Friday, November 09, 2018

Rabbi Yaakov Zev Lev

With a heavy heart, I dedicated this week's article to the memory of my dear friend Rabbi Yaakov Zev Lev (1946-2018). He passed away this past Monday after battling cancer for several months. Rabbi Lev was originally from the USA, but came as a youngster to the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, where he figuratively became "part of the furniture" in the Beis Midrash. For Rabbi Lev, every day of Torah Study was as exciting as the previous. He was said to have learned with the same chavrusa for forty years! Rabbi Lev was a master Talmid Chacham and authored the work Me'at Tzari, a commentary to Targum Onkelos. I personally spoke to him from time to time (usually at his seat in the Main Beis Midrash of the Mir during lunch time) and he always had the kindest, most encouraging things to say. He will sorely be missed. 
לע"נ הרה"ג יעקב זאב ב"ר ישראל לב זצ"ל. תנצב"ה.

Pictured: Rabbi Yaakov Zev Lev reading a Kesubah, to his right stands Rabbi Binyomin Finkel of the Mir Yeshiva.

New Release - God versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry

Mosaica Press together with Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein have just released a new ground-breaking work entitled God versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry.

God versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry seeks to understand the Bible’s accounts of polytheism, follows its history, and focuses on the struggle between Jewish Monotheism and pagan/idolatrous cults in the Biblical period. An extended section is devoted to understanding the Talmudic concept concerning the paradigm shift which emptied the world of the Evil Inclination for Avodah Zarah, and its implications from a religious perspective. 

This unique work delves into the Bible’s view of the history of idolatry, as well as the hermeneutical, philological, Kabbalistic, and Halachic approaches to this topic taken by various Rabbinic figures through the ages. The second part of this book consists of an encyclopedia that lists and elaborates upon every foreign deity mentioned in the Bible. The author also compares and contrasts traditional Jewish views to those of modern-day academia (addressing archeology and philology of the Levant), offering proofs and difficulties to both approaches.

As the old saying goes, “Two Jews, three opinions.” In almost every chapter, more than one way of looking at the matter at hand is presented. In some cases, the differing opinions can be harmonized, but ultimately many matters remain subject to dispute. Hopefully, the mere knowledge of these sources will whet the reader’s intellectual curiosity to learn more.

Written by a brilliant young scholar, God versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry is ground-breaking, intriguing, and remarkable. This book is available on and at better Jewish bookstores near you. For review copies or bulk orders please contact

Besides on Amazon, the books are also available at other Online Jewish Bookstores:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Purim Quiz

Level 1
1. What is the name of the scroll we read on Purim? Megillas Esther.
2. What was the name of the Persian king in the Book of Esther? Achashverosh.
3. What was the Persian capital city in the Book of Esther? Shushan (Susa).
4. What does Purim literally mean? Lottery.
5. What do we call the fast day before Purim? Taanis Esther.
6. From which nation does tradition tell us Haman descends? Amalek.
7. Which Jewish king lost his right to the kingship for failing to kill out the Amalekites? Shaul.
8. What are the Jews called in the Book of Esther? Yehudim.
9. When is it customary to make noise during the Megillah reading? When mentioning the name Haman.
10. Who was Achashverosh’s first wife? Vashti.
11. Besides Shachris and Mincha, what else do we pray on Purim? Maariv.
12. If Purim is the 14th of Adar, then what do we call the 15th of Adar? Shushan Purim.
13. In years that there are two months of Adar, in which one do we celebrate Purim? The second.
14. How many times do we read the Book of Esther on Purim? Twice.
15. How was Haman killed? Hanged.
16. How many years was the Babylonian Exile? Seventy years.
17. How was Amalek related to Eisav? Eisav was his grandfather.
18. Which miracle happened earlier in history, Purim or Chanuka? Purim.
19. For how many days did the Jews fast in the Book of Esther? Three.
20. The four commandments on Purim are: Read the Megillah, send Mishloach Manos, party, and what else? Give alms to the poor (Matanos LaEvyonim).
Level 2
1. When do we read Parshas Zachor? The week before Purim.
2. In which part of Tanach is the Book of Esther—Torah, Neviim, or Kesuvim? Kesuvim.
3. Over how many provinces did Achashverosh rule? 127 [or Gemara: first 7, then 20, then 100]. 
4. How many sons were hanged with Haman? 10.
5. What special prayer do we say in Shemoneh Esrei on Purim? Al HaNissim.
6. Why did Vashti not wish to appear before Achashverosh? She had tzaraas or grew a tail.
7. Which two people tried to kill Achashverosh? Bigsan and Seresh.
8. How tall were the gallows upon which Haman and sons were hanged? 50 Amos.
9. Why don’t we say Hallel in Purim? The miracle happened outside of the Holy Land, the Megillah is instead of Hallel.
10. Why was Haman happy when the lottery said that he should kill the Jews in the month of Adar? Because that was the month that Moshe Rabbeinu died.
11. When do we say the Bracha She’hechiyanu on Purim? Before reading the Megillah.
12. Which holiday is one month after Purim? Pesach.
13. From which tribe were Mordechai and Shaul HaMelech? Binyamin.
14. In the Bible’s way of counting months, what number month is Adar? Twelve.
15. What do we read from the Torah on Purim at Shachris? The war with Amalek in Shemos.
16. When Achashverosh asked Haman how to repay a man who saved the king’s life what did he say? Mount him on the king’s horse, dress him in the king’s clothes, and proclaim “so shall be done to the man whom the king wishes to honor”.
17. What special prayer do we add to Birkas HaMazon on Purim? Al HaNissim.
18. Which cities celebrate Purim on the fifteenth of Adar? Any city that was walled in the time of Yehoshua.
19. Which Tractate of the Mishnah speaks about the Laws of Purim? Megillah.
20. What is the Bracha for Mishloach Manot? There is no bracha for it.
Level 3
1. Who was Hadassah? Another name for Esther.
2. What is Daniel’s name when he appears in the Book of Esther? Hasach.
3. Which animal represents the Persians in Daniel’s vision of the Four Beasts? The bear.
4. Who was Haman’s wife? Zeresh.
5. Besides the special cantillation tune used for reading Megillas Esther, what other cantillation mode is used in reading some verses of the Megillah? That of Eicha (Lamentations).
6. Why did Bigsan and Seresh want to kill Achashverosh? Ever since he married Esther, he would spend a lot of time being intimate with her and was often thirsty and so he asked them to bring him drinks too often and they didn’t get to sleep (Rashi to Megillah 13b).
7. The word pur means “lottery”. What is another word in the Book of Esther which means the same thing? Goral.
8. What does sris ha-Melech mean? Royal eunuch/minister.
9. How many Aliyahs are read from the Torah on Purim at Shachris? 3.
10. What did Memuchan say in the Megillah? Make a proclamation that the man is in charge of the 
house, replace Vashti with another queen.
11. The Bracha on reading the Megillah is read in the same tune as what other Brachah? The Bracha before blowing the Shofar.
12. What part of the Megillah happened in the month of Teves? Esther was taken to Achashverosh.
13. What was the relationship between Esther and Mordechai? First cousin, husband and wife (some say niece, but it’s a mistake!).
14. If the 14th of Adar falls out on Shabbos, when do we read the Megillah? On the 15th.
15. What Purim delicacy is named after a character in the Megillah? Hamantaschen, Oznei Haman.
16. What part of the Megillah is customary to be read in one breath? The ten sons of Haman.
17. What do we call the 14th of Adar in the first of Adar in years that there are two Adars? Purim Koton.
18. What is the end of this passuk, “LaYehudim Haysa Orah…”? “VeSimcha veSasson VaYikar”.
19. The commandment of Mishloach Manot requires sending foodstuffs to who many people? One.
20. Who was Haman’s father? Hamdasa.
Level 4
1. Why did the Jews in the time of Haman deserve to be destroyed? They bowed to the idol of Nebuchadnazzar or they partook in Achashverosh’s party.
2. How many maidservants did Queen Esther have? Seven.
3. In cities that celebrate Purim on the 14th of Adar, what do we read from the Torah on Shushan Purim? Nothing special.
4. What did Achashverosh do to the islands at the end of the Megillah? He taxed them.
5. Who was Vashti’s grandfather? Belshazzar, king of Babylon.
6. On what day of the year was Moshe Rabbeinu born? 7th of Adar.
7. How long did the assembled virgins have to prepare before being brought to Achashverosh? 12 months.
8. Which Babylonian king exiled Joachin from Jerusalem? Nebuchadnazzar.
9. In what month did the Jews fast in the story of Purim? Nissan.
10. In what year of Achashverosh’s reign did Haman cast his lottery for choosing the month to destroy the Jews? 12th year.
11. What Bracha do we say in Kiddush on Purim? There is no Kiddush on Purim.
12. According to a poem read after the Megillah, when the Jews saw which element of Mordechai’s clothes did they become happy? The techeiles (either on his tzitzis or as royal clothes).
13. Who was Parshandasa? A son of Haman (according to one Midrash, the minister of the Kurds).
14. Who killed the Amalek king Agag? Shmuel HaNavi.
15. Who was in charge of Achashverosh’s harem? Heygai or Heygeh.
16. When we read the verse BaLayla HaHu Nudedah Shnas HaMelech the custom is to chant the word HAMELECH. When else do we say the word HaMelech in that tune? On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
17. Who was Esther’s father? Avichayil.
18. How many Megillas are there in Tanach? Five.
19. How many languages was a member of the Sanhedrin required to know? Seventy.
20. Who said the famous words, Mi Hu Ze VeEizeh Hu? Achashverosh.
Level 5
1. Who was Kish in Megillas Esther? Mordechai’s great-grandfather.
2. How many times in a 19-year cycle are there two Adars? Seven.
3. On what day of the year did the proclamation go out that the Jews are allowed to defend themselves? 23rd of Sivan.
4. The Talmud relates that one time on Purim, Rabbah got drunk and slaughtered Rav Zeira. What happened afterwards? He prayed for his resurrection and he came back to life.
5. What Haftarah is read on Purim? There is none.
6. What is another name for Mordechai? Pesachya or Malachi.
7. How many enemies did the Jews kill in the city of Shushan? 500.
8. Is Job one of the five Megillas? No.
9. What do they call it in Jerusalem when the 15th of Adar falls out on Shabbos? Purim Meshulash.
10. How many times does Haman’s name appear in the Megillah? 54.

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