Little-Known Facts About Snow in Jewish Tradition and Lore

Following a blizzard about 14 years ago, Yori Yanover and I considered scouring Jewish sources to place the white deluge in context. Instead, we made up this list of little known facts about snow:

  • Many traditional Jewish congregations refuse to count snowmen in the prayer quorum.
  • Medieval Jewish mystics practiced rolling in the snow to purge themselves from evil urges. They were the first snow angels.
  • Moses Maimonides, 12th century physician to the Egyptian Khalif, prescribed snow as a cure for the hot Cairo summers.
  • The elders of Safed have 36 different words for snow — but none for snow removal.
  • During 3 particularly cold Sinai winters, the Israelites were led by a pillar of snow.
  • It is forbidden to write in the snow on the Sabbath.
  • Following the great Jerusalem blizzard of 1900, Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl proposed the “Uganda option.”
  • According to some rabbinic authorities, one must wait six hours between going out in the snow and in the rain.
  • On snowy days, the procession of King Solomon’s immediate family was pulled by 2,800 reindeer and 1,200 huskies.
  • Israel’s national hockey team participated in the 1992 Winter Games, dominating both the Olympic village and concession area.
  • On January 9, 1896, a snowball from St. Patrick’s elementary school landed in Mrs. Manischewitz’s kitchen, inspiring her to invent matzo ball soup.

Filed under Diaspora, Humor

4 Responses to “Little-Known Facts About Snow in Jewish Tradition and Lore”

  1. ■According to some rabbinic authorities, one must wait six hours between going out in the snow and in the rain.

    Presumably that’s six hours after snow before rain. But what’s the wait after rain before show?


    Hineni · December 20th, 2009 at 4:16 pm
  2. Re: Many traditional Jewish congregations refuse to count snowmen in the prayer quorum.

    According to the some sources, a snowman holding a siddur is acceptable, and so is a married snowwoman. However, a snowman wearing a dress is not.


    Rabbi Barrel O. Wine · December 20th, 2009 at 4:50 pm
  3. My favorite Jewish text about extreme winter weather:

    Every day Hillel would work and earn one tropaik. Half would go for food for himself and his family.

    He would give the other half to the guard at the Beit HaMidrash. One day, he earned no money and the guard at the Beit HaMidrash would not permit him to enter.

    Hillel climbed up on the roof and listened through the skylight so that he could hear the words of the living God from the mouths of Shemayah and Avtalion.

    It was the eve of Shabbat in the middle of winter, and snow began to fall.

    When dawn came, Shemayah said, “Brother Avtalion, every day this house is light and today it is dark. Is it a cloudy day?”

    They looked up and saw the figure of a man on the skylight.
    They went up and found Hillel covered with three cubits of snow.

    They took him down, bathed him, and placed him in front of the fire. They said, “This man deserves that we violate the Sabbath on his behalf.”

    – Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 35b


    Jo · December 22nd, 2009 at 4:43 am
  4. ■RE:It is forbidden to write in the snow on the Sabbath.

    Does this extend to urination?


    DON · December 22nd, 2009 at 10:22 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik