Berakhot 55

The secret to long life.

Before we jump into today’s daf, we can’t ignore yesterday’s cliffhanger ending:

Rav Yehuda said: There are three matters which, when one who prolongs their duration, they extend a person’s days and years. They are: One who prolongs his prayer, one who prolongs his mealtime at the table and one who prolongs his time in the bathroom.

The focus of today’s daf is a not so obvious trio of secrets to long life: prolonging prayer, dinnertime and hanging out on the toilet. Maybe it is time to invest in your bathroom library collection.

The daf doesn’t spend much time on the need to extend prayer for this reward. Honestly, it seems quite obvious, doesn’t it? Prayer is a good thing, more of a good thing leads to great rewards.

You might think extending mealtime would warrant a long life because you are bonding with loved ones, but the Talmud has a different take. The first possibility offered by the rabbis is quite nice: the longer your meal, the more opportunity for a needy person to appear at your table and, since the food is already out, you can easily welcome this guest without needing to heat up food, etc. The second possibility raised is a bit more esoteric: Rabbi Yohanan and Rabbi Elazar both say: As long as the Temple stood, the altar atoned for Israel’s transgressions. Now that it is destroyed, a person’s table atones for his transgressions. Duly noted.

Now for the final ticket to a long life: chilling in the bathroom. What were the rabbis thinking? Well, the example provided to prove the point is a tad cryptic. The story goes, Rabbi Yehuda son of Rabbi El’ai credits his good looks to the layout of his home. He explains: There are 24 bathrooms between my lodging and the study hall, and when I walk I stop and examine myself in all of them. It does make sense that one shouldn’t rush nature’s call; I’m down with that.

Today’s daf also warns us of three behaviors that might shorten our days:

One who is invited and given the Torah scroll to read and he does not read, one who is given a cup of blessing over which to recite a blessing and he does not recite a blessing and one who conducts himself with an air of superiority.

Consider yourselves warned.

Read all of Berakhot 55 on Sefaria.

This piece originally appeared in a My Jewish Learning Daf Yomi email newsletter sent on February 27, 2020. If you are interested in receiving the newsletter, sign up here.

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