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Q. If a Fast-Day falls during Sheva-Brachos (week following wedding) do the Chassan & Kallah get a break?

A. No, sorry about that. The only exception is the Fast of Esther (some say Tzom Gedalia, too) for which they do get a pass. Mazal Tov!… Read the rest

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Q. Why do Jews greet each other using “Sholom Aleichem” – the name of a Yiddish author?

A. Sholom Aleichem was a pen-name for Sholom Rabinowitz (1859-1916), the traditional greeting long predates the celebrated Yiddish author.… Read the rest

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Q. You take the Talmud’s word for the Oil-Miracle even with no mention of it in the Book of the Maccabees?

A. Guilty as charged, I trust the Talmud. Besides, omission alone is not proof enough against, especially considering the argument and ideological struggle of which miracle warrants more emphasis, the oil (spiritual) or the war (physical). Both of which are … Read the rest

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Q. Rabbi, why don’t you say the word “Shel” in the Chanukah blessing as many of us do?

A. Mushky Galperin (now Bendet) helped me with the reason for the Chabad custom being different. “Shel” is Hebrew for “of”. When it comes to Shabbat candles, it is Shabbat that is the main celebration and the candles are a … Read the rest

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Q. I read online that on Friday of Chanukah you need to use thicker candles than usual. Why?

A. The Menorah is all about illuminating the darkness. On Friday, though, we have to light the Menorah earlier than usual, before Shabbos Candle-Lighting time. So it’s best to light candles (or oil) with enough fuel to remain lit until … Read the rest

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Q. If some do Hakafot on Shmini Atzeret night, why not during the daytime, too?

A. Here’s the background. Jews in Israel dance with the Torah on the 8th night and day of the holiday. Jews in the Diaspora dance with the Torah on the 9th night and day of the holiday. The Ari’zal of … Read the rest

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Q. So the oil lasted longer than it should have. Why the celebration thousands of years later?

A. Miracles aren’t only a matter of convenience – the sea split so Jews could get to the other side. They aren’t mere problem solvers. When G-d interferes with the natural order He created, it is an infusion of Divine … Read the rest

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Q. Where can I find traditional commentary on the Samson story – in English?

A. Talmud Sotah 9b-10a has some interesting stuff, check out a translated Talmud. Also there are commentaries printed on Tanach – some of which are translated into English in the Judaica Press edition. I can lend you both books.

There’s … Read the rest

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Q. What’s the simplest way to tell Rashi and Tosefos apart on a Talmud page?

A. Rashi is always on the inner margin closest to the book binding, Tosefos is always on the outside margin.

In 2007 we did a class on this, prepared and presented with then students Craig and Justin, titled “Seussian Talmud” … Read the rest

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Q. Do we make Havdalah on Shabbos going into Yom-Tov?

A. What a question! The Talmud (Pesachim) has a 9-way debate on it. All agree that we make a Havdalah (farewell to Shabbat) and Kiddush (welcoming YomTov) combination, but there are 9 varying opinions on the order of the blessings … Read the rest

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