6

Every now and then, then Gemara will go off on a tangent and discuss medical practices (such as towards the end of Gittin and scattered throughout maseches shabbos) or practical safety advice concerning demons or whatnot (such as in the last chapter of Pesachim).

Is studying those passages considered talmud Torah? If not, can someone just skip them and still make a siyum on the masechta (after all, he leaned what the amoraim had to say about the mishnayos)? If yes, why? Especially considering that we're not supposed to use cures from the Gemara? (see Otzar Hageonim Gittin 68b and just about every commentator since them)

  • Apparently R H Schachter said one could make a Siyum on Gittin after skipping the weird parts of the 7th perek. – Double AA Dec 17 '14 at 15:26
  • The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that no one argued that you wouldn't be obligated to say Birchas HaTorah on those passages. Don't remember the source, off hand. – Yishai Dec 17 '14 at 15:31
  • @Yishai I had heard the same; was looking for the source, and hoping someone discusses the wider implications of referring to parts of the Gemara as 'not Torah' – הנער הזה Dec 17 '14 at 15:39
  • @DoubleAA I heard him say that myself (and in that context said some of the most hilarious/interesting things about learning Gemara that I've ever heard from a rabbi; too bad it was shabbos and nobody recorded it) – הנער הזה Dec 17 '14 at 15:41
  • I discussed this question once with R' Tzvi Berkowitz in the context of Abaye's אמרה לי אם comments. But I forget what he said :( – Y     e     z Dec 17 '14 at 19:22
3

The Maharal in Be'er Hagolah discusses various "medical" or "scientific" parts of the Gemara (especially be'er 6 and 7). He explains that despite the fact that they don't seem to correspond to anything that would be helpful nowadays, there are metaphors and hints to important theological ideas behind what appears to be medical advice. Thus, these parts of the Gemara might actually be a way of communicating Torah concepts besides for the medical advice that's being taught. (I heard this, though not as an answer to this particular question, from Rav Ahron Lopiansky)

  • If no one has any idea what the secrets are, is this any better than reading Mishna Berura without understanding Hebrew? – Double AA Sep 5 at 13:28

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