Introduction to the Kreuzberg Kollel's Talmud Commentary on Pesachim, Chapter 4

Rebecca Rogowski, 'Part of the day is like the whole day', Kreuzberg Kollel Commentary on Pesachim 55

Welcome note

Dear Fellow Learners

You are about to peer into 5 months of work from the Kreuzberg Kollel, a Jewish learning collective based in Berlin, Germany. At the Kreuzberg Kollel, we believe that we are vessels through which to process the text. We hope, that by sharing our thoughts and our commentary on this chapter with you, that you, too, will begin to find your own voice in this text.

These pages are our hearts, our souls, and our minds. We hope it can help to elucidate your own understanding of the text, the Talmud, and yourself.

What is a commentary?

We began our study of the fourth chapter of Pesachim in August, 2020, in the midst of a pandemic that was ravaging our world. The central question of this chapter is one of Minhag, of custom. What does it mean to live your Jewish life in a certain way in a certain place?

We pored over these Mishnahs, these Gemaras, these pages of Hebrew and Aramaic, and tried to come to an understanding of custom. What does it mean to build our own Jewish lives?

For generations, Rabbis have encountered these texts, and shared their questions, their challenges, and their thoughts. Rashi in the 11th century, Tosefot in the 12th century, the Vilna Gaon in the 18th century and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in the 20th century. They shared their perspective on the text in the hope that it would help us understand what the text, over 1500 years old, is trying to tell us.

In the spirit of this tradition, with great humility to be in the footsteps of such great Rabbis, this is our attempt to share our questions, our challenges, and our thoughts. We hope that this commentary will do what commentaries are always meant to do: Helping to show you, through our eyes, what the Fourth Chapter of Pesachim is trying to tell us.

An Excerpt from the Kreuzberg Kollel's Commentary on Pesachim 54.

Why are these texts important? Thoughts from Shiur
it's an invitation to complete the sentences, finding meaning in what is given
it's a model for how to debate and discuss as a community, as a society
it's recognising that there will be moments in which we cannot find meaning
it's an invitation to action - seeing ourselves in part of this cosmic scale, and recognised where we have agency or duty to intervene
it's a way to see the divine in everything - to find wonder and amazement in even the mundane or the difficult or the painful
it's a lesson on how to listen - because before taking action, you must learn to listen

How to use this commentary

We've separated the chapter into eight different source sheets---one for every Daf. You can find links below!

We've tried to intersperse the actual text (which will always appear in the typical Sefaria format) with our own thoughts and commentaries. We've tried to use different colors so that you can see the different kinds of comments. Some are musings on Halacha (Jewish Law). Others are historical overviews. Yet more are pieces of art or personal reflections which are the outputs of how we processed the text.

We encourage you to read the Talmud text, and use the color-coded commentaries as much as it is helpful for you. The commentaries are meant to elucidate the text, to inspire you, and to help you internalize these words in a new way.

In some places, we've signed our names. If you are interested in learning more from any of the members of our Kollel, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].

Thank you, and enjoy the commentary!

Let's get started!

Are you ready to learn Daf Yomi with the Kreuzberg Kollel? For your convenience, a direct link to the Kollel's commentary on the next day's Daf will be at the end of each sheet. Let's begin our learning of the fourth perek (chapter) of Pesachim together!

About the Kreuzberg Kollel and Base Berlin

The Kreuzberg Kollel is a project of Base Berlin/Hillel Deutschland, and is a communal learning space geared towards in-depth, committed Jewish learning, and an incubator for developing new talent and creative Europe-based teachers rooted in the Jewish tradition.

Kollels, houses of higher Jewish learning, have traditionally been reserved for married Orthodox men. Many Jews who are passionate about learning have felt frustrated by the imperfect options available, finding the small groups in the synagogues, pursuit of academic degrees in the universities, or going abroad to learn limited or inaccessible. Women and other marginalized groups are even more limited in their learning opportunities.

The Kreuzberg Kollel aims to be both open and deep, inclusive and dedicated. Participants of all genders and Jewish backgrounds commit to one day a week of intensive Bible and Talmud study. In addition, participants will be able to propose independent study paths and take part in diverse, comprehensive afternoon seminars with guest lecturers from around the globe. The Kreuzberg Kollel will serve as a local training ground to create a larger cadre of open, compassionate, self-confident, and textually rooted Jewish educators.

An Excerpt from the Kreuzberg Kollel's Commentary on Pesachim 50

What Pesachim 50a and Pesachim 50b taught me about a controversial mechitzah (prayer separation) in Graz, Austria.

By Karen Engel

To argue against the mechitzah or the balcony in terms of the egalitarian values of the Reform or Conservative denominations would fall on deaf ears in the Austrian Einheitsgemeinde and the new, more religiously strict rabbi. But the passages in the Pesachim 50a/50b in the Talmud are quite eye-opening...