After checking dozens of books we have learned that there are three customs related to dirt, grass and stones at the end of the burial service or after visiting a grave. We shall present them in chronological order with the sources and explanations we have found for each custom:
There is a widespread custom today to use the matronymic in the mee sheberakh prayers recited for the sick during the Torah service. It is not entirely clear when or where this custom began. A prayer for the sick from fourteenth-century Provence uses ploni ben ploni [a male son of a male]. In a classic series of articles by Avraham Ya’ari about the mee sheberakh prayers, we also find ploni ben ploni or the abbreviation p’b’p’ in prayers for the sick.
The High Holidays are a time of transition from one Jewish year to the next. During the week of September 12, 2016, the Schechter Institutes celebrated a number of milestones and transitions. The following is an edited version of my remarks on September 13th.
At the outset, I would like to stress the importance of the laws of Tisha B’av. On the one hand, I believe that it is very important to fast on Tisha B’av and to remember the Destruction in our day, even after the rebirth of the State of Israel and the reunification of Jerusalem. On the hand, there are many stringencies connected to “the three weeks” between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, which were added in the Middle Ages by Aveilei Tziyon [= Mourners of Zion] and Ashkenazic rabbis, which have no Talmudic basis and which, in my opinion, there is no reason to observe.
In addition to providing the origin of this specific custom, I will give the sources for the custom of sprinkling or spilling drops of wine while reciting the Ten Plagues, the reasons that have been given for the custom, and the various permutations of the custom.
The following are the early sources that I have found regarding eating dairy on the holiday of Shavuot, based on the Bibliography below. The earliest source I have found is Rabbi Avigdor Tzarfati’s commentary on the Torah (Jerusalem, 1996, p. 478) written ca.1270 in France.
The problem of parents who have deteriorated mentally is mentioned in Jewish sources as early as the second century BCE, and the specific question raised above has been hotly debated by halakhic authorities for over 800 years.
I am officiating at the wedding of a young couple in the near future. In preparing the ketubah [marriage contract], I learned that the groom’s father was born Jewish, but the groom converted at age four, along with his mother. The groom would like his name to appear in the marriage contract as “X the son of the names of his two parents,” since they are all Jewish now; but his father would like it to appear as “X the son of Abraham and Sarah,” since that is how his son was named at his conversion. What is the halakhah in this case?
A speech in honor of Prof. Solomon Schechter’s 100th yahrzeit. He is the role-model for “the middle way” which has been so successfully pursued by the Schechter Institutes for over 30 years, attracting 55,000 Israelis to our programs every year.
As a Driven Leaf by Rabbi Milton Steinberg is one of the most successful Jewish historical novels ever published in English and certainly the most successful novel related to the Talmudic period. It has been a best-seller since 1940. For the past five years I have been editing a Hebrew translation entitled K’aleh Nidaf, which was co-published in May by the Schechter Institute and Yediot Sefarim and is now on sale at all major book stores in Israel. The Hebrew version contains a forty-page Appendix in which I tried to provide all of the sources quoted or hinted at in the book and explain the historical background.