Live the Questions

Words of Torah, funny anecdotes about my students, rants about education policy, and observations on politics, progressive Judaism, activism, and culture will all make appearances on this blog. Each post will end with a question for the reader; please respond if you feel moved.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sometimes even the rabbi is at a loss...

I was tickled by this funny story from the Talmud. Anyone who has ever felt lost or uncomfortable when asked to do a ritual act in an unfamiliar community can identify. It also has a good moral at the end-- that observation and attention can get you out of many a tight spot.

This story is related when the rabbis are trying to figure out what the kiddush (blessing to sanctify the day done over a cup of wine) on shabbat day is supposed to comprise. Since the day is technically sanctified on Friday night, what is the purpose of the Saturday kiddush? What should you say? They basically decide that it just needs to consist of the one-sentence formulation "Baruch atah... borei pri hagafen" "Blessed are you. . . creator of the fruit of the vine." However, because this kiddush is so short (especially when compared to the Friday night kiddush) it is euphemistically called the "Great Kiddush."

This is my own translation and I tried to be literal except where it was absolutely necessary to add in [information you needed to understand the story].

Pesachim 106a
Rav Ashi happened to be in Machoza. They said to him, "Sir, make the Great Kiddush for us." They brought him [a cup of wine]. He thought [to himself], "What is the Great Kiddush?!?!? All of the blessings [i.e. for kiddush] begin with 'borei pri hagafen,' so I'll say that first. He said, " . . . borei pri hagafen" and he drew out the words [until] he saw an old man sit down and drink. He said to himself, "A wise man has eyes in his head." (a quote from Ecclesiastes)



  • At 2:22 PM, Blogger ALG said…

    That's a great story. Thanks!

  • At 1:43 PM, Anonymous Dave Damast said…

    No, no. It's called the Great Kiddush because it's ten minutes long... anyone who holds otherwise is an infidel.

  • At 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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