Haircuts, Bonfires and Weddings: Lag BaOmer and the customs of Sefira

It is customary for all Jews to observe some customs of mourning during the days of Sefiras HaOmer – between Pesach and Shavous – and to have a festive day on either the 33rd day of the Omer – or for Sephardim the 34th. These customs are binding for all observant Jews as codified in the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch etc. That said, it…

Killing For The Right Reasons: Meseches Zevachim

We’re starting Seder Kodshim in daf yomi beginning with Zevachim. So before I write anything I should first preface that this is my first time through Kodshim – so it’s entirely possible that I’ll say stuff that will be demonstrably wrong on the next page, but I figure I may as well write down my impressions as I go. The mishna starts off saying that…

Horayos: Even The Sadducees Admit

So I have some opinions about this that I don’t have time to write about / fully flesh out, so I’ll just mention some questions and comments. The Talmud says: אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל אין ב”ד חייבין עד שיורו בדבר שאין הצדוקין מודין בו אבל בדבר שהצדוקין מודין בו פטורין מאי טעמא זיל קרי בי רב הוא Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said –…

Nitzavim VaYelech: Writing Your Own Song

ועתה כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת ולמדה את בני ישראל שימה בפיהם למען תהיה לי השירה הזאת לעד בבני ישראל Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach thou it the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. Deuteronomy 31: 19 The last commandment of the Torah is…

Superstitions and Divinations (Part III)

This is the third part of a series on the topic of תמים תהיה. So far we have noticed an apparent contradiction between the prohibitions of the prohibitions mentioned in Parshas Shoftim and Sanhedrin, and the seeming widespread superstitious behaviour sanctioned in the Talmud. We saw that the מהרש”א differentiated between optimistic superstition and pessimistic superstition, but then we saw two clearly pessimistic cases. Let’s…

Superstitions & Divinations (continued)

This is a continuation of my last post on Parshas Shoftim, to read from the beginning, click here. Primary Sources from the Talmud: Let’s start by talking a small survey of relevant sources in the Talmud and then go on to the later Rabbis (including Maimonides) and their rulings: Sanhedrin 65b We shall start from the תנו רבנן close to the bottom of the page,…

Superstitions & Divinations: Parshas Shoftim

Being Whole-hearted Due to the sometimes long quotes and nuanced subject matter, this can make for somewhat of a longer read. As such, I have supplied synopsis sections conspicuously labled TL;DR, so if you’d rather just rely on my summaries, or find your eyes glazing over – skip to there. As always, all the translations are my own (except for the ones with thou and…

Parshas Re’eh: Mourning and Self Flagellation

בנים אתם לה’ אלהיכם לא תתגדדו ולא תשימו קרחה בין עיניכם למת “You are children of the Lord, your God. You shall neither cut yourselves nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead” Deuteronomy 14:1 The concept of cutting oneself as an act of mourning is very foreign to the sensibilities of us modern-day westerners, but is surprisingly common among many unrelated pagan…