Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Archive for the ‘Talmud’ Category

Teaching the Maharal of Prague is Wondrous…

In DIvine Presence, Guests, Maharal, Talmud on May 8, 2009 at 1:30 pm

…Nobody, and I mean nobody unpacks, examines, and elucidates like the man who is said to have made the Golem. It is stated in the Talmud that:

Welcoming guests is greater than receiving the Divine presence

This statement follows a Mishnah which determines that one is allowed to move heavy objects on Shabbat for two reasons: Because of guests, and to make room for people to study. One opinion ascertains that receiving guests must be a greater mitzvah than accomodating scholars. How do we know this? The prooftext that is brougt is the Biblical passage where Abraham leaves a visitation from God to greet three strangers. Listen to the Maharal on this passage:

Rising early to study Torah is the way we honor Torah, but when you welcome a guest it is tantamount to honoring God Himself. For when one brings a guest into his home and honors him because he was created in the image of God, then it is considered as if he is honoring the Divine presence Herself which is greater than honoring the Torah, and that is why the statement “Beloved are humans for they are created in the image of God” is mentioned first and only then mentions Israel and the Torah.

So eloquently and succinctly rendered and hundreds of years before Buber’s I and Thou. The Maharal has more to say, and it is worth the effort. Click here.


Swine Flu In the Talmud…or a pig flu by any other name is not a Mexican flu.

In epidemics, fasting, swine flu, Talmud on April 28, 2009 at 3:49 am

Timing is too strange for comfort. While innocently perusing a page of Gemara, I just happened upon the following quotation:

Once Rav Yehudah was informed that pestilence was raging among the swine and he ordained a fast. Can it then be concluded from this that Rav Yehudah is of the opinion that a plague scourging one species of animals is likely to attack also other species?

No, the case of the swine is exceptional, because their intestines are like those of human beings.
(Ta’anit 21b)

Unlike their Israeli counterparts, the sages had no problem calling a pig pestilence, a pig pestilence. No Mexican flu for them! The only question for them was “When does this flu become a fast flu”?