Zera rules that the halakhah follows R. Judah. However, instead of saying this directly, he states the content of the halakhah lest people get the names wrong.
The difference between R. Meir and R. Judah is whether one keeps the Torah scroll open while reciting the blessings. R. Meir says that he does not while R. Judah says that he does.
Meir says that one should close the Torah while reciting the blessings so that people don’t think that the blessings are written in the Torah. We should remember that it was very important for the rabbis that blessings remain “Oral Torah.” They considered it forbidden to write down any Torah except for the Bible. R. Meir did not want to even give the impression that he was reading blessings from the Torah.
This is the same as Ulla’s rule with regard to the translation. The rabbis did not want to give the impression that the translation was written. Therefore, the person reading could not be the same person translating, and he could not even help the person translating.
Judah admits that people might be confused and think that the translations are written into the Torah. But no one will think such a thing about the blessings over the Torah and therefore one need not close the scroll before reciting the blessings.
Zera rules that the halakhah is that one need not close the Torah before reciting the blessings, in accordance with R. Judah. He does not state that the halakhah follows R. Judah lest people confuse who said what in the baraita.
This statement is here because it’s stated by the same amora from above. As far as its content, Rashi says that he doesn’t really know what it means, but that others say it refers to boards used to hold Torah scrolls that are not rolled up as those are that he uses. Rambam says that these are boards on which teachers write verses for kids to read. The Ra’avad says that they are planks on which the translator and the person reading the haftorah stands. This would make them similar to the platforms on which people stand when reading the Torah.
These items do not have the sanctity of the Torah. They may be thrown away when they are used up. But they do have the sanctity accorded to other elements of the synagogue. One may not sell them unless it is to buy an item of higher holiness.
Today’s section contains a series of rules about the Sefer Torah transmitted by R. Sheftiah in the name of R. Yohanan.
When closing up the Sefer Torah he should do so close to the seam which will enable him to close it as tight as possible.
Rashi explains this as follows. When an individual is rolling a Sefer Torah and it is in his lap, and he wants to roll it up he should roll it towards him because if he rolls it away from him it might fall on the ground. And when he wants to close it he should hold the inner part of the scroll and close it tight to the outer side, this way his arms don’t cover the writing and we want people to be able to see the writing.
This interpretation is based on Tractate Soferim, a medieval composition of rules related to Torah reading.
The reward of all of them, do you really think? Rather say he receives a reward equal to that of all of them.
This last section says that the one who rolls the Sefer Torah (gelilah) receives the greatest reward. While today we think of this as a minor honor, in the time of the Talmud it was the greatest. Perhaps because it was last.
This section contains another statement by the same amoraim from yesterday’s section.
This applies only if one hears the voice of a man in town and of a woman in the field, and only if it says, yes, yes, or no, no.
One who is trying to make a decision and hears a voice saying “Yes, yes” or “No, no” may heed that voice. This is not considered sorcery.
However, it must be an unusual voice, such as a man in the town (evidently men were usually in the fields) or a woman in the field. This way he can tell that he didn’t just happen to hear someone say something.
More rules by R. Sheftiah in the name of R. Yohanan.
According to R. Yohanan all Torah learning, whether it is reading Torah or reciting mishnah (oral Torah) must be done with song. With the Torah this is probably the notes that accompany the words. But this is also true when it comes to the Mishnah. It too should be sung. This probably is a much easier way to memorize texts, which was the main aspect of Torah education during this period.
Abaye brings up a point I can sympathize with—a person should not have this harsh verse applied to him just because he cannot sing! Rather, the verse is applied to two Torah scholars who cannot respect each other’s halakhot. When halakhot given by God cause us to disrespect each other, that is when they can be called “statutes that were not good.”
Holding a Sefer Torah without its covering is improper. R. Yohanan seems to say that he who does so is actually buried naked as a punishment for this serious sin. But in the end Abaye interprets this in a more metaphorical, limited way.
This statement is somewhat unclear and it is understood in different ways. One interpretation is that it is better that the covering of the scroll should be rolled up round the scroll than that the scroll of the Torah (itself) should be rolled up. This seems to be for the protection of the scroll.
Today we complete Tractate Megillah!
This is the baraita that supports the idea of reading Torah connected to the festival.
Not only do we read Torah portions connected to the festival, we also ask halakhic questions and give halakhic derashot (sermons or expositions) connected to the holiday. We could summarize both of these baraitot by saying that part of observing the holiday is studying Torah about the holiday. Sukkot is not just about sitting in the Sukkah, it is about studying the laws of sitting in the Sukkah. The same is true for every holiday.
Congratulations! You finished Tractate Megillah. This was an amazing accomplishment, especially if you stuck with it for all 31 daf (remember, we started on page 2). We’ve now finished two whole tractates.
The last words of Megillah were a fitting conclusion to the tractate and to Seder Moed in general. Observance of Judaism is not just about fulfilling the mitzvoth written. It is about studying the observance of these mitzvoth. Studying Torah is a mitzvah in its own right. It is not just studying in order to do. It is studying for its own sake. And this is what you have been doing by studying Daf Shevui. You have been participating in this remarkable project, enriching your lives through one of the central ways that Jews have been living their lives for over two thousand years—by studying the laws of the rabbis. Kol Hakavod.
Learning a whole masekhet of Talmud justifies a siyyum—a celebratory mitzvah meal. Below is the Hebrew text recited at this occasion. You can recite the first part of this without a minyan, but the Kaddish which appears at the end requires a minyan. So bring it to your synagogue or whatever group you may study with and celebrate.