Thoughts from the Daf

Brachot 35: No, Thank You!

The opening Mishnah of the sixth chapter of Brachot discusses the various blessings one makes on different types of food. The Talmud attempts, but is unable, to find a scriptural source that tells us that one must make a blessing before eating, finally concluding that we need no source. It is a sevarah, a simple, obvious, logical inference that one must bless G-d before we eat, as "it is forbidden to benefit from this world without a blessing". Verses in the Torah are (generally) needed only to tell us that which we would not otherwise know.

Brachot 34a: Respect for the Congregation

In Talmudic times, the norm was that the chazzan literally prayed on behalf of the congregation. The people would listen and answer "amen," thus fulfilling their obligation of prayer. In addition to the tefillot of the chazzan, there was (and is, at least in Israel) a daily obligation for the kohanim to bless the people (duchening). The chazzan was to remain focused on the tefillot, and thus, a chazzan who was a kohen was not to duchen or even answer "amen" after their blessing, "lest he be confused".

Brachot 31: Where to Pray

The Talmud spends a good deal of time discussing the proper frame of mind for prayer. In a rather obvious remark (yet, much easier said than done), the Gemarah notes that “One must aim their thoughts towards heaven”. Proof for this is provided by the great sage, Rabbi Akiva, as follows: “Rav Yehuda says this was the custom of Rabbi Akiva, when he would pray between him and himself, one would leave him in this corner and find him in a different corner”. Yet, the Gemarah seems to note that such heavenly focus is only appropriate if one is davening privately.

Brachot 27: Too Close for Comfort?

The Gemarah, in discussing the propriety of making an “early Shabbat”, records that Rav Yirmiya davened just behind his teacher, Rav, on Friday afternoons while Rav was reciting the prayers for Shabbat. The Gemarah questions how he could do so, as it was Rav himself, the founder of the great academy in Sura, who taught that it is inappropriate to daven next to or behind one’s teacher.

Daf Yomi Thoughts: Going for Gold

"Mei’emati korin et hashema b’arvit, from what time may one begin reciting the evening shema?" So begins the Talmud Bavli, the first volume of the Gemara and the page that will be studied by hundreds of thousands of Jews around the globe as they begin the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi on Friday. The hundreds of thousands who celebrated the completion of the 12th cycle highlight the enduring relevance of this ancient text, and its crucial role in Jewish continuity.

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