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Q&A

General Q&A about Judaism, Jewish texts, and Jewish life. This site does not give personal advice.

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Embarrassing someone in private

The gemara in Bava Metzia 59a make the statement that one should not "whiten his friend's face" (embarrass him). The section states ואל ילבין פני חבירו ברבים מנ"ל מדדרש רבא דדרש רבא מאי דכתיב (...

0 answers  ·  posted 13d ago by rosends‭

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What are the rules for mentioning my father when calling a family member up for an aliyah?

Occasionally, I have to act as gabbai for a small minyan, where other members of my family also daven. When calling up my father for an aliyah, I use the formulation "יעמוד, אבי מורי הרב..." (Rise,...

0 answers  ·  posted 20d ago by Mithical‭

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Why don't we stand for Hallel at the seder?

At services that include it, we stand for Hallel. I've never learned about it but this makes sense; we're sanctifying God, like in Kedusha for which we also stand. But at every Pesach seder I've b...

0 answers  ·  posted 1mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Did Avraham really not know about his nephews while they were children?

After the Akeidah, Avraham returns home and then the torah tells us, in Bereishit 22:20: "Avraham was told, 'Milkah too has borne sons to your brother Nachor (etc)'". The torah does not always rec...

1 answer  ·  posted 3mo ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 2mo ago by msh210‭

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Why do we sing while saying viduy?

Throughout Yom Kippur everyone says viduy (confession) numerous times. In the shuls that I have davened at (and I think most shuls), when everyone says it together during chazaras hashatz, there i...

0 answers  ·  posted 2mo ago by Dani‭

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Source of a tune

https://vocaroo.com/1L5y4gbqDCvZ has a tune that I've heard many times, always in a Jewish (usually liturgical) context. What is its origin? Who wrote it, when, where, etc., and what (if any) were ...

1 answer  ·  posted 2mo ago by msh210‭  ·  last activity 2mo ago by Mithical‭

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Why is Pesach in the singular?

Simply put, why is Pesach in the singular while Shavu'ot and Sukkot are in the plural? Shavu'ot makes sense to me because the day celebrates the culmination of weekS. But I only made 1 Sukkah so w...

1 answer  ·  posted 2mo ago by rosends‭  ·  last activity 2mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How do I look up commentaries on general patterns in torah as opposed to specific verses?

This is a research-methods question with a concrete example. I'm interested in the answer to the concrete example, but what I really want to know is: how could I look this up myself? There are so...

0 answers  ·  posted 2mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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What is the difference between "an utterance of our lips" and "speech"?

In the Viduy (confessions) that we say as part of the Yom Kippur prayers, there's a section where we list a whole bunch of sins, saying "Al chet..." (for the sin...) before each one. Two of the sec...

0 answers  ·  posted 2mo ago by Mithical‭

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Sentencing a defendant to death

Let's say a Jew is serving on a jury that is deciding the sentence for someone (even more powerfully, a Jew) convicted (under US law) of a capital offense. The judge instructs the jury that the two...

1 answer  ·  posted 5mo ago by rosends‭  ·  last activity 2mo ago by Mithical‭

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When was "Melech Elyon" first truncated, and why?

During Rosh Hashana davening, there's a piyut (liturgical poem) that appears before Untaneh Tokef, that begins "מלך עליון" (Melech Elyon). The commentary by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, in the Koren ...

0 answers  ·  posted 2mo ago by Mithical‭  ·  edited 2mo ago by Mithical‭

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Korbanot of Rosh Chodesh on R"H

During p'sukei d'zimra on a week day which is Rosh Chodesh, we add in, during the recitation of Korbanot, a paragraph about the sacrifices of Rosh Chodesh. On Shabbat, add in an extra paragraph wi...

0 answers  ·  posted 3mo ago by rosends‭

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Could Jews visit North Korea before the travel ban?

It's academic now that US citizens are no longer allowed to travel to North Korea, but I'm still curious. This is one of the things I've talked to Monica about, and she was sure it was "problematic...

0 answers  ·  posted 3mo ago by Fred Wamsley‭

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Why ra-VU in Numbers 20:13?

Numbers 20:13 (with my own, loose translation): הֵמָּה מֵי מְרִיבָה אֲשֶׁר רָבוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת ה׳ This was the Fight Water: the Jews fought God The word "רָבוּ" ("fought") has its str...

0 answers  ·  posted 5mo ago by msh210‭  ·  edited 5mo ago by msh210‭

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Vaydaber vs vayomer when God instructs Moshe: what's the significance of the difference?

The torah records many places where God speaks to Moshe telling him to speak to others, generally to relay instructions. The common structure is: ... וידבר יי אל ... לאמר: ךבר But sometimes ...

0 answers  ·  posted 5mo ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  edited 5mo ago by msh210‭

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Was Avraham not modest?

The Mah Tovu statement of Bil'am's, though intended as a curse was actually praise, and attested to (via Bava Batra 60a) the modesty of the children of Israel. They did not construct their tents in...

0 answers  ·  posted 5mo ago by rosends‭

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How did people understand references to 2 destructions before the first destruction?

Note -- I know that this is not a fully formed question yet so I welcome any edits. There are "prophecies" and references which we understand to be about the destruction of the two temples and the...

0 answers  ·  posted 5mo ago by rosends‭

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Worshipping outdoors in the COVID era, issues and options

I've chatted with Monica about this. She agreed with my assessment of the place I first heard about it, which I don't consider good enough to link to. It's about a jurisdiction where COVID emergen...

2 answers  ·  posted 7mo ago by Fred Wamsley‭  ·  last activity 5mo ago by manassehkatz‭

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The encampments in the midbar

Is there a list of all the stops that Bnei Yisrael made after leaving Egypt (in chronological order), and how long they stayed in each place, especially one which lists different opinions about the...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by rosends‭  ·  last activity 5mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How long did it take to set up the mishkan?

When Yisrael spent 40 years in the wilderness, they sometimes camped for longer periods of times and sometimes for shorter ones, sometimes even just two days (Bamidbar 9:21 -22): וְיֵ֞שׁ אֲשֶׁר־...

0 answers  ·  posted 5mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Why can't a shopping cart interface run on the Sabbath?

Starting with what I think I understand, my doubtless oversimplified picture of the world was that processes set in motion before the Sabbath could be allowed to continue. For example, I thought it...

0 answers  ·  posted 6mo ago by Fred Wamsley‭

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Why must the omer be counted at night?

I have been taught that we count the omer at night with a b'racha. Counting at night makes sense; it's the first opportunity to fulfill the commandment each day and we should rush to fulfill a mit...

0 answers  ·  posted 6mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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What does the change from "a man shall not..." to "you shall not..." for one verse in Vayikra 20 signify?

In Vayikra chapter 20 the torah gives a long list of forbidden relations. Almost all of them are of the form "if a man (lies with, takes)..." or, in one case, "if a woman..." (third person). In V...

0 answers  ·  posted 7mo ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  edited 6mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Tamid as Kaparah?

Each day, we recite the 8 p'sukim from Bamidbar 28 (1-8) which detail the rules of the twice daily Tamid. The Tamid is an Olah but I'm not sure of the exact purpose of the sacrifice. On weekdays, ...

0 answers  ·  posted 7mo ago by rosends‭

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What does "May his memory be for a blessing" mean?

This is a possible duplicate, I thought I had posted it but I'm not seeing it. I saw a touching opinion about the meaning of the phrase at https://www.quora.com/What-does-the-phrase-May-his-memory...

1 answer  ·  posted 8mo ago by Fred Wamsley‭  ·  last activity 7mo ago by Mithical‭

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In the list of spies, why is Yosef added to the listing for Manashe but not to the one for Efrayim? [duplicate]

At the beginning of Sh'lach L'cha the torah lists the twelve scouts and their tribes. In general these names follow the pattern "from the tribe of (tribe), (somebody) ben (somebody)", with (genera...

0 answers  ·  posted 7mo ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 7mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Why does the Torah mention Yosef in relation to Menashe but not Ephraim in the story of the spies?

In the beginning of Parshat Sh'lach, when listing the spies from each tribe, the Torah gives Ephraim like every other tribe (Bamidbar 13:8): למטה אפרים הושע בן-נון From the tribe of Ephraim, Ho...

2 answers  ·  posted 1y ago by Mithical‭  ·  last activity 7mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Is being a book mark a mitzvah?

When a string breaks off of one's tzitzit there are rules about its disposal. One may not treat it (according to opinions noted by the Rama) in a degrading fashion though they needn't be buried in ...

0 answers  ·  posted 7mo ago by rosends‭

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Ha-Yarden ha-zeh -- what does the torah mean by this Jordan as opposed to the Jordan?

In Devarim 3:27, when Moshe pleads with God to be allowed to go into the land, God says to him: עֲלֵ֣ה ׀ רֹ֣אשׁ הַפִּסְגָּ֗ה וְשָׂ֥א עֵינֶ֛יךָ יָ֧מָּה וְצָפֹ֛נָה וְתֵימָ֥נָה וּמִזְרָ֖חָה וּרְאֵ֣...

0 answers  ·  posted 7mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Can one change the wording of davening?

Note -- I am creating the hypothetical carefully so I can focus on an underlying halachic concept. A Baal T'shuva learns to daven in a very eclectic minyan -- people from all over and with all sor...

0 answers  ·  posted 7mo ago by rosends‭  ·  edited 7mo ago by rosends‭

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Why are Matzah and Sukkah different in terms of intent?

Bottom line question is why is a Sukkah different from a Matzah in terms of (not) requiring (expressed) kavannah in its creation? A Sukkah (according to the ruling of Beit Hillel on Mas Sukkah 9a)...

0 answers  ·  posted 7mo ago by rosends‭

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Could I keep K for P all year round and not search the next year?

Is searching for/burning chameitz a distinct obligation or just an adjunct – a way to prepare for pesach? If I kept my house striclty kosher for pesach all year round (not actually that tough as I...

0 answers  ·  posted 8mo ago by rosends‭

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Logistics: what do you do about dishes if you're hosting both seders?

I found myself wondering about this while clearing the table after the first seder this year (which was also Shabbat). Most of the time, both in my family and in the group of friends I sometimes s...

0 answers  ·  posted 8mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Why do we designate specific matzot for seder rituals?

This question arose at my seder this year and nobody present knew of an answer: The haggadah designates the three matzot for specific purposes: We are to break the middle one (and save the larg...

0 answers  ·  posted 8mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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What does law say about vaccination?

The Torah of course predates the development of vaccines, but someone who knows far more than I argues that it requires its followers to receive a COVID vaccine. What's quoted in the news article i...

1 answer  ·  posted 8mo ago by Fred Wamsley‭  ·  last activity 8mo ago by Fred Wamsley‭

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How does civil disobedience fit into Jewish law and practice?

I'm trying to integrate things I (think I) know. Am I right that there's a general religious principle to follow most secular law? The Bible has more than one example of defying a law that contrad...

0 answers  ·  posted 8mo ago by Fred Wamsley‭

law
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Canaan's descendants and the curse

In Bereisheet 9, Canaan was cursed and this curse was taken to be a statement on not just him, but his descendants (see the Haamek Davar on pasuk 24 for an example). Why would later generations be ...

0 answers  ·  posted 8mo ago by rosends‭

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Is there a timeline of creation, hour by hour?

I have read talmudic accounts and heard of medrashim reagrding the timeline of the 6th day of creation and the "birth" of Adam and Chava (especially as it relates to Erev Shabbat) but I'm wondering...

0 answers  ·  posted 9mo ago by rosends‭

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Is an orphan obligated to honor parents?

This d'var torah makes the argument that an orphan can still fulfill the obligation to honor parents, because the sages interpret it more broadly than just your two biological parents. (See the li...

0 answers  ·  posted 10mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Mishebeirach for cholim placement

I noticed that on Shabbos, the gabbai at shul makes the mishebeirach for cholim between the 6th and 7th aliyot. I have seen this at other shuls (though I don't know if it is a codified rule or a st...

0 answers  ·  posted 10mo ago by rosends‭

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Maariv with a mincha minyan

I'm not fully finished with my hypothetical but it goes something like this: If I davened mincha at the earliest possible time, I can daven maariv before sunset. If I am called to help out with a...

1 answer  ·  posted 10mo ago by rosends‭  ·  last activity 10mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Animal product spoons and Kashrut

Do food service products made from non-kosher sources create a kashrut problem when they are used with food (or even without)? There are spoons made from mother of pearl (from mollusk shells), use...

0 answers  ·  posted 10mo ago by rosends‭

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If one designates a gift for another person, is it committed or can it be retracted?

I know that if one designates something for the temple (an offering or a donation), it can't be taken back -- it's committed. Is this a general principle of designating things, or is it specific t...

1 answer  ·  posted 11mo ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 10mo ago by msh210‭

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Did the people hear the words of the revelation directly at Sinei?

At the end of Shemot 19, Moshe has gone down from the mountain to speak to the people. Then Shemot 20 begins with the decalogue, with God speaking the commandments. We're then told (20:15) that a...

1 answer  ·  posted 11mo ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 11mo ago by Monica Cellio‭

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What does it mean to speak of the Jews as a single entity?

tl;dr in what sense did "the people" as a collective do/say anything? In the Artscroll A""Z 5b1, the commentary in note 1 points out that "The Jews referred to the manna as..." and later, that "th...

0 answers  ·  posted 11mo ago by rosends‭

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At what distance does a zman change?

Simply put, how much physical distance on the globe/map effects a discernable change in time? If I compute the zman for something, I do so based on (for some websites) my zip code. But that zip co...

1 answer  ·  posted 12mo ago by rosends‭  ·  last activity 12mo ago by manassehkatz‭

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On Pharaoh's not knowing יקוק

Jacob and his sons, when speaking to Egyptians, consistently refer to God as ‏(ה)אלקים, "the god", and not by his name, יקוק, that distinguishes him from other supposed gods, or other names of his....

0 answers  ·  posted 12mo ago by msh210‭

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How does a firstborn know to wash the kohen's hands?

Mishna B'rura 128:22 says that if no Levi is around to wash a kohen's hands for the latter's blessing, a firstborn-to-his-mother should do so. Although Kaf Hachayim :40 notes that he hasn't seen th...

1 answer  ·  posted 12mo ago by msh210‭  ·  last activity 12mo ago by manassehkatz‭

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Is it better to not tell someone she's Jewish if she won't follow it?

This is a hypothetical question; it doesn't apply to anyone I know, but I heard an anecdote and it led me to wonder. Suppose someone discovers that her maternal grandmother was in fact Jewish, but...

0 answers  ·  posted 1y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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For starting Shabbat, is sunset astronomical or visible?

A few years ago, on the fall equinox, I noticed that the day was longer than 12 hours according to the (secular) sunrise/sunset times. Curious, I did some investigation. One reason for the differ...

1 answer  ·  posted 1y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  edited 1y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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