Ein Ma’avirin al HaMitzvot – You have only one day out of jail. When should you take it? What should you do? (Pesachim 64b)   Imagine a Jew imprisoned in a hostile country, but granted by the authorities one day a year out of jail to express his Jewish identity. Which day should he choose? And... Read more »
I first fell in love with Gemara Berura a dozen years ago. I had just finished my most ambitious project-based learning assignment I had ever attempted with my 9th grade class. We designed a “How To Learn Gemara” website. In this project, my students culminated a year of a careful skills-based approach to learning Gemara by summarizing the various Sugiyot they had learned complete with keywords and color coding. They
Ein Shaliach Lidvar Aveirah “I Was Only Following Orders” – The Criminal Agent (Kiddushin 42b). If your Super Bowl winning football coach offers you money to injure an opposing player during a game, can you do it? If you’re caught, who’s responsible — “coach” or you? The New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, widely dubbed Bountygate,... Read more »
Ein Shaliach Lidvar Aveirah “I Was Only Following Orders” – The Criminal Agent (Kiddushin 42b)   According to Jewish law, a person may appoint a shaliach (agent) to act on his behalf in carrying out various tasks. Through an agent one can conduct business (e.g. sell property), perform many mitzvot such as brit milah, and could even theoretically... Read more »
Osek Bemitzvah Patur Min Hamitzvah, Multitasking Mitzvot – Should you ever stop doing one mitzvah to go do another? (Sukkah 25a) Halachah, Jewish law, is the framework for the way we navigate our lives. Depending on the dynamics of each day, and the opportunities and challenges that arise, we are empowered with free will to reach our... Read more »
Osek Bemitzvah Patur Min Hamitzvah, Multitasking Mitzvot – Should you ever stop doing one mitzvah to go do another? (Sukkah 25a)   Our generation has been branded “Generation M” – M stands for Multitasking. People seemingly manage to check their email and Facebook, follow a movie, eat dinner, and hold a conversation – all at... Read more »
Seder night overflows with excitement and meaning as we journey through the fifteen steps of the Seder. The four cups of wine feature as one of the key defining aspects of reliving the Exodus from Egypt. The seemingly straightforward practice of drinking the four cups of wine on Seder night is the subject of great Talmudic discussion and debate. This shiur analyzes sections of the Talmud, along with commentaries of
Arba’ah Kosot: The Four Cups of Wine of the Passover Seder, Pesachim 108b!   Jews worldwide drink four cups of wine at their Pesach (Passover) Seder. In this Thinking Gemara shiur, we will take an insider’s look at this popular mitzvah by learning several Talmudic discussions relating to it. We will approach this analysis by asking some fundamental... Read more »
There is certainly much hype and excitement about drinking on Purim. On the one hand, drunkenness is condemned, forbidden, and admonished against – to varying degrees – in the Torah, Prophets, Writings, Talmud, and Jewish ethical literature. Intoxication can lead to loss of self-control, alcohol addiction, transgression, weakened morality, and crime. In contrast, we are surprised to read an offbeat line