Anyone who learns daf yomi knows that there are often ideas in a typical daf which resonate with what is going on around us. Masechet Eruvin, which demarcates the borders of where one is allowed and not allowed to walk on Shabbat, has tens of discussions which are strangely similar to rules regarding corona – quarantine, lockdown etc. sidetracking
Today’s daf sidetracks into a discussion of watching the way you speak. The Talmud focuses on women and men who either can’t speak clearly or are so clever that they speak in “lashon chochmah” – in riddles. A rabbi is quoted as saying he was only outsmarted three times – by a woman and two children – one male, one female. It then segues into the well-known scholar, Bruria, who reprimands a rabbi and a student for either speaking too much to a woman (herself) or a student for whispering while learning instead of learning out loud.
Teaching the daf this morning, just before the onset of Sukkot and in the middle of a pandemic, a new set of connections came to mind. Eruvin is based on laws that limit the ability of one to go beyond certain boundaries. It limits our space. Sukkot, by contrast is about moving out of one’s space to enable one to get perspective of one’s life and come to appreciate what God has given us. Sometimes one needs to remain within one’s comfort zone and sometimes one needs to go out of one’s comfort zone in order to get perspective.
The daf today goes out of its comfort zone and digresses from the typical halachic banter into the realm of agada; There, we meet people from the street and discuss how they speak (some very clearly and some incomprehensible), women from the community, and even some women who were scholars themselves.
The message is clear. Unexpected situations are unexpected opportunities. We can grow from every situation and every person we meet.
Sukkot is generally a holiday where we get together with others. The customs of Hoshanot, Simchat Beit HaShoeva, and even Sukka hops are group activities by definition. Many spend Sukkot entertaining guests or visiting family, friends and rabbis/teachers. However, this year, things will be different. Having a Sukkot holiday where we can turn inward, and without going very far, gain some outside perspective on our lives, might be an opportunity.