Thoughts from the Daf
Brachot 38b: Practice, Practice, Practice!
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...Continue Reading »
Brachot 35: No, Thank You!
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...Continue Reading »
Brachot 34a: Respect for the Congregation
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...Continue Reading »
Brachot 32a: Forcing G-d to Forgive
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)....Continue Reading »
Brachot 31: Where to Pray
The Talmud spends a good deal of time discussing the proper frame of mind for prayer. In a rather obvious remark (yet, much easier said than done), the Gemara notes that “One must aim their thoughts towards heaven” (Brachot 31a). As an example of such the Talmud records the following: “Rav Yehuda says this was the custom of Rabbi Akiva, when he would pray between him and himself, one would leave him in this corner and find...Continue Reading »