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Tzarich Iyun: Kosher Soap
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Misconception:There is no valid reason to use kosher soap. Fact: There is a solid halachic basis for using kosher soap exclusively. Background: People often fail to consider what a marvelous substance soap is—when used with water, it loosens unwanted particles, emulsifies grease and absorbs dirt into foam. Its efficacy is usually due to a chemical […]
Tzarich Iyun: The Destruction of the Beit Hamikdash
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Misconception:According to rabbinic tradition, the destruction of the Second Beit Hamikdash (Temple) can be attributed solely to sinat chinam—gratuitous hatred. Fact: Some rabbinic sources do, indeed, attribute the destruction to sinat chinam. But other sages have identified additional causes for this national tragedy. Background: [1] Statements of Chazal regarding the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash […]
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: 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 […]
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: 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: 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 […]