Rabbinic Hebrew, Mishnah


Posted by evedyahu on July 4, 2009

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Why Is Judaism Obsessed With Details?

Posted by evedyahu on February 4, 2009

Here is a good point by Rabbi Aron Moss on the importance of details in Judaism:

Why is Judaism Obsessed With Details?

by Rabbi Aron Moss


Why does the Jewish religion seem to obsess over insignificant details? How much matzah do we have to

eat; which spoon did I use for milk and which for meat; what is the right way to tie my shoelaces…. It

seems to me that this misses the bigger picture by focusing on minutiae. Is this nitpicking what Jews call

spirituality? No wonder most Jews are turned off from our weird religion.

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Posted by evedyahu on May 23, 2008

Some very good articles on the Messiah can be found on John Hobbins’ excellent site “Ancient Hebrew Poetry.”  See especially the following links:






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Posted by evedyahu on May 13, 2008

Daniel Boyarin (Sparks of the Logos, Brill, 2003, pp. 22-23) gives the following definition for rabbinic hermeneutics: “Hermeneutics is a practice of the recovery of vision.  That is, it is ideally a practice in which the original moments of the unmediated vision of God’s presence can be recovered.”


He then goes on and illustrates this model of hermeneutics with the following delightful story from the midrash on the Song of Songs:

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Ecclesiastes and Wealth (The Limits of Wealth)

Posted by evedyahu on May 7, 2008

“As a man came out of his mother’s womb, so must he depart at the end, naked as he came. He can take nothing of his wealth to carry away with him” (Ecclesiastes 5:14)

Man’s life can be compared to a fox who found a vineyard, fenced in on all sides. There was one little hole to get in, through which the fox wanted to get in, but it was too narrow and he did not succeed. What did he do? He fasted for three days until he became thin and frail, and then entered through the hole. Once inside, the fox ate the grapes and grew fat. When he wanted to leave, however, he was again unable to fit through the hole. So once more he fasted for three days until he was thin and frail and he went out.

Once outside, he turned towards the vineyard and said, “Vineyard, vineyard, how good is your fruit! All that is within you is beautiful and worthy of praise. But of what use are you? Just as one enters you, so one must come out”.

So too with this world!

– Ecclesiastes Rabbah 5:14

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A Salty Conversation

Posted by evedyahu on April 23, 2008

Rabbi.Chofetz Chayim (His real name was Rabbi. Yisrael Meir Kagan) and another Rabbi were eating in an inn renowned for its standards of kashrus (Kosher foods are those that conform to Jewish law). The innkeeper, realizing that he had two illustrious guests, did all he could to serve them the finest meal. As the dessert was being brought out, the innkeeper asked them, “How did you like the meal?” Rabbi. Chofetz Chaim complimented the innkeeper and his cook, and thanked them warmly. The other Rabbi however mentioned that the soup could have used a little more salt. Rabbi. Chofetz Chaim turned white. “My whole life I have managed to avoid hearing Loshon Hara (bad speech) and here you have just spoken Loshon Hara.”

“What are you talking about?”, asked the other rabbi skeptically.

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Advice for Stinginess

Posted by evedyahu on April 18, 2008

One of the students became very wealthy after he was married.  But at the same time, he also became stingy.  The newly married wealthy man came to ask the Rabbi [Chofetz Chaim]: “why have I become so stingy and what advise can you offer me for this predicament?”


The Chofetz Chaim answered him with a parable.  A man came into a store to purchase flour.  He wanted to buy it cheaply, but he took a sack and began to pour more flour into it.  He filled it up with much more than he intended.  The store-keeper, naturally added more weight (to the scale) in accordance to the weight of the flower.  In the end, the buyer had to pay much more than he intended.


The Chofetz Chaim said to him, “When you became rich you should have contributed more to charity, and the trouble was that your Evil Inclination also became greater and it did not allow you even to give what you once contributed.


“The advice to counter this condition is to give and to give, and more promptly and in greater amounts.  Just as one who wants to enter a cold mikvah should jump in and not hesitate and think about it too much.”


The general rule is that a donor merits more that a receiver.  So, too, did our Sages say, “The good deed that the poor person does for the donor is greater than that which the donor does for the poor person.”


Jesus also said: It is more blessed to give… (Acts 20:35).


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Golfing for God – A Joke

Posted by evedyahu on April 8, 2008

The Pope met with his Cardinals to discuss a proposal from Ehud Olmert, the leader of Israel.

“Your Holiness”, said one of his Cardinals, “Mr. Olmert wants to challenge you to a game of golf to show the friendship and ecumenical spirit shared by the Jewish and Catholic faiths.”

The Pope thought this was a good idea, but he had never held a golf club in his hand. “Don’t we have a Cardinal to represent me?” he asked.

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Some Parables From the Mekilta-de Rabbi Ishmael

Posted by evedyahu on April 2, 2008

Forgotten Miracles:

One was traveling along the road. He encountered a wolf and was saved from him. So he kept telling the story of the wolf. Then he encountered a lion and was saved from him. So he forgot the story of the wolf and kept on telling the story of the lion. He then encountered a serpent and was saved from him. So he forgot the story of both of them and kept on telling the story of the serpent. So it is with Israel. Later troubles cause the former ones to be forgotten.


Moral: The parables focus not on the concept of “first”, but rather on the idea of most recent: recent history and greater miracles are more vivid than previous experiences.

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Prepare the Bed for a Guest by Yourself

Posted by evedyahu on April 1, 2008

The Chofetz Chaim (the name means: One Who Desires Life) observed the mitzvah (commandment) of “welcoming the guest” with special attention and care.  In caring for a guest, he would bring the linens and make the bed himself.

One of the guests couldn’t stand to watch the way the elderly Chofetz Chaim would carry the pillows and the quilt for him.  So, he pleaded that he be allowed to make his own bed.  The Chofetz Chaim did not allow his guest to make up the bed.  He said, “Would you also want to assist me when I am doning my talit (prayer shawl) and when I am putting on the tefillin (phylacteries)?  The mitzvah of ‘welcoming the guest’ belongs to me and not to the guest,” the Chofetz Chaim explained.

It used to be that important people would travel to one greater than themselves to learn a law or custom.  People (literally, the world) would travel to Radin, Poland (Chaim Chofetz lived here), just to learn the mitzvah of “welcoming the guest,” from the Chofetz Chaim.  They would come to learn how to understand the feelings of people in a strange place, how to make a stranger forget his loneliness, and how to make it so that a stranger would feel right at home.

From 100 Stories and Parables of the Chofetz Chaim (2006).

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