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Ask the Rabbi - 274

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Ask the Rabbi

20 May 2000; Issue #274

Meah Shearim


Stephanie from Tomelilla, Sweden wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

What is Meah Shearim?

Dear Stephanie,

Meah Shearim is the name of a Jerusalem neighborhood about a ten minute walk from where I am sitting!

"Meah Shearim" means "a hundred-fold" or "a hundred gates." It is one of the oldest Jerusalem neighborhoods outside the walls of the old city, founded by devoutly orthodox Jews in the 19th century.

It was originally settled by just over 100 families who signed up to be part of the new "colony," and they took the name "Meah Shearim" from the weekly Torah reading. The signing occurred during "Parshat Toldot," the week when the Torah portion read in synagogues tells of Isaac's great success: "He planted in that land and found in that (famine) year a hundred-fold (of the estimated produce), for G-d had blessed him." (Genesis 26) Thus, the place was named Meah Shearim, indicating Divine blessing 100 times the expected.

This name was also chosen due to the founders' awareness of kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. The numerical value of the words Meah Shearim equals 666, which has esoteric and kabbalistic meaning in Judaism, as indicated by the Vilna Gaon in his commentary to the Zohar.

Stephanie, thank you for your question! Because of it, I was able to learn some fascinating new insights into a neighborhood which I can see from my window.

Guinness World Records -- The World's Youngest Rabbi


Duncan Flett from London, UK wrote:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am a researcher with Guinness World Records, the world's biggest selling copyright book. I write as one who needs some help with an issue concerning Judaism -- should you not be able to help me could you please kindly pass this mail onto a colleague or associate that you think may be able to help. I am currently looking into finding the world's youngest qualified rabbi ever. I was hoping you could help point me in the right direction. Many thanks.

Dear Duncan Flett,

The Talmud records that Shmuel Hanavi (Samuel the Prophet) at age two rendered a complicated yet correct legal decision based on the Talmudic principles of Biblical interpretation. The correctness of his ruling was endorsed by the High Priest and the leading Sage of the day, Eli Hakohen. (Talmud Bavli, Tractate Berachot 31b)

The basis for understanding that the above encounter occurred while Shmuel was only two is the Book of Samuel I, chapter one, which records this event as having taken place just after the child was weaned, which throughout the Talmudic writings is considered to be age two. (Tractate Ketubot and elsewhere.)

That would make him just about the youngest Rabbi around!

Who is a Bagel


<Name@Withheld> in Germany wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

What's a bagel?

Dear <Name@Withheld>,

A hole with dough around it! A bagel is an individual-sized, ring-shaped bread roll. It is made from yeast dough, briefly boiled and then baked.

The bagel has given rise to the ancient saying: The optimist sees the bagel, the pessimist sees the hole!

Who Knows 15?

In the song at the end of the Pesach Seder we describe the significance of the numbers from one to thirteen as they relate to Jewish life and thought. "Three are the fathers, Four are the Mothers�12 are the Tribes of Israel�" What about the next 13 numbers? And after those? What significance do they have in Jewish tradition?

This week, we challenge to answer: "Who knows 15?"
Write to

Last time we asked: Who knows 14? Here are some reader responses:

How about: 4 cups of wine, 3 matzahs, 6 items on seder plate (beitza, z'roa, karpas, chazeres, marror, charoses), and salt water = 14 things used at the seder.

I was born and raised in Amsterdam, Holland and every year at the seder we used to say: "And 14 who knows? 14 is Johan Cruijff (world famous Dutch soccer player with number 14 on his shirt). Sorry I couldn't come up with something more halachic.

Rachel's 14 family members who go to Egypt (Bereishet 46:22).

I know 14! 14 is the number of calendrical permutations (i.e. depending on whether the year has 12 or 13 months, what day Rosh Hashana is on, etc. the calendar can take on 14 different arrangements).

14 years Yaakov worked for Rachel and Leah, 14 advisers to King Achashverosh.

14 years conquering and settling the Land of Israel by Joshua and the 12 tribes.

14 separate ritual components of the seder, kadesh urchatz, etc. (Motzi-matzah is regarded as one).

Rabbi Jeffrey M. Cohen
Stanmore, Middlesex, UK

14 lambs offered each day of Succot; 14 days of dedication of the first Temple by Solomon.

Rabbi Edward M. Friedman,
Synagogue Emanu-El,
Charleston, S. Carolina

The 14 books of Rambam's (Maimonides) Yad Hachazakah. The Hebrew word "yad" has the numerical value 14.

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