“A song to David; G-d, who will live in Your tent, who shall dwell on your holy mountain? He [who] speaks truth in his heart” (Tehillim 15:2, Makkot 24a). The Gemara, explaining what it means to speak truth in one’s heart, has a simple three-word explanation: “like Rav Safra” (Makkot 24a).
“’And now let Me go, so that I may destroy them and make you a great nation’ (Shemot 32:10). Rav Abahu said: If the verse had not been written, it would not be possible to say it. It teaches that Moshe grabbed the Holy One, Blessed be He, like a person grabs his friend, and said, ‘Master of the Universe, I will not let go until You forgive them’” (Brachot 32a).
Almost by definition, news—at least most of it—is of the less-positive variety, often causing us to think the world is a lot worse than it really is. What makes the news are the aberrations: tragic murders, terrorist attacks, financial or sexual scandals. There is little to report when all goes as it should; no news really is good news.
“Rava said: How foolish are the rest of the people who stand before a sefer Torah, but do not stand before a great person!” (Makkot 22b). Walk into any shul when the sefer Torah is being taken out, or even when the ark is opened and the Torah scrolls remain inside, and you will see everyone standing. How can one not stand for a sefer Torah?
The Torah takes justice very seriously: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot” (Shemot 21:24). The death penalty is a common refrain in the Torah; one who causes monetary damage to his fellow must make restitution, and a thief may have to pay up to five times the value of what he stole. But one searches the Torah in vain to find crimes for which jail time is called for. Such punishment has little educational value and does nothing to repay the victim.
When I first started learning Gemara – and as we prepared for tests – we were told not to worry if we got the names of the rabbis wrong. What was most important was to understand the content and the logical arguments put forth. I understand why one may not take off marks for a Talmud beginner who mixes up Abaye and Rava (and to this day I sometimes confuse who says yeush shelo meda’at is still ye’ush), but such an approach is not that of the Gemara itself.
“And you shall do to them as they sought to do to others” (Devarim 19:19). Edim zomimim, plotting witnesses, are punished by receiving the punishment the victim of their false testimony would have suffered had they not been caught – but only if the court has yet to carry out its verdict. If the verdict had already been implemented before their lie was exposed, the edim zomimim receive no punishment, save for their disqualification from giving future testimony.
“The witnesses do not become zomimim, ‘plotting witnesses’, unless they falsify themselves” (Makkot 5a). The law of edim zomimim is a unique subset of invalid witnesses. In a “standard” case of contradictory witnesses, one set of witnesses claims Reuven killed Shimon and a second set testifies that Reuven (or for that matter, Shimon) was with them at the supposed time of the crime.