“Now it came to pass after many days, that Cain brought of the fruit of the soil an offering, a mincha, to the Lord” (Breisheet 4:3).
Thoughts from the Daf
The fashion industry is a one that employs millions of people worldwide and both reflects and molds societal trends. Top designers are paid astronomical sums for creating both popular and exclusive lines of clothing. Clothes literally do make the man –and woman.
We instinctively know that how we dress impacts both upon how we are perceived and how we perceive ourselves. Clothes we wear affect our behavior, attitudes, personality, mood, confidence, and even the way we interact with others. Not surprisingly, scientific research has confirmed these truths.
One of the frequent questions Rashi asks in his commentary to the Chumash is lamah nismicha, why are two parts of the Torah juxtaposed next to each other? The underlying assumption of the question is that these sections should not have been placed next to each other, i.e., the events did not occur successively. If such were not the case, there would be no basis for the question. When Rashi, for example, asks why the story of the meraglim follows that of the Miriam’s critique of Moshe, the commentaries are perplexed.
“The ox and goat of Yom Kippur are slaughtered in the north” (Zevachim 47a). As we discussed in our last post, the fifth perek of masechet Zevachim details where in the Temple each of the sacrifices were to be slaughtered, who could eat them, until when they could be eaten and what was to be done with their blood.
Other than belief in G-d, there is almost nothing in Judaism that is not subject to debate. Does G-d have a body? Should Biblical stories be understood literally? Is the Mishkan (and korbanot) an ideal or a concession to human weakness? What will the Messianic era look like? On and on it goes. And this before we even discuss the thousands of halachic debates that appear on almost every page in the Talmud. The opening teaching of the first Mishna in masechet Brachot is subject to a three-way debate, a harbinger of things to come.
For those living in the Province of Ontario—that includes yours truly—today is Election Day! (For those who do not live in Ontario, count yourself lucky that you are unable to vote in today’s election.)
One of the classic debates of the Talmud – and one with no clear resolution – is whether or not mitzvoth tzreechot kavanah. The term kavanah, which literally means “direction”, is not easy to translate into precise halachic terminology, but is generally understood to mean focus and concentration on what one is doing.
One of the first innovations of the Reform movement was the removal from the siddur of all references to Zion and the Temple. The emerging democracies of Europe, which had begun to treat the Jews as equal citizens, were to be our home. The idea of yearning for the return to Jerusalem was a relic of a bygone era and the notion of sacrifices in modernity viewed as absurd. Judaism, they argued, had moved beyond that stage in its development.
One of the benefits of learning Daf Yomi is that it “forces” one to learn subject areas that would otherwise be ignored. Each one of the 2,711 pages of the Talmud Bavli is given equal treatment, allowing one to study the breadth of Talmudic literature. If not for Daf Yomi, it is hard to imagine too many people would open up Seder Kodshim, dealing with the sacrificial rites, which have little relevance or resonance today.
We have often commented on the fact that our tradition does not shy away from pointing out the weaknesses and failings of our great Sages. This idea is first found in the Torah itself, which does not hide or excuse the sins – minor as those sins might be – of our greats. Even when it is not necessary to read a story in a negative light, such as Abraham going to Egypt when famine strikes the land of Israel, our commentaries often do just that (see, for example, Ramban, Breisheet 12:8).