Shabbat 17: Murder in the Beit Midrash

April 02, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Thoughts from the Daf
The Talmud quotes some 316 debates between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. “Since both these and those are the words of the living God”, the Talmud (Eiruvin 13b) asks, “why was the law established in accordance with Beit Hillel?” The answer of the Talmud is not because they were smarter—the Talmud actually says the students of Shammai were sharper—but rather, it was because “they were agreeable and...
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Shabbat 13: Fasting or Feasting

March 30, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Thoughts from the Daf
When it was still forbidden to write down the Oral Law, one of the very few written texts was that of Megillat Taanit, the scroll of fast days. This Megillah lists 35 days on which it was forbidden to fast, as they were days commemorating joyous events in Jewish history. Of the 35 days listed, only two remain applicable today, that of Purim and Chanukah. The others lost all meaning with the destruction of the Temple.  “Our Rabbis...
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Vayikra: A Book of Love

Perhaps Man’s greatest fear is his ultimate irrelevance, that we really don’t make a difference and that in the greater scheme of things, our lives are for naught. This is why people yearn to leave a legacy, and it is often for this reason that people have children. The historical tendency to value male babies over females is due to the fact that it was (is?) the male who would carry on the family name and legacy. Upon marriage,...
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Shabbat 10: A Special Gift

March 25, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Thoughts from the Daf
“Rava bar Machsseya said in the name of Rav Chama bar Gurya in the name of Rav: One who gives a gift to another must inform him” (Shabbat 10b).  As the Tosafists (Shabbat 10b, s.v. hanoten) note, this law applies only if the gift is given as a demonstration of friendship and love. To anonymously give such a gift would be counterproductive, preventing greater closeness between people. However, a gift that is liable...
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Pekudei: Time and Space

“And it was on first month of the second year on the first of the month that the Tabernacle was erected” (Shemot 40:17). The first of Nissan is a most special time in Jewish history. It was on this date that Moshe and Aharon began preparing the people for their exodus from Egypt. It is thereby "the head of the months", marking the beginning of national Jewish history. While the actual exodus did not take place until the...
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