Beginning to wrestle
Day 9 of the Omer: gevurah within gevurah

readwritepoem: Brachot 35a


Mishna: "what blessings are said
over fruits," etc.
What do we learn? That we bless
both before and after. On this basis
Rabbi Akiva teaches it's assur
to taste anything
without making a bracha.

The first kushiya objects:
surely this teaches
God has declared "Redeem it and eat."
Shmuel bar Nachmani adds,
what requires a song of praise
requires redemption,
but what does not does not.

In Vayikra we read "yielding a
rich increase," and in Devarim we read
"the increase of the vineyard."
Gezerah shava: the repeated word
hyperlinks the two verses.
This makes the case for blessing after, but
how do we learn to bless before?

Kal v'chomer: if the Torah
requires a blessing after the meal
when full, how much more so
when one is hungry! Indeed
to enjoy without blessing
is stealing from God,
since "the earth is God's in its fullness."

D'var acher, "The heavens are God's
but the earth God has given to men!"
The definitive teirutz:
before we bless, food belongs to God.
After we bless, it belongs to us --
so long as afterward, bellies full,
we pause to make zimun.

It's been a while since I've participated at readwritepoem; writing these weekly Torah poems has kept me busy! But last week I jumped the gun with my poem about parashat Kedoshim. (I'm so used to the flow of one Torah portion into the next that I forgot that last week featured special Torah readings for the festival of Pesach, a pause in the weekly lectionary.) Anyway, having already written and posted a poem for this week's portion, I've got some space for other poetry this week.

The current prompt at readwritepoem is jargon. I figured, what could be more jargon-y than Talmud? The "14 Sugyot Every Jew Should Know" online course at the Conservative Yeshiva just ended, but my two hevrutot (study partners) and I decided that we wanted to spend more time with some of the texts, so we're still studying the course material. This week it was my job to reprise a teaching from Brachot 35a. Since I was already steeping in it, it became the material for this poem.

The first draft of the poem outlined the arguments on page 35a of masechet Brachot (Tractate: Blessings) in detail. It was a decent articulation of the Talmud text but a clunky poem, so I started paring down. This draft is much shorter, but preserves some of the thicket of textual references and the back-and-forth of the dialogue, so I hope it still captures the feel of Talmud learning. And for kicks, I recorded it in gemara nigun, the traditional melody of Talmud learning. (If you can't see the audio player at the top of this post, you can download brachot.mp3.)

Read all of the contributions to the "jargon" theme in the comments to this post at readwritepoem.

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