identity of this animal the Gemara on today's daf asks:
What is the halakhic conclusion reached about this matter of the tahash that existed in the days of Moses? Rabbi Ela said that Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said that Rabbi Meir used to say: The tahash that existed in the days of Moses was a creature unto itself, and the Sages did not determine whether it was a type of undomesticated animal or a type of domesticated animal. And it had a single horn on its forehead, and this tahash happened to come to Moses for the moment while the Tabernacle was being built, and he made the covering for the Tabernacle from it. And from then on the tahash was suppressed and is no longer found.
The identity of the tahash is a matter of great controversy and was never resolved. Some authorities explain that the tahash is a monodon or narwhal, a species of whale. Narwhals travel in small groups, especially in northern ocean waters. It can grow to 6 meters in length. Its primary color is light yellow and it is spotted with numerous dark spots, the only cetacean with spots. A twisted tooth, up to 3 m long, grows out of one side of its mouth, to the extent that for many years it was thought to be the horn of the unicorn. It is possible that a group of these creatures approached the Red Sea and were thrown onto the shore or trapped there. The narwhal’s appearance closely parallels the descriptions here: It is spotted, it has a single horn on its forehead and the Sages were unable to determine its precise nature: domesticated or non-domesticated; kosher or non-kosher. Prof. Yehuda Feliks, one of the foremost scholars in the field of nature in the Bible, suggests that the tahash may have been a giraffe, which has many of the characteristics mentioned by Rabbi Meir: A multicolored hide, a horn-like protrusion on its forehead, and some of the signs that determine that an animal is kosher.
Shabbat 27a-b: The Uniqueness of Flax
02/04/2020 - 8th of Nisan, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
Following a discussion of oils that are appropriate for use in lighting Shabbat candles, the Mishna on today's daf  turns its attention to the wicks that are used. Common wicks such as cotton are made from seeds; the Mishna discusses the fact that most substances derived from actual trees would not be appropriate for use as wicks.
Of all substances that emerge from the tree, one may light only with flax on Shabbat because the other substances do not burn well (Tosafot). And of all substances that emerge from the tree, the only substance that becomes ritually impure with impurity transmitted by tents over a corpse is flax. If there is a dead body inside a house or a tent that is made from any materials that originate from a tree, everything in the house becomes ritually impure. However, only in the case of flax does the tent itself become impure.
Cultivated flax, Linum usitatissimum, is an annual plant that grows erect to a height of 40–120 cm. Its flowers are blue or white. Its stiff stalks contain flax fibers, and oil is extracted from its seeds. After the plant is cut, the stalks are soaked in water, called mei mishra in the language of the Sages, for several days. Various bacteria cause the materials that attach the fibers to the stalks to decompose. Afterward the shell is beaten and opened and the fibers are extracted to be used in weaving linen, bad or shesh in the language of the Torah. The flax plant has been cultivated since ancient times, especially in ancient Egypt. With regard to the secondary halakha that is presented in the Mishna, the only material made from plant fibers that is suspended over a dead body that becomes ritually impure is linen. Some commentaries say that this law applies specifically to a permanent tent (Rambam Sefer Tahara, Hilkhot Tumat Met 5:12).
Shabbat 26a-b: Standing in the Study Hall
01/04/2020 - 7th of Nisan, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
While discussing the limitations on the different types of oil that may be used for lighting Shabbat candles, the Gemara repeats the restrictive ruling in the Mishna (see above, daf  24 . Rabbi Tarfon says: One may only light with olive oil alone. In response to this teaching the Gemara relates the following incident:
Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri stood on his feet and, contrary to this statement, said: And what shall the people of Babylonia, who have only sesame oil, do? And what shall the people of Medea, who have only nut oil, do? And what shall the people of Alexandria, who have only radish oil, do? And what shall the people of Cappadocia, who have neither this nor that but only naphtha, do? Rather, you have a prohibition only with regard to those substances with regard to which the Sages said: One may not light with them. All other oils are permitted.
Generally speaking, all of the Sages sat in the study hall and voiced their opinions on different topics while seated. Since certain Sages wanted to rule stringently with regard to enhancement of the mitzva, Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri stood up in order to emphasize his objection to these stringencies. He asserted that the restrictions would eventually become too burdensome and would ultimately prevent people from fulfilling the mitzva of kindling the Shabbat lights. Aside from naphtha that was discussed above (see daf 24), most of the other oils are of plant origin. Radish oil is produced from radish seeds, probably from the radish species Raphunus sativus, whose seeds contain a high concentration of oil. Ancient writers indicate that radish oil was prevalent in Egypt during the talmudic period. Regarding gourd oil, the gourds mentioned in the Bible and the Mishna have been identified with the plant known as the bitter apple, the Citrullus colocynthis L. of the gourd family. This plant is similar to a watermelon and is found along the coastal plain and the other sandy regions of Israel. The plant has finger-like leaves that are somewhat similar to grape leaves and round fruits that are approximately 10 cm in diameter with a thick rind. The fruit is spongy, filled with seeds, and has a bitter taste. It is possible to extract oil from the seeds, generally as much as 15 percent of the weight of the seeds. The oil can be used for food or light.
Shabbat 25a-b: Mnemonic Devices in the Talmud
31/03/2020 - 6th of Nisan, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
We all grew up learning the colors of the spectrum by remembering "Roy G. Biv." Mnemonic devices are a time-honored method to assist memory, and we find a number of examples on today's daf. For example, while discussing stringencies that apply to consecrated items, those stringencies are listed based on the mnemonic "pancakes" (or "pink ox"), as follows:
Their Hebrew acronym is peh, nun, kuf, ayin, kaf, samekh, which is a mnemonic for the following terms. Piggul: With regard to an offering, if, during one of the services involved in its sacrifice, i.e., slaughter, receiving the blood, bringing it to the altar, sprinkling it on the altar, the priest or the one bringing the offering entertains the thought of eating the sacrifice at a time that is unfit for eating, it is thereby invalidated. Notar: Meat of a sacrifice that remained beyond its allotted time may not be eaten and must be burned. Korban me’ila: One who unwittingly derives benefit from consecrated items is required to bring a guilt-offering for misuse of consecrated items. Karet: The punishment of one who eats consecrated items while ritually impure is karet. Asur le’onen: An acute mourner, i.e., one whose relative died that same day and has not yet been buried, is prohibited to eat consecrated items.
Acronyms like these are used throughout the Talmud as mnemonic devices. In general, the acronyms assist the Sages in remembering discussions in which numerous opinions are cited consecutively, potentially leading to confusion between the names of the speakers or their opinions. Acronyms were also composed as summaries of halakhot, as in the case of yod, ayin, lamed, kuf, gimmel and mem that represent the disputes between Abayye and Rava where, anomalously, the halakha is in accordance with the opinion of Abayye (see Bava Kamma 73a-b).
Shabbat 24a-b: Appropriate Oils for Shabbat Candles
30/03/2020 - 5th of Nisan, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
With regard to lighting Shabbat lamps, the Mishna on today's daf continues with a discussion of different types of oil, some of which were prohibited for use by some of the Sages. The Mishna teaches:
Rabbi Yishmael says that one may not light with tar [itran] in deference to Shabbat because tar smells bad and disturbs those in the house. And the Rabbis permit lighting with all oils for lamps as long as they burn properly; with sesame oil, with nut oil, with turnip oil, with fish oil, with gourd oil, with tar, and even with naphtha [neft ]. Rabbi Tarfon says: One may light only with olive oil in deference to Shabbat, as it is the choicest and most pleasant of the oils.
Naphtha, or neft, is crude oil extracted from the ground, and was a common fuel in several countries in the ancient world. During the Middle Ages it was not used and it was virtually unknown in Europe (see, for example, Rashi on the Mishna that simply defines it as "a type of oil with a bad smell"). It is apparent from the description in the Gemara that not only did they use crude oil that burst from the ground, like the people of Cappadocia that have nothing but naphtha, as described further on in the Gemara; they even successfully refined it. The Gemara is apparently the first historical source that describes the production of white naphtha, which is one of the products of refining crude oil. Since white naphtha was refined, it would vaporize and burn more quickly, as the Gemara said: White naphtha is volatile. The techniques of refining crude oil first appear in other sources approximately five hundred years after the talmudic era.
Shabbat 23a-b: Blessings on Hanukkah Candles
29/03/2020 - 4th of Nisan, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The Gemara on today's daf teaches:
R Hiyya bar Ashi said that Rav said: One who lights a Hanukkah light must recite a blessing. And Rabbi Yirmeya said: One who sees a burning Hanukkah light must recite a blessing because the mitzva is not only to kindle the light but to see the light as well.
Ultimately, the Gemara concludes that two blessings are recited on every night of Hanukkah, with an additional blessing recited on the first night. In delineating the different blessings, the Gemara says that one of the everyday blessings that is recited is:
Who has made us holy through His commandments and has commanded us to light the Hanukkah light.
To which the Gemara asks:
And where did He command us?
The mitzva of Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Torah, so how is it possible to say that it was commanded to us by God? This question is often asked with regard to blessings recited over mitzvot of rabbinic origin. Two answers are offered by the Gemara:
Rav Avya said: The obligation to recite this blessing is derived from the verse: "You shall not turn aside from the sentence which they shall declare unto you, to the right, nor to the left" (Devarim 17:11).
From this verse, the mitzva incumbent upon all of Israel to heed the statements and decrees of the Sages is derived. Therefore, one who fulfills their directives fulfills a divine commandment. Next:
Rav Nehemya said that the mitzva to heed the voice of the Elders of Israel is derived from the verse: "Ask your father, and he will declare unto you, your Elders, and they will tell you"(Devarim 32:7).
Here, the Gemara cites two sources. The first, "You shall not turn aside," which is both simple and accepted halakha, was sufficient. The Gemara preferred a source from a positive rather than a negative mitzva and therefore cited the verse: "Ask your father" (Rabbi Elazar Moshe Horowitz).
Shabbat 22a-b: The Sanctity of Hanukkah Candles
28/03/2020 - 3rd of Nisan, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The Gemara on today's daf continues the discussion of the laws of lighting Hanukkah candles.
R Yehuda said that R Asi said that Rav said: It is prohibited to count money opposite a Hanukkah light. R Yehuda relates: When I said this halakha before Shmuel, he said to me: Does the Hanukkah light have sanctity that would prohibit one from using its light? R Yosef strongly objected to this question: What kind of question is that; does the blood of a slaughtered undomesticated animal or fowl have sanctity? As it was taught in a baraita that the Sages interpreted the verse: “He shall spill its blood and cover it with dust” (Vayikra 17:13): With that which he spilled, he shall cover. Just as a person spills the blood of a slaughtered animal with his hand, so too, he is obligated to cover the blood with this hand and not cover it with his foot. The reason is so that mitzvot will not be contemptible to him. Here too, one should treat the Hanukkah lights as if they were sacred and refrain from utilizing them for other purposes, so that mitzvot will not be contemptible to him.
In principle, we must distinguish between tashmishei kedusha- items that have inherent sanctity - like the vessels used in the Temple, a Torah scroll, phylacteries, and the like, and tashmishei mitzva - those items that are used simply to perform a mitzva. The principle is as follows: Sanctified items no longer in use maintain their sanctity and must be buried. However, items used to perform a mitzva may be discarded. The Ramban explains that on that basis, Shmuel expressed surprise when the Gemara insists that Hanukkah lights be treated with the level of respect usually reserved for sacred items. Rav Yosef answered that while a mitzva is still being fulfilled, one must treat the items used for the mitzva with added deference, despite the fact that they do not retain their sanctity after the fulfillment of the mitzva.
Shabbat 21a-b: The Miracle of Hanukkah
27/03/2020 - 2nd of Nisan, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
As we learned on yesterday's daf, the second perek of Massekhet Shabbat focuses on Shabbat candle lighting. This discussion leads the Gemara to turn its attention to another set of laws regarding candle lighting, specifically the rabbinic enactment requiring that candles be lit throughout the holiday of Hanukkah. The holiday of Hanukkah was instituted primarily to commemorate the re-dedication of the altar in the Temple. The Bah explains that the Sages instituted kindling lights as the mitzva of Hanukkah to underscore that the Maccabees went to war to preserve the sanctity of the nation and the sanctity of the Temple, not to defend their lives. The Gemara teaches that the year following the miraculous victory over the Greeks the Sages instituted an eight day holiday of lights. Some point out that since there was sufficient oil to burn for one day, the miracle lasted only seven days. Why, then, is Hanukkah celebrated for eight days? Many answers to this question have been suggested. Rabbi Yosef Karo maintained that only one eighth of the oil burned on the first day, so it was immediately clear that a miracle had been performed. Others explained that, from the outset, the priests placed only one-eighth of the oil from the cruse in the candelabrum, and it miraculously burned all day (The Me'iri). Yet others suggested that Hanukkah commemorates two miracles; first, the discovery of the cruse of pure oil on the first day, and second, the fact that it lasted seven additional days (She’erit Kenesset HaGedola). There is also an opinion that the eight days commemorate the reinstating of the mitzva of circumcision, banned by the Greeks, which is performed on the eighth day after birth (Sefer HaItim). Another question was raised regarding the need for an eight day holiday. Why couldn’t a supply of pure oil have been procured sooner? The Ge'onim suggest that the pure oil came from Tekoa in the tribal territory of Asher in the upper Galilee, and the round trip from Jerusalem took eight days. Others say that all the Jews were ritually impure from contact with corpses, and therefore they were required to wait seven days to complete the purification process (Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrahi).
Shabbat 20a-b: Shabbat Candle Lighting
26/03/2020 - 1st of Nisan, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
Delighting in Shabbat is not a mitzva by Torah law, but is first mentioned in the book of Sefer Yeshayahu (58:13). However, many of the halakhot and customs of Shabbat are based upon this mitzva. Kindling the Shabbat lights in deference to Shabbat is based on the mitzvah of delighting in Shabbat, as there can be no delight or enjoyment, even in a festive meal, in a house that is dark and bereft of illumination. With the lighting of the Shabbat lights, there is thus an element of delight, as well as deference to Shabbat day. Nevertheless, since there is a strict prohibition against kindling fire or extinguishing it on the Shabbat day, special care must be taken to ensure that the kindling of the lights on Shabbat eve will not lead to kindling or extinguishing fire once Shabbat begins. Therefore, the Sages instituted safeguards and precautions with regard to the various substances that may be used in kindling the Shabbat lights as well as with regard to the manner in which their light may be utilized on Shabbat eve and on Shabbat day. The primary focus of the second perek of Massekhet Shabbat, which begins on today's daf , is the elucidation of the parameters of the prohibited labors of kindling and extinguishing, along with a discussion of precautionary measures enacted to enable use of the light of an oil lamp on Shabbat. The first Mishna cites a list of fuels and wicks that one may not use in kindling the Shabbat lights, either because their use might induce one to perform a prohibited labor on Shabbat or because they are not in keeping with the deference due Shabbat. The Mishna begins by listing the materials that one may not use as wicks; this is followed by a list of the substances that one may not use as fuel.
Shabbat 19a-b: Heating the Temple
25/03/2020 - 29th of Adar, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The Mishna on today's daf enumerates actions that may only be performed on Shabbat eve if the prohibited labor will be totally or mostly completed while it is still day.
One may only roast meat, an onion, or an egg if there remains sufficient time so that they could be roasted while it is still day. One may only place dough to bake into bread in the oven on Shabbat eve at nightfall, and may only place a cake on the coals, if there is time enough that the surface of this cake or bread will form a crust while it is still day. Rabbi Eliezer says: Enough time so that its bottom crust should harden, which takes less time. However in a case that is an exception, one may, ab initio, lower the Paschal lamb into the oven on Shabbat eve at nightfall, so that its roasting is completed on Shabbat if Passover eve coincides with Shabbat eve. And one may, ab initio, kindle the fire in the bonfire of the Chamber of the Hearth in the Temple on Shabbat eve, adjacent to the start of Shabbat, and allow the fire to spread afterward throughout all the wood in the bonfire.
The Chamber of the Hearth was a large room along the northern wall of the Temple courtyard. Half of it was in the courtyard and half was considered to be outside the Temple. The Chamber of the Hearth was built with a dome and had a great bonfire for the purpose of warming the priests returning from service or emerging from immersion. Since the priests worked barefoot, wore light clothing, no additional layers of clothing could be added, and the Temple was mostly without a roof, leaving them exposed to rain and wind, the priests would avail themselves of this chamber to warm themselves. Although this was not part of the Temple service, it was part of the arrangements for the benefit of the priests. At the same time, there is the principle that rabbinic decrees were not implemented in the Temple, and the Temple area was governed exclusively by Torah law, without additional rabbinic restrictions and fences.
Shabbat 18a-b: Work Performed by Inanimate Objects on Shabbat
24/03/2020 - 28th of Adar, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
As we learned on yesterday's daf  Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai disagree whether a person's objects can perform work on his behalf on Shabbat. The halakha follows the opinion of Beit Hillel who permit beginning an action on Friday afternoon that is prohibited on Shabbat, even if will continue into Shabbat itself. The Gemara on today's daf continues the discussion of this type of activity.
The Sages taught in a Tosefta: One may open a canal that passes adjacent to a garden on Shabbat eve at nightfall, so that water will flow into a garden and the garden continuously fills with water all day long on Shabbat. Similarly, one may place incense, perfumed herbs placed on coals to produce a fragrance, on coals beneath the clothes on Shabbat eve and the clothes may be continuously perfumed all day long. And, similarly, one may place sulfur beneath the silver vessels on Shabbat eve at nightfall for the purpose of coloring the vessels, and they may be continuously exposed to sulfur all day long.
Throughout the generations, sulfur was used to beautify silver vessels. Since silver is a light hue and engravings are not easily visible, one manner to accentuate the inscriptions was by means of sulfur. The silver vessels were exposed to sulfur fumes and oxidized sulfur, creating a thin layer of black silver sulfate on the vessel. After the vessel was treated with sulfur, it was thoroughly cleaned, restoring all of the surfaces to their original silver sheen while the recesses and sunken areas remained black. In modern times, similar methods are employed. The ruling that follows Beit Hillel notwithstanding, the Tosefta forbids placing wheat kernels into a water mill unless he does so in a way so that they will be ground while it is still dayon Friday and not on Shabbat. Rabbah explains that the source for this prohibition is rabbinic prohibition - since the mill makes noise and people will hear the noisy mill working on Shabbat. (The reason that the Gemara spoke specifically of a water mill is because a mill powered by an animal is certainly prohibited on Shabbat, due to the mitzva explicitly stated in the Torah to rest one’s animal.)
Shabbat 17a-b: Must Objects Rest on Shabbat?
23/03/2020 - 27th of Adar, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
In the Mishna on today's daf we find a fundamental disagreement between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai regarding the following question: Must one begin refraining from actions prohibited on Shabbat on Shabbat eve or may one initiate an action prior to Shabbat, even if he knows that it will continue on its own on Shabbat itself? The source of this dispute is the Biblical passage that prohibits creative activity on Shabbat not only for household members, but also for animals that belong to a Jewish person (see Shmot 20:9, Devarim 5:13). Beit Shammai extrapolate this idea to obligate a person in shevitat kelim - that a person's objects must "rest" on Shabbat, that is, he cannot derive benefit from work performed by objects and implements belonging to him on Shabbat - a concept rejected by Beit Hillel.
The Mishna teaches: Beit Shammai say: One may only soak dry ink in water and dry plants, which produce dyes, in water and vetch for animal food to soften them in water on Shabbat eve, adjacent to Shabbat, if there is clearly sufficient time for them to soak for their designated purpose while it is still day, before Shabbat begins, and their continued soaking on Shabbat will have no effect. And Beit Hillel permit doing so. Beit Shammai say: One may only place bundles of combed flax inside the oven on Shabbat eve if there is sufficient time so that they will be heated while it is still day. And one may only place wool  into the dyer’s kettle if there is sufficient time for the wool to absorb the dye while it is still day. And Beit Hillel permit doing so. Beit Shammai say: One may spread traps for an animal and birds and fish only if there is sufficient time remaining in the day for them to be trapped in them while it is still day, and Beit Hillel permit doing so even if there is not sufficient time remaining in the day. Beit Shammai say: One may not give skins to a gentile tanner, nor clothes to a gentile launderer, unless there is sufficient time for work on them to be completed while it is still day, before Shabbat begins. And in all of them Beit Hillel permit doing so with the sun, i.e., as long as the sun is shining on Friday.
The halakha follows the opinion of Beit Hillel, so on Shabbat eve, while it is still day, it is permissible for a Jew to give an item to a gentile so that the gentile will perform one of the labors prohibited on Shabbat on his behalf. However, the Jew may not insist that he perform the labor specifically on Shabbat. In addition, if the gentile is a regular employee of the Jew it is prohibited (Rambam Sefer Zemanim, Hilkhot Shabbat 6:19; Shulhan Aruk, Orah Hayyim 244:1).
Shabbat 16a-b: Impurity of Metal Vessels
22/03/2020 - 26th of Adar, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The Gemara on today's daf discusses a teaching quoted in the name of Shimon ben Shatah that decreed impurity on metal vessels. This teaching is odd because it is clear that the laws of impurity regarding metal vessels are Biblical laws (Bamidbar 31:22-23). The Gemara explains that this refers to a very specific case.
This ordinance of Shimon ben Shataĥ with regard to the impurity of metal vessels in general was only needed with regard to previous impurity reassumed by metal vessels after they are recast. As R Yehuda said that Rav said: There was an incident involving Shimon ben Shataĥ’s sister, Shel Tziyyon the queen,who made a wedding feast for her son. All of her vessels became impure, and she broke them and gave them to the smith, and he welded the broken vessels together and made new vessels. And the Sages said: What she did was ineffective, as all the vessels will reassume their previous impurity.
Shel Tziyyon the queen was a queen of the Hasmonean dynasty, the wife of King Alexander Yannai, and the sister of Shimon ben Shataĥ. Shel Tziyyon, or Shlomtziyyon, and in some sources Shalminon or Shlomit, was originally the wife of the Hasmonean king Aristobolos. After his death, his brother Yannai performed an act of levirate marriage with her. Although the Hasmonean kings, and specifically Alexander Yannai, had Sadducee tendencies, Queen Shlomtziyyon followed the Pharisees, and even during her husband’s reign she labored to achieve unity. After the death of Alexander Yannai, she continued to rule over Israel for nine years. Those years, in which she served as the political leader, and her brother Shimon ben Shataĥ guided daily life and religious life, were considered the happiest years for the people of Israel during the Second Temple period.
Shabbat 15a-b: Establishing Rabbinic Decrees
21/03/2020 - 25th of Adar, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
On today's daf the Gemara discusses a rabbinic ordinance established by Yosei ben Yo’ezer of Tzereida and Yosei ben Yoĥanan of Jerusalem who decreed impurity upon the land of the nations. The Sages decreed that anything - person or vessel - that comes in contact with or carries that soil becomes impure for seven days, like the impurity of one who comes into contact with a corpse. The impurity of the land of the nations is already alluded to in the Prophets: “On impure land you will die” (Amos 7:17). However, in the Mishna, this impurity is listed as one of the cases of uncertain impurity due to the concern that a dead person may be buried there. Since graves were not always marked and since cemeteries for burial were not clearly set aside everywhere, there was concern that any clod of dirt could be from a decaying corpse or could have come in contact with the flesh of a corpse. The question raised in the Gemara is that it appears that this decree was established not by Yosei ben Yo’ezer of Tzereida and Yosei ben Yoĥanan of Jerusalem, but by other groups of Sages. Specifically, the Gemara suggests that this is recorded as one of the ordinances of Usha. Ultimately, the Gemara explains that there were different stages so that over time the decree expanded to include not only the soil but the air as well. The town of Usha in the Galilee was, for a time, the seat of the Sanhedrin. Many ordinances were instituted there relating to various areas of halakha, including halakhot of ritual purity and impurity and monetary laws. The Sages disagreed with regard to the exact date of the Usha regulations, since the Sanhedrin’s stay there was interrupted. Nevertheless, apparently these ordinances were instituted after the failure of the Bar Kokhba rebellion, approximately seventy years after the destruction of the Temple. According to tractate Rosh HaShanah (31a), during the period of the destruction of the second Temple God began to withdraw His Divine Presence from the Temple. In parallel, the Sanhedrin removed itself as well, first within the city of Jerusalem, and ultimately to the Galilee. It was first transplanted to Yavne, from there to Usha, Shefaram, Beit She’arim, Tzippori, and Tiberias.
Shabbat 14a-b: Establishing Decrees in the Home of Hananya ben Hizkiya
20/03/2020 - 24th of Adar, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
Decisions of the Sages were usually reached in a meeting place where the most prominent Sages would gather; the halakha would be determined according to a majority vote. The Mishna on yesterday's daf describes an unofficial gathering of Sages in the home of Hananya ben Hizkiya. In a departure from routine, the majority ruled in favor of Bet Shammai. Many reactions to this incident were noted, among them the expression: "And that day was as difficult for Israel as the day the Golden Calf was made." Apparently, the dispute between the parties was very intense, and Beit Shammai’s majority was an unexpected development. The arguments with regard to assessment of these decrees continued during the subsequent generations. Nevertheless, due to the intensity of the arguments, the Sages decided not to abrogate the decrees. Although the Mishna offers no details about the 18 decrees that were decided on that day, the Gemara on today's daf discusses a number of them. For example, it was decided that washing in ordinary water following ritual immersion would deem the individual ritually impure, since an incorrect impression developed where people thought that it was the shower that purified, rather than the immersion. This led to a second decree that anyone showering would be rendered ritually impure, since people would not distinguish between a person who was pure from the start and one who was just purified upon emerging from immersion. Somewhat surprisingly, a Torah scroll was deemed to be impure. The Gemara explains this decree -
Rav Mesharshiya said: Since at first, ignorant priests would conceal teruma foods alongside the Torah scroll, and they said in explaining that method of storage: This is sacred and that is sacred, and it is appropriate that they be stored together. Since the Sages saw that they were coming to ruin, as the mice, which were attracted to the teruma foods would also gnaw at the Torah scrolls, the Sages decreed impurity upon it. Once they issued the decree of impurity on the Torah scroll, the priests no longer placed teruma near it.
Shabbat 13a-b: A Disturbing Early Death
19/03/2020 - 23th of Adar, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
While discussing the rules and regulations that relate to sensitivity in matters of a sexual nature, the Gemara relates the following story:
The Sage in the school of Eliyahu taught a baraita that deals with this halakha: There was an incident involving one student who studied much Mishna and read much Bible, and served Torah scholars extensively, studying Torah from them, and, nevertheless, died at half his days, half his life expectancy. His wife in her bitterness would take his phylacteries and go around with them to synagogues and study halls, and she said to the Sages: It is written in the Torah: “For it is your life and the length of your days” (Devarim 30:20). If so, my husband who studied much Mishna, and read much Bible, and served Torah scholars extensively, why did he die at half his days? Where is the length of days promised him in the verse? No one would respond to her at all. Eliyahu said: One time I was a guest in her house, and she was relating that entire event with regard to the death of her husband. And I said to her: My daughter, during the period of your menstruation, how did he act toward you? She said to me: Heaven forbid, he did not touch me even with his little finger. And I asked her: In the days of your white garments, after the menstrual flow ended, and you were just counting clean days, how did he act toward you then? She said to me: He ate with me, and drank with me, and slept with me with bodily contact and, however, it did not enter his mind about something else, i.e., conjugal relations. And I said to her: Blessed is the Omnipresent who killed him for this sin, as your husband did not show respect to the Torah. The Torah said: “And to a woman in the separation of her impurity you should not approach” (Vayikra 18:19), even mere affectionate contact is prohibited.
The early commentaries wondered how that student, who was a Torah scholar, could treat Torah matters with such disdain. By Torah law, a menstruating woman is impure until she immerses herself in a ritual bath. They explain that his custom or the prevailing custom (Tosafot) was that a woman would immerse herself at the end of the days of her menstrual flow, when her period of impurity ended by Torah law. As a result, during those extra days added due to the stringency that Jewish women imposed upon themselves (see the discussion of this stringency in Massekhet Nidda, daf, 66), he did not conduct himself with the same stringency (Ramban; Rashba).
Shabbat 12a-b: Praying for the Sick
18/03/2020 - 22th of Adar, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
On today's daf we find a discussion about praying on behalf of a sick individual -
Rabba bar bar Ĥana said: When we would follow Rabbi Elazar to inquire about the health of a sick person; sometimes he would say in Hebrew: May the Omnipresent remember you for peace, and sometimes he would say to him in Aramaic: May the all-Merciful remember you for peace. He would say it in Aramaic when the sick person did not understand Hebrew (Rav Elazar Moshe Horovitz). The Gemara asks: How did he do this, pray in Aramaic? Didn’t Rav Yehuda say: A person should never request that his needs be met in the Aramaic language? And, similarly, Rabbi Yoĥanan said: Anyone who requests that his needs be met in the Aramaic language, the ministering angels do not attend to him to bring his prayer before God, as the ministering angels are not familiar with the Aramaic language, but only with the sacred tongue, Hebrew, exclusively. The Gemara responds: A sick person is different. He does not need the angels to bring his prayer before God because the Divine Presence is with him.
Many explanations are offered for the Gemara's assertion that angels do not understand Aramaic. Tosafot question whether this is true, arguing that angels have the ability to know people's thoughts, so they certainly can understand a person's statement, no matter what language he says it in. This question leads Tosafot to offer a different interpretation of Rabbi Yohanan's comment. Rather than stating that the angels do not "understand" Aramaic, they suggest that he is saying that they do not have a high opinion of that language. Thus Rabbi Yohanan is understood to be saying that the angels will reject prayers offered in Aramaic because they see them as being of little value. Many commentaries disagree with Tosafot's line of reasoning. The Sefat Emet, for example, argues with Tosafot's basic premise, and teaches that the Zohar clearly does not believe that angels know the thoughts of men unless they are specifically granted access to that information.
Shabbat 11a-b: Fasting in Response to a Bad Dream
17/03/2020 - 21th of Adar, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
As a continuation from the discussion on yesterday's daf the Gemara quotes more practical teachings in the name of Rava bar Meĥasseya.
And Rava bar Meĥasseya said that Rav Ĥama bar Gurya said that Rav said: A fast is effective to neutralize a bad dream like fire burns chaff . Rav Ĥisda said: And a fast is effective specifically on that day that he dreamed. And Rav Yosef said: One suffering from a bad dream that he dreamed is permitted to fast even on Shabbat.
Rav Yehuda quotes Rav as teaching that an individual who accepts upon himself to fast for personal reasons (as opposed to communal fast days determined by the bet din) can "borrow against the fast and pay back later" - i.e. he can choose to eat today and substitute another day of fasting instead. Many of the commentators interpret this to apply only in a case where the person did not commit himself to fast on a specific day (e.g. where he planned to fast on a certain number of days during the year). Nevertheless, many of the rishonim (the Ra'avad, Rashba, Re'ah, Ritva and others) argue that the Gemara makes no such distinction and that a person can even switch his fast from one day to the next. These rishonim understand that this is Shmuel's intent when he compares a personal fast day to a person who takes an oath. Someone who takes an oath to give charity, for example, can switch one coin for another, so long as they have the same value; similarly, fasting on one day is the equivalent of fasting on another. There is one personal fast that must take place on a specific day - a ta'anit halom. A fast that is the result of a disturbing dream must be done immediately after the dream takes place. This rule is so severe that Rav Yosef teaches that someone who is disturbed by their dream must fast even on Shabbat, concluding that he will have to fast a second time as repentance for having "desecrated" the holiness of Shabbat by fasting. Given Shmuel's ruling that dreams are not to be seen as carrying with them any significance, the Ritva explains that the underlying idea of fasting because of a dream is that a very disturbing dream should be seen as a heavenly call to examine one's actions. Thus, it is essential to act while the feeling of dread is still fresh. But how can one fast on Shabbat? Here the Ritva explains that eating on Shabbat is the fulfillment of the mitzva of oneg Shabbat - making Shabbat pleasurable. Under such circumstances, a festive meal would not be enjoyable, and fasting is a more appropriate expression of oneg Shabbat.
Shabbat 10a-b: Practical Suggestions From Rava Bar Meĥasseya
16/03/2020 - 20th of Adar, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
In a segue from another statement quoted in his name, the Gemara brings a number of practical teachings in the name of Rava bar Meĥasseya quoting Rav Ĥama bar Gurya in the name of Rav. Thus we learn -
Rava bar Meĥasseya said that Rav Ĥama bar Gurya said that Rav said: A person should never distinguish one of his sons from among the other sons by giving him preferential treatment. As, due to the weight of two sela of fine wool that Jacob gave to Joseph, beyond what he gave the rest of his sons, in making him the striped coat, his brothers became jealous of him and the matter unfolded and our forefathers descended to Egypt.
Similarly,
Rava bar Meĥasseya said that Rav Ĥama bar Gurya said Rav said: A person should always seek and dwell in a city whose settling took place in the recent past, meaning that it was recently established, as due to the fact that its settling is recent its sins are few, as its residents have not yet had the opportunity to commit many sins there. As it is stated that Lot said to the angel: “Behold, here is this city that is close to run away to and it is small” (Bereshit 19:20).
In addition,
Rava bar Meĥasseya said that Rav Ĥama bar Gurya said that Rav said: One who gives a gift to another must inform him that he is giving it to him.
The reason that one giving a gift must inform the recipient is explained in various ways. First, the commentaries emphasize that this applies only to a case where the recipient is wealthy and he gave it to him as a gift. However, one who gives a charitable gift must be certain to give it anonymously (Rosh). Others explain that the reason that he must inform him is because otherwise the recipient will wonder who gave it to him (Rashi).
Shabbat 9a-b: A Threshold Serving Two Domains
15/03/2020 - 19th of Adar, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
On yesterday's daf we learned a baraita that discussed the unique status of a threshold. In the continuation of that baraita that is discussed on today's daf, we learn:
A threshold serves two domains: When the entrance is open, the threshold is subsumed within the house and it is considered to be a private domain like the inside of the house. And when the entrance is locked, the threshold is not subsumed within the house, and it is considered to be a public domain like the outside.
Several explanations are offered to clarify this case. For example,
R Yehuda said that Rav said: Here we are dealing with the threshold of an alleyway open to the public domain on only one side. Although, by Torah law, it is considered a private domain, the Sages required him to establish a fourth symbolic partition on the side open to the public domain. This alleyway was covered, and this covering extended to part of the threshold in a manner that half of it is covered and half of it is not covered, and the covering is over the part of the threshold toward the inside. In that case, if the entrance is open, its legal status is like that of the inside, as it is considered as if there were a partition extending from the edge of the roofing above to below, based on the halakhic principle: Lower the partition. The opening of the alleyway is thereby sealed, rendering it a private domain. However, when the entrance is locked, it is no longer possible to consider the covering as a partition, and therefore the part of the threshold that is beyond the locked door of the alleyway is considered like the outside, i.e., like a public domain.
The halakhot of Shabbat and many other halakhot are dependent upon the existence of partitions. A solid, high partition that seals a certain opening is a definite boundary. However, in reality, boundaries of that kind are not present in every case. Thus, the question arises: What constitutes a full-fledged boundary and what constitutes a symbolic boundary? The determining principles in this matter are complex, detailed halakhot transmitted to Moses from Sinai. The principle of lavud establishes that a space less than three handbreadths wide is considered sealed. The principle of gode, which means extend, states that certain boundaries are considered to be extended and lowered or extended and raised. Another principle that applies here is: The edge of the roof descends and seals, which states that the outer edge of the roof over a house or an alleyway is considered as if it descends and creates a partition that reaches the ground. However, the principle is relevant only when the roof has an edge of some sort, and when its area is more than four by four handbreadths.
Shabbat 8a-b: Transferring From a Mysterious Threshold
14/03/2020 - 18th of Adar, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
We learned above daf 5 that there are four domains regarding the laws of Shabbat - public, private, exempt and the Rabbinic karmelit. The Gemara on today's daf presents a case and tries to determine which of the four domains is being discussed -
The Master said: A person standing on the threshold may take an object from the homeowner standing in the private domain and may give an object to him. Similarly, while standing there, he may take an object from a poor person standing in the public domain and may give an object to him.
This ruling appears difficult to the Gemara. If the threshold under discussion is in a public domain how can he take an object from the homeowner? Isn’t he carrying out from the private domain to the public domain? If, however, the threshold is in a private domain, how can he take an object from a poor person? Isn’t he carrying in from the public domain to the private domain? Even if the threshold is a karmelit, how can he take and give an object ab initio? There still should be a rabbinic prohibition! The Gemara concludes that the case is referring to a threshold that is merely an exempt domain, and therefore there is no prohibition at all. Such a case can be found where the threshold does not have an area of four by four handbreadths, and it is therefore not considered a domain with regard to liability on Shabbat. The Gemara compares this to a teaching presented by Rav Dimi:
And that halakha is similar to that statement made when Rav Dimi came from Eretz Yisrael to Babylonia and he said that Rabbi Yoĥanan said: A place that does not have an area of four by four handbreadths and is set apart, it is permissible for both  the people of the private domain and for the people of the public domain to adjust the burden on their shoulders upon it on Shabbat, as long as they do not exchange objects between them from one domain to the other domain.
  Rav Dimi was one of the Sages who descended, or who would often travel from Eretz Yisrael to Babylonia, primarily to transmit the Torah of Eretz Yisrael to the Torah centers of the Diaspora, although occasionally, he traveled on business, as well. Consequently, many questions, particularly those concerning the Torah of Eretz Yisrael, remained unresolved, until the messenger from Zion would arrive and elucidate the halakha, the novel expression, or the unique circumstances pertaining to a particular statement that required clarification.
Shabbat 7a-b: Shrubs and Thorns in the Public Domain
13/03/2020 - 17th of Adar, 5780
This Daf Yomi series is a unique opportunity to study a page of Talmud each day with one of the world’s foremost Jewish scholars. We are privileged to present these insights and chidushim drawn from the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Join thousands of students, scholars, readers and teachers worldwide in completing the study of the entire Talmud in a 7-year cycle. Read more about the history of Daf Yomi Talmud study. You can also browse the Daf Yomi Archives by date or by tractate.
Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
On today's daf the Gemara discusses whether a specific place located in a public domain retains the status of that domain if it is not commonly used by people in that place. The three possible exceptions discussed by the Gemara are a brick, thorns and shrubs (hizmei ve-higi) and excrement.
The Gemara cites the halakha that Rabbah bar Sheila said that Rav Hisda said: If an upright brick was placed in the public domain and one threw an object from a distance of four cubits and he stuck the object to its side, he is liable for throwing in the public domain. But if the object landed atop the brick, he is not liable. Because the multitudes do not step on the brick, it is not a full-fledged public domain. It was Abayye and Rava, who both said: And that is specifically when that brick is at least three handbreadths high, as then the multitudes do not step on it, and, therefore, even though the brick is standing in the public domain, it is considered an independent domain. However, thorns and shrubs, (hizmei ve-higi) even though they are not three handbreadths high, are not considered part of the public domain. Since people do not walk on thorns, those areas cannot be considered part of the public domain. And Hiyya bar Rav said: Even the place where there are thorns and shrubs in the public domain, if they were low, the place is considered part of the public domain. However, a place in the public domain where there are feces is not considered part of the public domain, as people do not walk there. And Rav Ashi said: Even a place in the public domain where there are feces is considered part of the public domain, since ultimately people who are rushing to work do not take care to avoid it and will step on it.
Hizmei can be identified as the thorny bush Ononis antiquorum L. from the Papilionaceae family. It is a small thorny bush whose height is 25–70 cm and is commonly found in fields and riverbeds. The leaves of the plant are usually clover-shaped, and its side branches are thorny and tend to branch out. Higi is the common shrub in the Papilionaceae family, Alhagi maurorum Medik, which is a thorny bush with smooth non-serrated leaves. It usually grows to a height of approximately 30 cm and can grow to a height of 1 m. It is commonly found in fields and salt marshes.
Shabbat 6a-b: Punishments for Transferring Objects From One Domain to Another
12/03/2020 - 16th of Adar, 5780
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While discussing the four Shabbat domains (public, private, exempt and the Rabbinic karmelit, see yesterday's daf, the Gemara quotes a baraita that teaches
If he carried out an object on Shabbat from the private domain to the public domain or vice versa, if he carried in, if he did so unwittingly, he is liable to bring a sin-offering. If he did so intentionally and there were no witnesses to his act and he was not forewarned, he is punishable from the hand of Heaven with the punishment of karet. If he was forewarned and there were witnesses to his transgression, he is punished by the court and stoned. In response to this teaching, the Gemara asks why there is a need to emphasize the punishments that are meted out. Surely we are aware that someone who performed a prohibited act on Shabbat will be punished with karet or stoning! The Gemara answers: This came to teach us in accordance with the statement of Rav, as Rav said: I found a hidden scroll in the house of Rabbi Ĥiyya in which matters of Oral Torah were briefly summarized, and in it was written: Isi ben Yehuda says: The primary categories of prohibited labor on Shabbat are forty-less-one, and he is liable only for one.
This obscure statement is explained by the Gemara to mean that there is one of the 39 prohibited activities on Shabbat that is not punishable by stoning; it remains a simple negative commandment. The baraita is emphasizing that the prohibition of transferring an object from one domain to another is not that activity - it is punishable by stoning. Regarding the "hidden scroll" that was found by Rav: For many generations, it was prohibited to write the contents of the Oral Torah. Due to the exigencies of the time, it was decided to redact the Mishna and write it down. Nevertheless, even when it was prohibited, Sages would summarize important matters in brief notes to help them remember. These scrolls were not published and were, therefore, referred to as hidden scrolls. According to the ge’onim, these scrolls were known as hidden because they were anthologies of halakhot that were not universally known, even though they were not concealed intentionally.
Shabbat 5a-b: Reading scrolls on the Porch
11/03/2020 - 15th of Adar, 5780
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There are four categories of "domain" with regard to carrying out on Shabbat: A private domain is an area larger than 4 by 4 handbreadths, divided from the surrounding area by a fence at least 10 handbreadths high. One is permitted to carry within the private domain, which is considered to extend upwards to the sky. The public domain is a place at least 16 cubits wide, through which many people (some authorities say 600,000) pass daily. The public domain is considered to extend 10 handbreadths upwards. On Shabbat one is prohibited to carry objects a distance of more than 4 cubits in the public domain. One is also prohibited to transfer objects to or from the public domain. The third type of domain is an exempt place, which is an area less than 4 by 4 handbreadths that is separate from the surrounding area. The Sages added a fourth domain, called a karmelit - an intermediate category of domain between a private domain and a public domain. Some of these laws are exhibited in the following case that appears on today's daf.
One who was reading a sacred book in scroll form on Shabbat on an elevated, wide threshold and the book rolled from his hand outside and into the public domain, he may roll it back to himself, since one of its ends is still in his hand. However, if he was reading on top the roof, which is a full-fledged private domain, and the book rolled from his hand, as long as the edge of the book did not reach ten handbreadths above the public domain, the book is still in its own area, and he may roll it back to himself. However, once the book has reached within ten handbreadths above the public domain, he is prohibited to roll it back to himself. In that case, he may only turn it over onto the side with writing, so that the writing of the book should face down and should not be exposed and degraded.
In the case of a person on a threshold who was reading a sacred text written on a scroll and that scroll unrolled and landed on a karmelit (Mishna Berura), if one end of the scroll remained in his hand, he may roll it back to him. That is the ruling even if the threshold was a private domain, i.e., four by four handbreadths and ten handbreadths high, and the scroll unrolled into a public domain. This was permitted in order to prevent disrespect for the sacred text. However, if the book fell from his hand completely, he is permitted to roll it back only if it rolled into a karmelit.
Shabbat 4a-b: Is it Forbidden to Throw on Shabbat?
10/03/2020 - 14th of Adar, 5780
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We have already learned in the Mishna that transferring an object from a public domain to a private domain is one of the forbidden activities on Shabbat. It is clear that carrying within a private domain is permitted. What if an object remains in a private domain and merely travels through a public domain? That question is dealt with on today's daf. The Gemara teaches:
One who throws an object from the private domain to the other private domain and there is the public domain in the middle, Rabbi Akiva deems him liable for carrying out into the public domain, and the Rabbis deem him exempt because the object merely passed through the public domain and did not come to rest in it.
In explanation of Rabbi Akiva's position, the Gemara introduces the idea of kelutah me-mi she-hunhah damiah - that an object in airspace is considered at rest. It is possible to identify two fundamental approaches in clarifying the essence of the halakhic principle that an object in airspace is considered at rest. According to Rashi and R Hananel, an object passing through airspace of a certain domain is considered as if it were placed on the ground of that domain. In the Jerusalem Talmud, on the other hand, this phrase was understood to mean that all the airspace in a certain domain is considered as if it were solid matter upon which the objects rest. The principle was formulated: The air within the partitions is like its substance, i.e., it is viewed as being like the ground beneath it. According to Rabbi Akiva's opinion, an object that passed, even briefly, through the airspace of the public domain is considered as if it came to rest in that domain. Therefore, one who threw the object has, for all intents and purposes, lifted the object from the private domain and placed it in the public domain, and he is liable.
Shabbat 3a-b: Biblical Prohibitions vs. Rabbinic Ordinances
09/03/2020 - 13th of Adar, 5780
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Two different expressions are used in the Mishna to indicate that a given activity is not forbidden on Shabbat. The Gemara on today's daf explains that with regard to the laws of Shabbat, the word mutar means that an action is permitted, while the word patur means that an action is forbidden by the Sages, but it will not incur punishment, since there is no biblical prohibition involved. What if there is a conflict between a Rabbinic ordinance and a biblical prohibition? The Gemara presents the following quandary:
Rav Beivai bar Abayye raised the dilemma: One who unwittingly stuck bread in the oven on Shabbat, as bread was baked by sticking the dough to the sides of a heated oven, did they permit him to override a rabbinic prohibition and remove it from the oven before it bakes, i.e., before he incurs liability to bring a sin-offering for baking bread on Shabbat, or did they not permit him to do so? Removing the bread is also prohibited on Shabbat. However, its prohibition is only by rabbinic law.
The fundamental dilemma is: May one violate a rabbinical prohibition in order to avoid violating a Torah prohibition or not? This dilemma presented by Rav Beivai bar Abayye was considered to be one that remained unresolved. The Gemara attempts to reach a conclusion about this question based on a similar teaching that apparently prohibited someone whose hand was stretched from a private domain into a karmelit (an area that was considered "public" only on a rabbinic level) from pulling his hand back into the private domain. Ultimately this position is rejected by the Gemara, which concludes that the rabbinic ordinance can be violated by an individual in order to save himself from a biblical prohibition. The ovens in those days were made of earthenware. The oven was ignited from below. Through a special opening, dough would be stuck to the sides of the oven for baking. Removing the bread from the oven was performed in a unique manner which, while not considered an actual prohibited labor, was viewed as a unique skill that was prohibited by the Sages.
Shabbat 2a-b: The Prohibition of Carrying on Shabbat
08/03/2020 - 12th of Adar, 5780
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Massekhet Shabbat opens with a discussion of the biblical prohibition of carrying out on Shabbat, a topic that is somewhat unexpected, in order to pique the interest of the reader. In terms of the overall framework of the tractate, it would have been more appropriate to begin with later mishnayot. The prohibited labor to carry out a burden on Shabbat is alluded to in the Torah and explicitly stated in the Prophets. Although it appears in the list of prohibited labors in the Mishna, it constitutes its own discrete unit, and its parameters are significantly different from those of the other prohibited labors. There are two fundamental aspects to the prohibited labor of carrying out. The most significant of these is the prohibition to carry an object from one domain to another, e.g., from the private to the public domain. The definitions of these domains with regard to Shabbat are distinctive, and their parameters are by no means identical to the definitions of domains in other aspects of halakha, neither in terms of their ownership nor in terms of their use. One only violates the Torah prohibition to carry out on Shabbat if he lifts the object from one place and places it in another place. As is the case with regard to the other prohibited labors, one who performs this action intentionally is liable for the punishment of karet. If he does so unwittingly, he is liable to bring a sin-offering. Several reasons have been suggested to explain why the tractate opens specifically with the prohibited labor of carrying out from domain to domain. Some explain (e.g. Rabbeinu Tam, the Ran and the Rashba) that the reason is because the tractate, in general, is ordered chronologically and begins with a discussion of matters prohibited immediately when Shabbat begins. One of the matters that requires immediate attention is the prohibition of carrying out, and therefore it was necessary to cite this halakhah first. According to the Penei Yehoshua, since the matter of carrying out is derived from the verse, “A man should not go out of his place” (Shmot 16:29), which is mentioned in the Torah prior to the rest of the prohibited labors of Shabbat, the Sages introduced it earlier in the Mishna.
Berakhot 64a-b: Questions About Torah Leadership
07/03/2020 - 11th of Adar, 5780
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The closing daf in Massekhet Berakhot tells of the succession of leadership in the yeshiva in Pumbedita.
Rabba and Rav Yosef: Rav Yosef was "Sinai," extremely erudite, and Rabba was "oker harim" - one who uproots mountains, i.e., extremely sharp. The moment arrived when they were needed; one of them was to be chosen as head of the yeshiva. They sent the following question there, to the Sages of Eretz Yisrael: Which takes precedence, Sinai or one who uproots mountains? They sent to them in response: Sinai takes precedence, for everyone needs the owner of the wheat, one who is expert in the sources. Nevertheless, Rav Yosef did not accept the appointment, as the Chaldean astrologers told him: You will preside as head of the yeshiva for two years.
Rabba presided as head of the yeshiva for twenty-two years. After he died, Rav Yosef presided for two and a half years. When Rav Yehuda, who was the head of the yeshiva in Pumbedita, died, there were two qualified candidates to replace him: Rabba and Rav Yosef. Rabba, who was younger than Rav Yosef, was renowned for his sharp intellect, while Rav Yosef was renowned for his encyclopedic knowledge. Since there was uncertainty with regard to which of them should be chosen, they posed a fundamental question to the Sages of Eretz Yisrael: Which takes precedence, “Sinai” or one who uproots mountains? The answer that was received was that Sinai takes precedence. However, Rav Yosef, for reasons described in the Gemara, deferred, and during the twenty-two years that Rabba served as head of the yeshiva, Rav Yosef did not assume even the slightest air of authority. Only after Rabba’s death, Rav Yosef assumed the position at the head of the yeshiva. Regarding the Chaldean astrologers, it is apparent from several places in the Talmud that the Chaldeans, or, as they are known in the Book of Daniel (2:4), Kasdim, were sorcerers and magicians with whom the Torah prohibits consulting. However, the Chaldeans were the scientists of that era and their primary area of expertise was astrology, i.e., foretelling a person’s future based on the stars. Although not everyone approved of consulting the Chaldeans (see Tosafot, Shabbat 156b), there is no real transgression in doing so, and it was not uncommon for Jewish men and women to seek their advice.
Berakhot 63a-b: Learning Alone
06/03/2020 - 10th of Adar, 5780
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The Gemara on today's daf describes a gathering of the Sages in Kerem B'Yavneh - "The vineyard of Yavneh" - which served as the seat of the Sanhedrin. On this occasion, a number of different Sages offered homilies in honor of the Torah. One of the ideas that was shared was that Torah study "is only acquired through study in a group." Furthermore, based on a passage in Sefer Yirmiyahu (50:6), the Gemara concludes that a curse was placed on scholars who sit alone and study Torah who ultimately grow foolish because of their solitary study. In his Ein Ayah, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook explains that the Holy Torah is a Torah of life. It does not guide its followers towards a life of asceticism or a rejection of the wholesome pleasures of the world that can raise the spirits of an individual. Therefore, the Torah anticipates that those who walk in its path will be members of a community, whose support and encouragement will help facilitate their spiritual growth and development. Moreover, an essential aspect of a Torah scholar is the role that he plays in improving the world around him. To accomplish this, the scholar must develop an appreciation for opinions that are at variance with his own, both in the realm of halakhah and in the realm of ethics. That kind of openness comes about only by means of group study, in the course of which one becomes accustomed to hearing opinions that are different from his own. When one chooses to limit debate and to remain secluded within his own closed community, he is unable to learn the ideas and thoughts of his peers and will consequently be unwilling to accept dissenting positions. Isolation inevitably leads to intractable disagreements and, ultimately, to bitter fights and arguments.
Berakhot 62a-b: Learning From a Mentor
05/03/2020 - 9th of Adar, 5780
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Today's daf opens with a number of stories where the Talmudic Sages would follow their teachers into the bathroom in order to observe their behavior and learn the proper way to act in those situations. They then shared this information with their peers. When questioned about the appropriateness of following them into a private place and observing them there, the response that is given is "It is Torah, and I must learn." The lessons gleaned in the bathroom all related to issues of modesty, and the Gemara continues with stories about the importance of modesty even in the privacy of the bathroom and even at night when it is dark. An even more surprising story is told about Rav Kahana: The Gemara relates that R' Kahana entered and lay beneath Rav’s bed. He heard Rav chatting and laughing with his wife, and seeing to his needs, i.e., having relations with her. Rav Kahana said to Rav: The mouth of Abba, Rav, is like one whom has never eaten a cooked dish, i.e., his behavior was lustful. Rav said to him: Kahana, you are here? Leave, as this is an undesirable mode of behavior. Rav Kahana said to him: It is Torah, and I must learn. The Maharsha asks why, in all of these cases, did the disciple not simply ask his teacher as to the proper way to conduct himself in these situations? He explains that the students wanted a practical rather than a theoretical answer, and they thought that the ideal manner to learn the practical halakhah is to watch their mentor in action. The essence of the matter is that Torah encompasses all facets of life. Even in areas considered personal and private, a great person must conduct himself in accordance with the Torah, recognizing that, as a role model, others may learn from him.
Berakhot 61a-b: Creating Man…and Woman
04/03/2020 - 8th of Adar, 5780
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Because of an additional letter that appears in the Torah in the Creation story, the Gemara offers a variety of explanations - one of them suggesting that in the original creation of Man the creation was androgynous. Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar said: The Holy One, Blessed be He, created two faces on Adam the first man; he was created both male and female in a single body, as it is stated: “You have formed me [tzartani] behind and before” (Tehillim 139:5); tzartani is derived from the word tzura [face]. God formed two faces on a single creation, back and front. In the Gemara in Ketubot (daf 8a), in the context of seeking to explain a dispute, the possibility is raised that there is a disagreement whether there was a single creation of Man or if there was a second Creation, as well. Most commentaries tie that dispute to the question in our Gemara, whether man was created with one face and the woman was subsequently an independent creation, or whether he was created with two faces and the creation of Eve was merely the separation the two faces from each other, i.e., not a creation at all. Another possible explanation of the dispute is based on the opinion in our Gemara: At first, the thought entered His mind to create two, but ultimately only one was created. On that basis, the dispute can be explained as a disagreement: Which is the determining factor, thought or action? Our Gemara continues discussing the creation of Man
It is stated: “And the tzelah which the Lord, God, had taken from the man, He made a woman, and brought her unto the man” (Bereshit 2:22). Rav and Shmuel disagree over the meaning of the word tzelah: One said: It means face. Eve was originally one face or side of Adam. And one said: It means tail, which he explains to mean that the tzelah was an appendage, i.e., one of the ribs in Adam’s chest.
The Aruk explains that the word tail, here and in several other places in the Talmud, refers to an appendage that is unlike the object to which it is attached in appearance or size. The Rashba explains "tail" in this context as a limb of secondary importance, as a tail is to a body.
Berakhot 60a-b: Of Bathhouses and Bloodletting
03/03/2020 - 7th of Adar, 5780
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On today's daf the Gemara teaches that everyday activities such as going to the bathhouse or engaging in bloodletting (see above, daf 57) were also reason to recite prayers and blessings.
The Sages taught: One who enters a Roman bathhouse, where a fire burns beneath the pool of water used for bathing, and where there is the risk of collapse, says: "May it be Your will, O Lord my God, that you save me from this and similar matters, and do not let ruin or iniquity befall me, and if ruin or iniquity does befall me, let my death be atonement for all of my transgressions." Abayye said: One should not say: If ruin befalls me, so as not to open his mouth to Satan and provoke him. As Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said and as it was taught in a baraita in the name of Rabbi Yosei: One should never open his mouth to Satan by raising, at his own initiative, the possibility of mishap or death.
  The Roman bathhouses during the time of the Mishna consisted of several component parts, including a pool of boiling hot water that was under the floor of the bathhouse, which kept the building warm. The collapse of one of the bathhouse walls was liable to cause boiling water or extremely hot air to be released, endangering the lives of those in the bathhouse. Regarding bloodletting, the Gemara relates:
Rav Aĥa said: One who enters to let blood says: "May it be Your will, O Lord my God, that this enterprise be for healing and that You should heal me. As You are a faithful God of healing and Your healing is truth. Because it is not the way of people to heal, but they have become accustomed." Abayye responded and said: One should not say this, as it was taught in the school of Rabbi Yishmael that from the verse, “And shall cause him to be thoroughly healed” (Shmot 21:19), from here we derive that permission is granted to a doctor to heal.
In the time of the Mishna, heretical groups maintained that one is prohibited from interfering in matters that are in God’s purview by engaging in healing. Some explained that a specific Torah source is necessary to permit one to heal illnesses that are not caused by man, as in so doing he acts contrary to God’s will. Others explained that the emphasis of this verse is that doctors are permitted to heal and to accept payment for their services. One might have thought that since he is engaged in the mitzva of saving lives, he may not accept payment. The verse teaches that he may.
Berakhot 59a-b: The Source of an Earthquake
02/03/2020 - 6th of Adar, 5780
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The Mishna taught that over zeva’ot one recites the blessing: "Whose strength and power fill the world." The Gemara asks: What are zeva’ot? Rav Ketina said: An earthquake. The Gemara relates:
Rav Ketina was once walking along the road when he came to the entrance of the house of a necromancer and an earthquake rumbled. He said: Does this necromancer know what is this earthquake? The necromancer raised his voice and said: Ketina, Ketina, why would I not know? Certainly this earthquake occurred because when the Holy One, Blessed be He, remembers His children who are suffering among the nations of the world, He sheds two tears into the great sea. The sound of their reverberation is heard from one end of the earth to the other. And that is an earthquake. Rav Ketina said: The necromancer is a liar and his statements are lies. If so, it would necessitate an earthquake followed by another earthquake, one for each tear. The Gemara comments: That is not so, as it indeed causes an earthquake followed by another earthquake; and the fact that Rav Ketina did not admit that the necromancer was correct was so that everyone would not mistakenly follow him.
According to Rav Nissim Gaon, it is essential to underscore that, unquestionably, there is no room for comparison between God and a human being. He neither laughs, nor cries, nor sighs, nor sheds tears. Rather, the aggadic portions of the Talmud must be understood as metaphors and must not be taken literally. The explanations offered by Rav Ketina and the other Sages should be understood as statements that point to the unique connection that exists between God and the Jewish people. Due to the significance of the Jewish people in His eyes, the different natural phenomena should be viewed as signs to inform the Jewish people that God is anxious and concerned about their fate in exile. All early talmudic commentaries - Rav Hai Ga'on, Rav Nissim Gaon and Rabbeinu Ĥananel - hold that these explanations of how earthquakes develop are to be understood as symbolism and esoterica. Essentially, this underscores that the relationship between God and Israel is at the basis of all phenomena in the world, and therefore natural phenomena in the world always have some connection to that relationship. An earthquake is an expression of God’s pain over the destruction of the Temple.
Berakhot 58a-b: Blessings Recited on People
01/03/2020 - 5th of Adar, 5780
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There are occasions when simply seeing a group of people - or even a single individual - is reason enough to express thanks to God by means of reciting a blessing. Some examples that appear on today's daf include:
The Sages taught: One who sees the Sages of Israel recites: Blessed… Who has shared of His wisdom with those who revere Him. One who sees Sages of the nations of the world recites: Blessed… Who has given of His wisdom to flesh and blood.
The formula of the blessing for non-Jews in standard editions of the Talmud is livriyotav, "to His creations," rather than levasar vadam, "to flesh and blood." The censor made this change to soften the contrast between: "Those who revere him," which is the formula of the blessing recited for Jews, emphasizing their connection with God, and: "Flesh and blood," which indicates no such connection. The formula: "To His creations," indicates that non-Jews have a connection with God as well.
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: One who sees his friend after thirty days have passed since last seeing him recites: Blessed…Who has given us life, sustained us and brought us to this time. One who sees his friend after twelve months recites: Blessed…Who revives the dead.
Tosafot and the Rosh both write that a blessing on seeing his friend after thirty days applies only to one who is especially close to the person he meets and he is not merely an acquaintance. In a responsum, the Rashba notes that there is no difference between men and women; in either case, this halakhah applies. The Maharsha explains that the obligation to recite a blessing upon seeing a friend after twelve months is the fact that on every Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur all mankind is judged. If a full year has passed since the last time these two individuals met, obviously, each has been tried and lived. An appropriate reaction to meeting someone who has survived that ordeal is to recite: Blessed…Who revives the dead
Berakhot 57a-b: Seeing Bloodletting in a Dream
29/02/2020 - 4th of Adar, 5780
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The Gemara on today's daf continues with its discussion of dreams and their significance. Many of the examples of dreams involve everyday objects or activities. Thus we find a discussion of the meaning of seeing different Biblical books in a dream, or metal objects, or farm animals. Similarly we find discussions of the significance of seeing oneself climbing onto a roof, entering a forest or having his clothing torn. Another common practice during Talmudic times was bloodletting. The Gemara concludes that if a person sees himself undergoing that procedure it is an indication that his transgressions have been forgiven, based on a passage in Sefer Yeshayahu (1:18) "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Bloodletting involves spilling small quantities of blood. It was used both as a cure and as a general preventive therapy that was believed to keep a person healthy. Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluid were considered to be humors, the proper balance of which was believed to maintain health. It was the most common medical practice performed by doctors on both humans and animals from antiquity through the late 19th century, a period of almost two millennia. Today it is well established that bloodletting is not effective for most diseases. One of the only remaining conditions for which it is used is Polycythemia vera, a disease in which the body produces too many red blood cells. A classic symptom of this illness is erythromelalgia. This is a sudden, severe burning pain in the hands or feet, usually accompanied by a reddish or bluish coloration of the skin. Erythromelalgia is caused by an increased platelet count or increased platelet "stickiness" (aggregation), resulting in the formation of tiny blood clots in the vessels of the extremity. Patients with polycythemia vera are prone to the development of blood clots (thrombosis). A major thrombotic complication (e.g. stroke or heart attack) may sometimes be the first symptom or indication that a person has polycythemia vera.
Berakhot 56a-b: Influencing Dreams
28/02/2020 - 3rd of Adar, 5780
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The Gemara ascribes great significance to dreams, but it recognizes that they are influenced by conscious and psychological stimuli. Thus we find that when challenged to predict the dreams of non-Jews, the Sages were able to suggest scenarios that were curious enough to get them to ponder them for an entire day, which led them to dream about them at night. The Gemara relates:
The Roman emperor said to Rabbi Yehoshua, son of Rabbi Ĥananya: You Jews say that you are extremely wise. If that is so, tell me what I will see in my dream. Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: You will see the Persians capture you, and enslave you, and force you to herd unclean animals with a golden staff. He thought the entire day about the images described to him by Rabbi Yehoshua and that night he saw it in his dream. Shevor Malka, king of Persia said to Shmuel: You Jews say that you are extremely wise. If that is so, tell me what I will see in my dream. Shmuel said to him: You will see the Romans come and take you into captivity and force you to grind date pits in mills of gold. He thought the entire day about the images described to him by Shmuel, and that night he saw it in his dream.
Shevor Malka - Shahpuhr - was the name of a number of Persian kings. Our Gemara is referring to the first king Shahpuhr, who continued his father's success in wars against the Roman Empire, capturing the city of Netzivim and arriving at the border of Syria. In the course of a number of attacks, he not only defeated the Roman emperor Velrinus, but he captured him and held him until his death. With regard to internal matters, he was an open-minded leader, and allowed a good deal of freedom of religion. It appears that he showed an interest in Judaism and was on good terms with the amora Shmuel.
Berakhot 55a-b: Dreams
27/02/2020 - 2nd of Adar, 5780
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Much of the closing perek of Massekhet Berakhot deals with dreams and their significance. Here are a number of examples of statements found on today's daf regarding dreams:
1. "A good person is not shown a good dream"
Since the purpose of a dream is to cause a person to repent, a good person is shown a bad dream to facilitate his repentance. A bad person is shown good dreams as part of his punishment, since his repentance is not desired (HaKotev). Even though there are cases where good dreams were experienced by good people, e.g., the biblical Joseph, that is when seeing the dream plays a role in its realization (Tziyyun LeNefesh Hayya).
2. "Anyone who sleeps seven days without a dream is called evil"
The idea that going without a dream for an extended period happens to the evil can be explained by understanding that dreams are an expression of the subconscious thoughts of a person during the day, as the Gemara derives from the book of Daniel (2:29). It is clear that every person has inappropriate thoughts that they regret. Even people who carry out wicked deeds usually regret their actions and want to repent. Many dreams are an unconscious manifestation of these thoughts. Consequently, one who has no dreams for seven days must have performed some evil deed and did not even consider repenting (Iyyun Ya’akov).
3. One who saw a dream and does not know what he saw should stand before the priests when they lift their hands during the Priestly Blessing and say a prayer that the dream should be interpreted in a positive manner.
One approach to this statement understands that it refers to someone who does not know whether the dream that he saw was good or bad. This approach suggests that, in addition to reciting the formula for bettering a dream, he should also recite this prayer during the Priestly Blessing (Eliya Rabba). The Maharsha suggests that only one who saw a disturbing dream recites the formula for bettering a dream. The prayer recited during the Priestly Blessing is recited only by one who wakes up upset by his dream but has no recollection of its content.
Berakhot 54a-b: Blessing God
26/02/2020 - 1st of Adar, 5780
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In the final perek of Massekhet Berakhot, which begins on today's daf, we find discussions of different types of blessings. Despite the differences between these blessings, there are fundamental issues common to all of these blessings that fuse them into a single unit. The blessings in this chapter are neither blessings of enjoyment nor blessings over mitzvot. A significant number of them constitute the independent category of blessings of thanksgiving for God’s beneficence. In addition to the blessings of thanksgiving, there are several other blessings that do not fall into this category. Nevertheless, all those blessings share a common denominator. They all instruct us that anything that deviates from the norm obligates one to recite a blessing, be it a permanent fixture in nature, e.g., mountains and seas; natural phenomena, e.g., thunder and lightning; unique creatures; or events of extreme benevolence, e.g., miracles or tragic events. The significance of these blessings is the acknowledgement that everything in this world is the work of God. We offer thanks for His goodness and miracles and accept the tragedies and disasters. Fundamentally, these blessings are not expressions of thanks. Rather, they are declarations of a faith-based approach that the Creator directs and supervises everything. Consequently, everything that transpires in the world should be tied to the understanding that “it is the Lord that does all these things” (Yeshayahu 45:7). The blessings recited over unique phenomena come to underscore God’s involvement in every mundane occurrence as well. The epitome of this approach is the incorporation of God’s name into the standard greeting exchanged when people meet. Although one might consider the introduction of God’s name into routine exchanges as belittling His greatness, because of the rationale implicit in the verse: “It is time to work for the Lord; they have made void Your Torah” (Tehillim 119:126), attributing everything in the world to God was made top priority.
Berakhot 53a-b: Washing After a Meal
25/02/2020 - 30th of Sh'vat, 5780
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This perek closes with statements discussing the importance of washing at the end of a meal. The Gemara quotes a baraita containing three statements that talk about this law:
According to Rabbi Zilai, if one does not have oil with which to cleanse his hands after eating, this prevents him from reciting the Grace after Meals blessing. Rabbi Zivai says: Lack of that oil does not prevent one from reciting Grace after Meals. R Zuhamai says: Just as one who is filthy is unfit for Temple service, so too are filthy hands unfit for reciting the Grace after Meals blessing.
In response to this baraita R Naĥman bar Yitzĥak says:
I do not know of Zilai or Zivai or Zuhamai; rather, I know a baraita, as R Yehuda said that Rav said, and some say that it was taught in a baraita: It is stated: “And you shall sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy, for holy am I, the Lord your God” (Vayikra 20:26). With regard to this verse, the Sages said: And you shall sanctify yourselves, these are the first waters with which one washes his hands before the meal; and you shall be holy, these are the final waters; for holy, this is oil which one spreads on his hands; am I, the Lord your God, this is the Grace after Meals blessing.
The Maharatz Chajes suggest that the strange names of these Sages, along with the fact that they do not appear in any other sources, leads to the conjecture that Zivai, Zilai, and Zuhamai are nicknames rather than the actual names of these individuals. It seems that certain Sages who only stated a single well-known halakha came to be known by that halakha. The halakha concerning disqualification due to filth, zohama, led to its author being called Rav Zuhamai. Apparently, that is the case with regard to Zilai and Zivai as well.
Berakhot 52a-b: Limiting Ritual Impurity at a Meal - II
24/02/2020 - 29th of Sh'vat, 5780
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As we learned on yesterday's daf , the Mishna quoted the opinions of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel who both attempt to limit the spread of ritual impurity at meals. Today's Gemara quotes a Tosefta that expands on their discussion.
Beit Shammai say: One washes his hands and mixes water with the wine in the cup thereafter, as if you say that one mixes water with the wine in the cup first, his hands will remain ritually impure, as the Sages decreed that unwashed hands have second degree ritual impurity status as if they touched something rendered ritually impure by a creeping animal. Consequently, there is room for concern that the liquid that inevitably drips on the outside of the cup might become ritually impure due to his hands, and those liquids will in turn render the cup ritually impure. Consequently, Beit Shammai said that the hands must be washed first in order to prevent that result.
And Beit Hillel say: One mixes water with the wine in the cup and only washes his hands thereafter, as if you say that one washes his hands first, there is a decree lest the liquid from the outside of the cup that dampened one’s hands will be rendered ritually impure due to the cup which is liable to be impure, and the liquid will in turn render his hands ritually impure.
The halakhot of ritual purity and impurity are among the most complex of Torah laws (Shabbat 31a; see Rashi). However, there are certain fundamental principles that apply universally. Most items that are impure by Torah law, i.e., a dead creeping animal, the carcass of an animal, a leper, and a zav, are primary sources of ritual impurity and render any person or vessel with which they come into contact ritually impure. A person, vessel, or food which comes into contact with a primary source of ritual impurity becomes a secondary source of ritual impurity and assumes first degree ritual impurity status. The item most sensitive to becoming ritually impure is consecrated meat, which may assume even fourth degree ritual impurity status. Teruma can assume no lower than third degree status and non-sacred items can assume no lower than second decree status. An item that becomes ritually impure but cannot render other items impure is deemed invalid or disqualified, not impure. To this basic system, the Sages added numerous decrees. One is: Liquids that become ritually impure always assume first degree ritual impurity status. This was a decree due to liquids of a zav (see Shabbat 4b; Bekhorot 38a). Any food item that comes into contact with a ritually impure liquid assumes at least second degree status.
Berakhot 51a-b: Limiting Ritual Impurity at a Meal - I
23/02/2020 - 28th of Sh'vat, 5780
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Grace after Meals, and even more so the zimmun blessing, which were discussed in the previous perek of Massekhet Berakhot, lend an element of worship and prayer to every meal. However, even the meal itself is not merely an exercise in eating, but it contains a wide-ranging collection of laws with regard to the various food items consumed in the course of a meal. The eighth perek, which begins on today's daf , opens with a discussion of one specific issue - ritual impurity. By the letter of the law, one is not required to avoid ritual impurity, other than when dealing with consecrated items or entering the Temple. However, the nation’s elite, ĥaverim and Torah scholars, were always vigilant in their observance of the halakhot of ritual impurity and observed a standard of purity equal to that observed by priests. The plethora of halakhot associated with ritual purity and impurity and the preponderance of rabbinic decrees in that area created a situation where it was necessary to be especially vigilant during every meal in order to avoid both becoming ritually impure himself and making the food ritually impure. Special care was required with regard to liquids, as by rabbinic decree, they become ritually impure by means of contact with any impurity and they then render impure all objects with which they subsequently come into contact. In fact, both Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel seek to minimize as much as possible the potential of a person or food items becoming ritually impure in the course of a meal. Thus, we find that the Mishna on today's daf teaches:
Beit Shammai say: After washing, one dries his hands with a cloth and places it on the table. And Beit Hillel say: One places it on the cushion upon which he is sitting. Similarly, Beit Shammai say: One sweeps the area of the house where the meal took place and he washes his hands with the final waters before Grace after Meals thereafter. And Beit Hillel say: One washes his hands and sweeps the house thereafter.
Each of the suggestions raised attempts to limit the spread of ritual impurity, as will be explained on tomorrow's daf.
Berakhot 50a-b: Proper Use and Care of Food
22/02/2020 - 27th of Sh'vat, 5780
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The Gemara on today's daf discusses using food for different purposes. For example -
The Sages taught: Four things were said with regard to bread: One may not place raw meat on bread so the blood will not drip onto the bread and render it inedible; and one may not pass a full cup of wine over bread lest the wine drip on it and ruin the bread; and one may not throw bread; and one may not prop up a dish with a piece of bread.
This ruling notwithstanding, the Gemara recounts how Mar Zutra once tossed fruit to his colleagues, who expressed surprise at the lack of respect that he showed for the food. In the discussion that followed, two contradictory baraitot were quoted. One taught:
Just as one may not throw bread, so too one may not throw other foods?
The other taught:
Although one may not throw bread, he may throw other foods?
Ultimately the Gemara differentiates between food that becomes disgusting when thrown, where all throwing is forbidden, and food that will not become disgusting, where only bread may not be thrown. The Rosh explains that one may not throw bread at all, not because it becomes disgusting, but in deference to its uniqueness, as throwing bread is always considered disrespectful whether or not it spoils (Beit Yosef ). The reason that it is prohibited to treat food with contempt is because it is tantamount to denying the beneficence of God, Who provides one with food (HaBoneh). The Gemara extends the discussion of food becoming disgusting to other areas of halakhah, as well. With regard to blessings on food, for example, if one put food or drink into his mouth without reciting a blessing and is able to remove the food without it becoming disgusting, he should do so and recite a blessing. If not, he should move the food to the side of his mouth and recite the blessing. Liquids may be swallowed (Rambam Sefer Ahava, Hilkhot Berakhot 8:12; Shulĥan Aruk, Oraĥ Ĥayyim 172:1–2).
Berakhot 49a-b: Discussing Covenant, Torah and Sovereignty
21/02/2020 - 26th of Sh'vat, 5780
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Certain concepts are essential to Grace after Meals, and if they are not mentioned, the recitation is invalid. Among the concepts mentioned are covenant, Torah and sovereignty. The Gemara relates that not all of the Sages were in agreement regarding this requirement. Rav Hisda is quoted as telling Rabbi Zeira that he did not feel confident that he knew the laws of Grace after Meals. He explained this by means of the following story:
I happened to come to the house of the Exilarch and recited Grace after Meals, and Rav Sheshet stiffened his neck over me like a snake, i.e., he got angry and challenged me. Rabbi Zeira asked: And why did Rav Sheshet become angry with you? He answered: I did not mention covenant, Torah, or sovereignty in Grace after Meals. Rabbi Zeira wondered: And why did you not mention those themes? He answered that he did so in accordance with the opinion that Rav Ĥananel said that Rav said: If one does not mention covenant, Torah or sovereignty in Grace after Meals, he nevertheless fulfilled his obligation because these themes are not applicable to all of Israel. Covenant does not apply to women; Torah and sovereignty apply neither to women nor to slaves. RabbiZeira said to him: Rav Sheshet should have been angry with you. And you abandoned all of these tanna’im and amora’im who disagree with him, and followed Rav? Evidently, many tanna’im and amora’im hold that covenant, Torah, and sovereignty must be mentioned in the second blessing of Grace after Meals.
Many questioned why Rav Hisda recited Grace after Meals without mentioning covenant, Torah, and sovereignty, contrary to the virtually unanimous opinion of the Sages. Even if Rav Hananel permitted this after the fact, he did not prescribe to do so ab initio. Some explain that Rav Ĥisda inadvertently neglected to mention covenant, Torah, and sovereignty. Once he did so, he did not return to mention it (Penei Yehoshua). Others explain that there were women and slaves reclining at that table, and he sought to recite a formula appropriate for all present (Tziyyun LeNefesh Hayya). Alternatively, he held that because women and slaves do not mention covenant and sovereignty, men should not mention them either to ensure a universally uniform formula for Grace after Meals (Rashba).
Berakhot 48a-b: The Origins of the Blessings of Grace After Meals
20/02/2020 - 25th of Sh'vat, 5780
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As we have learned (see above, daf 46), Grace after Meals consists of four blessings, the first three of which are of Biblical origin, based on the passage in Sefer Devarim (8:10), while the fourth blessing is either derived from that same verse, or else it is a later, Rabbinic, addition. The baraita that is the source for this teaching appears on today's daf. At the same time, today's daf also contains the following teaching, in which Rav Naĥman credits the origins of the four blessings of Grace after Meals to various Biblical characters, including those who lived after the Torah was given.
Moses instituted for Israel the first blessing of: Who feeds all, when the manna descended for them and they needed to thank God. Joshua instituted the blessing of the land when they entered Eretz Yisrael. David and Solomon instituted the third blessing: Who builds Jerusalem, in the following manner: David instituted “…on Israel Your people and on Jerusalem Your city…” as he conquered the city, and Solomon instituted “…on the great and Holy Temple…” as he was the one who built the Temple. They instituted the blessing: Who is good and does good, at Yavne in reference to the slain Jews of the city of Beitar at the culmination of the bar Kokheva rebellion. They were ultimately brought to burial after a period during which Hadrian refused to permit their burial.
The Rashba points out that if the first three blessings are obligatory by Torah law, how is it that they were not recited until the days of David and Solomon? He explains that the basis and fundamental essence of the blessings are alluded to in the Torah, but the formulae of the blessings were instituted over time by those Jewish luminaries, and changed according to the needs of the times. It is clear, for example, that the blessing that we say "Build up Jerusalem, the holy city, speedily in our time" is a changed blessing that could not possibly have been recited in King Solomon's time.
Berakhot 47a-b: Exclusions From Participation in a Grace After Meals Group
19/02/2020 - 24th of Sh'vat, 5780
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While discussing the inclusion of a Samaritan in a zimmun - a group of three joining together when reciting Grace after Meals - the Gemara quotes a baraita that teaches that an am ha’aretz may not be included in a zimmun. The term am ha’aretz - literally, people of the land - already appears in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah as a term reserved for gentiles, not Jews. At a later stage, am ha’aretz became a derogatory epithet for a Jew who acts like a gentile. Fundamentally, an am ha’aretz is not just one ignorant of Torah, who might be called an ignoramus or fool [boor], but one who actually behaves in a non-Jewish manner. It is clear from the continuation of the baraita that am ha’aretz is not a clearly defined concept. There are many opinions with regard to characterizing an am ha’aretz. They range from the opinion that the term refers to one who does not serve Torah scholars and learn from them to the opinion that the term refers to one with no Torah, no Mishna and no manners. According to the first opinion, many learned people are included in this category. According to the second opinion, an am ha’aretz is the basest of individuals to whom the most derogatory epithets are generally applied. The common application of the term is to one devoid of spirituality, with no profession or occupation, no education, and no connection to Torah and mitzvot. In the talmudic era, and even more so in later times, the situation changed in two respects. First, while there remained many who were uneducated, the am ha’aretz in its most extreme form disappeared, as even simple Jews upheld Torah and mitzvot to the best of their ability. Secondly, to avoid causing rifts among the nation in exile and in their wanderings, the halakhot restricting inclusion of most types of am ha’aretz were repealed. Nowadays, even a full-fledged am ha’aretz may be included in a zimmun so as not to cause divisiveness within the Jewish people (Tosafot). Only one who has excluded himself from the community of Israel may not be included in a zimmun (Magen Avraham; Shulĥan Aruk, Oraĥ Ĥayyim 199:3).
Berakhot 46a-b: The Fourth Blessing in Grace After Meals
18/02/2020 - 23th of Sh'vat, 5780
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There are four blessings that make up Birkat HaMazon . The first three are generally viewed as of Biblical origin, but according to some, the fourth is a separate, Rabbinic blessing.
R Yitzĥak bar Shmuel bar Marta said another proof in the name of Rav: Know that the fourth blessing - HaTov veHaMetiv - "Who is good and does good," is not required by Torah law, as one who recites it begins to recite it with: Blessed, but does not conclude reciting it with: Blessed. This is the formula in all comparable blessings, as it was taught in a baraita: All blessings, one begins to recite them with: Blessed, and concludes reciting them with: Blessed, except for blessings over fruit, blessings over mitzvot, a blessing that is juxtaposed to another blessing, and the final blessing after Shema. There are among these blessings those that one who recites it begins to recite it with: Blessed, but does not conclude reciting it with: Blessed; and there are among these blessings that one who recites it concludes reciting it with: Blessed, but does not begin reciting it with: Blessed. The blessing: "Who is good and does good," one who recites it begins to recite it with: Blessed, but does not conclude reciting it with: Blessed. This proves by inference that it is an independent blessing.
Generally speaking, the blessings recited over food or before performance of a mitzva are short blessings with a single theme. They contain neither pleas nor requests. As such, it is sufficient to open with: Blessed. More lengthy, complex blessings, e.g., Kiddush on Shabbat, which must include praise of God’s creation, or the blessings prior to reciting Shema, which include a petition on behalf of the Jewish people, must both open and close with words of praise to the Almighty. When a blessing that is juxtaposed to another blessing, however, creating a series of blessings that follow one another, e.g., the eighteen blessings of the Amida prayer and the blessings of Grace after Meals, the first blessing opens with "Blessed," while the subsequent blessings do not. That is either because the opening of the first blessing in the series is considered as providing an opening for all of the blessings in the series (Rashi; Rashbam Pesahim 104b) or because the closing "Blessed" of the previous blessing serves as an opening for the blessing that follows (Tosafot).
Berakhot 45a-b: Grace After Meals
17/02/2020 - 22nd of Sh'vat, 5780
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After the blessings of enjoyment were discussed in the previous perek, the seventh perek of Massekhet Berakhot, which begins on today's daf is devoted to the blessing recited after the meal - Birkat HaMazon . This blessing is unique and more significant than the blessings of enjoyment, as it is a mitzva by Torah law. Its component parts are also longer and more numerous than the formula of the blessings of enjoyment, and its halakhot are also numerous. Therefore, an entire chapter was devoted to it. Although there was also a discussion of Grace after Meals in the previous chapter, there it dealt with the question: "What are the foods that obligate one to recite Grace after Meals?" This chapter deals primarily with the prayer aspect of Grace after Meals. It also deals with the practical ramifications of the principle, which was accorded the authority of halakhah, that blessings should not be recited over items that have been corrupted from a moral standpoint. The verse: “The covetous one who recites a blessing has blasphemed the Lord” (Tehillim 10:3, according to the interpretation of one of the Sages), alludes to that fact and it is clear that reciting a blessing over any food whose consumption is prohibited is not a mitzva but quite the contrary. It is necessary to determine with regard to which food items these prohibitions apply. Grace after Meals is fundamentally a blessing over the meal, as it is stated: “You will eat, and be satisfied, and bless the Lord” (Devarim 8:10). As one often dines in the company of others, the Gemara deals with various questions with regard to the procedure through which people dining may unite by means of the blessing of zimmun. The zimmun is a special blessing recited when several individuals happen to dine together. The opening Mishna of the perek discusses who is obligated in zimmun, what food creates such an obligation and how much must be eaten. These topics will be examined throughout the perek.
Berakhot 44a-b: The Valley of Genosar
16/02/2020 - 21th of Sh'vat, 5780
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The Mishna on today's daf teaches a basic principle regarding blessings over food: in a case where primary and secondary foods are eaten together, the blessing on the primary food exempts the secondary from a blessing. Somewhat surprisingly, according to the Mishna, even bread, the most significant food as far as blessings are concerned, can be considered secondary to another food. In searching for a case where bread would be considered secondary, the Gemara brings the following:
Rav Aha, son of Rav Avira, said that Rav Ashi said: This halakha was taught with regard to those who eat fruits of Genosar, which are extremely sweet and which would be eaten along with salted foods in order to temper this sweetness. They would eat bread along with those salted foods, which was therefore considered secondary.
This teaching led the Gemara to wax hyperbolic about the qualities of the fruits of Genosar:
Rabbi Abbahu ate fruits of Genosar until the sweet, lush fruits made his skin so slippery that a fly would slip from his forehead. And Rav Ami and Rav Asi would eat them until their hair fell out. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish would eat them until he became confused. And then Rabbi Yohanan would tell the household of the Nasi about his condition and Rabbi Yehuda Nesia would send the authorities after him and they would take him to his house.
Genosar is the name of a beautiful valley that stretches along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, north of Tiberius. Josephus describes the area as follows: “Its nature is wonderful as well as its beauty; its soil is so fruitful that all sorts of trees can grow upon it, and the inhabitants accordingly plant all sorts of trees there; for the temper of the air is so well mixed, that it agrees very well with those several sorts, particularly walnuts, which require the coldest air, flourish there in vast plenty; there are palm trees also, which grow best in hot air; fig trees also and olives grow near them, which yet require an air that is more temperate. It supplies men with the principal fruits, with grapes and figs continually during ten months of the year and the rest of the fruits as they become ripe together through the whole year; for besides the good temperature of the air, it is also watered from a most fertile fountain" (Wars of the Jews, Book III, 10:8).
Berakhot 43a-b: Blessings Over Scents
15/02/2020 - 20th of Sh'vat, 5780
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On today's daf the Gemara turns its attention to blessings made before smelling perfume:
R Zutra bar Toviya said that Rav said: From where is it derived that one recites a blessing over scent? As it is stated: “Let every soul praise the Lord” (Tehillim 150:6). He explains the verse: What is it from which the soul derives benefit and the body does not derive benefit from it? You must say: That is scent. Even over items from which only the soul derives benefit, one must recite a blessing and praise God.
It would appear that scent should be included in the general concept that one is forbidden to derive benefit from this world without reciting a blessing. Therefore, the question is, why was it necessary to cite a special derivation in this case? Rashi in tractate Nidda explains that since the benefit derived from smell is less substantial than other physical pleasures, no blessing should be necessary. Others explain that since deriving benefit from this world without reciting a blessing is likened to misusing consecrated property; with regard to those laws, smell is considered inconsequential. Therefore, no blessing is necessary (Tziyyun LeNefesh Hayya). Others contend that since enjoying a fragrance does not fundamentally compromise the integrity of the object, it is not self-evident that a blessing is required (Rabbi Elazar Moshe Horowitz). Two of the scents discussed by the Gemara are balsam and musk. The balsam is likely the Commiphora opobalsamum, also known as Commiphora gileadensis, from the Burseraceae family, known in English as Balm of Gilead or Balsam of Mecca. This is not to be confused with the Balm of Gilead found in other parts of the world that is made from the resin of a different tree, the balsam poplar. The balsam is a short bush or tree of 3–5 meters with thin branches, many small leaves, and small white flowers. The highest quality perfume is derived from the resin that drips slowly from the edges of the stalks in small droplets, though the perfume is generally extracted by boiling the branches. This perfume is also used medicinally, as well as in incense and as a fragrant oil. Apparently, this is the tzori mentioned among the incense oils used in the Temple. During the Second Temple period, the choicest balsam trees grew in the Jericho valley, and it was considered worth its weight in gold. That is why it merited its own special blessing: Who creates oil of our land. Musk has a powerful odor. Some used it as a perfume by itself, although it is more commonly the dominant component of several fragrances used in manufacturing perfumes. Musk is extracted from the excretions of various animals, although historically, it was primarily collected from a pocket in which the glandular secretions of the male musk deer accumulate. The musk deer is the Moschus moschiferus, a hornless, deer-like animal that grows to a height of 60cm. Some associate musk with the biblical myrrh.
Berakhot 42a-b: A Meal Circle
14/02/2020 - 19th of Sh'vat, 5780
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The Mishna on today's daf distinguishes between a case where several people were sitting to eat, which is not a joint meal, where each and every diner recites a blessing for himself; and a case where they were reclining on divans, which renders it a joint meal, and one recites a blessing on behalf of all of them. The Gemara infers:
If they reclined, yes, it is considered a joint meal; if they did not recline, no. And the Gemara raises a contradiction: Ten people who were walking on the road, even if they are all eating from one loaf, each and every one recites a blessing for himself. If they sat to eat, even if each and every one is eating from his own loaf, one recites a blessing on behalf of them all as it is considered a joint meal. In any case, it was taught: If they sat to eat, even though they did not recline. Apparently, sitting together is enough to render it a joint meal and reclining is not required.
Rav Naĥman bar Yitzĥak said: With regard to those walking along the road, it was in a case where they said: Let us go and eat in such-and-such a place. Since they designated a specific location to eat together in advance, it is considered a joint meal. In talmudic times, the custom was to partake of significant meals while reclining, not sitting upright. This was the custom of the wealthy, free men, who had the ability to leisurely relax and carry on conversations during the meal. Tosefot Rabbeinu Yehuda HaĤasid explains that the term heisevu - "they reclined" - both here and elsewhere (e.g. at the Pesach Seder), is related to the word sivuv - "circle" - meaning that those reclining sat around a table or surrounding the surface where the food was placed. Based on that interpretation, individuals surrounding the bread, even when not reclining in the literal sense, are considered to have dined together, and one may recite a blessing on behalf of the others.  
Berakhot 41a-b: Making Order of Blessings
13/02/2020 - 18th of Sh'vat, 5780
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The Mishna (daf 40) cited a dispute with regard to the order in which one is supposed to recite the blessings when there were many types of food before him. Rabbi Yehuda ruled: If there is one of the seven species for which Eretz Yisrael was praised among them, he recites the first blessing over it. And the Rabbis taught: He recites a blessing over whichever of them he wants. The Gemara on today's daf discusses this disagreement.
Ulla said: This dispute is specifically in a case where the blessings to be recited over each type of food are the same, as in that case Rabbi Yehuda holds: The type of the seven species takes precedence, and the Rabbis hold: The preferred type takes precedence, and a blessing is recited over it first. However, when their blessings are not the same, everyone agrees that one must recite a blessing over this type of food and then recite another blessing over that, ensuring that the appropriate blessing is recited over each type of food.
There are two opinions about the halakhic ruling in this case. According to one opinion (the Rosh), the halakhah is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda, as explained in the Gemara: With regard to fruits which require the same blessing, one recites a blessing over the item which is one of the seven species, as in that case Rabbi Yehuda agrees with the Rabbis (Taz); and if none of the food items is one of the seven species, one recites a blessing over whichever he prefers or whichever he likes better. According to the second opinion (Rambam), the halakhah is in accordance with the opinion of the Rabbis, and one recites a blessing over that which he likes better first, and if he likes them both the same, he recites a blessing over that which is of the seven species first. The halakhic conclusion is unclear. While the Mishna Berurah prefers the first opinion, others hold that one may decide to conduct himself in accordance with whichever position he prefers (Shulĥan Arukh HaRav based on the Taz. See also Rambam Sefer Ahava, Hilkhot Berakhot 8:13 and the Shulĥan Aruk, Oraĥ Ĥayyim 211:1).
Berakhot 40a-b: Interruptions Before Eating
12/02/2020 - 17th of Sh'vat, 5780
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The Gemara assumes that anything that is necessary for the meal would not be considered an interruption, but defining what is considered necessary for the meal is the subject of dispute. According to Rabbi Yohanan, for example, asking for salt would not be considered an interruption. According to Rav Sheshet, even saying "mix food for the oxen" is not an interruption. The Gemara explains that this follows the teaching of Rav Yehuda in the name of Rav who taught: One is prohibited from eating before feeding his animals, as it is stated: “And I will give grass in your fields for your animals” first and only then: “And you shall eat and be satisfied” (Devarim 11:15). In the verse, preparation of food for one’s cattle precedes preparation of one’s own food. Consequently, it is considered part of the preparation for one’s own meal. The Gemara continues by clarifying the importance of salt at a meal -
Rava bar Shmuel said in the name of Rabbi Ĥiyya: One who breaks bread is not permitted to break it until they bring salt or relish before each and every one seated at the table. However, the Gemara relates that Rava bar Shmuel himself happened to come to the House of the Exilarch. They brought him bread, which he immediately broke, without waiting for them to bring salt or relish. They said to him: Did the Master reconsider his halakhic ruling? He said to them: Although poor quality bread requires salt in order to give the bread flavor, and therefore one must wait before breaking bread, this refined bread served in the House of the Exilarch needs no salt, and does not require waiting.
The simple reason that salt is essential to the meal is that the salt is necessary in order to give the food some taste, and consequently, refined bread does not require salt. Some explain based on the Gemara’s statement that a person’s table is like an altar; one must place salt on the table, just as salt is placed on the altar. The Rosh adds that salt serves as a reminder of the “eternal covenant of salt” (Bamidbar 18:19) between God and the Jewish people and protects the Jewish people from its detractors.
Berakhot 39a-b: A whole loaf or a slice of bread?
11/02/2020 - 16th of Sh'vat, 5780
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Does it make a difference whether a blessing is recited over a whole loaf of bread or over a piece of bread? This question is discussed on today's daf.
It was stated that there was an amoraic dispute with regard to whether to recite the blessing over a whole loaf of bread or to recite it over a piece of bread: If they brought pieces and whole loaves of bread before those partaking of a meal, Rav Huna said: One may recite the blessing over the pieces and with that blessing exempt the whole loaves as well. Rabbi Yoĥanan said: The optimal manner in which to fulfill the mitzva is to recite the blessing over the whole loaf. However, if the piece was of wheat bread and the whole loaf was of barley bread, everyone agrees that one recites a blessing over the piece of wheat bread. Although it is a piece of bread, it is nevertheless of superior quality, and in so doing one exempts the whole loaf of barley bread.
Rabbi Yoĥanan’s opinion that one recites a blessing over whole loaves because they are more esthetic is understandable. However, Rav Huna’s opinion must be explained, as well. Rashi, as well as other commentaries, assert that Rav Huna did not give preference to the pieces; he simply equated them to the whole loaves. He said that they only take precedence if they are larger. Rav Hai Ga'on and the Rashba disagree, explaining that since the pieces are already sliced, they can be eaten immediately, and pleasure from them is instantaneous. For this reason it is preferable to recite a blessing over them, rather than the whole loaves, which one must slice before enjoying them. In a case where there was a wheat slice and a barley loaf, the Rambam (Sefer Ahava, Hilkhot Berakhot 7:4) recommends placing the slice beneath the loaf and breaking from both at once.
Berakhot 38a-b: Dual Purpose Foods on Shabbat
10/02/2020 - 15th of Sh'vat, 5780
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Generally speaking, if someone prepares a mixture that is to be ingested for medicinal purposes, it will not receive the normal blessing beforehand. The Gemara points out, however, that if it was prepared as ordinary food or drink, even though it also has medicinal qualities, it would be appropriate to recite a blessing before eating. Thus, Rav Ĥisda explains that when Rav requires a shehakol blessing ("By Whose word all things came to be") on shetita and Shmuel requires a borei minei mezonot ("Who creates the various kinds of nourishment"), it is not because they disagree. Rather they are talking about different cases. Shmuel is discussing a case where a thick mixture was made to be eaten; Rav is discussing a case where a thin mixture was made to be used as medicine. With regard to the assumption that this mixture is essentially medicinal, Rav Yosef raised a challengefrom the laws of Shabbat:
And they agree that one may mix shetita on Shabbat and drink Egyptian beer, which contains a mixture of a pungent spice in flour. And if it enters your mind to say that when one prepares shetita, his intention is for medicinal purposes, is medicine permitted on Shabbat? Abayye said to Rav Yosef: Do you not hold that to be true? Didn’t we learn in a Mishna: All foods that are commonly eaten; a person may eat them for medicinal purposes on Shabbat, and all drinks that are not designated for medicinal purposes, a person may drink them for medicinal purposes on Shabbat. But what can you say in explaining that ruling? The man’s intention is for the purpose of eating; here too, when he mixes the shetita, the man’s intention is for the purpose of eating.
Thus, something that is prepared for ordinary ingestion may be eaten on Shabbat, even if it has medicinal qualities. The Sages decreed that one may only use medicine on Shabbat in life-threatening circumstances or instances of grave danger. Consequently, they prohibited all curative actions, especially preparing and taking medicine. In tractate Shabbat, there is a discussion with regard to various foods and whether they should be considered as food that may be eaten on Shabbat, even by those deriving medicinal benefit; or whether they are prohibited, because their primary use is medicinal, which is prohibited by rabbinic decree.
Berakhot 37a-b: The Status of Rice in Jewish Law
09/02/2020 - 14th of Sh'vat, 5780
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In determining the appropriate blessing to recite when eating rice, the Gemara cites two contradictory baraitot. In one rice is determined to be similar to cooked dishes inasmuch as blessings are recited both before and after eating, albeit the blessings are a general "By Whose word all things came to be," and at the end, "Who creates the many forms of life and their needs for all that You have created." In the other baraita, rice is treated like a true grain and the blessings are more specific. In explanation, the Gemara suggests that the second baraita should be identified with the position put forward by Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri regarding the laws of matzah. Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri rules that rice is also a type of grain for which one would be held liable for eating on Passover if it became hametz, and that one could fulfill the mitzvah by baking it into matzah. The accepted opinion understands that the process of mixing rice with water does not lead to himutz but to sirhon.  The Jerusalem Talmud explains that establishing which types of grains are those that can become hametz and matzah was based on extensive research done by the sages, who experimented with the baking process to ascertain whether the fermentation process takes place. With regard to a small number of grain-type products, there remained differences of opinions as to whether the process that took place should be considered himutz. Although the conclusion of the Gemara clearly rejects the opinion of Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri, nevertheless over centuries of Jewish history traditions arose that limited the use of kitniyot on Pesach due to a concern that kernels of grain may become mixed in with them. Generally speaking, Ashkenazi communities limit their use. Among the traditions:
  • Some make full use of kitniyot;
  • Some forbid the use of rice, but permit other types of pulses;
  • Some forbid the use of all kitniyot.
As a rule, people follow the traditions of their parents and communities.
Berakhot 36a-b: Blessings Over Edible Parts of the Caperbush
08/02/2020 - 13th of Sh'vat, 5780
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As we learned on yesterday's daf the sixth perek of Massekhet Berakhot focuses on the blessings recited before partaking in any kind of pleasures, and specifically on determining the specific type of blessing that is appropriate for a particular food. The case discussed on today's daf is the caperbush, which is described as having three separate edible parts. According to the discussion in the Gemara, over the leaves and young fronds of the caperbush, as well as over its buds, one recites: "Who creates fruit of the ground," and over its berries, however, he recites: "Who creates fruit of the tree." The Gemara brings this to show that even over leaves and various other parts of the tree that are secondary to the fruit, the blessing is "Who creates fruit of the ground," and not the more general "By Whose word all things came to be." The most common species of caperbush in Israel is the thorny caperbush (Capparis spinosa), a thorny, deciduous bush growing to a height of a meter and a half. Its rounded leaves range in color from purple to green. There is a pair of thorns alongside each leaf. The caperbush has large white flowers, approximately 6 cm in diameter, with purple stamens. The buds of the caper-bush, the kaprisin, from the Greek κά ππαρις, capparis, meaning caper-bush or fruit of the caper-bush, are the buds of flowers that have not yet bloomed. These buds are pickled and eaten. These buds open into new flowers on a daily basis, are then pollinated and wither on that same day. The ripe fruit, or berries of the caper-bush, the avyona, is similar in shape to a date or small squash, and grows to 6 cm. In the Mediterranean region, e.g., in Provence and Greece, the caper-bush is grown primarily for its pickled buds. The young fronds are apparently the caper-bush’s young, purple-green branches and their leaves, which in ancient times were pickled and eaten. They are called shuta in Aramaic. Botanically, the fruit of the caper-bush is the berry, which is generally eaten pickled, even today.
Berakhot 35a-b: Blessing Over Food
07/02/2020 - 12th of Sh'vat, 5780
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The origins of blessings of enjoyment, which are recited before partaking of any kind of pleasure, are ancient. The sixth perek of Massekhet Berakhot seeks to clarify the details of these blessings, but not to establish the essential obligation to recite them. Consequently, the fundamental issue throughout the chapter is the question of parameters and definitions. What do these blessings include? Which blessings are appropriate for which items? Blessings over food range from the general to the particular, from general blessings recited over different types of food to blessings recited over very specific items.
  • The most comprehensive blessing: "By whose word all things came to be," is applicable to all foods.
  • The blessings over the fruit of the earth are more detailed and include a separate blessing for fruit of the trees.
  • Within this category, there is an even more specific blessing over wine: "Who creates fruit of the vine."
  • Within the category of fruit of the earth, there is also a specific blessing for cooked grains: "Who creates the various kinds of nourishment," and there is even a blessing recited exclusively over bread: "Who brings forth bread from the earth."
These are merely preliminary determinations. The criteria for defining the objects of the blessings must also be established. What constitutes fruit of the tree and fruit of the ground, for these purposes? What is considered a cooked food and what, exactly, is bread? Although some foods clearly fall into a specific category, there are many food items whose categorization is less obvious and whose blessing must be determined. Consequently, most of the discussion in this chapter focuses upon the categorization of these borderline items. There is one underlying principle common to all of these deliberations: A more specific blessing is preferable. The higher the quality and the more extensive the processing of the food item, the more specific and exceptional the blessing. Therefore, the discussion is an attempt to delineate those parameters and to determine the quality and degree of processing of each item.
Berakhot 34a-b: The Power of Fluent Prayer
06/02/2020 - 11th of Sh'vat, 5780
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Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The Mishna on today's daf describes how errors in prayer are indicative that the prayer is not accepted. In particular it relates the story of Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa who told that he knew whether his prayer was accepted based on the fluency with which he was able to recite it. The Gemara tells the following story about Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa:
And there was another incident involving Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, who went to study Torah before Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, and Rabbi Yohanan’s son fell ill. He said to him: Hanina, my son, pray for mercy on behalf of my son so that he will live. Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa placed his head between his knees in order to meditate and prayed for mercy upon his behalf, and Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai’s son lived. Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai said about himself: "Had ben Zakkai stuck his head between his knees throughout the entire day, they would have paid him no attention." His wife said to him: And is Hanina greater than you? He replied to her: No, but his prayer is better received than my own because he is like a servant before the King, and as such he is able to enter before the King and make various requests at all times. I, on the other hand, am like a minister before the King, and I can enter only when invited and can make requests only with regard to especially significant matters.
According to Rabbi Hisdai Crescas in his Or Hashem, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai sought to express that the acceptance of Rabbi Hanina’s prayer was because his devotion to God was greater, although his Torah knowledge was not. According to the parable, the minister, specifically because he is engaged in more significant undertakings, cannot raise his own personal problems or the problems of others before the king. At the same time, the servant, whose devotion is solely to the king, has ready access to him.