Bechorot 29: May I Have a Raise

May 30, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Thoughts from the Daf
How much should we pay teachers? As we discussed in our last post, the Gemara has a clear and simple answer: Nothing. “Just as I [Moshe] taught for no payment, so, too, you [must teach] for no payment” (Bechorot 29a)[1].  But the clear answer is no longer simple, and no longer is it an answer at all. Our Talmudic sages understood that Moshe’s teaching for free is not a viable model, and has limited application. With food...
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Bechorot 29: Free Legal Services

May 28, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Thoughts from the Daf
In our last post, we discussed the need to have an expert examine a bechor in order to declare that it has a mum, thus allowing its consumption and use by all. Even if the mum was most obvious, nonetheless the halacha still demanded an expert's opinion, fearful that the potential monetary gain would lead one to declare the not-obvious defect to be an obvious one.  Not only did we...
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Behar: Working for G-d

The Torah was wary of the employer-employee relationship. Almost by definition, an employee is not much different than a slave; both are told what to do, when to do it and how it is to be done. “For [all of] you are slaves unto Me” (Vayikra 25:55). As our Sages teach, we are not meant to be slaves of slaves. It can be quite natural for an employer to treat his employee like a slave, even if the employee is treated with dignity. To...
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Bechorot 28: Donkeys for Sale

May 23, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Thoughts from the Daf
A rabbi, dayan, shochet, doctor, and matir bechorot—these are some of the licensed functionaries needed to fully run a Jewish community. While we all recognize the need for the first four on the list, a matir bechorot is a remnant of a bygone era, when many were farmers and the Temple stood in Jerusalem. With the obligation to offer the bechor as a korban...
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Bechorot 25: Bad Politician: Great Teacher

May 16, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman Category: Thoughts from the Daf
Sometimes the most obscure of arguments can teach the greatest of lessons. That Rabbi Eliezer’s “proofs” from heaven were rejected because “Torah is not in heaven” is relatively well known (Bava Metzia 59b). Less well known is that this powerful story is the result of a dispute regarding the purity of an oven, “the oven of Achnai”, that was broken and put back together. This debate took place years after...
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