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Joseph’s “Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”
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Misconception: As in the title of the famous Broadway musical, Yaakov Avinu gave Yosef an “Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Fact: That is one possible interpretation of what Yaakov gave Yosef, but there are other, equally likely, possibilities. Background: Following his twenty-year exile in the home of his uncle/father-in-law Lavan, Yaakov moved back to the Land of Israel with his […]
Eating a Sandwich Wrapped in a Napkin
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Misconception: Instead of washing netilat yadayim before eating bread, one could hold a sandwich with a napkin. Fact: There is a requirement to wash before eating bread and only under certain limited circumstances may one cover one’s hands in lieu of washing. Background: The obligation to wash one’s hands from a vessel before eating bread1 is an early and important rabbinic […]
How Much to Open the Torah for Hagbah
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Misconception: During hagbah, when the Torah is lifted in shul, the more columns of text visible to the assembled, the better. Fact: According to many authorities, when the Torah is lifted, at least three columns of the Torah scroll should be visible; this is not just the minimum requirement, but the ideal number of columns. Background: In most Ashkenazi shuls, […]
Tzarich Iyun: Sitting Shivah on Erev Shabbat
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Misconception: Aveilim (mourners) stop sitting shivah on erev Shabbat at noon. Fact: Private displays of mourning continue on Shabbat, while the public aspects of shivah cease shortly before Shabbat.[1] Background: For the first seven days following the burial of a first-degree relative (father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter or spouse), one observes a period of […]
Tzarich Iyun: Nikkur Achoraim
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Misconception:Nikkur achoraim (rendering the hindquarters of an animal fit for kosher consumption) is a Sephardic practice that is banned by rabbinic fiat for Ashkenazim and thus not performed in the United States Fact: There is no such ban, and nikkur was practiced in many Ashkenazic communities into the twentieth century. The practice of some communities […]
Tzarich Iyun: Seudah Shelishit
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Misconception: One can fulfill the obligation to eat Seudah Shelishit (The Third Meal) on Shabbat by studying Torah in lieu of eating. FACT: The third Shabbat meal, Seudah Shelishit (colloquially termed “shalashudas”) is an obligatory meal that should ideally include bread. BACKGROUND: There is an obligation to eat three meals on Shabbat (Rambam, Shabbat 30:9; […]
Starting to Wear Tefillin
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Misconception:1 All boys must begin putting on tefillin thirty days before their bar mitzvahs. Fact: There are two main opinions in halachah: boys should either begin laying tefillin several years before their bar mitzvah or on the actual day of the bar mitzvah. However, in some circles, there is a widely accepted practice for boys […]
Tzarich Iyun: The Meaning of “Pesach”
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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 […]
Tzarich Iyun: Hallel on Pesach
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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 […]
The Sale of Chametz on Pesach
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Misconception: Along with chametz food that one sells to his rabbi, one also sells chametzdik dishes for the duration of Pesach. Fact: The rabbi does not buy the chametz but merely acts as an agent in the sale to a non-Jew. Dishes are usually not included in the sale. Background: There are several prohibitions surrounding […]