Derech Hashem - The Way of God #55 - A Bird's Eye View of Torah (Shas) in its Entirety

Given: January 02, 2016


It’s astounding to think that there are 613 commandments that are all connected to three or four fundamental ideas: ownership, activity, and the relationship to two types of entities: G-D and tumah.

In the end, the most important thing is that Shas is a jigsaw puzzle, halachos that are all over the place. If someone gives you a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, what’s the first thing you ask for?---the box. You want to see the big picture and then you’ll know where each of the pieces fit. Without that box, it will take you a year to do; it’s hit and miss.

The same thing with Shas. In many ways it is fragmented, so there’s a tremendous value in seeing the box. The box is the central idea of each seder. And then you know where each masecheta fits, or each of the suggos in each masecheta, because it’s just details and sub-details and sub-sub-details and so on.

Actually, what it is, is a map. It’s a map that you now have, a GPS which is really a “G-D Positioning System” J where you could position yourself exactly as to relate with the Ribono Shel Olam. It’s a beautiful map before you enter Shas.

….the first mitzvah in the Torah is “l’da’at ha’Shem”---to know G-D. How? Through the halachos?---no! It’s through hashkafa. To “know” God means to know Who He is, what He did, what His relationship to the Creation is, why He created man and what He wants from us. This is all part of “to know God.” “L’da’at ha’Shem is to know G-D and His actions. The actions of G-D are the totality of Creation. That’s why the RaMCHaL and many others say that such is the mitzvah to learn hashkafa. Then, there are the triggers, the halachos because, without that, how do you observe the commandments?


Recap: Zikuch, Mitzvos, Halachos

Last week I mentioned what the RaMCHaL says, that the way to achieve zikuch---purification of the body in order to retransform the body to its spiritual nature, its essence, is the Ribono Shel Olam’s---Master of the universe’s provision of a physical means to actually dematerialize itself. It seems like a contradiction. That physical provision are the mitzvos---commandments. I thought it would be valuable, because I don’t think anybody has ever done so, to organize the entire Shas to get an expansive and valuable overview of all the mitzvos. I don’t know if anybody has ever done it, but it should be very valuable, showing us exactly those areas that the Ribono Shel Olam wants us to do mitzvos in.

What is the basis of all halachos---laws, all the mitzvot we refer to as the “taryag”---the 613 commandments? That’s the basis of everything, because that’s all the commandments of the Torah. Therefore, every halacha that we observe must, somehow, be connected to the taryag mitzvos, the 613 commandments.

The details of the taryag are the mishnayos because they fill in an enormous number of details. The taryag mitzvos comprise the Torah she’bikhtav---the Written Law. The Torah she’be’al peh--- the Oral Law is the mishnayos which provide all the details of the Written Law and also the rabbinical decrees and enactments that they established. Therefore, the collective mishnaos constitute a great amount of yedios---knowledge.

There are 4,192 mishnaos in the entire Shas---63 tractates. Each mishna has approximately, on average, 8 halachos. Therefore, if you multiple 8 times 4,192, what you realize is that the mishnaos offer you almost 33,000 different halachos in the kol ha’Torah kulah--- entire law of Torah, as they say. Imagine that, 33,000 halachos!

What is important to remember is that mishnaos is an intermediate text. This means that, when Rabbi Rabbeinu ha’Kadosh wrote the Mishna, he assumed that you know a tremendous amount of data, of information, before you learn the Mishna. He really wrote what can be called an “intermediate textbook,” and left out much of any introductory or prerequisite information you need to know just to get through the Mishna. Then there is the information which is post-Mishna, the rishonim, acharonim----earlier and latter sages, the commentaries and so on.

If you add up all the information of mishnaos, besides the 33,000 halachos that are in mishnaos, you’d probably walk away with between 100,000—130,000 halachos of the entire Oral Law.

People don’t realize what a staggering amount of information that is. Staggering! Today there are many mishnaos that give you the introduction and many subsequent ideas of the mishnaos. For instance, there’s “Kahati” which originated the concept of interweaving the translation and explanation within the mishnaic text. Then there are the mishnaos called “Siyata Dishmaya”---very good, tremendous---and, of course, you have Art Scroll. They have three different types of mishnaos: the elucidated, the original and unadulterated mishnaos, and the “Ryzman” mishnaos. All of them attempt to provide not only an explanation to the Mishna in depth, but all the information you have to know before you get to the Mishna and the information that is useful after you learn the Mishna.

Today, it’s incredible what a person can learn, all the details of the entire Torah. It’s astounding! But what’s also interesting is that mishnayos is approximately 40% of the whole Shas. Why? If you know the mishnayos, the seder Zeraim and the entire seder Taharos, that it because, basically, you only have mishnayos.

What about the other masechtos? You know them also because, not only do you know the mishnayos, you also know the gemaras that bring down the mishnayos, having been reminded with the phrase “v’hatenan”---we learn mishna. Every time it says “tanurabbanan”---the rabbis taught, we are reminded that most baraisas really are 80% mishna and 20% new material---chidush.

It comes out that, if you learn mishnayos, you know 40% of Shas, and it’s all yedios, so that’s astounding. Therefore, when I meet people, I always tell them, “Listen! if you learn mishnayos, you will know 40% of Shas.” if you learn four mishnayos a day, learn it well, you will finish in three years. If you remember the mishnayos, which isn’t that hard, you’ll know 40% of Shas by heart and be called an “adam gadol,”---a great man, an incredible talmid chacham----Torah scholar just from the mishnayos.

In fact, I saw that Rabbi Aryeh Levine wrote, in a famous piece called “Tzadik of Yerushalayim,” a commentary on the mishnayos, saying that the reason the Gemara seems to encourage learning gemara---there’s a whole gemara about that---is because, in those days, all they had was the Mishna. He says that, today, there are a lot of different commentaries---and he wasn’t even talking about what they have now: Art Scroll, all the “Besiyata Dishmaya.” In fact, somebody wrote a mishnayos---I think it has sixteen masechtos---in which he brings all of the gemara relevant to that mishna. He says that, today, if you learn mishnayos, it’s like learning Gemara except you don’t go through the shaklavetarya which is the actual debate. In terms of all the yedios that you pick up from the whole Talmud---Shas, Gemara, you have that. It’s interesting and he’s right but you have it in the form of what’s called yedios, meaning the knowledge or information or data. You don’t have the shaklavetarya. If you learn all the mishnayos, in effect, you will have a massive amount of information in Shas.

If you want to become a great talmid chacham—Torah scholar in three years, you can do that with mishnayos because the main thing is to know it and review it.


“Mishnayos,” therefore, are the details of the taryag. Gemara deals with the problems, the issues, raised by the taryag. Schulchan Aruch is the application of the taryag. Is it not an interesting evolution?

It’s worthwhile, therefore, to take a look at the seddarim mishnayos---organization of the mishnayos to understand what the central ideas, the essential ideas, of the mishnayos are and, therefore, understand the central ideas of all the mitzvos to understand exactly what the Ribono Shel Olam really wants.

Let’s consider Zeraim ­ which has many tractates, for example, “Brachos.” It has many of the tractates that deal with agriculture. The central idea of Zeraim regards object usage permissibility. Even if you own an object, you can’t use it if it’s agricultural unless you perform a certain act that will allow the permissibility of its usage.

What is that act? It’s called “hafrasha” where you must separate a certain amount from the produce that you have to give it to the kohen---priest, the matana---gift. Therefore, it comes out that the entire seder---order, basically, deals with all the different types of matanos, the gifts, that you give to the kohen by separating a tithe; it’s all about tithe, right?---truma, maaser rishon, maaser sheni, challah, all the bikurim, etc., all the hafrashos, the separations that you need to give for all the agricultural products.

Therefore, hafrasha, which means “to separate a tithe and give it to the kohen,” is a device that will permit the usage of that grain or produce. That’s the central idea of the entire Zeraim.

You may ask, “Well, that’s fine, but why is tractate mesechteBrachos” in Zeraim?” Some people want to say it’s because you make a bracha over food and food is agricultural, right?---not really.

If you really think about, it’s very simple. Zeraim is all about how to permit the object’s agricultural usage---done via a “device” called “hafrasha”---I separate and give it to the kohen. Essentially, that’s a means to permit the usage of the produce. What does the bracha do?

The gemara says that you really can’t use the food because it’s G-D’s and it becomes permissible when you say a bracha. What’s the definition of “bracha”? A bracha is a verbal declaration that acknowledges the source of the object that you want to use, which is G-D. Therefore, a bracha is that device that permits the object usage of food---same thing. That’s why “Brachos” is in Zeraim.

I might as well add: what about Krias Shema (prayer)? The first three prakim---chapters of tractate “Brachos” is Kriat Shema. What’s that for? There are different answers, but I will give you an answer which I think is so simple and so logical and that I think is correct. It’s a beautiful, logical answer, as far as I’m concerned.

Let’s assume you want to make an agreement, to enter into a contract with somebody about some business venture. There are two things that you need to do. The first is to agree to enter an agreement---right? You have to agree that we are going to agree on something. Then we can sit down and write out the terms of the agreement, correct? But if I don’t even agree that we want to enter an agreement, what do we do? Rebbi faced that problem. He’s not going to give a whole list of all the mitzvos because who agrees to do them? I don’t agree to accept upon myself to do the mitzvos which are the actual terms of the agreement.

Therefore, you say Kriat Shema first.

What is Kriat Shema?

1. There is a G-D, a Supreme Being.

2. He is one G-D; He’s the only God.

3. He is a King.

4. He’s a King over you.

Krias Shema is, basically, where you accept the sovereignty of G-D that you have declared a King over you. If you accept the sovereignty, what does the sovereignty consist of? It consists of commandments. So, when you say Krias Shema, you’re saying: I accept His commandments. Because I believe there is G-D, that He’s a King, that He’s a Sovereign, and He’s a Sovereign over me, therefore I accept His sovereignty--- which is what?---commandments. That’s what it means to be loyal to a king.

What are the commandments of G-D, the taryag---613 mitzvot?

The first couple of prakim that deal with Krias Shema are to fulfill the need to agree to do the mitzvos in the first place. Without that, what are the mitzvos for? Why am I learning mishnayos if I’ve never agreed to want an agreement?

Therefore, we have the Krias Shema first, just like a contract. Rebbi is saying that, first you’ve got to agree to do the mitzvos. How? You’ve got to agree that He exists, that He’s a King, that He’s a Sovereign, and that He’s your King.

Once you agree to that, which is Krias Shema, you can be given the rest of the mishnayos, the 4,100 mishnayos. Isn’t that beautiful? It’s simple. That’s why Krias Shema comes first. Without Krias Shema, there’s no obligation. You’ve never agreed that your subject is “commandments.” That’s why the chiyuv---obligation of Krias Shema is ohl malchus shamayim---the yoke of heaven. You accept the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven and now we can begin to talk about the rest of the mitzvos.

The halachos of Krias Shema, in terms of mishnayos, are the first three prakim and then, once you have agreed that He’s my King and He directs my life, you can make requests. The next two prakim are about Shmone Esrei (prayer) which is really the recognition of what He does and the making of requests. Once I have agreed He’s my King and I accept His mitzvos, I can now make requests of Him because I admit that He runs my life.

Therefore, the first five prakim go like this: Kriat Shema---the first three prakim, two prakim are tefilla---prayer. The rest, the case of the “Katzad Mivorchim” is how I enact the device to permit object usage because that’s one of His commandments. It’s very interesting, very pashut---simple.

But Zeraim also deals with something else, how I permit the object usage, or how I permit the usage of the produce. The answer is: separate it and to give it to a kohen. But there are also objects that I can’t use; that’s also in Zeraim. This is “Kilayim,” like mixed seeds and so on. I can’t use that, so that’s also in Zeraim, to tell me that there’s no hafrasha matana because I can’t use it altogether.

What’s the central idea of the entire Zeraim?---object usage permissibility through hafrasha---separation and matana---gifting to the kohen. So, you see the wheel. That’s the hub of the wheel and all the spokes are just different gifts that I have to give.

Now we understand where tractate “Brachos” fits in and even where Krias Shema fits in. Isn’t that nice?

We’re focused on the central idea. I’m offering a simple formula: you want to tell mitzvos---fine---but first you have to declare, “I accept the mitzvos.” That’s the concept of first having to agree to agree. Then we can deal with the terms of the agreement. That’s what the central idea of the whole Zeraim is, which is fascinating. It’s a study of different “devices.”

The essential prerequisite of the entire Zeraim is what?---ownership. I have to own the object. Therefore, the Ribono shel Olam created the whole concept of “ownership” and what it does. In having to separate produce and give it away, what is G-D really saying?---you don’t own it; I do, therefore I can force you to give away free stuff.

When you fulfill terumah and maaser, it is as if you are saying: I admit that I’m not an owner because, if You can come in and force me to give it away, obviously You own it and You, Yourself, have given it to me as a gift.

What the Ribono Shel Olam---Master of the universe created is the legal state called “ownership” and you need to declare, I do not own it by these mitzvos. This is what Zeraim is all about.

Moed----what’s the definition of a “moed”? There are many moadim, aren’t there?---Shabbat, Pesach, Sukkot and so on. We need to define it and then we’ll understand what the central idea of the entire Moed is. What’s the definition of “moed;” does anybody know? It includes Shabbat, Eruvin, Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Yoma---Yom Kippur, Megillah, Ta’anis, Hagigah. What’s the central idea? What’s a “moed”? Does anybody have a definition for that?

Participant: to meet?

R’Kessin: That’s not a definition; that’s a translation. I need a good, solid definition of “moed.” You all know the masechtos, all that deal with the holidays. “Holiday” is a translation. You need to understand that the translation is not the definition.

I will tell you the definition: “moed” is a designated time period in which activity is regulated, controlled, either being forbidden or required. It’s where a time period demands or regulates or controls your activity. Either the activity is forbidden so you can’t do it, or you must do it; it’s required. That’s what “moed” means.

Every moed has a time period and different dates. It has the activities, either forbidden activities which are the 39 melachos forbidden or required on Shabbos and Yom Tov. What’s required on the moadim of Shabbos, Yom Tov and so on?---kiddush, havdalah, hadlakat neros, kavod Shabbos, oneg Shabbos, right? These are all required and you can ask, “Why am I doing this?”---because there’s a designated time period that demands it.

So, the essence of moed is what?---one word. Just like the whole Zeraim is predicated on “ownership,” the whole Moed is predicated on “activity” except the activity becomes required or forbidden during that time period. What’s the Ribono Shel Olam really saying?One thinks: you are telling me what I can or cannot do? What does that mean? The Ribono Shel Olam poses a subtle question to us; why do we do things? We think we’re a cause, right? We think we can do something. We think that we actually produce results. We achieve goals; isn’t that true?

But the essential idea of moed is “activity,” one that is regulated, controlled by a time period. It could be Shabbos, Yom Tov, Chol HaMoed or anything else like that. Why? G-D is saying: you are not a cause of anything so don’t bother doing that activity.

Of course, we have to do things because G-D says, “Six days you will work”--- right? But we need to break the illusion, or the delusion---I should say---that we actually do something. It’s only the Ribono Shel Olam that does anything. Do you think that you make money because you’re brilliant, because you’re awesome and have an idea or because a customer found you and whatever? No---it’s all G-D, except we don’t see any of this. The Ribono Shel Olam says is: it’s okay, I’m not going to tell you to do nothing the whole week, but I will tell you that in certain designated time periods to be careful. Watch it and don’t do anything! Ultimately your activities lead to nowhere. I am the cause.

Do you understand what moed tells you? The central idea of all the masechtos of Moed is activity that is regulated by time. The only difference is that there are many time periods, that’s all.

Every masechta in Moed is fundamentally about activity being regulated by some time period, either being required or forbidden. The spokes (of that wheel) are all the time periods. There’s Shabbos, there’s Yom Tovim, Chol HaMoed---right?----and there are the rabbinical time periods i.e.Purim, Chanukah….but it’s all about activities that you need to do or avoid.

Essentially, God controls your activity---not all of it totally---and the lesson is that you can’t do, really, anything. G-D says: It’s I Who do everything for you. I’m the ultimate cause and, by the way, that realization that G-D is the only cause of what we do will be revealed to us in the 7000th year. There’s “ha’Shem nisgov levado b’yom hahu”---- He is One on that day, that “day” being the beginning of the 7000th year after the messianic era when it will be revealed that we caused nothing, that everything was orchestrated by G-D. The only thing we did is use our bechira---choice about what we want to do. Whether we were permitted to do it or not has been, purely, up to Him.

That’s why Shabbat is me’ein Olam ha’Ba---of the World to Come. Why?---because we’ll realize that we don’t do anything, that He’s the Absolute cause. Shabbat is really a me’ein Olam ha’Ba and refraining from, or being obligated to, perform activities within a particular time-frame is what teaches that idea. Halachically, that’s what it does. It’s very interesting to know.

Participant: Zeraim is ownership and Moed is activity. What is meant by “cause”?

R’Kessin: “Cause” is the lesson. One word determines what the Ribono Shel Olam is trying to tell us---"nothing”! You own “nothing” and you accomplish “nothing.” That’s rather a sobering thought.

Participant: It sounds encouraging.

R’Kessin: Moed says you don’t do anything, even if they’re normal acts. G-D could say: I’m the One that causes anything. Of course, you shouldn’t do crazy things, but the essential message is that you accomplish “zero.” The only thing man can accomplish is the making of the decision. Should I do ‘a’ or ‘b’? But whether you doa’ or ‘b’ has nothing to do with you. The Ribono Shel Olam may allow you to do ‘a’ or ‘b’ or whatever. It’s a very important concept.

OK. Nashim. What’s the essential idea of Nashim? Nashim is all about women. What do you have in Nashim? You have…

Participant: If we don’t do anything, we don’t have to do this shiur.

R’Kessin: The only ones who do nothing---therefore, they don’t have to do teshuva---are dead people! Everyone does something. Even your thoughts are doing something. Man strives in three areas or dimensions: thinking, speaking and doing. Even if you don’t do anything, all it means is that you’re not doing anything with your hands. But you’re still thinking and talking, right? You’re still striving. The only people that do nothing are dead. I said we accomplish nothing, I used the word “accomplish” because He is the ultimate cause. We accomplish nothing; that’s what Moed is about. G-D can say activity is regulated for specific time periods, being either forbidden or required which teaches us that “activity” is the essence of Moed. It is G-D that does everything for us even though we don’t see this. That is a very important lesson.

As I said, that hassaga---insight that He is what’s called a “Yichud Shlitoso”----the Absolute ruler of actions or results comes in Olam ha’Ba, beginning in the 7000th year. That’s when we’ll realize that. Even in the yemos ha’mashiach---messianic era we don’t have the revelation of Yichud Shlitoso. We don’t have that hasaga. We still do things and things will appear, but we don’t realize the absoluteness of the fact that we really do nothing. It’s only the Ribono Shel Olam that does anything.

By the way, that’s what Yom Tov really is. Yom Tov is the time period of the yemos ha’mashiach---messianic era. Shabbat is the Yom Tov of Olam ha’Ba. I won’t get into the whole thing, but the two differ. That’s why, during Shabbat, nothing is permitted---because we do nothing. But Yom Tov represents the era of the mashiach and therefore we do certain things, and that’s why ochel nefesh is permitted.

We realize that Zeraim is about ownership, and the fundamental idea of Moed is activity. Nashim is all about women in the sense of “Kiddushin”---how you get married, how you get divorced. You have “Sotah” because it’s a violation of a man’s rights over his wife---intimacy, and you have “Ketubot” which spells out the man’s obligation to his wife, and so on.

Therefore, the essential idea of Nashim is what? It looks like it’s about nashim---women because the halachos are about nashim but, really, what Nashim is all about is how you create the legal state called “ownership.” That’s number one. What is “ownership” of anything? Can anybody give me a definition of “ownership”? (no response). “Ownership” is a legal state. What is meant by “legal”? It means everybody recognizes that you own. When something is legal, that means everybody recognizes this as a truth; that’s number one. Number two: it’s enforceable in a court of law. That’s what “legality” means. It’s a legal state in which an individual has control over an object or---I should say---a legal state in which an individual has rights of control over an object. That’s what “ownership” really is.

Nashim deals with ownership, how you create the state of ownership, how you dissolve it. “Gittin”---dissolution, a tractate within Nashim, deals with dissolution of a marriage state. “Yevomos” is a tractate that deals with which women one can marry. For example, a man cannot marry his sister-in-law unless his brother died childless.

Nashim is really about ownership. However, since most of the laws of ownership entail marriage---an ownership state---it’s called “Nashim”---but, really, it’s all about ownership. We know what ownership is, but what does it mean when you “own”? What did the Ribono Shel Olam really create?---relationship. When you own something, you have a relationship with that object that you own, don’t you? Therefore, Nashim is based on the concept called “ownership” which is really a concept of relationships outside of yourself and it’s all about how to create that state, dissolve the state, and so on. The essential idea of Nashim is ownership, relationships. The majority of the laws are about women, so it’s called “Nashim.”

Participant: What about Nedarim---vows?

R’Kessin: Good question. What do vows have to do with ownership of a woman or marriage---ishus? One of the “properties” that you have over your wife is that you can annul her vows, therefore they’re included in “Nedarim,” in Nashim.

It’s really there for that one perek, that you can annul her vows. Maybe you’ve got to tell me what a “vow” is. It obviously brings the whole masechta. Every masechta in Nashim deals with the concept of ishus---marriage, a type of ownership, right? It tells us how to create, how to dissolve, and how to treat ideas or categories of ownership. Nashim is all about the legal state called “ownership,” specializing in the type of ownership called “ishut”---marriage.

The idea to focus on is that, when the Ribono Shel Olam makes these precepts, what’s He saying? I will determine if you own or not. In Zeraim, I will determine if you can use it or not; here I determine if you’re going to do it or not, or if you could even own at all.

If you could own, you’ve got to make a kinyan—acquisition, the groom’s formal acceptance of the terms of ketubah---marriage contract. If you don’t make a kinyan according to the legality as established in Torah, you don’t own anything! The Ribono Shel Olam is calling the shots of how you can even create a legal state called “ownership,” how you dissolve it, what the obligations are and so on.

Look how the Ribono Shel Olam creates the state of ownership! In Zeraim, He created the state of ownership and how you can use that which you own. In Moed He created the concept called “activity” and He regulates your activity. In Nashim, He created this concept called “ownership,” but He will tell you when you can own something, and, regarding marriage, the need to make a kinyan. You don’t want to remain married to your wife? You need to give her a “get.” He calls the shots altogether about what, when, and how you own.

What is Nezikin?---damages Nezikin deals with---what? The first masechta, “Bava Kamma,” is about damage. What is “damage,” really? We know when it occurs.

Participant: ….harm, loss.

R’Kessin: That’s a translation. I don’t want translations; I want definitions.

Participant: suffering.

R’Kessin: No. Well, you do suffer if you lose. What’s the definition of “damage” or “nezek,”

which is what “Bava Kamma” is all about? And the answer is…..?

Participant: ….loss of ownership.

R’Kessin: Correct! It’s a negation or interference or a privation of ownership. When somebody damages something you have, he has interfered with your ownership because now you can’t use it anymore; it’s damaged. Therefore, Nezikin is the opposite of Nashim. It’s about the undoing of the ownership through damage. There are other masechtos in Nezikin: “Bava Metzia,” “Bava Batra.”

Participant: Why isn’t “Get” in Nezikin?

R’Kessin: Remember, Gittin is voluntary----you have the right to divorce. With Nezikin, the guy comes into your field, burns up your crop or kills your ox! That’s involuntary; he negated your ownership that you didn’t want to be negated.

How do you get rid of ownership? You sell it, bequeath it, give it away as a gift, mafkir---annul, forfeit it. There are many ways to get rid of an object, but you did it willingly. Nezikin is where someone did it for you unwillingly and, therefore, must compensate.

What about the rest of the masechtos, Bava Metzia,” etc.? Seder Nezikin doesn’t deal just with damage, an interference in ownership. It deals with problems of money---who owns this? Shenayim ochazin---two people fighting over a tallis, and what’s the problem in that mishna? What’s the central idea?---suffek baylis--- Who owns this? Two guys are grabbing a tallis and the questions is: who owns it? That’s a problem in monetary issues. Why is there a monetary issue about who owns a tallis?---because it’s a conflict. Elu Metzius---these are found objects is a problem because I don’t know who owns it.

In other words, Nezikin is all about monetary issues, problems with ownership. Nashim deals with ownership: how to create and dissolve.

Participant: Nezikin is the taking of ownership from somebody else.

R’Kessin: Yes, that’s related to problems with money and who owns.

Participant: What about “Bava Batra”?

R’Kessin: “Bava Batra” deals with chezekriah---there are lots of ideas---any issue with money ownership. For instance, you have a problem and I contest and say, “Hey, that’s my field!” I want to take it away from you. It’s all about problems of ownership, problems of “who owns?” It also deals with what you can own? That’s why rebis---interest is in Nezikin because you cannot own interest.

In other words, the normal state of ownership is Nashim. The problems of ownership, all kinds of problems, is Nezikin. That’s why Nezikin is the major topic of “Choshe Mishpat” which deals with money problems. The essential idea of Nashim is ownership regarding a relationship and G-D says how you’re going to own and dissolve, and what your obligations are.

In Nezikin, you negate or interfere with somebody’s ownership, so it’s all about how you resolve it. But that itself is subject to the rules of G-D. Two people argue about who owns who, or you own me, and G-D says: I will decide who owns and that’s “Choshe Mishpat.” Those halachos are all about who owns, what can be owned and---by the way---Who made the laws? ---G-D.

G-D, in such matters of monetary dispute is, ostensibly, saying: I will decide what you own. Why?---because, ultimately, you own nothing; it’s all My gift to you. I’ll decide who gets My gift.

What is Kodashim all about? What’s the central idea of Kodashim?---sacrificial offerings, the Beis HaMikdash---Holy Temple.

(A participant proposes idea about Makkos.)

Makkos is that which Sanhedrin declares. It’s a punishment. That’s why “Shevu’os” is there too, because the shevu’os is one of the instruments that the beit din—rabbinical court uses. There are always masechtos which are peripheral but are still part of the “Sanhedrin” which is the “who adjudicates problems in money?”--- the beit din, Sanhedrin.

Kodashim is about sacrificial offerings, different types. What’s the central idea of Kodashim? It’s all about the laws or the activities of the Beis HaMikdash, is it not? The Beis HaMikdash is a central theme in Kodashim because all the offerings are part of everything that deals with what must be done in a certain place called the “Beis HaMikdash.” Therefore, all the activities of the Beis HaMikdash become the content in Kodashim.

But, is that what it’s really about? It’s tricky. It’s subtle. The answer is---not really.

Do you wonder why all the davening----Shacharit, Mincha, Maariv--- is what the Gemara says is all k'neged korbanos---parallel to the offerings? Why? What does Shacharit, Mincha, Maariv have to do with offerings? Do you wonder about that?

Why does it say that a beit ha’knesses---shul, synagogue is a mikdash me’at---a little Beis HaMikdash?

Those statements are hints of what Kodashim is really all about. It looks like Kodashim is all about the laws of the activities in the Beis HaMikdash, but what are you really doing when you go to the Beis HaMikdash? The answer is…

Participant: You come close to ha’Shem.

R’Kessin: You’re saying that when you do any mitzvah, you don’t come close to ha’Shem?

The Beis HaMikdash isn’t just about your doing of activities. You’re doing the activities in G-D’s House because that’s where He lives, resides. In other words, the fundamental idea is that the Beis HaMikdash is the House of G-D, the residence of G-D, of the shechina---Divine Presence. Therefore, you are personally relating to G-D. It’s like you walk into a guy’s house and say, “What can I do to serve you?” It’s unique, because all mitzvos are commandments that He issued and I do the mitzvah but, they’re separate. In Kodashim, you walk into His House, face Him, say to Him: What can I do to serve You?

His answer is: I want you to make offerings. There are only three “offerings” to G-D other than the making of requests.

Participant: “Give me! Give me!”

That’s what I said, other than the making of requests. We go into the House of G-D. It’s like going into the house of a person. It’s a personal relationship. It’s not like I do a mitzvah outside---no! I stand in front of the King and ask Him: What can I do for you? How can I serve you?

G-D says: There are only three things you can serve Me with or say to Me:

1. “Forgive me.”

2. “Thank You.”

3. “I acknowledge Your Existence.”