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Tzarich Iyun: Women’s Zimun
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Misconception:Three or more women forming a zimun (responsive introduction to Grace after Meals), especially in the presence of one or two men, is the product of late 20th century feminism and has no basis in traditional halachah. When such a zimun is formed, the men present should leave. Fact: Women participating in a meal in […]
Tzarich Iyun: Rashi’s Father
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Misconception:Rebbi Yitzchak, whom Rashi—the commentator par excellence—cites in his commentary on the first verse of the Bible, is Rashi’s father. Fact: Rashi’s father, Yitzchak, and the “Rebbi Yitzchak” whom Rashi cites are different people. Background: The name “Rashi” is an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, i.e. Rabbi Shlomo, the son of Reb Yitzchak.[1] But the […]
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 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: 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 inaccurate.[1] […]
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 […]
Tzarich Iyun: Washing after Leaving the Washroom
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Misconception:[1] Upon exiting a bathroom, one should wash by pouring water from a keli (utensil) three times on each hand. Fact: There is an obligation to wash after using the bathroom (Shulchan Aruch OC 4:18), but three times is not specified, and a keli is not required. Background: There are many reasons for halachically mandated […]
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: 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 […]