Brachot 29: The Simple Jew

February 16, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Thoughts from the Daf
“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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Yitro: The Essence of Torah

February 13, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Parsha Thoughts: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Fulfilling G-d's commandments is the essence of Torah. "If not for my covenant, day and night, the laws of heaven and earth, I would not have established" (Yirmiyahu 33:25). Rashi begins his commentary on Chumash asking why the Torah begins with the story of creation. Being a book of mitzvot, one might posit that it should have begun with the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people, namely, the...
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Brachot 29: The Changing Nature of Prayer

February 13, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Thoughts from the Daf
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 Category: Thoughts from the Daf
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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BeShalach: Dying in the Desert

February 07, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Parsha Thoughts: Rabbi Jay Kelman
“And Pharaoh approached...they saw the Egyptians marching at their rear, and the people became very frightened. The Israelites cried out to G-d....They said to Moshe, ‘It would have been better for us to be slaves in Egypt than to die in the desert’” (Shemot 14:10-12).   Days earlier, the Jewish people had triumphantly left Egypt, walking right past the Egyptians in broad daylight (Shemot 12:41)....
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