“The Torah was not given to Ministering Angels” (25a-25b)

That’s what Rava said and it is clear from today’s daf that Rava is right about the recipients of the Torah. We humans are not “ministering angels” and yet we are commanded to praise and to thank the One just as they do.

The ministering angels have it easier though! They don’t have human bodies whose natural products and rhythms constantly interrupt and disturb (at least according to the rabbis).

In today’s daf the rabbis continue to parse the calculus of control, attempting every which way to distance themselves from their bodies and that which is labeled unpleasant, noxious, and even disgusting.

But why? Why so much attention to these matters? There seems to be so very little compassion in this text for the natural, physical side of human existence suggesting that human physicality is the greatest obstacle to our being  fully human. Perhaps the rabbis simply got it wrong, very wrong.

Rather than see the body as the prison of the soul, what would it look if the rabbis appreciated the body as it’s temple or at least its precious container?

Day after day the rabbis make the body the “other” — projecting onto it every detestable and foul thing. Nothing good can come of this.

And the question emerges: What are the real obstacles to our being fully human?

And the question remains: Why can’t we say the Sh’ma all the time?



This entry was posted in Daf Yomi, Hevruta study, Talmud. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “The Torah was not given to Ministering Angels” (25a-25b)

  1. Charles Hollander says:

    “And the question remains: Why can’t we say the Sh’ma all the time?”

    I think what the Rabbis are asking is not when can you say it but when must you say it. They tend to use the word “valid” about matters of prayer, and I think that refers to required prayers. I think you’re right that the Sh’ma should be always on our lips, as it will be in our last breath.

  2. elenizl says:


    Check out the above link for one current sociologist’s ideas about farting, yawning, bleching, and laughing, among other things. Think “empathy”, think “mirror neurons” … think maybe the Rabbis had some intuition about natural functions that perhaps escape our modern sensibilities?

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