A Fifth Cup of Wine at the Seder?

There is a rabbinic obligation at the Pesach seder to drink four cups of wine. The Talmud Yerushalmi gives a few reasons for the choice of four cups. They parallel the four redemptions that Hashem promised the Jews in Egypt (Shemot 6); they parallel the four references to Pharaoh’s goblet ... Read more →

Halakhically Inclined: Women and the Mitzva of Haseibah

The Gemara in Masechet Pesachim (108a) clearly delineates the requirement of haseiba (leaning) for the eating of Matza and at least two of the four cups of wine at the Seder Leil HaPesach1. The Gemara then continues to discuss how the haseiba is done and if there are any people who are exempt ... Read more →

The Oppurtunity of Yom Tov

The Rambam,1 based on the pasuk in Yeshayahu of ‘ve-karata la-Shabbat oneg li-kedosh Hashem mekhubad,’ writes that on Shabbat we have mitsvot of Kevod and Oneg Shabbat. The Rambam defines the Mitsvah of Kevod Shabbat as including those things which a person does during the week in ... Read more →

From Matzah to Medicine

Upon feeling hungry, we may run to the local supermarket to purchase the widely consumed Red Delicious apples. We recite a berakha and take a bite out of the apple, chewing it slowly, feeling the crunchiness on our palate as it becomes softer and smaller.  Our mastication allows for the ... Read more →

Feeding Dependents and the Obligation Between G-d and the Jews

Pesach teaches the idea that the Jewish nation is indebted to G-d. This indebtedness is the source of our responsibility to keep G-d’s commandments, and to devote ourselves to Him. The pasuk in Behar1 invokes this concept as a reason why it is forbidden to oppress an eved ivri. Ultimately a ... Read more →

How Not to Prepare for the Coming Week

Preparing on Shabbat for weekdays (hakhanah) is prohibited. The scope of this prohibition, however, is ambiguous for three reasons. First, the Talmud (Shabbat 113a, 118a) only gives three examples of hakhanah: washing dishes, making beds, and folding clothes. Second, the Talmud (150a) permits ... Read more →

Chatzi Shiur

The Gemara1 records R’ Yochanan’s opinion that chatzi shiur is assur. The reason given for this issur is a derasha: the words “kol chelev”2 include even chatzi shiur.3 The context of that Gemara is issur achila on Yom Kippur. The question may be asked, does the issur of chatzi shiur ... Read more →

Does Kindness Have a Price?

One of the greatest blessings of the modern day Jewish community structure is the emergence of organizational Judaism. In an unprecedented way the Jewish community has produced some of the most outstanding communal structures that accomplish goals that were unfathomable in the past. An ... Read more →

Ad De’lo Yada and Shiras Ha’azinu

The Enigma of Ad De’lo Yada One of the most enigmatic practices cited in Shulchan Aruch is the Talmudic dictum known as “ad de’lo yada:” “Chayav inish le’vasumei be’puraya ad de’lo yada bein arur Haman le’baruch Mordechai” “One must become intoxicated on Purim until he can ... Read more →

To Write a Wrong: Anomalies in Melekhet Kotev

Letters are the best of symbols and the worst of symbols. Letters are incredibly versatile, and can be combined to symbolize a vast range of ideas. Their names and shapes symbolize profound concepts, as the Talmud (104a) writes: “Gimmel Daled, gemol dalim (help the poor become ... Read more →