Sunday, 29 September 2013

Pesachim 102 a, b

After learning from masechtot Berachot and Shabbat, it is strange and yet a relief to learn today about a number of specific blessings said on Shabbat.  Of course, the blessings on Shabbat are in the context of Pesach or another Festival as we learn Pesachim.  Still, the rabbis consider carefully the practice that they are sending forward as they rule on these rituals.

Another very short daf, 102 begins with further examination of Rabbi Yehuda and other rabbi's ideas regarding how to continue a meal after interruption (with regard to specific blessings).  We then are introduced to the order of prayers when the end of Shabbat marks the beginning of a Festival.  The rabbis offer differnt acronyms to help them recall the order of blessings.  For example, Rav suggests the acronym yud, kuf, nun, hey (yud-yayin/wine, kuf-kiddush, nun-ner/candle, hay-havdala).  

While potential orders and their acronyms continue into tomorrow's daf, some interesting concepts and introduced through this discussion.  Which blessings stand on their own, and which can be attached to others?  Rabbis seem to lean toward agreement with regard to Grace after Meals, birkat hamazon, as a stand-alone blessing.  However, kiddush and havdala are connected as wine is a part of both blessings.

Related to these ideas is another concept: doubling up.  Are we allowed to use one glass of wine for both kiddush and havdala?   The rabbis agree that when possible, we should use two different glasses.  Why?  Steinsaltz shares notes with us explaining that each ritual is given it's due, similar to the practice of simchot being celebrated independently.

The importance of seder, order, in ritual is critical to the rabbis.  Understanding exactly wheich blessings are said when is how rituals are established.  Interestingly, the rabbis do not seem to be overly concerned with proof texts for their opinions in this case.  Learning Berachot and Shabbat helped me to understand that the rabbis continually pushed each other to ensure that the rituals that they were creating were the proper interpretations of G-d's intent.

While I hold the rituals sacred - I recognize the power that has been infused into those rituals - I do not believe that the rabbis always understood "the will of G-d" when they created our rituals.  Thus some (if not all) of our rituals may be considered 'flawed' or even not-sacred.  And yet, with this perspective, I continue to practice.  I suppose that I benefit from the Jewish tradition of 'doing before believing'.  Our faith; our internal belief is not nearly as important as our outward actions.  Another of the many reasons that Judaism continues to survive against all odds.

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