Talmud

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Moed Katan 13a-b: Also on Hol HaMoed
25/01/2022 - 23th of Shvat, 5782
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.
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Another activity that should not be scheduled for Hol HaMoed is moving one's furniture from one house to another. The Mishna teaches that moving from one house to another is forbidden, although you can move furniture out of your house into the yard that is attached to it. The Talmud Yerushalmi distinguishes between moving out of a house, and having new furniture, appliances, etc. delivered to your house. The latter case would be permitted, according to the Yerushalmi, since receiving these new furnishings is a happy occasion for someone, which matches the mood of the holiday. Yet another concern expressed by the Mishna is a case where a craftsman has completed work on something that belongs to you. Can it be picked up from him on Hol HaMoed? According to the Mishna you should try to avoid doing so, but in the event that you are concerned about leaving it with the craftsman, it can be taken from his workplace and left outside in the yard. A baraita is quoted by the Gemara that allows for storing the finished product in a safer place, if necessary, and even allowing it to be brought home – in a discreet manner – if there is concern that it will be stolen, or even if one feels that the craftsman cannot be trusted and may ask to be paid for it a second time. Several reasons are suggested by the rishonim in explanation of the rule forbidding finished products from being brought home from the craftsman's shop – According to Rashi the concern is the effort that needs to be expended in bringing it home. The Ran and the Meiri suggest that it appears as though the work was given to – and performed by – the craftsman on Hol HaMoed. The Ritva simply argues that this is a "profane" act, one that is more appropriate for a weekday than for a holiday.
Moed Katan 12a-b: Harvesting on Hol HaMoed
24/01/2022 - 22th of Shvat, 5782
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.
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Once, Rav had his field harvested on Hol HaMoed, which upset Shmuel greatly. The Gemara rejects the possibility that Shmuel rules like the minority opinion, which forbids all work on Hol HaMoed, explaining that in Rav's case it was a wheat field that could have been harvested a week later without any monetary loss. If that were the case, however, why would Rav have allowed his field to be harvested? The Gemara explains that this was a case of ein lo ma yokhal -that he had nothing to eat, so harvesting the field was essential to derive income, even on Hol HaMoed. The Gemara further explains that when Shmuel objected, either he was not aware of the situation, or else he felt adam hashuv shani - that a prominent person is different and should not be involved with work on Hol HaMoed,even if it is permitted according to the letter of the law. Although the general approach of the commentaries is to understand that Rav was in a situation of ein lo ma yokhal, the Meiri explains that this was a case where the workers had nothing to eat. The harvesters were hired by Rav, who sought to give them work so they could earn enough money to be able to eat, which is permissible even when one is not in a situation of monetary loss. According to this explanation, we can well understand Shmuel's objection, for Rav could easily have arranged for someone else to find work for these people. According to the standard approach - that Rav was in the situation of ein lo ma yokhal - it is unlikely that Rav had no money with which to purchase food; rather, he preferred to eat from his own produce than to purchase from someone else's field. Shmuel felt that for a prominent person like Rav, this was not a good enough reason to harvest the field on Hol HaMoed. The Ritva considers the possibility that Rav truly did not have enough money to eat, but Shmuel felt that as a prominent person he should have chosen to take out a short-term loan rather than have his field worked on Hol HaMoed..
Moed Katan 11a-b: Pressing Olives on Hol HaMoed
23/01/2022 - 21th of Shvat, 5782
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.
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In the previous chapter of Moed Katan, we learned different reasons that a person might be allowed to engage in work on Hol HaMoed, among them the idea of davar ha-aved - when the individual would suffer a financial loss if the work was not performed at a specific time. In the second perek, which begins on today's daf, the Gemara investigates when the rule of davar ha-aved should be applied. One question is how we define davar ha-aved. Is every case of financial loss enough to allow work on Hol HaMoed, or does the loss need to be a significant one? Furthermore, if a person creates a situation whereby he must work on Hol HaMoed or else he will suffer a loss, do we permit the work based on the fact that it is a davar ha-aved, or do we penalize him for his behavior? Two other reasons for permitting work on Hol HaMoed are discussed in this perek:
  1. If a person is working for the community, and not for himself;
  2. If a person is destitute and will not have anything to eat unless he works.
The first Mishna in the perek offers a case of davar ha-aved that would permit agricultural work on Hol HaMoed. According to Rabbi Yehuda, a person who has already "turned his olives" but was unable to complete pressing the olives into oil (either because of some accident or because his workers did not appear as promised) is permitted to set the olive press and remove the first oil, which will minimize his losses, but he has to leave the rest until after the holiday. Rabbi Yose permits such a person to complete the work in its entirety. After the olive harvest, the olives are usually very hard and need to be softened before the oil can be removed. To accomplish this, the newly harvested fruit is first collected in a pile, where the olives become warm and soft. The reasoning behind "turning the olives" is that they will become ruined if they get too hot, so it is necessary to occasionally turn them over. When they are sufficiently softened, they need to be processed, or else the harvest may go to waste.
Moed Katan 10a-b: Chiseling Millstones on Hol HaMoed
22/01/2022 - 20th of Shvat, 5782
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.
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Food preparation is permitted on Yom Tov, and certainly on Hol HaMoed. We are therefore not all that surprised to learn in the Mishna that setting up a stove or an oven is permitted on Hol HaMoed. Similarly, the establishment of a grindstone in a mill is permitted, since producing flour for the holiday is permitted. Rabbi Yehuda limits this, in that he says ein mekhabshin et ha-reihayyim ba-tehilla - forbidding one le-khabesh (to chisel) the millstone. Two suggestions are raised by the Gemara in an attempt to explain what mekhabshin means. According to Rav Yehuda it means cutting grooves into the stone that has become smooth so that it will grind better. According to Rav Yehiel it means to make the hole in the center of the stone, in which the grain is placed for grinding. The Ra'avad points out that it is not clear which explanation is the more surprising one. On the one hand, making the eyehole in the stone is the work of a trained craftsman, and we usually forbid such work on Hol HaMoed; on the other hand, even without the grooves, the millstone will work and successfully grind flour, albeit with some trouble, so fixing it on Hol HaMoed may be seen as unnecessary work on the holiday. Millstones come in pairs. The base, or "bedstone," is stationary. Above the bedstone is the turning "runner stone," which actually does the grinding. Although there are many types of runner stones, depending on the type of mill, it is essential that this stone have a central hole into which the grain is poured so that it can be distributed between the two stones and crushed into flour. In order for the stones to successfully grind the grain, grooves must be made in the stones so that the kernels of grain will get caught and crushed between the stones. Since these grooves can become worn down with time, it becomes necessary to chisel out new grooves in the stone. Although most of us no longer work with millstones on a regular basis, the Shulhan Aruk (Orah Hayyim 540:8) rules in this case like the Tanna Kamma and permits both making a hole in the millstone and gouging out grooves on Hol HaMoed.
Moed Katan 9a-b: Weddings on Hol HaMoed
21/01/2022 - 19th of Shvat, 5782
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.
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One activity that is forbidden on Hol HaMoed is a happy one. People are not allowed to get married on Hol HaMoed, because, as the Mishna teaches on 8b, ein me'arvin simha be-simha - we are not supposed to mix one celebratory event with another. The source for this concept that is suggested by the Gemara is the story of King Solomon's consecration of the Temple, which took two weeks and ended prior to the Sukkot holiday (see I Melakhim 8:65). This is understood by the Gemara to indicate that Shlomo felt that he could not allow the festivities connected with the Temple to impinge on the festivities of Sukkot. It is interesting to note that although King Solomon was not willing to celebrate on Sukkot, the celebrations did take place on Yom Kippur. The Gemara records that these celebrations included food and drink, because ein simha b'lo akhila u'shetiya (there is no joy without eating and drinking). This conclusion may be based on the fact that we find that establishing an altar includes the bringing of sacrifices and eating them (see Devarim 12:7, 27:7). Rabbi Parnakh quotes Rabbi Yohanan as teaching that the Jewish people feared for their lives, given that they did not fast as required on Yom Kippur. Nevertheless, the Gemara concludes, a heavenly voice came from the heavens promising all of the participants that they would have a place in the World-to-Come. This is based on I Melakhim 8:66, which teaches how the people all returned home joyous and happy. The Gemara adds an explanation to the rule forbidding marriages on Yom Tov - that the preparations for the event are so involved that they will detract from the participants' ability to fully enjoy the holiday. Thus, while Tosafot ask whether other types of celebrations should be forbidden on the holiday because ein me'arvin simha be-simha, the Ritva argues that only weddings, whose meals are so involved as to keep someone from being able to properly celebrate, cannot take place on Hol HaMoed; other festivities, however, would be permitted.
Moed Katan 8a-b: Gathering Bones on Hol HaMoed
20/01/2022 - 18th of Shvat, 5782
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.
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We are all familiar with the Jewish burial practices of today. Jews take great care to treat the deceased with respect. The body is purified by special volunteers who clothe it in shrouds and place it in a simple wooden box (in Israel the body is usually buried in the ground without a box) so that the body can decompose, fulfilling the passage in Bereshit 3:19 – "for you are dust and to the dust you shall return." During the time of the Mishna the standard burial practice was different. In those days, relatives placed the deceased in a burial cave, where the body was allowed to decompose for a year. After the year was over, the relatives would enter the cave and remove the bones, transferring them to the family burial cave for permanent interment. In the Mishna on our daf, Rabbi Meir teaches that a person can gather his parents' bones on Hol HaMoed to transfer them to their permanent resting place, since it is a joyous day for him. Rabbi Yose argues that it is a day of mourning for the son and can thus not be scheduled for Hol HaMoed. Rashi explains Rabbi Meir's position based on the fact that it is a relief to the individual who successfully brings a relative to his/her final resting place in the family burial cave. The Yerushalmi, however, sees the joy of the occasion in seeing that the flesh has decomposed, which indicates that the person's sins have been forgiven. The Ra'avya suggests another approach - that the child is happy that the maggots are no longer gnawing on the flesh of his/her parents. Rabbi Yose's position appears much simpler to understand. Seeing one's parents' bones would appear to be an obvious reason for sadness and mourning. Nevertheless, Rabbeinu Yehonatan suggests another explanation. According to him, seeing the bones reminds the child of his own impending death, which saddens him to the extent that it should not be done on Hol HaMoed.
Moed Katan 7a-b: Diagnosing Tzara'at on Hol HaMoed
19/01/2022 - 17th of Shvat, 5782
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
When we develop a skin condition today, our first response is to see a dermatologist. During Temple times, the correct reaction was to find a kohen whose job it was to evaluate whether a lesion was a nega tzara'at - the leprosy-like plague described by the Torah. According to Rabbi Meir in the Mishna, a person who suspected that he was suffering from tzara'at could visit a kohen on Hol HaMoed, but the kohen was only allowed to declare the nega to be healthy. If he found the person to be tameh - ritually defiled - he could only announce that after the holiday was over. The Hakhamim rule that a kohen could not check potential nega'im until after the holiday was over. The Torah describes tzara'at as a condition that could only be evaluated by a kohen. When a person would see a mark on his body that he suspected might be a nega tzara'at, he would show it to a kohen who decided whether the nega should be disregarded, watched, or declared to be tzara'at. Even in generations when kohanim were not expert in evaluating the nega'im, they played an essential role. The trained Rabbi who examined the spot would offer his opinion about whether the nega was actually tzara'at or not. In any case, the person remained tahor (ritually pure) until such time as the kohen - basing himself on the recommendation of the Rabbi - would declare the individual to be ritually impure. These rules are unique. In contrast with other laws of tuma ve-tahara, a nega tzara'at was not considered to be ritually impure solely based on the appearance of the lesion, but rather based on the statement of the kohen, which was essential. Without his statement, even a clear nega was not considered tameh, nor would a recovered metzora (one stricken with tzara'at) be considered ritually pure without the kohen's official statement. Since we are no longer certain who is truly a kohen, we no longer apply the rules of nega tzara'at as they are described in the Torah.
Moed Katan 6a-b: Destroying Pests on Hol HaMoed
18/01/2022 - 16th of Shvat, 5782
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 noted earlier in this massekhet, although many agricultural activities are forbidden on Hol HaMoed and during the Sabbatical year, those tasks that are essential for the ongoing upkeep of fields are permitted. One example presented in the last Mishna on our daf is the need to destroy pests that would otherwise damage the plants and fields. The example presented by the Mishna is the need to trap ishut and akhbarim. The Gemara appears to know that akhbarim are mice. What are ishut? Rav Yehuda claims that they are creatures without eyes. Although this description sounds strange, it is actually not difficult to identify the animal discussed in the Mishna. It is likely a type of spalax - a blind mole rat - and specifically the spalax ehrenbergi, which is the most common type found in Israel. This rodent, with a round body covered with gray fur, grows to a length of 12-25 centimeters. Since its small eyes are covered by fur from birth, it is blind. This creature lives underground where it digs the burrows in which it lives. It eats the roots of plants and can do serious damage to produce. The Gemara quotes a baraita that offers another example of a pest. Ants do occasionally damage crops, and it is necessary to destroy anthills in order to protect the field. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel teaches that the suggested method of controlling the ants is to bring a clod of earth from another field, place it on top of the existing anthill, and the ants will destroy one another. This method works because every anthill has a particular odor, which develops from the type of earth, the food that is brought in, the remains of dead ants, etc. Ants recognize one another based on this particular smell and from bodily secretions. When a "foreign" ant enters an anthill, he is taken for an enemy and is killed by the ants protecting their home.
Moed Katan 5a-b: Marking Graves
17/01/2022 - 15th of Shvat, 5782
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.
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In the first Mishna in Massekhet Moed Katan (2a) we are taught that Hol HaMoed was a time during which a series of activities took place for the betterment of public facilities. These public works projects include a number of tasks that follow or prepare for the rainy season – for example, clearing the roads and mikva'ot and marking graves so that the people who are coming to bring sacrifices will not, inadvertently, become ritually defiled by contact with a grave and be unable to enter the Temple. The Gemara on our daf asks for a source for the practice of marking graves, and brings a passage from the prophet Yehezkel (39:15) that describes the calamity of the war of Gog and Magog, and how it will take seven months for all of the dead to be properly buried so that the land of Israel will once again be tahor (ritually pure). The prophet describes the method that is to be used to carefully mark the graves, bone by bone. This source for the halakha that graves must be marked (see Rambam, Hilkhot Tum'at Met 8:9) is introduced as a remez – an allusion – to the law, rather than as the actual source. Given the clarity of the story in Yehezkel, many of the commentaries ask why the passage is only considered a remez. From Rashi it appears that since it is not presented as an obligation, but rather as a story, it cannot be considered a true source. Tosafot suggest that the story can only be considered an allusion to the halakha because it is a description of an event that will take place "at the end of days." Such a story cannot be the source for a present day halakhic obligation. It should be noted that the Yerushalmi presents this as a true source text, not simply as a remez. In fact, it is not uncommon to find the Bavli discounting a source unless it appears in the hamisha humshei Torah (the Five Books of Moses), while the Yerushalmi accepts other sources from TaNaKH as well.
Moed Katan 4a-b: Watering on Hol HaMoed - II
16/01/2022 - 14th of Shvat, 5782
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
Although there are many restrictions on agricultural work on Hol HaMoed, work that is done for the needs of the holiday is permitted. For example, a person is allowed to water his field so that vegetables will grow and be ready to be eaten on the holiday, but if they are ready for harvest and are being watered to make them better, they cannot be watered. Rashi explains the latter case to be that they are being watered so that they will grow more and fetch a better price at the market after the holiday. Others forbid even watering them so that they will look nicer, which is not essential for eating them on Yom Tov. To illustrate this story, the Gemara tells of Ravina and Rabba Tosefa'a who were walking together on Hol HaMoed and saw someone who was watering his vegetable garden. Rabba Tosefa'a called on Ravina to place the person under a ban for performing a forbidden activity on Hol HaMoed. Ravina responded that the person was undoubtedly watering them so that they will be eaten on the holiday, which the baraita teaches is permitted. Although Rabba Tosefa'a wanted to interpret the baraita differently, Ravina insisted that this was the correct interpretation of the baraita, and his colleague conceded that it is permitted. Rabba Tosefa'a was one of the last of the amora'im, and he participated in the editing of the Talmud. Although we find a number of his rulings in the Gemara, since he was one of the last of the amora'im, few of his teachings remain. As we see evident in the above story, he was a student of Ravina; after the passing of Mar bar Rav Ashi, he headed the academy in Sura for a period of six years. Some suggest that his nickname "Tosefa'a" stems from his encyclopedic knowledge of the Tosefta, while others think that it is the name of the city that was his home. Another likely possibility connects it with his word in adding material and editing the final version of the Gemara. Rav Sherira Ga'on records that he passed away in the year 474 CE.
Moed Katan 3a-b: More on the Sabbatical Year
15/01/2022 - 13th of Shvat, 5782
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.
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Just like the laws of Shabbat have Avot (primary activities that are forbidden) and Toladot (secondary activities – see Massekhet Shabbat), similarly the laws of shemitta have both Avot and Toladot. The Avot are the agricultural activities that are specifically listed in the Torah (see Vayikra 25:4-5) as being forbidden during the Sabbatical year, primarily activities of planting, pruning and harvesting. The baraita that is quoted by our Gemara lists various activities that are considered Toladot, but the conclusion is that these Toladot are only Rabbinic in nature, and are, therefore, not punishable. What is included in the Toladot? Among them we find - Mekarsemin The accepted definition of kirsum is the removal of dry branches, which Rashi points out is identical to zemira (pruning), although zemira is specific to grape vines. Another suggestion is that it refers to the removal of excess branches by methods other than pruning. Mezardin Rabbi Yehiel of Paris' student suggests that this is the removal of branches from a tree so that the tree will grow thicker; the anonymous peirush (commentary) on Moed Katan says that it is the removal of extra roots. Mefasegin Rashi explains this to mean supporting weak branches of the tree (from the word pisga – height – that is, to lift up); the Ran suggests that it is tying up the branches to help the tree grow; the Meiri teaches that it is the removal of branches. Mefarkin Rashi understands that this means removing stones that are weighing down the roots of a tree; the Meiri suggests that it is the removal of excess leaves. Me'ashnin Smoking the trees (fumigation) was done with either regular smoke or sulfur smoke, and its purpose is the same as current practice - as a pesticide that kills the insects and other destructive elements on the leaves and the fruit.
Moed Katan 2a-b: Watering on Hol HaMoed
14/01/2022 - 12th of Shvat, 5782
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 intermediate days of Pesah and Sukkot – the days of Hol HaMoed – are difficult to define. While not fully days of Yom Tov, neither are they regular days of the week. This necessitates establishing halakhic boundaries that will guide us in our activities on those days. As we will learn in this perek, the Sages work to find a system of laws that will clarify what types of activities are forbidden and which are permissible so that the holiness and uniqueness of Hol HaMoed can be kept. One of the ways of establishing these rules is by comparison to the halakhot that are found in parallel settings, for example, agricultural work that is forbidden or permitted during the Sabbatical year (shemitta). The first Mishna in the massekhet discusses types of work that are not all that common in our day-and-age but which were basic to the needs of the farmer. When can fields be watered on Hol HaMoed or during the shemita year, times when agricultural work is generally forbidden, but activities that are done to sustain the field and to keep the produce from getting ruined would be permissible? The Mishna teaches that fields that cannot be sustained by rainfall and need to receive water from some type of irrigation, can be watered, so long as the method of watering is a fairly easy one. Thus, a plentiful water source like a well can be used, but rain water or mei kilon cannot. Many explanations are offered for the term mei kilon that appears in the Mishna. The Aruk and the Ran suggest that a kilon is a deep ditch from which water will have to be collected by bucket to water the field. The Ri"f and the Ritva explain that the word kilon means a bucket, and is taken from the Aramaic kulta. Another approach suggests that kilon is a Greek word, which describes a method of raising water from a river or irrigation ditch by means of a long stick.
Megilla 32a-b: Reading the Sefer Torah
13/01/2022 - 11th of Shvat, 5782
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.
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Common practice is to pay attention to the aliyot to the Torah as great honors, while the closing activities of hagbah (lifting) and gelilah – of rolling up the sefer Torah so that it can be properly returned to the ark – are perceived as less important, and are often given to young people. The discussion on the last page of Massekhet Megilla focuses on the act of gelilah, and its conclusions fly in the face of common practice. Rabbi Yohanan is quoted as teaching that when there are ten people available for Torah reading, it is the greatest among them who is asked to perform gelilah. In fact, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi teaches that the individual who does gelilah received a reward as great as all of those who were called to the Torah to read. The Gemara also relates a series of halakhot that teach the proper way to perform gelilah. For example, when tightening the scroll, Rabbi Yohanan requires it to be done on a seam, where the parchments that make up the Torah scroll are sewn together. Rashi explains that this is the place where it can most easily be tightened well; Tosafot Ri"d and R Yehonatan explain that this will ensure that the scroll will not tear, and in the event that it does tear, only the stitches will come out, but the scroll itself will not be damaged. Other rules of gelilah are:
  • golelo mi-bahutz ve-lo mi-bifnim – turn it from the outside, but not the inside;
  • mehadko mi-bifnim ve-lo mi-bahutz – tighten it from the inside, but not the outside.
Many explanations are given for these rules. Rashi appears to understand that this is not talking about gelilah in the synagogue after a public Torah reading, rather it deals with a case where a person is reading privately from a scroll (before bound books became the norm). Rabbeinu Hananel suggests that this means that the back of the Torah should be facing the person doing gelilah, but that he should tie the knot closed on the other side, where the Torah is going to be opened. This is important because otherwise when the Torah is next taken out to be read from it will have to be turned over, which will show a lack of respect and honor.
Megilla 31a-b: The Readings on Yom Kippur
12/01/2022 - 10th of Shvat, 5782
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
What is the Torah reading on Yom Kippur? We learned in the Mishna that on Yom Kippur we read Aharei Mot – where we find the commandments to Aharon the kohen gadol about how to enter the Holy of Holies (see Vayikra 16:1-34). Since the only person who is permitted to enter the kodesh kodashim is the High Priest on Yom Kippur, the choice of this reading seems most appropriate. The Gemara quotes a baraita that adds information about the haftara – Yeshayahu 58, which discusses repentance and the ideal fast day from God's perspective – as well as the readings for the afternoon service on Yom Kippur. According to the baraita, during Minha we read the laws of forbidden sexual relations (Vayikra chapter 18) and for the haftara we read the entire book of Yona. The choice to read the laws of forbidden sexual relations on Yom Kippur seems to be an odd one. Rashi suggests that since such sins are relatively common – given that sexual desires are part of human nature – it therefore makes sense to offer a public call to the people to repent from such sins on Yom Kippur. Tosafot says that it is commonplace to find women attending the synagogue dressed in their finery to honor the holy day, so it is necessary to remind the congregation to take care in their interactions between the sexes. Tosafot also mention a midrash that teaches how reading these rules is a hint to God. We are saying to him "just as You commanded us to restrict our activities regarding uncovering nakedness, we beseech You to show sensitivity today and refrain from uncovering our nakedness (i.e. our sins)." A different approach is taken by one of the later commentaries, Rabbi Yosef Messing in his Gan Naul. According to him, this section of the Torah is read specifically because the Jewish people are careful with regard to these laws, thus publicly announcing them is a statement indicating that we are righteous in our behaviors.
Megilla 30a-b: Special Torah Readings
11/01/2022 - 9th of Shvat, 5782
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.
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The Mishna lists special Torah readings that are appropriate for Jewish holidays throughout the year: In truth, even during the time of the Talmud these were not the precise readings that were used; it is clear that the traditions of the Ge'onim and the rulings that appear in Massekhet Soferim were accepted as common practice in most communities, and the Ge'onim rule that every place should keep its own customs. Tosafot point out that today's tradition of taking out two sifrei Torah on holidays, with the second reading coming from the sacrifice of the day from Sefer Bamidbar (chapter 28), is never mentioned anywhere in the Talmud; the first mention of this custom appears in Seder Rav Amram Gaon. It is possible, however, that this is not a new custom established by the Ge'onim, but rather an old, established tradition that is simply not mentioned in the Talmud, much as many issues having to do with set, communal prayers are not discussed in the Talmud and were codified by the Ge'onim. The Rashba points out that such a reading is hinted to in the Mishna based on the reading mentioned on Hanukkah and Rosh Hodesh. The Hanukka reading, which comes from the sacrifices brought by the heads of each tribe on the occasion of the establishment of the mishkan in the desert, intuitively matches with the rededication of the Beit HaMikdash during second Temple times. Nevertheless, the commentaries also connect it with the well-known midrash that Aharon the High Priest was disturbed that the tribe of Levi did not have an opportunity to participate in the sacrifices brought on this occasion, and received a promise from God that the kohanim would receive a holiday dedicated to the Hasmonean priestly victory. Thus, the Hanukkah lights celebrate that victory even as they commemorate the rekindling of the menora in the Temple, whose lighting is connected to Aharon and his descendants (see Bamidbar 8:1-4).
Megilla 29a-b: The Four Parshiyot
10/01/2022 - 8th of Shvat, 5782
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In the springtime extra readings are added to the weekly Torah reading. These "four parshiyot" are discussed in the Mishna on our daf. Three of the four parshiyot (Shekalim, Para and HaHodesh) serve as reminders of the time when the Beit HaMikdash stood. Parashat Shekalim - On Rosh Hodesh Adar the mitzva of giving one's half-shekel was announced. This collection of funds paid for the communal sacrifices beginning in the month of Nisan. By announcing the obligation publicly a full month in advance, everyone would have the opportunity to prepare his half-Shekel and to donate it before Rosh Hodesh Nisan arrived. Parashat Para and Parashat HaHodesh Parashat Para served as a reminder to whoever was ritually defiled to purify himself with the ashes of the Para Aduma (the Red Heifer), a process which would last one week. This was in anticipation of Rosh Hodesh Nisan, when those who lived far away would begin their journey to Jerusalem to arrive in time for Pesah. Parashat Para always occurs the week before Parashat HaHodesh – which, in turn, takes place the Shabbat before Rosh Hodesh Nissan. Parashat Para reminded everyone who was tamei met (ritually impure from contact with a corpse) that Rosh Hodesh Nisan was just around the corner and that they must begin their purification immediately. Parshat Zakhor (the one Parasha that is not connected with the Beit HaMikdash) takes place the Shabbat before Purim, because Haman (the villain of Megilat Esther), was a descendant of Amalek, whom the Torah commands us to remember, as we read in the Parashah of Ki Tetze on Shabbat Zakhor. Rav Yitzhak Nappaha points out that these special readings can create an unusual circumstance. When Parashat Shekalim coincides with Rosh Hodesh Adar, or Parashat HaHodesh with Rosh Hodesh Nisan, three sifrei Torah are taken out to read - the first for the regular weekly Torah portion, the second for the Rosh Hodesh reading, and the third for Parashat Shekalim or HaHodesh . Similarly, when Hanukka and Rosh Hodesh fall out on Shabbat, we read from three sifrei Torah. The Ritva explains that this is not because of an inherent need to read different topics from different sifrei Torah, but rather is out of concern for the patience of the congregation, who will be forced to wait while the Torah scroll is turned back-and-forth in order to get to the correct reading.
Megilla 28a-b: Eulogies in the Synagogue
09/01/2022 - 7th of Shvat, 5782
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Given its holiness, a synagogue should not be used for private or profane purposes: Eating and drinking in a synagogue should be avoided. One should not take refuge there on a rainy (or hot) day. It should not be used for a private funeral, although a larger funeral can be held there. The Gemara tells of Sages who offered eulogies for others in the synagogue, arguing that it was a public occasion since people would come either to honor the dead or to hear the Sage speak. The Gemara contrasts two such funerals. In the first, Reish Lakish offered a eulogy for a scholar who occasionally visited Israel and passed away there, teaching "in the 24th row." In his eulogy, Reish Lakish cried over the loss of this great Sage. When Rav Nahman was asked to offer a eulogy for a scholar who was known to have studied all of the Rabbinic works, he refused to do so, saying, "What should I say? 'The great bookcase is missing?'" (i.e. he had little respect for the scholar who had studied much material, but did not have a deep understanding of what he had learned). The Gemara uses this to contrast the sensitivity of the Rabbinic Sages of Israel (where Reish Lakish lived) with the lack of sensitivity shown by the Sages of Bavel. This contrast is highlighted further by an alternate view of the scholar who received the eulogy from Reish Lakish. The story related that he taught in the 24th row. Rashi understands this to mean that he taught 24 rows of students, attesting to his prowess as a scholar and teacher. Others understand it differently. During the times of the Mishna and Talmud - particularly in Israel when the Sanhedrin was still operating - the typical seating arrangement in the Torah academies was set up by knowledge and seniority. At the head sat the Sage, who taught the group while facing his students. The first row of students was the most scholarly in the group; the second row had the lesser scholars, and so on until the very last row - the 24th row - where the weakest students sat. Thus, the visiting Babylonian student who received a eulogy from Reish Lakish may have been a very weak student.
Megilla 27a-b: Secrets to a Long Life
08/01/2022 - 6th of Shvat, 5782
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Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
"By what merit did you live such a long life?" In a number of places in the Talmud we find this question presented to leading Sages by their students. Although the general principle of the Talmud is that rewards for the performance of mitzvot are received not in this world, but in the world-to-come, nevertheless it appears to have been widely accepted that someone who is particular in his performance of a given mitzva over and above the basic requirements is rewarded with long life. In fact, the commentaries examine each of the answers presented in our Gemara and attempt to show how the particular activity described goes beyond the letter-of-the-law in its performance. Among the activities that are credited with long life we find: "I never called someone by their nickname." Tosafot explain that even nicknames that did not carry any negative elements were to be avoided. Calling someone by a nickname that was insulting is a very serious matter according to the Talmud (see Bava Metzia 58b). Rabbeinu Yehonatan explains that this refers to a name that carried with it some negative connotation when it was first given to an ancestor years before, but today is no longer an embarrassment. "I never missed making Kiddush on Shabbat." The issue here is whether there is an obligation to make Kiddush on wine, or can it be made on bread. From the Gemara it is clear that this statement refers to the fact that Kiddush was always made over wine, and the Rashba explains that this was done, even though Kiddush could have been made over bread. "I never used the synagogue as a shortcut." Rav Shmu'el ha-Levi in his Ramat Shmu'el suggests that this was true even in a case where it was permissible to do so according to the letter-of-the-law - for example when there was an existing walkway in front of the synagogue that was built for that purpose.
Megilla 26a-b:Selling an Object of Kedusha
07/01/2022 - 5th of Shvat, 5782
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Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The fourth perek of Massekhet Megilla focuses on the synagogue. Batei Knesset as places of prayer existed even while the Temple was still standing. In fact, on the Temple Mount itself there was a synagogue where people would participate in communal prayer and public Torah reading while the sacrificial service was being performed by the kohanim in the mikdash. The community synagogue served other functions as well, including a schoolhouse for children and a gathering place for members of the community to hear the teachings of the Rabbis or to deal with communal issues such as charity. Our perek examines the holiness invested in these structures, what appropriate behavior in them should be, how they should be treated when they fall into disuse, and whether they can be sold or traded. The first Mishna teaches that an object of kedusha - holiness - can only be sold if something with a higher level of kedusha will be purchased with the proceeds. Rava teaches, however, that if the community leaders - the shiv'a tovei ha'ir - arrange the sale of a synagogue with the approval of the community, it can even be used le-mishta bei shikhra - to drink beer. According to Rashi and Rabbeinu Hananel, this ruling permits the funds received by the community in exchange for the synagogue to be used for any purpose - even for purchasing beer. Rabbeinu Yehonatan, the Ran and others have a variant reading in the Gemara. They read it as le-mishta ba-hen shikhra - to drink beer in them - which would seem to mean that once the synagogue is sold properly, it can be used for any purpose, even as a beer hall. After serious examination of the rulings presented by the Gemara on this topic, the Ramban concludes that a synagogue does not contain inherent holiness; rather, the kedusha that is invested therein stems from its use as a place of study and prayer. Once the building has been sold in a manner accepted by the Sages and it is no longer being used for such purposes, the holiness is no longer extant and it can be used for any purpose.
Megilla 25a-b: What Not To Say
06/01/2022 - 4th of Shvat, 5782
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Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The Mishna teaches that a number of seemingly innocuous expressions should be avoided. Here are two examples: 1. Yevarkhukha tovim - "May the good bless You" - is seen as a form of heresy. Rashi explains the heresy as stemming from the fact that we should be including all of the Jewish people in praise of God, not merely good people. The Rid, Rabbeinu Yehonatan and others suggest that this teaching is based on the passage in Sefer Yirmiyahu (44:17) from where we can see that tovim can be interpreted as seve'im - satiated - and the heresy stems from the suggestion that only those people who are fully satisfied need to bless God, while those less fortunate do not. Another approach is suggested by the Meiri, who understood tovim to mean the angels - making the expression Yevarkhukha tovim mean that only heavenly creatures praise God and, as such, removing Him from connection with this world. 2. Al kan tzipor yagi'u rahamekha – "Your mercy is extended to a bird's nest" - is a statement that should not be said. (See Devarim 22:6 for the source of such a statement.) Two reasons for this are posed by the Gemara. One suggestion is that this statement will create envy among the creations, i.e. that it appears as though God shows favoritism to one creature over the rest. The other opinion in the Gemara is that one who says this is, in effect, suggesting that God's commandments are based on mercy, when, in fact, they are gezerot - laws whose reasoning is not ours to understand. This statement, which appears to limit any study of te'amei ha-mitzvot (the “taste of,” or reasoning behind, the commandments), is the subject of much discussion among Jewish thinkers and philosophers. In response to this argument, the Meiri, for example, explains that the intent of the Gemara is not to deny the mercy of a given commandment; rather it is to emphasize that the end goal is not God's mercy in this case, but an educational goal of teaching us mercy by means of performing this mitzva. The Yerushalmi suggests yet another approach - that this statement puts limits on God's abilities in that He shows mercy only to birds and similar creatures.
Megilla 24a-b: The Priestly Blessing
05/01/2022 - 3rd of Shvat, 5782
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Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
In Israel it is common practice for kohanim to bless the congregation on a daily basis towards the end of the repetition of the Amida prayer. In the Diaspora it is a much less frequent occurrence, which takes place only on the festivals of Pesah, Shavu'ot and Sukkot, as well as on the High Holy Days. The Mishna teaches that a kohen whose hands are disfigured should not participate in this blessing; according to Rabbi Yehuda if someone’s hands are colored with dye he too should not participate, as it will be distracting to the congregants. Although the popular notion is that it is forbidden to look at the hands of the kohanim while they are offering the blessing, since the Sages teach that the presence of the Almighty appears there at that time, the rishonim already have noted that the sense of Divine presence during the Priestly Blessing is only true in the Temple. Thus, the Meiri and Rid - echoing the Talmud Yerushalmi - explain that the concern here is that the congregants may be distracted from paying attention to the berakha. Based on this, we find the ruling of the Rema in the Shulhan Aruk (Orah Hayyim 128:30) that if the local custom requires the kohen to cover himself with a tallit during the blessing, the restrictions of the Mishna would not apply. Other limitations which may restrict kohanim from participating in the blessing include those whose pronunciation of the blessing is less that perfect. The baraita teaches that the people of Beit She'an, Beit Haifa and Tivonin were not permitted to bless the people because they could not distinguish between the pronunciation of the letter aleph and the letter ayin. Unlike the people who grew up in the southern part of Israel, people who were raised in the Galilee - and, apparently, in particular cities in the Galilee where there was a large non-Jewish population - did not learn proper Hebrew pronunciation. Guttural sounds with origins in the throat - like the letters ayin and het - were difficult for those who grew up in places where languages other than Hebrew were prevalent.
Megilla 23a-b: The Translator
04/01/2022 - 2nd of Shvat, 5782
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 describing the public Torah reading, the Mishna teaches that every person called to the Torah must read at least three pesukim, but that the turgeman (translator) should be given only one passage at a time to translate. Although we are not familiar with the practice today, the turgeman was an essential fixture in the synagogue during Torah reading in the time of the Mishna and the Talmud, as well as for generations that followed. For Jews of Yemenite extraction, the turgeman is part of the standard Torah readings in their synagogues to this day. The job of the turgeman was to translate the Torah reading into a language that could be understood by all - Aramaic. As can be well imagined, when the turgeman participated in the service, the Torah reading took a much longer amount of time. Although the Torah reading could not be shortened, when it came to reading the haftara - the portion from the Prophets that is read following the completion of the Torah reading - if there was a turgeman (and it should be noted that the Aramaic translation in Navi is even longer than in Humash, as it includes commentary alongside the literal translation), it made sense to shorten the reading. Thus, the original establishment of the haftara as consisting of minimally 21 pesukim (probably stemming from a desire to mimic the seven aliyot to the Torah, which are made up of three pesukim each) was cut down to ten pesukim, or even fewer. There is another type of turgeman who is occasionally referred to in the Gemara; he is the individual whose job it was to "broadcast" the teachings of the Sage to the audience who came to hear him - an essential job prior to the invention of the loudspeaker. Such a turgeman not only presented the words of the Sage, but offered explanations and clarifications of the teachings, as well.
Megilla 22a-b: Dividing up Rosh Hodesh Torah Reading
03/01/2022 - 1st of Shvat, 5782
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.
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The Torah is read publicly in synagogues every Monday and Thursday, when a short reading from the upcoming week's portion is divided between three people – a kohen, a levi and a yisrael. On Rosh Hodesh we call four people up to the Torah, and read a selection from Sefer Bamidbar (28:1-15), which teaches about the special sacrifice brought in the Temple on the occasion of the New Moon. These fifteen pesukim are made up of three separate paragraphs: 1-8 discuss the daily tamid sacrifice brought every morning and afternoon 9-10 discuss the musaf sacrifice brought on Shabbat 11-15 discuss the musaf sacrifice brought on Rosh Hodesh. Since every person who is called to the Torah must read at least three pesukim, it would appear that the fifteen pesukim that we find here should suffice for the four people who are to receive aliyot to the Torah. Nevertheless, there is a problem. Since there is a rule that forbids leaving two pesukim at the beginning of a paragraph or at the end of a paragraph, it becomes impossible to fit four aliyot into these fifteen pesukim. What to do? Oddly enough, when this question was posed to Rava, his response was "I haven't heard an answer to this, but I have heard something in a similar case." The similar case is that of Torah reading for ma'amadot (see Ta'anit 26), when the people involved in prayer and study in the community synagogues would read from the story of Creation. When there were not enough pesukim for a proper Torah reading, Rav ruled doleg – repeat a pasuk – and Shmuel ruled posek – split a pasuk in half. While it appears odd that Rava did not have a straightforward answer to a question on what should be done in a case that was so common, perhaps there were a number of different traditions regarding the Torah reading on Rosh Hodesh, and Rava was simply commenting that he did not have a clear tradition on which was the correct one, so he suggests looking at another, similar case, to see if a conclusion could be reached. In fact, when the Gemara does conclude that we follow Rav, and that a pasuk should be repeated, it is not clear whether that ruling applies only to the case of ma'amadot or if we are to apply it to Rosh Hodesh, as well. Even today we find different traditions. While the Shulhan Aruk (Orah Hayyim 423:2) rules that the second aliya repeats pasuk 3, so that we can fit three olim into the first eight pesukim, the Gr"a, quoting Massekhet Soferim, rules that only two aliyot are fit into the first paragraph, and and the third oleh repeats the pesukim 6-8 and completes his aliya by reading pesukim 9 and 10.
Megilla 21a-b: The Rules of the Readings
02/01/2022 - 29th of Tevet, 5782
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Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
The third perek of Massekhet Megilla opens with a brief discussion of basic rules of reading the Megilla on Purim, and quickly segues to the rules and regulations that govern public Torah readings on Shabbat, holidays and during the week. The Mishna teaches that the Megilla can be read standing or sitting, by one or more people simultaneously, and may or may not have blessings recited afterwards. The Gemara discusses how each of these rules contrasts with regular Torah readings. For example, the Torah cannot be read sitting, a rule derived from the description of the Torah taught to Moshe by God (Devarim 5:28), where Moshe is commanded to stand next to God – as if to say that God Himself was standing when the Torah was taught for the first time. Similarly, explains the Rid, in public Torah readings, due to the honor shown to the congregation and the sense that the very gathering of the congregation brings with it the presence of the Almighty, the Torah must be read while standing. In the same vein, the Torah cannot be read by two people simultaneously. During the Torah reading in the time of the Talmud, one person read aloud and was accompanied by a meturgaman – a translator who would read the Aramaic translation – but two people could not read together, since this would make it difficult to pay attention to the reading. The baraita points to hallel and Megilla as exceptions to the rule that trei koli lo mishtama'ei – that two voices cannot be heard clearly – since they are beloved by the people who look forward to hearing them, so people pay better attention. Two approaches are offered to explain the idea that listening closely to hallel or to the Megilla allows people to fulfill their mitzva properly. One suggestion is that someone who pays close attention will be able to discern a single voice and concentrate on it, the other argues that listening closely allows someone to listen to both voices simultaneously (as quoted by the Ran and others).
Megilla 20a-b: Those Who Can't Read For Others
01/01/2022 - 28th of Tevet, 5782
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The Mishna (19b) teaches that anyone can read the Megilla for others, with the exception of a heresh, shoteh, ve-katan – a deaf-mute, an imbecile and a child. Rabbi Yehuda permits a katan to read the Megilla for others. While some of the commentaries try to explain how the case of the deaf-mute reading aloud for others is possible – suggesting that in this particular case we are talking about someone who is deaf and cannot hear, but can, in fact speak – the Talmud Yerushalmi simply says that we cannot possibly be talking about a heresh reading for others. The heresh is mentioned in the Mishna only because he is always partnered with the shoteh and the katan, but it has no true significance in our case. With regard to the katan, the Gemara relates that Rabbi Yehuda not only permits a child to read the Megilla for others, in fact he testified that when he was a child, he read the Megilla in the presence of Rabbi Tarfon and the elders of Lod. His fellow Sages did not accept this as proof that a child can read for others, arguing that they do not accept proof from the story of a child. When Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi testified that as a child he read the Megilla for Rabbi Yehuda, his peers rejected this as any indication of normative practice, arguing that they do not accept proof from the activity of the person who himself was the one who permitted this behavior. In truth, when dealing with issues of a Rabbinic nature – and keri'at Megilla certainly falls into that category – then we do accept the testimony of an adult who relates what he saw or experienced as a child. The Rid explains that keri'at Megilla is an exception, since it is a public reading from TaNaKH it is given the severity and significance of a Biblical law. The Birkei Yosef argues that this rule does not apply in our case, since we can only trust a childhood memory of a specific, clearly defined occurrence. In our case, Rabbi Yehuda merely reminisced about his reading the Megilla before Rabbi Tarfon and other Sages. That testimony does not clearly indicate that those Sages accepted the reading as valid – perhaps they listened to another rendition of the Megilla beforehand or afterwards.
Megilla 19a-b: When Traveling on Purim
31/12/2021 - 27th of Tevet, 5782
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.
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We have already learned that the Megilla is read on two separate days – on the 14th of Adar in a krah – an ordinary city – and on the 15th of Adar in an ir – a city that was surrounded by walls from the time of Yehoshua bin Nun. How do we establish whether a given individual is a ben krah or a ben ir? The Mishna teaches that someone who travels from one type of city to another becomes obligated according to his new city, assuming that he does not plan to return. If he plans to return, however, then he retains his original status and reads according to the tradition of the place that he is from.
Gemara: Rava said: They taught the Mishna that one who is destined to return to his own place reads according to the halakha governing his own place only with regard to one who is destined to return to his own place on the night of the fourteenth of Adar. But if he is not destined to return on the night of the fourteenth, although he does intend to return to his own place eventually, he reads with the residents of his current location.
Rava's ruling is not as simple as it appears, and there are two main positions taken on how to understand it. Rashi understands it to refer to both a ben krah and a ben ir, and the question is whether the individual anticipates returning to his primary location by the time the Megilla will be read there. Thus, a ben ir who is visiting a krah on the 14th will not be obligated to hear the Megilla with the people of that town, assuming that he intends on returning home by the time that his ir will read the Megilla on the 15th. The Rosh disagrees, arguing that the crucial time is the 14th for everyone. We judge a person's obligation by his position on the 14th when the basic obligation of keri'at Megilla begins. According to him, a ben ir who is visiting a krah on the 14th will be obligated to read on that day. Another possibility that is raised by the poskim, based on the Talmud Yerushalmi, is that a person can find himself obligated on both days, or, perhaps, not obligated at all, if he travels between cities on the 14th and 15th.
Megilla 18a-b: The Language of Megilla Reading
30/12/2021 - 26th of Tevet, 5782
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 in the Mishna, anyone can hear the Megilla read in Hebrew; in order to fulfill your obligation while hearing the Megilla read in another language, you must understand that language. Fulfilling one's obligation by hearing the Megilla in Hebrew seems intuitive. Ravina points out in the Gemara that there are words in the Megilla whose definition we really do not know (ha'ahashteranim benei haramakhim – see Esther 8:10), so clearly what we need is a proper reading that publicizes the miracle. This can be accomplished with a public Hebrew rendition. Rabbeinu Yehonatan adds that most Jews have a rudimentary understanding of Hebrew, so someone who hears a reading in Hebrew will get the basics of the story, as opposed to someone who hears it in a language with which he is not familiar. With regard to hearing the Megilla in a language other than Hebrew, it is not clear that the simple teaching of the Mishna is accepted as the halakha. While the Rambam rules that someone who understands a given language can fulfill his mitzva by hearing the Megilla read in that language, the Ramban – basing himself on the Talmud Yerushalmi - argues that that is true only if the language in which the Megilla is read is the only language that the person understands. If he understands Hebrew, he is obligated to hear the Megilla read in Hebrew. The ruling of the Mishna notwithstanding, Rav and Shmuel are quoted in the Gemara as ruling that the Megilla can be read in Greek – even for people who do not understand Greek. This ruling is accepted as the halakha by the Rambam, although the Ramban disagrees, permitting Greek to be used only by those for whom the only language they understand is Greek. The Mikhtam explains that Greek was considered the universal language at that time, which is why the suggestion is raised that it should be permitted for use by all.
Megilla 17a-b: The Language of Public Readings
29/12/2021 - 25th of Tevet, 5782
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 second chapter of Massekhet Megilla continues the discussion of the public reading of Megillat Esther on Purim. The Mishna teaches that the Megilla can be read in any language, as long as it is a language that the people understand. Even someone who does not understand Hebrew can fulfill the mitzva of hearing the Megilla by listening to it being read in Hebrew. All of this is true with regard to reading the Megilla; how about the Torah itself? The Gemara discusses whether the Sages felt that, "Kol ha-Torah bi-leshon ha-kodesh ne'emrah – whether the entire Torah is said in Hebrew." Rashi interprets this line to be a reference to public Torah readings. Tosafot, who are in agreement with Rashi that the discussion is whether public Torah readings must be in Hebrew, ask whether there are any Torah readings that are, in fact, true obligations. Their explanation is that this is a reference to those parts of the Torah that we are obligated to say on specific occasions, e.g. when halitza is done (see Devarim 25:5-10), when bringing bikkurim (see Devarim 26), etc. The Rashba brings this suggestion and adds that the Gemara might be referring to the mitzvah of reading Parashat Zakhor, which is a Biblical obligation according to all opinions. Rabbeinu Hananel is quoted as explaining this discussion as relating to the question of whether the Torah can be written and translated into other languages, an issue that was discussed at some length by the Gemara in the first perek (see daf 3). There are other opinions (see the Ritva, for example) that suggest that the tradition to have regular public readings of the Torah dates back to the time of Moses, who established this practice. Thus there is some level of obligation in the standard weekly Torah readings.
Megilla 16a-b: Biblical Poetry
28/12/2021 - 24th of Tevet, 5782
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 vast majority of the Tanakh is prose, written in a straightforward manner, with the words written together in close proximity, and paragraph and chapter breaks added within the text as necessary. On occasion we find poetry and songs in the Tanakh, which are distinguished by the manner in which they are written. Rabbi Hanina bar Pappa quotes Rabbi Sheila ish Kefar Timarta who points out that the main method of presentation for songs and poetry in the Tanakh is ari'ah al gabei leveinah - like brickwork, with alternating long and short lines set up like a building. A classic example of the ari'ah al gabei leveinah system is Shirat haYam – the Song of the Sea. As is evident from looking at the Biblical text as it appears in the written Torah (Shemot 15) the song leaves large spaces between words and is clearly different from your standard page of prose. Rabbi Sheila ish Kefar Timarta does note that we find another method of writing songs in the Torah, ari'ah al gabei ari'ah – when the "bricks" are piled up with one directly above the other. Such a system is found in Megillat Esther, in chapter 9 when Haman's sons are hanged and in Sefer Yehoshua (chapter 10) where we find a celebratory list of the Canaanite kings who had been conquered by Yehoshua and the Children of Israel. As Rabbi Sheila ish Kefar Timarta explains, the difference between these songs is that unlike the ari'ah al gabei leveinah, the ari'ah al gabei ari'ah is not a sturdy structure. Since these songs celebrate the downfall of the enemies of the Jewish people (as opposed to Shirat ha-Yam whose focus is on the miracles wrought by God on behalf of His people), they are set up in a way that testifies to the permanent downfall of these evil people, who should never recover from their defeat. The image and description of brickwork poetry are taken from the Koren Talmud Bavli.
Megilla 15a-b: The Hidden Story
27/12/2021 - 23th of Tevet, 5782
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.
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Today's daf continues sharing Rabbinic interpretations of the story of Megillat Esther. Although Haman's rise to power brought with it wealth and honor (see Esther 5:11), nevertheless, the Megilla records that Haman feels that none of it is worth anything to him, so long as he sees Mordekhai residing in the king's court (see Esther 5:13). What was it about Mordekhai that so disturbed Haman? Rav Hisda explains, "Zeh ba be-perozebuli, ve-zeh ba be-perozeboti"- this one came with wealth, i.e. claiming that debts were owed to him, and the other one came with poverty, i.e. claims made against him. Rav Pappa concludes that the latter was called "a servant who was sold for bread." These statements refer to a well-known story that does not appear in the Talmud, but is mentioned in several midrashim. According to this story, prior to his appointment as adviser and confidant to the king, Haman was a barber and bath attendant. King Ahashverosh sent both Haman and Mordekhai to war as generals, responsible for different parts of the army. Haman was a poor administrator who spent his funds unwisely and could not feed or support his troops. Desperate, he turned to Mordekhai and was forced to sell himself into slavery, with Mordekhai becoming his master. Thus, Haman's rise to power notwithstanding, Mordekhai's position in the king's court was a constant threat from which Haman was desperate to free himself. The turning point in the story of the Megilla takes place when the king cannot sleep (see Esther 6:1) and calls for the reading of the book that chronicled palace events. A number of suggestions are put forward with regard to this episode of insomnia:
  • Rava says that Ahashverosh could not sleep because he was concerned with Esther's sudden interest in having Haman over to the palace on a regular basis - a concern echoed in the king's angry response to seeing Haman on the couch with Esther in 7:8.
  • Rabbi Tanhum teaches that the "king" who could not sleep was the Almighty, King of the world. In fact, many commentaries argue that references to ha-Melekh throughout the Megilla, are, in fact, hidden references to God, who is controlling events the entire time, albeit through a veil of secrecy.
Megilla 14a-b: Forty-Eight Prophets
26/12/2021 - 22th of Tevet, 5782
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.
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Rabbi Abba bar Kahana taught: When King Ahashverosh removed his ring and transferred the power over the Jews to Haman (see Esther 3:10), it brought about greater repentance among the Jews than all of the 48 prophets that had been sent by God to admonish them. Who are the 48 Nevi'im referred to by Rabbi Abba bar Kahana? Rashi has one set of suggestions that reaches 46 individuals and closes with the admission that there are two that he cannot identify. Among the prophets he mentions are the Avot: Avraham, Yitzhak and Ya'akov. Rabbeinu Hananel offers an alternative list that begins with Moshe and Aharon and closes with Mordekhai Balshan of the Megilla. The commentaries discuss the various Biblical figures that might be considered for inclusion on this list, and in particular the identity of the two individuals that should fill out Rashi's list. Some figures are the subject of clear dispute in the Gemara. Daniel, for example, is said by the Gemara to have not been a prophet, yet he appears in some of the lists. Among the suggestions raised are Shem vaEver and Eldad uMedad. According to the baraita, the only thing that these nevi'im added to the Torah was the commandment of Purim, i.e. the reading of Megillat Esther. Rashi points out that there is an additional commandment - the mitzva to light Hanukkah candles. He answers that Hanukkah was established by the Sages, rather than by the prophets, which puts it in a different category of halakha. The Ran explains this position by pointing out that Rabbinic decrees are always established for the purpose of protecting Biblical commandments, or ensuring that they will be properly fulfilled. Reading the Megilla is unique in that it is an independent celebration. Tosafot Ri"d offers a simple explanation - that the intent of the baraita is to say that no public readings of the Tanakh were added aside from reading the Megilla.
Megilla 13a-b: Casting Lots Against the Jews
25/12/2021 - 21th of Tevet, 5782
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.
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Much of the first perek of Massekhet Megilla is devoted to a line-by-line midrashic commentary of the pesukim of Megillat Esther. Our daf focuses on some of the goings-on in the third chapter, where we are introduced to Haman and his dastardly plan for destroying the Jews. Here are some of the interpretations suggested by the Sages to pesukim in this perek: Haman casts lots (see pasuk 7) to decide when to unleash the masses against the Jews, and the lottery falls on the eleventh month - the month of Adar. The baraita teaches that Haman was pleased to find that the lottery had fallen on Adar, which is the anniversary of Moshe Rabbeinu's death; he did not realize that, although Moshe died on the seventh day of Adar, he was also born on that same date. The Maharsha points out that while it is fairly simple to derive the month - and even the day - of Moshe's death from the pesukim in Sefer Devarim, the only way to determine when he was born is by relying on the Rabbinic tradition that God allows the righteous to complete their years, by taking back their souls on the same day on which they were born. Among the reasons Haman gives to Ahashverosh for why the Jews should be destroyed is that they keep different traditions than others: They do not join in eating with others, nor do they intermarry with them, and they do not keep the traditions of the king – rather, they spend the entire year "bi-sh'hi pe'hi". This enigmatic phrase is understood by most of the commentaries to be abbreviations:
  • sh'hi = Shabbat ha-yom - today is the Sabbath
  • pe'hi = Pesah ha-yom - today is the holiday of Passover.
In other words, they claim to have religious holidays throughout the year, which gives them more vacation days than working days! It is difficult to determine whether this is the actual intent of the expression. In any case, it also carries the connotation of lethargy and time-wasting - she-hiya u'batalah. Haman succeeds in convincing the king to agree to his request. In Rabbi Abba's opinion, this is because Ahashverosh was a true partner with Haman in his hatred of the Jews.
Megilla 12a-b: Foolish King Ahashverosh?
24/12/2021 - 20th of Tevet, 5782
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
Remember the song that we sang in Hebrew school about the foolish King Ahashverosh? How foolish was he? Was he truly a fool? This question is the subject of a dispute on our daf between Rav and Shmuel, who discuss whether the strategy of having a general party first and an event for the people of the capital, Shushan, afterwards was an intelligent plan or a foolish one. Did it make more sense to seek the favor of his far-flung constituency, knowing that the local populace was always available to him, or should he have first ensured his support at home? How to judge Ahashverosh is an argument that has existed through the ages. Even today, historians debate whether he was a master tactician or simply a fool. The Greeks against whom he fought - and often bested in war - succeeded in tarnishing his reputation in a variety of ways. Their description of him is not very far off from the picture that we get from reading Megillat Esther - and even more from the midrashic material based on the megilla - of someone a bit unstable who was easily swayed by the opinions of his advisors and attendants, as well as ruled over by the women of his harem. It should be noted, however, that in the early years of his reign, Ahashverosh succeeded in putting down serious rebellions in Egypt and Babylon, securing his reputation as an astute and intelligent military tactician. His building initiatives included the cities of Persepolis and Fiura, both of which were impressive on an international scale for that time. At the same time, it appears that his spending on these initiatives was so great that he could not raise enough tax money to cover the projects, which left his treasury bankrupt. Thus, it is difficult to reach a clear conclusion regarding his personality or his life's work.
Megilla 11a-b: The Prophecy of Exile
23/12/2021 - 19th of Tevet, 5782
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
According to our Gemara, the party that opens Megillat Esther was thrown by Ahashverosh to celebrate the fact that 70 years had passed since the Temple was destroyed and the Jews exiled, yet the Temple had not been rebuilt. The tradition of the Sages was that the Babylonian and Persian kings were well aware of Yirmiyahu's prophecy that the first exile would last 70 years (see Yirmiyahu 29:10), and the party described in Sefer Daniel (see Chapter 5) - where King Belshazzar brought out the Temple vessels that had been looted by Nevuhadnezzar - was celebrating the fact that the Jews had not returned to their land and that the prophecy had not been fulfilled. That party ended in disaster, with Daniel reading the proverbial "handwriting on the wall" that foretold King Belshazzar's death. Ahashverosh was convinced that Belshazzar had been mistaken in counting the 70 years from the beginning of the Babylonian empire, but that he could now celebrate, since it was 70 years since the beginning of the Jewish exile under King Yehoyakhin (see II Melakhim 24:8-16). The Ramban explains that Ahashverosh did not reject the prophecy entirely. He felt that the permission given by King Koresh (Cyrus) to the Jews to return to Israel was sufficient for the prophecy to be considered fulfilled, but that the Temple would not be rebuilt. Some suggest that his acceptance of the prophecy is what allowed him to live, even as Belshazzar was killed. The Ramban also explains that it was the Temple vessels that had been looted when King Yehoyakhin was taken into exile that were used in King Belshazzar's party. Those same vessels were returned to the Jewish community by King Koresh when he allowed them to return to their land. There were, however, other vessels that had been looted when King Tzidkiyahu was exiled (see II Melakhim 25:8-17), and those vessels were used by Ahashverosh at his party. These vessels were eventually returned to the Jews, as well, when King Artahshasta (Artaxerxes) encouraged Ezra ha-Sofer to lead the Jews back to Israel and build the Second Temple (see Ezra 7:19).
Megilla 10a-b: And the Holiness Remains
22/12/2021 - 18th of Tevet, 5782
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
When we think of Israel as "the Holy Land," what implications does that have for us today? Does the Land of Israel have the same holiness that it did in the days of the prophets? Does Jerusalem have unique religious holiness? Can one, for example, bring sacrifices today, even though the Temple is not standing? The Mishna teaches that one of the basic differences between Shiloh, where the mishkan stood for 369 years after the Jewish people entered the Land of Israel following the exodus from Egypt, and the permanent mikdash in Jerusalem is that the kedusha of Shiloh ceased to exist with the destruction of the Tabernacle, but the holiness of Jerusalem remains forever. The Gemara quotes a Mishna from Massekhet Eduyyot in which Rabbi Yehoshua teaches a tradition as follows:
  • Sacrifices can be brought even if the Temple is not standing;
  • Kodashei kodashim - sacrifices that need to be eaten within the precincts of the Temple - can be eaten even if there are no Temple walls in existence; and
  • Kodashim kalim - sacrifices that must be eaten within the city of Jerusalem - can be eaten even if there are no city walls.
His reasoning is that once the holiness of the second Temple was established, it remains for all future generations. The idea that the holiness given to the Land of Israel may have been established in such a way that it would last forever is subject to a dispute among the rishonim. Tosafot accept the simple reading of the Gemara, which seems to view the holiness of the Land of Israel and that of Jerusalem as being the same, so if the destruction of the Temple removes the holiness from the Land, it does so for Jerusalem as well. The Rambam, on the other hand, sees the two as distinct and rules that even if the holiness of the Land is removed, kedushat Yerushalayim - which stems from the presence of God - can never be removed. With the return of the Jews to Israel under Ezra haSofer and the building of the second Temple, the center of the kedusha was the rebuilt Temple - the seat of the Almighty - and the rest of the Land derived its holiness from Jerusalem. Thus the Rambam rules that even with the destruction of the Temple, kedushat Ezra remains forever.
Megilla 9a-b: United in Translation
21/12/2021 - 17th of Tevet, 5782
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
Our Gemara tells the story of the targum shiv'im, the Greek translation of the Torah organized by King Ptolemy of Egypt, who collected 72 sages, put them in separate rooms and commanded them to begin translating. According to the Gemara all of the Sages responded to a heavenly message and translated the Torah in the same way, including passages that could have been misunderstood had they been rendered in a literal fashion. The targum shiv'im was the first translation of the Torah into a foreign language, an occurrence that the Sages viewed at first as dangerous, at best (Megillat Ta'anit records that a fast day was established in commemoration of the event). After a time, however, the translation was accepted as important and valuable and was treated with respect by the Sages. The Jews of Egypt, in particular, viewed the targum shiv'im with great reverence and saw its creation as one of holiness. Aside from the record of the event that appears in Rabbinic literature, a lengthy description of the translation and how it came to be has been found in an ancient Greek letter entitled "the letter of Aristeas," which describes the king's initiative to have the Torah translated and the greatness of the Sages who were brought from Israel to carry it out. The targum shiv'im that is extant today was preserved mainly by Christians who believed it to be even more reliable than the original Hebrew. Over time, changes were introduced into the work, well beyond the changes described in the story that is told in our Gemara. Today's version includes occasional passages that we do not have in the standard Hebrew Tanakh; there are even entire books - apocrypha - that appear in the targum shiv'im that do not appear in the Tanakh. At the same time, not all of the changes that are recorded in our Gemara are actually found in the version that we have today.
Megilla 8a-b: Ancient Writings
20/12/2021 - 16th of Tevet, 5782
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 (6b) teaches, "Ein bein Adar ha-Rishon la-Adar ha-Sheni, ela keri'at haMegilla u-matanot la-evyonim - there is no difference between the first Adar and the second, aside from reading the Megilla and distributing presents to the poor." This teaching leads to a series of Mishnayot that contrast two similar issues of halakha including:
  • Shabbat and Yom Tov (cooking is allowed on Yom Tovim)
  • Shabbat and Yom Kippur (punishment on Shabbat is meted out by the courts)
  • Oaths
  • Ritual impurity involving seminal emissions
  • Different levels of leprosy
The last Mishna on our daf discusses differences between writing Torah scrolls and writing tefillin and mezuzot, teaching that a Torah scroll can be written in any language, while tefillin and mezuzot can only be written in Ashurit. In the language of the Sages, ketav Ashuri is the square writing that is used in ritual objects today, as opposed to ketav Ivri, which is the ancient script used by the Samaritans. We find differences of opinion with regard to the name Ashuri, whether it is called by that name because the Jews brought it back to Israel from their exile in Babylon (Ashur), or if it is called by that name because of its fine, straight writing (yashar). Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel's opinion quoted in the Mishna limits foreign writing in Sifrei Torah to Greek, based on the passage in Sefer Bereshit (9:27) that invites Yefet to dwell in the tents of Shem. This pasuk is understood to recognize the beauty of Greek, which would be appropriate to use to enhance Jewish practice. The Gemara rules like Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, a position accepted by the Rambam, who argues that the original Greek has become corrupted and has effectively been lost. Therefore today all of our ritual objects, including Sifrei Torah, are only written with ketav Ashuri.
Megilla 7a-b: An Obligation to Drink
19/12/2021 - 15th of Tevet, 5782
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
Everyone knows that Purim is the single day on the Jewish calendar that we are commanded to get drunk. Or are we? Rava teaches that a person has an obligation of livsumei (Rashi interprets this to mean "to get drunk with wine") on Purim, until he does not know the difference between "Cursed be Haman" and "Blessed be Mordechai." There are many approaches to this statement. Some include:
  • Maimonides suggests that a person is obligated to drink until he falls asleep, at which point he will not be able to distinguish between things.
  • Tosafot base themselves on a statement in the Talmud Yerushalmi that indicates that a confusing poem was recited after the reading of the Megilla, which included blessings bestowed on Mordechai and curses on Haman. Someone who has had a little to drink will be unable to recite the poem without making mistakes in it.
  • Others suggest that the gematria – the numeric value – of the letters of arrur Haman and barukh Mordechai are the same. A person should drink until he can no longer do the arithmetic necessary to figure out the gematria.
It is commonplace to find that after a statement of halakha, the Gemara will tell a story that illustrates the halakha. It is interesting to note that after Rava's ruling obligating a person to drink on Purim, the Gemara relates a story about Rabba and Rabbi Zeira, in which they got drunk at a Purim meal, whereupon, "Kam Rabbah shahtei le-Rabbi Zeira - Rabba got up and slaughtered Rabbi Zeira." The commentaries reject the possibility that this story can be understood on a simple straightforward level, suggesting, for example, that the expression shahtei may be understood to mean that he gave him so much to drink that he became ill (Maharsha) or that he squeezed him until he fainted (Meiri). Nevertheless, the juxtaposition of this story with Rava's ruling leads some to understand that Rava's ruling is rejected and that a person should follow the position of the Rambam and simply drink in order to get drowsy and sleep (see Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim 695:2).
Megilla 6a-b: Identifying Ancient Cities
18/12/2021 - 14th of Tevet, 5782
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 that Hizkiya asserted that Tiberias was a walled city dating back to the time that the Jewish people entered the land of Israel at the end of their exodus from Egypt. This assertion is supported by a passage in Sefer Yehoshua (19:35) that lists walled cities included in the area set aside for the tribe of Naftali, and includes cities in the vicinity of the Kinneret, including one that is identified as Tiberias. Contemporary Tiberias was established in the year 18 CE by King Herod, who named the new city in honor of the Roman Caesar Tiberius. Although the city was built anew, it was established on the ruins of an ancient city – according to most opinions in the Gemara, of the city Rakat. Due to its having been built on an ancient Jewish city, the Sages dealt with the problems of burial grounds that were no longer marked, and kohanim did not settle in the city. The discussion of identifying ancient cities (a practice that still inspires debate and discussion in Israel today) leads the Gemara to discuss other cities and their history. One of the cities is Caesarea, an ancient city on the Mediterranean coast. The city was established at the beginning of the second Temple era by the king of Sidon. Over the generations it became less and less important, and Alexander Yannai captured it and included it in the Kingdom of Judea. By the end of the second Temple period, King Herod had once again built it into an important port city. Nevertheless, from its beginning it was a city with a non-Jewish and even pagan quality to it. Caesarea became the administrative center of the Roman rule in Israel in the year 6 CE, and the tension between Jerusalem, the symbol of Jewish rule and independence, and Caesarea, is clearly expressed in the stories related in our Gemara. With the destruction of Jerusalem, Caesarea became the de facto capital of the country until the Moslem capture of the country.
Megilla 5a-b: A City With a Wall of Water
17/12/2021 - 13th of Tevet, 5782
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 have learned, the holiday of Purim is celebrated on two separate days. People living in cities without walls keep Purim on the 14th day of Adar, while Jews living in walled cities celebrate on the 15th day of the month. What if we are not sure whether a given city had walls around it going back to the days when Yehoshua entered the land of Israel with the Jewish people? The Gemara relates that Hizkiya was unsure whether Teverya (Tiberias) was considered a walled city or not, so he read the Megilla on both the 14th and the 15th. The Gemara explains that he was certain that walls surrounded the city; his dilemma was whether a city which was surrounded on three sides by a wall and on the fourth side by the sea (Tiberias is built on the shores of the Kinneret) should be considered a walled city or not. Can Hizkiya's ruling with regard to Tiberias be applied to other situations where we are unsure as to the status of a given city? Based on his decision, it would appear that we should also read the Megilla twice in other cities whose history is not clear, a position that appears to negate the usual rules that we apply in situations of uncertainty:
  1. We usually rule that we follow the rov or majority of cases. Most cities did not have walls, so we should assume that the city in question did not have them either.
  2. When faced with cases of uncertainty on a Rabbinic level, we are inclined to choose the lenient position.
Both of these rules would seem to indicate that the Megilla should be read only once – on the 14th. The Ge'onim, in fact, argue that we cannot apply Hizkiya's rule to other cases, since it was a unique case where he knew that the city had been walled on three sides, and his question was how the fourth side – protected by the sea – should be viewed. The Ramban argues that Hizkiya's behavior was a middat hasidut – a pious practice – that was not meant to be applied by others or in other cases. In fact, there are a number of cities where it was common practice to read on both days of Purim (and perform the other commandments, as well) although blessings were made only on the 14th. Such communities included Baghdad and Damascus, as well as cities in Israel, like Hevron and Tzefat.
Megilla 4a-b: Women's Obligation
16/12/2021 - 12th of Tevet, 5782
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
What level of obligation do women have in the commandments of Purim? Generally speaking, women are not obligated in Mitzvot aseh she-hazman geramah – positive commandments that are dependent on time. Thus, women are not obligated to sit in a Sukkah on Sukkot, nor are they obligated to wear tzitzit or to lay tefillin, which are only done during the day. Based on this principle, we would anticipate that women would not be obligated in the mitzvot of Purim, either. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi teaches that women are obligated to hear the reading of the Megilla, she'af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes – that they were partners in the miracle of Purim. There is a difference of opinion regarding this teaching. According to Rashi and most of the commentaries, Jewish women were included in Haman's decrees of destruction, and are therefore obligated to participate in the thanksgiving festivities that celebrate the rescue of the Jewish people. Rav Hai Gaon, the Rashbam and others argues that the Gemara's intent is that Jewish women played a crucial role in the miracle, in that Esther orchestrated the events that led to Haman's discovery and hanging. In either case it is clear that women are obligated in the mitzvot of the day. How this affects women and their own reading of the Megilla is the source of some dispute. According to Rashi and the Rambam it appears that women are obligated in reading the Megilla and therefore can read for others, as well. The Meiri and the Ritva rule that women are obligated in the mitzva, but they nevertheless cannot read for others because of an external reason, for example because it is not appropriate for the honor of the community for women to play such a public role. Finally there are those who suggest that women cannot read for others because their obligation is not to read the Megilla, but only to hear the Megilla.
Megilla 3a-b: Translating Scripture
15/12/2021 - 11th of Tevet, 5782
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
There is a long history of the Bible being translated into the vernacular, but the attitude of the Sages to translations is not entirely positive. According to our Gemara, Humash was translated into Aramaic by the convert Onkelos, based on the teachings of Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. When the Navi was translated by Yonatan ben Uzziel, based on the teachings of Haggai, Zekhariah and Malakhi, the land of Israel shook and a heavenly voice called out, "Who has allowed my secrets to be shared with flesh-and-blood?!" In response, Yonatan ben Uzziel accepted the responsibility for having done so, adding that God certainly knew that his intention was not to bring honor to himself or his family, but rather to add to the honor of God. Nevertheless, when he wanted to continue his work and translate Ketuvim, the heavenly voice forbade him from completing his work, since those books include the secrets of the end-of-days. In his Pardes Rimonim, Shem-Tov ibn Shaprut explains the expression that the land of Israel shook as a metaphor for the objections raised by the Sages throughout Israel against the translation and its publication. The Gemara itself explains that there were greater objections about Navi than Humash because the Humash is more straightforward, while Navi has parts that cannot be understood without translations and elucidation. Rabbeinu Hananel explains that the Sages simply saw it as objectionable to publicize issues that the Torah had only hinted to. The Ri"d argues that the problem stems from the fact that translations make study too easy, and that people would come to rely on the translation rather than working through the material on their own. The Penei Yehoshua suggests that there was a fear that only the translation would be studied and the original texts would be ignored. Today we have Aramaic translations of the books of the Ketuvim, as well (in fact, Megillat Esther has two). Already during the time of the second Temple a translation of Sefer Iyyov was available. Nevertheless, the Ge'onim write that these were qualitatively different than the translations described here, in that they were never officially sanctioned, were not authored by leading rabbis, and were not seen as necessarily offering the true meaning of the text.
Megilla 2a-b: Additional Days to Read the Megilla
14/12/2021 - 10th of Tevet, 5782
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
From its very inception, the holiday of Purim was celebrated on two different days. The Megilla clearly indicates that only the Jews living in cities that did not have walls surrounding them kept the holiday's commandments on the 14th day of Adar, while walled cities celebrated on the 15th of the month (see Megillat Esther 9:19-22). Thus it is not entirely surprising to find that the Sages added more dates for the reading of the Megilla, allowing villagers to hear it on the Monday or Thursday preceding Purim, when they visited the larger cities to participate in the market days, to hear the public Torah reading or to appear before the local courts that sat on those days. The first perek of Massekhet Megilla deals with these additional days of Purim, as well as questions of defining which walled cities celebrate on the 15th and how to deal with two months of Adar in a Jewish leap year. The Ramban asks the most basic question about Purim celebrations. Why were they originally set up to be kept on two different days? In answer to this, he points out that the Purim story takes place in the years of exile between the first and the second Temples. By this time, some Jews had returned to the land of Israel, where they were spread out in small towns and villages. It was these Jews who were in the greatest danger from Haman's decrees, and they were the ones who first established a day of thanksgiving on the 14th of Adar. Only when the Sages sat and decided to formalize a commemoration of the events was a decision made to include all Jews – even the ones who were in less danger – by establishing a day of celebration to honor the events in the capital Shushan, which occurred on the 15th of the month.
Ta'anit 31a-b: And Then They Danced
13/12/2021 - 9th of Tevet, 5782
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
Massekhet Ta'anit closes with a discussion of one of the happiest days on the Jewish calendar - T"u B'Av, the 15th of Av. This is the day on which the daughters of Jerusalem would go out to the dance in the vineyards in borrowed white clothing (so that girls who were poor would not be embarrassed), calling out to the young men suggesting that they choose wives from among them. The Ge'onim explain that this tradition is an outgrowth of the story at the end of Sefer Shoftim (see Chapter 21) where wives were found for the remnants of the tribe of Binyamin, which had almost been wiped out. The commentaries explain that this custom was instituted specifically for young women who were having trouble finding a suitable match, and through this system, young men would choose to meet and marry them. As a segue from the story of the young women dancing in the vineyards, the Massekhet closes with a description of the righteous individuals who, at the end of days, will dance in a circle around God and point at Him, fulfilling the passage in Sefer Yeshayahu (25:9) “And it shall be said in that day: ‘Behold, this is our God, for whom we waited, that He might save us. This is the Lord, for whom we waited. We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.’” This event is understood by the commentaries as referring to a mystical event rather than a physical one. Rabbeinu Behaye understands the circle of dancing as symbolizing something with no end, i.e. the abundance of goodness that the righteous will enjoy in the World-to-Come. The Alshikh writes that, in the future, all will be on a level of prophesy, as indicated by the ability to perceive and "point" at God, which is, in essence, a deeper knowledge and understanding of the secrets of the Torah. Furthermore, this idea is hinted to in a passage in Sefer Yirmiyahu (31:13) that connects the dance of young women to that of the elders.
Ta'anit 30a-b: A Day of Mourning
12/12/2021 - 8th of Tevet, 5782
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
Aside from the five basic activities forbidden on Tisha B'Av (eating and drinking, washing, anointing, wearing leather shoes, and sexual relations), the baraita teaches that all of the restrictions that apply to someone who is in mourning for a close relative are applicable to all Jews on Tisha B'Av. A person is not allowed to learn Torah - neither Tanakh nor the Oral Law - except for things that are in the spirit of the day, like kinot, Sefer Iyov and the parts of Yirmiyahu that describe the destruction of the Temple. The Tanna Kamma also permits learning Torah in an area of study to which one is not accustomed, something that Rabbi Yehuda forbids. Rashi suggests that such study might be permitted because the person will feel frustrated that he does not understand the material, an emotion that fits in with the sentiment of the day. The Rivan suggests that such study involves strenuous effort, which is, therefore, not pleasurable. Another mitzva that is not mentioned here, but is the subject of some discussion, is whether people put on tefillin on the day of Tisha B'Av. A mourner does not don tefillin on the first day of his mourning since they are referred to as "finery," and a mourner should not go out wearing such an ornament. The Ra'avad believed that this rule applied to Tisha B'Av as well and ruled that tefillin should not be worn. The Ritva and the Meiri point out that usually burial does not take place on the same day as the person's death (which would create a situation where the mourner is obligated on a Torah level and would therefore not wear tefillin), so the mourner invariably will put on tefillin later in the day, after the burial is over. There are different traditions today; most Sefardim don tefillin, while most Ashkenazim put them on only after midday, during the afternoon Minha service.
Ta'anit 29a-b: Surviving the Destruction of the Temple
11/12/2021 - 7th of Tevet, 5782
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 (26a-b) taught that five separate occurrences took place on the seventeenth of Tammuz and another five on the ninth day of Av for which we are in mourning to this day. The events of Tisha B’Av are discussed on our daf. They include:
  • After the sin of the spies, the Children of Israel were condemned to die in the desert rather than enter the Promised Land
  • The First Temple was destroyed
  • The Second Temple was destroyed
  • The city of Beitar was captured
  • The city of Jerusalem was plowed up
For the first two events, the Gemara brings sources from the Tanakh from which we learn that they occurred on Tisha B’Av. Dating the later events was based on a tradition of the Sages. Part of the tradition tells of how, at the time of the destruction of the second Beit HaMikdash, the Nasi Rabban Gamliel survived the decree of the Roman procurator, Turnus Rufus, who decreed that he was to be put to death. When the search for Rabban Gamliel was underway, a certain Roman officer entered the beit midrash and announced, “ba'al ha-hotem mitbakesh, ba'al ha-hotem mitbakesh!” (literally, “the man with the nose is wanted!”). Rabban Gamliel hid, and this officer tracked him down and asked whether he would merit the World-to-Come, were he to save him. When Rabban Gamliel assured him that he would, the officer threw himself off the roof of the building and died. The Romans had a tradition that when they issued a decree and one of their advisors died, they would cancel the decree. Thus, thanks to the sacrifice of the Roman officer, Rabban Gamliel survived the destruction of the Temple. The expression ba'al ha-hotem - "the man with the nose" - is understood by most of the rishonim to refer to the outstanding individual of the generation, just as the nose is the most prominent feature on one's face. Another suggestion is that this is a play on words. In Latin, "the man with the nose" is Nasotus, which sounds like Nasi. By using this word-play, the officer was, in effect, warning Rabban Gamliel that he was being sought by the Romans. Tineius Rufus was the procurator during the Bar Kokhba Rebellion, and he put down the revolution with great violence. It was he who had Rabbi Akiva killed and plowed up the area of the Temple in order to symbolize its total destruction.
Ta'anit 28a-b: Reciting Hallel on Rosh Chodesh
10/12/2021 - 6th of Tevet, 5782
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Hebrew Daf Yomi by Rav Adin Steinsaltz
What additions does your local synagogue make to the morning service on Rosh Hodesh? What do you do if you are not praying in a synagogue? Today it is common practice to recite what is referred to as "half-Hallel" immediately after the Amida prayer. "Half-Hallel" consists of the normal recitation of psalms of thanksgiving (Tehillim 113-118), but skipping the first half of mizmorim 115 and 116. Generally speaking, the Ashekenazi community recites a blessing before this prayer, while the Sefardi community does not (see Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim 422:2). In Chabad synagogues the tradition usually is for the hazzan to recite the blessing, and congregants respond to that berakha without saying it themselves (see the Siddur haRav). These varying traditions stem from the discussion of this topic in our Gemara and the lack of clarity in its conclusion. The Gemara lists the days on which a full Hallel is said - eight days of Sukkot, eight days of Hanukkah, the first day of Pesah and on Shavu'ot (three days are added in Diaspora communities) - with no mention made of Hallel on Rosh Hodesh.
On this topic, the Gemara relates: Rav happened to come to Babylonia, where he saw that they were reciting Hallel on a New Moon. Unfamiliar with this practice, he thought to stop them, as he assumed that they were reciting Hallel unnecessarily. Once he saw that they were omitting portions, he said: I can learn from this that they are maintaining the custom of their forefathers, i.e., they know that it is a custom, not an obligation. It is taught in a baraita: An individual should not begin reciting Hallel on a New Moon, but if he has begun he should complete it.
Some understand that this story indicates that Hallel was not recited in Israel on Rosh Hodesh, perhaps because the closeness to the mikdash, where special sacrifices were brought to celebrate the day, was enough of an observance; in Bavel, on the other hand, they had a sense that there was a greater need to recognize and publicize the day. The Ge'onim understood the concluding line of the Gemara as suggesting that individuals do not say Hallel at all on Rosh Hodesh. The Ri"f understands it to mean that an individual should not begin Hallel with a berakha, but if he did so, he should conclude with the appropriate blessing, as well.
Ta'anit 27a-b: And They Didn't Fast on Sundays
09/12/2021 - 5th of Tevet, 5782
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
Throughout the week, the individuals whose turn it was to represent the Jewish people in ma'amadot (see daf 26) would involve themselves in fasts and prayer:
  • On Monday, on behalf of those traveling the seas
  • On Tuesday, on behalf of those traveling in the desert
  • On Wednesday, on behalf of those suffering from contagious disease (askara or croup)
  • On Thursday, on behalf of pregnant and nursing women.
Members of the ma'amadot did not fast on Friday, in order to honor Shabbat, and they certainly did not fast on Shabbat itself. Why didn't they fast on Sundays? A number of explanations appear in the Gemara. Rabbi Shmuel bar Nahmani says that Sunday is the third day after man was created (Adam was created on Friday, just before Shabbat began) and the third day is a day of weakness (see Bereshit 34:25). The explanation presented by Rabbi Yohanan is "because of the notzrim." Notzrim is ordinarily translated as Christians, and, in fact, most of the commentaries explain that the ma'amadot did not fast on Sundays due to the concern that the Christians would take offense at the fact that the Jews were fasting on the day of the week that was their day of celebration. The Maharsha suggests a different angle: that fasting - and not working - on the Christian day of rest would appear to support the new religion's practices and beliefs. Nevertheless, the Maharsha, as well as other commentaries, point out that there are many historical problems with these explanations. Another approach to Rabbi Yohanan's statement is to read the word as notzarim - the ones who were created - rather than notzrim, in which case Rabbi Yohanan's explanation is similar to the one offered by Rabbi Shmu'el bar Nahmani. The Meiri suggests that the term notzrim refers to Babylonians, based on the passage in Yirmiyahu (4:16) - "Notzrim are coming from a faraway land" - which is interpreted by the Radak to be referring to the army of the Babylonians. According to the Meiri, the Babylonians had a day of celebration on Sundays, so the Sages did not want to establish anything special on that day.
Ta'anit 26a-b: Non-priestly Watches
08/12/2021 - 4th of Tevet, 5782
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 have learned that the kohanim and levi'im were divided into 24 mishmarot - groups that served in the Beit HaMikdash two weeks out of every year. The first Mishna in the fourth perek of Massekhet Ta'anit introduces us to the concept of ma'amadot - 24 groups of Israelites (i.e. Jews who are neither kohanim nor levi'im) who were assigned to spend two weeks out of the year involved in prayer and study in community synagogues. It should be noted that, according to the Rambam, while all kohanim were obligated to serve in the Beit HaMikdash as members of their mishmar, the ma'amadot were not for all community members, but only for the uniquely pious individuals who volunteered for this responsibility. The Mishna explains that the source for creating ma'amadot stems from the passage in Bamidbar (28:2) in which the Jewish people are commanded to bring a daily sacrifice - the korban tamid. The Mishna argues that when any sacrifice is brought to the Temple, its owner stands at its side. Who stands by the side of communal sacrifices? The early prophets established the system of ma'amadot to serve that purpose. The point is raised that the Mishna takes for granted that every sacrifice needs its owner to accompany it. Although this is clearly true for korbanot that require semikha (laying hand on the sacrificial animal), why is this essential for other sacrifices? The Iyun Ya'akov suggests that this idea is connected with the position of many commentaries, who explain the purpose of animal sacrifice as an attempt to engage the individual who brings the korban in some level of soul-searching. The process that the animal goes through in preparation for sacrifice - slaughter, having its skin removed, being disemboweled, etc. - should inspire the person to think "really, I deserve to have these actions done to me; it is God's mercy that allows them to be carried out on this animal in my stead." If this is true, we can easily understand why it is important to have the person bringing the korban present when it is being sacrificed.
Ta'anit 25a-b: Unsuccessful Prayers for Rain
07/12/2021 - 3rd of Tevet, 5782
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 relates two stories about Rabbi Eliezer and unsuccessful attempts to pray for rain.
The Sages taught: An incident occurred involving Rabbi Eliezer, who decreed a complete cycle of thirteen fasts upon the congregation, but rain did not fall. At the end of the last fast, the congregation began to exit the synagogue. He said to them: Have you prepared graves for yourselves? If rain does not fall, we will all die of hunger. All the people burst into tears, and rain fell.
In the second story, Rabbi Eliezer led the congregation in the lengthy Amida prayer for fast days, but his prayers were not answered. At that point, his student, Rabbi Akiva, prayed for rain, and rain began to fall. When the rabbis present began to discuss why the student, Rabbi Akiva, was successful, while Rabbi Eliezer was not, a heavenly voice called out that it was not an issue of greatness; rather, Rabbi Akiva was more relaxed and forgiving, while Rabbi Eliezer was more exact and demanding. God responded to each of them according to his personality. This can be understood based on the Gemara in Rosh HaShana (17a), which teaches that a person who is relaxed and forgiving is more easily forgiven by God, who responds to every person according to his own behavior and personality - midah ke-neged midah (measure for measure). The Talmud Yerushalmi tells the story differently. According to the Yerushalmi, when Rabbi Akiva was asked to explain his success, he offered a parable of a king who had two daughters - one who was unpleasant and inappropriate, the other who was agreeable and pleasing. It is the unpleasant daughter to whom the king responds more quickly, since he prefers to interact with her as little as possible. The agreeable daughter, however, is required to put in greater effort to receive what she wants, since he enjoys and looks forward to their interactions.
Ta'anit 24a-b: A Miracle for the Charitable
06/12/2021 - 2nd of Tevet, 5782
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.
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Among the stories told by the Gemara about miraculous occurrences that happened to righteous individuals is one related about Elazar ish Birta, from whom charity collectors always kept their distance. The reason that they would hide from him whenever they saw him was because he would give away every last penny that he had. The Gemara relates that he was heading for the marketplace to purchase things in preparation for his daughter's wedding. On his way, he noticed a number of people who were collecting charity. Although they tried to avoid him, he chased them down and demanded to know what cause they were collecting for at this time. They reluctantly told him that they were collecting money for a wedding. Two orphans were getting married, and they had to rely on charity to put together the wedding. Elazar ish Birta immediately declared that the orphans’ need came before his own daughter's needs and gave them everything he had. Before returning home, he realized that there was a single zuz remaining, and he purchased a small amount of wheat. He went home and stored the wheat in his granary. When asked what he had purchased for the wedding, he replied that he had put it in the granary. His wife went to check and discovered that, miraculously, the granary was so full that she could not even open the door. When she ran to tell her husband what happened, he told her that they could only benefit from it like any poor person, since he did not intend to derive benefit from a miracle. One of the major issues dealt with in the context of this story is that the Sages had ruled (as one of takkanot Usha) that a person cannot donate more than one-fifth (20) of his possessions to charity. The Rambam, in his commentary on the Mishna, argues that one-fifth is appropriate for someone who wants to fulfill the mitzva, but it is not forbidden to donate more; rather, it is a midat hasidut - a pious attribute - to do so. It is also possible that this story took place prior to the establishment of takkanat Usha.
Ta'anit 23a-b: Praying for Rain--Modestly
05/12/2021 - 1st of Tevet, 5782
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.
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The Mishna (19a) related the story of Honi HaMe'aggel and the close relationship that he had with God that allowed him to plead before Him on behalf of the Jewish people. Our daf relates that his descendants shared some of his abilities and tells stories about their intervention on behalf of am yisra'el (the people of Israel), even as they tried to avoid receiving credit for their success. One example is the story of Abba Hilkiyya, who was Honi HaMe'aggel's grandson. He was working in the fields when he saw the delegation of rabbis coming to ask him to intercede on their behalf and pray for rain. The Gemara relates that he refused to return their greeting and performed a series of strange activities while he walked home, culminating in his entering his home with his wife, feeding his children and encouraging his wife to join him in prayer on the roof. Only when the clouds had already gathered and the rain began did he turn to the delegation and ask what they wanted. When they responded that they were sent to ask him to pray, he told them that they did not need his prayers, as it had already begun to rain. When asked, he explained his odd behaviors - all of which related to his sensitivity to the needs of others (e.g. he could not respond to their original greeting because he was paid by the hour and speaking to them would have been stealing from his employer). He also explained that his wife's prayers were answered before his own because her place in the house allowed her to be more directly involved in responding to the needs of the poor. As Rashi explains, this was true because she was more readily available and because her charity responded to an immediate need (i.e. she fed them, rather than giving them money). Another one of Honi HaMe'aggel’s grandchildren was Hanan HaNehba (i.e. "the one who hides") who, according to the Gemara, received that nickname because he hid himself to avoid receiving honor for his actions. According to some manuscripts of the Gemara, he would hide himself in the lavatory - which may refer to his modesty, that even in the bathroom he was careful to remain clothed, or, according to a tradition of the Ge'onim, when people came looking for him to pray for rain, he hid himself in the bathroom so that he would not be found.
Ta'anit 22a-b: A Place in the World to Come
04/12/2021 - 30th of Kislev, 5782
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There is a series of stories, which appears in this perek, whose focus is the piety of average Jewish people. Our daf features a number of such stories. Two of them occurred in the marketplace of Bei Lefet, a place frequented by Rabbi Beroka Hoza'a, who often met Eliyahu HaNavi there. On one occasion, Rabbi Beroka Hoza'a asked Eliyahu whether anyone who was in the market at that time was a ben Olam HaBa - someone who was assured a place in the World-to-Come. Eliyahu pointed out a person who was not dressed in a Jewish manner (he was not wearing tzitzit and was wearing black shoes - which was not the Jewish custom). Upon questioning him, Rabbi Beroka Hoza'a discovered that he worked for the non-Jewish government as a jail keeper, where he carefully kept men and women separated and protected Jewish women who were put into prison. Furthermore, he kept his Jewish identity secret so that he could influence the government on issues having to do with the Jewish community and warn the Jews of any impending decrees that would affect them. Eliyahu then pointed out two men who were assured a place in the World-to-Come. Rabbi Beroka Hoza'a approached them and asked what their profession was. They told him that they were professional jesters, who entertained people who appeared to be sad or depressed, or who worked to make peace between people who had been angry at one another. Although the well-known Mishna in Sanhedrin (see 10:1) teaches that every Jewish person has a share in the World-to-Come, the intention there is that after a person is purged of his sins, having received the punishment that is due to him, he will merit Olam HaBa. Our Gemara is discussing people whose behaviors assure them of being a ben Olam HaBa - someone whose actions in this world guarantee him immediate entrance into the world-to-come. The commentaries here discuss how the activities of these people, which benefited the public at large, ensured that they would not succumb to sin in the future.
Ta'anit 21a-b: A Plague Among the Pigs
03/12/2021 - 29th of Kislev, 5782
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What type of plague will cause community leaders to declare a public fast? The Gemara relates that Rav Yehuda was informed that a plague had broken out among the pigs in the community. He responded to the report by calling for a public fast. The Gemara rejects the suggestion that Rav Yehuda believed that a plague among one type of animals could transfer to others and thus posed a danger to humans, arguing that he saw the case of pigs to be unique, since the intestines of pigs are similar to human intestines. There is no doubt that some types of diseases can be transferred from animals to people. Trichinosis, for example, is a disease carried by pigs that can be transferred to humans, although that ordinarily takes place only if the flesh of the infected animal is eaten, which was not a concern in our case. Nevertheless, there are similarities between the internal anatomy of pigs and humans that are known to scientists today. These similarities lead to use of the intestines of pigs in human transplants, due to a relatively small incidence of rejection of such tissue. Rav Yehuda's concern was that in this specific case, these similarities may lead to the transfer of the swine plague to people. Based on this discussion, Tosafot take for granted that if a plague breaks out among non-Jews, the Jewish community would declare a fast, since the possibility of the plague spreading from non-Jews to the Jewish community seems to be obvious. Surprisingly, the Ritva disagrees with Tosafot. The Meiri argues that our Gemara really means to teach that a plague among idol worshippers should be seen as potentially dangerous to the Jewish community, and the Gemara discusses pigs as a code word for idol worshipers, based on the passage in Tehillim 80:14.
Ta'anit 20a-b: And the Sun Broke Through
02/12/2021 - 28th of Kislev, 5782
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.
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The Gemara relates the well-known story of Nakdimon ben Guryon, who is known from a number of stories that appear about him in the Talmud as one of the wealthy Jews who lived in Jerusalem at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple. (There appear to be references to him in Josephus' works, as well.) While his Hebrew name was Buni - as is mentioned in the Gemara - it was common for members of the upper class to have Roman names, as well. His Roman name - Nakdimon - is the subject of a Rabbinic midrash, as is related in the story told by the Gemara. One year, during a drought, there was no water available for the Jewish pilgrims who were coming to Jerusalem for the holiday. Nakdimon ben Guryon approached one of the Roman officers with an offer. He wanted access granted to twelve Roman cisterns on behalf of the Jewish pilgrims. He personally guaranteed that the cisterns would be refilled by a certain date, or else he would pay him twelve talents of silver. When the day arrived, the Roman officer demanded to receive either the water or the silver. Nakdimon ben Guryon responded that the day was not yet over. The officer ridiculed the notion of Nakdimon ben Guryon expecting the cisterns to be refilled in a year of drought. Laughing, he went to the bathhouse, looking forward to his windfall. Nakdimon went to the Temple and prayed to God that his concern for the Jewish people should not lead to financial ruin. The skies filled with clouds and rain began to fall, filling the cisterns. Upon completing their missions, Nakdimon and the Roman officer met outside in the rain. Nakdimon pointed out that the cisterns were not only filled, but were overflowing, and he claimed that the Roman owed him the overflow. The Roman admitted that God had brought the rain on behalf of Nakdimon, but he argued that the debt had not been paid on time, for the day was over! At this point, Nakdimon prayed and the clouds dispersed, allowing the sun to break through - nikdera hamah ba'avuro - proving that the day was not over. (And hence the name Nakdimon.) On a literary note, the Maharsha points out the contrast in the story, of the Roman officer entering the bathhouse - the beit hamerhatz - to bathe while people are desperate for water, whereas Nakdimon exits the Beit HaMikdash and demands that the excess water be made available to the people.
Ta'anit 19a-b: No Outcry for Too Much Rain
01/12/2021 - 27th of Kislev, 5782
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.
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The Mishna that opens the third perek of Massekhet Ta'anit teaches that there are certain circumstances in which we do not call for fasting that becomes progressively more severe, but rather we call for immediate hatra'ah (crying out). Included would be a situation where there is rain in all communities but one (based on the passage in Amos 4:7), and when a city is hit by plague or is surrounded by a non-Jewish enemy. In general, the appropriate response to any out-of-the-ordinary situation of danger would be a hatra'ah, which may include prayer, shofar blowing, fasting, or a combination of the three. One exception to the rule is an overabundance of rain, when no public hatra'ah takes place. This ruling brings the Mishna to relate one of the famous stories of Honi HaMe'aggel. In the course of a year of drought, the Sages turned to Honi HaMe'aggel and asked him to pray for rain. When his first entreaties did not produce rain, he drew a circle around himself and swore to God that he would not leave that spot until God showed mercy on His children by ending the drought. At first a light rain began to fall, and Honi demanded rain that fill the cisterns. When angry rains began to fall, Honi demanded rains of mercy and blessing. Finally, the rains fell until flooding began, and the people turned to Honi and asked him to pray that the rain should stop, which he was reluctant to do. The story concludes with the words of Shimon ben Shetah, who said that Honi's words to God were so impudent that he deserved to be excommunicated. But how could he be punished for having such a close, personal relationship with God? Aside from the stories about him related here in Massekhet Ta'anit, we know of Honi HaMe'aggel's death from Josephus' record of it in his Kadmoniyot ha-Yehudim, where he tells of how Honi was killed during the civil war between supporters of Hyrcanus and Aristoblus. From the Talmud Yerushalmi it appears that the well-known "Rip Van Winkle story" of Honi sleeping for seventy years actually relates to one of Honi's ancestors; however, from the stories that appear on daf 23, it is clear that the mysterious powers and abilities were handed down in the family through the generations. His name - HaMe'aggel - is usually attributed to the circle (igul in Hebrew) that he drew in this story. Rav Tzemah Ga'on says that he was named for this hometown - Miglu; others suggest that he was known by his profession - tarring and flattening roofs with a roller (a ma'agilah).
Ta'anit 18a-b: Yom Nicanor and Yom Turyanus
30/11/2021 - 26th of Kislev, 5782
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.
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Two examples of minor Second Temple holidays that appear in Megillat Ta'anit as days on which it is forbidden to fast or to eulogize are the 13th day of Adar, which was known as Yom Nicanor, and the 12th day of Adar, which was known as Yom Turyanus. The Gemara explains the events that occurred on each of these celebratory days. Yom Nicanor celebrated the death of Nicanor, a Greek general, who would wave his hand at Jerusalem and its environs and say, "when will this fall into my hands so that I can crush it?" When the Hasmoneans succeeded in driving the Greeks from Israel he was captured and killed. Yom Turyanus celebrated the death of Trajan, a Roman officer who put two Jews - Pappas and Luleyanus - to death. Before doing so, he mocked them publicly, challenging the Jewish God to intervene on their behalf, as He was reputed to have done on behalf of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (see Daniel Chapter 3).
Luleyanus and Pappas said to him: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were full-fledged righteous people, and they were worthy that a miracle should be performed for them, and Nebuchadnezzar was a legitimate king who rose to power through his merit, and it is fitting that a miracle be performed through him. But this wicked man, Trajan, is a commoner, not a real king, and it is not fitting that a miracle be performed through him...Trajan remained unmoved by their response and killed them immediately. It is said that they had not moved from the place of execution when two officials arrived from Rome with permission to remove Trajan from power, and they split his skull with clubs. This was viewed as an act of divine retribution and was established as a commemorative day.
It is interesting to note that the 13th of Adar, referred to here as Yom Nicanor, is a day that is on the Jewish calendar today as a public fast day that we know as Ta'anit Esther. Although Megillat Ta'anit has been nullified, Hanukka and Purim are still celebrated, and according to the rules of Megillat Ta'anit, the day before each of these holidays should also be celebrated; thus a public fast should be forbidden as well. The Ra'avad explains that although Purim remains a holiday, the rule forbidding fasts on the day before Purim was abolished. The Ramban points out that once Yom Nicanor was eliminated, fasting was permitted on that day, and the strength of being the day before Purim cannot be more significant than the holiday itself. Another approach suggests that Ta'anit Esther is a unique fast day, one that does not commemorate a period of mourning, but rather should be seen as part of the remembrance of the victory on Purim.
Ta'anit 17a-b: Priestly Watches
29/11/2021 - 25th of Kislev, 5782
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The kohanim were split into 24 groups called mishmarot (watches), each of which worked one-week shifts in the Temple twice during the year (on the holidays of Pesah, Shavu'ot and Sukkot, all of the kohanim would come to the mikdash to work). Each mishmar was broken into batei av (patrilineal families), which were made up of families who were more closely related to one another than they were to the rest of the mishmar. According to Rashi, each mishmar was broken into six batei av, and each group was responsible for the Temple service on one of the days that they worked in the mikdash. On Shabbat, the entire mishmar performed the service. According to others (Rabbeinu Ḥananel and the Meiri, for example), every mishmar was broken into seven batei av, each of whom was responsible for one day of the week. From the Tosefta it appears that there was no standard number of batei av; some mishmarot had just four batei av, while others had as many as nine separate groups. Furthermore, it seems likely that some priestly families - perhaps those that did not come with the first waves of returnees at the beginning of the Second Temple period with Ezra and Nehemiah - did not belong to any of the mishmarot. Every bet av had a leader, the rosh bet av,  who was responsible for distributing the various responsibilities among the members of his group. He also had a measure of privilege in the mishmarot, where he received honors like standing next to the kohen gadol during certain Temple ceremonies. The Mishna (15a) teaches that, even on fast days that are established due to drought, the bet av that is actually involved in the Temple service on a given day may not participate in the fast - depending on its severity - due to their focus on the Temple service. The entire mishmar would limit their fast in case they needed to assist the bet av that was working. Similarly, even on days when a fast had not been declared, limitations were established on the bet av and mishmar drinking wine, since someone who had drunk wine could not participate in the Temple service. Our Gemara closes with Abaye's comment that, since we do not know which mishmar and bet av kohanim belong to today, kohanim should never be permitted to drink wine, since the Temple may be built miraculously and they will be called to participate in the service. Nevertheless we do not restrict kohanim in this way because of the teaching of Rabbi, who said that the years of destruction do not allow us to legislate such a restriction.
Ta'anit 16a-b: Shofar Blasts on a Fast Day
28/11/2021 - 24th of Kislev, 5782
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As was taught in the Mishna (15a), the procedure for a fast day called because of severe drought involved bringing the ark out of the synagogue and into the public thoroughfare. The elders of the town would speak, and the prayer service was made up of the usual 18 blessings of the Amida prayer with an additional six berakhot inserted. The Mishna continues, relating times that this was actually implemented by Rabbi Halafta and Rabbi Hananya ben Teradyon, who recited these blessings and ended the service with a series of shofar blasts. The Mishna concludes, however, that when the Sages heard that this had been done by Rabbi Halafta and Rabbi Hananya ben Teradyon, they objected, arguing that this procedure was only appropriate for use in the Temple. What exactly was inappropriate about the activities led by Rabbi Halafta and Rabbi Hananya ben Teradyon? The Tosafot Ri"d says that the problem stemmed from their blowing the shofar. Outside of the Beit HaMikdash trumpets are sounded during times of need, rather than a shofar. The Rambam explains that in the Temple the shofar was sounded between each of the additional blessings, while outside the Temple it was only supposed to be blown at the very end of the service. The Ge'onim argue that the problem was the way the shofar was sounded. In the Temple the tradition was to blow a series of varying sounds - Teki'ah-Teru'ah-Teki'ah - while outside of the mikdash a Teki'ah - a single, simple blast - was appropriate. Rashi has a different understanding of the story. In his view, Rabbi Halafta and Rabbi Hananya ben Teradyon did not allow the traditional response of Amen to be said after the blessings. Although we respond with Amen after every blessing that we hear recited, in the Temple, Amen was never said; rather the accepted response in the Temple was barukh shem kevod malkhuto le-olam va-ed (which we say immediately after the first line in our daily recitation of Keriyat Shema). According to Rashi, by instructing the congregation to respond barukh shem kevod malkhuto le-olam va-ed instead of the usual Amen, Rabbi Halafta and Rabbi Hananya ben Teradyon broke with tradition, which angered the other Sages.
Ta'anit 15a-b: More on Fast Days
27/11/2021 - 23th of Kislev, 5782
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 second perek of Massekhet Ta'anit begins on today's daf. Based on descriptions of fast days that we find in the Tanakh (see I Melakhim 8:35-36 and Yo'el 2:15-19) it is clear that aside from abstaining from food, fast days were times of prayer and introspection. This chapter describes the unique prayer services that were established by the Sages for severe fast days, which include ceremonies intended to inspire the people to repentance, and, in particular, the additional blessings inserted into the Amida prayer. Another issue discussed is the circumstances under which fasts cannot be declared. According to the Mishna, aside from Shabbat and Yom Tov, the minor holidays that are enumerated in Megillat Ta'anit are also days on which fasts cannot be established, and, depending on the significance and level of the holiday, the day before and after them may not be appropriate for fasting either. Megillat Ta'anit is a little known collection of statements about minor holidays and fasts that commemorate events which took place during the Second Temple period. On the minor holidays, fasting and eulogies were forbidden. Most of the events that are commemorated are from the period of the Hasmonean monarchy - a prime example being the story of Hanukka - although there are also events from earlier and later periods included, as well. This work is set up chronologically, and it includes the date and a brief account of the incident written in Aramaic, followed by a fuller description of the event in Hebrew. It appears that this work is the oldest example of the Oral Torah being committed to writing; the Sages of the Mishna do not only discuss the rulings that appear in it, but also the language that was used. (Although it is not part of the standard texts of Talmud, the Steinsaltz Hebrew Talmud includes it as an addendum to the volume that contains Massekhet Ta'anit ).