rhu: (Default)
I've posted my summary and comments on Megillah 3a. Heather isn't feeling well, so I'm not likely to continue with 3b tonight. (Sorry, we're already behind on the Daf schedule.)

A word about the audience for this: I'm trying to keep it accessible to people with little or no Jewish literacy, and I'm trying to keep it reasonably short. This is not like listening to Rabbi Elefant's podcast, which takes 45 minutes per daf, assumes that you know what a gezerah shava is, and requires understanding a Brooklyn accent.

If you've never studied Talmud but you've been intrigued by some of my postings inspired by the Daf Yomi, this is your chance to get a little taste of it. 3a contains stuff about the shapes of the letters, translating the bible, and what to do when a demon is threatening you.
rhu: (Default)
I've posted my summary and comments on Megillah 3a. Heather isn't feeling well, so I'm not likely to continue with 3b tonight. (Sorry, we're already behind on the Daf schedule.)

A word about the audience for this: I'm trying to keep it accessible to people with little or no Jewish literacy, and I'm trying to keep it reasonably short. This is not like listening to Rabbi Elefant's podcast, which takes 45 minutes per daf, assumes that you know what a gezerah shava is, and requires understanding a Brooklyn accent.

If you've never studied Talmud but you've been intrigued by some of my postings inspired by the Daf Yomi, this is your chance to get a little taste of it. 3a contains stuff about the shapes of the letters, translating the bible, and what to do when a demon is threatening you.
rhu: (torah)
I created the [livejournal.com profile] megillah2a community and I've posted summaries of 2a and 2b. I don't plan to do any more until after Shabbat, but I would appreciate feedback (on this post, rather than over there) on style/level/usefulness. Over there, feel free to post replies dealing with the content. (Questions, corrections, additional insights, that sort of thing.)
rhu: (torah)
I created the [livejournal.com profile] megillah2a community and I've posted summaries of 2a and 2b. I don't plan to do any more until after Shabbat, but I would appreciate feedback (on this post, rather than over there) on style/level/usefulness. Over there, feel free to post replies dealing with the content. (Questions, corrections, additional insights, that sort of thing.)

Megillah

Feb. 7th, 2007 08:45 pm
rhu: (torah)
Daf Yomi (the "page-a-day" study cycle of Talmud) starts Tractate Megillah on Friday. Coincidentally, Purim falls three weeks from Sunday. Megillah is 31 dapim long, so Daf Yomi will conclude the cycle one week after Purim, Sunday March 11, which happens to be my birthday.

I've been inspired by the [livejournal.com profile] rawr_comm community's strength in motivating its members to exercise regularly, and since I fell off the Daf Yomi wagon about a month ago, I was hoping to maybe gather a small community online to learn Megillah together.

I'm thinking that such a community could complement the various free online Daf Yomi resources. And, properly done, it would be accessible even to those with limited background in Judaism and Talmud study. Basically I envision a rotation among volunteers to "prepare" the daf in advance, posting a precis with background and commentary on each day's daf. Edited to add: I've created a community at [livejournal.com profile] megillah2a and one post, to give you a sense of what it might be like.

IIRC, Megillah is one of the easier tractates. And it would be seasonal. And we could have an e-siyyum on my birthday. :-)

If you'd be interested in writing for such a community or in following along, please reply to this post. If there are enough takers, I'll kick it off before the weekend.

Megillah

Feb. 7th, 2007 08:45 pm
rhu: (torah)
Daf Yomi (the "page-a-day" study cycle of Talmud) starts Tractate Megillah on Friday. Coincidentally, Purim falls three weeks from Sunday. Megillah is 31 dapim long, so Daf Yomi will conclude the cycle one week after Purim, Sunday March 11, which happens to be my birthday.

I've been inspired by the [livejournal.com profile] rawr_comm community's strength in motivating its members to exercise regularly, and since I fell off the Daf Yomi wagon about a month ago, I was hoping to maybe gather a small community online to learn Megillah together.

I'm thinking that such a community could complement the various free online Daf Yomi resources. And, properly done, it would be accessible even to those with limited background in Judaism and Talmud study. Basically I envision a rotation among volunteers to "prepare" the daf in advance, posting a precis with background and commentary on each day's daf. Edited to add: I've created a community at [livejournal.com profile] megillah2a and one post, to give you a sense of what it might be like.

IIRC, Megillah is one of the easier tractates. And it would be seasonal. And we could have an e-siyyum on my birthday. :-)

If you'd be interested in writing for such a community or in following along, please reply to this post. If there are enough takers, I'll kick it off before the weekend.

Jubilee!

Dec. 19th, 2006 04:04 pm
rhu: (Default)
Rosh ha-Shannah 9b discusses which of the three following are necessary for the fiftieth year to be a Yovel (whence "Jubilee") year: (a) the manumission of indentured servants, (b) the return of ancestral fields to their original families, (c) the blowing of the shofar on Yom Kippur. The conclusion is that only (c) is necessary. [I.e., if a given year is scheduled to be a Yovel, and the shofar is not blown on Yom Kippur, then the other Yovel laws--such as leaving the fields fallow--are not in effect.]

So why only shofar? The gemara gives two answers, which illuminate two different perspectives on the relationship between the Law and the People.

The answers, after this. )

Jubilee!

Dec. 19th, 2006 04:04 pm
rhu: (Default)
Rosh ha-Shannah 9b discusses which of the three following are necessary for the fiftieth year to be a Yovel (whence "Jubilee") year: (a) the manumission of indentured servants, (b) the return of ancestral fields to their original families, (c) the blowing of the shofar on Yom Kippur. The conclusion is that only (c) is necessary. [I.e., if a given year is scheduled to be a Yovel, and the shofar is not blown on Yom Kippur, then the other Yovel laws--such as leaving the fields fallow--are not in effect.]

So why only shofar? The gemara gives two answers, which illuminate two different perspectives on the relationship between the Law and the People.

The answers, after this. )
rhu: (Default)
There are three Jewish holidays called Regalim: Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Weeks), and Sukkot (Booths). Pesach and Sukkot are each one week long, and have the rule that if one neglected to bring the qorban (offering) on the first day, one can bring a make-up (tashlumim) during the following six days. Shavuot is one day long, and the rabbis ask (on Rosh Hashanna 5a-b) whether the 6-day "grace" period applies here as well.

The conclusion is "yes" (and, as a practical consquence, even today when we don't have a Temple and offerings we still omit the Tachanun prayers for the six days following Shavuot) and one of the reasons caught my fancy.

There is apparently a principle that "as you count, so you celebrate." So Rosh Chodesh is counted by 29 or 30 days, and is a day long. Shemittah (Sabbatical) and Yovel (Jubilee) years are counted by 7 or 50 years, and last a year.

Now, here's the kicker: The date of Shavuot is determined by counting "seven complete weeks" from Pesach, and "on the fiftieth day" is the holiday. As we count through the Omer period, we verbalize the count each night by saying, for example, "Today is the tenth day, which is one week and three days." So we're counting both weeks and days, and Shavuot has both a one-day and a one-week aspect to it --- the holiday itself is only one day long, but the make-up period lasts the whole week.
rhu: (Default)
There are three Jewish holidays called Regalim: Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Weeks), and Sukkot (Booths). Pesach and Sukkot are each one week long, and have the rule that if one neglected to bring the qorban (offering) on the first day, one can bring a make-up (tashlumim) during the following six days. Shavuot is one day long, and the rabbis ask (on Rosh Hashanna 5a-b) whether the 6-day "grace" period applies here as well.

The conclusion is "yes" (and, as a practical consquence, even today when we don't have a Temple and offerings we still omit the Tachanun prayers for the six days following Shavuot) and one of the reasons caught my fancy.

There is apparently a principle that "as you count, so you celebrate." So Rosh Chodesh is counted by 29 or 30 days, and is a day long. Shemittah (Sabbatical) and Yovel (Jubilee) years are counted by 7 or 50 years, and last a year.

Now, here's the kicker: The date of Shavuot is determined by counting "seven complete weeks" from Pesach, and "on the fiftieth day" is the holiday. As we count through the Omer period, we verbalize the count each night by saying, for example, "Today is the tenth day, which is one week and three days." So we're counting both weeks and days, and Shavuot has both a one-day and a one-week aspect to it --- the holiday itself is only one day long, but the make-up period lasts the whole week.
rhu: (torah)
From Yoma 19b: Once, in Rav's presence, someone referred to R. Zecharia bar Kefutal, and Rav made his fingers into the shape of a vet to gesture that it is spelled Kevutal. Why did he gesture? Because he was in the middle of reciting the Sh'ma, when one is not allowed to talk. An objection is raised: We have learned that gesturing with one's head, eyes, or hands is considered talking during the Sh'ma. And it is settled: gesturing is only forbidden during the Sh'ma paragraph, but not during the two following paragraphs; talking aloud is prohibited throughout.

Would ASL count as talking? It seems to be that the answer must be "yes", even for the second and third paragraphs of Sh'ma. Anyone out there know? ([livejournal.com profile] sethg, didn't you do a shiur on this once?)

One other thought. First, some background: we are not allowed to talk between the preprandial handwashing and the eating of the bread, except for the needs of the motzi. (For example, one can say "salt!" if one realizes that the person making motzi has forgotten to salt the bread, but one should not say "Hey, I think you forgot to put salt on that" and one certainly should not say "So, how 'bout those Red Sox?") This is to ensure that the two actions remain linked in our minds; if our concentration is interrupted (hefsek hada'at) then the handwashing is null and void and must be repeated.

But I think this would also cover the (unfortunately common) practice that some have of using hand, head, and eye gestures (while ostentatiously not talking aloud) to humorous effect while waiting for the others present to finish their washing and return to the table.

I'd like to dedicate this word of Torah in memory of my grandmother, Raizl bat Aryeh Leb v'Channa, a"h, on this, her third Jahrzeit. May her memory be a blessing.
rhu: (torah)
From Yoma 19b: Once, in Rav's presence, someone referred to R. Zecharia bar Kefutal, and Rav made his fingers into the shape of a vet to gesture that it is spelled Kevutal. Why did he gesture? Because he was in the middle of reciting the Sh'ma, when one is not allowed to talk. An objection is raised: We have learned that gesturing with one's head, eyes, or hands is considered talking during the Sh'ma. And it is settled: gesturing is only forbidden during the Sh'ma paragraph, but not during the two following paragraphs; talking aloud is prohibited throughout.

Would ASL count as talking? It seems to be that the answer must be "yes", even for the second and third paragraphs of Sh'ma. Anyone out there know? ([livejournal.com profile] sethg, didn't you do a shiur on this once?)

One other thought. First, some background: we are not allowed to talk between the preprandial handwashing and the eating of the bread, except for the needs of the motzi. (For example, one can say "salt!" if one realizes that the person making motzi has forgotten to salt the bread, but one should not say "Hey, I think you forgot to put salt on that" and one certainly should not say "So, how 'bout those Red Sox?") This is to ensure that the two actions remain linked in our minds; if our concentration is interrupted (hefsek hada'at) then the handwashing is null and void and must be repeated.

But I think this would also cover the (unfortunately common) practice that some have of using hand, head, and eye gestures (while ostentatiously not talking aloud) to humorous effect while waiting for the others present to finish their washing and return to the table.

I'd like to dedicate this word of Torah in memory of my grandmother, Raizl bat Aryeh Leb v'Channa, a"h, on this, her third Jahrzeit. May her memory be a blessing.
rhu: (torah)
On Yoma 10b, there's a discussion of whether the sequestration chamber used by the Kohen Gadol (high priest) before Yom Kippur requires a mezzuzah to be affixed to its door, since he's only living there one week out of the year. The answer is "yes."

According to Rabbi Elefant's podcast, this source is used by modern poskim to answer the question of whether a time-share requires a mezzuzah. I'm amused.
rhu: (torah)
On Yoma 10b, there's a discussion of whether the sequestration chamber used by the Kohen Gadol (high priest) before Yom Kippur requires a mezzuzah to be affixed to its door, since he's only living there one week out of the year. The answer is "yes."

According to Rabbi Elefant's podcast, this source is used by modern poskim to answer the question of whether a time-share requires a mezzuzah. I'm amused.
rhu: (Default)

On Pesachim 119b, there's an interesting discussion of who will lead the bentching (the blessing after the meal) at the feast when Moshiach (the Messiah) arrives. The honor is first offered to Abraham, who declines because only one of his sons stayed Jewish; then Isaac (ditto); then Jacob, who declines because he married two sisters (which would later be prohibited by Torah law); then Moshe, who declines because he didn't merit to enter Israel even after his death; then Joshua, who declines because he had no children; and finally it is offered to David, who accepts because (says the Talmud) this proves the verse from Psalms (which are ascribed to David): "The cup of salvation shall I raise, and the Name of God I will call upon." (The leader of bentching at a major feast holds a cup of wine during the blessings.)

Rabbi Grossman, who was filling in for Rabbi Elefant on the OU Podcast for that day, brought in a fascinating gloss by the Maharsha: each person who declined did so because the problem that is listed explicitly in the Talmud is a chisaron (deficiency) in one of the areas that we thank God for in the bentching:

  • Isaac's covenant is described in the Torah as "b'Yitzchak," which is homiletically expounded as "Since Esau left the covenant, the covenant was only 'in' part of Isaac but wasn't complete with him."
  • Jacob's lack was, as explained above, in "the Torah that You teach us."
  • Moses never entered the land, which is the subject of the second blessing. (So even though Moses is credited with writing the first blessing when the manna fell, he'd have to stop there.)
  • Joshua never had children, and one can read "Uv'nei Yerushalaym" (which means "Rebuild Jerusalem") as "And the children of Jerusalem," which would exclude him.
  • David not only had none of these lacks, but his son Solomon built the Temple, fulfilling both senses of "Uv'nei Yerushalayim"

The verse cited above is preceded by "How can I thank God for all the complete wonderfulness upon me?" David was the only one of these, says the Maharsha, who could thank God for all the complete wonders in the betching, and therefore, "The cup of salvation I (David) shall raise, and the Name of God I (David) will call upon."

But R' Grossman didn't explain Abraham's deficiency. Any thoughts?

rhu: (Default)

On Pesachim 119b, there's an interesting discussion of who will lead the bentching (the blessing after the meal) at the feast when Moshiach (the Messiah) arrives. The honor is first offered to Abraham, who declines because only one of his sons stayed Jewish; then Isaac (ditto); then Jacob, who declines because he married two sisters (which would later be prohibited by Torah law); then Moshe, who declines because he didn't merit to enter Israel even after his death; then Joshua, who declines because he had no children; and finally it is offered to David, who accepts because (says the Talmud) this proves the verse from Psalms (which are ascribed to David): "The cup of salvation shall I raise, and the Name of God I will call upon." (The leader of bentching at a major feast holds a cup of wine during the blessings.)

Rabbi Grossman, who was filling in for Rabbi Elefant on the OU Podcast for that day, brought in a fascinating gloss by the Maharsha: each person who declined did so because the problem that is listed explicitly in the Talmud is a chisaron (deficiency) in one of the areas that we thank God for in the bentching:

  • Isaac's covenant is described in the Torah as "b'Yitzchak," which is homiletically expounded as "Since Esau left the covenant, the covenant was only 'in' part of Isaac but wasn't complete with him."
  • Jacob's lack was, as explained above, in "the Torah that You teach us."
  • Moses never entered the land, which is the subject of the second blessing. (So even though Moses is credited with writing the first blessing when the manna fell, he'd have to stop there.)
  • Joshua never had children, and one can read "Uv'nei Yerushalaym" (which means "Rebuild Jerusalem") as "And the children of Jerusalem," which would exclude him.
  • David not only had none of these lacks, but his son Solomon built the Temple, fulfilling both senses of "Uv'nei Yerushalayim"

The verse cited above is preceded by "How can I thank God for all the complete wonderfulness upon me?" David was the only one of these, says the Maharsha, who could thank God for all the complete wonders in the betching, and therefore, "The cup of salvation I (David) shall raise, and the Name of God I (David) will call upon."

But R' Grossman didn't explain Abraham's deficiency. Any thoughts?

rhu: (Default)
(I'm about two weeks behind on Daf Yomi, so this is inspired by Pesachim 66.)

The Talmud questions whether one may bring the korban Pesach (the Paschal lamb sacrifice) when erev Pesach falls on Shabbat. The conclusion is yes, because the Torah specifically says to bring this sacrifice on this day, even though there's a concern that someone may carry his korban meat home outside the eruv to eat it that night at his seder.

Yet the Torah also specifically says to blow shofar on Rosh ha-Shanah, and the rabbis added a "fence law" to prohibit that when Rosh ha-Shanah falls on Shabbat. Same for waving the arba minim on Sukkot. (Those rabbinic prohibitions didn't apply in the Temple because there were enough knowledgeable people there that inadvertent Shabbat violations wouldn't happen.)

You could argue that there is no difference, that the rabbis only prohibited shofar and lulav outside the Temple, and the korban Pesach by definition is always prohibited outside the Temple. But the reason that the Talmud gives differs in these two cases: the permissibility of the korban is based on "We can't prohibit what the Torah mandates" and the prohibition/permissibility of the others is based on "We can prohibit what the Torah mandates, and we will for shofar and lulav, but in one particular sub-case we don't find it necessary."
rhu: (Default)
(I'm about two weeks behind on Daf Yomi, so this is inspired by Pesachim 66.)

The Talmud questions whether one may bring the korban Pesach (the Paschal lamb sacrifice) when erev Pesach falls on Shabbat. The conclusion is yes, because the Torah specifically says to bring this sacrifice on this day, even though there's a concern that someone may carry his korban meat home outside the eruv to eat it that night at his seder.

Yet the Torah also specifically says to blow shofar on Rosh ha-Shanah, and the rabbis added a "fence law" to prohibit that when Rosh ha-Shanah falls on Shabbat. Same for waving the arba minim on Sukkot. (Those rabbinic prohibitions didn't apply in the Temple because there were enough knowledgeable people there that inadvertent Shabbat violations wouldn't happen.)

You could argue that there is no difference, that the rabbis only prohibited shofar and lulav outside the Temple, and the korban Pesach by definition is always prohibited outside the Temple. But the reason that the Talmud gives differs in these two cases: the permissibility of the korban is based on "We can't prohibit what the Torah mandates" and the prohibition/permissibility of the others is based on "We can prohibit what the Torah mandates, and we will for shofar and lulav, but in one particular sub-case we don't find it necessary."
rhu: (Default)
Daf Yomi has been covering the prohibitions regarding possession of chametz during Passover. I have a meta-observation to make.

Both here and in the laws of eruvin the pattern seems to be that the Torah establishes some basic laws, the early Rabbis enacted a system around the Torah requirements to (a) create a "fence" (or buffer zone) so that one would avoid accidentally violating a Torah law, (b) clarify cases where the Torah law might be ambiguous, or (c) enact other requirements that they deemed important for the greater good of the community.

Now here we are, 2,000 years later, and most of us are not sages, and we receive a largely undifferentiated corpus of laws and traditions. And then there are what look like legal fictions but were actually built into the original code. A few examples )

I'd analogize to leap years: The rule for adding a bissextile day under the Gregorian calendar has many levels of exceptions built in. ) And many people got confused six years ago because they had never learned all the levels of the original rule. (And even the Catholic church moved bissextile day from Feb. 24 to the 29th. sigh.)

It's not like the law had originally been simple and absolute and we're somehow "cheating," or cutting corners. The law started out complex, but for most of us today (a) we've lost the distinction between Torah law, Rabbinic law, and custom, and (b) we aren't presented with the full complexity of the law, so certain practices that make life easier are considered to be "legal fictions" at best or "infractions" at worst, rather than as legitimate expressions of how the law was supposed to work in the first place.
rhu: (Default)
Daf Yomi has been covering the prohibitions regarding possession of chametz during Passover. I have a meta-observation to make.

Both here and in the laws of eruvin the pattern seems to be that the Torah establishes some basic laws, the early Rabbis enacted a system around the Torah requirements to (a) create a "fence" (or buffer zone) so that one would avoid accidentally violating a Torah law, (b) clarify cases where the Torah law might be ambiguous, or (c) enact other requirements that they deemed important for the greater good of the community.

Now here we are, 2,000 years later, and most of us are not sages, and we receive a largely undifferentiated corpus of laws and traditions. And then there are what look like legal fictions but were actually built into the original code. A few examples )

I'd analogize to leap years: The rule for adding a bissextile day under the Gregorian calendar has many levels of exceptions built in. ) And many people got confused six years ago because they had never learned all the levels of the original rule. (And even the Catholic church moved bissextile day from Feb. 24 to the 29th. sigh.)

It's not like the law had originally been simple and absolute and we're somehow "cheating," or cutting corners. The law started out complex, but for most of us today (a) we've lost the distinction between Torah law, Rabbinic law, and custom, and (b) we aren't presented with the full complexity of the law, so certain practices that make life easier are considered to be "legal fictions" at best or "infractions" at worst, rather than as legitimate expressions of how the law was supposed to work in the first place.

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Andrew M. Greene

January 2013

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