Brachot 43: Love of Zion

September 20, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
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...
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Brachot 40: Getting It Wrong!

September 13, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
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 (Brachot 40a) 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...
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Brachot 39: Eat First, Ask Later

September 12, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
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...
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Brachot 38b: Practice, Practice, Practice!

September 11, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
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...
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Brachot 35: No, Thank You!

September 09, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
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...
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