As the days turn to weeks and the weeks to months, I realise that this is the longest I have ever been away from my blog. In truth, I have been very busy.
In addition to everything else (preparing classes, teaching classes, slamming my head repeatedly against the desk, etc), I’ve been setting aside time each day to learn some Mishna. As it is, I’ve now worked through all eleven tractates of the first division, about six or seven times each, and am halfway through Masekhet Shabbat: the first tractate of the second division, “Moed”. My original plan was to then compile a breakdown called Rabbinic Agricultural Law, separated into neat categories, with an appendix noting every halakhic opinion (both stated and inferred), arranged alphabetically in accordance with its source. On closer consideration, I decided that if I were to be omitting the Yerushalmi, the Bavli’s treatment of these passages and their ‘related’ toseftot, the Rambam and all of the various mefarshim on the Mishna (not to mention the various codes, from Or Zarua to the Arukh haShulchan heAtid), then my title might be something of a misnomer.
Settling instead for Tannaitic Agricultural Law, I next demurred at the prospect that I’d need (at the very least) to also cover these tractates in the Tosefta, and any relevant passages in the halakhic midrashim. Not to worry: I shall call it Mishnaic Agricultural Law instead! An excellent idea and an exciting project, were it not for the simple fact that I am almost certainly going to encounter relevant material in the subsequent fifty-two tractates of the Mishna, and so such a project is best left off until I’ve finished the entire corpus.
It was a good idea at the time.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share some excellent Torah resources (some old, some new) that I have discovered online:
• I have long been a great fan of the DAF (“Dafyomi Advancement Forum”). If you click the tab that says “Talmud” in the menu on the left, you can then choose the tractate that you are studying, click on the tab marked “Point by Point Summary”, and then choose a page number. This is the Point by Point Summary of Masekhet Shabbat, by way of an example. If you play around with the site, you will find a number of other useful tools there as well;
• Rav Nissan Kaplan is the mashgiach ruchani at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. As I’ve had occasion to mention already, his website (incongruously called “Daf Yomi Review“) contains a remarkable collection of mussar schmuessen and halakha shiurim, and more. If that’s your kind of thing of course;
• A friend and old yeshiva colleague of mine is working on a tool for helping people study Daf Yomi. With one cycle coming soon to a conclusion and another one about to begin (not to mention, with ArtScroll’s latest monstrosity soon to hit the virtual shelves), their timing is excellent. Check it out: it’s called The Mercava;
• Mordechai Torczyner, all on his lonesome, has created (and is still creating) a truly remarkable index of topics in the Talmud. It’s called WebShas, and I encourage you to have a look! I typed in “oxen”, on a whim, and it gave me this page on “Zoology“;
• Lastly, although by no means least, I would like to draw your attention to Mi Yodeya. This is an example of a Stack Exchange: a Q&A website, where anybody can ask questions and all can answer them. You can find me there under “Shimon bM”, asking and answering away.
So that’s it, folks. I hope to be able to write again soon – at the very least, in order to report on the new Koren translation of Masekhet Berakhot, about which I have very mixed feelings.