daf yomi

Megillah 17: Must We Pray?

One of the most central requirements of Jewish life—both in time and importance—is that of daily prayer. Yet most fascinatingly, the source of the obligation to pray—or whether such an obligation even exists—is a matter of great debate. It is the Rambam, and few (if any) others, who claim that there is a biblical obligation of daily prayer—and even such obligation is fulfilled by prayer once daily.

Megillah 14: The Songs of Israel

Pesach is the foundational holiday of the Jewish people, and the Exodus is the defining moment of Jewish history. A group of slaves formed a nation that, a mere seven weeks, later stood at Sinai so they could become a nation of priests and a holy nation. Mitzvah after mitzvah is observed zecher lyetziat mitzraim, to remember the Exodus. And these mitzvoth are in addition to the stand-alone mitzvah to remember the Exodus.

Megillah 6: Try Harder

When one makes a siyum to mark the completion of a tractate of Talmud, we recite the beautiful words of the hadran[1], that "we toil and they toil; we toil and receive a reward, and they toil and do not receive a reward". Whereas, in the secular world, it is the bottom line that counts—no one cares how hard you work if the results are great—in the spiritual world, it is effort, not result, that matters most.

Megillah 3: What Comes First

"These days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and that these days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of them perish from their seed" (Esther 9:28). In a rather astonishing teaching, Rabbi Yossi the son of Chaninah explains that the expression "all families" teaches that even "the families of priests and Levites desist from their Temple service [to] come hear the reading of the Megillah" (Megillah 3a).

Megillah 2: Breaking the Walls

The first daf (page) of Masechet Megillah focuses on the distinction between open and walled cites, regarding the timing of the reading of the Megillah. While one might have argued that, almost by definition, whatever is outside of a walled city cannot be part of the city protected with a wall, the Gemara quotes the view of Rav Yehoshua ben Levi—without quoting a dissenting view—that "a walled city and all that is adjacent to it and that is seen with it is judged like a walled city" (Megillah 2b).

Some Opening Thoughts on Masechet Megillah

Masechet Ta'anit ends with a description of how, on the 15th of Av and on Yom Kippur, "the maidens of Jerusalem" would dance in the fields, providing a wonderful opportunity to meet a potential spouse. In order to 'level the playing field' between the different strata of society, "all of Israel would borrow [clothes], one from another, so as not to embarrass those who did not have" (Ta'anit 31a).

Taanit 10: To Fast or Not to Fast

Sukkot marks the beginning of the rainy season, and Rabbi Eliezer opines that we should start saying  masheev haruach umoreed hageshem starting the first day of Sukkot. While Rabbi Yehoshua does not disagree that, in theory, Sukkot is the correct starting point, "since rain on Sukkot is a sign of a curse", he ruled that we should push off the recital of masheev haruach until Shemini Azeret—which is the practice we follow today.

Taanit 9: Give So You Can Get

"If not for my covenant, day and night, the laws of heaven and earth, I would not have created" (Yirmiyahu 33:25). Classical Jewish thought saw the spiritual and physical worlds as parallel ones working in tandem. Weakness in one area impacted on the other. It is readily apparent how physical weakness limits our ability to grow spiritually—one who is hungry or persecuted is unlikely to have much energy for spiritual pursuits. But it is a two-way street—spiritual weakness can also have a negative impact on the physical world.

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