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Q. I’m having a hard time getting a read on King Ahasuareus. Was he wicked or fickle? Was he just a party animal? 

A. The Talmud asks the same question. He’s a complex character and different Rabbis of the Talmud read him differently.… Read the rest

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Q. Did Adam die in the Great Flood?

 A. No. Adam died in the Jewish year 930 (or 2831 BCE) and the Flood happened in the Jewish year 1656 (or 2105 BCE).
BTW – BCE stands for Before the Common Era, which is how we designate secular dates … Read the rest

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Q. The Ashrei Prayer is alphabetical, why is it missing the letter Nun?

A. The Talmud (Brachos 4b) asks the same question and explains that Nun stands for Nofel (fallen) which is something David (author of Ashrey) wanted to avoid. But you asked further – aren’t there other Hebrew letters that stand for … Read the rest

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Q. My son’s Bar-Mitzvah Parsha is all about animal sacrifice. What relevance would this have in today’s world?

A. Here’s one idea. There’s a beautiful Chassidic insight based on an interpretation of the Alter Rebbe, founder of Chabad, that aside for the physical animal (and especially nowadays without the Temple) one would have to make a “personal sacrifice” … Read the rest

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Q. Is there a source for Moses ascending a mountain to see all the Land of Israel?

A. There sure is! See Deuteronomy 3:27 where G-d tells Moses, “Ascend to the top of the mount and raise your eyes westward, northward, southward and eastward, and see with your eyes, for you will not cross this Jordan.”… 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. The prophet Ezekiel is addressed as “Son of Man”. Why this unusual title?

A. Here’s a reason from Rashi, the great Biblical commentator. Being that Ezekiel was privy to the most spiritual and esoteric of visions, this title was a subtle reminder that helped him keep perspective and keep it from getting to … Read the rest

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Q. What are some Torah laws regarding a Fence?

A. (1) Most famous is the “Maakeh” roof-top fence in Deut 22:8. This law represents all laws regarding safety and accident prevention. (2) Ethics of our Fathers encourages us to “make a fence around the Torah” which refer to Rabbinic … Read the rest

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Q. Psalms 19:7 reads: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” How do souls convert?

A. They don’t. My translation reads differently than yours. “The law of G-d is wholesome, returning the soul.”… Read the rest

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