Tractate Brahot Highlights

Tractate Berachot

Chapter 1:

Pg 2: Whenever the sages instituted a deadline of midnight, it’s really until dawn – in order to safeguard from sin.

Pg 3: There are 3 ‘watches’ of the night. At every watch God roars like a lion, crying for the Temple he destroyed for His son’s sins.

Pg 4: Accustom yourself to say “I don’t know,” lest you be in error and be called a liar.

Pg 5: Whoever says the bedtime “Shma” is as if he’s holding a sword that destroys evil spirits.

Pg 6: If a person desired to perform a commandment but was impeded against his will, it is still considered as if he performed it.

Pg 7: Even the blessing that a simpleton bestows upon you should be heeded.

Pg 8: If one cannot attend synagogue he should at least pray at the same time as the congregation, as it is a propitious time.

Pg 9: If a prisoner is told he’ll be released tomorrow & given great wealth, he’ll respond: let me out today without wealth.

Pg 10: Hezekiya: “I have a tradition from King David that even if a sharp sword is at your neck, don’t stop praying for mercy.”

Pg 11: Bet Hilel: “Shma” can be said standing, sitting, lying down, on the road or during work.

Pg 12: If one sins and is then truly embarrassed by his action, his sins are forgiven.

1st Chapter Summary: “Me’ematay”: Bet Hillel: “when you lie down and when you rise” establishes times when obligated to recite “Shma.” At night starts with appearance of stars and ends at dawn. Time for daytime “Shma” from dawn until ¼ of daylight. Nighttime blessings of “Shma”: 2 before: “maariv aravim” (luminaries) and “ahavat olam” (Torah); 2 after: “emet ve’emunah” (Exodus) and “hashkivenu” (preparing for sleep). “Shma” needs to be followed immediately by the “Amidah” (silent prayer). “Shma” consists of 2 paragraphs on accepting the yoke of heaven and one performing the commandments and the Exodus.

Chapter 2:

Pg 13: The performance of commandments requires “kavana” (intent/concentration), otherwise it may not count is if it was performed.

Pg 14: One is prohibited from conducting any business before morning prayers. However, if one prays before travelling he is blessed with divine help.

Pg 15: If there is no water available, a person should clean his hands with dirt (sand), pebbles or chips of wood.

Pg 16: If the time to recite “Shma” arrived, workers can say it atop a tree or a wall, put for prayer they must descend.

Pg 17: In the hereafter there is no food, drink, relations, business, jealously, hatred or competition. The righteous enjoy God’s splendor.

2nd Chapter Summary: “Haya Koreh”: Ideally one should recite all of “Shma” with full concentration. However, if one was only able to concentrate during the first verse, he has fulfilled his obligation. One can also interrupt his recitation to greet someone if he must in cases of fear or respect. One should enunciate and hear their own recitation of “Shma”, but if he didn’t he still fulfilled his obligation. If he read “Shma” out of order, he did not fulfill the obligation. Laborers must pause and concentrate to recite the first verse of “Shma”, but can say it wherever they are working and the rest of “Shma” even while working. Those in the midst of performing a different Mitzvah have a temporary dispensation from reciting “Shma” as does a bridegroom on his wedding night.

Chapter 3:

Pg 18: If a relative has yet to be buried, it’s as if the body is in front of him & is exempt from all positive commandments.

Pg 19: Never incite the Satan by even hinting that you should be punished or receive any mishap, because then it might happen.

Pg 20: The Evil Eye has no effect upon the descendents of the biblical Joseph son of Jacob.

Pg 21: Whoever teaches their child Torah it’s as if it was transmitted directly from Mt. Sinai.

Pg 22: Just as fire cannot become ritually contaminated, so too, words of Torah cannot be ritually contaminated.

Pg 23: One should not pray if they need to relieve themselves. Otherwise, their prayer is considered disgusting.

Pg 24: Whoever prays audibly during the Silent Prayer is of little faith. Whoever prays loudly is as a false prophet.

Pg 25: If one sees feces through a glass pane he can still pray, but not if one sees “nakedness” through a glass pane.

3rd Chapter Summary: “Mi Shemeto”: Reciting “Shma” requires distance from filth, contamination and impurity. There are a number of laws regarding “respect of man” that also include respect of the dead. Ezra enacted that men who had emission need to immerse before learning Torah. It’s no longer in effect. Parts of the body that are normally covered are considered indecent (“erva”) when exposed and one cannot recite “Shma” if they are in view.

Chapter 4:

Pg 26: The Forefathers set the 3 daily prayers: Abraham: Morning “Shaharit”, Isaac: Afternoon “Minha”, Jacob: Night “Arvit”.

Pg 27: Elders deposed R’ Gamliel for humiliating R’ Yehoshua & instated R’ Elazar b Azaria, wise, rich, noble ancestry.

Pg 28: Sanherib of Assyria (700BC) relocated all the nations. Therefore, no people are precluded from converting to Judaism.

Pg 29: Prayer shouldn’t be “keva”: a burden; should be a plea; should have a new request each time.

Pg 30: During travel, one should stay seated when praying, as otherwise he cannot concentrate properly.

4th Chapter Summary: “Tefilat Hashachar”: There is a fuzzy overlap between the obligatory time to pray “Minha” (afternoon) and “Arvit” (night) prayers. Though “Arvit” was initially considered an optional prayer, today it’s considered obligatory. The full Silent Prayer was obligated depending on ones ability to concentrate, but today is considered obligatory in any case. “Musaf” prayer is obligatory even for individuals. An individual’s prayer is comparable to the service of God in the Temple.

Chapter 5:

Pg 31: Can’t “fill mouth w/ laughter” (have unrestrained joy). [Either in mourning over Temple or ‘cuz leads to frivolity].

Pg 32: If prolong prayer & expect results: disappointment. Prolong & don’t expect results: better chance.

Pg 33: R’ Hanina: All matters are in the hands of Heaven, except for the fear of Heaven.

Pg 34: The only difference between this world and the Messianic age is that Israel won’t be subjugated by the nations.

5th Chapter Summary: “Ein Omdin”: Stories highlighting importance and need to focus during prayer. Should only interrupt if life-threatening situation. Any mistakes or interruptions considered a blemish on the prayer and congregation. Specific additions can and should be made at certain parts of the prayer for special requests and holidays. Improperly formulated additions (repetitions, theological inaccuracies) are undesirable.

Chapter 6:

Pg 35: Whoever partakes of this world without blessing is as if he stole from God.

Pg 36: The Land of Israel lacks nothing: “A land that not in poverty will you eat bread nor will you lack anything.” Deuteronomy 8:9

Pg 37: R’ Akiva to R’ Gamliel (when dissented from R’G’s opinion): “You taught us the majority overrules the individual.”

Pg 38: Food or drink that has medicinal properties still require a blessing and can be eaten on the Sabbath.

Pg 39: Rava: When blessing over bread, first bless and then cut.

Pg 40: 3 opinions as to identity of the forbidden fruit in Garden of Eden: R’ Meir: Grape. R’ Nehemia: Fig. R’ Yehuda: Wheat.

Pg 41: R’ Hamnuna: The order of preference of blessings on the 7 species are: wheat, olives, barley, dates, grapes, figs & pomegranate.

Pg 42: Whoever hosts a Torah scholar in his home is assured of blessings shortly thereafter.

Pg 43: God made every individual’s destined profession dear in his own eyes (i.e. you’ll like it).

Pg 44: 6 healing foods: cabbage, beets, dry pennyroyal, stomach, womb, and diaphragm.

6th Chapter Summary: “Keitzad Mevarchin”: Organization of blessings over food:

Most general – “shehakol”, over all vegetables – “ha’adama”, over all fruit – “ha’etz”, over wine – “ha’gefen”, over most grain products – “mezonot”, over bread – “hamotzi”.

Blessings over smell: Most general – “minei besamim”, others: fragrant grasses, fragrant trees, oils, fragrant fruit. Fruit is defined as coming from any plant that continues to produce fruit after the initial fruit has been picked. Any food that has a blessing beforehand requires a blessing afterward.

Chapter 7:

Pg 45: 3 that eat together must Preface the Grace over the meal. 1 waits for 2 that are ready to bless, but not viceversa.

Pg 46: Guest blesses host after meal: shouldn’t know shame in this world & reward in the next world shouldn’t be reduced.

Pg 47: A convert is not converted to Judaism until he has had a circumcision and immersed in the ritual bath.

Pg 48: Authors of Grace after Meals: blessing 1: Moses; blessing 2: Joshua; blessing 3; David/Solomon, blessing 4: Yavne sages.

Pg 49: Don’t end a blessing w/ 2 topics as we don’t “bundle” commandments (don’t want to show that they are a burden).

Pg 50: 3 that ate together cannot separate until they’ve recited Preface to Grace over the Meal together.

Pg 51: R’ Yochanan: One who says the Grace after Meals with a full cup of wine merits unlimited reward.

7th Chapter Summary: “Shlosha Sheachlu”: Standard Preface for Grace after the Meal requires at least three men. Enhanced Preface uttering God’s name requires at least 10. Once a group has sat down to eat, they cannot separate until they’ve recited the Preface. The four blessings of the Grace after the Meal are of biblical origin. One cannot say the Preface or the Grace after the Meal on food that has not been tithed or that is forbidden to eat before separating it.

Chapter 8:

Pg 52: It is better to hasten to greet the Sabbath and to delay ending it, so that it should not appear as a burden.

Pg 53: The flame from the Havdala candle (ceremony at end of Sabbath) must provide enough light to distinguish fine details.

8th Chapter Summary: “Elu Dvarim”: In debates, the law is like Bet Hillel. He rules on matters of impurity that it’s more important to distance a person from biblical impurity at the cost other potential impurity. There is a focus on the laws and order of blessings, especially those for bringing in the Sabbath (Kiddush) and taking leave of the Sabbath (Havdala). Special blessings instituted for spices and candles for these Sabbath-related events but not as an accompaniment for other needs.

Chapter 9:

Pg 54: On shooting stars, quakes, thunder, winds or lightning one declares: Blessed is He whose power & might fills the world.

Pg 55: A dream will come to fruition based on how it’s interpreted, but only if the interpretation relates to the dream.

Pg 56: The curse of a sage, even if undeserved, comes true.

Pg 57: Of these pairs, the 1st is 1/60th of the 2nd: Fire/Hell, Honey/Manna, Sabbath/Heaven, Sleep/Death, Dreams/Prophecy.

Pg 58: Whoever seeks to kill you, arise early and kill him first.

Pg 59: Thunder was only created to straighten crooked hearts (i.e. instills fear of Heaven & people return to the right path).

Pg 60: R’ Akiva: A person should accustom himself to say that whatever God does, it’s for the best.

Pg 61: R’ Akiva: Torah is to a Jew as water is to a fish. Both will perish without it.

Pg 62: In the bathroom, be silent and modest. Regarding sufferings, be silent (don’t complain to God) and pray for mercy.

Pg 63: Basis of Torah: In all your ways (activities, even sins), know (& consider God’s will), & He will straighten your path.

Pg 64: Whoever forces himself to grandeur before his time, fails. Whoever holds off from grandeur, grandeur will find him.

9th Chapter Summary: “Ha’roeh”: Blessing of “Shehechiyanu” on good communal/shared events. Blessing of “Hatov Ve’hametiv” on good private/individual events, including acquiring new items and meeting an old friend. Blessing of “Dayan Ha’emet” for bad news/events, though underlying belief that everything God does is for the best.

Blessing of “She’kocho Male Olam” (that His power fills the world) on powerful natural phenomena. Blessing of “Oseh Bereshit” (that makes creation) on wonders of nature. Idea of seeing God’s hand in everything. Discussions of miracles, dreams and the power of their interpretation and the power of prayer.

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Ein Mishpat Table: Halachic cross-reference based on Talmudic sources in table form, color-coded according to relevant sections of Maimonides Mishne Torah:

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