Let My People Know

"Daily study of a page of Talmud based on the insights of Rabbi Steinsaltz"

In August 1923, at the First International Congress of the Agudath Israel World Movement in Vienna, Rabbi Meir Shapiro proposed uniting the Jewish people worldwide through the daily study of a page of Talmud.

The “Daf Yomi” (a page a day) tradition continues today as thousands study the designated page of the day. With 2,711 pages in the Talmud, each Daf Yomi study cycle takes about seven and a half years.

You can receive an email each day containing a brief essay on the page of the day based on the insights of Rabbi Steinsaltz drawn from his Hebrew Talmud commentary.

Click here to subscribe:


As a sample, here is the essay from yesterday:

Kiddushin 20a-b October 28, 2008

Although the common perception today is that slavery is inhumane, the situation of an eved ivri (Jewish slave) is more similar to a long-term contract, in that the slave must be treated with great respect.

The Gemara understands from the passage “ki tov lo imakh” – that some slaves choose to remain beyond their assigned years because they find their situation to be a good one (see Shemot 21:16) – that the master is obligated to ensure that the slave join him in eating and drinking.

The master cannot eat fine bread and feed his eved ivri poor bread.

He cannot drink aged wine and have his eved ivri drink poorer quality wine;

He cannot sleep on cushions and have his eved ivri sleeping on straw.

The passage concludes with the expression “kol ha-koneh eved, koneh adon le-atzmo” – anyone who purchases a slave has bought a master for himself. The Me’iri writes that these obligations on the master should be seen as recommendations – as good deeds.

They are not monetary obligations that the master owes to his eved ivri, so the eved ivri could not, for example, take his master to court and sue him demanding a higher standard of living.

Furthermore, the Me’iri argues that even today, when we no longer have the concept of slavery, this attitude should inform contemporary relationships with workers, who should be housed, clothed and fed in a manner similar to that of the master.

This is certainly true according to the opinion of Tosafot (15a) who bring a prooftext to this rule from the passage “ke-sahir ketoshav ya’avod imakh” (Vayikra 25:40) – that an eved ivri should be treated like a hired servant.

The Talmud Yerushalmi writes that Rabbi Yohanan treated all who worked for him this way – even his non-Jewish slaves.