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 what should he do on that day?

As we explore the answers to these questions we will uncover meta-principles of Torah law – halachah – relating to the timing of mitzvot (Torah instructions) and the choice between them.

This Thinking Gemara shiur is about making choices – not choices between good and bad, which we are perhaps more familiar with, but rather between good and good – between two mitzvah acts.

Our journey opens in 20th century Communist Russia, goes back to 16th century Egypt, works its way forward two centuries, and then on to more modern times in 19th century Lithuania.

Some of the key questions this class addresses include:

  • If a Jew is granted only one day out of jail, which day should he choose?
  • What are the halachic principles underlying the answer to this question?
  • What is the philosophical approach behind the Torah’s guidelines for choosing between one good act and another?
  • What are some common applications of the principles behind choosing between mitzvot?

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