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.
During the past two months, we have witnessed three major cases of a lack of pluralism and tolerance in the State of Israel, most of them carried out by Israeli Orthodox rabbis. They seem to believe that there is only one correct way to be Jewish and that those who deviate from that path are not real rabbis and should be shunned. Since these Orthodox rabbis from different backgrounds seem to share this lack of pluralism and tolerance, maybe they are simply reflecting the concensus of Jewish tradition. Is this true?
The first to mention this custom was the Maharil, Rabbi Yaakov Mollin (d. 1427), who is the source for many Ashkenazic customs:
It is customary to spread on the floor of the synagogue spices of grasses [i.e., sweet-smelling grasses] and shoshanim [i.e., lilies] to rejoice in the Pilgrim Festival. And when Shavuot falls on Sunday, Mahari Segal [the Maharil] instituted to spread the grasses on Friday (Minhagei Maharil, ed. Spitzer, p. 160).