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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Brachot 28: The Education of Rabban Gamliel

February 06, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Thoughts from the Daf
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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Brachot 26: Prayer is Mercy

February 02, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Thoughts from the Daf
As we transition from the third to the fourth chapter of masechet Brachot, our focus shifts from the mitzvah of kriat shema to that of tefillah or, more accurately, the amidah. That which we say before the amidah—be it songs of praise, or the acceptance of the kingdom of G-d, i.e., the shema—is said as preparation for tefillah, i.e., the...
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