Nov 292017

While there are 613 mitzvot in the Torah, David and some of the prophets narrowed it down to a smaller list of the most basic mitzvot.   Why were these specific ones chosen, most of them people justice and righteousness and involving relations between people and not God?  The masechet ends with the famous story of Rabib Akiva laughing when seeing a fox running out of the kodesh kodashim after the destruction of the temple, while his friends were crying.   Why is this how the gemara chose to end masechet makkot?

May 212017

In today’s daf the daughters of Tzlofchad are praised for their intelligence and for their ability to interpret texts (and their righteousness that they didn’t marry until age 40 – they waited until they found men who were worthy).  They weren’t afraid to stand up before the people and demand what they thought was rightfully theirs.  And as a result, they were respected and received what was rightfully theirs.  The Oral Torah, with the Gemara at its center, belongs to both men and women and should be taught and interpreted by both men and women to men and women.

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Nov 222016

While the various categories are excluded from laws of exploitation, does this mean that it is only at the halachic level of explioitation (1/6) or would it also apply if one exploited another to a higher degree (bitul mekach – where we generally say the sale is cancelled)?  Various answers are given.  One of the answers passed down in the name of Rabbi Yochanan seems to contradict soemthing he holds elsewhere.  Various answers are provided.  Derivations for the exclusions of these categories in the other laws in the mishna (double payment, laws of shomrim) are brought.

Dec 072015

More statements about the damaging nature of flattery. The new chapter deals with the kohen who gives a speech to the people before going out to war both to exempt certain people from war as well as to encourage those who are going not to be fearful because God is with them.  From here the mishna (and the gemara in turn) sidetracks to Goliath and extrapolates the verses about him and David’s fight against him.