Brachot 29

Before turning to today’s daf I cannot help note the connection between the Gemara at the end of 28b and Osteopathy! The Talmud wants to ascertain why the Rabbis instituted 18 blessings in the daily prayer, the amida or Eighteen Blessings as it is otherwise called.

“Rabbi Tanhum said [that] Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Corresponding to the eighteen vertebrae in the spine [beneath the ribs].”

As always I include the square brackets which are part of the Koren text which is not a direct translation but a further elucidation of what the Talmud is saying. Rashi is silent on this phrase. A basic understanding of anatomy means that the Koren phrasing does not make sense. There are not 18 vertebrae below the ribs!

So I looked in the Artsroll and found the following ‘translation’ and footnote:

“R’ Tanchum said in the name of R’ Yehoshua ben Levi: Corresponding to the the 18 vertebrae in the spine.”

This is again not correct as there are more than 18 vertebrae in the spine! So here is the Artscroll footnote to clarify things for us:

“[The upper portion of the human spinal column contains seven cervical (neck) vertebrae, twelve dorsal (back) vertebrae and five lumbar (loin) vertebrae. In stating the total number of vertebrae in the spine, the Rabbis apparently referred only to those below the neck. This accounts for seventeen vertebrae*. The identity of the eighteenth vertebrae mentioned here is unclear (see Biblical and Talmudic Medicine by Dr. Julius Preuss, p. 65] See Oholos 1:8.”

*This is still not that helpful as it also excludes the sacral and coccygeal segments which are fused but stilled referred to as numbered vertebrae (certainly in the sacrum).

Turning to daf 29 the Talmud wants to understand what the Mishna means when it states that one whose prayer is fixed is not a supplication. The Talmud teaches 3 laws related to prayer:

רבי אליעזר אומר: העושה תפלתו קבע וכו’ מאי קבע? אמר רבי יעקב בר אידי אמר רבי אושעיא: כל שתפלתו דומה עליו כמשוי; ורבנן אמרי: כל מי שאינו אומרה בלשון תחנונים; רבה ורב יוסף דאמרי תרוייהו: כל שאינו יכול לחדש בה דבר

[We learned in the the Mishna that] Rabbi Eliezer says: One whose prayer is fixed, his prayer is not supplication. [The Gemara asks:] what is [the meaning of] fixed [in this context?] Rabbi Ya’akov bar Idi said [that] Rabbi Oshaya said: [it means] anyone for whom his prayer is like a burden upon him, [from which he seeks to be quickly unburdened]. The Rabbis say: [This refers to] anyone who does not recite [prayer] in the language of supplication, [but as standardised recitation without emotion.] Rabba and Rav Yosef both said: It [refers to] anyone unable to introduce [a novel] element, [i.e., something personal reflecting his personal needs, to his prayer, and only recites the standard formula].

The first 2 statements quoted above are codified as law whereas the 3rd is not – it is clear however that we should all seek to make our prayers fresh each time following the opinion of Rabba and Rav Yosef.


About bookabazza

I am an Osteopath and University Lecturer who is trying to keep up with the 7 year daf yomi cycle. I thought I would try and share a few small thought on the daf each week.
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