Musings

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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Ha Lachma Anya

by R. Ira Bedzow In Ha Lachma Anya, we immediately show the matzah that our forefathers ate, in order to help us look back and personally experience the Exodus at the present moment.  Yet, the remainder of the paragraph serves a much greater purpose than simply reminding us of what our forefathers ate.  Like the four cups of wine, this ...

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Cups of Redemption

by R. Ira Bedzow One is obligated to drink four cups of wine at the Pesach Seder in a manner that is demonstrative of being free (BT Pesachim 108b).  The Jerusalem Talmud (JT Pesachim 10a) provides a number of reasons for why we drink specifically four cups of wine. Rav Yochanan said in the name of Rav Benaya that they ...

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Opposite, Not Oppositional

by R. Shmuel Zuckerman וַיֹּאמֶר ד’ אֱלֹקִים לֹא טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ אֶעֱשֶׂהּ לּוֹ עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ – בראשית ב And the Lord G-d said: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper opposite him.’ (Genesis II) ואמר רבי אלעזר מאי דכתיב [בראשית ב] אעשה לו עזר כנגדו זכה עוזרתו לא זכה כנגדו ...

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Gun Ownership in Jewish Law

by R. Gil Student Laws about gun control serve as perpetual fuel for political debates. However, everyone agrees that some people should carry guns in some circumstances. Whether police officers or soldiers, on duty or prepared for duty, some people need to carry guns in order to protect the public. In Messianic times, weapons will be turned into ploughshares (Isa. ...

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Pass the Challah

by R. Gil Student There is a debate about the proper way to cut challah bread when cutting it for a group of people sitting at the table. May you cut pieces for everyone at first, or must you cut only for yourself, eat a little, and then cut for everyone else? And then there are variations in between. A ...

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Reading Rambam on the Rabbi-Community Relationship

by R. Tzvi Sinensky Contemporary Halakhah, the study of a set of texts with an eye toward legal application, is a well-trodden, time-honored approach to Torah study. But there is a potential cost to this goal-oriented method of learning: when we examine selected sources in an attempt to derive practical conclusions, we tend to view the subject matter incompletely, and ...

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