Ketubot 30: In the Hands of Heaven

Malcolm Gladwell, in his bestselling book Outliers, demonstrates how so much of our success is a result of factors beyond our control. While in many areas—place of birth, our genetic makeup—this is obvious, he demonstrates the truth of such even in areas where we may not expect such. Factors such as our year of birth or even our birthday can have huge impact on our success.

Yevamot 89: The Top Three

"Three signs are there for this nation: they are rachmanim, merciful; bayshanim, have a sense of shame[1]; and gomlei chasadim, perform acts of kindness[2]" (Yevamot 89a). The distinguishing mark of the Jewish people is not our observance of Shabbat, kashrut, and a host of other mitzvoth. Important as they may be, they are reflections of the values that are (or at least should be) the true hallmark of the Jew: mercy, shame, and kindness. 

Sukkah 46: A Daily Dose of Blessings

“Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel: lulav, seven; and sukkah, one” (Sukkah 45b). So begins a discussion as to how often we are to make a bracha on these mitzvoth. Shmuel, the Gemara explains, is of the view that since there is one continuous mitzvah to sit in a sukkah for seven days and nights, “all seven are like one long day”; and hence, a bracha is recited only once. However, the mitzvah of lulav is applicable only by day, and not at night; and thus, each new day requires a new bracha.

Daf Yomi Pesachim 113b: Reciprocal Love

G-d's greatest gift to man is that He created us in His image. As heretical as it sounds, man and G-d are, in effect, opposite sides of the same coin. Flowing from this is the notion that all aspects of our relationship to G-d must be reflected in our actions towards man, and our actions towards our fellow man must be reflected in our relationship to G-d. This can best be seen in the aseret hadibrot, which can be read both vertically and horizontally.

Pesachim 9a: When In Doubt...Eat

"Two verses that contradict each other, until a third verse is found and reconciles between them". This 13th and last of the interpretive principles of Rabbi Yishmael highlights the many contradictions inherent in the Torah. Torah mirrors life, and recognizing the complexity of both is so important that our rabbis placed this message into the daily siddur.

Terumah: Golden Surroundings

One of the fiercest debates amongst medieval biblical commentaries was the extent to which parts of the Torah might be allegorical. The Ramban (Breisheet 18:1) does not take too kindly to the position of the Rambam (Guide 2:42) that the visit of the three angels to Abraham, or Jacob's struggle with an angel, was a prophetic vision that does not reflect physical reality. In more recent times, a related issue has arisen regarding the understanding of the “six days” of Creation.
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