Category: Holidays

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Lechem Oni

Packing peanuts. That filler material stuck in the box to prevent breakage. You would think it has nothing to do with Pesach, right? A few years ago, a friend showed me a halachic guide that discussed a kind of packing peanut that was wheat- or corn-starch based. The guide recommended getting rid of them for Pesach. Our first observation is...

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Pesach 5761: The Four Sons Confront Tragedy

The Haggadah tells us that the Torah addresses the question of telling the Passover story to our children by referring to four different kinds of children. One is wise, one is evil, one is uncomplicated, and the last doesn’t know to ask questions. Each son asks a question, even if the last does so in his silence. We can see...

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Yom haAtzma’ut

A few years back, when Yom haAtzma’ut was also celebrated on Thursday 3 Iyyar, my father asked me what I thought about not saying Tachanun or saying Hallel. The choice of 5 Iyyar as the point at which we gained atzma’ut, independence, is itself not perfectly compelling. It was not the date we were given independence, or the date the...

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Chayei Sarah – Kibbush and Chizuq

1. Buying Ma’aras haMachpeilah It is interesting to note that Judaism’s holiest sites were not conquered but bought. Parashas Chayei Sarah opens with Avraham purchasing the Ma’aras haMakhpeilah and the fields around it. Later, Yaakov buys the city of Shechem from Canaanite princes, the sons of Chamor (Bereishis 33:19). Similarly, Shemuel II concludes with David haMelekh purchasing the Temple Mount...

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Why do we light the new candle first?

My son (4th grade) had a class Chanukah party, for which he was aked to prepare a devar Torah. A short vertl, a question and answer to fit in less than a minute. My son wanted to know why we light the Chanukah menorah starting from the left candle and working your way to the right. Usually mitzvos start on...

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Pesach: Freedom from Preconceived Limitations

I appreciated this video from YU‘s Center for the Jewish Future. Something to think about: What does this notion of cheirus (freedom) say about the appropriate thoughts to have while cleaning the kitchen this Sunday? What does it say about matzah, about something which is a symbol of both poverty and oppression yet also of the possibility of a sudden...

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This Year in Jerusalem

The first Satmerer Rebbe, R’ Yoel Teitelbaum, writes the following thought in Vayo’el Moshe. When Yaakov first meets Rachel, he is at a well with some shepherds, waiting for enough to come by to move the stone that protects the well. As she approaches, he asks the shepherds if all is well with his cousin Lavan, and they answer, “All...

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A Seder Thought

From this month’s Yashar (The Mussar Institute‘s newsletter), “How Mussar Affected My Life — Student Profile” by By Dorit Golan Cullen. (I wrote the majority of this entry in an email to The Mussar Institute’s list. It therefore was designed for people with less Jewish education but more commitment to a Mussar personal orientation than this blog’s usual target audience.)...

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Like the Laws of Pesach

חָכָם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מַה הָעֵדוֹת וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה’ אֱ-לֹקֵינוּ אֶתְכֶם? וְאַף אַתָּה אֱמָר לוֹ כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח: אֵין מַפְטִירִין אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן. The wise son of the Hagaddah asks, “What are the laws of testimony, the metarational laws, and the more intuitive laws which Hashem our G-d has commanded you?” The wise son already knows much about the...

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Hashem is Righteous

Eli Turkel summarized some thoughts from the 100 pages introduction to the sefer “The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways”, from the notes of R’ JB Soloveitchikzt”l. The format isn’t the usual for this blog, being more like his notes, but then, it wasn’t written for this blog either. Questions: Many things are missing from the Tisha Ba’av tefila:...

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Hilkhos Mashiach

On Avodah, Saul Newman gave the following summary of halakhos related to bi’as hamashiach from an article in the Yated. I found that the pragmatic halachic discussion gave some mamashus (tangibility) to the idea. In conclusion, we may recite a total of eight special brachos when Moshiach arrives, in the following order: When we first hear from a reliable source...

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The Last Tish’ah be’Av

I recall one year I had just started a new camp. I was davening in the evening, at the very beginning of Tish’ah be’Av, and I heard a shofar blow. After a moment, I realized it was the PA system, that this was the camp’s “siren” marking the beginning of the fast. I have no idea how deep my belief...

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Simchah and Oneg

Simchah is related to wanting and having, because Ben Zoma defines the wealthy person as “sameiach bechelqo — happy with his lot”. The Tanya speaks about how each aspect of the soul lives in tension between “ratzon – desire/will” and ta’anug. Thus we see that “oneg” too is related to wanting and having. However, the mitzvah on Yom Tov is...

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Recognizing Your Friend in the Dark

Rav Hutner, in the Pachad Yitzchaq for Purim, addresses the famous medrash (on Mishlei 9) which says that after moshiach comes, all the holidays will cease except Purim. This is derived from the verse (Esther 9:28) “the memory of Purim will never cease from among their descendants.” The notion that all the holidays in the Torah are not permanent is...

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Purim and Permanence

One of the questions that have pried on my conscience is exactly how we managed to let life return to normal in the past 6 years. 9/11 was supposed to make everything different, but no longer to we see all that much of the friendliness and helpfulness that was our culture for those first months. And now, just two weeks...

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Sweet Charoses

(Version II of an earlier thought.) Charoses poses a paradox. On the one hand, the Rambam writes, “The charoses is a mitzvah from the Sofrim, as a commemoration of the mortar that they worked in in Egypt.” (Laws of Chaomeitz and Matzah 7:11). Charoses represents mortar, slavery. On the other hand, contemporary recipes for charoses are to make it sweet....

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Tam, what does he say?

The text of our Haggadah for identifying the third son is somewhat ambiguous. The word “tam” means “simple”. It could refer to someone who is simple minded. And this is the interpretation assumed in most translations of the Haggadah — “The simple son”. And then there is the frequently repeated thought on the words “At pisach lo — you shall...

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Hagaddah

A couple of years ago I collected some of my own thoughts and others from around the web into a commentary on the Haggadah shel Pesach. I took special care to give the seider a definite structure, as in this blog entry, in accordance with the meaning of the word seider, order. Blogged Divrei Torah about Pesach are all available...

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Sipur

There are three words for counting that factor prominently in the Torah. Parashas Pequdei gets its name from Moshe Rabbeinu’s accounting of all the material collected for the mishkan. The root \פקד\ has three meanings altogether: To count out inventory To remember, “veHashem padas es Sarah ka’asher amar — and Hashem remembered Sarah [so that she could conceive Yitzchaq, as...

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Defining Ge’ulah

R. Shimon said: When the Holy One, blessed be He [– HQBH], came to create Adam, the ministering angels formed themselves into groups and parties. Some said, “Let him be created,” while others urged, “Let him not be created.” Thus it is written, ” חֶֽסֶד־וֶאֱמֶ֥ת נִפְגָּ֑שׁוּ, צֶ֖דֶק וְשָׁל֣וֹם נָשָֽׁקוּ׃ — Love and Truth fought together, Righteousness and Peace kissed each...

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Ge’ulah and Accepting Hashem as King

(Significantly expanded May 6th.) When someone hears bad news, such as a death, the gemara (Pesachim 50a) tells them to say the berakhah of “Dayan haEmes“. This phrase is often translated “the True Judge” as though it were a noun-adjective pair. But that would have a hei hayedi’ah (a leading “ha-” prefix meaning “the”) on both words. If “emes” were...

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Mourning During the Omer

א: אלו הימים שבין פסח לעצרת, מוחזק אצל כל ישראל זה שנות מאות רבות לימי דין וימי אבל, מפני שבזמן הקצר הזה מתו שנים עשר אלף זוגות תלמידי חכמים תלמידי רבי עקיבא, כדאיתא ביבמות (סב:), וכולם מתו במיתת אסכרא (שם).ועוד: ראינו שעיקרי ימי הגזירות בשנות מאות שעברו בצרפת ואשכנז הוו בימים אלו, כמבואר מהפיוטים שעשו קדמונינו על שבתות אלו שבין...

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Mourning During the Omer, part II

As I wrote in the previous post, there are two events that we are commemorating by mourning during the omer, and they seem to have happened on different dates. Rabbi Aqiva’s students died in the first part of the omer, while the Crusaders reached Ashkenaz in late Iyar. Depending upon which is event you consider primary, I could see justifying...

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Coronating G-d

(Significantly enlarged from the 2005 version. -micha) I Melukhah (kingship) is a major theme, if not the major theme of Rosh haShanah. Aside from the ubiquity of the word in our liturgy for Rosh haShanah and the Ten Days of Teshuvah, we find another indication in the Amidah for Rosh haShanah‘s Mussaf. Three blessings are inserted to the middle of...

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And with what? With a Shofar

אמר רבי יהודה משום רבי עקיבא … אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא: … ואמרו לפני בראש השנה מלכיות זכרונות ושופרות. מלכיות: כדי שתמליכוני עליכם. זכרונות: כדי שיעלה זכרוניכם לפני לטובה. ובמה? בשופר. Rabbi Yehudah said an idea from Rabbi Aqiva …: The Holy One, blessed be He said, “… say before Me on Rosh haShanah, Malkhios, Zikhoronos and Shoferos. “Malkhios: so...