Musings

The Mystery of Karpas

by R. Chaim Lindenblatt At the Pesach seder, we dip twice—first karpas in salt water and later maror in charoses. What is the purpose of the first dipping early in the seder? The Gemara (Pesachim 114b) says that it is hekera letinokos; it is supposed to arouse the children to ask questions. Yet it raises questions for adults, as well. ...

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Overreading The Rambam

by R. Gil Student There are two major trends in Maimonidean interpretation–Esoteric and Harmonist–with dramatically different implications for Jewish faith. Esotericists emphasize Rambam’s use of contradictions in his Guide for the Perplexed to claim that the traditional statements of the greatest thinker in Jewish history mask his radical philosophical views. Harmonists agree that Rambam included contradictions but consider it a ...

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Charity for the Non-Working Poor

by R. Gil Student Mark Tooley of the Institue of Religion and Democracy informs us of a recent congressional hearing about food stamps for the non-working poor. Apparently a Jewish advocacy group provided testimony that the Jewish tradition requires providing assistance regardless of the recipients’ circumstances. This does not adequately reflect what Jewish tradition has to say about giving charity ...

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Effect of Wrong Type of Bitul

by R. Daniel Mann Question: What are the consequences if, after bedikat chametz, one recited the daytime bitul chametz? Answer: We must start with a look at the purpose and mechanism of the various bituls. The Torah forbids possession of chametz on Pesach (Shemot 13:7) and mandates its removal before Pesach (Shemot 12:15). To facilitate this, we search for chametz ...

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The Cry That Hashem Heard

by R. Ira Bedzow And we cried (nitzak) to Hashem, the God of our fathers, and Hashem heard our voice, and saw our suffering, and our toil, and our distress. The verses in Shemot that support this verse provide context into what motivated the beginning of our redemption from Egypt.  The first verse provides depth as to what had occurred ...

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Fitbit on Shabbos

by R. Gil Student FitBit is an activity tracker, a wearable technology that measures vital signs, steps taken, sleep patterns and more. You wear it on your wrist like a watch and it sends data to the company’s servers. You can then track your activity on a website or app. Some have features such as waking you at a good ...

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Seder on the Rooftops

by R. Gil Student Some modern thinkers–mainly Jewish universalists–express discomfort in the Seder recitation of “Shefokh chamasekha, Pour out Your wrath.” In this passage of the Haggadah, we call on God to punish the heathens who do not recognize Him and who destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. While this is a direct biblical quote (Ps. 79:6-7), and addresses the gentile ...

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Minhag America and American Nationalism

by R. Gil Student In 1857, a leading reform-minded rabbi in America, Isaac Mayer Wise, published a prayer book he called Minhag America. With this publication, he attempted to unify American Jews around a single text of prayer, which of course faced immediate opposition and eventual failure. More radical reformers felt the book was too traditional and more traditional Jews ...

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