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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), […]
Eliyahu HaNavi at the Seder
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MISCONCEPTION: According to ancient tradition, Eliyahu HaNavi makes a furtive appearance at every Pesach Seder. FACT: There is no classical (Talmudic or midrashic) source stating that Eliyahu pays a visit to the Seder every year. Most sources refer only to an eschatological appearance at the End of Days, that is, Eliyahu’s arrival to announce the […]
Reading the Megillah on Purim Morning
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Misconception: Of the two Megillah readings on Purim, the one at night is the more important one. Therefore, one should be careful to attend the nighttime reading even if he or she will thereby miss the morning reading. Fact: Halachically, the morning reading is more important than the night reading. Background: The Shulchan Aruch (OC […]
The Legend of 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 […]
Giving a Levi the First Aliyah
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Misconception: If there is no Kohen, it is preferable to give the first aliyah to a Levi. Fact: Most authorities rule that it is equally acceptable to call upon a Levi or Yisrael in place of a Kohen, while some prefer to give it to a Yisrael. Background: The Torah is read publicly on Shabbat […]
Tzarich Iyun: The Mitzvah of Mezuzah
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Misconception:A person who moves into a new dwelling has thirty days to affix mezuzot to the doorposts. Fact: The mitzvah of mezuzah is derived from two sections in the Torah: Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 and 11: 13-21. The mitzvah consists of affixing a parchment inscribed with these two sets of verses (beginning respectively with “Shema” and […]
Tzarich Iyun: Making Berachot after Kiddush
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Misconception:After drinking wine at a kiddush, one is required to make a separate berachah (blessing) over soda and other liquids. Fact: Assuming one drank some wine or grape juice, the borei peri hagafen recited over it exempts all drinks within the collation, much the same way that hamotzi covers other foods. Background: Over the centuries, […]
Tzarich Iyun: Bentching Over Wine
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Misconception:Birkat Hamazon (Grace after Meals) is said over a cup of wine only on special occasions, such as Sheva Brachot or a brit milah. Those who are particularly meticulous use wine whenever there is a minyan “bentching” together. Fact: It is meritorious to bentch over wine whenever there is a zimun.[1] Background: Wine has a […]
Tzarich Iyun: Aramaic
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Misconception: Aramaic is a dead language used only in the study of the Talmud, the Targum, and the book of Daniel. Fact: There are hundreds of thousands of people around the world, including thousands of Jews in Israel, who speak Aramaic as their mother tongue. Background: [1] In the “ingathering of Jews” that is taking […]
Tzarich Iyun: Mayim Achronim
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Misconception:Mayim achronim (washing before bentching) is a chumrah (stringency) in which women need not participate. The water used for mayim achronim needs to either be covered or removed from the table. Fact: Mayim achronim is an obligation equally incumbent upon men and women. There is scant basis for covering or removing the water. Background: An […]