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Torah



My journal of Torah learning to share memorable points, thoughts, sources or chidushim on my favorite subjects: Parsha, Daf Yomi, Rambam, halakha, Talmud, Midrash and Jewish philosophy.



Updated: 2016-12-06T07:08:42.975-05:00

 



Washing Hands: Morning Berakha or Eating Bread Prerequisite?

2016-04-12T21:02:54.073-04:00

The Rashba (Shlomo ibn Adret, 13th century) was asked: Why do we make the be’rakha, ‘al netilat yadayim, when we get up in the morning?  Isn’t this a requirement before eating bread?  The Rashba in Teshuva 191 says that netilat yadayim is indeed for eating bread and he suggests that we say this berkha in the morning as well because we are like new creations when we get up from sleep.  As the



How Bad is Feeling Bad in Yiddish?

2011-03-08T15:16:05.481-05:00

Joey was feeling very sick from the flu and was coughing uncontrollably. So much so that he could barely catch his breath and had a severe case of laryngitis.When he stopped coughing someone asked: “Joey, how are you feeling?”Joey said, in Yiddish: “Vee a mushumad ven er kumt af yenner velt.” Translation: Like a meshumad i.e. a Jewish convert to Christianity when he comes into the next world and



Is It Better to Exonerate a Thousand Guilty Men Than to Kill One Innocent Man?

2009-10-26T17:14:35.330-04:00

The Case of Circumstantial Evidence, Risk , Possibility and ProbabilityWe are prohibited from executing punishment on the basis of strong circumstantial evidence, even if it be close to absolute certainty.For example, if one were pursuing another man to kill him, and he ran into a house with the pursuer at his heels, and we came in after them and found the pursued man in the throes of death,



Rav Soloveitchik on Wisdom and Creation

2007-10-13T20:18:34.130-04:00

The Targum translates Bereishis ba’ra as Be’chokhma be’ra God created with wisdom… (Targum Yerushalmi on Bereishis 1:1)Why the switch from: In the Beginning… to …with Wisdom?What does it mean that the world was created with Wisdom?The Rekanati, in his commentary on the Torah, also identifies reishis with chokhma, based on the pesukim:Be’chokhma yo’sad a’retz Hashem, by wisdom has founded the



The Origin of the Yiddish Word for a Shabbos Siddur: Rummel

2007-09-05T21:03:55.777-04:00

My father, z”l, used to call a siddur that only had Shabbos and Yom Tov tefillos, a rummel. I always wondered about the etymology of this word and its primary meaning.The word is actually an abbreviation with the letters, resh, vav, mem, lamed. In Yiddish the letters stand for: Rabbinish Un Masorishe Literatur viz. Rabbinic And Masoretic (traditional) Literature.A recent book about Jewish book



A Horse Named After the Rambam? What’s Next?

2007-09-04T04:21:49.418-04:00

The New York Times reports:SPORTS / OTHER SPORTS September 3, 2007Colt Serves as a Reminder of a Philosopher's ReachBy JOE DRAPEAhmed Zayat and Earle Mack hope that naming a racehorse after the famous Jewish philosopher Maimonides will spread a message of peace.See link:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/03/sports/othersports/03maimonides.html?ex=1189569600&en=e74cb38296019a3e&ei=5070



The Roles of Hashem and Man: A Child’s Point of View

2007-09-04T03:45:40.872-04:00

My son was driving with my 3 and a half year old grandson in the car. They passed some tall buildings as they were riding along.The conversation went something like this:Grandson: Abba, did Hashem make the buildings?Son: No, Hashem made Man and Man made the buildings.A few days later, they were building with blocks, and my grandson says: Abba, I’ll be Hashem and you can be Man.



Do You Believe in God? That is Not the Question

2007-08-29T22:40:57.743-04:00

Rabbi Yehuda Brandes spoke on Teaching the Kuzari: Some Introductory Perspectives at the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Yemei Iyun in June, 2007. He points out that the Kuzari was written for a person who believes in God. The introduction to the Kuzari describes how an angel appeared to the king in a dream. Only a religious man who already believes in God would have such a dream.R. Yehuda Halevi did not



‘Aleinu: U’moshav Ye’Karo or Kisei Khe’vo’do?

2007-04-22T22:47:30.052-04:00

Someone asked on my previous post on ‘Aleinu:1 - What is the meaning of U’moshav Ye’Karo, the seat of His homage is in the heavens?2 - Why do some not say it?This is the nusach in the Siddurim of R. Amram Gaon and R. Sa’adia Gaon. The Tur (Orach Chaim , Siman 133) mentions that some say, v’kisei khe’vo’do (Mahzor Roma), but that U’mosahv Ye’Karo should be said because the Sefer Hekhalos has the



Bris Milah: Why Say ‘Aleinu After the Milah?

2007-04-21T22:31:13.750-04:00

The recently published Sefer Kush’yos, by a student of the Maharam mi’Rutenberg, asks the question:Why do we say ‘aleinu after the milah (i.e. not immediately after ashrei and u’va l’tziyon)?Because in ‘aleinu we say: she'lo 'a'sa'nu k'go'yei ha'a'ra'tzos, “He has not made us like the nations of the earth.” In deference to the baby who is not yet circumcised, like a goy, we do not say ‘aleinu



Shabbos Mincha: Sim Shalom or Shalom Rov?

2007-04-16T07:22:49.555-04:00

Nusach Ashkenaz siddurim customarily have shalom rov as the selection for birkas shalom at Mincha on Shabbos, following the same custom as on a weekday.The recently published Sefer Kush’yos, by a student of the Maharam mi’Rutenberg, asks the question: Why do we say sim shalom at Mincha on Shabbos and on fast days? Because the Torah is read on those occasions and one needs to mention, toras chaim,



Children at the Seder: Telling the Story, Plain and Simple

2007-04-01T13:40:02.175-04:00

R. Avrohom Schorr offers the following reminder in a Pesach letter:Remember the mitzvah of v’hi’gad’ta l’vin’kha. Do not forget the little children when discussing commentaries on the Haggadah. Do not ignore the mitzvah of l’ma’an te’sa’per, narrating the plain story to attract the hearts of the children to belief in Hashem. According to the Sefer Ohev Yisrael, there is no time more auspicious



Chad Gadya, One Little Goat: What is the Connection to the Seder Haggadah?

2007-04-01T12:05:40.619-04:00

Everyone is familiar with the last song in the Ashkenazic Haggadah, Chad Gadya, One Little Goat:One Little Goat, One Little Goat, that father bought for two zuzim, One Little Goat, One Little Goat.And then came a cat, and ate the goat that father bought for two zuzim, One Little Goat, One Little Goat….And then came the Holy One, blessed is He, and killed the angel of death,



Korban Pesach in Egypt: Did Moshe Modify Hashem’s Command?

2007-03-20T00:25:15.665-04:00

Mashkof and Mezuzos2. This month shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.3. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house;4. And if the household is too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take



Rambam on Love, Friendship and Marriage

2007-02-10T20:50:15.723-05:00

Aseh lekha rav u’kneh lekha chaverAPPOINT FOR THYSELF A TEACHER AND ACQUIRE FOR THYSELF A COMPANION (Avos 1:6)Why the change in verb from aseh, make or appoint a rav for yourself, to the verb kneh when it comes to acquire a chaver, a friend for yourself?The Rambam in his Commentary on the Mishnah explains the difference in meaning based on the type of relationship.A teacher is someone you can



Frumkeit and Choosing Right from Wrong

2007-01-24T00:32:17.512-05:00

Who is Superior? The Chasid who does not desire to sin or the Man who controls himself from sinning?The Rambam asks this question in the sixth chapter of Shemonah Perakim, his introduction to Avos.The philosophers say that the person who does not desire to sin is on a higher level. It is better not to desire murder or stealing or sexual immorality than to desire these sins and refrain from



Why Does a Tallis Have Rough Edges Tied with Knots?

2007-01-11T23:00:42.072-05:00

Ve’shibatzta ha’ke’sones shesh, And you shall embroider the coat of fine linen, and you shall make the mitre of fine linen, and you shall make the girdle of needlework. (Shemos 28:39)The Rambam says the following about the Kohen’s garments:The garments [of the Kohen] were also entirely woven, me’shu’ba’tzos, and not cut, in order not to spoil the work of the weaving. (Moreh 3, 45)The taleisim we



How Do You Assess the Value of a Mitzvah? The Case of Shabbos vs. Sexual Morality and Murder

2007-01-01T07:43:56.670-05:00

Be as careful with a minor commandment as with a major one, since you do not know the reward for the commandments. Assess the loss incurred in a good deed against its reward and the gain in sin against its loss. (Mishnah Avos 2, 1)R. Sa’adia Gaon writes:We know that the transgression is not severe by the fact that the punishment is not severe...We know that the transgression is severe because the



The Lost Custom of the Pre-Wedding Dinner for the Poor (Yiddish: di oreme vetshere)

2006-12-28T18:05:03.563-05:00

From a memoir of Rabbi Reuven Agushewitz (1897-1950) on life in the Lithuanian shtetl:The night before a wedding there was a custom to make a dinner for the poor – a dinner which was certainly no worse, and sometimes even better, than the dinner for the families and their guests. Don’t forget that with this dinner the idea was not to make an impression on anybody, but to succeed with the Master



The Miracle of Chanukah: Why Doesn’t ‘Al haNissim Mention the Miracle of the Oil?

2007-02-10T21:24:12.391-05:00

On Chanukah and Purim we insert prayers of thanksgiving specifically for the miracles of those holidays in the berakhos of hoda’ah, thanksgiving, in the Shemoneh Esreh and the birkas ha’mazon, grace after meals.The story of Chanukah in ‘al hanissim is a condensed account of the struggle of the Chashmonaim against the Greek-Syrians. The ‘al ha’nissim texts for both Chanukah and Purim are found in



The Alshich on Lavan’s 100 Tricks

2007-02-10T21:29:00.377-05:00

The Alshich once delivered a derashah on parshas va’yetzei, and the Ari zal was among the listeners. The Alshich explained Yaakov's comment to his wives, "And your father cheated me and changed my salary aseres monim, which the Midrash understands as actually one hundred times (Bereishis Rabbah 74). The Alshich proceeded to list one by one all the tricks and the lies and sly maneuvering through



Rambam on God, Prophecy and the Torah

2006-12-17T22:53:20.773-05:00

In Yesodei haTorah Rambam tells us the halakhos regarding our beliefs on:GodCreation andProphecyOn the subject of creation he tells us about the angels. (Yesodei haTorah, 2:3-7)Question:Why does the Rambam discuss mal’a’khim, angels, in Yesodei haTorah in between the subjects of God (Yesodei haTorah 1) and Prophecy (Yesodei haTorah, 7-10)?I believe the connection between angels and prophecy lies



Koh Yihyeh Zarekha: So shall your seed be

2006-11-19T14:31:05.630-05:00

In Lekh Lekha we read: After these things the word of the Lord came to Avram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Avram; I am your shield, and your reward will be great.And Avram said, Lord God, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?And Avram said, Behold, to me you have given no seed; and, lo, one born in my house is my heir (



Shnayim mikra v’echad targum: Why Mikra Twice?

2006-11-13T23:36:04.883-05:00

R. Huna b. Judah says in the name of R. Ammi: A man should always complete his Parashiyos together with the congregation, [reading] twice the Hebrew text and once the [Aramaic] Targum, (Berakhos 8a)Why do we read the Hebrew text twice and the Targum once?Prof. Steven Fraade notes that the formulation, parashiyyot, his weekly readings, makes it clear that a person’s private reading, reviewing and



Rambam on Chasidim and Humility

2006-11-13T03:43:19.990-05:00

The Mishnah says: Me’od me’od he’vei she’fal ruach.BE EXCEEDING LOWLY OF SPIRIT, FOR THE EXPECTATION OF MORTAL MAN IS [THAT HE WILL TURN TO] WORMS. (Avos, 4:4)Why this accentuated deviation from the advocacy of a middle course?According to Rambam: Because, for Man, being naturally over-inclined to pride, it is necessary to over-emphasize the quality of self-depreciation.In his Commentary on the