• October 18, 2021
  • 12 5782, Heshvan
  • פרשת וירא

MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts

MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts

“I heard that…” “My bubbe says…” “Everybody knows…” But are they correct? Join Rabbi Uri Cohen in debunking urban legends, folk etymologies/frauds and forgeries, and unlikely stories, and in giving some context to seemingly problematic rabbinic texts.

Next Class

October 21, 2021
3
Days
16
Hours
48
Mins

Timezone

Time of Class

Thu 5:00 pm, 6:00 pm
April 22, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session One (4-22-21)
Class description

Urban Legend:
“If you have a tattoo, you can’t get buried in a Jewish cemetery!”

An Unlikely Story:
“The Chofetz Chaim had an encounter from which he learned that you shouldn’t say Lashon HaRa even about yourself!”

Street Torah:
“Reclining at the Seder is to the left, because if you lean right you could choke!”

Folk Etymology:
“The phrase ‘bubbe mysehs’ is the Yiddish equivalent of ‘old wives’ tales’!”

Don’t Know Much About History:
“Jewish slaves built the pyramids!”

Misunderstood Text:
Pirkei Avot says “Don’t talk too much with a woman”!

Stranger Than Fiction:
A teacher accused a girl of lying when she said her father had composed Al HaNissim.

April 29, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session Two (4-29-21)
Class description

Urban Legend:
“A Kohen must marry a virgin!”

An Unlikely Story:
“The Maharal made a golem!”

Street Torah:
“When Rivkah met Eliezer and married Yitzchak, she was three years old!”

Folk Etymology:
“The name ‘MarCheshvan’ means the month is bitter because it has no holidays!”

Don’t Know Much About History:
“The Menorah is hidden in the Vatican!”

Misunderstood Text:
“A midrash says that in the future, pigs will become kosher!”

Stranger Than Fiction:
Rabbis have discussed whether a golem can count in a minyan.

May 6, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session Three (5-6-21)
Class description

Urban Legend:
“Chazal say that if you make three shiddukhim, you’ll go to Olam HaBa!”

An Unlikely Story:
“The location of the Beit HaMikdash is because of a beautiful story about two brothers!”

Street Torah:
“Covering your head with your hand is no substitute for a yarmulke!”

Folk Etymology:
“The word ‘yarmulke’ comes from the Aramaic ‘yerei malka,’ fear of God!”

Don’t Know Much About History:
“Rashi wrote in Rashi script!”

Misunderstood Text:
“The Gemara says that women are feeble-minded!”

Stranger Than Fiction:
In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Belloq recites part of “Brikh Sh’mei.”

May 13, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session Four (5-13-21)
Class description

Urban Legend:
“The Gemara starts with Daf Bet in order to teach us an important lesson!”

An Unlikely Story:
“When Rav Moshe Feinstein found out that he drank non-Cholov Yisroel milk, he made himself throw up!”

Street Torah:
“If a Sefer Torah falls, everyone has to fast for forty days!”

Folk Etymology:
“The word ‘abracadabra’ comes from the Aramaic for ‘I will create as I speak’!”

Don’t Know Much About History:
“The Rambam was Saladin’s doctor!”

Misunderstood Text:
“The Gemara says that you have to eat meat on Yom Tov!”

Stranger Than Fiction:
The spread of Shavuot all-night learning is associated with the spread of coffee.

May 20, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session Five (5-20-21)
Class description

Urban Legend:
“Some Orthodox Jews have sex through a hole in a sheet!”

An Unlikely Story:
“When Rav Preil’s daughters sang zemirot, Rav Baruch Ber walked out!”

Street Torah:
“You have to be forty in order to learn Kabbalah!”

Folk Etymology:
“The word ‘teiku’ stands for ‘Tishbi yitaretz kushyot ve’ibayot’ (Eliyahu will resolve all difficulties)!”

Don’t Know Much About History:
“Ellis Island officials made my family change their last name!”

Misunderstood Text:
“A midrash says that the first woman was Lilith, but she was too feminist for Adam!”

Stranger Than Fiction:
176 is the length of the longest parashah, the longest perek of Tehillim, and the longest masekhet.

May 27, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session Six (5-27-21)
Class description

Urban Legend:
“Eliyahu’s cup at the seder is called that because he shows up and drinks from it!”

An Unlikely Story:
“There’s an orange on the seder plate (of liberal Jews) because a man once yelled, ‘A woman belongs on the bimah like an orange belongs on a seder plate’!”

Street Torah:
“Tzara’at was a punishment for Lashon HaRa only!”

Folk Etymology:
“The anointing oil included k’neh bosem, which is clearly cannabis!”

Don’t Know Much About History:
“Jewish life shifted from Babylonia to Spain because of the four captive rabbis!”

Misunderstood Text:
“Mitzvot in the Torah are all meant to be Lekhat’chilah!”

Stranger Than Fiction:
Rabbis have discussed what berakhah the Jews would have said on manna.

June 3, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session Seven (6/3/21)
Class description

Urban Legend:
“We don’t eat giraffes because we don’t know where to shecht them!”

An Unlikely Story:
“Rav Gustman was impressed by the milkman – Rav Aharon Lichtenstein!”

Street Torah:
“Saying ‘Jesus’ is not allowed!”

Folk Etymology:
“The Satmar sect of Chassidim is from a town whose name means St. Mary!”

Don’t Know Much About History:
“Rashi’s pregnant mother was saved when the shul wall miraculously moved!”

Misunderstood Text:
“The halakhah says a woman shouldn’t wear tefillin because she doesn’t have a clean body!”

Stranger Than Fiction:
The “I’m really Amish” story actually happened – with a well-known Chassid.

June 10, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session Eight (6-10-21)
Class description

Urban Legend:
“Mishlo’ach manot need to be two foods that have two different berakhot!”

An Unlikely Story:
“Simon & Garfunkel got the tune for ‘Scarborough Fair’ from ‘Dror Yikra’!”

Street Torah:
“Women aren’t allowed to touch (or look at) a Sefer Torah!”

Folk Etymology:
“The word ‘hamantasch’ means that Haman became weak (tash)!”

Don’t Know Much About History:
“Moshe Rabbeinu’s portrait showed that his natural inclination was to be a bad person!”

Misunderstood Text:
“The halakhah requires us to judge people favorably all the time!”

Stranger Than Fiction:
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s list of 13 middot is adapted from Benjamin Franklin.

June 17, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session Nine (6-17-21)
Class description

Urban Legend:
“During Birkat Kohanim, don’t look or you’ll go blind!”

An Unlikely Story:
“The Chofetz Chaim woke up his daughter to go pay a tailor in the middle of the night!”

Street Torah:
“Women are exempt from positive time-bound mitzvot because they’re too busy taking care of their children!”

Folk Etymology:
“The word ‘afikoman’ means dessert in Greek!”

Don’t Know Much About History:
“The Netziv closed the Volozhin Yeshiva rather than allow any secular studies!”

Misunderstood Text:
“The Gemara says ‘Woe to someone whose children are girls’!”

Stranger Than Fiction:
A prominent rabbi gave haskamot to books that he himself had published anonymously.

June 24, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session Ten (6-24-21)
Class description

Here are the topics for Session Ten:

Urban Legend:
“We say ‘Migdol’ in Birkat HaMazon on Shabbat because of a misunderstanding!”

An Unlikely Story:
“The Sha’agat Aryeh was crushed to death by a bookcase!”

Street Torah:
“A Chanukah menorah is disqualified if the candles are at different heights!”

Folk Etymology:
“The letters on a dreidel stand for ‘Nes gadol hayah sham’!”

Don’t Know Much About History:
“The Maccabees played dreidel to cover up for learning Torah!”

Misunderstood Text:
“The third Beit HaMikdash will not have animal korbanot, according to the Rambam and Rav Kook!”

Stranger Than Fiction:
Hebrew U makes millions a year because Albert Einstein was ahead of his time.

July 1, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session Eleven (7-1-21)
Class description

Here are the topics for Session Eleven:

Urban Legend:
“Mordechai was Esther’s uncle!”

An Unlikely Story:
“Rabbi Akiva Eiger naively called a regular Jew the leader of world Jewry!”

Street Torah:
“The entire Zohar was written by Rav Shimon bar Yochai!”

Folk Etymology:
“The word “baal” means a husband because “baal” actually means an owner!”

Don’t Know Much About History:
“Targum Yonatan on the Torah was written by Yonatan ben Uziel!”

Misunderstood Text:
“Kiddushin is a kinyan, which means the groom is buying the bride!”

Stranger Than Fiction:
People don’t realize that the broken Vav in Parashat Pinchas is supposed to be there.

July 8, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session Twelve (7-8-21)
Class description

Here are the topics for Session Twelve:

Urban Legend:
“You can fulfill Seudah Shlishit with Divrei Torah instead of food!”

An Unlikely Story:
“The Chofetz Chaim’s grandchildren refused to use his Kiddush cup, since it wasn’t big enough for the Chazon Ish!”

Street Torah:
“A woman shouldn’t make Havdalah, and certainly shouldn’t drink the wine!”

Folk Etymology:
“The word ‘cholent’ is from the Yiddish for when you eat it: ‘shul ende’!”

Don’t Know Much About History:
“Rashi’s daughters put on tefillin!”

Misunderstood Text:
“The Gemara says we shouldn’t save the life of a non-Jew on Shabbat!”

Stranger Than Fiction:
A strange statement in the Shulchan Arukh is the result of meddling printers who didn’t cover all their tracks.

July 15, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session Thirteen (7-15-21)
Class description

Here are the topics for Session Thirteen:

Urban Legend:
“Adam and Chavah sinned by eating an apple!”

An Unlikely Story:
“93 Bais Yaakov girls killed themselves so the Nazis wouldn’t get them!”

Street Torah:
“The Second Beit HaMikdash was destroyed only because of sinat chinam!”

Folk Etymology:
“The word ‘helpmate’ is a reasonable translation of ‘ezer kenegdo’!”

Don’t Know Much About History:
“World War I started on Tisha B’Av!”

Misunderstood Text:
“The Rambam says girls and women are too dumb to be taught texts!”

Stranger Than Fiction:
Elvis Presley was a Shabbos goy for his Orthodox neighbors. But according to his mom, he was in fact halakhically Jewish.

October 14, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: Session Fourteen (10-14-21)
Class description

Urban Legend:
“Newlyweds should have sheva berakhot every day of the first week!”

Frauds, Fakes, Forgeries:
“A pious rabbi found and published the long-lost rishon, the Sefer HaEshkol!”

Street Torah:
“A mourner in the first year should walk out for Yizkor!”

Factitious Fiction:
Nurses TV show: “Orthodox Jews can’t accept transplants from non-Jews!”

People Thought the Darndest Things!:
“A woman can get pregnant by taking a bath!”

Misunderstood Text:
“The Gemara says that the only wisdom for women is the spindle!”

Stranger Than Fiction:
Rabbis have discussed when exactly to say “L’chaim.”

October 21, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts
Class description
October 28, 2021 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts
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November 4, 2021 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts
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November 11, 2021 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts
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November 18, 2021 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts
Class description
November 25, 2021 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts: MythBusting: Jewish Urban Legends & Misunderstood Texts
Class description

Rabbi Uri Cohen has been teaching at Midreshet Moriah since 2005. He learned at Yeshivat Shaalvim and Yeshivat Hamivtar, and received Semikhah from RIETS (YU) and Yeshivat Hamivtar. He also holds Masters degrees in Medieval Jewish History and Jewish Education from Yeshiva University. For two years, he was an ATID Fellow. Through Torah MiTzion, he and his wife Dr. Yocheved Engelberg Cohen served as the first members of the Syracuse Kollel, and later as the first couple of the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) at Princeton University. They now live in Ramat Beit Shemesh. His eclectic lecture topics have included Talmudic Misogyny in Context, Harry Potter and the Value of Fantasy, Contemporary Orthodox Responses to Homosexuality, and How Not to Do Outreach.