Category Archives: torah

A few questions (and answers)

Questions from an artist who writes blessings and creates art around them. Q:“Am I allowed to draw over the letters, including Hashem’s name if you can see them underneath?” A:How you treat Hashem’s name is a metaphor for how you treat Hashem. How literally Jews take metaphors roughly depends on where they fall on the […]

DRBR 28: How to behave in Shul

What we have today is a lithograph, Das Innere einer Sinagoge in Rom, or Interior of a Synagogue in Rome; click the image at right to see a larger version. It’s by the Swiss artist Hieronymus Hess, and it’s one of a pair, the Rare Book Room doesn’t have the other half of the pair, […]

DRBR 27: Captions Sought

Right, yo. Click the image to see bigger. I’ve got nothing at all on this one; as I recall, it hasn’t been catalogued yet. No artist, no location, no date, nothing. So. What are they saying? Bring on the yeshiva jokes.

DRBR 17: In which I am rendered speechless

Regard, if you will, this photograph of a Torah scroll. That’s a Metro card under there. A Metro card is the same size as a credit card. This is a real handwritten originally-kosher sefer Torah, and it’s smaller than a credit card. It’s three inches high. Here’s another picture: Speechless? I was. When I took […]

DRBR 12e: Desserts

And now, dessert! Menu item 13: Frozen Squishies, אשישי קפאין. Explanation 13: Song of Songs 2:8 says סמכוני באשישות, sustain me with raisin-cakes. Jastrow says that ashisha comes to mean any pressed kind of food, also a jug or contents thereof. So this might be a frozen raisin-cake, or it might be an ice-cream cake […]

DRBR 12d: Drinks courses

Today, drinks. Menu item 10: Wine. Explanation 10: Psalms 128 says “Your wife shall be a fruitful vine.” Menu item 11: Beer. Explanation 11: מכי רמו שערי באסינתא, From the time they put barley into the asinta, Ketubot 8a. Ketubot 8a is discussing the early formation of the wedding-meal liturgy. Today, the standard practice is […]

DRBR 12c: In which substantial food is served

Back to the menu at this wedding feast. Menu item 4: מרק, soup. Explanation 4: תמרוקי הנשים. This one is a pun on Esther 2:12, וששה חדשים בבשמים ובתמרוקי הנשים “six months with scents and ointments for women.” Menu item 5: דג גדול, a big fish. Explanation 5: Song of Songs 2 says ודגלו עלי […]

Darosh Darash–Shemini

Here’s a section of parashat Shemini, from Leviticus 10:16: וְאֵת שְׂעִיר הַחַטָּאת דָּרֹשׁ דָּרַשׁ מֹשֶׁה וְהִנֵּה שֹׂרָף – And Moses he inquired diligently concerning the goat of the sin offering, and, behold, it was burnt. See how the scribe has stretched out the first words of the verse so dramatically? What’s going on there? An […]

Parashat Teruma and vavei ha’amudim

This week’s parasha describes the worship-tent that God commands the Israelites to construct in the wilderness. Around the tent, they are to construct a courtyard, of panels held between columns. Perhaps you’ve seen a Torah scroll being unrolled around a sanctuary at Simchat Torah. You’ve seen how it’s long enough to go around the whole […]

Why there are no vowels in the Torah, part 1

I wanted to do you a post about why there aren’t any vowels or musical notation-marks in a sefer Torah, but when I came to study the subject, I realised it’s a good deal more complicated than can fit into one post. It seemed to require a brief history of vowel-marks, which in turn required […]