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Festooning with Foliage: Minhag Yisrael or Chukos Hagoyim?

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz

Communities around the world uphold the custom at Shavuos time to adorn their shuls with greenery, in an echo of Mount Sinai’s blooming flowers at the giving of the Torah. What are the reasons underlying this minhag? And why do so many shuls not observe it? An exploration of the halachic underpinnings to this time-honored practice.

 

Alone in the Crowd: Relating to the Converts of Amon and Moav

Rabbi Moshe Hubner

The Midrash says we read Megillas Ruth on Shavuos to learn “the great reward for those who act with kindness toward others” — referring specifically to Boaz’s kindness toward the Moabite convert Ruth. Yet in light of a clear Biblical commandment not to be kind to Moabites, was Boaz’s behavior even permissible? A fascinating examination of one of this Megillah’s halachic aspects.

 

What Did Moshe Not Receive on Har Sinai, and Why?

Rabbi Dovid Rosman

The commentators debate when exactly the Torah was transmitted. Last year (“What We Actually Learned at Sinai,” Kolmus #20) we discussed whether Moshe transmitted the entire Torah to Bnei Yisrael at Har Sinai, or it was given gradually over the course of their travels in the desert. In this article, we will investigate the question of when Moshe himself received the Torah from Hashem.

 

Gone Missing: The Daily Bircas Kohanim in Chutz La’Aretz

Rabbi Shimshon Nadel

Living in Eretz Yisrael, I am privileged to bless the Jewish People every single day — and on some days, more than once. But outside of the Land of Israel, aside from some Sephardic communities, Bircas Kohanim is performed only during the Yamim Tovim at Musaf. The obvious question is: Why isn’t Bircas Kohanim performed in the Diaspora daily? The following are some of the responses that have been offered over the centuries to that question.

 

The First Jew in America

Rabbi Eliezer Eisikovits

He was a Jew born in Prague who encountered tribes of bloodthirsty Indians in America, helped found the first British colony in the New World, helped the British repel the attack of the mighty Spanish Armada, and then nearly had his life cut short because of his Jewish faith. A journey through the fascinating life story of Joachim Gans, an old-world Jew who helped found the New.

 

Mitzvos before Matan Torah

Yoram Bogacz

We often find in Torah sources the notion that the nation’s forefathers — Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov — observed the entire Torah, even though they lived before the Torah was given to the Jewish people at Har Sinai. This has given rise to a vast rabbinic literature that interprets and clarifies various passages in the Torah in light of this principle, and addresses what appear to be counterexamples to it. In this article, we will clarify the concept of Torah observance in the pre-Matan Torah era.

 

HaNeiros Halalu: When do we recite it, and why?

Rabbi Moshe Isaac Blau and Rabbi Nachum Halevi

There is a custom to recite the passage known as Haneiros halalu when the Chanukah menorah is lit. When was Haneiros halalu composed, and when do we recite it? What is its correct text, and what is the significance of the number of its words?

 

The Jewish Duke of Naxos

Shalom Fertig

Four and a half centuries after he strode across the world stage, the life of Don Yosef Nasi, history’s only Jewish nobleman, remain a source of fascination. In the dangerous world of medieval Europe, he put his wide-ranging contacts, great personal charm and deep empathy at the service of his beleaguered Jewish brethren, while wielding immense influence in the political realm. A profile of a Jewish duke.

 

And the Jews Had Light: A Scientist Draws Lessons from Light

Rabbi Eliezer Eizikowitz

What is the spiritual significance of the miraculous properties of light? Where did the Torah allude to the speed of light, millennia before scientists discussed the phenomenon? Rabbi Eliezer Eizikowitz speaks with Dr. Yaakov Lerner, chief scientist at the Institute for Science and Halacha, about these and other questions.

 

The Fast of the Tenth Month: An Unusual Taanis

Rabbi Avraham Kosman

While the existence of a fast in Teves is referred to in Tanach, the great Tannaim Rabi Akiva and Rabi Shimon bar Yochai differ on its exact date. How did a dispute arise regarding such a fundamental matter? And, does the fast of Asarah B’Teves override Shabbos, as Yom Kippur does?

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