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Dayyenu is enough — really?

ONE of the most popular parts of the Passover seder is Dayyenu. Jews love it and sing it over and over. For many children, it is their earliest memory of the seder.

There is a problem, however. The words of Dayyenu seem to make no sense. Take this stanza: If He had given us the Egyptians’ wealth and had not divided the sea for us, it would have been sufficient.

Really?

We would have stood at the shores of the Reed Sea, the armed chariots of the Egyptians in hot pursuit. Our new found wealth would not have stopped the Egyptians from slaughtering us or re-enslaving us, not to mention retaking our wealth. Obviously, it would not have been sufficient had G-d given us the Egyptians’ wealth without an escape route.

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Silence in the Haggadah and beyond

Silence in the Haggadah and beyond PASSOVER EDITION SECTION A PAGE 4 “. . . a time to be silent and a time to speak.” — Ecclesiastes 3:7 HAGADDAH means “telling” and Passover, of course, is the holiday of retelling the exodus from Egypt — the holiday of conversation, of questions and answers, of debates and inquiry. However, in one small corner of the Haggadah silence reigns. The fourth son in the Haggadah does not know how to ask a question. “You open up for him,” says the Haggadah. You start the conversatio...

Last Updated ( Friday, 11 April 2014 02:57 )

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Denial and the demonic

Denial and the demonicOn its face, this portion is Leviticus at its most inaccessible. Ugly lesions and discolorations appear on a person’s body. The victim turns to the priest. Based on the criteria laid down in last week’s portion, the priest knows whether this disfigurement is a sign of disease, requiring medical treatment, or a sign of ritual impurity. If the latter, the priest banishes the victim from all contact with society. Depending on various changes in the victim’s physical condition, he remains in ...
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Non-reason in Judaism and physics

Non-reason in Judaism and physicsIT turns out that reason has less of a hold on religion and science that one might suppose; or, at least, on Judaism and physics. In Jewish legal lingo, a “decree”  is a rule that runs against reason. The classic decree is that of the Red Cow. Its ashes, ritually prepared, contaminate its preparers; at the same time, these ashes purify the impure people on whom the ashes, mixed with spring water, are sprinkled. Same object: ashes. Two diametrically opposed results: impurity and purity. ...

Last Updated ( Friday, 28 March 2014 06:03 )

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Ten misconceptions about mikveh

Ten misconceptions about mikvehThe fundamental laws of mikveh derive from part of a single verse in this week’s Torah portion: “Only a wellspring and a pit, a gathering of water, will purify . . . ” (Lev. 11:36). There are ten misconceptions about a mikveh’s uses, users, makeup, costs and relation to cleanliness. Misconception 1: The mikveh cleanses a dirty person. It’s just the opposite. An immersion in a mikveh is invalid if even the tiniest piece of dirt adheres to the body. Nothing may intervene between the i...

Last Updated ( Thursday, 20 March 2014 03:26 )

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