Thoughts from the Daf

Menachot 18: Loving Torah

“Blessed are Torah scholars for whom the words of Torah are very dear to them” (Menachot 18a). One can tell much about a person by seeing what makes them happy. For the true scholar there is almost nothing that brings greater joy than gaining further knowledge and insight into the subject matter at hand. Whether or not there is practical significance to the new discovery of knowledge is almost irrelevant. Knowledge is valuable and worth celebrating for its own sake, period.

Menachot 12: Time over Space

There is no area of Jewish law as regimented as that of sacrifices. There are strict rules as to the type of animal that may be brought, when and where they are to be brought, who can eat from the korban and for how long. The Torah regulates exactly what parts may be offered on the altar, what parts may be eaten by kohanim, by non-kohanim, by men and by women. There are detailed laws regarding the blood of the sacrifices, how one approaches the altar, and the exact order of the sacrificial service. 

Menachot 6: Benefitting Sinners

In 1977, the New York State Legislature passed the “Son of Sam law”. Named for serial killer David Berkowitz’s adopted name, the law forbade criminals from profiting from their actions; for example, by selling book rights to their stories for millions of dollars. In 1991, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the law, arguing that it violated the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

Menachot 2: The Power of Logic

There is seemingly no better proof for a Talmudic viewpoint than support from a biblical verse. Expressions such as dik’teev, “it is written”, or shene’emar, “as it says”, appear on almost every Talmudic page and are used to introduce biblical texts in support of a given view. While sages may argue on how to interpret the verse—and thus, often reach different conclusions—it is the verse that gives backing to their positions. 

Zevachim 88: Clothes Make the Man - and Woman

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.

Zevachim 88: Back-to-Back

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.

Zevachim 47: I Agree!

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.


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