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The mishna talks about someone who cuts his hair before his period of being a nazir is completed, saying he incurs a penalty. This leads to a discussion in the g'mara about how hair grows, because they're trying to figure out if the hair that was on his head at the time of his vow (which became consecrated) has been cut off. So does hair grow from the scalp or from the tips? The g'mara argues and then counter-argues for each of these possibilities, before finally resorting to this argument: when sheep are tithed every tenth one is marked with a bit of paint; the mishna providing this instruction would not have done so if that paint would soon be covered by new growth; therefore wool grows from the roots. An argument based on an explicit teaching of the mishna is more credible than one made from reasoning alone. The g'mara then observes that when old men dye their beards they grow white at the roots, so sheep's wool and men's hair both grow from the roots. (39a-b)

(Today's daf is 40.)

Yesterday at our Yom Kippur beit midrash (afternoon study session, to fill time between services so we can just stay there all day), our new associate rabbi taught sources related to the fast. I'm repeating something I learned there instead of returning to the regular cycle (which is at Nazir 33).

The mishna lists the restrictions on Yom Kippur: we may not eat or drink, wash, anoint, wear (leather) shoes,1 or have intimate relations. Rabbi Elazar says that a king and a bride may wash their faces and a pregnant woman may wear shoes, but the sages forbid these. What are the exact parameters of "may not eat or drink"? Whoever eats food to the size of a large date or drinks a mouthful is guilty. All kinds of food are counted to the size of the date and all liquids are counted to the size of the mouthful -- we're talking totals here, not saying that you can eat up to the size of a date and then do it again if you wait long enough.

The g'mara discusses the "date" measure, looking to other cases where there is a minimum amount of food to count. (Surely the maximum you can eat on a fast day must be less than the minimum needed to count as "eating" for another purpose.) The g'mara talks about how much you need to eat in order to qualify for grace after meals, though the first case that came to my mind was how much matzah you have to eat at the seder to fulfill your obligation. These minimums are the volume of an egg, and there's discussion in the g'mara here about whether a large date is larger or smaller than an egg. I think for this reasoning to work it must be smaller, so we have a continuum from "no food" to "limit for a fast" to "minimum to fulfill a positive food obligation" to "plenty".

Finally, I note that today serious questions are raised about taking pills on Yom Kippur, though a pill is certainly (I hope!) smaller than a date. So these size rules have probably been refined since the talmud. (Also, this is for pills that are in some sense optional, like your daily vitamin or aspirin for your caffeine headache. If it's medically necessary you not only can but must take it regardless of the fast.)

1 The mishna here says "lace on shoes" and doesn't mention leather, though leather is discussed elsewhere in this tractate. Since it says "lace" this raises the question of slip-on shoes; the answer is that all leather shoes are forbidden whether laced, slip-in, sandals, or other, but I don't know where this is resolved.

I've written before about the alternate service my congregation has on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Ruach service. It's very much in the style of our Shabbat minyan -- musical, participatory, full of spirit, and way more traditional than the Reform norm. Originally my rabbi led this service, though a few times he had to leave early (to be at the main service) and said "Monica, take over" -- once with a new prayer book I had not seen before, with the high-holy-day-only special liturgy. (I love the trust he places in me but that one was "exciting".) Then last year he couldn't be there at all and asked me to lead it along with somebody else. The other person was, to put it mildly, quite problematic.

This summer we hired a new associate rabbi and she's been coming to the Shabbat minyan and enjoying it. My rabbi asked the two of us to lead this service. I'm very pleased that he kept me as part of this; it would not have been completely unreasonable (in our congregation) to say that when we have an actual rabbi, the lay person is no longer needed.

We'd only led one service together (a minyan service when the senior rabbi was out of town), but it turns out that she and I work really well together. It usually takes people collaborating on services a little more time to start developing the "hive mind" where things just go. (Yes, of course there's a lot of prep involved, and sticky notes in the book for who's doing what in places, but even with that, services led by people who aren't used to working together often don't look smooth.)

Rosh Hashana was last week and the service went very well. It flowed, it wasn't rushed, and we finished exactly on time. We got lots of compliments. Yom Kippur is Wednesday and I expect we'll have even more people then. I feel really good about this.

Also, chanting Unataneh Tokef on Rosh Hashana clicked for me. I don't mean musically (though that too); I mean the text. This is a grave prayer and I felt it in a way that I haven't felt it when merely reading or listen to it. Oh Rosh Hashana it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed: who shall live and who shall die, who shall be content and who troubled, and so on. Since Rosh Hashana I have attempted to do teshuvah for some specific things, and I hope that come Yom Kippur, when I chant this same text again, I will feel I succeeded.
In honor of the season we deviate from the Daf Yomi cycle. On Yom Kippur we read about the service of the kohein gadol (high priest) on Yom Kippur, when he enters the Holy of Holies, pronounces the divine name, and seeks atonement for the people of Israel. The mishna in the first chapter of Tractate Yoma describes what happens before that:

Seven days before Yom Kippur they remove the high priest from his house and move him to the cell of the counselors. Another priest is prepared so that, should something happen to the high priest, another can take over. A substitute wife is also prepared for the high priest lest his wife die, because the torah says he makes atonement for himself and his house, and "his house" requires a wife. (But only one wife because it says "house", not "houses"; there is some complexity in the discussion here.)

During these seven days they provide elders of the beit din (rabbinic court), who read before him the order of the service and urge him to memorize it, because perhaps he forgot or never learned. On the day before Yom Kippur they bring before him all the animals that will be offered, so he will recognize them and be familiar with what is to be done. Late in the day leading up to Yom Kippur they prevent him from eating much, lest he eat too much and fall asleep. They then take him to the elders of the priesthood and make him swear that he will not change a single thing from what they have taught him. Then he (if learned) or others (if not) would expound on torah, and read from Job, Ezra, Chronicles, and sometimes Daniel. And they would keep him up all night occupied with torah.

(It may sound like they're treating him as a child or an ignoramus. Perhaps they are (under Roman rule the position of high priest was sold to the highest bidder, for instance). But it's also important to remember that this service is essential for the people's relationship with God and that we've seen what happens when instructions for service aren't followed correctly -- Aharon's sons Nadav and Avihu brought aish zarah, an "alien fire", and were struck down. Had they been representing the whole people, what might have happened? Even the most learned must study the haggadah at Pesach, and even the most learned high prist must study the Yom Kippur service.)

(Today's daf is Nazir 26.)

I met Countess Aidan ni Leir when I became Chronicler for the East Kingdom. I'd been active in the SCA for some years by then, including having been chronicler for my local barony for four years. Our barony was, at the time, somewhat isolated from the main body of the East: aside from Pennsic the bigwigs didn't come here much, and I hadn't been to much of the rest of the kingdom then. I was an experienced writer, editor, and publisher, but working at the kingdom level with its attendant quirks and politics was new. So becoming a kingdom officer had something of a feel of a kid from hicks-ville moving to the big city.

My predecessors in the job helped guide me, and there were people in the local group with more kingdom-level experience. But regular contact with the Kingdom Seneschal was especially helpful. That seneschal was Countess Aidan.

Adian had been royalty (hence the title) and had worked with royalty for years, and from her I learned how to handle them. I knew that just because a guy has a crown on his head doesn't mean what he's saying is reasonable, but that guy with the crown could also fire me. And sometimes the other kingdom officers had unreasonable expectations; I remember one officer who sent something like ten pages of advice for the space-constrained "laws and policies" issue, who didn't take kindly to my saying that that was really too much and I'd need him to cut that down to just the part that was actually, you know, laws and policies, and I was expecting more like a page or two, not ten. Aidan taught me some useful things about diplomacy -- but also about when to wield the stick and just say "no" -- clearly and politely, in a way that would survive escalation.

One of my funniest memories of Aidan is a conversation we had, oh, maybe two years into my stint as chronicler. This was an actual phone call, not email (email still wasn't ubiquitous then, though she had it), so I remember her tone of voice too. I was talking about the accumulation of different kinds of paperwork -- reports from the local groups, my quarterly reports, stuff from other officers that wasn't newsletter submissions, minutes from board meetings, correspondence of lots of different types -- and how I was having trouble organizing it usefully. Did she have any advice? She said the way she handled that kind of stuff was to make one big pile, and every now and then stick a marker in with the month and year. If you ever actually needed any of that stuff that was probably good enough, but... she left the sentence incomplete.

I in fact didn't need the vast majority of that stuff (though there were expectations of keeping records). I tried to neaten it up some before passing the office on to my successor. I also passed on the advice.

At the time Aidan lived in New York. Several years ago she moved to my barony so I got to see her more, though not as much as I now realize I wish I had. Aidan was friendly (yet did not suffer fools), highly competent, and fun to be around. I'll miss her.
(Today's daf is 19.)

The mishna teaches: if two groups of witnesses testify about a man, one saying that he vowed to become a nazir for two years and the other that he vowed for five, how do we resolve the difference? Beit Shammai rules that because there is conflicting credible testimony he is not a nazir at all -- we can't tell, so we eliminate both. Beit Hillel, on the other hand, says that five includes two -- those who say five agree that he vowed for at least two. Thus he is a nazir for two years because everybody agrees on that much. (20a)

I wonder if the "at least this much" approach applies to torts too, like disputed loans or damages. It seems reasonable that it should.

(Today's daf is 12.)

A nazir is forbidden, among things, to consume wine (or grape juice). If a man says: "I declare myself a nazir on the condition that I can drink wine", he becomes a nazir and is forbidden wine -- a condition on a vow can't contradict torah law. If he says "I didn't know that a nazir is forbidden wine", he is still forbidden (but R' Shimon releases him from his vow). If he says "I knew that a nazir is forbidden wine but I thought the sages would give me permission because I cannot do without wine", he is released from his vow (but R' Shimon binds him to it). Why is he released if he thought he would get an exemption? Because we don't hold people to vows broken under pressure. (We accept his claim that he can't live without wine and thus we know he will violate the vow.) (11a-b)

When I was in college, some people thought it was a right fun prank to sign other people up for wildly-inappropriate catalogues and suchlike. These days they use the Internet for that. Any site that blithely accepts an email address without sending confirmation email to that address is contributing to the problem, big-time.

I know that already, but reading this article about a victim of the Ashley Madison breach -- spoiler alert: not an actual user -- reminded me how problematic this still is. Definitely worth five minutes of your time.
I want to ask you, Internet, to please stop taking all of this [supposed evidence] at face value. Please stop taking things like lists of names stolen from a company as a reason to abuse others — online or offline. When you see a story about someone doing something you think is either wrong or even just lame, it’s not a reason for you to abuse, stalk or attack someone you don’t know.

A friend whom I trust quite a bit not to be using their services is also on that list. So if you don't believe a random person on the Internet, there's that.
The torah teaches that one may become a nazir (Nazirite) by taking a vow to do so, and during the time it applies he does not cut his hair, drink wine, or come in contact with that which defiles. Our most famous nazir was Shimshon (Samson), though in his case he didn't make that vow himself. We begin a new tractate this week that's all about the nazir.

The mishna teaches: if a man says "I vow to be like Shimshon" (with some additional language) he becomes a nazir like Shimshon. This is different from one who vows to become a lifetime nazir. How so? A life-nazir may thin his hair with a razor when it becomes burdensome (and then bring animal offerings), and if he becomes ritually impure he brings an offering. A nazir like Shimshon, however, may not thin his hair, and if he becomes ritually impure he brings no offering. The mishna then goes on to say that the default length of a nazir vow, if not specified, is 30 days. (4a, 5a)

We recently had a pot-luck lunch at work. I was short of time, so had my slow-cooker do most of the work:

- 2 sweet yellow onions, diced
- 1 pound butternut squash, cubed (~ 0.5" cubes)
- 2 sweet potatoes (not yams), cubed
- 8oz bag frozen cauliflower
- 8oz bag frozen peas
- 15oz can chickpeas, drained
- 2 12oz jars Madras curry sauce (I used this)

Put all ingredients in slow-cooker and cook on high for 3 hours. Then add:

- 4 sturdy tomatoes (I used Romas), diced

Reduce heat to low for 8 hours or so. (I went to bed at this point.)

Eat straight or serve over rice. With fresh-baked naan is even better but not always practical.
I recently traveled for business, and the hotel where I stayed -- as is becoming the norm in my limited experience -- asked clients to consider not having linen service every day to avoid waste. I don't replace my towels and sheets at home every day and I really don't need somebody else to make the bed (in the room I have to myself), so I've been on board with that for a while.

One morning as I was leaving my room, with the "do not disturb" sign on the door, I ran into one of the housekeepers. The conversation went something like this:

Her: You don't want me to clean your room?
Me: No it's ok; I've only used these towels once.
Her: Are you sure? It wouldn't be any trouble!

If I'd been caffeinated I might have picked up on the subtext, but it wasn't until later that I found myself wondering: is this policy costing people jobs? I'm guessing that very few people become hotel housekeepers if they have other options; is my desire to go gently on the planet at odds with my desire not to make it harder on people in low-end jobs who want to work?

This is far from the first time I've faced the "but the candle-makers will go out of business if we adopt lightbulbs!" idea, but this may be the first time that the "other side" of the issue isn't either convenience or economics but, rather, a liberal value. I mean, I pump my own gas even though there used to be people who do that, and I'm fine with that. I'd use the grocery self-checkout if it worked better, but I find the human cashiers to be faster and more accurate. I do stuff online that used to require dealing with a (paid) human being. Somehow this feels different. I'm not sure if I should care, but I did take notice of it.

I left a decent tip on check-out day.
This is what 1400 copies of our book looks like:

If you've previously said you might be able to help with distribution, please let me know Real Soon Now where and how many copies to send you. (Or if you weren't able to get permission from your rabbis, of course I understand.) If we haven't discussed that, but you'd like some copies for your synagogue, please let me know (while supplies last). My email address is this journal name at pobox.com.

I'm delighted with this book. You can download a copy from http://s.tk/miyodeya. Enjoy!
The torah teaches that a husband can annul his wife's vow and a father can annul his unmarried daughter's vow, but only on the day they hear of it. The mishna on today's daf teaches that every vow of a widow or a divorced woman stands. Now, what about some timing questions? If she vowed and her husband annulled and then he divorced her the vow is annulled, but if he had already divorced her the vow stands. If she vowed and he divorced her and took her back all on the same day, the vow stands. This is the general rule: once she has gone forth as her own mistress even for a single hour, he cannot annul. (88b-89a)

I was at Pennsic for more than a week, then came home briefly before turning around and traveling for work, from which I got home late last night. I haven't seen anything on LJ or DW in the last two weeks and change. If there's something I should be sure to see, please clue me in.
The Debatable Choir performed at Pennsic last week; check us out (~26 minutes). We knew we were running tight on time so instead of talking about each of the pieces our director made up a program. The list of songs is in the video description, but I'll also list them here for posterity:

- Shoot False Love (Thomas Morley, 1557-1602)
- O Dolce Nocte (Philippe Verdelot, 1475-1552, lyrics by Niccolo Macchiavelli, 1469-1527)
- Nel Mezzo (Giovanni da Florentia, ~1350), performed by Lady Alysoun and Mistress Arianna
- Ecce Quomodo (Jacob Handl, 1550-1591)
- Pase el Agoa (Anonymous, from the Cancionero de Palacio, early 16th c.)
- Weep You No More Sad Fountains (John Dowland, 1563-1626)
- O Virgo Splendens (Llibre Vermeil de Montserrat c. 1370), performed by Lady Bugga, Baroness Gwendolyn, Lord Pavel, Lady Libby, and Mistress Hilda
- Sauter Danser (Orlando di Lasso, 1530-1594)
- Cantate Domino (Giovanni Croce, 1557-1609)

For my Jewish readers who would prefer not to listen to Christian music, when you get to the smaller group singing "O Virgo Splendens" you can skip ahead to 19:30 to get to the next song. But if you don't mind listening to that text, they did a very nice job with it.

The other two religious songs, in case you're wondering, are from Isaiah (Ecce Quomodo) and Psalms (Cantate Domino). The first is in Slovenian Latin, so the pronunciation is a little different in places. Before learning this song I didn't know that Slovenians had their own special Latin.
Yesterday's d'var torah:

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We're finalizing "Days of Awe - Mi Yodeya?", a book of selected questions and answers about the high holy days from Mi Yodeya. I've read the drafts and this is going to be great! We will be placing a printing order next week. I've talked with a few of my readers about this but I'll open it up: do you want a stack of books to distribute at your synagogue this Rosh Hashana? And do you have (or can you get) permission to do so?

If so, please fill out this form by Tuesday, August 11. The information you provide (which, of necessity, includes your shipping address) will only be seen by me and by the person who'll be doing the packing and shipping, who also happens to be the founder of Mi Yodeya. I think highly of him and consider him to be completely trustworthy with that information.

How many copies we print depends on where the crowdfunding project ends up, so you might not get as many as you request, but we'll do our best. Our goal from the beginning has been to spread knowledge, and there are major cities where we don't yet have distribution, so please let us know if you'd like to help us in this.

We probably have to limit this to North America because of postage costs, but let us know anyway if you're interested and we'll see what we can do. Our Israeli distributor is going to print locally instead of us shipping a box. If you're in Israel please let us know where; maybe we can hook you up with that.
I got a nasty surprise this Pennsic: the person now in charge of trailers at the site refused to move my little house to our camp as usual.

When our land agent had waited most of the day for the delivery and seen others go by who were after us in line, she went to inquire. (They had cell-phone numbers and email addresses for both of us, and she had personally checked in Friday and all seemed fine then. No calls or email were received.) When she asked after our trailer, she was told that it was unsafe, that they'd told us this in the past (not true), and that they would not move it. If anybody had ever suggested to me that my house was endangering their drivers, I certainly would have inquired further about what needed to change -- I would never knowingly create a dangerous situation like that. It took a while, but we eventually learned that the person in charge thinks it's too tall, wide, and heavy (factors that haven't changed since it was built).

He did not care that they've moved it every year for 15 years. He did not care that his predecessor, who'd been doing this for ages, approved the plans before we built. (Dave is ill and no longer involved with the running of Pennsic.) He did not care that he was springing this on us after land grab instead of getting in touch in advance or saying something when I paid the rent (in person). When our land agent said (after checking with the rest of the camp) that none of us had ever been told anything about a safety issue, he dismissed that.

When I spoke with him I was respectful and cooperative, taking a "what can we do to make this better?" approach. It didn't help. I'll try to talk with him again mid-Pennsic when things have calmed down, in case he was just fried from a long week of camp prep and said some things he didn't mean, but my hopes aren't high. I am also keenly aware that he holds all the cards.

Pennsic is a large event that requires a lot of work. Thanks to us they are now able to hold other large events, and do. We're less important than we once were because of that. And the individuals who built this relationship are largely absent now, after nearly 40 years of holding the event at this site. To those who came after it seems to be strictly a business relationship, while to the previous generation I think there was also friendship and respect.

Pennsic is large, and I suspect that there is no real harm -- actual or perceived -- in disenfranchising the very small number of people who unintentionally cause them extra work. Towing trailers, especially ones with buildings on them, is extra work. There aren't that many of us, and I've learned this has happened to some other people too. If we stopped coming, even if our entire camps stopped coming, would they care? I don't see that it would damage their bottom line. More than 11,000 people pre-registered for Pennsic this year; they don't need the few homeowners.

There is a Silverwing's law to the effect that only Pennsic is worth the amount of trouble that only Pennsic requires. I don't see why that wouldn't be true for both us and the Coopers. And perhaps both some of them and some of us are coming to the conclusion that it's not true -- it's not worth the amount of trouble that it requires. I'm speculating, of course, but this would not surprise me. The Coopers have a lock on Pennsic (by mutual consent with the SCA) for as long as they want it, but that doesn't mean they want each and every one of us.

I hired an outside tow truck (AAA to the rescue!) to move the house to our camp for this Pennsic, and have booked the highly-capable driver for the return trip at the end of the event. That takes care of this year. As for the future... we'll see.

Preparing for Pennsic used to be...different.

The mishna teaches: if one vows to abstain from wine "today" he is forbidden until dark; "this Shabbat" means he is forbidden through the end of Shabbat of this week; "this month" means he is forbidden through the month but Rosh Chodesh (the first of the next month) belongs to the next month, not this one; "this seven-year cycle" means he is forbidden through the sh'mita year (the year that we let fields lie fallow). So, Shabbat and the sh'mita year bind to what comes before, but a new day or a new month binds to what comes after.

In the g'mara, R' Yirmiyahu says: at nightfall he must be released from his vow (for "today") by a sage. Why? Because if he had instead said "one day" instead of "today", he would be forbidden for a full 24 hours, and in that case we wouldn't want him thinking that "day" vows expire at nightfall, lest he violate his vow unintentionally. (60a)

I'm surprised that the list includes day, week, month, and seven-year cycle, but not year. One could reasonably argue that it's obvious because a new year begins with a new month, so you'd follow the Rosh Chodesh rule, but I don't see that discussion here. (I haven't read ahead, though, so maybe it's coming.)

I'm one of the moderators of Mi Yodeya, a high-quality question-and-answer site for Jewish life and learning. We cover everything from text study to details of halacha (Jewish law) to holiday traditions to practical how-to questions, some beginner-level and some very advanced and a lot in between. The site is community-curated, and the community places high value on answers that include sources or otherwise show their work. We currently have about 13,000 answered questions.

Many of those questions are about the high holy days, and we're publishing a collection of the best of those. We've published collections before (for Pesach, Purim, and Chanukah), but this time we're also doing a print run. Lots of Jews go to synagogues for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur; wouldn't it be great if they could pick up a copy of our book to read and reflect on?

Our members are editing this book right now, and we've identified volunteer distributors who will bring copies to their congregations in several locations (more welcome). Will you help us make this a reality? Would you be willing to help fund our printing costs? Can you spare $5? Or more?

To learn more about the project, or to help us out, I hope you'll visit http://jewcer.com/miyodeya. Thank you.

Answers to anticipated questions:

1. I will not see your credit-card information.

2. Yes you can donate anonymously.

3. Yes, you'll be able to download your own copy, too.

(Much re-arrangement of dishwasher.)
"What are you doing in there?"
"Oh, I thought you were just trying to make things fit."
"That's easy, but then everything wouldn't get clean."
"Then what you are doing is not 'optimizing'. Optimizing means taking something that works and making it better (technically, as good as it can be). Making it 'not broken' is not the same thing."

"I should run it on pot-scrubber mode."
"There are no pots in there."
"And when it's done there will be no dirty pots."

Not said by either of us, but it would fit:

"I don't suffer from overthinking, I enjoy it. Depending on how you define enjoy. And overthinking." (source)
The mishna teaches: he who vows abstinence from wine is permitted apple-wine (cider); if from oil he is permitted sesame oil; if from honey he is permitted date-honey; if from vinegar he is permitted vinegar made from winter grapes; if from vegetables he is permitted wild vegetables, all because it is a "qualifying epithet". That is, "wine" defaults to grapes and if we mean something else like "apple-wine" we add a qualifying word. But then the g'mara clarifies by way of an example: in a place where sesame oil and olive oil are both used, sesame oil is forbidden to him despite this mishna, because it's prevalent enough that he might have meant to include it too. From this we learn that a doubtful prohibition is resolved stringently. (53a)

Precision matters. If one makes a vow of abstinence to his neighbor, vowing not to enter "your house" or benefit from "your field", and then the neighbor dies or sells the house or field, then the vow no longer applies (it's no longer "your" property). If, on the other hand, one vows concerning "this house" or "this field", that's forever. So says the mishna, and the g'mara here does not conclude otherwise. (46a)

I don't see any discussion here about whether "your house" (etc) follows the owner -- if you make such a vow and then your neighbor moves, are you forbidden to enter his new home (since you are no longer barred from the old one)? Or does a vow only apply when the object of said vow was known at the time it was made?

The g'mara lists seven things that were created before the world:
  • the torah: The Lord possessed me [sc. the Torah] in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. (Prov 8:22)
  • repentance: Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world . . . Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest, Repent, ye sons of men. (Ps 90:2)
  • Gan Eden: And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden from aforetime. (Gen 2:8)
  • Gehenna: For Tophet (another name for Gehenna) is ordained of old. (Is 30:33)
  • the Throne of Glory: Thy Throne is established from of old. (Ps 93:2)
  • the Temple: A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. (Jer 17:12)
  • the name of the Mashiach: His name [sc. of Messiah] shall endure for ever, and [has existed] before the sun! (Ps 72:17)1
The g'mara is talking about this because of the punishment of Korach and his group; Moshe asked God for a miraculous punishment and the earth opened up and swallowed them. Surely we cannot say that God created Gehenna on the spot for this, because it already existed; therefore we understand that Moshe wasn't asking God to create Gehenna but, rather, to let its mouth draw near and open. (39b)

The Soncino translation has a note that elaborates the connections among these seven items (source unknown to me):

The general idea of this Baraitha is that these things are the indispensable prerequisites for the orderly progress of mankind upon earth. The Torah, the supreme source of instruction, the concept of repentance, in recognition that ‘to err is human’, and hence, if man falls, he needs the opportunity to rise again; the garden of Eden and the Gehenna symbolising reward and punishment, which, without conceding a purely utilitarian basis for ethical striving, are nevertheless powerful incentives thereto; the Throne of Glory and the Temple, indicating that the goal of creation is that the kingdom of God (represented by the Temple) should be established on earth as it is in Heaven; and finally, the name of Messiah, the assurance that God's purpose shall be eventually achieved.
1 Before you ask: this last proof-text sounded unlikely to me, so I checked the text. As suggested above, "has existed" is interpretation, not in the text, and it seems pretty clear to me that the name being talked about is Solomon's, not the mashiach's. I don't know how the rabbis get from that verse to this interpretation.