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December 27, 2014 / 5 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Mishnah’

Talmud Takes to Jewish.tv

Friday, August 9th, 2013

A class on Talmudic ethics in Vancouver, B.C., praised by regulars, is going virtual in a new series on Jewish.tv, the multimedia portal of the Judaism website Chabad.org.

In the hour-long class, Rabbi Binyomin Bitton, director of Chabad of Downtown Vancouver and dean of the Jewish Academy there, dissects a complex Talmudic narrative and shows how it remains applicable in day-to-day life.

“The class starts at the literal level, then goes deeper and deeper,” says Susan Katz, a freelance writer and regular attendee of the “Talmud for Beginners” class. The class then discusses everyday situations and learns how to apply the Talmud and the thought processes behind it, says Katz.

Bitton’s calming demeanor and slightly French-accented voice set the tone to delve into daily life scenarios as they were seen by the Talmudic sages thousands of years ago. “Talmudic logic, principles, debates and discussions,” he explains, “help you analyze situations and issues from many angles, to come up with creative logical solutions to complex issues and conflicts, and help you to think ‘out of the box’ and discover that there is always another perspective to the matter.”

The crux of the Talmud is a commentary on the Mishnah. Written around the year 165 of the Common Era, the Mishnah was the first codification of Jewish “oral law” as handed down from generation to generation, from the times of Moses and the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. It took more than 200 years to write the Talmud, beginning around the year 220.

The Talmud, Bitton says to his class, is based on explaining the minute details of the Mishnah and its wording: “The Talmud is telling us that every word of the Mishnah is so precise and is chosen very carefully to tell us something.”

The first in the series of four classes will focus on “Liability for Damage.” It airs on Thursday, Aug. 8, at 7 p.m. EST, with subsequent lessons airing on Thursdays at the same hour. They also can be viewed afterwards at any time of the day on Jewish.tv.

Diving Into the Nitty-Gritty

“Rabbi Bitton zeroes in on a specific subject and presents it in an easy-to-understand and well-illustrated fashion,” says Rabbi Shmuel Lifshitz, director of Jewish.tv. “He skillfully helps the student to think ‘Talmudically’ and to gain the tools for studying Talmud.”

The first class examines the ramifications of what transpires when an object for sale is included in a certain category of goods. For example, what happens when an object that was purchased turns out to be different than described? What if someone had used the Hebrew word for “barrel,” and the item was indeed more like a “pitcher”?

The class discusses that while most people would, of course, understand it to be a barrel and nothing else, some may believe it to be a pitcher. Is such a sale valid or not? And does one take into account what the seller thought, based on an innate understanding of an item or a difference in terminology?

“The class gives me a way to take a situation with many possibilities and helps me narrow it down to look at a situation,” says Katz.

She explains that in life, multiple people share responsibility for a particular situation. For example, “if someone leaves a piece of pottery on the sidewalk and I break it,” is the fault of the one who placed it there or the one who stepped on it?

“The Talmud gives me the understanding of how to resolve the situation. It goes beyond civil law because there is also a sense of purpose, and it affirms the place of kindness and looking at a person as a person, and the ramifications it will have in their life. It teaches us how to relate to each other and how to take the other person into the equation, too.”

The debate around the table in Vancouver tries to probe the attendees to come up with their own logical responses. Says Bitton: “There is a depth and intellectual level that is unique within the Talmud. It challenges the mind like no other wisdom, and gives the individual a sentiment of intellectual achievement and appreciation that only the Talmud can give.”

Crossing Borders: Masterpieces from the Bodleian Library

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Jewish Museum: 1109 Fifth Avenue @ 92nd Street www.thejewishmuseum.org – 212 423 3200 Until February 3, 2013

In the eyes of the ram lies the artist’s commentary on the Rosh Hashanah piyyut “The King Girded with Strength.” From the Tripartite Mahzor (German 14th century), this illumination simultaneously echoes the piyyut’s praise of God’s awesome power and expresses the terror of actually being a sacrifice to God. The ram is but a reflection of Isaac. It is all in the eyes.

Nearby another German Mahzor (14th century) is open to the same piyyut,here illuminated in a simpler manner: Isaac is on the altar ready to be slaughtered, Abraham heeds the angel and a collection of medieval grotesques, animals and men react to the horrible event. God’s strength is reflected in the ability to summon obedience to a deadly command.

Mahzor (14th century) “King Girded with Might”
Courtesy Bodleian Library & Jewish Museum

Two very different interpretations of the same piyyut probably created within decades of one another. And are both shown at the Jewish Museum’s “Crossing Borders,” an exhibition of medieval manuscripts from the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. This extraordinary exhibition presents the vibrant cross-cultural influences in the creation of medieval Hebrew manuscripts in the context of both Christian and Islamic cultural production. Additionally it explores the fascinating relationship between text and image in illuminated manuscripts.

The exhibition opens with three radically different manuscripts. A Hebrew Bible from Tudela (or Soria), Spain by artist and scribe Joshua ibn Gaon of Soria, (c.1300) displays the overwhelming Islamic decorative influence in Spain at the time. The facing carpet pages brilliantly shows interlocking abstract designs, one framed by a textual border, the other a heavy gold-leaf frame.

Michael Mahzor (1258) piyyut for Shabbos Shekalim
Courtesy Bodleian Library & Jewish Museum

Next is the earliest known dated and illustrated Mahzor (1257-1258) from Germany open to the page with the special piyyut for Shabbos Shekalim. The initial word panel is illuminated with an intriguing stag hunt scene featuring the two hunters whose helmets cover their faces. This sensitivity about depicting the human face is seen throughout this Mahzor and likely reflects a lingering concern over the second commandment that flourished in southern Germany in the 1230’s. But most surprisingly is the fact that the whole charming scene is depicted upside down! One reason given in the original catalogue essay by Eva Frojmovic for this singular depiction has been attributed to a Christian artist’s mistake, being unable to read the Hebrew text, and assumed it worked better upside down with the image centered at the bottom of the page. The curator of the Jewish Museum installation, Claudia Nahson, more plausibly explains that this upside down scene may be a reflection of the piyyut being recited right before Purim, when everything is “turned upside down,” especially in the narrative of the oppressed and hunted Jews.

Finally, the “Even HaEzer” (1438) from the Arba’ah Turim of Jacob ben Asher (the Tur) reveals sumptuous early Italian Renaissance manuscript illuminations. Gold leaf abounds amid peacocks, exotic birds and fantastic creatures surround the text “It is not good for man to be alone…” echoing the depiction of the creation of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Adam lies asleep as a winged Creator, complete with halo, kneels next to him, about to extract Eve from his side. On the right we see Adam and Eve poised before the forbidden tree and the tempting snake. The extremely unusual depiction of the Deity in a Hebrew manuscript reflects the highly acculturated nature of the Italian Jewish community almost certainly working with a Christian artist.

In these intriguing examples one can treat the visual as decorative and incidental to the text, thereby discounting the inherent and potentially disruptive meaning of the images. Or one can attempt to integrate image and text and see them in a creative relationship, effectively arriving at a new meaning of both text and image. Considering the enormous cost of illuminating manuscripts, the competition with surrounding non-Jewish elites, and the fact that manuscripts with such subversive images continued to be prized and used, I cannot believe for a moment such images were anything but intentional.

Crossing Borders: Masterpieces from the Bodleian Library

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Jewish Museum: 1109 Fifth Avenue @ 92nd Street
www.thejewishmuseum.org – 212 423 3200
Until February 3, 2013

In the eyes of the ram lies the artist’s commentary on the Rosh Hashanah piyyut “The King Girded with Strength.” From the Tripartite Mahzor (German 14th century), this illumination simultaneously echoes the piyyut’spraise of God’s awesome power and expresses the terror of actually being a sacrifice to God. The ram is but a reflection of Isaac. It is all in the eyes.

Mahzor (14th century) “King Girded with Might”
Courtesy Bodleian Library & Jewish Museum

Nearby another German Mahzor (14th century) is open to the same piyyut, here illuminated in a simpler manner: Isaac is on the altar ready to be slaughtered, Abraham heeds the angel and a collection of medieval grotesques, animals and men react to the horrible event. God’s strength is reflected in the ability to summon obedience to a deadly command.

Two very different interpretations of the same piyyut probably created within decades of one another. And are both shown at the Jewish Museum’s “Crossing Borders,” an exhibition of medieval manuscripts from the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. This extraordinary exhibition presents the vibrant cross-cultural influences in the creation of medieval Hebrew manuscripts in the context of both Christian and Islamic cultural production. Additionally it explores the fascinating relationship between text and image in illuminated manuscripts.

The exhibition opens with three radically different manuscripts. A Hebrew Bible from Tudela (or Soria), Spain by artist and scribe Joshua ibn Gaon of Soria, (c.1300) displays the overwhelming Islamic decorative influence in Spain at the time. The facing carpet pages brilliantly shows interlocking abstract designs, one framed by a textual border, the other a heavy gold-leaf frame.

Michael Mahzor (1258) piyyut for Shabbos Shekalim
Courtesy Bodleian Library & Jewish Museum

Next is the earliest known dated and illustrated Mahzor (1257-1258) from Germany open to the page with the special piyyut for Shabbos Shekalim. The initial word panel is illuminated with an intriguing stag hunt scene featuring the two hunters whose helmets cover their faces. This sensitivity about depicting the human face is seen throughout this Mahzor and likely reflects a lingering concern over the second commandment that flourished in southern Germany in the 1230’s. But most surprisingly is the fact that the whole charming scene is depicted upside down! One reason given in the original catalogue essay by Eva Frojmovic for this singular depiction has been attributed to a Christian artist’s mistake, being unable to read the Hebrew text, and assumed it worked better upside down with the image centered at the bottom of the page. The curator of the Jewish Museum installation, Claudia Nahson, more plausibly explains that this upside down scene may be a reflection of the piyyut being recited right before Purim, when everything is “turned upside down,” especially in the narrative of the oppressed and hunted Jews.

Finally, the “Even HaEzer” (1438) from the Arba’ah Turim of Jacob ben Asher (the Tur) reveals sumptuous early Italian Renaissance manuscript illuminations. Gold leaf abounds amid peacocks, exotic birds and fantastic creatures surround the text “It is not good for man to be alone…” echoing the depiction of the creation of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Adam lies asleep as a winged Creator, complete with halo, kneels next to him, about to extract Eve from his side. On the right we see Adam and Eve poised before the forbidden tree and the tempting snake. The extremely unusual depiction of the Deity in a Hebrew manuscript reflects the highly acculturated nature of the Italian Jewish community almost certainly working with a Christian artist.

In these intriguing examples one can treat the visual as decorative and incidental to the text, thereby discounting the inherent and potentially disruptive meaning of the images. Or one can attempt to integrate image and text and see them in a creative relationship, effectively arriving at a new meaning of both text and image. Considering the enormous cost of illuminating manuscripts, the competition with surrounding non-Jewish elites, and the fact that manuscripts with such subversive images continued to be prized and used, I cannot believe for a moment such images were anything but intentional.

Tzippori

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Midrash Berashis Rabbah says that on the day that Rabi Akiva gave up his soul al Kiddush Hashem, Reb Yehudah HaNasi was born. A seven-generation descendent of Hillel HaZaken, Rebbe was the son of Rabban Shimon ben Gamlial, and of the royal line of Dovid HaMelech. Known as Rebbe and Rabbeinu Hakadosh, he was a key leader of the Jewish community of Judea, during the occupation by the Roman Empire, toward the end of the 2nd century CE. He was the greatest of the fifth generation of Tanaim. Rebbi was a talmid of the five main students of Rabi Akiva. He is best known as the compiler of the Mishnah. Reb Yehudah haNasi passed away on 15 Kislev 3950 (190 CE).

The Gemara in Kesubos (104a) relates that before he died he lifted his ten fingers towards the heavens and declared he had not even enjoyed even a little finger of this world. (This was so even though he was very wealthy and greatly revered in Rome and had a close friendship with “Antoninus”, possibly the Emperor Antoninus Pius who is still famed for his philosophic work ”Meditations of Marcus Aurelius”.)

Sefer Chassidim records that after he passed away, Rabbeinu HaKadosh used to visit his home every Friday evening at dusk wearing Shabbos clothes. He would recite Kiddush, and his family would thereby discharge their obligation to hear it. One Friday night there was a knock at the door. The maid asked the visitor to come back because Rabbeinu HaKadosh was in the middle of Kiddush. From then on he stopped coming, since he did not want his visits to become public knowledge.

The root of Rebbe’s soul was that of Yaakov Avinu. It is said that Yaakov Avinu never died and we see from the above story that Rabbeinu HaKadosh also did not die. Both Yaakov Avinu and Rebbe had the same task. Rebbe had said that the seventeen years he spent in Tzippori were equal to the seventeen years Yaakov spent in Egypt. Yaakov taught Torah during those those years, preparing the nation for its first galus. Rebbe spent the last seventeen years of his life compiling the Mishnah, preparing Am Yisrael for the long and bitter galus Edom.

tzion claimed to be Rebbi’s is found in Tzippori, which is in the rolling hills of the Galilee. (According to Talmud Yerushalmi [Kila’im 9:4], Rebbi was buried in Bet She’arim.)  In very ancient times the city was called Sepphoris. It was fortified by the Assyrians, and then used by the Babylonians and then the Persians as an administrative center. It was the Chashmonaim who gave the city the name Tzippori when they settled there. Rabi Yochanan indentified Rekes as Tzippori; it is so called as it sits high on a hill like a bird. The air there is very clear and fresh.

Herod the Great took over the city and brought in Roman influences. After Herod’s death the Jews of Tzippori rebelled against Roman rule causing Varus, the Roman governor to destroy the city and sell many of its Jews into slavery. In 1 CE, when Herod Antipas became governor, he rebuilt the city and renamed it Autocratis. It was such beautiful city that it was described it as “the ornament of all Galilee.” The Jews of the city chose not to rebel during the first Jewish Revolt in 66 CE; they opened their gates to the Roman army and signed a pact with them.

During the 2nd century the city was renamed Diocaesarea. After the Bar Kochba revolt many Jews moved to the city. Reb Yehudah Hanasi moved the Sanhedrin from Bet She’arim to Tzippori, where he compiled the Mishnah. He summoned all the Sages in the land, including the great scholars that had come up from Bavel to come and help him.

In the year 351 CE, Gallus Caesar quelled a Jewish rebellion in the city.

In 363 CE an earthquake destroyed the city of Diocaesarea.

During the Byzantine period Jews, Romans and Christians lived peacefully in the city.

From 634 CE the Arabs, under the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties, conquered and ruled the city, then known as Saffuriya.

Chabad Of South Broward To Hold Daf Yomi Shiur

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Daf yomi will be returning to Hallandale on August 3. The daily study of one page of Talmud will start again at the Chabad of South Broward, 1295 East Hallandale Beach Boulevard. Rabbi Mordy Feiner, director of the South Broward Kollel for Businessmen and Professionals, has announced the new (13th) cycle.

The custom of the daily daf was started in Eastern Europe by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, zt”l, of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin. Excitement for this endeavor has been further intensified by the recent publication of the English edition of the Steinsaltz Talmud by Koren Press.

Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus, executive vice president of Chabad of South Broward explains, “There are new features in the Steinsaltz English translation of the Talmud. This publication will inspire more students to study Talmud, including some students who will opt for the daf yomi.”

The many adult education classes offered by Chabad of South Broward include chassidus every morning at 6:15, several daily Rambam classes, a daily Mishnah class and Talmud every evening.

The Hallandale daf yomi will be held every day 45 minutes before Minchah. Shabbos daf yomi is one hour before Minchah. Friday daf yomi will be held Thursday nights after Ma’ariv.

To register for the Hallandale daf yomi and for further information, contact Rabbi Mordy Feiner at MordyFeiner@gmail.com.

Preempting The Death Penalty

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

In this week’s parshah the Torah writes about a prohibition on killing a murderer prior to his trial. As the pasuk says: “…v’lo yamus harotzeach ad amdo lifnei haeidah lamishpat – … so that the murderer will not die until he stands before the assembly for judgment” (Bamidbar 35:12). The same rule applies to anyone who commits an aveirah that is punishable by death; no one is permitted to kill him prior to his trial in beis din, including the witnesses that warned him and witnessed the aveirah. The Sefer Hachinuch (mitzvah 409) writes that if one kills a transgressor prior to his trial, he is regarded as a murderer.

Anyone who performs any aveirah l’hachis (a transgression to spite Hashem, not because of temptation) is rendered a mummar l’kol haTorah. The Rosh (Moed Katan 3:59) says that one who is warned by two witnesses that the action he is about to perform is prohibited and punishable by death and responds that he will commit the aveirah despite the warning, attains the status of a mummar l’hachis. The reason is this: one performing the aveirah because of temptation would not do so after being warned that his life is on the line. Rather, we can assume that he is acting to spite Hashem.

Reb Chaim Ozer Grodzensky (Achiezer 3:53) writes that he discussed the following question with his wife’s grandfather, Reb Yisroel Salanter, the gaon ohr yisrael: the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 26b) says that one may kill a mummar l’hachis. (This is brought down in several places by the Rambam, including Rotzeach 4:10, and in the Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 425:5.) This is known as “moridin v’eino malin – throw him into a pit and do not save him.” The view of both the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch is that if possible one should publicly kill the mummar with a sword. The Rosh (Teshuvos 32:4) says that one should only kill via a gramma (indirectly), i.e., throw him into a pit and remove the ladder.

Question: How can the Torah say that we cannot kill a murderer or any transgressor until after his trial in beis din, despite the fact that he was warned in front of witnesses? After all, according to the Rosh the transgressor has the status of a mummar l’hachis (since he is not acting out of temptation), thereby permitting anyone to kill him as per the halacha of moridin v’eino malin.

Reb Chaim Ozer suggested two answers, but believed that the question demands more analysis. His first suggestion is that the pasuk is teaching us that although one is permitted to kill the individual who sinned by means of moridin, the Torah nevertheless prohibited killing him in this case until after his trial in beis din. However, Reb Chaim Ozer rejects this answer for several reasons. One reason: Why does the Chinuch say that one who kills the sinner is regarded as a murderer? Since he could kill him from the halacha of moridin, he should not be considered a murderer. The Chazon Ish (Yoreh De’ah 2:17) maintains that the halacha of moridin only applies when the sinner cannot be tried in beis din due to technical problems, i.e., no witnesses. Therefore, in a case to be brought in beis din one may not apply the halacha of moridin.

The second solution is that the pasuk is referring to a scenario in which we know that the individual did teshuvah. Therefore he can no longer be killed under the halacha of moridin. However, teshuvah does not remove the death penalty from beis din. Hence, the Torah says that we should wait until he is found guilty at trial before killing him.

I would like to suggest that the question does not start. I was scared to say that I learned the Rosh differently than Reb Chaim Ozer and Reb Yisroel Salanter. But, Baruch Hashem, I found afterwards that the Chazon Ish (Yoreh De’ah 2:12) learns the Rosh as I did. I believe that the Rosh is being taken out of context. The Rosh is discussing the Mishnah that says that there is no aveilus for people who are killed by beis din. The Rosh explains that this is because since they were warned that their life was on the line but nevertheless sinned, they are obviously not acting out of temptation; thus, they are comparable to a mummar l’hachis. I think that the Rosh never meant to say that anyone who transgresses after being warned is a mummar l’hachis regarding the halacha of moridin; rather the Rosh is saying that regarding aveilus we consider him a mummar, comparable to a mummar l’hachis – whereby aveilus does not apply.

Q & A: Tisha B’Av And Mourning

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Editor’s note: We interrupt our “Chazzan and Congregation” series for this timely discussion on Tisha B’Av. Part IX of “Chazzan and Congregation” will appear next week.

* * * * *

Question: I was taught that due to our state of mourning on Tisha B’Av, we are not allowed to learn or discuss Torah – a topic that makes us happy and weakens our mournful state. Why, then, are we allowed to read from the Torah at Shacharit and Mincha on Tisha B’Av? Also, does the halacha of not learning apply to a regular mourner as well?

Menachem
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: Yoreh De’ah 384:1 (based on Mo’ed Katan 15a) states, “During the entire seven-day period [of mourning], a mourner is forbidden to read from the Torah, Prophets, Writings, Mishnah, Gemara, halachot and aggadot – except if people need him to teach them. In such a case, it is permissible.”

We also find a similar ruling regarding Tisha B’Av, our national day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, as the Mechaber notes (Orach Chayim 554:1).

The reason behind the prohibition, according to the Shach (Orach Chayim ad loc.), is the verse in Psalms (19:9), “Pikudei Hashem yesharim mesamchei lev, mitzvat Hashem barah me’irat eynayim – The commands of Hashem are right; they gladden the heart. The commandment of Hashem is of such clarity that it enlightens the eyes.” Torah has the power of offering unique enjoyment and pleasure. A mourner in his bereavement is not supposed to enjoy this delight.

It is interesting to note that this Shach is at variance with the Mechaber who gives a different source for this halacha. He cites Mo’ed Katan 15a, where we learn that a mourner is prohibited to utter words of Torah since Hashem stated (Ezekiel 24:17), “He’anek dom – Sigh in silence.” Hashem only precluded Ezekiel from any manifestation of outward sorrow. All other people were supposed to publicly mourn, explains Rabbenu Chananel, explicating the position of our sages.

The Gemara (in Ta’anit 30a) states that all customary restrictions on an ordinary mourner during the seven days of mourning apply to the community as a whole on Tisha B’Av. However, there is a difference. On Tisha B’Av, one is prohibited from eating and drinking (Rashi s.v. “asur be’achila uvi’shetiya” explains that these two restrictions apply only to the mourning for the Temples’ destruction).

The Gemara in Ta’anit explains that one is prohibited from (washing and) anointing, donning (leather) shoes, and engaging in marital relations. One is also forbidden to read from the Torah, Prophets, Writings, Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, as well as halachot and aggadot. However, one is permitted to read material that he usually does not read. (Rashi s.v. “be’makom she’eino ragil likrot” explains that since this material is beyond the mourner’s familiarity and understanding, it actually causes him distress.) One may also read Kinot and Job and the elegies in Jeremiah.

Young schoolchildren – tinokot shel beit rabban – should remain idle (i.e., we do not study with them on Tisha B’Av), in accordance with the verse (Psalms 19:9), “Pikudei Hashem yesharim mesamchei lev – The commands of Hashem are right; they gladden the heart.” R. Yehuda disagrees and states that the learning restrictions apply even to material that one is unfamiliar with. The only exceptions to the no-learning rule, he maintains, are Job, Kinot, and the elegies in Jeremiah.

In any event, we see that both verses apply: the verse from Ezekiel as well as the verse from Psalms.

Regarding the reading of the Torah in shul on Tisha B’Av during Shacharit and Mincha, the Mechaber (Orach Chayim 554:4) writes as follows: “One is permitted to read the complete order of the day [i.e., the order of the daily prayer service] as well as the portion of the korbanot, the Mishnah of Ezehu Mekoman (Tractate Zevachim, chapter 5) and the midrash of Rabbi Yishmael (Beraita, in Sifra). (The latter three constitute the portion of tefillah referred to collectively as korbanot.)

The Rema adds that one is allowed to review the parshah on Tisha B’Av. However, both the Ba’er Heiteiv and Mishna Berurah (ad loc.) note that this applies only to the chazzan, who reads the Torah publicly for the congregation. His reading and advance preparation are obviously considered tzorech ha’tzibbur (a public need).

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-tisha-bav-and-mourning/2012/07/18/

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