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What is the Reason? Havdalah, Tal, & Tzitzit

Is there a specific reason for the order of the blessings of Havdala? E.S. The Tashbetz, Rabbi Shimon ben Tzemach Duran (1361-1444) in his Magen Avot, Volume III, Chapter 4, say that the order of the blessings is based on the ierarchy of the senses. The first blessing is on the wine, which we taste, interestingly enough, considered by the Tashbetz to be the least sensitive of the senses. (Too much Jewish/Spanish/Moroccan cooking?) We can only taste something directly. We cannot taste from a distance. The second blessing, on the spices, is for smell, considered a “higher” sense than taste, because it does not need immediate contact with something in order to sense its fragrance. The third blessing, on the candle, is for sight, which has a much farther reach than taste and smell. The final blessing, that of separation, focuses on our intellect and higher faculties.


Why do we refer to rain as both “Geshem” and “Matar” in “Mashiv HaRuach U’Morid HaGeshem” and “Morid HaTal”? Is there a difference between the two words? Why do we include the wind in the former? N.M.

There is an interesting Chatam Sofer (Derashot, Volume II, Page 376) that explains that “Geshem” (rain) is affected by our speech. The rain is corrupted by corrupt speech such as gossip, insults, anger and meaningless prayers. (The first mention of acid rain!) We mention that God is the Source of the wind that blows the wind as a way to request that He heal the rain of its injuries.

Rabbeinu Bachya (Deuteronomy 11:17) explains the difference between “Geshem” and “Matar”. The word “Geshem” refers to something physical, rain originating in the ocean, whereas rain, that originates in the celestial spheres is described by both “Geshem” and “Matar”.

Is it true that one may not use scissors to trim the strings of Tzitzit, even before they are wound? U.S.

It is true. The Kaf Hachaim (O”H 11: 17 & 39) compares the sanctity of Tzitzit to that of the stones of the Altar and Temple, about which the Torah teaches; (Deuteronomy 27:5) “You shall not raise iron on them.” He writes that it is better to use your 32 teeth, which correspond to the 32 strings, to trim them!

The Noam Elimelech (Noah) says that each generation has a “root” to repair one specific Mitzvah and that his generation should focus on Tzitzit.

We believe that Elijah the Prophet appears at every circumcision. Is there anything similar for girls? S.L.

Divrei Naftali (Bereishit; “V’chol asher”) says in the name of the Belzer Rebbe that Elijah appears at the naming of the daughter just as he appears at a circumcision. He bases on a verse (Genesis 2:19) “Whatever the man called…” The first letter of each word spells out Eliyahu. He continues by quoting the Yismach Moshe that Elijah also appears at a Pidyon Haben.

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