Ask The Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi - 172

Become a Supporter Library Library

Ask the Rabbi

20 December 1997; Issue #172

  • De Vine Revelation
  • Sheviti
  • What the Dead Know
  • Sanhedrin of Seventy
  • Thatís What Western Walls are Made Of
  • Answer To Yiddle Riddle
  • Public Domain
  • Subscription Information
  • Back issues are indexed both by issue no. and by subject
  • Ohr Somayach Home Page

    This publication is also available in the following formats: [Text] [Word] [PDF] Explanation of these symbols

  • De Vine Revelation


    Derek Koss wrote:

    Dear Rabbi,

    When the flood was over, the first thing Noah did was get drunk. Why? And what was the lesson from that? Noah acted so strangely from his drinking that his behaviors became a moral question. What was G-d saying? wrote:

    Dear Rabbi,

    How did Noah know how to make alcohol? How did he get drunk?

    Dear Derek Koss and Ira,

    As for Noah knowing how to make wine, there's no reason to think that people didn't know how to make wine before the flood. Noah was 600 years old at the time of the flood, so he had plenty of time to learn what everyone else knew. Besides, grape juice ferments by itself when left to react with the oxygen in the air and it naturally becomes wine.

    The Midrash relates that Noah took vine branches into the ark with him. He decided to begin the process of rebuilding the world by planting them. This was his first mistake, for he should have begun planting something more vital for mankind's existence - wheat, for example. One mistake leads to another: He made wine, had a drink, then another and another. Once drunk, he lost his dignity. The message is that the pleasures of the world are available for us, but we must exercise restraint and never lose sight of our role as a holy people.


    • Bereishis Rabba 36:4
    • Midrash Aggada 9:21


    Howard D Feiner from San Mateo, California wrote:

    What is a "sheviti?" What do they say and are there any special things about them?

    Dear Howard D Feiner,

    A "sheviti" is a written page with the verse "I have placed G-d before me always" and sometimes also Psalm 67 written in the form of a menorah. The Hebrew word sheviti means "I have placed." The purpose of the sheviti is to arouse a person's awareness of the presence of God and to instill fear of heaven. Many synagogues have such posters on the wall, or in front of the cantor and some place small pages in their prayerbooks. Some authorities are against production of the small shevitis since it is very likely that they will be lost, or not treated with the proper respect due to something that contains the name of Hashem.


    • Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 1:1
    • Ramah, Mishna Berurah ad loc. Paragraph 4

    What The Dead Know

    Chava wrote:

    Dear Rabbi,

    What do we believe about the knowledge people who have passed away have of events in this world? My father passed away almost two years ago. My sister just got engaged, baruch Hashem. Does my father have any knowledge of this? I thank you for your time.

    Dear Chava,

    Yes, the dead can sometimes have awareness of what goes on in this world. There's actually a custom to try to get engaged and married soon after the passing of a parent in order to bring joy to the deceased parent. So, it's possible that your father knows about your sister's engagement and that it's bringing him joy.


    • Tractate Berachos 18b

    Sanhedrin of Seventy

    Avraham Shimon Becher age 11 wrote:

    Dear Rabbi,

    The Anshei Knesset Hagedola had 120 judges. I think the Talmud says that you're not meant to have an even numbered beit din (rabbinical court) so as to avoid a tied vote. So how could the Anshei Knesset Hagedola have 120 judges?

    Dear Avraham Shimon Becher,

    The Anshei Knesset Hagedola was not a beit din for the purpose of judging civil or criminal cases. The maximum beit din in that regard was 71 members, like the "Beit Din Hagadol" also known as the "Sanhedrin Gedola." This number is derived from the verse in the Torah where G-d tells Moshe to gather 70 elders; including Moshe himself there were 71.

    Rather, the Anshei Knesset Hagedola was a body that issued Rabbinic enactments, compiled parts of the Bible and instituted the blessings and prayers.


    • Bamidbar 11:16
    • Sanhedrin 2a, 3a & 40a
    • Megillah 2a
    • Bava Basra 15b
    • Berachos 33a

    Thats What Western Wall Are Made Of

    Wendy Davis wrote:

    What is the Western Wall made of? Were the stones quarried in Israel. Thank you.

    Dear Wendy Davis,

    The Western Wall is made of sandstone which is very common in the central Israel area. It was almost certainly quarried in Israel. First of all, the stone is very common here, and is still quarried and used in building today in Israel. Secondly, some of the stones are incredibly heavy, and would have been extemely difficult to transport. There is one stone that weighs approx. 250 tons!

    Answer to Yiddle Riddle


    Baruch Sterman wrote us with the following riddle:

    When one of the Chassidic Rebbes was eight years old he was asked a riddle: "What verse in the Torah has the first three words the same as the last three words?" He replied, "The verse where Moses did not say emet (the truth)." What did he mean?

    Answer: In the last verse in Parshat Shlach, Moses quotes G-d: "Ani Hashem Elokaychem ... Ani Hashem Elokaychem" - "I am the L-rd your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt to be your G-d, I am the L-rd your G-d." After this verse during the recital of the Shema, we immediately add the word "emet" - "truth" - as though this word were part of the verse. This, however, is not the way the verse appears in the Torah. Therefore, this is the verse in which Moses did not say the word "emet," although when we read the verse, we do say "emet."

    The Public Domain
    Comments, quibbles, and reactions concerning previous "Ask-the-Rabbi" features.


    One more suggestion for someone whose name spelled backwards describes them: This was told to me by Malka Mantin. "Moshe" which spelled backwards is "Hashem," and Moshe is described as an "Eved Hashem" - "Servant of G-d.", Yeshiva U.

    Some possible answers to the Yiddle Riddle:

    Moshe - his name spelled backwards is "Hashem." Leah - she cried to "HaKel" (Hashem) so that she wouldn't have to marry Esav.

    Re: Minyan Motivation: Another version of the story is that there once was a town with 10 Jewish men, and they always had a minyan - however, when the 11th man moved into town, they could never get a minyan - each one thought he could stay home because there would be exactly 10 without him.

    Howard Kravitz from Chicago, IL

    © 1997 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved. This publication may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue newsletters. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission, and then send us a sample issue.

    This publication is available via E-Mail
    Ohr Somayach Institutions is an international network of Yeshivot and outreach centers, with branches in North America, Europe, South Africa and South America. The Central Campus in Jerusalem provides a full range of educational services for over 685 full-time students.

    The Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) of Ohr Somayach offers summer and winter programs in Israel that attract hundreds of university students from around the world for 3 to 8 weeks of study and touring.

    Ohr Somayach's Web site is hosted by TeamGenesis

    Copyright © 1997 Ohr Somayach International. Send us Feedback.
    Dedication opportunities are available for Ask The Rabbi. Please contact us for details.
    Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.