Saturday, January 4, 2020

Daf Yomi

Start Daf Yomi Now!  You Can Do It!

There are many lanes on the Daf Yomi highway.  There are slow lanes and fast lanes.  The journey is the thing.

Recommended edition of the Babylonian Talmud: Koren Steinsaltz

Available at Afikomen, 3042 Claremont Ave, Berkeley, through the Koren website (now with great study aids if you buy the whole set) and on-line for free at Sefaria (without the notes). 

Also through Dayenu at the JCCSF (owner Hiroko Rosen is a member of the San Francisco JCCSF Talmud Circle).

PDFs are also available for sale at Koren. CLICK HERE

You can also get a daily digest of Daf Yomi at: 

On January 4, 2020, the last Aleph Society essay will be delivered  by email service. To continue studying the Talmud with commentary and insights from Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, you can CLICK HERE


My Jewish Learning CLICK HERE

Recommended articles with tips, daily summaries, podcasts, and other resources:

• 7 Tips for Studying Daf Yomi by Rabbi Avi Killip:

• Collection of resources including daily daf yomi summaries, podcasts, and even day yomi haikus! Compiled by Rabbi Amy Bardack


• 9 Things to Know About the Daf Yomi by Ilana Kurshan, author of Talmud memoir, If All the Seas Were Ink:


Thursday, January 2, 2020

The war against Trajan

In the Noe Steinsaltz Talmud, page 103, Perek 2, Daf 18b, at the bottom:  “What is Trajan’s Day?”

Compare and contrast the Talmudic retelling of Trajan with an historian's description here:


The Roman emperor Trajan had decided to bring peace to the eastern borders of his empire for once and for all. Therefore, in 115 CE, he attacked Armenia and the kingdom of the Parthians. His operations were a success, and he was to be the only Roman emperor to sail on the Persian Gulf. However, after he had created new provinces - Armenia, Mesopotamia and Assyria - and believed he had been victorious, several Messianic revolts broke out similtaneously. The reasons are unclear, but the appearance of a comet, a Messianic symbol, may be the explanation; it is referred to in Chinese sources (and perhaps Juvenal, Satires, 6.407). The diasporic Jews of Egypt, Cyrenaica and Cyprus were among the rebels, but the newly conquered region of Mesopotamia was unquiet too.
Their revolt started in Cyrene, where one Lukuas - sometimes called Andreas - ordered Jews to destroy the pagan temples of Apollo, Artemis, Hecate, Demeter, Isis and Pluto, and to assail the worshippers. The latter fled to Alexandria, where they captured and killed many Jews. (With a population of some 150,000 Jews, Alexandria was Judaism's largest city.) In 116, Jews organized themselves and struck back. The temples of gods like Nemesis, Hecate and Apollo were destroyed; the same fate befell the tomb of Pompey, the Roman general who had captured Jerusalem almost two centuries before.
Meanwhile, the Cyrenaican Jews plundered the Egyptian countryside, reaching Thebes, six hundred kilometers upstream. The future historian Appian of Alexandria records that he made a providential escape from a party of Jews pursuing him in the Nile marshes (more...). There was nothing the Roman governor Marcus Rutilius Lupus could do, although he sent a legion (III Cyrenaica or XXII Deiotariana) to protect the inhabitants of Memphis.

Trajan sent out two expeditionary forces. One, consisting of VII Claudia, restored order on Cyprus; the other was to attack Lukuas' rebels and was commanded by Quintus Marcius Turbo. The Roman general sailed to Alexandria, defeated the Jews in several pitched battles and killed thousands of enemies, not only those in Egypt but also those of Cyrene. It is unclear what became of Lukuas, except for the fact that according to our Greek source Eusebius he had styled himself 'king' (= Messiah?). After this war, much of northern Africa had to be repopulated. The emperor Trajan and his successor Hadrian confiscated Jewish property to pay for the reconstruction of the destroyed temples.

Trajan ordered the commander of his Mauritanian auxiliaries, Lusius Quietus, to clean the suspects out of these regions. Quietus organized a force and killed many Cypriote, Mesopotamian and Syrian Jews - in effect wiping them out; as a reward, he was appointed governor of Judaea. (He is one of the few blacks known to have made a career in Roman service.) He was responsible for a forced policy of hellenization; in response, the rabbis ordered the Jewish fathers not to teach their sons Greek (Mishna Sota 9.14).
Meanwhile, Trajan had reached his military aims and returned home. On his way back, he fell ill, and not much later, he died (8 August 117). His successor Hadrian gave up the newly conquered countries and dismissed Lusius Quietus, who was killed in the Summer of 118.  

Read more here:

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Avinu Malkeinu

My teacher, Dr. Richard Sarason, taught that "it is an irony of history that the very language now so controversial in Avinu Malkeinu (namely, the masculine-gendered, hierarchical images of God as “Father” and “King”) is what made this prayerful appeal so distinctive and effective for its original users."  The origin of Avinu Malkeinu is imbedded in our Tractate Ta'anit 25.  There is much to learn here in the point-counterpoint of the Eliezer-Akiba experience.  Shana Tova. (Peretz Wolf-Prusan)

Friday, September 27, 2019

Discourse and Truth: the Problematization of Parrhesia

"Ideal charismatic action emerges out of a profound intimacy
with God that allows the charismatic to couple critical speech with a potent affirmation of God's faithfulness and loyalty. Intimacy serves as the foundation of effective
rabbinic parrhesia , the quality of presence that allows the charismatic to articulate critical discourse before God while still retaining God's favor . These dynamics take center stage in Bavli Ta ʿ anit's tale of Naqdimon ben Gurion, which appears in bTaʿanit 19b–20".  (P
age 152, Julia Watts Belser, "Power, Ethics, and Ecology in Jewish Late Antiquity: Rabbinic Responses to Drought and Disaster"  Cambridge University Press)

Discourse and Truth: the Problematization of Parrhesia: 6 lectures given by Michel Foucault at the University of California at Berkeley, Oct-Nov. 1983


To read “The City Square in the Performance of Taanit: From Rabbinic Space to Contemporary Jerusalem,” by Yair Lipshitz, CLICK HERE

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Cancellation of Megillat Ta’anit

Our readings of Tractate Ta'anit contains several mentions of Megillat Ta'anit.  What is Megillat Ta'anit is a fascinating question and an excellent explanation can be found here:


Tuesday, July 30, 2019


It is with great joy that we announce that registration for the 2019 – 2020 Bay Area Community Talmud Circle is available now!

Join a circle here:CLICK

If you are joining us this year, welcome, and please read this post for details about our continuing study and the special Introduction to Talmud Study Tutorials for new students.

Rabbi Dorothy Richman (left) leads our Berkeley Circle, Prof. Deena Aranoff (top) leads our Marin Circle, and Rabbi Jennifer Clayman (right) leads our Los Gatos Circle

Senior Educator Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan leads the San Francisco Circles, and the Palo Alto and Santa Rosa Circles.  Associate Director Tamar Zaken coordinates the Text Circles and Kevah Program

We are continuing our reading of Tractate Ta’anit.  New participants are welcomed and will have webinars and tutorials to be able to jump in.

This section of the Talmud raises questions about “Holy Men” pronouncing the "meaning" of a disaster. This narrative section of the Talmud, in the words of Julia Watts Belser, “over turns expected hierarchies of gender, piety, and social status to challenge the theological significance of hunger, suffering, and abundance.” She writes, "These narratives blunt the moral condemnation inherent in disaster – and suggest that blessing often lies beneath the surface of apparent misfortune.” The Talmud asserts that an interpretation of events exercises a powerful influence over experience.

Students should purchase the Koren Talmud Bavli Noé, Vol.12: Ta’anit/Megilla, Hebrew/English, print (several versions) or the PDF (less than $10).

Join a Circle: CLICK

If you have questions, please contact Tamar Zaken at tamar@hmqm or (510) 845-6420.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Got to know (and love) those basic terms

The Talmud contains many key terms.  Many are explained in this link CLICK HERE  

A fascinating and appropriately provacative essay by Rabbi Benay Lappe, the Rosh Yeshiva of SVARA: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva Click Here

You can see her ELI talk here CLICK HERE

You can find our all time favorite Guide to Jewish Texts BY CLICKING HERE

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Introduction to Mishnah and Talmud

Here is a recording of the October 14 Wednesday Night Webinar, "Introduction to Mishnah and Talmud.

"Click Here for Introduction to Mishnah and Talmud

Next Wednesday Night Webinar is December 2.  Sign up by writing