So if you don't already know, the most interesting thing about it is that there IS one. It talks about how we're grateful for the orifices and sphincters because we couldn't live without it.
Lots of people have an instinct that it's not really appropriate to mix defecation and prayer. And there's some of that in Judaism, eg. you're not supposed to pray on a toilet. But a big part of his talk was quoting bits of talmud about toilets, to illustrate, there's nothing _bad_ about it, it's like things like sex (and maybe surgery?) which are great and good topics for prayer, even if you're not supposed to mix the two.
Although he never explicitly SAID that distinction. I think it might have been helpful if he had, rather than just giving pro-toilet examples without explaining the distinction explicitly. (I got a lot of this from hatam_soferet's comments on liv's post.)
The overall thesis
I felt like I was missing background here, like there was some cultural disconnect. His overall thesis was related to the fact the prayer refers to god as roughly "throne of glory" and also (?) uses "throne" in reference to the toilet. And there's most probably SOME connection implied there.
But he seemed to imply it was more than that. Which seemed very odd, like, the rest of the talk made the point that it was ok to pray about bodily functions as much as anything else. But (I don't know, but I got the impression that?) it's really shocking to imply God might do _anything_ physical, even eat -- and I didn't get the impression that defection was so much MORE holy it was ok to talk about God doing it.
But I was clearly missing something, like he didn't EXPECT to prove that thesis. He just wanted to advance it. And I guess that's partly him, and partly a tradition of commentary? After all, most talks don't have a thesis they even pretend to prove. But partly, I'm frustrated because if someone SAYS they're going to prove something, I'm not used to the idea I'm not supposed to believe them.
And partly I'm frustrated because I'm really interested in this sort of cross-cultural meta-conventions about study and prayer, but people rarely *talk* about them, even though it might be something Rafi could do very well.
In fact, I get the impression he's rushed off his feet delivering these popular talmud sessions. He always encourages people to participate with ideas and interpretations (less so this time, but more in other sessions I've been in), how you're supposed to when studying something. But a few things made me realise he maybe usually lacks time or preparation to really *engage* with any of those comments, except by plowing ahead with his thesis. So he's still a really good popular educator, but I'm sometimes left not sure what I'm missing.
R. Akiva follows R. Yehoshua into a bathroom and spies on him
He followed with half a dozen pieces of Talmud which supported his thesis in some way, but really, one of the most interesting aspect of the talk is just seeing them in their own right.
R. Akiva: Once I followed my teacher R Yehoshua into a bathroom and watched what he did, so I would know the most appropriate way to go to the bathroom.
Ben Azai: And "not spying on people" you didn't think you could figure out for yourself?
R. Akiva: How to go to the bathroom is part of the teachings (oral Torah?), I had to learn it!
R: Kahana: It's funny you should say that, because I hid under your bed and listened to you with your wife. You chatted and giggled like new lovers. I had to learn how to behave in the bedroom, it was part of the teachings.
R. Akiva: *with a straight face* That was highly inappropriate.
It's also followed by a passage where rabbis argue why you should wipe with the left hand. Because you eat with the right. Because you wrap tefillin with the right. Etc. I'm not sure if any of them end with the obvious answer "all of the above".
The dangers of learning from Joshua the Nazarene
Liv linked to a partial translation here: https://www.ou.org/life/torah/masechet_
R. Eliezer was accosted by a follower of Jesus (or, so we guess), commonly supposed to be James (?). He proposed a point of teaching, which is implicitly not traditionally correct, but R. Eliezer was amused/moved by the argument, and even though he didn't respond, came under suspicion of following the teachings of Christianity, which was illegal at the time, and temporarily arrested by the Roman authorities.
What's fascinating is that it's one of the few (possible?) mentions of Jesus in the Talmud. And it gives me dissonance, in that I know much Talmud was written down about the same time as Jesus, but they don't easily go together in my head. R. Eliezer stars in such stories as the oven of achnai, where he pursues an academic argument by making increasingly impossible miracles, culminating in being outvoted shortly after God speaks from the sky to endorse him personally. And is exiled, and loses it, and gazes on the crops and sea, which are ruined wherever he looks. It's like the time of myths. But then there's other stories like this one where he bustles around early-AD middle east going to market, administrating universities, arguing with political authorities, etc. (Right?)
And the particular point in question was, it was forbidden to use money from exploitation and vice as donation to the temple (subject to a lot of details). The disciple asked if it was appropriate to use it for the high priest's privy, that already being full of uncleanliness in some sense. And this gives a very strange view of how jewish leaders at the time might have viewed christianity at the time (or the temple for that matter). Eliezer is inconvenienced by being associated with Christianity, but he doesn't recoil shouting "blashphemer, blasphemer". And the christian disciple is more persecuted, but not so much he can't stop in the middle of the market to buttonhole rabbis and have theological arguments.
It seems likely this is an implicit criticism or mocking of Jesus' followers' beliefs of the time SOMEHOW but I don't know the context to say how. I don't know if that's something Jesus' followers WOULD have had an opinion on, or if it's supposed to discredit them.
 The translation is fee from a prostitute, but I prefer to read that as the bad thing being betrayal of vows, exploitation, or whatever, rather than prostitution per se, anyone able to add details?
You can also comment at http://jack.dreamwidth.org/999576.html