Thoughts from the Daf

Bechorot 28: Donkeys for Sale

May 23, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
A rabbi, dayan, shochet, doctor, and matir bechorot—these are some of the licensed functionaries needed to fully run a Jewish community. While we all recognize the need for the first four on the list, a matir bechorot is a remnant of a bygone era, when many were farmers and the Temple stood in Jerusalem. With the obligation to offer the bechor as a korban...
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Bechorot 25: Bad Politician: Great Teacher

May 16, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Sometimes the most obscure of arguments can teach the greatest of lessons. That Rabbi Eliezer’s “proofs” from heaven were rejected because “Torah is not in heaven” is relatively well known (Bava Metzia 59b). Less well known is that this powerful story is the result of a dispute regarding the purity of an oven, “the oven of Achnai”, that was broken and put back together. This debate took place years after...
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Bechorot 13: All Mitzvot Are Not Created Equal

May 15, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
It is not uncommon to hear people define a mitzvah as a “good deed”. And there is little doubt that many mitzvot are, in fact, very good deeds. Yet as the Hebrew word indicates, a mitzvah means “a command”. Yet like all translations, the word “command” does not quite capture the definition of a mitzvah. Whereas a command implies something we must do, there are many mitzvot that are obligatory...
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Bechorot 2: All Are Welcome

May 02, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Amongst the many wonderful opportunities and challenges wrought by the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is that of running our own State. No longer need Judaism be truncated, focusing on the ritual and individualist aspects of religion. Rather, for the first time in close to 2,000 years issues with which every other nation must deal with have suddenly become issues that the Jewish people can and must grapple with. No...
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An Introduction to Masechet Bechorot

April 25, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
The privileges and obligations of the firstborn are a major theme of Pesach. Most famously, the proximate cause of the Exodus was makat bechorot, the death of the firstborn Egyptians. Pesach gets its name because G-d pasach, passed over, our homes as He smote the Egyptians. It is in appreciation and recognition of being saved from the fate of their Egyptian counterparts that the custom of ta’anit bechorim...
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