Pesachim 104a-b

May 01, 2006

This month's Steinsaltz Daf Yomi is sponsored by:
Dr. and Mrs. Alan Harris
The Lewy Family Foundation
Marilyn and Edward Kaplan

To dedicate future editions of Steinsaltz Daf Yomi,
perhaps in honor of a special occasion or in memory of a loved one, click here

NEW! Visit our Daf Live discussion forum
to share your thoughts and questions on Rabbi Steinsaltz's essays
 and to connect with others studying Daf Yomi.

*  *  *

The standard text of havdalah includes not only a statement formally acknowledging that Shabbat or Yom Tov has ended, but also a series of distinctions - of things that stand in contrast to one another. This tradition stems from the statement of Rabbi Elazar quoting Rabbi Oshaya that at least three such distinctions are to be included in the havdalah blessing, but no more than seven. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi comments that ideally the model of the havdalah blessing should be distinctions made in the Torah itself.


Although the Gemara does include examples of Biblical distinctions (e.g. between holy and profane, between light and darkness, between Shabbat - the day of rest - and the six working days of the week), it is interesting that one of the most basic statements in the Torah is left out. In Shmot 26:33, the Torah teaches that when building the Mishkan, there is a parohet that separates between the Holy and the Holy-of-Holies. Some argue that the parohet is a man-made object that divided the Mishkan. In havdalah we are searching for distinctions that were developed by God himself. Others point out that the separation of the parohet no longer exists, as opposed to the other examples, which are eternal. Perhaps the simplest explanation is the one put forward by the Me'iri, who argues that the statement of distinction made when a Yom Tov falls out immediately after Shabbat - bein kodesh le-kodesh ("between holy and holy") - stems from the separation of the parohet in the Mishkan, which is the source for the concept of distinguishing between two levels of holiness.


This discussion notwithstanding, the Gemara quotes Rabbi Yohanan as saying that bnun shel kedoshim (=the son of a holy person) included only one statement of distinction when making havdalah, even though the common tradition is to make three such statements. The Gemara explains that Rabbi Menahem bar Sima'i - who is identified as bnun shel kedoshim - is known as such because he refrained from looking at the image that appeared on a zuz coin (see diagram).


Many of the coins minted by the Greeks and Romans included images of actual idols, which would, therefore, make them forbidden like any manifestation of avodah zarah. It should be noted, however, that the images of Greek and Roman kings that appeared on the coins also were problematic in that the kings often presented themselves as gods - at least to the provincial folk.


This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim of Rabbi Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.  To learn more about the Steinsaltz Daf Yomi initiative, click here.

Any questions/comments on this essay?
Post your thoughts on our NEW 
Daf Live discussion forum!

Next: Pesachim 105a-b