Thoughts from the Daf

Pesachim 34: Land of Darkness

Soon after the editing of the Mishna in the land of Israel, Jewish life and learning started slowly shifting towards Bavel. This was set into motion by Rav and Shmuel two of the leading students of Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi - the editor of the Mishna - who headed the great Babylonian learning centres of Sura and Neharda and was exacerbated by the increasingly difficulty of religious life in Israel. There was much interaction between these two great centres as leading rabbis would travel back and forth bringing the teachings of one to the other.

Pesachim 30a: Economic Intervention

On the first page of the laws of Shabbat, the Mishnah Berurah discusses the problem of price gouging by fishmongers. Knowing the desire of observant Jews to eat fish on Shabbat, the merchants would raise the price—confident that with a somewhat inelastic demand curve[1], consumers would pay almost any price to eat fish on Shabbat.  The Mishnah Berurah, following much precedent, ruled that the wealthy who could easily afford the few extra dollars were prohibited from purchasing fish if the price exceeded 1/3 of the norm. 

Pesachim 11: Telling Time

The halachic legal system is much more than a set of abstract principles or technical details. It incorporates factors such as human psychology (something that is so impactful during the mourning process), human error, and probability analysis.

These extra-legal aspects of the law can be seen in three Talmudic debates, which appear back-to-back-to-back, that discuss the prohibition of chametz.

Pesachim 9a: When In Doubt...Eat

"Two verses that contradict each other, until a third verse is found and reconciles between them". This 13th and last of the interpretive principles of Rabbi Yishmael highlights the many contradictions inherent in the Torah. Torah mirrors life, and recognizing the complexity of both is so important that our rabbis placed this message into the daily siddur.

Pesachim 7a: Who Carries Your Water?

Rav Yisrael Salanter, the 19th century founder of the mussar movement, was asked by his students what the most important concern is when baking matzah. With the severe prohibition against eating chametz and the haste needed to ensure that the flour does not become leavened, there is much to worry about. Rav Yisrael replied, "Be careful to ensure that the water porters struggling to earn a living are not made to carry heavy buckets of water". He knew that there is much more to baking matzah than simply...baking matzah.

Pesachim 3b: Story of a Bigmouth

Great leaders are great strategists. The Talmud (Pesachim 3b) relates that a certain non-Jew was bragging of how he used to travel to Jerusalem to eat the korban pesach. Under ordinary circumstances, that would be very nice, as non-Jews may also offer sacrifices in the Temple. However, the korban pesach, the pinnacle of celebration of the holiday of the national formation of the Jewish people, is reserved for Jews only. "No outsider may eat it. No uncircumcised male may eat of it" (Shemot 12:43, 48).

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