Thoughts from the Daf

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 issue is the question of whether, by...
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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 a blessing"....
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Brachot 34a: Respect for the Congregation

September 09, 2012 By: rabbi jay kelman
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...
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Brachot 32a: Forcing G-d to Forgive

September 04, 2012 By: rabbi jay kelman
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...
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