After a manic few days I have now managed to catch up with the daf and the blog! A few short ideas below:
Brachot 39 “Beets are good for the heart”
אמר רב חסדא: תבשיל של תרדין – יפה ללב וטוב לעינים, וכל שכן לבני מעים
Rabbi Hisda said: A cooked dish of beets is beneficial for the heart, good for the eyes and all the more so, for the intestines.
I couldnt find any evidence of medicinal benefits to eating/juicing beets. This page suggested that beets are used along with medications in the treatment of liver diseases and fatty liver and that there is some evidence that a chemical found in beets can help fight fat deposits in the liver. However the site went on to suggest that more evidence was needed. Further claims are made on various websites as to the potential benefits of eating beets but no evidence was provided.
There are many opinions that will state that everything in the Talmud is true and that the Rabbis were correct but here are some opinions which state that science can and does take precedence over the Rabbis:
Rav Akiva Eiger rules that one should ignore these Talmudic texts because one cannot fully understand them and will consequently misconstrue them and cause more harm than good.
Rav Sherira Gaon (see Otzar Hageonim Gittin 68b, responsa section no. 37b) held that the sages were not physicians; thus, they were only recommending procedures that were effective at that time. Therefore, one would be foolish to follow these procedures without properly examining them.
The Rambam (Hilchot De’ot 4:18) seems to have considered most of the Talmudic remedies to be ineffective. This appears to be the reason that the Rambam does not cite any of the Talmudic cures in his Mishna Torah (see, however, the Kesef Mishna’s comment to Hilchot De’ot 4:18). Likewise, Rav Avraham ben HaRambam (Ma’amar Al Ha’agadot s.v. Da Ki Ata) says that the Rabbis gave these instructions based on the medical knowledge of their time, and they have no Torah basis. Hence, they only carry the weight of a doctor’s advice and do not have to be followed. Rav Avraham ben HaRambam’s thoughts are printed in the introduction to the Iyun Yaakov. On the same note, the Magen Avraham (O.C. 173:1) suggests that invalid medical advice by the rabbis does not need to be followed.
Rav Yitzchak Herzog (cited in an article published by Professor Frimer) adopted the approach that Chazal were not superior in medical knowledge. Whenever possible, however, he tries to try to avoid confrontation between the Gemara’s medicine and modern medicine.
The Chazon Ish (Y.D. 5:3 and E.H. 27:3) believes that since Har Sinai, Hashem has only revealed Himself to man through science. He constantly reveals new forms of scientific information for our use. Thus, Chazal were not wrong; rather, we have better, “modern” ways to cure people.
Brachot 40 “Bring the Salt”
Rabbi Yochanan rules that one may interrupt between reciting the blessing for bread and eating the bread in order to say, “Bring the salt,” since salt is necessary for the consumption of the bread because it adds taste to the bread. The Talmud relates that Rava bar Shmuel did not wait for salt before he ate his bread. He explained that since his bread was already tasty, it did not need salt. Tosfot (DH Havei Melach) writes that our breads, too, are already tasty and do not need salt. Does this mean that we may not interrupt between reciting the blessing for bread and eating the bread in order to say, “Bring the salt”?
The Mishnah Berurah (OC 167:38) says in the name of the Acharonim that even though our breads are tasty and do not need salt, if one desires to eat his bread with salt (or another spice) it is considered necessary for the bread and he may interrupt to say, “Bring the salt.”
Brachot 41 Which blessing first?
היו לפניו מינין הרבה וכו’. אמר עולא: מחלוקת בשברכותיהן שוות, דרבי יהודה סבר: מין שבעה עדיף, ורבנן סברי: מין חביב עדיף
There were many types of food before him. Ula said [this] dispute [is specifically in a case] where the blessings [to be recited over each type of food] are the same, [as in this case] Rabbi Yehuda holds: The type of the seven [species] takes precedence, and the Rabbis hold: The preferred type takes precedence.
When there are two foods in front of a person, what blessing does he say first? Do we rule in accordance with Rebbi Yehudah or the Rabanan? In addition, when the two foods before him require two different blessings, what is the Halachah?
(a) Rabeinu Chananel, Rif, Rambam, Re’ah, Ritva, Rav Hai Ga’on cited by the Rashba, and other Rishonim rule like the Rabanan, that “Chaviv” takes precedence when the two foods require the same blessing.
(b) The Behag, Tosfot, Rosh, and Ra’avad rule like Rebbi Yehudah, that one recites the blessing on whichever food is of the seven species (when the blessings for the different foods in front of him are the same).
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 211:1-2) cites both opinions, and the Mishnah Berurah (211:13) says that it seems from the words of the Shulchan Aruch that the accepted opinion in practice is that of Rebbi Yehudah (as the Behag, Tosfos, Rosh, and Ra’avad rule).