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Pesachim 64b: You're Out of Here!

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.

Pesachim 62: To Teach or Not to Teach

"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).

Pesachim 60: The Forest and the Tree

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.

Pesachim 56: Medical School

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.

Pesachim 47: Eating on Yom Kippur?

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.

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