Judaism features

A question for your Seder table: why do we have three matzot?

By Rabbi Chaim Weiner, April 21, 2016

There is an almost universal custom to place three pieces of matzah on the Seder table. In the list of instructions at the beginning of the Haggadah the three matzot are always mentioned. Judaica shops around the world sell plates with three sections for each of the matzot. So it might come as a surprise that it is not at all clear why one should have three pieces of matzah at the Seder.


Why Israel should look east for a model of religious moderation

By Simon Rocker, April 14, 2016

When Eli Bareket was growing up in Israel, he reached the final of a pre-Pesach school quiz. One of the questions, about the Seder song Echad Mi Yadea, asked "who knows two"?

Two are the tablets which Moses brought down from Sinai, of course. But that was not what young Eli wrote. He put down "Moses and Aaron". "Wrong," said the teacher.


We don't need to get in a stew over the ban on beans at Pesach

By Rabbi Dr Jeffrey Cohen, April 7, 2016

Most people are extra-scrupulous when it comes to the kashrut of the Pesach products they buy, and the sight of Ashkenazi shoppers peering at labels to determine whether or not a particular foodstuff contains kitniot, legumes, has become a permanent feature of the run-up to Pesach.

Nevertheless, Ashkenazi frustration seems to grow more and more vocal with each passing year at what many perceive


We need Sacks to lead the battle against synagogue 'apartheid'

By Rabbi Stuart Altshuler, March 31, 2016

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks's Not in God's Name is a masterpiece that should be read by all of us. The book is an essential and brilliant dissertation which combines the best of Jewish ethics, theology and vision in attempting to explain and extirpate the problem of religious and political extremism.


More than one Book of Esther?

By Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris, March 17, 2016

Did the events described in the Book of Esther really happen? In academic circles this question is described as a question of historicity and for more than a century scholars have expended large amounts of energy producing papers and books that say largely the same thing: no historical basis exists for the events in the Book of Esther.


If we can't convert the parents, we can still reach the children

By Jonathan Romain, March 10, 2016

It is one of the great puzzles within the rabbinic world.


When 12 turns into 13: the extra dimensions of a leap year

By Rabbi David Lister, March 3, 2016

This year, the Jewish year has 13 months. Since our months start with the new moon, it means that 12 months make just 354 days instead of the 365 and a quarter days of the solar year. If our calendar were solely lunar, our festivals would begin 11 days earlier in the season every year, so Passover would migrate back through winter into autumn.


The prof who digitised rabbis

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2016

To keep up with debates at the talmudic academy in ancient days, you had to have a pretty good memory. Since manuscripts were scarce, whatever information you wanted to support your argument needed to be stored inside your head.


Why translation was a hot topic

By Dr Harry Freedman, February 11, 2016

The first translation of the Torah was, according to one early rabbinic opinion, an event as tragic as the making of the golden calf. Another source said that darkness fell on the earth for three days. These may be extreme views. But there is no doubt that the first Bible translation was highly controversial.


A day of eating fruit - and enjoying a little taste of Eden

January 21, 2016

The month of Shevat is a month of endings. Nisan was the first month in the Jewish calendar (Exodus 12:2), and Tevet was the tenth month. Ten in Judaism indicates completeness, as in the Ten Plagues, Ten Commandments, Ten Days of Penitence.

So Shevat, the eleventh month, seems to be the month of retirement, a time to look back on work done but not a time to do more.