As we transition from the third to the fourth chapter of masechet Brachot, our focus shifts from the mitzvah of kriat shema to that of tefillah or, more accurately, the amidah. That which we say before the amidah—be it songs of praise, or the acceptance of the kingdom of G-d, i.e., the shema—is said as preparation for tefillah, i.e., the amidah.
Rabbi Jay Kelman's blog
Judaism places great emphasis on the proper use of time. For serious students there is practically no greater sin than that of bitul Torah—the wasting of precious time that could be devoted to Torah study and action. Successful people have effective time management techniques balancing the need to study, earn a living and spend time with their families. It should therefore come as no surprise that the first mitzva given to the Jewish people concerns the fixing of a calendar. To the slave, time had little relevance.
Shehechiyanu vekemanu vhegeyanu lazman hazeh. It was when daf yomi last reached Brachot 27 that I wrote my first “Daily Daf”. For the past seven and a half years it has been a tremendous privilege to share my thoughts on the daf. I want to thank so many of you for your comments, questions, critique and giving me the inspiration continue writing.
At the bottom of this years thought there is a link to our devar Torah from seven and a half years ago. Time does fly!
One of the things I love about the Gemara is how realistic and human it is—how it portrays people, rabbis and laypeople alike, in all their complexity, never shying away from pointing out their foibles.
Moshe was frustrated. Having been coerced by G-d to redeem the Jewish people, things were not going as planned. As Moshe confronted Pharaoh, demanding—as G-d had instructed—that he let them go free, Pharaoh worsened the conditions for the Jewish people. Moshe could not take it and cried out, “O Lord, why do You mistreat Your people? Why did You send me? As soon as I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he made things worse for these people, and You have not saved Your people” (Shemot 6:27).
“A jewel in the mouth of Rava. The purpose of chochmah, wisdom, is teshuva and maasim tovim, good deeds”(Brachot 17a). Knowledge that increases one’s knowlege and nothing else is worth little, is largely a waste of time and is a tragic misuse of so much potential.
“The appointed one [assistant kohen gadol] said to them [the priests in the Temple]: ‘Recite a single blessing.’ They recited a blessing, and read the aseret hadibrot, Shema, veHaya im Shamoa and vaYomer, blessed the people with three blessings; emet veyatziv, avodah and birchat kohanim, and on Shabbat, they would add a blessing for the outgoing mishmar, priestly watch” (Brachot 11b).
Amongst the unsung heroes of the Jewish people are Shifra and Puah. Despite the genocidal decrees of the Egyptian regime against Jewish newborns, these two unknown women risked their lives to save the lives of others. This is all the more remarkable according to those commentaries that claim that Shifra and Puah were non-Jews, and thus, the first of the Righteous Gentiles.
“Rabbi Chelbo said in the name of Rav Huna: All who have yira’at shamayim, fear of Heaven, his words are heeded, as it is stated: ‘The end of the matter, all having been heard: Fear G-d and keep His commandments; for this is all of man’” (Kohelet 12:13). It is this message, and only because of this message, that our Sages agreed to include Kohelet in the Biblical canon.
What should one pray for? If we were to take a survey of the typical shul-goer, or even one who is not, I suspect we will hear such ideas as health, peace, justice, economic success, a wonderful family. One might take a look at the siddur and see what our rabbis suggested we pray for. We could then add such items as wisdom, repentance, forgiveness, redemption and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. These are all wonderful things to pray for, and it is for good reason that they are included in the shemoneh esrei that we recite three times a day.