The miracle of flow (Daf Yomi Pesachim 54)

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Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.”

There is so much chatter and noise around us, although the world has become somewhat quieter since the start of the pandemic. We are reminded in today’s Daf Yomi that a truly kind person and one “of understanding” will listen and draw others into their “flow.” We are told that Ulla was a man who did not articulate his thoughts very easily, but Rabba bar bar Hana understood what he was trying to say. It takes patience and a quieting of one’s inner voice to listen, truly listen to another.

We are presented with a litany of miracles that we are told were created at twilight on the eve of the first Shabbat after creation (which was one of the grandest miracles of all.)  The miracles include the manna that fell in the desert as nourishment for the Israelis and the well that formed at the site of Miriam’s grave and provided a steady source of water for the 40-years they resided in the desert.

Among the first Shabbat eve miracles are the illuminating rainbows in the sky with their reflection of light, writing and writing instruments which record our lives, the Ten Commandments, the grave of Moses and the cave that Moses and Elijah stood in. Also counted among the miracles is the mouth of Balaam’s donkey who was provided a voice through a visiting angel and the mouth of the earth that opened up and swallowed the followers of Korah who challenged Moses.

As remarkable as these miracles are, we are also presented with more ordinary ones. Among the miracles that we can see and touch here on earth are a basic pair of tongs that can trace their lineage back to the first ones on earth. We are told that “the first pair of tongs was fashioned at the hand of Heaven.” Every tong that is created afterwards is in the image of the first tong, which represents the miracle of tools that ultimately distinguish humankind from other forms of life on this earth.

We are told that there were phenomena that existed before the world was created. This includes all knowledge found in the Torah, the Garden of Eden, the cursed valley of Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple and the name of the Messiah. The Gemara says that it can provide documentation to support the existence of these phenomena before the creation of the world as we know it. But I am left wondering how a garden or a valley can exist without a world to plant their roots.

We are told that miracles reside even in death because “God created a world in which a corpse rots, so that it requires burial and the family does not continually suffer by seeing the corpse.” This allows the deceased to be “forgotten from the heart” and for the loss to diminish over time. By extension we are told that grain was designed to rot over time so that “it cannot be hoarded forever.” And currency was created to circulate as a form of payment so that people would have a means of livelihood.

It takes a lot of faith to believe in grand miracles like manna falling from heaven and a well that sprouted in the middle of the desert in order to provide water for the entire Israeli people for the 40 years that they traveled through the arid land. But there are every day miracles that connect us to the flow of humanity. A simple tool, like a pair of tongs, a vaccine that was developed in record time to protect against the coronavirus or taking the time to listen deeply to someone in distress are among these miracles.

Today’s Daf Yomi is a reminder in its description of phenomena that predated the world itself that there is something out there that is larger than we are. It was here before us and will be here after us. And the miracle that we live every day is our connection to the earth’s flow. It is the moment we surrender our ego to something larger than ourselves.

About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at
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