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Tzarich Iyun: The Har HaBayit
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Misconception:Many religious Jews do not visit Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) today. This is because we are all presumed to be in a state of tumat met (ritual impurity due to “contact” with the dead), and a tamei met is prohibited from ascending Har HaBayit. (Since the removal of tumat met requires the use of […]
Tzarich Iyun: The Uganda Plan
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Misconception: The early Zionists were offered, and nearly accepted, Uganda as the Jewish homeland. This demonstrates that Zionist leader Theodor (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl and his supporters were indifferent to the historic Jewish homeland and did not appreciate the unique relationship between the Jews and the Land of Israel. Fact: None of the land offered by […]
Tzarich Iyun: The Two Brothers and the Temple Mount
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Misconception: God’s choice of Mount Moriah as the site for the Beit Hamikdash is based on a midrash involving two brothers who expressed their mutual devotion to each other by each surreptitiously giving of his grain to the other. Fact: This beautiful and widespread fable has no basis in traditional Jewish literature. Background: The holiest […]
Tzarich Iyun: Using Horseradish for Maror
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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 […]
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: 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: Glatt Kosher
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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 […]
Tzarich Iyun: Davening with a Minyan
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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, […]
Tzarich Iyun: The Translation of “Yam Suf”
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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 […]
Tzarich Iyun: The Luchot
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“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 […]