Brachot 35: No, Thank You!
The opening Mishnah of the sixth chapter of Brachot discusses the various blessings one makes on different types of food. The Talmud attempts, but is unable, to find a scriptural source that tells us that one must make a blessing before eating, finally concluding that we need no source. It is a sevarah, a simple, obvious, logical inference that one must bless G-d before we eat, as "it is forbidden to benefit from this world without a blessing"....Continue Reading »
Brachot 34a: Respect for the Congregation
In Talmudic times, the norm was that the chazzan literally prayed on behalf of the congregation. The people would listen and answer "amen," thus fulfilling their obligation of prayer. In addition to the tefillot of the chazzan, there was (and is, at least in Israel) a daily obligation for the kohanim to bless the people (duchening). The chazzan was to remain focused on the tefillot, and thus, a chazzan who was a kohen was not to duchen or even...Continue Reading »
Brachot 32a: Forcing G-d to Forgive
One of the exciting aspects of Talmud study is the range of ideas presented, and the openness to expressing radical ideas—including those bordering on the heretical. Even more fascinating is that the Talmud finds license for such views in the biblical texts themselves.“Now, therefore, leave Me alone [so that] My anger may flare up against them, and I shall annihilate them and will make of thee a great nation” (Shemot 32:10). The Jewish people...Continue Reading »
Brachot 31: Where to Pray
The Talmud spends a good deal of time discussing the proper frame of mind for prayer. In a rather obvious remark (yet, much easier said than done), the Gemarah notes that “One must aim their thoughts towards heaven”. Proof for this is provided by the great sage, Rabbi Akiva, as follows: “Rav Yehuda says this was the custom of Rabbi Akiva, when he would pray between him and himself, one would leave him in this corner and find him in a different...Continue Reading »
Brachot 27: Too Close for Comfort?
The Gemarah, in discussing the propriety of making an “early Shabbat”, records that Rav Yirmiya davened just behind his teacher, Rav, on Friday afternoons while Rav was reciting the prayers for Shabbat. The Gemarah questions how he could do so, as it was Rav himself, the founder of the great academy in Sura, who taught that it is inappropriate to daven next to or behind one’s teacher.Rashi explains that to do so is a violation of yuhara,...Continue Reading »