Sometimes Chazal make drashot on a word that you just find totally implausible. Like on daf 10b of Ketuboth they say that the term Almana- Widow- is based on the word Maneh- the amount of money an widow receives in her Ketubah if she remarries (as opposed to the double portion – maataim- that the virgin receives).

Are they for real or is it just a cute mnemonic device that happens to linguistically work out?

Thankfully the gemarah expresses the same consternation. When the word Alamana appears in the  Torah, it wasn’t known that the Rabbis would later institute this kind of Ketubah, with this specific amount. To me this is another way of saying that creative linguistics shouldn’t work backwards; you can’t assume origin from the current usage or the current value assigned. Other voices in the gemarah quiet the question by citing additional locations where the language employed by the Tanach seems to reflect a reality much later than its period of composition.

Now I’m getting into Biblical Criticism and that’s not a place I feel comfortable going….. Just want to say that while the Rabbis play with language, and imbue words with multiple meanings from multiple periods of history- granting the word  a timeless power- I also think they are winking at us, aware of the elegant word games they are playing.


The week of Yom Haatzmaut, as I prepare a shiur on whether one should say Hallel to celebrate the founding of the State, the police are blowing up a Chefetz Chashud outside my window.

First I hear a cop speaking into an intercom telling people not to cross the police line, but that could just be the end of a Hachnasat sefer torah or a street fair, which are frequent in the neighborhood.  But then I hear the sound of the police robot shooting into a chefetz chashud, blowing up a suspicious object that might be a bomb. They are unmistakable loud tight targeted shots.

I am forced to think about Rav Ovadiah’s claim that the miracle of the founding of the state is incomplete; that we can’t say Hallel on a country that still isn’t safe and secure, to the extent that there are suspicions of bombs on a quiet residential street. I think of his claim that we can’t say Hallel over a war that was so bloody and the limbo state in which we are still suffering casualties.

But then I see, in the lamplight, the silhouette of the policeman in his bulky ephod, proud as a Cohen Gadol, saunter down the street. He takes off his helmet and tells the people on the sidewalk they are free to walk down the street. There is something in his swagger, in his pride to sound the all clear to the neighborhood children, that reassures me. With all its dangers and shortcomings, this is our country and we take care of each other here, and that is reason enough for me to say Hallel.


To day is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust remembrance day. The siren sounded at 10:00 am for a moment of silence where people even stop in the highway to stand at attention. It is such an Israeli way to commemorate. It is the sound of war, a call to war to defensive stance, to miluim, to bomb shelters. It is not a sad sound, it is a fearful sound. Like at the seder where we are asked to relive the feeling of leaving Egypt, you too should feel like you lived through the holocaust and survived, you too should feel what it means to be in war to panic to think fast to make creative solutions to save yourself and to fight back.