I've had the opportunity from time to time to learn the Talmud, but currently there is nothing being offered in my area. I was wondering if it's possible to do this online, and if so, what sites are the best?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
It's always best to study with a local rabbi. This will give you an opportunity to probe the nuance of the issues, and develop a personal connection with a rabbi, which will enrich your Torah growth far more than any online study. It will also avoid many inherent ambiguities.
Having said that, if you have no other option, then yes, the Talmud can be studied online. Try these websites:
I also suggest checking out the Gemara Marking System. This is an innovative method that uses geometric shapes to structure the Gemara, thereby increasing understanding, retention, and effective review. Over 25 years in development, this method is currently being used by thousands of people worldwide.
The markings visually highlight what is unfolding on the page, and break down the flow of the Gemara into precise points: What is the Gemara trying to prove with this statement? How does it correlate with what comes before and after? What are its implications for the overall structure? The markings are overlayed and interconnected – providing a clear, composite picture of each section of Gemara. There are free "pre-marked" Gemaras, to demonstrate how the system works, as well as audio classes to learn Daf Yomi using the Gemara Marking System. Check it out at www.gemaramarkings.com
I recently heard a rabbi speak about returning stolen funds. He said that rather than calling the police, the money could be returned anonymously. What is wrong with facing any criminal charges that you may deserve? Isn't that a part of repentance?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Excellent question! The idea is like this:
Since a human court cannot determine what is in the heart of man, they have to punish according to the rules of the book, irrespective of regret.
God, on the other hand, knows what is in the heart of man, so He allows for sincere repentance that literally wipes the slate clean. In the event that a person admitted their mistake voluntarily, they clearly have remorse - and the matter can remain between himself and God, as long as the proper financial restitution is made.
But taking your principle to an extreme, I should turn myself into the police station every time I exceed the speed limit!
Of course, there is the concept that suffering helps achieve atonement. The reason this works is that when a person inclines too far to their physical desires and transgressions, the natural reparation is to lose some measure of physical comfort.
In this case, I think it is more productive to make amends privately and resolve not to do it again.
The story of Cain and Abel always intrigued me. But I never understood what they were fighting about. The text doesn’t really say. Can you shed some light for me?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Adam and Eve had two sons: Cain and Abel. When harvest time comes, Cain and Abel bring offerings to God as a way of giving thanks. Abel offers "the first and fattest sheep of his flock," but Cain decides that's overdoing the gratitude thing, and he gives some of his poorer crops. God isn't very impressed with this, and He tells Cain so. Cain becomes depressed, and decides to take it out on Abel (God being too tough, and too far away to fight with). Cain picks a fight with Abel about which one of them God loves more, and then Cain kills Abel.
In His most innocent voice, God asks Cain: "What happened to your brother Abel?"
"I don't know," says Cain. "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:1-9)
What does Cain have in common with the woman who snarled at you in traffic?
Violence has nothing to do with the victim. Cain commits murder because he's depressed and angry. He could think about the failures of his own life, and try to fix them, but that would take a lot of work. It's easier to blame Cain.
Blaming your problems on others is a cheap way to avoid the difficulty of change and growth. In today's society, it sometimes seems no one wants to accept responsibility for his behavior. In one particularly silly (but true) illustration of this, a woman bought a cup of coffee from McDonald's, put the cup between her legs, and drove off. When the coffee spilled and burned her, she sued McDonald's!
Not accepting responsibility is often the reason for violence in families as well. A husband comes home frustrated at the end of a difficult day. He's looking for someone to blame. Who's around to hurt? His wife and kids! Why is his frustrating day their fault? It isn't, of course, but within a few minutes of arriving home, some provocation arises, and he lets them have it.