Akavya ben Mehalelel is best known for the teaching, “Focus on three things, and you will not come to the hands of sin: know from where you come, to where you are going, and before Whom you will give a reckoning and accounting” (Pirkei Avot 3:1). This teaching should be seen in the light of another teaching of his. The Mishnah records four (rather obscure and technical) areas of Jewish law where Akavya disagreed with the accepted rabbinic view.
"Rav Simlai came in front of Rav Yochanan and asked him to teach him Sefer Yuchsin, the Book of Lineage. He [Rav Yochanan] asked him where he was from. 'Lod,' he replied. 'And where do you live?' 'In Neharda'. 'We [Rav Yochanan responded] do not teach it, neither to Lodians or Nehardeim; how much more so to you, who are from Lod and reside in Neharda'" (Pesachim 62b).
Some of the most fundamental mitzvoth of the Torah are stated in the vaguest of terms, with few clear guidelines as to how they are to be fulfilled. The central mitzvah of Sefer Vayikra, and perhaps of the entire Torah, is to "be holy", yet the meaning of holiness is left undefined. One will not find any Talmudic discussion of the laws of holiness. The closest we get to such is Maimonides' inclusion of the "Book of Holiness" in his Mishnah Torah, which details the laws of kashrut and forbidden relations.
The greatest blessing one can have is that of good health. And aside from the three cardinal sins of adultery, idolatry, and murder, no law is as important as that of pikuach nefesh, the mandate to prolong life. Some of our greatest sages and scholars—most notably Maimonides—were doctors, and it is not by chance that Jews are disproportionately represented in the medical field. Just as teaching Torah is the greatest spiritual gift one can give to a person, healing is the greatest physical gift we can give; and we are mandated to do both.
Man, unique amongst all creations, was blessed by G-d with a soul. We are not just physical creations, doomed to death in due course, but spiritual beings whose souls can live forever.
Our tradition has long taught that it is a great mitzvah to do the right thing, even if for the wrong reason. “A person should, leolam, always be engaged in Torah and mitzvoth even if sheloh lishma, not for its own sake; as from doing them not for their sake, one will come to do them lishma, for their own sake” (Pesachim 50b).
This Daf Yomi Thought is dedicated in honour of the upcoming wedding of Yonah Dorfman to Laurel Dayan. May they have many years of good health and happiness together. Mazal-Tov!
This Daf Yomi Thought is dedicated in honour of the upcoming wedding of Tova Silverman and Cliel Gilbert-Schachter. May they have many years of good health and happiness together. Mazal-Tov!
The Yomim Tovim celebrate monumental events in Jewish history. The focus of these days is on bringing Jews together as a people and as friends. Shabbat, on the other hand, is first and foremost focused on recognizing G-d as the Creator of the universe. This differing focus may help explain why cooking is allowed on Yom Tov but not on Shabbat. There is no better way to bring people together than through food. With Yom Tov's focus on community building, eating together is paramount; and in order to have the best of foods, cooking is permitted.