Thoughts from the Daf

Shabbat 105b: Anger Management

One of the foundational laws of Shabbat is that only productive acts are prohibited; “all who destroy are exempt” (Shabbat 105b). At times, a seemingly destructive act is prerequisite for a constructive act, rendering such prohibited. Included in the 39 melachot of Shabbat are, “destroying to build”, and “tearing in order to sew”. But “one who rends his garments in anger is exempt” (Shabbat 105) – acting in anger is never productive, and hence, such tearing does not violate Biblical law.

Shabbat 96b: Human Revelation

Of all the 39 Melachot, it is carrying that, by far, occupies the most pages of Talmudic discussion. In the midst of discussing this prohibition, the Talmud (Shabbat 96b) turns its focus to the Mekoshesh eitzim, gatherer of wood (see Bamidbar 15). Having been stoned for his infraction, the Talmud is interested in knowing what exactly he did wrong, with carrying being one of the possibilities raised.

Shabbat 89b: Yitzchak to the Rescue

Abraham is the founding father of Judaism, Yaakov is the founding father of the Jewish people, and Yitzchak is the link between them. His role was that of consolidator, enabling Abraham’s’ revolutionary ideas to survive to the next generation. He is the quiet link, allowing others to shine in the spotlight. Yet, in a fascinating passage, the Talmud (89b) describes how Yitzchak was the one who came to the rescue of the Jewish people.

Shabbat 89a: Sinai and Sin'ah

Years ago, I heard Dennis Prager note that, while the Talmud spends six double-sided folio pages discussing the permissibility of eating an egg laid on Yom Tov, the Talmudic discussion of anti-Semitism consists of about three lines. Our great sages were concerned about how Jews are meant to live their lives, not what our enemies think of us. For the Talmud, the answer to the age-old question of anti-Semitism was as simple as it was profound. “What is [the reason for the name] Har Sinai? That hatred descended to the idolaters on it” (Shabbat 89a).

Shabbat 63: Battle Clothes

The sixth chapter of Shabbat begins with the issue of what ornaments a woman—and to a lesser extent, a man—may or may not wear on Shabbat in a place with no eiruv. The Sages feared that, upon meeting people in the street, one might take off the ornament in order to show it to one’s friend, and inadvertently violate the prohibition of carrying on Shabbat. Thus, for example, the Mishnah forbids a woman to wear a “City of Gold”, a beautiful piece of gold jewelry that was given by Rabbi Akiva to his wife. Of course, the Bible forbids the wearing of that which is not clothing.

Shabbat 56: Rabbinic Cover-Up

Interpreting Scripture is no easy feat. One of the difficulties in understanding biblical literature is to figure out what parts are to be taken at face value and which are to be understood in a more symbolic fashion. While we take it for granted that physical descriptions of G-d are anthropomorphisms, such was not the case before the Rambam eradicated the notion of a physical G-d from our conception of the Divine.

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