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Interruptions in Kriat Shema
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When Yaakov and Yosef finally meet after decades of separation and uncertainty, Yosef embraces his father and weeps – but it seems that Yaakov doesn’t return this gesture! (Bereshit 46:29.) Rashi explains that Yaakov was reciting “Shema”. This thought-provoking Midrash may make us reconsider Yaakov Avinu’s relationship towards his son, but it also serves as […]
Guaranteeing Loans
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In our parsha, Yaakov Avinu is finally convinced to send Binyamin to Egypt after Yehuda promises that he will bring him back. Yet Reuven’s promise did not have the same effect. The differing character of the two sons obviously plays a role: Yaakov considers Reuven dissipated as water” (Bereshit 43:4), but envisions Yehuda holding the […]
Giving Charity
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There is no question that giving charity is considered one of the greatest commandments in the Torah. For example, on the Days of Awe we proclaim that “repentance, charity, and prayer will repeal the bad in the decree”. And our Sages declared that “charity saves from death” (Shabbat 156b). What unique message can we find […]
Bathing on Shabbat Part 2
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Going to the Mikveh Bathing in hot water on Shabbat is forbidden, lest people come to heat the bathwater. However, bathing in cold water is permissible (though it is restricted by custom – see MB 326:21). Even so, the Shulchan Arukh specifically tells us that immersing in a mikveh for purification is permissible (SA OC […]
Prohibition to Benefit from Chanukah Lights
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Many laws of Chanukah have the purpose of clearly distinguishing the Chanukah lights from other lights used for illumination. For example: Chanukah lights must have a single wick so that they are a “lamp” and not a “torch” which is better suited for illumination, and for the same reason the lights shouldn’t be arranged in […]
Placement of the Chanukah Menorah
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The Talmud rules that the ideal way of fulfilling the mitzva of Chanukah lights is by lighting them at the entrance to the house, so that they are clearly visible to passers-by. However, our Sages continue, when there is danger in doing so – because of hostile non-Jews – it is sufficient to light the […]
Laws of Acquisitions – Part 3 Buying with Money
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Over the last few weeks, we have been presenting the insights of Rav Natan of Breslav on the inner, spiritual meaning of the laws of acquisitions. First we explained that commerce is an extension of production: manufacture or cultivation elevates the natural world by transforming the wild into some object of human use; commerce effects […]
Grace Over a Cup of Wine
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When Avraham is visited by the angel-guests, he asks Sarah to make bread for them. (Bereshit 18:6.) The Torah hints that they did not eat Sarah’s bread (18:8 and Rashi), but evidently they ate other bread and made grace, for they sought to honor Sarah with the grace-cup. (Bava Metzia 87a and Etz Yosef commentary.) […]
Carrying Between Two Private Domains
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Last week (read that as “Two weeks ago”) we gave Rav Natan of Breslav’s explanation of the Torah prohibition to move objects from public to private domain or the opposite. The private domain, “domain of the One”, represents the realm of holiness and unity; the public domain, “domain of the many”, represents the imperfect material […]
White Lies
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After Yaakov’s death, Yosef’s brothers are afraid he will now take revenge on them for selling him into slavery. They tell him that Yaakov himself ordered him to forgive them (Bereshit 50:15-17). The Gemara justifies this story, using it as an example of the principle “A person is allowed to change [the facts] for the […]