Thoughts from the Daf

Brachot 59: What a Blessing

One of the most well known blessings is that of dayan emet, the blessing said upon the death of an immediate relative accepting G-d as the true judge. It is a statement of great faith in G-d, Who “gives life and takes it away – let His name be blessed”. Less well known is the ruling that if the deceased parent was wealthy, the inheriting child makes a second blessing. This blessing is none other than a shehechiyanu, the bracha in which we thank G-d for having reached a most joyous milestone.

Brachot 55: Turning Dreams into Reality

The Talmud spends quite a number of pages discussing dreams. Taking their cue from the Bible itself, they put great stock in the significance of our dreams. They understood that our thoughts during the day have great impact upon our dreams, and knew that every dream has some elements of untruth to it. The Gemarah goes to great lengths to demonstrate the power, not so much of the dream itself, but how it is interpreted: "All goes according to the interpretation".

Brachot 50: Gratitude

“From the blessings of man, we see if he is a scholar or not”. How, and more importantly, whom one blesses tells us much about a person. How we word our blessings was of great interest to our Sages; after all, before speaking to a king, we think over each word we want to say, and mistakes reflect a lack of seriousness. How much more so when speaking to the King of Kings!

Brachot 47b: We Are All Am Ha'aratzim

The term am ha'aretz has come to mean an ignorant Jew, and is generally used in a pejorative manner. However, in Talmudic literature, an ignorant Jew was referred to as the hebrew word bore, an empty pit; it seems like it might be related to the English "boor". The great sage Hillel teaches that "a boor cannot be a fearful of sin" (Pirkei Avot 2:7). Without a solid foundation of knowledge, true fear of sin is impossible.

Brachot 43b: A Shameful Smell

A common feature of Talmudic editing is to group together a series of statements made by the same person. Generally, it is that person making a statement in the name of someone else - itself a common feature of the Talmud, with its emphasis on sourcing our traditions-- and is generally done in the cases of those figures who are not often quoted in the Talmud.

Brachot 40: Getting It Wrong!

A striking feature of Talmud study is how it seamlessly moves from subject to subject; and how, almost out of the blue, one finds oneself discussing something that seems totally disconnected from the original discussion. The Mishnah discusses the case of a person who mistakenly makes the brachah of boreh pri ha-etz on a vegetable, ruling that one must repeat the proper bracha of boreh pri ha-adamah. The Gemarah questions the need for such a ruling, as why should one think that one fulfills his obligation by claiming a vegetable grows on a tree?

Brachot 39: Eat First, Ask Later

Jewish law prescribes not only that we make a blessing on food, but that we do so in the correct sequence. Thus, to cite a very basic example, we first make kiddush and only afterward make hamotzi. Not surprisingly, which blessing should take priority was a matter of Talmudic dispute, and the rabbis developed a number of principles to help us eat properly.

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.

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