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Thought for the Day: Thinking is the Best Stress Reliever

Moshe Rabeinu was sent on a mission from G-d to tell Klal Yisrael, after 210 years of galus in Mitrayim and over a century of back and spirit breaking labor, that HaShem was going to rescue them.  Klal Yisrael, however, couldn't hear it -- "mi'kotzer ru'ach u'mei'avoda kasha".  "avoda kasha" means hard work.  "kotzer ru'ach", according to Rashi means, literally, shortness of breath.  The Sporno and Ohr Chayim, however, understand "kotzer ru'ach" to mean that Klal Yisrael didn't contemplate what they were hearing, so it didn't go in.  The Ohr Chayim adds that perhaps they didn't think further into the matter is because they were not b'nei Torah, and "Torah expands one's mind".

How does Torah expand one's mind?  My chavrusa and I ran into a very simple example of that last night.  The gemara (Brachos 29a) first brings a statement from R' Tanchum in the name of Rav Assi: One who mistakenly omits "mashiv ha'ru'ach u'morid hagashem" must repeat shmone esrei, if he omits "v'sein tal u'matar" he need not repeat because he can add it into "shomei'a t'fila", if he omits havdala he need not repeat because he will later be saying the havdala ceremony.  (This is not a quote, but a paraphrase.)  The gemara immediately notes a contradiction with another (unattributed) statement: One who mistakenly omits "mashiv ha'ru'ach u'morid hagashem" must repeat shmone esrei, if he omits "v'sein tal u'matar" he must also repeatshmone esrei, if he omits havdala he need not repeat because he will later be saying the havdala ceremony.

The first lesson in gemara is: read carefully.  The second statement only differs from the first in the second case.  The gemara brings the whole statement, however, because when you launch an investigation you want all the facts.  Who knows what is extra and what is necessary to understand how these go together.  If the tanna said all three cases together, there is a good reason to report them that way.  The gemara tries one resolution which is rejected.  The gemara kept that in the discussion to teach the proper way to approach an issue.  The proposal seemed to work, but generated more questions than it settled; so it was rejected.  Sometimes the gemara will reject all attempts at resolution, then circle back to re-evaluate if they might really work.  In this case the gemara finds a better resolution right away: one statement applies if the person has not yet reached "shomei'a t'fila", the other applies to a person who has already passed that part of shmone esrei.

Every line of gemara is like that.  Look to resolve apparent contradictions by taking a step back and viewing the situation with a broader perspective.  That's why gemara can feel frustrating to those who want to just know the bottom line.  The gemara's "bottom line", however, is to expand your mind and change your life.  Far out, as we said in a previous generation.


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