Oxford Jewish Thought

Lectures, essays, questions & articles

by Rabbi Eli Brackman

History of the Upshernish: a medieval custom?


The custom to have a celebration for the cutting of the hair of a boy at three years old goes back over five hundred years, recorded in a work by Rabbi David Ibn Zimra (1479-1573), known as the Radbaz,[1] to perform this haircut at the gravesite of Samuel the Prophet. Kabbalist Rabbi Chaim Vital (1543-1620), disciple of Rabbi Joseph Karo, Rabbi Moses Alshich and foremost disciple of Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572) also records in Sha-ar Hakavanot:[2]


The custom in Israel to visit on the 33rd day of the Omer – Lag Ba-omer – to the tomb of the Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son Rabbi Elazar, who are buried in Maron, as is known, and eat and drink and be joyous there… Read More »

Chanukah essay: Lighting one lamp from another on the Chanukah Menorah - Tribute to Rabbi Lord Sacks

Menorah BL Add 15250.pngIn a lecture by Rabbi Sacks to the international Chabad Shluchim rabbinic conference in 2011,[1] he touched on a Talmudic dispute in tractate Shabbat,[2] regarding whether one may light one lamp from another on the Chanukah Menorah. He summarised the subject as follows: The sage Rav maintains it is forbidden to light one lamp from another, while his contemporary Shmuel says that it is permitted. The reason for this dispute is that Rav argues that when one lights one candle from another it diminishes the mitzvah (ka makchi-sh mitzvah) - oil may spill from the first candle.[3] Shmuel, however, is not concerned about this. In all cases, the law follows Rav in disputes with Shmuel,[4] besides three cases, one of which i… Read More »

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