Friday, 31 August 2012

brachot 30

the unbreakable concentric concentrated focus of prayer.

(english translation of this talmud page can be found here)

second chances

This week's other chavrutah/other voice, is from Rabbi David Levin-Krus. David is the Director of Special Programmes at Pardes, Jerusalem. 

What struck me in the few pages we "learned" together was not something you drew directly but alluded to. You spoke about the boundaries of night and day and when the one becomes the other. The Talmud says that if I could not daven shacharit I can recompense by davening two amidot at mincha. What about mincha to ma'ariv? Is this possible or does the fact that it is a new day prevent me from doing this? 

The Talmud quotes the verse saying that the crooked cannot be made straight. When reading this the thought struck me as to whether one can ever really make up for a moment lost. The discussion of the rabbis seems forced and they recognize that there is a limit  to what one can do if one has missed an opportunity. 

Two thoughts:

1. This is one of the differences between the spiritual world and the "real" world. In the former we have second chances; in the latter not always.


2. The text is teaching us that we always have a second chance but we have to create the situation. It also tells us there is a limit to what we can do and sometimes a second chance is not available.

David Levin-Krus

Thursday, 30 August 2012

brachot 29

numbers are not exact when the sun reddens
18 is 19
or sometimes it's 7, or 9, or a merciful 24
and a dangerous 13 can be just 1

18 never equals 18

unless you're a heretic

(discussion about the 18 blessings of the amidah prayer, an extra blessing was added against heretics, making it 19. 7 blessings for shabbat, 9 for rosh hashana, 24 for a fast day, and on regular days, in certain cases, the 13 middle brachot can be abridged to 1. for english translation of this talmud page see here)

brachot 28

standing & praying at the entrances - of the previously exclusive study hall,
and of the World to Come

and the one who dreams of white vessels enters the blackened house

(the revolution that deposed Rabban Gamliel, that led to more people having access to the study hall. prayers said by R. Nehunya ben Hakana on entering and exiting the study hall, and blessings and prayers said by various rabbis on their deathbed to their students. and the 18 blessings of the standing prayer parallel the vertebrae. for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

brachot 27

when can afternoon be evening? and evening afternoon?

the boundaries of time & space of prayer

not behind
and not walk in front of someone praying

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

brachot 26

in the sunlight of day, it is clearly defined when to stand.
but at night,
the encounter in the dark can happen at any time.

(defining the 3 timezones of the amidah prayer, which is said standing: morning, afternoon and evening. for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Sunday, 26 August 2012

brachot 25

the things that come from our bodies that wrinkle our nose, and are unpleasant to the eye

so our mouths can't say the things from the heart.

(discussion about saying the shema, praying or talking torah in the presence of feces and urine, for rnglish translation of this talmud page see here)

Saturday, 25 August 2012

brachot 24



who do we talk about when we talk about nudity?

(apologies for the picture quality. this drawing's photo was taken by my iphone from limmudfest)

for english translation of this talmud page see here

Friday, 24 August 2012

brachot 23

the fatal consequences that befalls leaving one's tefillin in the wrong place.

(discussion about taking off tefillin when going to the toliet, whether to leave them outside or carry them wrapped up inside. and a curious story of one student whose tefillin were stolen by a prostitute, and claimed he used them to pay her. shamed he threw himself off a roof. all so the tefillin shouldn't fall. for english translation of this talmud page see here)

this comes to you from Limmudfest. apologies for the quality of the photo

Thursday, 23 August 2012

brachot 22

(whisper it)
pouring water disperses everything that just happened in the night, so can continue to bless and study.


is just splashing about good enough to teach others?

(discussion about purifying after a seminal emission, pouring or immersion. for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

brachot 21

is thinking the same as speaking?
no matter what just "happened" in the night,
can one join the congregation of 10?

(discussion about the status of the command to say various blessings, if they come from the Torah or instituted by the rabbis. for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

brachot 20

the male gaze v the female gaze

when men look at women: judging & publicly undressing women, dismiss their hour-glass curves as white geese.

and when women look at men: they are to be inspired by the vine-like beauty to be productive.

(or so he says)

(the goose drawing is from the brass plaque at crossbones graveyard, London. an unconsecrated burial ground where London's outcasts were buried. Many of them prostitutes, who were known as 'geese')

(for english translation of this page of talmud see here)

Monday, 20 August 2012

brachot 19

disrespect the rabbis, both dead and living, and they will ostracise you.
circle you like a snake,
stone you in your coffin,

and you will remain in hell.

(for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Sunday, 19 August 2012

brachot 18

respect the dead. watch them. walk with them. don't mock them with the objects of living prayer

because they feel pain.
and they know the conversations that take place behind the curtain.

(for english translation of this talmud page see here)

(this drawing is an adaption of Cheselden's praying skeleton from his 1733 Osteographia)

Saturday, 18 August 2012

brachot 17

as the rabbis write their prayer P.S.'s it's humbling to note that the world is sustained by a man
who is sustained
by a bunch of carob beans

(for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Friday, 17 August 2012

brachot 16

how many things can a man (and it is a man) balance in his mind at one time?
- in his own time?

(but did anyone ask the virgin bride what sinking thoughts were on her mind on her wedding night?)

(the talmud discusses about the concentration needed to say the shema. can it be said while working, up a tree, on a wall, on the way to his wedding night? for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Thursday, 16 August 2012

brachot 15

(discussion about how audible and how clearly should the shema be said)

there should be gaps of silence so that the ear can hear
the beginnings and endings of words

and the beginnings and endings of life

the newborn's cry from the womb
& the mourners' cries at the graveside

(for an english translation of this talmud page see here)

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

brachot 14

waving or not waving?
stay away or say hello?

well..... how important are you?

(& my thoughts on the statement that those people who say shema without tefillin, are being false or incomplete. see this artwork called beged isha - a woman's garment)

(for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

brachot 13

how long can the heart be bound up?
how long can the heart concentrate?
- a paragraph? 2 paragraphs? ...3?

or just a sentence?

(for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Monday, 13 August 2012

brachot 12

after the shema comes truth and redemption.

truth at the expense of the 10 commandments
redemption that is talked about day & night, til the end of days and beyond.

and the fringes' are the linking threads from the shema to redemption, harnessing hearts and eyes to stay true and focused.

(for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Sunday, 12 August 2012

brachot 11

while walking on the way one can be too preoccupied to notice the formation of light

and the creation of darkness...

it can be dangerous saying the shema in the wrong position.

(for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Saturday, 11 August 2012

brachot 10

it's all about life and babies

King Hezekiah was punished for not wanting children
Bruia rebuked someone for misreading the song of the barren woman
and David praised God in the womb, birth, nursing...

and God

God is the ultimate artist for being able to form one soul inside another.

(for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Friday, 10 August 2012

brachot 9

when does the day begin?

when the eye can tell the difference
between colour
between animals

and between people

and then we can talk about the redemption.
(that happened at night)

(for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Breastfeeding and the Shema - Elie Jesner

This is the first of the chavrutah's (learning partner) It's from Elie Jesner, who is training as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, and has spent many years studying judaism and philosophy.  He's also blogging about Daf Yomi; and finds returning to the medium of talmudic exposition to be a rewarding and pleasing homecoming. His blog is called thinkingdafyomi.

The Talmud is continuing its enquiry into the timing of the saying of the Shema.  With reference to the morning recital, it gives the following guidance:
When a woman talks with her husband and a baby nurses from its mother’s breast, let him rise and recite the Shema.
What a wonderful image and connection,  from the warmth of everyday domesticity, he may rise and recite the Shema. The suggestion is of a seamless integration between the homeliness of this scene, the nourishment of the feeding child and the engagement with the Shema. 

In the psychoanalytic worldview too, everything begins with the breast.  For Winnicott, the manner in which this meeting is conducted - the tenderness in the mother’s embrace, her calmly loving presence – are as critical to success as the milk itself.   We begin, for him, not as one, but as two, and the harmony and dedication in that coupling are what gives us the foundations to engage with society, to seek out and build the relationships which sustain us. 
The beauty of the moment is wonderfully portrayed by Sara Maitland, in ‘A Book of Silence’:
I remember it with an almost heartbreaking clarity.  Some of it is simply physical – a full and contented baby falling asleep at the empty and contented breast.  But even now I think that those sweet dawns, when it turned from dark to pale night, and we drifted back into our own separate selves without wrench or loss, were the starting point of my journey into silence. 
There is something about the dark itself, and the quiet of the world, even in cities, at that strange time before the dawn.
The dark, the ‘time out of time’ and the quiet of the night are fixed in my memory, along with the density of that particular silent joy.  (Page 12.)

Indeed, from this womblike darkness and silence we emerge into the world.

The Shema, our umbilical cord to the Divine, acts as the transitional object which makes the movement a stable and confident one. The Shema then contains something of the stabilising and rooting force of a functional spousal relationship and also something of the helpless dependence of the baby being fed.  We recite the Shema, more of a reading of memory - of constancy - than a prayer, and in a strange way that we don’t fully understand it affects us, centres us, prepares us for the day.

My friend William Kolbrener pointed out that in Homer, we see a markedly opposing image.  The hero returns from his warrior’s journey and disrupts the suckling child, he unsettles the gentle routines of the household.  In that culture, we might speculate, the understanding of a man’s role could not accommodate the memory of the intimacy and dependence of breastfeeding.  His violence and independence had to exist in denial of it, the two worlds could never be integrated.

The Shema tries to help us with this integration, to ensure that our religious projects do not proceed from a denial of our fragile humanity.  In the Shema we remember, and in that memory we find the compassion and concern which must fuel our engagement with the world.      

Elie Jesner

brachot 8

some rabbis are keen to emphasise communal prayer and the synagogue.

but other rabbis prefer to pray where they study. after the destruction, God isn't housed in buildings anymore

and death can be painful like a thorn pulled from wool, or as smooth as hair taken out of milk.

(for an english translation of this talmud page see here)

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

brachot 7

God's anger lasts the moment when the rooster's crest turns from red to white and it stands on one leg, (leaving demon-like footprints around the bed...)

but can God be calmed and restrained with knotted reminders of mercy and human's prayers?

or do the wicked deserve to experience the anger? what about when it hits the righteous?

(for english translation of this talmud page see here)

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

brachot 6

we are surrounded by demons, but where is God?

look in God's tefillin and see that God values people. After all, demons only attack when alone (brachot 3), there's safety in numbers. God can be experienced when with other people.

so, run RUN to find others, and fix a time and place to pray.

(but what if when with others, you are not part of the group.... you know.... what if you are a woman...?)

(english translation of this talmud page can be found here)

Monday, 6 August 2012

brachot 5

saying the shema at night is like a sword of protection

but not everything should be protected against.
Resh Lakish: suffering is a loving rebuke, some things can only be achieved by suffering.

but for R.Yochanan, who would carry his dead child's bone, not all suffering has meaning...

and Abba Binyamin would lie in bed at night, lie in the right direction and say shema.

(english translation for this talmud page see here)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

brachot 4

the rabbis make hazardous fences and say that the shema can be said up til midnight.
but without a clock who knows when midnight is?

a pious king is woken at midnight by the wind-played instrument and sings alphabetical praises,

and the angels take flight.

(english translation of this page of talmud can be read here)

Saturday, 4 August 2012

brachot 3

the night is divided into 3 (or 4...) watches. God roars like a lion over the destruction, cries echoing in the night, and punctuating the darkness.

and ruins are dangerous places to enter. although it is unclear why, but it is precarious to be near places of destruction.

(english translation of this talmud page can be read here)

Friday, 3 August 2012

brachot 2

the talmud begins with a question.

when does the night begin?
well, it depends on whose sitting down for supper.
the priests? the poor? or the ordinary? who do we take notice of and are influenced by?

or do we choose instead to take our cues from the natural world and look to the stars?