Rabbi Aaron Goldstein
13 February 2020
Moses was up Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights, Noah was cooped up in an Ark while it rained for 40 days; and the ancient rabbis (Pirkei Avot 5) understood 40 to denote an age of wisdom. So it seemed appropriate to count to 40 before commenting on what might otherwise be a whim.
When one is ill-disciplined, there is nothing like committing to a daily project lasting 7 and a half years. On nothing more than an impulse, and much to the amusement of some, I responded to the news that a new cycle of Daf Yomi – reading a page of Talmud each day – was beginning by signing up to myjewishlearning.com/get-your-daily-dose-of-talmud/ and tabletmag.com/author/takeone podcast expecting that to be all I would consume.
Yet I have found myself being consumed by the stimulation of learning each day… even getting slightly twitchy if, for work, family, and life reasons I run a day late.
So how does a Liberal Jewish rabbi read the Talmud? I’ll admit to an element of skim reading, especially when the argumentation becomes convoluted and repetitive. Yet increasingly have read each page – usually on sefaria.org and I have made a note of a potential sermon or study session, being led into a conversation spanning millennia with Rashi and Ramban, from Tarfon to the Tosafists.
A decent amount of the first 40 days in Tractate Berakhot – blessings – have concerned how and when to say the Shema, and latterly berakhot relating to food. As a – I am not sure what percentage but quite high – vegan, I have very much related to ancient rabbinic concerns for diet and the ‘medicinal’ properties of plants.
So to conclude this piece, the Talmudic (vegan) health tip of the day goes to Rav Mari who said that Rabbi Yochanan said: One who is accustomed to eat mustard once in thirty days prevents illnesses from afflicting his house. The Gemara comments: However, one should not eat mustard every day. What is the reason? Because it is deleterious in that it causes weakness of the heart.
Enjoy your Dijon or English but of course, in moderation.
Follow Rabbi Aaron’s Daf Yomi journey through his blogs on the Liberal Judaism website
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