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Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky

Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky

Rabbi Dr. Zivotofsky is on the faculty of the Brain Science Program at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

Tzarich Iyun: Pomegranate Seeds

July 8, 2011, by

Misconception:According to rabbinic tradition, a pomegranate (rimon) has 613 seeds. Fact: The pomegranate is used in rabbinic tradition as an example of a fruit that contains many seeds, but not necessarily 613. Background: The pomegranate (Punica granatum)[1] has been cultivated all over the Mediterranean region since ancient times, and was well known in the Biblical […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Bentching Over Wine

July 1, 2011, by

Misconception:Birkat Hamazon (Grace after Meals) is said over a cup of wine only on special occasions, such as Sheva Brachot or a brit milah. Those who are particularly meticulous use wine whenever there is a minyan “bentching” together. Fact: It is meritorious to bentch over wine whenever there is a zimun.[1] Background: Wine has a […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Giraffe Meat

June 20, 2011, by

Misconception:Although the giraffe is a kosher animal, it is not slaughtered because it is not known where on the neck to perform the shechitah (ritual slaughter). Fact: The makom shechitah (region of the neck in which ritual slaughter is valid) on a giraffe is precisely defined by halachah, just as it is for all animals, […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Davening with a Minyan

June 14, 2011, by

Misconception:The main purpose of davening (praying) with a minyan is to be able to recite devarim shebekedushah (prayers with the status of sanctity), such as Kaddish, Kedushah and Barchu. Fact: There are many advantages to davening in shul with a minyan: creating community; davening slower and with more kavanah (concentration); responding to Kaddish, et cetera, […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Milk and Honey

June 1, 2011, by

Misconception:In the Biblical phrase that praises the Land of Israel, “Eretz zavat [1] chalav udevash, a land flowing with milk and honey,” the honey refers to bee’s honey, and the milk to cow’s milk. Fact: In the Bible, honey usually refers to date honey, not bee’s honey. And the milk is as likely to be […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Mayim Achronim

May 23, 2011, by

Misconception:Mayim achronim (washing before bentching) is a chumrah (stringency) in which women need not participate. The water used for mayim achronim needs to either be covered or removed from the table. Fact: Mayim achronim is an obligation equally incumbent upon men and women. There is scant basis for covering or removing the water. Background: An […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Women’s Zimun

May 13, 2011, by

Misconception:Three or more women forming a zimun (responsive introduction to Grace after Meals), especially in the presence of one or two men, is the product of late 20th century feminism and has no basis in traditional halachah. When such a zimun is formed, the men present should leave. Fact: Women participating in a meal in […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Rashi’s Father

April 14, 2011, by

Misconception:Rebbi Yitzchak, whom Rashi—the commentator par excellence—cites in his commentary on the first verse of the Bible, is Rashi’s father. Fact: Rashi’s father, Yitzchak, and the “Rebbi Yitzchak” whom Rashi cites are different people. Background: The name “Rashi” is an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, i.e. Rabbi Shlomo, the son of Reb Yitzchak.[1] But the […]

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Tzarich Iyun: The Translation of “Yam Suf”

April 13, 2011, by

Misconception:Upon leaving Egypt, the Jews crossed the Yam Suf, which is translated as the Red Sea. This translation, however, is an error. Red Sea is a corruption of the correct Old English (OE) translation, Reed (Rede) Sea. (Rede is a legitimate spelling of reed in OE.) Fact: The notion that the Yam Suf is the […]

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Tzarich Iyun: The Meaning of “Pesach”

April 11, 2011, by

Misconception:The only meaning of “Pesach,” the Hebrew name for the holiday of Passover, is “to pass over.” Fact: While that is a correct translation, an equally valid, and possibly older, translation is “to have compassion for.”[1] Background: The name of the spring holiday, and its associated temple animal offering, is based on a description first […]

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