Thoughts from the Daf

Shabbat 104a: Alphabetical Order

January 25, 2013 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
The Latin alphabet, used in many languages of today (including English), is a phonetic system where each letter—or combination thereof—represents various sounds. The visual format of the letter has no inherent meaning, and is rather arbitrary in nature. Such is not the case with many ancient alphabets (and some modern ones), including Hebrew. While we may view the Hebrew alphabet of today as phonetically based, the shape of the letters does...
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Shabbat 99b: Three Rabbis, One Opinion

January 22, 2013 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
James Naismith is credited with inventing basketball, but a primitive version seems to have existed in Talmudic times. “Rav Mordechai asked Rava: [Given] a column in a public area that is ten handbreadths tall and four wide (and thus considered a private domain), and one threw an object, and it landed on top; what is the law?”One may not carry—or throw—an object from a public to a private domain or vice versa on Shabbat. Throwing an object from...
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Shabbat 96b: Human Revelation

January 18, 2013 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Of all the 39 Melachot, it is carrying that, by far, occupies the most pages of Talmudic discussion. In the midst of discussing this prohibition, the Talmud (Shabbat 96b) turns its focus to the Mekoshesh eitzim, gatherer of wood (see Bamidbar 15). Having been stoned for his infraction, the Talmud is interested in knowing what exactly he did wrong, with carrying being one of the possibilities raised. This leads the Gemarah to a fascinating...
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Shabbat 91b: Talmudic Toys

January 14, 2013 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
It seems that the toy industry in Talmudic times was quite different than the one we have today. Lacking the technological gizmos so popular today, Talmudic toys were much more attuned to the world of nature. “If one carries a live pure (kosher) grasshopper, it is any size; if it’s dead, the size of a dried fig” (Shabbat 91b). The Talmud meticulously details on an almost item-by-item basis how much one need carry to violate the prohibition of...
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Shabbat 89b: Yitzchak to the Rescue

January 10, 2013 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Abraham is the founding father of Judaism, Yaakov is the founding father of the Jewish people, and Yitzchak is the link between them. His role was that of consolidator, enabling Abraham’s’ revolutionary ideas to survive to the next generation. He is the quiet link, allowing others to shine in the spotlight. Yet, in a fascinating passage, the Talmud (89b) describes how Yitzchak was the one who came to the rescue of the Jewish people.“For You are...
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