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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: Using Horseradish for Maror

April 5, 2011, by

Misconception:Horseradish (chrain) is the preferred item to use to fulfill the mitzvah of eating maror at the Seder. Fact: Among Ashkenazim, horseradish is widely used for maror. While horseradish often appears as the translation for tamcha, one of the vegetables listed in the Mishnah that may be used for maror, the translation is probably inaccurate.[1] […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Hallel on Pesach

March 29, 2011, by

Misconception:The sole reason that we do not recite the complete Hallel[1] on the last six days of Pesach is because the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea on the seventh day of Pesach, and this human tragedy mutes our joy. Fact: This reason for “half” Hallel is cited in later sources, but it is not […]

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Tzarich Iyun: The Parah Adumah

March 21, 2011, by

Misconception:The person who sprinkles the ashes of a parah adumah (“red heifer”) on a tamei (ritually impure) person becomes tamei himself. Fact: Most of the people involved in preparing the ashes become tamei, but the one who sprinkles the water with the ashes does not. Background: Among the various types of tumah (ritual impurities) enumerated […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Washing after Leaving the Washroom

March 9, 2011, by

Misconception:[1] Upon exiting a bathroom, one should wash by pouring water from a keli (utensil) three times on each hand. Fact: There is an obligation to wash after using the bathroom (Shulchan Aruch OC 4:18), but three times is not specified, and a keli is not required. Background: There are many reasons for halachically mandated […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Errors in Laining

February 28, 2011, by

Misconception: If a baal korei (person publicly reading the Torah) makes an error that alters the meaning of the text and he has already read God’s name in that verse, he must first finish the verse and then reread the entire verse. Fact: There is no need to first complete the verse, nor to restart […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Mordechai and Esther

February 28, 2011, by

Misconception: Mordechai and Esther, the Purim heroes, were uncle and niece.[1] Fact: According to Megillat Esther, Mordechai and Esther were first cousins. Background: This is a widespread misconception, even found in the renowned midrashic compilation of Louis Ginzberg. For example, in Legends of the Jews Vol. IV, page 387 he writes: “This lively interest displayed […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Bobe-Mayses

February 14, 2011, by

Misconception: The term bobemayse refers to bobes, Jewish grandmothers. Fact: A bobe-mayse is an old wives’ tale or incredible story. While in Yiddish, bobe is an affectionate name for grandmother, and mayse means tale or story; the term bobe-mayse probably derives from a sixteenth-century Yiddish classic Bove-Bukh.[1] Background:One of the first (chronologically and in pride […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Tzadi

February 14, 2011, by

Misconception: The eighteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet (the one between pei and kuf ) is called tzaddik. Fact: The correct name is tzadi, with no “k” sound at the end. However, the use of tzaddik as a viable alternative has gained some acceptance. Background:The letter is referred to as tzadi in the Talmud. In […]

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Tzarich Iyun: Glatt Kosher

February 7, 2011, by

Misconception: “Glatt Kosher” means something like “extra kosher” and applies to chicken and fish as well as meat. Fact: Glatt is Yiddish for smooth, and in the context of kashrut it means that the lungs of the animal were smooth, without any adhesions that could potentially prohibit the animal as a treifa, an issue only […]

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Tzarich Iyun: The Luchot

February 1, 2011, by

“Common wisdom” of halachah and Jewish traditions often includes misconceptions. In this column, we will explore some of these fascinating common impressions, from the elementary to the esoteric. Are all “misconceptions” wrong? Not necessarily, but it’s surprising what research will reveal! Misconception: The Luchot [Tablets] on which the 10 Commandments were engraved were rounded at […]

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