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|Thursday, April 17th, 2014|
Beitzah 7 – A hen and an egg
Let us start with a rule: any creature whose mating occurs during the day (like a chicken) gives birth during the day; one whose mating is at night (a bat) gives birth at night, and people and other similar creatures, who mate both by night and by day – they give birth both at night and during the day.
What practical lesson does this teach? The following: if one checked his coup before the Holiday (Yom Tov) and there were no eggs, and then he checked early in the morning and found an egg, he can eat that egg, because he can be assured that the hen laid it during the day – just that he missed it. But what if he checked really well? - Perhaps the egg came out only partially, and then went back – but it is still considered laid the day before the Holiday and is therefore permitted.
What about Rabbi Yose who says that the egg in such a situation is forbidden? – Rabbi Yose is talking about the egg that was not fertilized by a rooster, and which the hen laid by warming itself against the ground. But if the rooster is present – the hen will not do that and will wait for the rooster instead, so we can be sure that the egg is laid by day and consequently eat it.
How far can the rooster be? – Even sixty houses away, as long as the hen hears its crowing in the morning. However, if there is a river, the rooster will not cross, but if there is a bridge – he will. But not a bridge made out of rope. And yet, there was a incident when the rooster crossed the river over the bridge made of rope.
Art: Rooster with Hens and Chicks By Carl Jutz
|Wednesday, April 9th, 2014|
Beitzah 6 – A chick
Having discussed an egg laid on a Holiday (Yom Tov), the Talmud turns to a chick that hatched on a Holiday. What is its status, can it be eaten? We have two opinions. One is that it is muktzeh (set aside) – since before it hatched, it was not fit for any use. The other opinion is that it is permitted: if one were to slaughter it, it would become permitted as food – and this permission removes the prohibition of muktzeh.
But why would it be muktzeh? We know that a calf born on a Yom Tov can definitely be eaten, so what is the difference between it and and egg? – The answer would be that the calf was permitted even while inside of its mother – if one slaughtered the mother. This logic obviously does not apply to the chick.
There is also the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yakov, who says that the chick is prohibited even on a weekday – all the time that it has not opened its eyes. This is because before this time it is not properly a bird but a creepy-crawly, and is prohibited together with other “things that creep upon the earth
Art: The Proud Mother Hen and Chicks by John Frederick Herring Snr
|Sunday, April 6th, 2014|
Beitzah 5 – Why do we observe two days of Yom Tov?
Even though the appearance of the moon, and hence the beginning of the new month, was calculated by Sanhedrin, they would not announce it until witnesses testified that they saw the new moon. Once the official day beginning the month was known, all Holidays: Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, etc., were set.
The Jews in Diaspora, starting with Babylon, had to wait until the messengers of the Court would arrive and tell them about the new moon, and since it often took quite long, they celebrated two days of Holidays (Yom Tov), out of doubt. Only one day of the two was the real Holiday. Therefore, an egg laid on the first day was always permitted on the second. Here is why. Either the first day was a real Holiday, and then the second was a weekday, or the first was a weekday – and the egg laid then was permitted on the second day.
If so, then after the calendar was fixed by Hillel, the last Prince, in about eighth century – why do people still celebrate two days of Yom Tov? – Because the Sages living in the Land of Israel urged everybody to keep the custom. The fear was that some new government may forbid the study of Torah, the Sages of the Diaspora would forget how to calculate the calendar, and as a result eat leavened bread on Passover.
It could be though that on Rosh HaShana this reasoning about the egg does not apply, because of a series of complicated logical derivations.
Art: Moonrise over the Sea By Caspar David Friedrich
Beitzah 4 – And Beit Shammai was lenient
Rabbi Eliezer was the student of Beit Shammai, and he quoted the following opinion about the egg laid on a Holiday: it is permitted to it, and even its mother hen.
Now let's analyze this. If the hen is kept for food – then of course it is permitted, and Rabbi Eliezer is not telling us anything new. And if it is kept for laying eggs, then it should be forbidden!? – We are dealing with a special situation where someone bought a hen and did not tell us why he bought it. If later we see that he takes that hen to slaughter, we know that both the hen and the egg were designated for food. However, this explanation leads us to the analysis of the idea of retroactive designation, so let's try another one.
Another explanation of Rabbi Eliezer's statement is that it is simply an “exaggeration,” or special emphasis. He just wanted to emphasize that the egg can be eaten, so he included even the mother hen and said, “Everything can be eaten!” – even though the second part of the statement is obvious. He did say something similar on another occasion: “The egg may be eaten, and its mother, and the chick, and its shell.” Obviously, the shell is not edible. And if you want to say that he meant, “Chick in a shell” - that nobody allows. We see then, that it was said just to make the point.
Art: Two hens by (after) Adriaen Van Utrecht
|Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014|
Beitzah 3 – More takes on the egg
Still trying to explain why an egg laid on a Holiday (Yom Tov) should not be eaten, Rabbah says that we need to think of when has this egg completed its growth while inside the hen. This happened on the day before. What if that day was Shabbat? Then we have food being prepared on Shabbat for consumption on a Holiday , and that is forbidden. Why? Because the Torah said, “On Friday they will prepare
” – that is, only weekday can prepare for Shabbat or Yom Tov, but food cannot be prepared for Yom Tom on Shabbat, even inside the hen. They asked Rabbah, “Shabbat and Yom Tov do not always occur on consecutive days, so the egg should be permitted then!” He answered that the Sages prohibited this in all situations, because sometimes Shabbat and Yom Tov do fall out on consecutive days.
Rav Yosef said that the egg is forbidden because it is similar to fruit falling from a tree – which are forbidden. But, we may ask, the fruit are only forbidden because we want to stop the people from climbing trees and harvesting the fruit, so that itself is a stringency, why do we need another one on top of it? He answered that the Sages prohibited the fruit falling from a tree and the egg laid on a Yom Tom in one fell swoop.
Rav Yitzchak said that the egg is similar to juice flowing from a fruit. They asked him the same question as above: juice is forbidden only because one might come to squeeze it out himself, so that itself is a stringency, and you are adding another stringency on top of it! He gave a similar answer, that it is all part of one decree.
Now we have four possible explanations for the egg, and the Talmud discussed why each of the proponents does not accept the explanation of the others.
Art: Still Life with Fruit, Bird's Nest and Broken Egg By George Forster
|Tuesday, April 1st, 2014|
Beitzah 2 – An egg
If an egg was laid on a holiday (Yom Tov), Beit Shammai say that it can be eaten, but Beit Hillel prohibit it. Since one can cook food on a Yom Tov, he won't have to eat the egg raw, but can make a dish.
How are we to understand this argument? If the hen that laid the egg is designated for food, then the egg is part of it and is considered food; how could Beit Hillel prohibit it? And if that hen is kept only for laying eggs, then the egg was not designated for use before the Yom Tov and is therefore “muktzeh”, an item that cannot be handled, much less eaten!
Rav Nachman ventured this explanation: Beit Shammai do not accept the whole concept of mukzeh. Moreover, the don't even accept a prohibition of “newly created,” or “nolad” - something that was not here at all, and appeared just now, on a Yom Tov. Therefore, there is not reason not to eat the egg. Beit Hillel, on the contrary, subscribe to both prohibitions.
That explanation is very strange though. Usually Beit Shammai is the strict one! How can they be more lenient? Moreover, the explanation is self-contradictory. In other places, in the laws of Shabbat, Beit Hillel are said to follow Rabbi Shimon (no mukzeh), and here, in the laws of Yom Tov, they follow Rabbi Yehudah (yes mukzeh)?
Actually, there is no problem. Who wrote down the rules (Mishna?) - this is Rabbi Yehudah the Prince. In the laws of Shabbat, when cooking is not allowed and people are naturally more careful, he formulated the rules leniently. But in the laws of Yom Tov, where cooking is allowed and people may extend the permissions even further, he formulated the rules more stringently.
Art: Still Life With Bread And Eggs By Paul Cezanne
Sukkah 56 – A good neighbor
The Bread of Vision was placed inside the Sanctuary on Saturday, and after a week of staying there was divided between the Kohanim serving in the Temple – between the two groups serving that week, one that was incoming and another that was outgoing.
However, on the three holidays: Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, all Kohanim were permitted to serve in the Temple, not just the two groups, and then the bread of vision was divided equally. Even when a Holiday does not actually occur on Shabbat but is adjacent to it, the bread was still divided equally – since all the Kohanim who assembled for the holidays were still there on Shabbat.
The northern part of the Temple courtyard was more special, since many services were performed there. The Kohanim who were incoming were dividing and eating the Bread of Vision there, to symbolize that they were dedicating themselves to the services for the coming week; those outgoing ate the bread in the south, where no services were usually performed. However, the family of Bilga always divided their bread in the south. Why?
One of the daughters in this family married a Greek general, and when the Greeks subsequently entered the Temple, she was beating the Altar with her shoe, saying, “Wolf! Wolf! You are consuming Jewish money yet you don't protect them in hard times.” The Sages punished her family. But why the whole family? – She must have heard it from the family.
Alternatively, there is a rule: woe to the bad person, and woe to his neighbor. On the bright side, there is also a rule: “Blessing to a good man, and blessing to his neighbor”. The Talmud finds a phrase in Isaiah to support this.
Art: Bread and a coffeepot By Frans Meerts
|Sunday, March 23rd, 2014|
Sukkah 41 – Remembering the Temple and building it again
The Sukkot bunch is taken and waved on the first day of Sukkot only, but in the Temple it is done all seven days. The Torah said, “on Sukkot take the bunch and rejoice for seven days before God" - that is, do it once, but in the Temple - all seven days. After the Temple was destroyed, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai decreed to take the bunch all seven days, to remember how it was done in the Temple.
What is the source for the idea to remember the Temple? – Since Jeremiah said, “This is Zion, nobody is looking for it,” we see that there is a mitzvah to look for and remember the Temple.
He also decreed to keep the Temple in mind on the day after Passover, when the Omer offering used to be brought. This offering permits newly grown wheat to be eaten
. The confusion may arise on the year when the Temple is built, and to prevent it, Rabbi Yochanan delayed the eating of the new grain for one day.
However, how can the confusion arise at all? If the Temple is built after the 16th of Nissan, then the new wheat is already permitted. And even if it is built before, the new grain should be allowed right after midday, because if the Temple stands, then they would bring the Omer already.
The answer is that the Temple may be built at night on the sixteenth, or just before sundown on the fifteenth. But this time is either night or a holiday, and one cannot build the Temple at these times!? – True, but this applies only to the first two Temples, whereas the third one will come down miraculously from Heaven, following the verse, “The Sanctuary, my God, that Your hands established
.” Others explain this differently.
Art: The Wheat Field by Claude Oscar Monet
|Friday, March 21st, 2014|
Sukkah 40 – What is the difference between the palm branch and a citron?
Our last rule said that the etrog (citron) is a fruit, and is subject to the laws of the Shmitah year, but that lulav (palm branch) did not have this problem. Buy why? If etrog is subject to Shmitah, so should be the lulav! Well, lulav did not begin growing in the fifteen days between Rosh HaShanah and Sukkot, when Shmitah really started. But then the same can be said about the etrog! – No, the difference is that for palm tree its Shmitah starts when it is planted – which is before Shmitah, but for etrog – at the time of picking it, which is on Shmitah.
The last explanation may work, but it seems artificial. Why do we even need to use it? The difference is simpler: citron is food, and palm branches are not. So the laws of Shmitah apply to one but not to the other. Actually, this is not so obvious. The laws of Shmitah are defined as “for you it will be for food.” This includes foods, but it also includes anything that is for you, that is anything at all. How do we reconcile this? – We include anything like food. Just like with food, the act of destroying it and the act of enjoying it comes at the same time, so for example ointments are also included. But palm branches are excluded, because we burn them now, and use their hot coals for cooking later.
Art: Still Life With Lemons On A Plate by Vincent Van Gogh
Sukkah 39 – Sukkot on the seventh year
When one buys a Sukkot bunch from his fellow on the seventh year (Sabbatical, or Shmitah), then – since the etrog that he is buying is fruit, and fruit should be treated with special care on the Shmitah year – he should only pay for the lulav, the palm branch, and ask for the etrog to be given to him as present. Why? – his fellow may not be all that knowledgeable in the laws of Shmitah.
What if the fellow does not want to give him the etrog as a present? – Then he should include the price of it in the price of the lulav branch. Some say that the price should be high enough so that his fellow does not mind, and can verbalize that he is giving a present. Others – that it is enough for the buyer to have it in mind.
But why go through all these machinations, let him give the fellow the money outright!? – As we mentioned, the fellow might use the money to buy non-kosher foods or non-food items, and be unaware that this is the wrong use of the Shmitah money.
Art: Branch Of Lemons by Claude Oscar Monet
|Monday, March 17th, 2014|
Sukkah 38 – You can do it all day
The actual mitzvah to be performed with the Sukkot bunch
is to “take it,” and that is why the blessing is “...Who commanded us to take the lulav” – with the lulav (palm branch) being the highest of the rest. However, the Sages added the requirement to also wave the bunch, in all the directions of the world and up and down. This is to show that one is doing it for the sake of the One to whom all directions of the world, as well as heavens and earth, belong. Another explanation: to protect from harmful winds on all sides, which shows that even the non-essential parts of a mitzvah (such as waving, which is not obligatory) has the power to stop bad things from occurring.
If one was traveling on the road and did not have the lulav, he can wave it when he comes home, at the table – since he can take the lulav all day. The waving of the lulal is done while reciting the praises and of God and gratitude, called Hallel. One should preferably say the Hallel himself, but if he does not know, then others, even if they are not obligated, can recite it for him, and he will answer “Amen!” He deserves a curse though, for he should have learned it himself.
Art: Old Woman Waving a Stick at a Boy By George Morland
|Sunday, March 16th, 2014|
Sukkah 37 – Tying it all together
It is good to tie the bunch of Sukkot branches
together. Rabbi Yehudah even considers this a necessary requirement: the branches must be bound together. Thus, the material you use to tie it together is part of the mitzvah, and if so, it must be one of the same four species that you are tying – otherwise you are adding to a mitzvah and taking together five species, and not four, and the Torah said, “Do not add to the mitzvot or subtract from them.”
However, Rabbi Meir says that the binding is not strictly required; thus, it is not a mitzvah, and can be of any material. In fact, the important people of Jerusalem were using golden threads. What does Rabbi Yehudah answer? That the gold was on top of the branches, for beautification, but the real binding was done with one of the four species, most likely a luval leaf.
Similarly, Rabbi Yehudah permits to make sukkah only out of the same four species. His logic? Here it is: sukkah is more stringent than the lulav bunch, since it applies both by day and by night, whereas lulav – only by day. Therefore, if the lulav bunch can have only on of the four species, then certainly the sukkah must be made of the same materials. And what did the Sages answer? That this logic, seemingly strict, is in fact lenient, and thus does not apply. For, if he does not have the right materials, he can ignore the sukkah and go live at home – which is an unacceptable lenience; thus, the logic is incorrect.
Art: Branches with Almond Blossom By Vincent Van Gogh
Sukkah 36 – Etrog must be beautiful
Etrog must be especially beautiful, since Torah called it “fruit of a glorious tree.” Thus, for example, if it was split or punctured, so that it misses a slight piece, it is invalid. However, if it was punctured with a needle but it is complete – it still looks good, and therefore it is valid.
Rava asked a related query: “What if is internal part has rotted away, similar to a rotting lung, would it be kosher?” On the one hand, the etrog looks good, and similar to a lung which has rotten in the internal tissues, it may still be valid. On the other hand, a lung is completely protected from the outside air, and thus does not rot further, but an etrog is open to elements, and it might deteriorate more. The Talmud tries to find a proof from the law of a spoiled etrog, but discards this attempt, because perhaps that spoiling was from the outside, and Rava is asking about the inside. The question thus remains unresolved.
If one grew an etrog in a mold, and now it does not have the regular etrog shape – it is invalid, because it is atypical. However, if the reshaped it, but the new shape is also characteristic of an etrog – then it is valid.
If mice punctured an etrog and made a hole in it, it is invalid. But Rav Chanina would dip his etrog, eat a piece, and then use it, and it was still valid!? - A mice bite is different, because it is repulsive to people, and this is not beautiful.
Art: Dormice By Archibald Thorburn
|Monday, March 10th, 2014|
Sukkah 35 – Etrog, or citron
Etrog (citron) is one of the species in the Sukkot bunch
. However, since it is special in that it has taste and smell, the requirements for it are more strict. For example, the laws of orlah (fruit that are not eaten for the first three years) apply to it, and thus an etrog in the first three years is invalid. Technically, this is because by law it will be burned, and thus is considered to have zero size even now.
If the etrog is the priest's portion (terumah) and is ritually impure – it is invalid, because one cannot eat it. If it is the priest's portion and it is pure – then one should not take it, so that he does not make it impure, but if he does – it is valid.
But how do we know that “etrog” is citron, in the first place? Since the Torah calls it “beautiful tree-fruit,” we understand that it comes from such special tree whose branches also have the taste of its fruit – and that is citron. But perhaps it is pepper? - No, that could not be: if you take just one pepper, it is too small. And if you take two or three – the Torah said to take one fruit, and not two or three. Thus it must be citron.
Art: Pepper And Lemon On A White Tablecloth By Odilon Redon
|Sunday, March 9th, 2014|
Sukkah 34 – The branches
On Sukkot one must take a bunch of branches – which includes the etrog (citron), a palm branch (lulav), two willow branches (aravot) and three myrtle branches (hadassim). One waves them in all six directions. The four types of branches or fruit have similar laws, but the teacher enumerates them separately because of some differences between them. One should preferably procure the best.
The willow branch – if it is stolen – is invalid. That is because the Torah said, “Take for yourself
,” which means – it should be yours, not stolen. If the willow branch is dried out, it is also invalid, because it is no longer beautiful.
If one cuts off a branch from a tree that was grown for worshiping it – this is invalid, because by law it should be burned, and therefore even now it is regarded as having zero dimensions, whereas a certain minimal size is required. However, if it only withered, or a portion of its leaves fell off, it remains valid.
Earlier we mentioned how many of each type is required. However, Rabbi Akiva has a different logic: just as citron and palm branch are one, so too willow and myrtle must also be one. What about the first teacher? – He derives the required numbers from the spelling of their names.
Art: Large Citron in a Landscape by Bartolommeo Bimbi
Sukkah 25 – Trees around your sukkah
If one made trees serve as walls of his sukkah, this is valid, and we don't say that perhaps the Sages decreed not to do this, out of concern that someone may use a tree on a holiday. They didn't.
However, Rav Acha bar Yakov stated a rule that any partition that moves is not a valid partition. What about our sukkah, which is surrounded by trees whose branches are always moving! - Rav Acha will answer that we don't know all the circumstances: the rule only applies if he has tied the tree branches with interwoven branches of palm trees. Thus, the permission that we had suddenly becomes very limited.
One who is busy with a mitzvah – such as traveling to study Torah, greet his teacher or redeem a Jewish captive – does not have to observe the mitzvah of sukkah. Why? – Since he is busy with one mitzvah, he should not abandon it in order to do another one. And how do we know this principle? – Since the Torah said, “When you sit in your home
.” This is said about reading the “Sh'ma” prayer, but it teaches us a general principle: one only has to do a mitzvah if he is “sitting in his home” and is not busy with another mitzvah. But maybe the Torah is talking about one who is sitting in his home and is already doing a mitzvah – which would then teach us precisely the opposite, namely, that one has to drop a mitzvah and do another one!? – No, the Torah said an extra word “your” home, to teach that you are busy only with your affairs. Quod erat demonstrandum.
Art: The Artist's House Through the Trees by John Henry Twachtman
|Thursday, March 6th, 2014|
Sukkah 24 – Should one be concerned with improbabilities?
In discussing the use of an animal for walls of a sukkah, Rabbi Yehudah allows it: as long as it serves as a partition, it is a valid wall. However, Rabbi Meir says that the Sages decreed not to do this. Why not? The animal may die, and in doing so, bring its height to less than ten handbreadths. One may not notice this and continue sitting in a sukkah that is not kosher. According to this, an elephant, which is high enough even in death, would make a valid partition.
But is it Rabbi Meir's way to be concerned with improbabilities? For example, if one buys wine that may not have been tithed, and needs to drink it on Shabbat, he can separate the tithe in his mind, and do it physically after Shabbat – and there Rabbi Meir is not concerned that the wine bag will break and leave him with no tithe! - He will answer that it is more likely for an animal to die than for a wine skin to break.
But is Rabbi Yehudah not concerned with the possibility of death? Why, on Yom Kippur he prepares another wife for the High Priest – lest his wife will die
! – He will answer that Yom Kippur is special.
So you are saying that you are concerned about the animal's death, but otherwise the animal could be a wall? If so, it is a utensil and can receive spiritual impurity. Why then does Rabbi Meir consider it pure even when used as a coffin cover? Because of this objection, we take away all of the previous discussion, and say that the real reason why an animal cannot be a wall is because in a sukkah Rabbi Meir requires walls made by man's hands.
Art: The Display of the Elephant by Pietro Longhi
|Wednesday, March 5th, 2014|
Sukkah 23 – Sukkah-mobile
If one makes his sukkah on top of a wagon – it is valid, since it is definitely only a temporary dwelling.
If he makes it on a ship, it is valid too. It once happened that Rabbi Akiva and Rabban Gamliel were traveling on a ship, and Rabbi Akiva made his sukkah on top of it. The following day a wind blew and toppled the sukkah. Said Rabban Gamliel, “Akiva, where is your sukkah now?” However, he was not taunting, rather, in Rabban Gamliel's view a sukkah on top of a ship is invalid. Why? – Because it cannot withstand the strong sea winds, and is thus as if non-existent. If so, what does Rabbi Akiva answer? – He says that if it could stand on land, that is enough permanence, and it is valid.
If he makes his sukkah on top of a tree – this is valid, but, since one cannot climb trees on holidays, one cannot go up into this sukkah on the first day of Sukkot, which is a Yom Tov.
If he makes a sukkah on top of a camel, between the camel's humps, it is valid, and here too he cannot go up into this sukkah on the holidays. Some say that the sukkah should be equally usable for all seven days of Sukkot and, since here he cannot use it on the first day, it is invalid for the rest. The Talmud continues with discussions of when live animals can be used for walls or coverings, or even for writing a Get
on them, and what the problems with this might be.
Art: The Storm at Sea with Shipwreck By Jan The Elder Brueghel
Sukkah 22 – Little s'chach, much s'chach
A sukkah that has a meager covering (s'chach), just enough to have more shade than sun, is nevertheless kosher. Some say that by “meager” we mean that the s'chach is on two levels, even beams lower and odd beams higher. This is valid because we apply the principle of “throw down” and regard the upper s'chach as being on the level with the lower one. This is similar to the “edge of the roof coming down
,” only called by a different name here.
On the other extreme, if a sukkah is covered with too much s'chach, so that the stars cannot be seen through it at night, it is not ideal, but is still valid. In fact, even if the s'chach keeps out the rays of the sun in the daytime, it is also valid, albeit only according to Beit Hillel.
Art: Starry Night Over The Rhone By Vincent Van Gogh
|Monday, March 3rd, 2014|
Sukkah 21 – Under the bed in a sukkah
Earlier we said
that being under the bed in a sukkah is not considered fulfilling the mitzvah of sukkah, and quoted a precedent for this. But why not? Usually a bed is lower than ten handbreadths, it is not considered as a roof to shield us from the roof of the sukkah and should be nullified! – You are right, this is correct: in the case of a low bed there is no argument, one can sleep under it. However, the teacher was talking about a tall bed.
And yet, Rabbi Yehudah quotes a precedent that goes in the opposite direction. He says, “We were sleeping under the bed in a sukkah in the presence of the Sages, and they did not say anything.” Now we need to explain Rabbi Yehudah's point of view. Rabbi Yehudah will say that even though the bed looks like a tent, it is made to lie upon it, not to hide underneath it, and thus it does not qualify as a regular tent with a roof, regardless of geometry. Alternatively, the explanation may be that according to Rabbi Yehudah own's opinion
, sukkah has to be a permanent steady dwelling. A bed, which is movable, is only a temporary shelter, so the steady roof of a sukkah is considered proper roof, while the bed is not, and we can ignore it.
Art: The Bedroom by Marius Borgeaud