Category: Halachah

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Personal Worth

Tana Devei Eliyahu (Seder Rabba 9:1) asks how it is Devorah came to be shofetes and nevi’ah. Wasn’t Pinechas alive in those days? It answers: מעיד אני עלי את השמים ואת הארץ בין ישראל בין עכו”ם בין איש בין אשה בין עבד ובין שפחה הכל לפי המעשה שהוא עושה כך רוח הקודש שורה עליו I give testimony of heaven and earth that...

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Silk Screened Sifrei Torah

Over a decade ago, Rabbi Yitzchak Abadi came up with a method for silk-screening Sifrei Torah. The ink is manually pushed through a silk-screen onto a qelaf. Here is a video in which they describe the process. I don’t know of any other support for this process. What I don’t understand is why not. This same debate was had when...

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Why the Wrap?

This blog post is with gratitude to Rabbi Pesach Sommer, for asking: Anyone aware of any interesting conceptual, philosophical, theological, or derush ideas connected to koreich, and the idea of eating Pesach, matzah and marror together? I didn’t, but the question prodded me to dream up the following. Hillel’s stated motive is textual. As the Hagadah puts it: זֵכֶר לְמִקְדָּשׁ...

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With Great Wealth

דַּבֶּר־נָ֖א בְּאׇזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וְיִשְׁאֲל֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ ׀ מֵאֵ֣ת רֵעֵ֗הוּ וְאִשָּׁה֙ מֵאֵ֣ת רְעוּתָ֔הּ כְּלֵי־כֶ֖סֶף וּכְלֵ֥י זָהָֽב׃ Please tell the people to borrow, each man from his friend and each woman from her friend, silver utensils and gold utensils. – Hashem to Moshe, Shemos 11:2 This verse raises a compelling question. Here we are, at the end of some 210 years of slavery. So now...

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Purim and Achdus

קִיְּמ֣וּ וְקִבְּל֣[וּ] הַיְּהוּדִים֩ the Jews fulfilled and accepted says the Megillah (Est 9:27), which is darshened “they fulfilled that which they accepted already.” (Shavuos 39a) Purim not only introduces the redemption season, it represents the completion of the redemption process. Pesach’s freedom finds its purpose in Shavuos’s Torah. And the acceptance of mitzvos of Shavuos is finally fully embraced on...

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The Blue Does Not Hold Up the White

התכלת אינה מעכבת את הלבן והלבן אינו מעכב את התכלת תפילה של יד אינה מעכבת של ראש ושל ראש אינה מעכבת של יד הסולת והשמן אינן מעכבין את היין ולא היין מעכבן המתנות של מזבח החיצון אינן מעכבות זו את זו. [The absence of] the tekheiles [strings of a tzitzis] does not hold up [the validity of] the white [string],...

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Dip the Apple in the Honey

Here are three thoughts related to the siman, the mnemonic practice, of eating an apple dipped in honey. (Aside from the ear-worm you or your kid learned in preschool that starts with the words in the post’s subject line.) 1- The original Bostoner Rebbe commented on the expression “Shanah tovah umsuqah – a good and sweet new year”, which is...

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Simanei Milsa

I was asked the following question, and the author thought enough people want to know the answer that it pays to share it here: Q: “Siman“, as on Rosh Hashanah night, is translated as “omen”, but I’ve always thought that an omen is something one sees or finds out about. leading one to anticipate a positive or negative future event....

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Phenomenalism – Baruch sheKivanti!

The central thesis of this “Phenomenalism” category of this blog was built on two parts. The first is Rabbi Aqiva Eiger’s (RAE) explanation (shu”t, mahadura qama #136) that the ways in which uncertainty in halakhah is resolved come in two different kinds. And from that perspective we looked at testimony, migo, chazaqah demei’iqara, rov, chazaqah disvara, etc… The second part...

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Rejoicing of the Water-Drawing House

כָּל מִי שֶׁלֹּא רָאָה שִׂמְחַת בֵּית הַשּׁוֹאֵבָה – לֹא רָאָה שִׂמְחָה מִיָּמָיו! Whomever didn’t see Simchas Beis haShoeivah did not see simchah in all his days! –Mishnah Sukkah 5:1 The talmud on this mishnah then continues describing at length the singing, dancing and juggling that lasted through the night as the water was brought from the Beis haShoeivah — the...

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Anavah and Anvanus

The story of Qamtza and Bar Qamtza is very well known. It is introduced by Rabbi Yochanan, who asks, “’What is the meaning of the verse in Mishlei which reads, ‘Fortunate is the one who is always fearful, but the one who is hard of heart will fall to evil?’ (28:14) It was because of Qamtza and Bar Qamtza that...

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The Interpersonal Aspect of Parah Adumah

The most fundamental difference between the kind of reasoning one finds in the Bavli with that one finds in the Yerushalmi is “vertical” vs. “horizontal”. The Bavli will drill down to get the full depth of an opinion, whereas the Yerushalmi will refuse to speculate about the implications of a position and will instead compare statements from various discussions to...

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Sanctuary of the King, the Royal City

Rav Shelomo al-Qabetz actually addresses much of Lekha Dodi to Jerusalem: “מִקְדַּשׁ מֶלֶךְ עִיר מְלוּכָה — Sanctuary of the King, the Royal City.” “הִתְנַעֲרִי מֵעָפָר קוּמִי \ לִבְשִׁי בִּגְדֵי תִפְאַרְתֵּךְ עַמִּי — Arise, get up from the dust / dress yourself in your glorious clothes, my nation.” “כְּבוד ה’ עָלַיִךְ נִגְלָּהּ — Hashem’s Glory is revealed upon you.” “וְנִבְנְתָה עִיר...

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This Month Shall Be For you

In his first comment, Rashi opens his study of Chumash by repeating a medrash that asks why the Torah start with creation rather than with the first commandment to the Jewish People: הַחֹ֧דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם רֹ֣אשׁ חֳדָשִׁ֑ים רִאשׁ֥וֹן הוּא֙ לָכֶ֔ם לְחָדְשֵׁ֖י הַשָּׁנָֽה׃ This month [this stage of the moon (the L-rd “pointing it out” to Moses)] [Nissan] shall be to...

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Who knows 4?

Someone named Ray asked on Mi Yodea (in part), “What is the special fundamental significance of the number four that God’s primary Name has four letters”? I liked how my answer came out, so I’m sharing it here. Bear with me, I am going to build things up the way the Seder song “Echad Mi Yodeia / Who knows one?”...

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A Thought About Maoz Tzur

(Updated again for 2009, 2013 and now in 2016.) One line in Ma’oz Tzur I particularly love. The 5th verse of Ma’oz Tzur describes the Chanukah story. One phrase in this verse is “ufortzu chomos migdalai“, which would be literally translated “and burst open the walls of my citadel”. Mentally, I used to picture breaking down the walls of the...

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From Your Homeland

Most young Yeshiva children come home sometime around Shavuos with the story of how Hashem offered the Torah to all the nations of the world, but only the Jews accepted it. The medrash, as told in the Yalqut Shim’oni, tells how first Hashem went to Edom and offered them the Torah. They asked, “What is written in it?” Hashem replied,...

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Why didn’t we catch up?

Last Pesach ended in Israel on Friday, and in the rest of the world on Shabbos. Which means that in Israel, Acharei Mos was read that week, while we in chutz la’aretz (outside of Israel; chu”l) read a holiday portion, saving Acharei Mos for the next week. In a leap year like this one, the two reading schedules stay out of...

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Mesilas Yesharim and the Haggadah

Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto opens Mesilas Yesharim with this questionable claim: הקדמה – אמר המחבר: החיבור הזה לא חברתיו ללמד לבני האדם את אשר לא ידעו, אלא להזכירם את הידוע להם כבר ומפורסם אצלם פירסום גדול. כי לא תמצא ברוב דברי, אלא דברים שרוב בני האדם יודעים אותם ולא מסתפקים בהם כלל, אלא שכפי רוב פרסומם וכנגד מה שאמתתם גלויה...

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Dandelion Whine

The gemara says that the preferred vegetable for maror is chasah — lettuce. The problem is that the lettuces sold today aren’t mar, bitter. One could try to find wild lettuce. The lettuce that was native to Israel is prickly lettuce, Lactuca serriola. Of the wild species of lettuce, the closest to Lactuca sativa, what humanity bred lettuce into. Of the various types of...

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Sweet Charoses

(Embellished with thoughts from my daughter Noa’s recent bas mitzvah speech. Yay, Noa!) If you think about it, charoses is quite strange. On the one hand, as we learn in preschool and the Rambam writes, “The charoses is a mitzvah from the Soferim, as a commemoration of the mortar that they worked in in Egypt.” (Laws of Chameitz and Matzah 7:11)....

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You too left Mitzrayim

The Mishnah (Pesachim 10:5, TB 115a-b), in a section quoted by the Hagadah, states: רבן גמליאל היה אומר, כל שלא אמר שלשה דברים אלו בפסח, לא יצא ידי חובתו. ואלו הן: פסח, מצה, ומרור…. בכל דור ודור חיב אדם לראות את עצמו כאלו הוא יצא ממצרים. שנאמר (שמות יג), “וְהִגַּדְתָּ֣ לְבִנְךָ֔ בַּיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא לֵאמֹ֑ר בַּעֲב֣וּר זֶ֗ה עָשָׂ֤ה ה֙׳ לִ֔י בְּצֵאתִ֖י מִמִּצְרָֽיִם:” לפיכך...

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Chalav Yisrael

Colloquially, discussions of the permissibility of drinking USFDA milk tend to start with citing the Igeros Moshe, as though the  norm  of drinking it originated with Rav Moshe’s (RMF) responsa on the subject. But this isn’t quite fair. Rather, most American Jews were already drinking what he called chalav hacompanies (company milk, USFDA approved) well before RMF arrived in the...

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Purim in the World of Affection

There are four mitzvos one must fulfill on Purim: reading the megillah, matanos le’evyonim (gifts to poor people), mishloach manos (“shalachmones”), and the Purim se’udah. The first, reading the megillah, relates directly to the story of the day – nothing can be more connected than a mitzvah to retell it! But what do the other three mitzvos have to do...