Thoughts from the Daf

Brachot 55: Turning Dreams into Reality

September 30, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
The Talmud spends quite a number of pages discussing dreams. Taking their cue from the Bible itself, they put great stock in the significance of our dreams. They understood that our thoughts during the day have great impact upon our dreams, and knew that every dream has some elements of untruth to it. The Gemarah goes to great lengths to demonstrate the power, not so much of the dream itself, but how it is interpreted: "All goes according to the...
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Brachot 50: Gratitude

September 29, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
“From the blessings of man, we see if he is a scholar or not”. How, and more importantly, whom one blesses tells us much about a person. How we word our blessings was of great interest to our Sages; after all, before speaking to a king, we think over each word we want to say, and mistakes reflect a lack of seriousness. How much more so when speaking to the King of Kings!The context of this quote is the wording of the mezuman, the invitation to...
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Brachot 47b: We Are All Am Ha'aratzim

September 24, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
The term am ha'aretz has come to mean an ignorant Jew, and is generally used in a pejorative manner. However, in Talmudic literature, an ignorant Jew was referred to as the hebrew word bore, an empty pit; it seems like it might be related to the English "boor". The great sage Hillel teaches that "a boor cannot be a fearful of sin" (Pirkei Avot 2:7). Without a solid foundation of knowledge, true fear of sin is impossible.The description of am ha'...
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Brachot 43b: A Shameful Smell

September 20, 2012 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
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...
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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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