Tuesday, July 23, 2013

#184 - Daf Yomi: ONE Year Later

Tu B'Av, popularly known as the Jewish holiday of love, has just passed.  Along with the various reasons why this is a day of happiness for the Jewish people, is mentioned that we began learning more Torah at nights being that around this time, the nights start becoming longer.

Exactly one year ago, this point became highlighted with the commencement of the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi of the Babylonian Talmud.   And as night is associated with physical darkness, it is mentioned in two places in this Talmud, in tractates Sanhedrin and Avoda Zara, that the verse "He (Hashem) has placed me in darkness" refers specifically to the teachings of the Babylonian Talmud.   Anyways, for fascinating information on this subject about Daf Yomi, especially as per the timing of the beginning of this 13th cycle, you can read more about this in my 150th post (Aug '12).

Last year on Tu B'Av, the Daf Yomi was Berachot 2.  On Tu B'Av of this year, the Daf Yomi was Pesachim 32.  Kind of wondered.  Is there any connection between these two particular pages of the Talmud?

Well, being quite familiar with Berachot 2, since after all, it is the first page of the Talmud, I focused my concentration on Pesachim 32.  Well, believe it or not, there is a connection between these two Talmudic pages - the subject of Teruma, or Terumot in plural, which is loosely translated as "heave offerings", referring to the 1/50 portion of one's crops given to the Cohen; the detailed laws of this mentioned for the most part in the Mishnaic tractate Terumot, the sixth tractate of Seder Zeraim ("Seeds"), the first of the six volumes of the Mishna.

Well first, in Berachot 2, in the very beginning of the Talmud,  it starts off with the Mishna asking "From when does the obligation of reading the Shema of the evening begin? From the time that the Cohanim enter (into a state of purity) to eat their Teruma."  The context of this answer is that these Cohanim were in some state of impurity from which they were able to be purified from by dipping in the Mikva (ritularium) before sunset; however, they must wait until it is definitely night, which begins the next day according to Halacha (Jewish law), before eating their Teruma, which is considered holy for Cohanim, and hence, must be eaten only in a state of purity.

Now, in Pesachim 32, it is based on the Mishna that is located on the bottom of Pesachim 31b: "One (a non-Cohen) who ate inadvertantly Teruma of Chametz (leaven) on Passover (not knowing of the prohibition of a non-Cohen eating Teruma, or not knowing that it was Teruma, even if he willfully ate it as Chametz), pays back the principal plus 1/5.  However, if he willfully ate the Teruma (even if he ate it inadvertently as Chametz), he is exempt from even paying back the principal, or even the value of firewood (which one is permitted to benefit from in a case where the Teruma contacted impurity and hence forbidden to be eaten but permitted to be benefited from in this manner)."

The Talmud, in explanation of this Mishna, immediately begins pertaining to the subject of making restitution by quoting a Mishna in Tractate Terumot (6:1): "One who inadvertantly ate Teruma, pays back the principal plus 1/5.  Regardless if he ate it, drank it, (beginning of Pesachim 32), annointed himself with it, whether it was in a state of impurity or purity, even the 1/5 is paid, and if he consumed this 1/5, then addition to paying this additional 1/5, he now pays back a 1/5 of a 1/5 in addition."

Following this, the Gemara goes into a long discussion in an attempt to answer the question as to whether one pays back the Cohen for the eaten Teruma with an equal amount of produce, or with the same value of the amount that he ate.  After a nice half Daf (or Amud) of this discussion, it goes into a new discussion of the differences between one who inadvertently ate a Kezayit (olive size amount) of Terumah which requires him to pay both the principal plus 1/5, and one who inadvertently ate less than a Kezayit of Terumah which requires him to pay just the principal.

Now, let us focus on the immediate subject of the above Mishna in Tractate Pesachim.  The first thing that some may have noticed here is that while the nice guy who just ate a sandwich for lunch as he usually does has to not only pay back what he ate, but also a punitive amount; the guy who willfully transgressed the Torah knowing full well that he was eating something that only a Cohen is allowed to eat doesn't pay back anything.  Now the truth is, if this Terumah wasn't Chametz on Passover, he would pay back the Cohen - only the value of the Terumah as any thief is supposed to for a stolen item.   However, being that it is Chametz on Passover, it has no Halachic value; and hence, he is exempt from paying back anything for his free lunch (until he pays bitterly for this in Purgatory, unless he sincerely repents).  If this is the case, then one could ask "Then how come the guy who ate it accidentally has to pay for it and more if in fact, it has no Halachic value?"

True, it has no Halachic value; however, it still has holy value, howbeit not as food that can be eaten even by Cohanim during Passover.  And hence, the poor guy, though he meant no harm, has to pay back even a punitive amount, which serves as an atonement for him for misappropriation of a holy item.  However, for one who willfully violates the status of a holy item, such an atonement is too mild for him, especially since he obviously doesn't care about the Torah or holy items anyways.  This is in essence no different than the obligation of bringing a sin-offering for one who committed certain sins unintentionally; but for one who blatantly, knowing that what he is doing is a sin, a rebellion against Hashem and the Torah, will have no remorse for his sin, at least at this time; and hence, all the animal sacrifices won't help one who is quite sick spiritually.

For anything to be atonement or spiritual cleansing for one, he has to first let go of the sin to attain the required spiritual medicine to be well again.  The typical example given for this is the one who goes to the Mikva to be ritually pure of the impurity of touching a creeping creature (particularly applicable in the times of the Temple when it came to issues of eating something holy or entering the Temple).  However, the process of being ritually pure will only work if he first lets go of the creeping creature, because as long as he is still holding it, the Mikva won't do any good for him.

Having said this, let us now turn to the opening Mishna of Tractate Berachot.  If one will notice, though there seems to be three opinions pertaining to the time of saying the Shema of the evening; in fact, there is actually one answer given as to "From when does the obligation of reading the Shema in the evening begin?"  And while one would think that one would give a standard of time via nature, that is, from when three medium sized stars appear (Tzeit HaCochavim), which is definitely nightfall, the answer is given specifically in terms of when the previously impure Cohanim who went to the Mikva are now able to eat their Terumah.  Perhaps the inner meaning of this is that we need to put ourselves in the same frame of mind saying the Shema, with the acceptance of the yoke of heaven, which in Hebrew is called Ohl Malchut Shamayim, the first letters of these three words spelling the word Shema backwards - in the same way that the Cohanim, even though they specifically are entitled to eat Terumah, have to spiritually prepare themselves to be cleansed from any impurity, in order to eat this sacred food.  For although this is merely food and not what we normally call a holy object even if just used for what is really a holy object, such as the standing post in the middle of the synagogue used to read the Sefer Torah (Torah scroll) on it, and in fact, not even an animal that we officially declared holy in order to place holiness on it for a sacrifice, the fact that it was separated from other food to be given specifically to a Cohen, who is the top class of representative of the Jewish people serving Hashem in the Temple, the Cohen must be sure that he eats this food only in a state of purity, and hence, will put himself in a proper state of mind knowing that what he is eating is holy, and will be careful about his own pure status.  Similarly, one who is ready to recite the Shema needs to be aware of the presence of Hashem along with accepting His will of the King, and not merely recite words that may sound more like a mantra after a while without thinking of what he is saying.  In fact, according to Halacha, one who does not have concentration for this first Shema verse (as well as the added sentence of Baruch Shem "Blessed is the Name"), does not fulfill his obligation of reading the Shema.  And by the way, the one who gives the answer in the Mishna about the Cohanim eating Teruma is Rabbi Eliezer, who was a Cohen.

And while on the subject of the Shema and Cohanim, let me write here a parable given by the Chofetz Chaim, who was a most worthy Cohen, about the subject of reading the Shema.  Once, a boss of a business was about to go on a trip, and gave a letter with instructions to the manager to read to all the employees everyday before beginning work.  And the manager did just that - he read the same letter every morning, following which, it was more like coffee break for everyone, and the merchandise was not being handled properly meant for customers.  When the boss returned, he saw how his business was turned to virtual shambles, and promptly asked the manager if he followed his instructions.  "Sure I did", the manager replied.  "I made sure to read that letter every morning before work commenced."  "You utter fool", the boss screamed, "Do you think that I meant for you to read that letter as a mere story?!  The whole purpose of that letter was for the employees to understand what their assignments were to maintain a steady flow of business.  Now, my merchandise is all a mess, orders were not handled properly, and only G-d knows how many customers were lost to me.  Mere words themselves can't accomplish anything, they have to be followed up by enforcement of these words!"   And this is the same lesson that we have to learn about the Shema.  True, there is a specific Mitzva to read the Shema twice daily.  However, the whole point is to pay attention to the Mitzvot that are mentioned in the Shema, in order that we will know exactly what Hashem, the King of kings, wants from us.

We must always remember that as Hashem's nation, though most of us may not be Cohanim, we in essence have to serve Hashem, whether at the synagogue, the home, or work, bearing in mind that we are in Hashem's place wherever we go, and have the same basic devotion to Him as did the Cohanim in the Temple, as well as outside the Temple, even when it came to food given to them by friends as Terumah without the official declaration of holiness.  For in fact, shortly before Hashem gave us the Torah,  He called us a Mamlechet Cohanim V'Goy Kadosh "A kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6).

As I conclude, one will ask, this was all nice, remembering the one year anniversary of the start of the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi.  But what does this have to do with Gematriot?  Oh yes, a way to remember the contents of this post, but look at the number of this post - 184.  Dissect this number into two parts - One (1) and Eighty-Four (84).  You see, the word Daf (folio, or double sided page), has the same letters as the Hebrew number for 84 - Pei and Dalet.  And in this post, I marked the ONE year anniversary of the start of the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi.  This is aside from the fact that the word Echad, which means ONE, as well as the concluding word of the FIRST verse of the Shema, is the Gematria of 13.

Daf Yomi - ONE YEAR LATER, Jews worldwide learned about the subject of Terumah on Tu B'Av as they did the year before on Tu B'Av, howbeit different teachings about it; however, the lessons that we can learn about Terumah are the same regardless of the Daf page of whatever tractate, for after all, the Talmud is not merely an academic study, but a way of life, always teaching us something about living as a proper Jew.

And as an added bonus, let us add up the number of the Gematria of the word Terumah - 651; that is, 6+5+1=12, and noting the one year anniversary, adding the one makes the total to be 13.

This reminds me of a story in the Talmud, and with this, I will conclude this post.  As recounted in Shabbat 33, learned in this past year in the course of Daf Yomi, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, author of the teachings of the Zohar, was sought by the Roman government to execute him for anti-Roman statements, disparaging the government.  Fleeing for his life, he hid in a cave along with his son Rabbi Elazar for 12 years, all the while learning Torah together.  After hearing from Elijah the Prophet that their lives were no longer in danger, they left the cave.  However, being that they had learned Torah away from everyone else and materialism, their stare at people not learning Torah harmed them.  At this, a Heavenly voice rang out, calling out to Rabbi Shimon and his son "Is this why I let you out here?  Return to the cave!" And so, they remained in the cave for one more year, following which, Rabbi Shimon at least got the point, and helped his son do the same, having a more favorable eye towards others, regardless of their mundane activities.

You see, it was that 13th year being in the cave, though ironically, didn't help them interact with the world per se anymore than the first 12 years who didn't hide themselves to get away from people, but merely from danger, that made the proper change to get them back to deal with society.  For the number 13 represents Hashem's 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy, which is helpful even for a sinner, giving him a chance to repent.
And hence, if Hashem, the King of kings, tolerates the sinner at least for a while, knowing full well whether the sinner will even repent, then we can learn from Him how to tolerate others, even if they don't have the same exact same viewpoints or way of life as we do, even if we know full well that we are living a true Torah way of life, while others could hardly care about what a Torah life is about.  If anything, we are supposed to reach out to other to help them attain at least something of the spiritual goals that we aspire for ourselves in the spirit of Ahava (love), this word being the Gematria of 13.  And then, we can hope for true Achdut (unity), which is based on the word Echad.

16 Av, 5773

P.S.  Just discovered a website www.topjewish.com where people can load up their information about their blogposts.  Most interesting, I wrote this post, focusing especially on the number 13, and uploading my information about my Gematriot blogpost, I am presently listed as #13.  Coincidence?  I don't know for non-Jews, but for Jews, the number 13 is a very good lucky number.  After all, is it also the Gematria of Ahava (Love).  Can't go wrong with this!


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