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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 […]
Tzarich Iyun: Mordechai and Esther
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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 […]
Tzarich Iyun: Mar Cheshvan
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Misconception:The complete and correct name for the month following Tishrei is Cheshvan, and it is a quaint tradition to call it Mar Cheshvan because it is bitter (Hebrew: mar) due to its lack of holidays. Fact: The correct name for this fall month is the one word Marcheshvan/M’rachsh’van[1] (Aruch ashulchan, Even Ha’ezer 126:17). Background: The […]
Tzarich Iyun: Schach
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Misconception: If stars are not visible through the schach (roof of the sukkah), the sukkah is invalid. Fact: According to many opinions, ab initio, one should be able to see starlight through the schach. However, even if one is unable to see stars, the sukkah is kosher according to most authorities. Background: A sukkah has two […]
Tzarich Iyun: The Kohen Gadol’s Rope
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Misconception: The Gemara relates that on Yom Kippur, when the Kohen Gadol entered the Kodesh Hakodashim (Holy of Holies) in the Beit Hamikdash (Temple), a rope was tied to his ankle so that in case he died, there would be a way to extricate his body. Fact: While there was a real concern about the Kohen […]
Tzarich Iyun: Tashlich
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Misconception:A feature of the Rosh Hashanah tashlich ritual is the throwing of bread or other food into a body of water, to be eaten by the fish and ducks.[1] Fact: For the performance of tashlich, a custom which is symbolic of numerous things, it is customary to seek out a body of water that harbors […]
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 […]