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Angelic Gemara

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 16/2/2020

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Angelic Gemara

R’ Shlomo Karliner (1738-1792) tells us that the word גמרא is related to גומרי, burning coals[1] because Gemara is like fiery coals that purify us. R’ Aharon Karliner remarked that when a Jew awakens in the morning, he has בלטה, blutte (Yiddish for mud) on his face. He washes it off with a blatt of Gemara as the blatt removes the blutte. In this way, we can interpret גמרא גמור זמורתא:[2] Learn Gemara and then it will cut off (זמורתא as in וכרמך לא תזמור[3], don’t prune your vineyard) the shells of impurity.  This is also hinted to in the word גמרא as it also means to destroy as in בקשו לגמר...[4] since this is what learning Gemara does to the shells of impurity.


R’ Meir Shapiro introduced the idea of Daf Yomi at the כנסיה גדולה at age 35 in front of many Gedolim who were much older than him like this: The Gemara[5] relates that Rabban Gamliel said that he was once on a ship when the ship was sinking and he was pained by the thought of R’ Akiva who had been on that ship since he was now surely lost. When he came up to dry land, R’ Akiva came and deliberated before Rabban Gamliel in a matter of law. Rabban Gamliel asked him, “Who raised you out of the water.” The reply: I took hold of a דף, board from the ship and before every wave that came, I bowed my head and it passed over me. R’ Shapiro said there are so many waves—secularism, immorality, materialism... These need to be fought with a Daf of Gemara daily.[6]  


In the Sefer Sheves Achim,[7] from R’ Eliyahu Dovid[8] and R’ Tzvi Yehuda Rabinowitz-Teumim, it says we heard in the name of R’ Avraham the brother of the Gra that גמרא is called so because when Ravina and R’ Ashi finished compiling the Gemara, they sent it to the מתיבתא דרקיע, heavenly academy, for them to agree that it should be תורה שבעל פה. Four Malachim signed on this—גבריאל, מיכאל, רפאל, אוריאל—whose initials spell גמרא.


R’ Betzalel,[9] the brother of the Maharal, comments that גמרא are the initials of גבריאל, מיכאל, רפאל, and אוריאל (Malachim) since when one learns Gemara he is surrounded by them. These protect and save a person from bad. 


The Divrei Shmuel (1850-1916), the second Slonimer Rebbe, related that when he has a problem, which prevents him from being happy, he learns a page of Gemara to become happy again. For a big problem, he would learn two pages of Gemara as then the problem wouldn’t bother him any longer. If the problem was extremely severe, he would learn three pages of Gemara. As he put it: then there is nothing that can take away my joy.

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] See Beitza 22b with Rashi, s.v. מוגמר.

[2] Beitza 24a. See Chassam Sofer in Toras Moshe, וזאת הברכה, s.v. ולכל.

[3] Vayikra 25:4.

[4] Pesachim 87b.

[5] Yevamos 121a.

[6] Daf Yomi also unites Jews all over the world. One can travel to any Jewish community in the world and be connected to them through learning the same page of the Gemara.

[7] p. 114:12.

[8] R’ Eliyahu Dovid (1843-1905) and R’ Tzvi Yehuda Rabinowitz-Teumim (1843-1887) were twin brothers, which is the source for the additional name תאומים, twins. ר' אליהו דוד רבינוביץ תאומים is also by his acronym אדרת, Aderes. At the age of five his mother died and from then on, his father, R’ Binyomin Rabinowitz—who completed Shas every month—raised him and his twin brother alone. R’ Eliyahu Dovid studied under the tutelage of his father. He davened at sunrise and would stay in the Beis Midrash to learn until noon, only then coming home to eat. He was married to Feige Minna, with whom he had seven children. His daughter Batsheva married R’ Kook in 1886, but she died a few years later. R’ Eliyahu Dovid encouraged R’ Kook to marry his niece, the daughter of his brother Tzvi Yehuda. The Aderes (R’ Eliyahu Dovid) became Rav in the city of Ponovitch and Mir and also taught in the Mir Yeshiva. He emigrated to Yerushalayim where in 1901 he was appointed as assistant to the aging R’ Shmuel Salant, Rav of Yerushalayim. The Aderes penned over 120 books. The Chofetz Chaim in a letter wrote about him: “The great Gaon, penetrating and scholarly, סיני ועוקר הרים, Tzaddik in his ways and perfect in his deeds.” 

[9] Sefer Hachaim.

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