26 Jan 2018

Touring the Talmud: Aboda Zara 2-10 (Shabbat Beshalah) – The Productions of Time

This week we begin the tractate of Aboda Zara — ‘Foreign Worship’. The premise is simple: it deals with the laws and issues revolving around worshipping anything other than the one, necessary, absolutely primal, omnipotent and omniscient Being we represent in writing with the letters: הוי״ה and verbalise as Adonai – (our Lord) — GOD[1]. It deals with all forms of worship and any derivatives that are aimed at anything other than GOD. Indeed, even the elements of how we worship GOD that are deemed inappropriate are discussed.

As often is the case, the tractate begins tackling the issue in a seemingly indirect way. In this case, not with questions of blatant heretical worship, but of the relationships between Jew and gentile and how foreign worship touches that relationship, both in everyday business dealings and in broader, philosophical views. There are, of course, discussions on how that philosophy intersects with and affects the nature of daily life.

The overarching theme in the opening discussions is the question of eternity vs temporality, life, death, and the question of existential meaning. Included in this is the question of realms of existence. Is there a meaningful eternity and do we have any connection to it? Is there a level of reality beyond our local one to which we can connect?

In this essay I aim at presenting and discussing the general points and arguments in light of the opening pages of the tractate and will attempt to compare the issues with how they are recognised and understood by some of the world’s philosophers, authors and poets who have contributed to the dialogue.

 A word of caution: This week’s essay may require more quiet time and focus than usual in order to absorb it. But should you choose to indulge yourself for fifteen minutes or so, you may enjoy! 🙂



The Productions of Time

‘The Jew is the emblem of eternity.’
— Leo Tolstoy

‘We look not at the things which are what you would call seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal. But the things which are not seen are eternal.’ 
 Madeleine L’EngleA Wrinkle in Time

  ‘If you want to annoy a poet, explain his poetry’. 
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb



For time immemorial human beings have been fixated on death. We fear its imminence and we mitigate our unease about it by dreaming of the splendour that might await us on the other side of it. Survival, or the escape from death, is the strongest and most relentless drive of humanity. At the depths of that drive is the urge to touch eternity.

We are partially consoled by knowing that if our specific configuration of genes cannot reside forever in our bodies, then let them be transferred to another and live on in our offspring. We fight, fear, feed and procreate based on this relentless drive to hold on to life in some form.

As we develop and mature, we learn to sublimate the drive of survival into other more sophisticated ways. We write words that others can read generations later. We build buildings that people will see and touch thousands of years in the future. We worship fame. We do all we can to keep a foothold in the living world.


But the truth is that the world is an ever-dying place. Every moment that passes is another death. The whole universe is headed towards entropy. For this reason, while we have always been culturally primed for death through religion and ancient ritual, we have yearned for eternity and dreamt of stopping or manipulating time[2]. We know intuitively that time flows ever on and with it, our lives wane like passing shadows.

Our sense of mortality lies in our sense of past and future. The least we can do to mitigate it is to live in the moment and forget about what comes before and after. There is always a give and take, however. And what we give up when we live in the moment, is consciousness and meaning.

Consider, that consciousness and meaning depend on being able to see not only what a thing is now in the world, but what it isn’t — which requires knowing what it was and what it will be. Definition is knowing what a thing is by knowing what it isn’t.

For example: If I observe a baked cake, to define it or know it as baked, I must be able to consider that it was not baked. A cake can only be baked or not baked for a consciousness that experiences the cake in the mode of not yet being what it will be in the future. But this perception of meaning depends on human consciousness — the cake does not lack being baked for itself, it only lacks being baked for a consciousness that has expectations and desires regarding it.

Consciousness therefore, constantly introduces lack and absence in the world in order to make sense of it and to act purposefully within it. A situation is always understood not in terms of what it is but in terms of what it lacks for the person encountering it.

Time, of course, runs through all of this. The consciousness that expects a cake to be baked or not baked and recognises both states in relation to one another is thinking temporally. As philosopher George Cox puts it in his book How to Be an Existentialist[3]:

There is no such thing as time apart from consciousness. It is consciousness that brings time into the world, consciousness that temporalizes the world. When a cup is broken there is as much stuff as there was before it was broken but the cup has gone. The broken fragments themselves do not recall that there was a cup, only consciousness can do that. The past cup exists only for consciousness; the fragments have a cup-like past only for consciousness…apart from consciousness there is no awareness of the process of becoming, growth, decay, destruction; no notion of past or a future for any particular present…it is just the way things are.

‘Just the way things are’ is neither good nor bad; moral or immoral. In essence then, meaning, which is based in consciousness, only lives in a world that is changing, and developing within time. It only lives in a world that is dying.


Now let us consider human awareness as manifesting on three different levels. We will refer to them as ‘zones’ of consciousness. Each zone has its own respective ranges of intensity.

Zone 1 – The first and most basic level is an awareness of what is here and now — what is before me at this moment. Every animal has this zone 1 consciousness to some greater or lesser degree. There is not a strong sense of past or future (if at all). Therefore, in Zone 1 I cannot sense meaning in what is happening or what exists in front of me because I cannot consider what it isn’t or what it might be. I only see it as it is and cannot judge it against anything else. As we said before, it simply is what it is — neither good nor bad, moral or immoral, it simply is.

Zone 2 – A second, higher ‘zone’ of awareness includes time. It is aware of past and future. In this zone of consciousness I can be aware of meaning and definition. To the degree that I am aware of time I can be aware of value because I am aware of non-being along with being — what a thing or situation is not along with what it is.

Zone 3 – Finally, the third and arguably highest level of consciousness is the awareness of all of the moments of our lives, of time woven together as an integrated, eternal whole. To be aware in one moment of its place within space-time and therefore its significance within the matrix of reality. To see a moment embedded within its past and future as though all of it was present before you, as if time stood still in its full glory. This may sound more esoteric than the first two zones of consciousness, but it isn’t. Just as zones 1 and 2 are born out of the interface of our minds with external reality, so is this state of consciousness. And it is the closest we get to the perception of eternity. An eternity that is forever significant because, as explained above, it is married to the productions of time. At this level of consciousness, every moment counts.

Our sensitivity to time and consequence is deep at the core of human freedom. The essence of responsible free will is the knowledge of consequence which, as the word implies, is the sensitivity to sequences of events. When I act, what will result from it? The sages of the Talmud see this ability as the very heart of wisdom.

Who is wise? One who can see what time will yield. (Temura 32a)

There is thus a real sense in which the world for each person is a product of the attitude and mindset — the level of consciousness — with which he or she approaches it. The question is, how important and real is the consciousness that we bring to reality? Should it be regarded as the stuff of imagination? Or should human consciousness be itself seen as a core element of reality?


The existentialist philosophers like Sartre, Camus and Nietzsche believed that because all meaning exists in our heads it is not a reality. And that in truth we must deal with the fundamental meaninglessness of life.  But as Viktor Frankl, an existentialist philosopher and psychiatrist argued, they are missing a key point: We are not the only ones aware of the universe. The Creator’s super-consciousness is divinely aware and it provides what existentialist philosopher Viktor Frankl called ‘Super-Meaning’[4].

The ultimate meaning necessarily exceeds and surpasses the finite intellectual capacities of man…we speak of super-meaning. What is demanded of man is not, as some existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaninglessness of life, but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms.

This ‘super-meaning’ is what Carl Jung spoke of when he presented the detailed elements of reality as ‘splinters of the infinite deity’ comparing life as being connected to a rich hidden root system.

Life has always seemed to me to be like a plant that lives on its rhizome (roots). Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away — an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilisation we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains[5].

It is what M. Scott Peck saw as the source of our unconscious in his classic, The Road Less Travelled[6].

The development of consciousness is the development of awareness in our conscious mind of knowledge along with our unconscious mind, which already possesses that knowledge. It is the process of the conscious mind coming into synchrony with the unconscious…The interface between God and man is at least in part the interface between our unconscious and our conscious…

It is how William Blake saw the whole world.

 ‘To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour’[7].

 This outlook has been the heart and soul of the Jewish view of the world for four thousand years. We see our own consciousness, just as our other senses, as drawing from none other the omniscient consciousness and of GOD. We would not imagine that the GOD who created ears does not ‘hear’ and we would not imagine that the GOD who created the mind is not conscious.

Does He who implants the ear not hear, He who forms the eye not see? (Psalms 94:9)

It is upon the question of levels of consciousness and the interactions of those who see the world from different zones of consciousness that the tractate of Aboda Zarabegins. It questions whether a mind is focused on the local reality or focused on the omnipotent source of that reality. When one focuses on the omnipotent source the world expands and we recognise past, present and future as extant and powered by GOD. When, however, the god we recognise is but a detail of the local expression, be it a star or a stone, it is not GOD and those worshipping it are focusing on the local, temporal, transient reality rather than the Sacred One Who is its source of being.


There are few things which the Torah holds so serious and grave a sin as Aboda Zara — foreign worship. It does not only warn us to keep entirely clear of the worship of false gods, but it also cautions us not to adjust the resolution of our psychological and spiritual gaze from focusing on anything other than the Holy One. In other words, we are not to look at the creations as gods or as the sole elements of existence, but rather to see them as expressions of GOD, powered by GOD and kept by GOD. All of it is to be seen as existing within and because of Him[8].

The Nation of Israel, the Jewish people, have always strived towards living with ‘Zone 3 consciousness’, to connect our sense of the ‘here and now’ with the eternal Being of the Holy One. We see transience and death as the facilitators of eternal significance[9].  Judaism has always held this as its highest credo throughout its generations and exiles. It has been the one core tenet that has sustained and nourished us. Therefore, our deeds in their highest expressions and manifestations, are aimed at an eternal world that emerges from our fleeting moments. We see a bond and connection between the present moment and the realm in which all moments are fused into a splendid whole. As Mark Helprin eloquently puts it in his novel Winter’s Tale[10]:

 ‘…Time was invented because we cannot comprehend in one glance the enormous and detailed canvas that we have been given—so we track it, in linear fashion, piece by piece. Time, however, can be easily overcome; not by chasing the light, but by standing back far enough to see it all at once. The universe is still and complete. Everything that ever was, is; everything that ever will be, is—and so on, in all possible combinations. Though in perceiving it we imagine that it is in motion, and unfinished, it is quite finished and quite astonishingly beautiful. In the end, or, rather, as things really are, any event, no matter how small, is intimately and sensibly tied to all others. All rivers run full to the sea; those who are apart are brought together; the lost ones are redeemed; the dead come back to life; the perfectly blue days that have begun and ended in golden dimness continue, immobile and accessible; and, when all is perceived in such a way as to obviate time, justice becomes apparent not as something that will be, but as something that is.’

Israel, as Tolstoy said, is the ‘emblem of eternity’ for they have always lived believing in and seeing the world of eternity and their actions have reflected this belief. Torah law is set to ensure that there is no breakdown in this holistic consciousness and that all we do should be sensitive to it. With Torah, we drive our lives with a sense of purpose and value and we do not give in to the whims of our fears and urges.

When people engage in Torah and in acts of kindness their drives are delivered into their hands and they are not given over to their drives. (Daf 5b)

Torah also aims to ensure that we do not assist, condone, encourage or facilitate such breakdowns of holistic vision — especially with regards to foreign worship. The contrast between Israel’s holism and the more traditionally fragmented vision[11] of the gentiles and its manifestations in everyday life is highlighted in the first chapter.


The scene set at the tractate’s opening presents GOD judging the nations of the world at the end of days. Realising that GOD is interested in eternity and holism as it connects to Him and that it is seemingly manifest in the nature of the nation of Israel, they are asked what they have done to contribute to it. The Romans answer:

‘Master of the Universe we have established many marketplaces, we have built many bathhouses, and we have increased much silver and gold. And we did all of this only for the sake of Israel so that they would be free to engage in the study of Torah. (Daf 2b)

But GOD doesn’t buy it. It is not as holistic and noble as it sounds. In reality He sees it as being quite local and self-serving. He answers:

You world-class fools! Everything that you did, you did for your own sake… (ibid.)

 Yet, before dismissing them, GOD gives them an opportunity to qualify their acts by redefining them on a higher level. Perhaps if they have spent time studying Torah, they could frame what they did in a higher and broader context:

Is there no one among you who can declare that they have studied…Torah? Immediately, they all leave disappointed. (ibid.)

What is GOD’s point in asking this? This interaction between GOD and the Romans makes clear the connection between local realities and the eternal is not easy for human beings to maintain. We live moment to moment. Zone 3 consciousness takes effort and discipline to maintain and perfect. There are times when the connections become very difficult to see and we get stuck in the present, forgetting the grandeur and interconnectedness of the whole design. This is the state that Maimonides calls being ‘stuck in the futilities of time.’[12]

A person must show great care in [the observance of the mitzvah of] mezuzah…Whenever a person enters or leaves [the house], he will encounter the unity of the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, and remember his love for Him. He will awake from hissleep and his fixation on the futilities of time, and recognise that there is nothing which lasts for eternity except the knowledge of the Creator of the world.

Torah helps prevent us from getting stuck this way. In fact, there is an entire festival that we celebrate that teaches us the importance of the synergy between transience and eternity. The festival of Succot (Tabernacles) celebrates the temporary yet sees it embedded within the eternal.

For this reason, the Talmud tells us that, after much pleading, GOD offers one last opportunity to the gentiles to see how they might connect this way and emerge from the ‘futilities of time’ to live in Zone 3 consciousness. He will see if they can keep Succot. Yet, He will not test their resolve with a regular Succot festival, but rather with a test as to how they keep a particular law of Succot.

We are commanded to live in our Succa for the seven days of the festival. We move ourselves into a temporary edifice recognising that life is transient. We embrace this transience and the value it teaches us, by living in the Succa for the duration of the festival. However, being that the connection between transience and eternal value is difficult to maintain, the law is that if we feel distress at the conditions that sitting in the temporary dwelling might cause, we are exempt from sitting in the Succa and we are permitted to exit it and eat our meal indoors. We are not forced by Torah to sit in the temporary dwelling when the circumstances affect our capacity to see the eternal meaning in it.

One who is distressed [from sitting in the Succa] is exempt.
(Rambam, Hilkhot Succa, 6:2)

The gentiles are tested with Succot in terms of how they deal with the distressing situation of having to leave it.

The gentiles say before Him: Master of the Universe, give us the Torah afresh and we will perform its mitzvot…[God says:] I have an easy mitzva to fulfill, and its name is succa; go and perform it…Immediately, each and every gentile will take materials and go and construct a succa on top of his roof. And the Holy One, Blessed be He, will set upon them the heat of the sun [like in the season of] the summer, and each and every one who is sitting in his succa will be unable to stand the heat, and he will kick his succa and leave, as it is stated: “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (Psalms 2:3).

 The Gemara asks: Why does God heat the sun over them? But didn’t you say that the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not deal tyrannically with His creations? The Gemara answers: This is not considered dealing tyrannically with the gentiles, because for the Jewish people as well, there are times when the season of Tammuz extends until the festival of Succot, and in such years sitting in the succa causes them suffering.

 The Gemara asks: But doesn’t Rava say that one who suffers in the succa is exempt from performing the mitzva of succa, and under these circumstances even a Jew is permitted to leave the succa? If so, why are the gentiles criticised for leaving? The Gemara answers: Granted that one is exempt from performing the mitzva and is permitted to leave his succa, but should one kick it?

The gentile kicks it, out of resentment that he must hold a Zone 3 level of consciousness. He feels encumbered by the fact that there is Divine demand to rigorously cultivate our spiritual growth. This of course, not a definition endemic to gentiles, rather an insight into what is often the difference between the world-view of those who are raised and used to Zone 3 consciousness and those who are not.

Much time has passed and the world has come into a great deal of heightened consciousness. Varying degrees of Zone 3 consciousness are more prevalent in humanity than ever before. But it in most instances, it is missing a crucial factor — GOD.


If it is missing GOD, the truth indeed lies with Sartre, Camus and Nietzsche. With no external consciousness, there can be no real meaning to anything. The world, along with our lives, would indeed be fundamentally meaningless and it would live only in our own imaginations. Jung, Frankl, Peck, Blake, Helprin and all of their ilk have no leg to stand on without the reality of GOD’s consciousness[13].

Thus, foreign worship is to be avoided, rejected, shunned and restricted to the end. The loss that comes by replacing GOD with a god or no god is catastrophic. We are left with a cold, nihilistic and solipsistic world.


Torah presents the world filled with the warmth of the presence and consciousness of GOD. And as the Talmud points in this week’s pages, genuine Torah study raises the consciousness and greatness of any human being, Jew or gentile, through its teachings.

Ribbi Meir would say: ‘From where is it derived that even a gentile who engages in Torah study is considered like the Kohen Gadol (High Priest)? The verse states: ‘You shall therefore keep My statutes and My ordinances which a person will do, and live by them’. (Lev. 18:5) It is not stated: Priests, Levites and Israelites, but rather the general term ‘person’. From here you learn that even a gentile who engages in the study of Torah is like a High Priest. (Daf 3a)

The difference between seeing a world powered and enlivened by GOD which is thus, holistic and eternal or by a god (or none) and thus, fragmented and entropic is treated in various ways on every one of the first ten pages of our tractate. Among them: How we understand our world and life after death. Do we live life in the moment, or does one live always conscious of past, future and consequences? (Daf 3a, 6b) Do my transient moments and deeds find eternal meaning? How do we deal with and understand death? (Daf 5) How do we act in terms of those who came before us and the good that they gave us? (ibid) How do we treat those who are blind to dangers and problems that may face them? Do we ‘open their eyes’ and provide them with context or allow them to continue with obstructed view? (Daf 6) Do we focus on how we feel in the reality of the moment or what it will ultimately mean to us in a broader context? (ibid) How do we deal with those who create festivals out of foreign worship and beliefs? (7b-8) And finally, how do we treat situations when we find gentiles who see GOD and understand and live by the vision of Torah? (8-11).

It is easier, although less popular, for the Jew to see himself today as eternal — as a detail that shines with the effervescence of the infinity of the divine. We have been around for a very long time. We have an ancient and rich history that has taught us through thousands of years of direct experience with both trial and triumph.

Today we are as close as any nation has come to living eternally. Our age-old philosophy finds itself resting within a wise and primeval people that yet brims with the vigour of youth, innovation and vitality. We have been everywhere on this globe and as much as we have absorbed aspects of all the culture and thought of the world, we have also shared the vision of Israel amongst those with whom we have lived. We too have taught the world. In the broader words of Tolstoy’s recognition of Israel’s eternity, he recognised that:

The Jew is that sacred being who has brought down from heaven the everlasting fire, and has illumined with it the entire world. He is the religious source, spring, and fountain out of which all the rest of the peoples have drawn their beliefs and their religions.

It is central to the Jewish people and the Nation of Israel. It is how we have been taught to see the world for generations. But it is not our monopoly.

 Not only the tribe of Levi, but any one of the inhabitants of the world whose spirit generously motivates him and he understands with his wisdom to set himself aside and stand before God to serve Him and minister to Him and to know God, proceeding justly as God made him, removing from his neck the yoke of the many plans which people seek, he is sanctified as holy of holies. God will be His portion and heritage forever and will provide what is sufficient for him in this world like He provides for the priests and the Levites. And thus David declared [Psalms 16:5]: “God is the lot of my portion; You are my cup, You support my lot….’ (Rambam, Shemita and Yobel, 13:13)

We are meant to share it when people truly seek it and we are to welcome it when we find it in the sacred face of any human, created in the image of GOD.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Joseph Dweck


[1] For this essay, in which we introduce the concept of aboda zara – foreign worship, I write GOD in capital letters to express that we are speaking of the singularity that is the omnipotent and omniscient Primal Existence — source of all being, to clearly differentiate from any and all other posited god or gods.

[2] See Umberto Eco, Chronicles of a Liquid Society. pp 165-169. He posits that we have now created a culture ‘incapable of dealing with death’ and that the ‘disappearance of death from our immediate experience will terrify us more when the moment approaches’. https://www.amazon.com/Chronicles-Liquid-Society-Umberto-Eco/dp/0544974484

[3] https://www.amazon.com/How-Be-Existentialist-Making-Excuses/dp/1441139877

[4] https://www.amazon.com/Mans-Search-Meaning-Viktor-Frankl/dp/080701429X

[5] https://www.amazon.com/Memories-Dreams-Reflections-C-Jung/dp/0679723951

[6] https://www.amazon.com/Road-Less-Traveled-Timeless-Traditional/dp/0743243153

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auguries_of_Innocence

[8] This aspect of God being the ultimate space or place in which the universe exists is expressed in the Hebrew reference of God being Makom – lit. ‘Place’. This is also the relationship between the words ‘domain’ and ‘dominion’.

[9] For further treatment on this idea see Sigmund Freud’s essay, On Transience.http://www.freuds-requiem.com/transience.html

[10] https://www.amazon.com/Winters-Tale-Mark-Helprin/dp/0156031191

[11] Especially of the West. For full treatment see The Geography of Thought by Richard E. Nisbett. https://www.amazon.com/Geography-Thought-Asians-Westerners-Differently/dp/0743255356

[12] See Hilkhot Teshuba, 3:4 – ׳אלו השכחים את האמת בהבלי הזמן ושוגים כל שנתם בהבל וריק.׳ ; Hilkhot Mezuza, 6:13 – חיב אדם להזהר במזוזה מפני שהיא חובת הכל תמיד, וכל עת שיכנס ויצא יפגע ביחוד שמו של הקב״ה, ויזכור אהבתו ויעור משנתו ושגיתו בהבלי הזמן וידע שאין שם דבר העומד לעולם ולעולמי עולמים אלא ידיעת צור העולמים ומיד הוא חוזר לדעתו .

[13] Intriguingly this is the very fundamental question asked by the Children of Israel in this week’s Torah reading: Is GOD among us or isn’t He? (Ex., 17:7)




Touring the Talmud Aboda Zara 2-11

Abodah Zara

The laws regardingAboda Zara – foreign worship – stretch far beyond simply bowing to a graven image. We are taught to entirely limit our association with foreign worship as it strikes at the core of our value system. Therefore, our tractate deals not only with the actual worship and its physical paraphernalia, but with how we are to engage with the worshippers and its manifestation in our daily lives. 

Chapter #1: Teaches us the proper interactions in our business dealings with idol worshipers.

Chapter #2 : Deals with some more personal behaviours (which includes eating their food).

Chapter #3: Begins to deal with prohibitions regarding actual items of worship.

Chapter #4: Speaks of how items can be regarded or disregarded as items of worship, and how wine can become ‘wine used for sacrificial libation’.

Chapter #5: Deals with the prohibition of having any sort of benefit from wine used for sacrificial libation

Daf 2


Three days before an Idolatrous festival it is prohibited to:
-Buy and sell from them.
-Lend (possessions) or borrow from them.
-Loan (money) or borrow from them.
-Pay off a loan or collect from them.

  • R”Yehuda allows to collect loans from them as it is unpleasant to them (to have to pay back a loan).
  • Hakhamim prohibit the collection of a loan as the idol worshipper will be happy to have paid off his debts.

Rab and Shemuel debate whether the word used in the Mishna ‘Eidehem’ is spelled with the hebrew letter  ‘Aleph’ (א) or  with an ‘Ayin’ (ע). The implications of the different meanings are discussed.


•   Discussions around: The day God judges the nations.

•   The Judgement of Rome.

•   The Judgement of Persia.

•   The claims made by the nations that they have been just.


Daf 3

•   The nations claim that Israel has not followed its Torah either. Witnesses that argue that Israel has kept the Torah.

•   The nations are given a second chance and tested with the Mitzvah of ‘Succa’.

•   They fail and God laughs at them. Other possible times that God laughs at people as opposed to with people.

•   God’s daily routine.

•   Changes in the Divine routine after the destruction of the Temple.

•   God’s nightly routine.

•   The seriousness of Torah study and its reward/punishment in this world and the world to come.


Daf 4

•   Pray for the protection of the governments, as they provide peace and order.

•   The difference in God’s relationship and judgement of the nations to that of Israel.

•   Judgement of an individual within a group.

•   Bil’am’s understanding of God vs. Bilam’s understanding of his own donkey.

•   God’s daily moment of wrath.

•   Prayer of an individual vs. prayer of a congregation.

•   Israel’s Mitzvot in this world as their own merit in the next world and dismay of the nations.

•   Israel’s transgression with the Golden Calf and King David’s transgression with Bathsheba as paradigms for repentance on communal and individual levels.


Daf 5

•   Our good deeds and bad deeds follow us to the grave.

•   The virtue/benefit of receiving the Torah and the effects of the Golden Calf.

•   Four types of people considered as dead. (poor, blind, leper, childless)

•   Comparison of the generation of the Children of Israel in the desert to Primal Human (Adam Harishon).

•   It takes forty years for a person to ‘get to the bottom’ of (fully understand) his teacher’s words.

•   People who study Torah and maintain healthy, kind-hearted relationships become masters of their own lives.


The Gemara explains that the idol worshippers begin to buy animals for sacrifice three days prior to their festival in order to check it for blemishes.


Daf 6

There is discussion as to whether or not the ‘three days’ mentioned includes the festival itself or not. It is confirmed that the three days does not include the actual festival.

The Gemara ponders which specific prohibition is violated when doing business with idol worshippers before their festival.

The Gemara discusses the status of the benefit from a prohibited transaction.

The reasons why each of the transactions in the Mishna which are prohibited are given, and R”Yehuda’s opinion is clarified.

The Gemara brings the opinion of R”Yehoshua Ben Korha who holds that an undocumented loan may be collected (as we fear that the idol worshipper may later deny the loan), while a documented loan may not be collected. The Gemara establishes the law to be like R”YBK.

Daf 7

The Gemara discusses the structure of the Mishna and how to deduce law from it.

The Gemara brings additional cases where we establish law like R”YBK.



 R”Yishmael prohibits business with idol worshippers both there days before and three days after an idolatrous festival.

Hakhamim prohibit only before a festival.



 Four possible differences between Hakhamim here and the author of the first Mishna are offered. one of the possible differences is a controversial ruling made by Nahum Hamadi.

Additional controversial rulings made by Nahum Hamadi are brought. Abaye notes that Nahum does have a single uncontroversial ruling: While praying, one may add any personal requests in the blessing of ‘Shome’a Tefila’ – as Hakhamim are of the same opinion.


Daf 8

The Gemara discusses personal additions to the prescribed text of prayer.


 A list of idolatrous festivals:

Calanda, Saturnalia, Qartesim, a king’s coronation and a king’s birthday.

The day a king dies- Hakhamim hold is only considered idolatrous if the mourning includes bonfires, while R”Meir holds that it is idolatrous even if there are no fires.

If an idol worshipper has a personal festivity, it is prohibited to do business with him only on the specific day of his festivity.



 The Gemara states that Calanda is an eight day festival after the winter solstice, and Saturnalia is an eight day festival leading up to the winter solstice.

The Gemara attributes the source of this festival to the primal human (Adam HaRishon), who upon seeing the days getting so short in winter feared the world was coming to an end. When he saw them begin to get longer he rejoiced, sacrificed an animal and instituted a festival. His festival was then adopted by idol worshippers.

The Gemara discusses the type of animal that Adam Harishon sacrificed.

The Gemara discusses doing business with people associated with others in the midst of idolatrous festivities, and attending the party of someone who recently celebrated.

The Gemara identifies Qartesim as the day that Rome seized power from the Greeks.

A collaboration between Israel and Rome is presented as the reason for the Romans taking power from the Greeks. This collaboration lasted for twenty-six years until the Romans turned on Israel.

Major events in the time period leading up to the destruction of the second Temple are presented.

The story of R” Yehuda Ben Baba, who gave his life to preserve and pass on proficiency in Torah study and ajudication of Jewish law.

Daf 9

The Gemara lists which empires had control of Israel during the second Temple period.

The Gemara offers a trick to remember how to convert from counting the years after the destruction to counting from the rise of the Greek Empire (commonly used on documents at the time) and vice versa.

The world’s lifespan is six thousand years, two thousand of chaos, two thousand of Torah and two thousand of the age of the Messiah.

The Gemara offers a trick to remember how to convert from counting the years from creation to counting from the rise of the Greek Empire (commonly used on documents at the time) and vice versa.

The Gemara offers a trick to figure out what year of the Sabbatical it is.

Predictions of when the Messiah may come.

Daf 10

In the diaspora we date our documents to the empire in control.

Rome was not a dynastic empire. Marcus Aurelius wished for his son to rule after him; he takes advice from R’ Yehuda HaNasi (codifier of the Mishna) on how to do so.

Stories of the close relationship between R’ Yehuda HaNasi and Marcus Aurelius.

The Gemara states that both Marcus Aurelius and Keti’a Bar Shalom have a portion in the world to come. The story of Keti’a Bar Shalom is told.

Daf 11

Stories of Onkelos a Roman convert who reinstated the Aramaic translation of the Five books of Moses.

The relationship between Marcus Aurelius and R’ Yehuda HaNasi as the paradigm for the relationship between Jacob and Esau.

All agree (Hakhamim and R”Meir of the Mishna on Daf 8) that a bonfire at the death of a king (burning the king’s possessions) is not inherently idolatrous, rather a show of great respect.

Onkelos burned the possessions of Rabban Gamliel the Elder that had the value of 30 kilograms of silver.

The Gamara mentions another festival, and explains that the Mishna only recorded the festivals that occur annually.


The festivals mentioned in the Mishna are all Roman festivals. The Gemara brings Persian and Babylonian festivals and identifies certain houses of worship.