Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 11 December 2004 / 28 Kislev 5765

Mountains, Salt and Apocrypha

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From: Julia Denton

Dear Rabbi,

I have read that Mount Carmel, Mount Tavor, and Mount Sinai will all join together to be the site of the 3rd Beit Hamikdash (Temple). How is this possible aren't these mountains physically some distance apart? Or is this meant on a deeper spiritual level?

Dear Julia,

The deeper meaning of the Midrash you mention (in Yalkut Shimoni) is that these three mountains each symbolize something fundamental about the Jewish People. Mount Sinai is where the Torah was given. Mount Carmel is where Elijah performed a miracle that spurred the Jews to reaffirm their faith in G-d. Mount Tavor was where Sisera's army was routed, thus saving the Jewish people from destruction. The essence of each mountain respectively is Torah, G-d's spiritual protection and G-d's physical protection. The final Temple will reveal each of these three aspects so clearly that it will be as if the three mountains have come together.

From: Herman C. Weinberg M.D.

Dear Rabbi,

Why do we have to salt some meats before we can use them? When did the law start? What is the source?

Dear Dr. Weinberg,

In Jewish Law there is no obligation, per se, to salt meat. Rather, the obligation is to remove the shechita blood contained in the meat after slaughtering. The halacha offers several options as to how to do this. For example: roasting the meat over an open fire, pickling the meat so that no blood comes out, or salting the meat to remove the blood. Salting is the most practical method as it preserves the meat and is necessarily in order to be able to cook it. Seemingly, the method of salting was transmitted by Moses.

From: John Bailey

Dear Rabbi,

How does the Apocrypha relate to the halacha?

Dear John,

Several books have been written at various times that were not included in Tanach (Hebrew Scriptures). For example, "Sefer Hashmonaim", "Igeret Yirmiyahu", "Hochmat Shlomo", "Yehudit", "Ben Sira", "Shoshana", "Baruch" and "Tuviya". These are known in English as Apocrypha and in Hebrew as sefarim chitzonim, which means "external books" (Sanhedrin 100b, Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 50b).

These books were not included in Tanach for several reasons: They were not prophetic nor were they written with Divine inspiration (Tosefta Yadayim). As aresult, they were not considered holy by the Jewish community and were not preserved accurately. Finally, there are elements of the books that contain ideas contrary to Judaism (Rashi, Sanhedrin 100b). Nevertheless, wisdom in these books that does not contradict the Torah is sometimes quoted, but for the above reasons cannot be used as a source for halacha.

One book which is considered to be original and accurate is "The Scroll of Antiochus". It is printed in the Siddur Otzar HaTefilot in Hebrew and an English translation appears in the Philip Birenbaum Siddur. It is recommended reading for Chanuka.

Happy Chanuka!

  • Sources: Thanks to Rabbi Reuven Lauffer

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