It is fair to say that, if not for the leadership of Rav Yochanan ben Zakkai, you would not be reading these words. Judaism as we know it today could not have survived without his great foresight.
Thoughts from the Daf
The years following the destruction of the Temple were fraught with great danger and uncertainty. The infighting that had so weakened the Jewish people threatened to completely tear them apart. Hundreds of thousands were killed or exiled, with the many sects that could not make the transition from a Temple-based Judaism disappearing. The houses of Hillel and Shammai argued so vehemently that there was fear they would “make the Torah into two Torot” (Sanhedrin 88b). With the Sanhedrin no longer in Jerusalem, its authority was questioned.
As we transition from the third to the fourth chapter of masechet Brachot, our focus shifts from the mitzvah of kriat shema to that of tefillah or, more accurately, the amidah. That which we say before the amidah—be it songs of praise, or the acceptance of the kingdom of G-d, i.e., the shema—is said as preparation for tefillah, i.e., the amidah.
Shehechiyanu vekemanu vhegeyanu lazman hazeh. It was when daf yomi last reached Brachot 27 that I wrote my first “Daily Daf”. For the past seven and a half years it has been a tremendous privilege to share my thoughts on the daf. I want to thank so many of you for your comments, questions, critique and giving me the inspiration continue writing.
At the bottom of this years thought there is a link to our devar Torah from seven and a half years ago. Time does fly!
One of the things I love about the Gemara is how realistic and human it is—how it portrays people, rabbis and laypeople alike, in all their complexity, never shying away from pointing out their foibles.
“A jewel in the mouth of Rava. The purpose of chochmah, wisdom, is teshuva and maasim tovim, good deeds”(Brachot 17a). Knowledge that increases one’s knowlege and nothing else is worth little, is largely a waste of time and is a tragic misuse of so much potential.
“The appointed one [assistant kohen gadol] said to them [the priests in the Temple]: ‘Recite a single blessing.’ They recited a blessing, and read the aseret hadibrot, Shema, veHaya im Shamoa and vaYomer, blessed the people with three blessings; emet veyatziv, avodah and birchat kohanim, and on Shabbat, they would add a blessing for the outgoing mishmar, priestly watch” (Brachot 11b).
“Rabbi Chelbo said in the name of Rav Huna: All who have yira’at shamayim, fear of Heaven, his words are heeded, as it is stated: ‘The end of the matter, all having been heard: Fear G-d and keep His commandments; for this is all of man’” (Kohelet 12:13). It is this message, and only because of this message, that our Sages agreed to include Kohelet in the Biblical canon.
What should one pray for? If we were to take a survey of the typical shul-goer, or even one who is not, I suspect we will hear such ideas as health, peace, justice, economic success, a wonderful family. One might take a look at the siddur and see what our rabbis suggested we pray for. We could then add such items as wisdom, repentance, forgiveness, redemption and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. These are all wonderful things to pray for, and it is for good reason that they are included in the shemoneh esrei that we recite three times a day.
In our post discussing the last lines of the Talmud Bavli, we wondered why the Gemara ends with a teaching by Eliyahu Hanavi. As Daf Yomi begins its 14th cycle and we open up masechet Brachot, it does not take us long—one page, to be exact—until we meet up with Eliyahu once again.