We’ve Got to Keep Each Other Company

Daf 6. Summary. The daf begins by describing the blessings earned by one who waits in the synagogue for another to finish his prayer. It shifts abruptly to a discussion of the presence of demons everywhere and how one might detect them. Then Abba Binyamin teaches “One’s prayer is only fully heard in a synagogue.” The Holy One is present in the synagogue (Psalm 82:1, “God stands in the congregation of God.”) The significance of gatherings in the synagogue of ten, three, two, and one alone are enumerated. After which Rabbi Yitzhak asks, “From where is it derived that the Holy One . . . wears phylacteries?” Rabbi Nahman bar Yitzhak asks, “What is written in the phylacteries of the Master of the World?” God’s phylacteries affirm his covenant with Israel.

Rav Yitzhak said: “One who is accustomed to come to the synagogue and did not come one day, the Holy One . . . asks about him.” If he is absent to perform a mitzvah, God provides light; otherwise “there is no light for him.” Other rewards are given for rushing to synagogue, attending a house of mourning, fasting, delivering a eulogy, and participating in a wedding. One who prays behind the synagogue is called wicked. Likewise, those who are not vigilant with regard to the afternoon prayer . . . or the evening prayer . . . or the morning prayer. The entire world was created only for the person who has the “fear of heaven” — and we are here simply to serve as the companions of the one who “has the fear of heaven (or to be the one but that is an aspiration and we will never know in this life if we have achieved it!). “The only way to steal from a pauper who owns nothing is to rob him of his dignity by refusing to return his greeting.

Comment. From beginning to end, this daf is concerned with our duty to be a companion to our fellow; to not abandon him in the midst of prayer or to fail to provide him with an acknowledgement when encountering him on the street. Anyone we encounter may be the one for whom the world was created. As we were created to be his companions, there are many simple acts that we must offer him to justify our existence– standing by him while he prays, being part of a minyan when he mourns, fasting when he atones, delivering a eulogy when he stands before a grave, and adding to the joy at his wedding. To rob such a one of his dignity is akin to offending God; to risk angering God to such a degree that He will cast off his tefillin and sever his ties with his people.

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2 Responses to We’ve Got to Keep Each Other Company

  1. Charles Hollander says:

    Neil, Thanks for keeping this up. I’ve gotten this far tonight, and I’ll try to keep catching up. I enjoyed the breakfast sessions, and I’m glad to be working at this. I was struck by the last piece about robbing the poor man by refusing him a greeting. At the Institute we all got to feel the preciousness of our exchanged greetings. I’m not sure I’d say this is my family, but it sure is my small town.

    Charlie

  2. Charles Hollander says:

    Neil, Thanks for keeping this up. I’ve gotten this far tonight, and I’ll try to keep catching up. I enjoyed the breakfast sessions, and I’m glad to be working at this. I was struck by the last piece about robbing the poor man by refusing him a greeting. At the Institute we all got to feel the preciousness of our exchanged greetings. I’m not sure I’d say this is my family, but it sure is my small town.

    Charlie

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