Thoughts from the Daf

Menachot 44: A Slap in the Face

There is little that turns one off from religion more than corruption in the religious sphere. When one sees someone cheating who outwardly presenting as religious, the harm to religion is incalculable. It is the ultimate in chilul Hashem, causing others to disdain religion and even to hate G-d (see Yoma 86a). And when the dishonesty manifests in the religious sphere itself, the chilul Hashem is compounded many times over.

Menachot 28: The Temple Lulav

The opening Mishna of masechet menachot teaches that just because one lacks proper intent when slaughtering an animal, the korban remains valid (though the person offering the korban has not fulfilled their obligation and would have to bring another korban). In other words, the slaughtering does not impact on the other aspects of the korban (see here for further discussion).

Menachot 29: The Death of Rabbi Akiva

One of the most moving parts of the Yom Kippur davening is the recital of the asara harugei malchut, the ten rabbinic leaders martyred by the Romans. A similar piyut is recited on Tisha B’Av, though the purpose of each—and hence, the piyyutim themselves—differs. On Tisha B’Av, it is included as part of the mourning process on the saddest day of the year. With Yom Kippur being a happy day, its recital is meant to both atone for and inspire us. 

Menachot 18: Loving Torah

“Blessed are Torah scholars for whom the words of Torah are very dear to them” (Menachot 18a). One can tell much about a person by seeing what makes them happy. For the true scholar there is almost nothing that brings greater joy than gaining further knowledge and insight into the subject matter at hand. Whether or not there is practical significance to the new discovery of knowledge is almost irrelevant. Knowledge is valuable and worth celebrating for its own sake, period.

Menachot 12: Time over Space

There is no area of Jewish law as regimented as that of sacrifices. There are strict rules as to the type of animal that may be brought, when and where they are to be brought, who can eat from the korban and for how long. The Torah regulates exactly what parts may be offered on the altar, what parts may be eaten by kohanim, by non-kohanim, by men and by women. There are detailed laws regarding the blood of the sacrifices, how one approaches the altar, and the exact order of the sacrificial service. 

Menachot 6: Benefitting Sinners

In 1977, the New York State Legislature passed the “Son of Sam law”. Named for serial killer David Berkowitz’s adopted name, the law forbade criminals from profiting from their actions; for example, by selling book rights to their stories for millions of dollars. In 1991, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the law, arguing that it violated the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

Menachot 2: The Power of Logic

There is seemingly no better proof for a Talmudic viewpoint than support from a biblical verse. Expressions such as dik’teev, “it is written”, or shene’emar, “as it says”, appear on almost every Talmudic page and are used to introduce biblical texts in support of a given view. While sages may argue on how to interpret the verse—and thus, often reach different conclusions—it is the verse that gives backing to their positions. 

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