Brachot 43b: A Shameful Smell
A common feature of Talmudic editing is to group together a series of statements made by the same person. Generally, it is that person making a statement in the name of someone else - itself a common feature of the Talmud, with its emphasis on sourcing our traditions-- and is generally done in the cases of those figures who are not often quoted in the Talmud. As an oral tradition, gathering together the (relatively) few statements of one of the...Continue Reading »
Brachot 43: Love of Zion
We human beings are naturally biased. Products of our environment, we are influenced by our cultural milieu, by our background, our life experiences, people we come in contact with—all contributing to help shape our perspective on life’s important issues. “On Aprashamon oil (a type of balsam oil), what blessing does one make [on smelling its fragrance]? Rav Yehuda says, ‘[blessed is the one] who creates oil in our land’”. The Talmud rejects his...Continue Reading »
Brachot 40: Getting It Wrong!
A striking feature of Talmud study is how it seamlessly moves from subject to subject; and how, almost out of the blue, one finds oneself discussing something that seems totally disconnected from the original discussion.The Mishnah discusses the case of a person who mistakenly makes the brachah of boreh pri ha-etz on a vegetable, ruling that one must repeat the proper bracha of boreh pri ha-adamah. The Gemarah questions the need for such a...Continue Reading »
Brachot 39: Eat First, Ask Later
Jewish law prescribes not only that we make a blessing on food, but that we do so in the correct sequence. Thus, to cite a very basic example, we first make kiddush and only afterward make hamotzi. Not surprisingly, which blessing should take priority was a matter of Talmudic dispute, and the rabbis developed a number of principles to help us eat properly. The Talmud relates how two of Bar Kappara's students were visiting, and out came a plate...Continue Reading »
Brachot 38b: Practice, Practice, Practice!
As the Talmud is, at its core, an oral tradition—with the words before us a summary of “classroom”” discussion—it is not surprising that debates will occur as to what the “teacher” actually said. The Talmud quotes a dispute between Rav Chiyya bar Abba and Rav Binyamin bar Yefet as to what Rav Yochanan, the head of the academy in Tiberias, said regarding the blessing to be made on cooked vegetables. At issue is the question of whether, by...Continue Reading »