Project Genesis

Sefiras Haomer

Question: When are you allowed to start listening to music, and where can I find these laws?

Answer: According to those who are following the “first days” (the first 33 days), that allowance began with Lag B’Omer. According to those who follow the second days (from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until 3 days before Shavuos), the allowance begins 3 days before Shavuos (Sheloshes Yemai Hagbala).

Rabbi Akiva’s Students

[See this article for the background of this issue – Ed.]

Question: How come Rabbi Akiva’s students all died from not having respect for each other if they were the students of the man who exemplified that?

Answer: That could well have been the very reason they DID die for that failing: since they had such an exemplary role model, a great deal more was expected of them and any small weakness was considered more serious.

Question: How is possible that they were all guilty of the same thing that they all died the same exact death?

Answer: I can’t say this for sure, but perhaps not all of them were guilty of actually lacking respect for each other, but because some of them were weak in this area and the others tolerated it, it was as though they themselves shared the problem. According to Rabbi Dessler, something similar can be seen with Achan for whose sin the entire nation is held responsible (see Joshua 7: 11).

Question: How long after they died , was Rabbi Akiva killed? When did Rabbi Akiva start teaching the 5 new students?

Answer: I’m afraid I don’t have enough information to provide a chronology of these events. I will, however, offer an interesting suggestion (with no proof whatsoever): perhaps the students didn’t all die in the same year but, rather, over a longer period of time – but always during sefira. This would not be unique as the 10 Martyrs died over many decades (perhaps as long as a century apart)...

Question: Why is Lag BaOmer a celebration just because no one died – its still sad to lose 24,000 students?

Answer: You’re not the first to ask this question. While I’ve never heard a particularly satisfying answer, I don’t doubt that one exists.

Question: Were the 24,000 students part of the Bar Kochva revolt?

Answer: Probably not as the revolt occurred in the last year of Rabbi Akiva’s life.

With regards,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton

Why isn’t Shavuos Always a Sunday?

Filed under: Shavuos

Question: According to the Torah (Lev. 23:15), the Omer offering is brought on “the day after the Sabbath”, and we then count seven weeks and celebrate Shavuos. Why doesn’t Shavuos always fall on a Sunday?

Answer: “The Sabbath” in Lev.23:15 means “The holiday”, i.e. the first day of Passover. The omer offering was brought on the second day of Passover, i.e. on the 16th of Nisan, which does not always fall on the same day of the week, and Shavuos falls seven weeks later. Holidays are called “Sabbaths” because most work is forbidden on holidays; e.g., see Lev.23:7 about the prohibition of work on the first day of Passover. The weekly Sabbath is called a “Sabbath of Sabbaths” because even more types of work are forbidden; see Lev.23:3.

Bow and Arrow on Lag B’omer

 Question:What is the significance of the bow and arrow on lag b’omer

Answer: The bow and arrow were to commemorate a special victory of the
Bar-Kochba revolt against Rome (132-135 BCE) that occurred on Lag BaOmer
after several unsuccessful campaigns prior.

How did Jewish Slaves have animals?

Question: The iconic image of the Exodus is of enslaved Jews, taskmasters, building pyramids, etc. When Pharoh finally tells Moses to leave with his people, he also tells Moses to take their flocks and herds with them. How is it that the enslaved Israelites had their own animals?

Answer: Great question! It seems from the first chapter of Exodus and the Talmudic explanation of it (see Rashi’s commentary, go to that it was more of a national enslavement than a personal one. The Jews seemed
to have lived separate from the Egyptians (Jews lived in Goshen) so they had a few animals.

All the Best,
Rabbi Meir Goldberg

First Passover

Filed under: Passover

Question: When was the first Passover?

Answer: 1312 BCE. This was the year of the Exodus. The first Seder took place the night before the Exodus.

Take care,

Bread of Affliction …or Freedom?

Filed under: Passover

Question: Why is it that on Matza represents freedom if we also consider Matza a poor mans bread that we had in Egypt as slaves?

Answer: I attended Rabbi Soloveithchick’s (The Rav’s) lectures where he asked the same question: “Matzoh on the one hand symbolizes freedom and on the other hand symbolizes poverty and helplessness (Since the Jews were helpless when they were expelled from Egypt and didn’t even have time to bake bread). How can one object symbolize two opposites?”

The Rav provided the following answer:

  • Matzoh does not exclusively symbolize freedom
  • Matzoh does not exclusively symbolize poverty
  • Rather Matzoh symbolizes God’s capacity to transform freedom to poverty.

In other words when we eat Matzoh on Passover we are eating something symbolizing the poverty of slavery. But this symbol of slavery simultaneously symbolizes God’s capacity to redeem us while we were slaves.

Have an enjoyable Passover,
Dr. Russell Jay Hendel;

Moses, Pharaoh and Egypt in the Hagada

Filed under: Passover

Question: Moses is mentioned only once, in passing, in the Hagadah. I have learned that the reason is that we want to emphasize that it was G-d who took us out of Egypt and not an emissary or an angel. However, the Haggadah mentions Pharoah 7 times and Egypt over 50 times. Why? (I would rather it mention Moshe 7 times and Pharoah once).

Answer: There are many answers as to why Moses is almost absent from the Hagadah, particularly that the main focus is on God, and not a person saving us. The mention of Egypt and Pharaoh accentuate the tremendous obstacles we faced in Egypt, yet God took us out of all of those. Thus we can appreciate the light amidst the great darkness. Perhaps we could say, as our Sages tell us, that a small amount of light chases away much darkness. Thus one mention of Moses is a small amount of light that God gave us when He conquered the great darkness of Egypt.

Have a Happy Passover,
Rabbi Kolakowski

Maror - Bitter Herbs

Filed under: Passover

Question: Why do we eat the Maror (Bitter Herbs) on Passover?

Answer: God commanded us to eat 3 foods on the first night of Passover to remember 3 aspects of the miraculous way we were freed from Egyptian slavery. The Matzah reminds us of the instantaneous way hundreds of thousands of slaves were freed. The roasted lamb (which we do not eat nowadays since the lamb must be slaughtered on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem) reminds us that our freedom was in order to serve God, and the Marror reminds us of the bitter days of slavery.

All the Best,
Rabbi Azriel Schreiber

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