Thoughts from the Daf

Brachot 31: Channa's Prayer

February 19, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
“Rav Hamnuna said: How many important halakhot can be derived from these verses of the prayer of Hannah?” (Brachot 31a). The image one conjures up when one thinks of Channa is that of a most pious woman, spilling her heart to G-d, so engrossed in prayer that she is oblivious to her surroundings. It is she who teaches what proper kavanah is all about. “’And Channah spoke in her...
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Brachot 29: The Simple Jew

February 16, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
“Our Sages taught: Shimon Hapekuli arranged the eighteen blessings before Rabban Gamliel, al haseder, in order, in Yavne” (Brachot 28b).  The Gemara (Megillah 17b) notes that the shemoneh esrei was initially composed by the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah. In a rather startling comment, the Gemara then claims that it was then forgotten and hence, the need for Shimon Hapekuli to “arrange them...
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Brachot 29: The Changing Nature of Prayer

February 13, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
It is hard to think of a mitzvah that has undergone as much change over time as that of prayer. Originally, prayer was a spontaneous pouring out of one’s heart before G-d. One prayed when, what, how and for however long one may have wanted. This is especially true according to the mainstream view that the obligation of prayer is rabbinic in nature. But even according to the Rambam, who uniquely claims that prayer is of Biblical origin,...
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Brachot 28: Saving Judaism

February 12, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
It is fair to say that, if not for the leadership of Rav Yochanan ben Zakkai, you would not be reading these words. Judaism as we know it today could not have survived without his great foresight.    It was he who steered the Jewish people during the Roman siege of Jerusalem and in the aftermath of destruction. Recognizing the futility of trying to defeat the Romans militarily, he urged cooperation and developed positive relations...
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Brachot 28: The Education of Rabban Gamliel

February 06, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
The years following the destruction of the Temple were fraught with great danger and uncertainty. The infighting that had so weakened the Jewish people threatened to completely tear them apart. Hundreds of thousands were killed or exiled, with the many sects that could not make the transition from a Temple-based Judaism disappearing. The houses of Hillel and Shammai argued so vehemently that there was fear they would “make the Torah into...
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