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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 […]
Mishloach Manot
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 Misconception: The two foods sent on Purim for mishloach manot must be from two different categories of blessings. Fact: This widespread misconception has no halachic basis. Background: Mishloach manot is one of the four mitzvot established by Mordechai and Esther to be performed on Purim day. Alluded to in Megillat Esther, these mitzvot are: reading […]
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 […]
The Rambam’s Physician’s Prayer
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Misconception:The popular Jewish “physician’s prayer” was authored by the Rambam (Maimonides), who was born in 1135 CE. Fact: This commendable prayer is of uncertain authorship. Most likely, it was not written by Maimonides (who was actually born in 1138), but rather by an 18th century Jewish-German physician. Background: The physician’s prayer attributed to Moses Maimonides […]
Tzarich Iyun: The Sabra
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Misconception: The sabra, a symbol of a native-born Israeli, is indigenous to the desert areas of Israel. Fact: The sabra is native to the desert areas of Mexico and southern United States. Background: The sabra is known in Hebrew as tzabar,[1] in English, as the prickly pear or Indian fig. Scientifically, it is in the […]
Tzarich Iyun: Kissing the Mezuzah
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Misconception: There is a Talmudic source for the common practice of kissing the mezuzah upon entering and exiting a room. FACT: There is no Talmudic source obligating one to kiss the mezuzah, although there may be a source for touching the mezuzah. Kissing the mezuzah seems to have been introduced by the Arizal (sixteenth century), […]
Tzarich Iyun: Before the Wedding
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Misconception: A bride and groom may not see each other during the week preceding their wedding. Fact: This is a widespread Ashkenazic practice with little basis in traditional sources. Background: In Ashkenazic[1] circles, often a bride and groom do not see each other for a full week before their wedding, although they do speak by […]