Thoughts from the Daf

An Introduction to Masechet Avodah Zara

January 18, 2018 By: rabbi jay kelman
It would be hard to argue with the notion that the primary goal for the Torah is for all to know that there is one G-d who is Master of the Universe. This theme appears throughout the Torah, in law and narrative. It is with this idea that the Torah opens; it is the purpose behind the plagues in Egypt; it is why we keep Shabbat; it is the opening words of G-d’s revelation at Sinai; and it is the overarching theme of Sefer Devarim....
Continue Reading »

Shevuot 45: Where is My Pay?

January 15, 2018 By: rabbi jay kelman
“All who take an oath, take an oath and are exempt [from payment]” (Shevuot 45a). Violating an oath ranks amongst the most serious of transgressions. Despite—or perhaps because—an oath involves no physical act of wrongdoing, swearing falsely is categorized along with the sins that carry the punishment of karet, excision, and the death penalty (Rambam, Hilchot Teshuva 1:2). Its seriousness is such that we are required to swear in G-d’s...
Continue Reading »

Shevuot 30: You Go First

January 09, 2018 By: rabbi jay kelman
In a recent highly publicized murder trial in Toronto, the jury was not told that the accused – who acted as his own lawyer - had recently been convicted of murder in a prior case (and has another murder trial pending). This is a common practice in the legal systems of the West, where it is felt that such knowledge will bias the judgment of the jury, depriving the accused of a fair trial.  By being exposed to past misdeeds of the one...
Continue Reading »

Shevuot 30: A Woman Dayan

January 07, 2018 By: rabbi jay kelman
“The oath of testimony applies to men, but not to women” (Shevuot 30a). Beginning with the fourth chapter of masechet Shevuot, the Talmud focuses on those oaths that are taken in the administration of justice. The Mishna begins with the laws of shevuat ha’edut, the oath of witnesses.  “And if one sins, in that he heard the voice of adjuration, he being a witness, whether he hath seen...
Continue Reading »

Shevuot 29: A Flying Camel

January 03, 2018 By: rabbi jay kelman
Lo tissa, do not raise[1] the name of the Lord your G-d in vain” (Shemot 20:7). After affirming the existence of the G-d who took us out of Egypt and who is the one and only G-d, the third of the aseret hadibrot warns us not to take G-d’s holy name in vain. His name is to be reserved for davening, learning and, as we learn in masechet Shevuot, taking oaths. Thus, our Sages understood this verse – in addition to its...
Continue Reading »