Seder Taharot opens with masechet Kelim, vessels, which at 30 chapters and 254 mishnayot is far and away the largest of the 63 tractates of the Mishna. To fully understand the masechet, one needs great knowledge of “realia”, understanding the day-to-day of life during the Temple period—specifically, the types, sizes and shapes of various vessels in use throughout the Mishnaic period.
Thoughts from the Daf
Jewish law is generally divided into three distinct areas: issur v’heter, ritual law; dinei mammonot, monetary law; and tumah v’tahara, laws of purity and impurity. Just as the laws regarding criminal and civil law differ—the former requiring evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and the latter a balance of probabilities—each area of Jewish law has its own rules and procedures. Hence, our sages note, “One cannot derive principles regarding ritual laws from [those of] monetary law”.
“The one sheep you shall do in the morning and the second sheep you shall do in the evening”. Cited twice in the Torah (Shemot 29:39 and Bamidbar 28:4), this verse, is, at least according to one view, its most important. Many are familiar with the view of Rabbi Akiva who, echoing Hillel, teaches that “to love your neighbour as yourself” is the most important verse of the Bible.
“Rabbi Shimon says: Kevasim, lambs, precede se’irim, goats, in all places” (Keritot 28a). Rabbi Shimon notes that while lambs and goats are often mentioned together, the Torah (almost) always refers to lambs first. “Is it possible [that this is] because they are preferred?
Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, when asked to define the main role of a rabbi, responded that it is to help the poor, the widow and the orphan. This towering genius—who refined and systemized an analytical approach to Talmudic study that literally changed the course of Talmudic study around the world—well understood that helping those in need is more important than resolving a contradiction in the Rambam.
One brings a korban for one of two reasons: either because one wants to or because one has to. One may offer a korban as a way of saying thank you for the blessings of life. Instead of, or perhaps in addition to inviting some friends over to celebrate, one transforms the feast into a seudat mitzvah by celebrating in Jerusalem, publicly offering thanksgiving to G-d and sharing their bounty with others.
Jewish tradition teaches that we are to celebrate joyous occasions—Shabbat and Yom Tov, brit milah, a wedding—by drinking wine. Used appropriately, “Wine gladdens the heart of man” (Tehillim 104:15); used inappropriately, wine can literally kill.
The most basic rule of economics is that of supply and demand. The interaction between these two forces is the key—often the only—factor in determining the price of an object or service. In order to maximize economic efficiency, providing consumers with the goods they want at the lowest possible price, market forces must not be tampered with.
“One should be as careful with a light mitzvah as with heavy mitzvah” (Avot 2:1). Contrary to what is often taught, not all mitzvot are created equal. Some are more important, some less so. The mitzvah to accept upon oneself to observe the commandments (done through the recital of the shema) is clearly of greater importance than, say, ensuring we put salt on all our sacrifices.