Reaching for a Brew

Daf 12. Does the “failure” to recite one of the blessings before the Shema prevent one from reciting the other? Can one recite the blessings out of order? The Ten Commandments were also recited “as they are the basis of the Torah” until the practice was abolished “due to the grievance of the heretics.” Attempts to reinstate it were unsuccessful.

The Gemara returns to the question of whether a long or a short blessing may be substituted, one for the other, considering the case of one who took up a cup of wine, thinking it was beer and began to recite the blessing for wine, and the consequences of whether or not he corrected himself in mid-blessing. If the conclusion of the blessing matches the act being blessed, the obligation has been fulfilled, but if the opening of the blessing does not match the act being blessed, the “dilemma . . . remains unresolved.”

There is a disagreement regarding whether one bows or stands erect when mentioning God’s name. The name we use for God, which emphasizes different divine attributes, changes according to the time of year (e.g., during the Days of Atonement).

“Anyone who can ask for mercy on behalf of another and does not ask is called a sinner.” Rava says that asking for mercy is not sufficient when praying for a Torah scholar: “one must make himself ill worrying about him.” The Gemara searches for proof for Rava’s statement.

“One who commits an act of transgression and is ashamed of it, all of his transgressions are forgiven.” The Gemara searches for a proof that an individual’s shame is sufficient.

The Gemara asks why the Sages sought to add the blessings of Balaam to the Shema; and why they added mention of the ritual fringes.

Mishnah. “The Exodus from Egypt is mentioned at night.” (This was “proved” by Ben Zoma’s homiletic interpretation of all the days to mean days and nights. The rabbis, on the other hand, took all to mean days, here and now, and days in Messianic times.)

Comment. The animosity underneath these conflicts creates a steady background noise. Can a “grievance of heretics” suppress the recitation of the Ten Commandments? Rashi theorized that the rabbis suppressed the recitation of the Ten Commandments out of concern that heretics (or idolators) would point to the Ten Commandments and say, “Only this (and not the rest of the Torah) was delivered to the people at Sinai; thus, only these commandments are true.” But Rashi does not explain why the rabbis would have so little faith in the Torah that they would feel the heretics could carry the day with such an argument. Who are these heretics? Surely, they must be members of the community to have any agency in this conversation. That they are not mentioned by name suggests that of all the disputants they are among the most dangerous and their character must be denigrated before one so much as alludes to their opinions.

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