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Judge Ruchie, the Hasidic Superwoman of Night Court – The …

Posted By on November 22, 2017

Most Hasidic women do not pursue high-profile success in the outside world. They are taught their most sacred role is to maintain the religious sanctity of their home and raise their children. What a woman does in order to enhance her glory is not put herself out as an example to other people in the public domain, but rather in private, in the home, said Samuel Heilman, a professor of sociology at City University of New York and an expert on the Orthodox and Hasidic communities.

The men are in the forefront, they run the world, and we are the power behind the throne, said Pearl Engelman, 70, a great-grandmother in the Satmar Hasidic sect in Williamsburg, who broke that paradigm several years ago by speaking publicly about a cover-up of child sex-abuse cases in the ultra-Orthodox community.

Women are generally permitted to work outside the home to support their families, so long as they comport with religious rules. And Judge Freier felt she could do all that was expected of her as a Hasidic woman and be a judge, a paramedic and a voice for change, too.

Everyone was waiting to see, What is she going to do? Judge Freier said of the wary attitude toward her after she became a judge. And Im the same. I dress the same, I still cook and I still bake and I do whatever I always did. Whatever we consider important traditional Hasidic values, I didnt let go. So I guess it was an eye-opener for everyone.

She is a good barometer of how this community is going through a transition, Mr. Heilman, the sociologist, said. It might seem glacially slow from the perspective of the outside world, but clearly she is a sign of the growing power of women, of the impact of democracy and an open society.

A few minutes before her 5 p.m. shift on a recent evening, Justice Freier arrived at Brooklyn Criminal Court on Schermerhorn Street. She is only 5 feet tall, and slender. She was dressed formally, with a dark wig covering her hair to meet the modesty requirements of her sect, and a tailored business suit, its skirt reaching below her knees.

It was a half-hour drive from her home but a universe away from Borough Park, where men with side curls and women pushing strollers speak Yiddish on the streets. Here there were police officers and court officers in bulletproof vests. In a narrow hallway, Judge Freier conferred briefly with another female judge about a case. She was ushered into an elevator used to transport prisoners, and strode to her chambers through a warren of hallways divided by metal fences.

She will pray, as she does three times a day, before she takes the bench. Her rebbetzin, a female religious mentor such as the wife of a rabbi, had given her a special prayer. That people shouldnt malign me or put me in positions, or ask for things I shouldnt do, she said. That I should make the right decisions, because we are all human beings, and dont have any ability to see the future.

There are precedents for what Judge Freier has accomplished, but not many. In Israel, a small group of ultra-Orthodox women have formed a political party to run for office, despite opposition from rabbis who still disapprove of women entering public life. In 2013, a Hasidic woman in Montreal ran for a local City Council seat and won. And in the Bible, there is a female judge in the Book of Judges: Devora, or Deborah, a prophetess who calls the Israelites to battle. But there has not been a female ultra-Orthodox judge for centuries, certainly not within the Hasidic movement, which was founded in 18th-century Eastern Europe.

Judge Freier recalled that her rebbetzin told her, If God gave us Devora, the judge, if we have that in our history, that means that Ruchie Freier should be a judge. Thats it!

Yet Justice Freier is careful not to call herself a feminist. For her, it is a radical charge that would imply she wants to overstep and reject traditional gender boundaries. That could lead to community members ostracizing her and her family, which could limit her ability, for example, to arrange marriages for her two unmarried daughters.

So she stays away from controversial gender issues. She does not want to be a judge in a religious rabbinical court, a strictly male domain that rules over many civil matters for ultra-Orthodox Jews. She does not pray in the mens section of the gender-segregated synagogues. She does not want to wear a Tallis, a traditional male prayer shawl, as some Reform Jewish women now do.

I wanted to succeed, but I wanted to do it from within my community, she said. I love Borough Park, I love the people here. I didnt want to break away.

Just after 5 p.m., Judge Freier took the bench. She would see a steady stream of turnstile jumpers, low level assault cases, drug users and order-of-protection violators until 1 a.m. A swirl of public defenders, prosecutors and police officers surrounded her.

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The Talmud | ReformJudaism.org

Posted By on November 21, 2017

The Talmud (Hebrew for study) is one of the central works of the Jewish people. It is the record of rabbinic teachings that spans a period of about six hundred years, beginning in the first century C.E. and continuing through the sixth and seventh centuries C.E. The rabbinic teachings of the Talmud explain in great detail how the commandments of the Torah are to be carried out. For example, the Torah teaches us that one is prohibited from working on the Sabbath. But what does that really mean? There is no detailed definition in the Torah of work. The talmuidc tractate called Shabbat therefore devotes an entire chapter to the meaning of work and the various categories of prohibited work.

The Talmud is made up of two separate works: the Mishnah, primarily a compilation of Jewish laws, written in Hebrew and edited sometimes around 200 C.E. in Israel; and the Gemara, the rabbinic commentaries and discussions on the Mishnah, written in Hebrew and Aramaic, which emanated from Israel and Babylonia over the next three hundred years. There are two Talmuds: the Yrushalmi or Jerusalem Talmud (from Israel) and the Bavli or Babylonian Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud, which was edited after the Jerusalem Talmud and is much more widely known, is generally considered more authoritative than the Jerusalem Talmud.Rabbi Yhudah HaNasi (Judah the Prince) is thought to be the editor of the sixty-three tractates of Mishnah in which the laws are encoded. The main editor of the Gemara is generally assumed to be Rav Ashi, who spent over fifty years collecting the material. The final revision and editing were most likely undertaken by Ravina (500 C.E.)

The Talmuds discussions are recorded in a consistent format. A law from the Mishnah is cited, followed by rabbinic deliberations on its meaning (i.e., the Gemara). At times, the rabbinic discussions wander far afield from the original topic. The Rabbis whose views are cited in the Mishnah are known as Tannaim (Aramaic for teachers), while the Rabbis quoted in the Gemara are known as Amoraim (explainers or interpreters). The Talmuds, especially the Talmud of Babylonia, also contain a good deal of aggadah: commentary on biblical narratives, stories about biblical figures and earlier Rabbinic sages, and speculations concerning physical reality and human nature. In short, anything that was of interest to the Rabbis wound up in the Talmud, which in turn became a kind of encyclopedia of the Rabbinic mind.

As books of law, the Talmuds differ greatly from the Mishnah in style and approach. The Mishnah states its rules in a straightforward manner, usually not supporting them with scriptural references or other argumentation. The Talmuds (and this is especially true of the Babylonian Talmud) are dialectical: their predominant form is debate, in which propositions are raised, attacked, refuted, and modified through the give-and-take of argument and counterargument.Thus for example, if a person wanted to find out about the laws related to Rosh HaShanah, one would go to the tractate called Rosh HaShanah and would find there numerous laws and customs related to the festival. Likewise, if one wanted to find the laws and customs about Shabbat, one could go to the tractate of the same name.

Correct answers emerge out of the process of argument that fills the Talmud and all the books written to explain it. They are tentative conclusions whose rightness is based upon the ability of one school of thought to persuade the community of Rabbinic scholars that its point of view represents the best understanding of Torah and of Gods demands upon us.

As the earliest rabbinic interpretation of the Bible, the Talmud is indispensable to understanding the laws and customs still practiced today. The Talmudic discussion and its conclusions provide us with the origins of our many laws and customs. Studying the Talmud can help us search for the many important issues and values that are essential to a thinking and committed Jew. To study Talmud is to take ones part in the discourse of the generations, to add ones own voice to the chorus of conversation and argument that has for nearly two millennia been the form and substance of Jewish law.

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Spanish and Portuguese Jews – Wikipedia

Posted By on November 21, 2017

Spanish and Portuguese Jews, also called Western Sephardim, are a distinctive sub-group of Iberian Jews who are largely descended from Jews who lived as New Christians in the Iberian Peninsula during the immediate generations following the forced expulsion of unconverted Jews from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497.

Although the 1492 and 1497 expulsions of unconverted Jews from Spain and Portugal were separate events from the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions (which was established over a decade earlier in 1478), they were ultimately linked, as the Inquisition eventually also led to the fleeing out of Iberia of many descendants of Jewish converts to Catholicism in subsequent generations.

Despite the fact that the original Edicts of Expulsion did not apply to Jewish-origin New Christian conversos, as they were legally Christians, the discriminatory practices which the Inquisition placed upon conversos, which were often lethal, placed pressure on many of them to also emigrate from Spain and Portugal in the immediate generations following the expulsion of unconverted Jews.

The Alhambra Decree (also known as the Edict of Expulsion) was an edict issued on 31 March 1492, by the joint Catholic Monarchs of Spain (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) ordering the expulsion of all unconverted practicing Jews from the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, including from all its territories and possessions, by 31 July of that year.[1] The primary purpose of the expulsion was to eliminate the influence of unconverted Jews on Spain’s by then large Jewish-origin New Christian converso population, to ensure that the prior did not encourage the latter to relapse and revert to Judaism.

Over half of Spain’s Jewish origin population had converted to Catholicism as a result of the religious anti-Jewish persecution and pogroms which occurred in 1391. As a result of the Alhambra decree and persecution in prior years, it is estimated that of Spain’s total Jewish origin population at the time, over 200,000 Jews converted to Catholicism, and initially remained in Spain. Between 40,000 and 80,000 did not convert, and by remaining Jewish were thus expelled. Of those who were expelled as unconverted Jews, an indeterminate number eventually nonetheless converted to Catholicism and returned to Spain in the years following the expulsion[2] due to the hardships many experienced in their resettlement. Many of Spain’s Jews who left Spain as Jews also initially moved to Portugal, where they were subsequently forcibly converted to the Catholic Church in 1497.

Most of the Jews who left Spain as Jews accepted the hospitality of Sultan Bayezid II and, after the Alhambra Decree, moved to the Ottoman Empire,[3] where they founded communities openly practising their religion; they and their descendants are known as Eastern Sephardim.

During the centuries following[4] the Spanish and Portuguese decrees, some of the Jewish-origin New Christian conversos started emigrating from Portugal and Spain, settling until the 1700s throughout areas of Western Europe and non-Iberian realms of the colonial Americas (mostly Dutch realms, including Curaao in the Dutch West Indies, Recife in Dutch areas of colonial Brazil which eventually also fell to the Portuguese, and New Amsterdam which later became New York) forming communities and formally reverting to Judaism. It is the collective of these communities and their descendants who are known as Western Sephardim, and are the subject of this article.

As the early members of the Western Sephardim consisted of persons who themselves (or whose immediate forebears) personally experienced an interim period as New Christians, which resulted in unceasing trials and persecutions of crypto-Judaism by the Portuguese and Spanish Inquisitions, the early community continued to be augmented by further New Christian emigration pouring out of the Iberian Peninsula in a continuous flow between the 1600s to 1700s. Jewish-origin New Christians were officially considered Christians due to their forced or coerced conversions; as such they were subject to the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church’s Inquisitorial system, and were subject to harsh heresy and apostasy laws if they continued to practice their ancestral Jewish faith. Those New Christians who eventually fled both the Iberian cultural sphere and jurisdiction of the Inquisition were able to officially return to Judaism and open Jewish practice once they were in their new tolerant environments of refuge.

As former conversos or their descendants, Western Sephardim developed a distinctive ritual based on a melding of the remnants of the Judaism of pre-expulsion Spain, which they had practiced in secrecy during their time as New Christians, and influenced by Judaism as practiced by the communities (including Sephardic Jews of the Ottoman Empire and Ashkenazi Jews) which assisted them in their readoption of normative Judaism; as well as by the Spanish-Moroccan and the Italian Jewish rites practiced by rabbis and hazzanim recruited from those communities to instruct them in ritual practice. A part of their distinctiveness as a Jewish group, furthermore, stems from the fact that they saw themselves as forced to “redefine their Jewish identity and mark its boundaries […] with the intellectual tools they had acquired in their Christian socialization”[5] during their time as New Christian conversos.

The main ‘Western Sephardic Jewish’ communities developed in Western Europe, Italy, and the non-Iberian regions of the Americas.

In addition to the term “Western Sephardim”, this sub-group of Sephardic Jews is sometimes also referred to also as “Spanish and Portuguese Jews,” “Spanish Jews,” “Portuguese Jews,” or “Jews of the Portuguese Nation.”

The term “Western Sephardim” is frequently used in modern research literature to refer to “Spanish and Portuguese Jews,” but sometimes also to “Spanish-Moroccan Jews”.

The use of the terms “Portuguese Jews” and “Jews of the Portuguese Nation” in areas such as the Netherlands, Hamburg, Scandinavia, and at one time in London, seems to have arisen primarily as a way for the “Spanish and Portuguese Jews” to distance themselves from Spain in the times of political tension and war between Spain and the Netherlands in the 17th century. Similar considerations may have played a role for ethnic Sephardic Jews in the French regions of Bayonne and Bordeaux, given their proximity to the Spanish border.

Another reason for the terminology of “Portuguese” Jews may have been that a relatively high proportion of the families in question had Portugal as their immediate point of departure from the Iberian peninsula, regardless of whether the remoter family background was nonetheless Spanish, since Portugal was the first place of refuge and transit point for many Spanish Jews immediately following their expulsion from Spain.

As the term “Sephardim” (when used in its ethnic sense) necessarily connotes a link with Spain, the distinguishing feature of “Portuguese Jews” or “Jews of the Portuguese Nation” was the added link with Portugal. Thus, as a subset of the Sephardim, “Portuguese” and “Spanish and Portuguese” could be used interchangeably. Finally, almost all organised communities in this group traditionally employed Portuguese rather than Spanish as their official or working language.

In Italy, the term “Spanish Jews” (Ebrei Spagnoli) is frequently used, but it includes descendants of Jews expelled as Jews from the Kingdom of Naples, as well as “Spanish and Portuguese Jews” proper (i.e. Jews descended from former conversos and their descendants).

In Venice, Spanish and Portuguese Jews were often described as “Ponentine” (Western), to distinguish them from “Levantine” (Eastern) Sephardim from Eastern Mediterranean areas. Occasionally Italian Jews distinguish between the “Portuguese Jews” of Pisa and Livorno and the “Spanish Jews” of Venice, Modena and elsewhere.

The scholar Joseph Dan distinguishes “medieval Sephardim” (15th and 16th-century Spanish exiles in the Ottoman Empire who arrived as Jews) from “Renaissance Sephardim” (Spanish and Portuguese former converso communities who arrived as New Christians), in reference to the respective times of each grouping’s formative contacts with Spanish language and culture.

The term Sephardi means “Spanish” or “Hispanic”, and is derived from Sepharad, a Biblical location. The location of the biblical Sepharad is disputed, but Sepharad was identified by later Jews as Hispania, that is, the Iberian Peninsula. Sepharad still means “Spain” in modern Hebrew.

The relationship between Sephardi-descended communities is illustrated in the following diagram:

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Spanish and Portuguese Jews – Wikipedia

What Is the Talmud? | My Jewish Learning

Posted By on November 21, 2017

Talmud (literally, study) is the generic term for the documents that comment and expand upon the Mishnah (repeating), the first work of rabbinic law, published around the year 200 CE by Rabbi Judah the Patriarch in the land of Israel.

Although Talmud is largely about law, it should not be confused with either codes of law or with a commentary on the legal sections of the Torah. Due to its spare and laconic style, the Talmud is studied, not read. The difficulty of the intergenerational text has necessitated and fostered the development of an institutional and communal structure that supported the learning of Talmud and the establishment of special schools where each generation is apprenticed into its study by the previous generation.

In the second century, Rabbi Judah the Patriarch published a document in six primary sections, or orders, dealing with agriculture, sacred times, women and personal status, damages, holy things, and purity laws. By carefully laying out different opinions concerning Jewish law, the Mishnah presents itself more as a case book of law. While the Mishnah preserved the teachings of earlier rabbis, it also shows the signs of a unified editing. Part of that editing process included selecting materials; many of the traditions that did not make it into the Mishnah were collected in a companion volume called the Tosefta (appendix, or supplement).

After the publication of the Mishnah, the sages of Israel, both in the land of Israel, and in the largest diaspora community of Babylonia (modern day Iraq), began to study the both the Mishnah and the traditional teachings. Their work consisted largely of working out the Mishnahs inner logic, trying to extract legal principles from the specific statements of case law, searching out the derivations of the legal statements from Scripture, and relating statements found in the Mishnah to traditions that were left out. Each community produced its own Gemara which have been preserved as two different multi-volume sets: the Talmud Yerushalmi includes the Mishnah and the Gemara produced by the sages of the Land of Israel, and the Talmud Bavli includes the Mishnah and the Gemara of the Babylonian Jewish sages.

In some ways, the Talmud was never completed; the Tosafist commentators during the middle ages extended to the whole of the Gemara the same kinds of analysis that the sages of the Gemara had performed upon the Mishnah. Other commentators, like Rashi, sought to explain the text in a sequential manner.

Many modern scholars have begun applying the tools of literary and linguistic analysis to the text of the Talmud. Some have used these tools to focus on the underlying uniformity and consistency of the text, while others have done sophisticated analysis of the sources and alleged history of the text. Still others have examined the literary artistry of the Talmud. Many scholars have, with varying degrees of success, tried to use the Talmud as a source for historical inquiry.

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The Oral Law -Talmud & Mishna – Jewish Virtual Library

Posted By on November 21, 2017

The Oral Law is a legal commentary on the Torah, explaining how its commandments are to be carried out. Common sense suggests that some sort of oral tradition was always needed to accompany the Written Law, because the Torah alone, even with its 613 commandments, is an insufficient guide to Jewish life. For example, the fourth of the Ten Commandments, ordains, “Remember the Sabbath day to make it holy” (Exodus 20:8). From the Sabbath’s inclusion in the Ten Commandments, it is clear that the Torah regards it as an important holiday. Yet when one looks for the specific biblical laws regulating how to observe the day, one finds only injunctions against lighting a fire, going away from one’s dwelling, cutting down a tree, plowing and harvesting. Would merely refraining from these few activities fulfill the biblical command to make the Sabbath holy? Indeed, the Sabbath rituals that are most commonly associated with holiness-lighting of candles, reciting the kiddush, and the reading of the weekly Torah portion are found not in the Torah, but in the Oral Law.

Without an oral tradition, some of the Torah’s laws would be incomprehensible. In the Shema’s first paragraph, the Bible instructs: “And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.” “Bind them for a sign upon your hand,” the last verse instructs. Bind what? The Torah doesn’t say. “And they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.” What are frontlets? The Hebrew word for frontlets, totafot is used three times in the Torah always in this context (Exodus 13:16; Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18) and is as obscure as is the English. Only in the Oral Law do we learn that what a Jewish male should bind upon his hand and between his eyes are tefillin (phylacteries).

Finally, an Oral Law was needed to mitigate certain categorical Torah laws that would have caused grave problems if carried out literally. The Written Law, for example, demands an “eye for an eye” (Exodus 21:24). Did this imply that if one person accidentally blinded another, he should be blinded in return? That seems to be the Torah’s wish. But the Oral Law explains that the verse must be understood as requiring monetary compensation: the value of an eye is what must be paid.

The Jewish community of Palestine suffered horrendous losses during the Great Revolt and the Bar-Kokhba rebellion. Well over a million Jews were killed in the two ill-fated uprisings, and the leading yeshivot, along with thousands of their rabbinical scholars and students, were devastated.

This decline in the number of knowledgeable Jews seems to have been a decisive factor in Rabbi Judah the Prince’s decision around the year 200 C.E. to record in writing the Oral Law. For centuries, Judaism’s leading rabbis had resisted writing down the Oral Law. Teaching the law orally, the rabbis knew, compelled students to maintain close relationships with teachers, and they considered teachers, not books, to be the best conveyors of the Jewish tradition. But with the deaths of so many teachers in the failed revolts, Rabbi Judah apparently feared that the Oral Law would be forgotten unless it were written down.

In the Mishna, the name for the sixty-three tractates in which Rabbi Judah set down the Oral Law, Jewish law is systematically codified, unlike in the Torah. For example, if a person wanted to find every law in the Torah about the Sabbath, he would have to locate scattered references in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Indeed, in order to know everything the Torah said on a given subject, one either had to read through all of it or know its contents by heart. Rabbi Judah avoided this problem by arranging the Mishna topically. All laws pertaining to the Sabbath were put into one tractate called Shabbat (Hebrew for “Sabbath”). The laws contained in Shabbat’s twenty-four chapters are far more extensive than those contained in the Torah, for the Mishna summarizes the Oral Law’s extensive Sabbath legislation. The tractate Shabbat is part of a larger “order” called Mo’ed (Hebrew for “holiday”), which is one of six orders that comprise the Mishna. Some of the other tractates in Mo’ed specify the Oral Laws of Passover (Pesachim); Purim (Megillah); Rosh haShana; Yom Kippur (Yoma); and Sukkot.

The first of the six orders is called Zera’im (Seeds), and deals with the agricultural rules of ancient Palestine, particularly with the details of the produce that were to be presented as offerings at the Temple in Jerusalem. The most famous tractate in Zera’im, however, Brakhot (Blessings) has little to do with agriculture. It records laws concerning different blessings and when they are to be recited.

Another order, called Nezikin (Damages), contains ten tractates summarizing Jewish civil and criminal law.

Another order, Nashim (Women), deals with issues between the sexes, including both laws of marriage, Kiddushin, and of divorce, Gittin.

A fifth order, Kodashim, outlines the laws of sacrifices and ritual slaughter. The sixth order, Taharot, contains the laws of purity and impurity.

Although parts of the Mishna read as dry legal recitations, Rabbi Judah frequently enlivened the text by presenting minority views, which it was also hoped might serve to guide scholars in later generations (Mishna Eduyot 1:6). In one famous instance, the legal code turned almost poetic, as Rabbi Judah cited the lengthy warning the rabbinic judges delivered to witnesses testifying in capital cases:

“How are witnesses inspired with awe in capital cases?” the Mishna begins. “They are brought in and admonished as follows: In case you may want to offer testimony that is only conjecture or hearsay or secondhand evidence, even from a person you consider trustworthy; or in the event you do not know that we shall test you by cross-examination and inquiry, then know that capital cases are not like monetary cases. In monetary cases, a man can make monetary restitution and be forgiven, but in capital cases both the blood of the man put to death and the blood of his [potential] descendants are on the witness’s head until the end of time. For thus we find in the case of Cain, who killed his brother, that it is written: ‘The bloods of your brother cry unto Me’ (Genesis 4:10) that is, his blood and the blood of his potential descendants…. Therefore was the first man, Adam, created alone, to teach us that whoever destroys a single life, the Bible considers it as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a single life, the Bible considers it as if he saved an entire world. Furthermore, only one man, Adam, was created for the sake of peace among men, so that no one should say to his fellow, ‘My father was greater than yours…. Also, man [was created singly] to show the greatness of the Holy One, Blessed be He, for if a man strikes many coins from one mold, they all resemble one another, but the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, made each man in the image of Adam, and yet not one of them resembles his fellow. Therefore every single person is obligated to say, ‘The world was created for my sake”‘ (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5). (One commentary notes, “How grave the responsibility, therefore, of corrupting myself by giving false evidence, and thus bringing [upon myself the moral guilt of [murdering] a whole world.”)

One of the Mishna’s sixtythree tractates contains no laws at all. It is called Pirkei Avot (usually translated as Ethics of the Fathers), and it is the “Bartlett’s” of the rabbis, in which their most famous sayings and proverbs are recorded.

During the centuries following Rabbi Judah’s editing of the Mishna, it was studied exhaustively by generation after generation of rabbis. Eventually, some of these rabbis wrote down their discussions and commentaries on the Mishna’s laws in a series of books known as the Talmud. The rabbis of Palestine edited their discussions of the Mishna about the year 400: Their work became known as the Palestinian Talmud (in Hebrew, Talmud Yerushalmi, which literally means “Jerusalem Talmud”).

More than a century later, some of the leading Babylonian rabbis compiled another editing of the discussions on the Mishna. By then, these deliberations had been going on some three hundred years. The Babylon edition was far more extensive than its Palestinian counterpart, so that the Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli) became the most authoritative compilation of the Oral Law. When people speak of studying “the Talmud,” they almost invariably mean the Bavli rather than the Yerushalmi.

The Talmud’s discussions are recorded in a consistent format. A law from the Mishna is cited, which is followed by rabbinic deliberations on its meaning. The Mishna and the rabbinic discussions (known as the Gemara) comprise the Talmud, although in Jewish life the terms Gemara and Talmud usually are used interchangeably.

The rabbis whose views are cited in the Mishna are known as Tanna’im (Aramaic for “teachers”), while the rabbis quoted in the Gemara are known as Amora’im (“explainers” or “interpreters”). Because the Tanna’im lived earlier than the Amora’im, and thus were in closer proximity to Moses and the revelation at Sinai, their teachings are considered more authoritative than those of the Amora’im. For the same reason, Jewish tradition generally regards the teachings of the Amora’im, insofar as they are expounding the Oral Law, as more authoritative than contemporary rabbinic teachings.

In addition to extensive legal discussions (in Hebrew, halakha), the rabbis incorporated into the Talmud guidance on ethical matters, medical advice, historical information, and folklore, which together are known as aggadata.

As a rule, the Gemara’s text starts with a close reading of the Mishna. For example, Mishna Bava Mezia 7:1 teaches the following: “If a man hired laborers and ordered them to work early in the morning and late at night, he cannot compel them to work early and late if it is not the custom to do so in that place.” On this, the Gemara (Bava Mezia 83a) comments: “Is it not obvious [that an employer cannot demand that they change from the local custom]? The case in question is where the employer gave them a higher wage than was normal. In that case, it might be argued that he could then say to them, ‘The reason I gave you a higher wage than is normal is so that you will work early in the morning and late at night.’ So the law tells us that the laborers can reply: ‘The reason that you gave us a higher wage than is normal is for better work [not longer hours].'”

Among religious Jews, talmudic scholars are regarded with the same awe and respect with which secular society regards Nobel laureates. Yet throughout Jewish history, study of the Mishna and Talmud was hardly restricted to an intellectual elite. An old book saved from the millions burned by the Nazis, and now housed at the YIVO library in New York, bears the stamp THE SOCIETY OF WOODCHOPPERS FOR THE STUDY OF MISHNA IN BERDITCHEV. That the men who chopped wood in Berditchev, an arduous job that required no literacy, met regularly to study Jewish law demonstrates the ongoing pervasiveness of study of the Oral Law in the Jewish community.

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The Oral Law -Talmud & Mishna – Jewish Virtual Library

Part Asian-American, All Jewish? : Code Switch : NPR

Posted By on November 21, 2017

Sociologists Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt look on during their son Ari’s bris. They’ve worked together to research how kids with mixed Asian-American and Jewish heritage think about faith. The Kim-Leavitt family hide caption

Sociologists Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt look on during their son Ari’s bris. They’ve worked together to research how kids with mixed Asian-American and Jewish heritage think about faith.

I was five years old when my mother threatened to give me away to journalist Connie Chung.

Chung and her husband, Maury Povich, had just announced their intention to adopt a half-Chinese, half-Jewish child. At this, my mother, watching on TV in our living room, did a double take. She looked at the screen. Then she looked at me, her half-Chinese, half-Jewish, fully-misbehaving daughter. “How would you like to go live with that woman?” she said.

It was then that I had a startling realization: I was special. Not special in the way that everyone’s kids are special I mean really special. I, with my chubby Chinese cheeks and frizzy Jewish hair, was a unique snowflake, shaped like the Star of David, dusted with matcha green tea powder.

“I’m special!” I announced. “Famous people want to adopt me!”

Mom rolled her eyes as if to say, oy vey.

Only later would I learn the truth: Not everyone was as thrilled about my heritage as I was. The problem was mainly on the Jewish side. As I grew up, announcing I was Jewish often felt “like trying to cross a border with borrowed credentials,” in Joan Didion’s words. “But you don’t look Jewish!” came the incredulous reply. Some even implied that the union that produced me was nothing less than a threat to the Jewish people that I was what was wrong with Judaism today.

This view, it turns out, is ancient. “You shall not marry (gentiles), you shall not give your daughter to their son … because he will lead your son astray from Me and they will serve strange gods,” it is said in Deuteronomy. Thousands of years later, many still share this opinion.

“Intermarriage is a serious concern,” Steven Cohen, a professor at Hebrew Union College, told me recently. “It weakens Jewish commitment and diminishes the number of people who identify as Jews.”

Cohen was referring to the fact that children of intermarried Jews tend to be less religiously Jewish than those born to two Jewish parents, as found in the Pew Research Center’s 2013 Portrait of Jewish Americans. But there’s another way of looking at it. While they may be less religious, more and more mixed-race Jews are choosing to identify as Jewish. Among the adult children of intermarried parents surveyed, as many as 59 percent identified as Jews.

Kosher or not, no amount of hand-wringing will change the fact that intermarriage is happening. Since 2005, 6 in 10 Jews who married chose a non-Jewish partner, according to the Pew report. Faced with this reality, even staunch anti-intermarriage scholars are beginning to make concessions. Upon realizing that I was a mixed-race Jew, for instance, Cohen still encouraged me to marry Jewish. He also assured me that even if I didn’t I would still be welcomed by the Jewish community.

Mazel tov?

Two scholars on the forefront of understanding the changing face of Judaism are Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt, sociologists at Whitman College in Washington state. For the last decade, Kim and Leavitt have trained their attention on the intersection of Jewish and Asian cultures. This is no coincidence: The two are a Korean-Jewish couple, raising two Reform Jewish children. Every week, they celebrate Shabbat dinner, observe the Sabbath as a day of rest and perform the Havdalah service as a family.

President Barack Obama puts his arm around Rabbi Angela Buchdahl during a White House Hanukkah reception in Dec. 2014. Buchdahl, who is Korean-American and Jewish, leads New York City’s Central Synagogue. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP hide caption

President Barack Obama puts his arm around Rabbi Angela Buchdahl during a White House Hanukkah reception in Dec. 2014. Buchdahl, who is Korean-American and Jewish, leads New York City’s Central Synagogue.

Kim’s and Leavitt’s interest began when, flipping through the The New York Times style section, they noticed something strange. Suddenly, it seemed that more and more couples looked like them. Jewish-Asian pairings filled the news, from “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua and husband Jed Rubenfeld to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.

Some children of these marriages are grown up and in the news, too. Angela Buchdahl, the wildly popular Korean-American rabbi of New York City’s Central Synagogue, has written about facing challenges to her faith as a young adult.

“I did not look Jewish, I did not carry a Jewish name and I no longer wanted the heavy burden of having to explain and prove myself every time I entered a new Jewish community,” Buchdahl recalled in a 2003 essay in the journal Sh’ma.

Once, she even told her mother she wanted to give up Judaism. “Is that possible?” her mother asked.

“It was only at that moment that I realized I could no sooner stop being a Jew than I could stop being Korean, or female, or me,” Buchdahl wrote.

The affinity between Jews and Asians has some grounding in culture, according to Kim and Leavitt. In 2012, they published a study that sought to explain what draws these two ancient cultures together. Both Asians and Jews, they found, shared deeply ingrained values of academic achievement, strong family ties and frugality. There are also fewer religious barriers: While Asian-Americans may subscribe to a philosophical system like Buddhism, less often do they have overt religious beliefs that clash with Judaism.

As the pair began to raise their two children Ari, 6, and Talia, 3 their questions changed. How would Jewish values translate to mixed-race kids, they wondered?

Sociologists Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt with their children Talia and Ari. The Kim-Leavitt family hide caption

Sociologists Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt with their children Talia and Ari.

“This was the logical next step,” says Leavitt. “We wanted to know how these kids are going to make sense of the different strands of who they are.” So they decided to do something novel: ask the kids themselves. For their next study, published last month in the Journal of Jewish Identities, Kim and Leavitt conducted in-depth interviews with 22 children of Jewish-Asian marriages.

What they found flew in the face of the scenario Cohen described. Overwhelmingly, the young adults they talked to considered themselves Jews no “ish” about it. The majority grew up going to Hebrew school or Jewish day school, attending synagogue, celebrating the High Holidays and feeling part of a larger Jewish community. Half had been bar or bat mitzvahed. Most wanted to pass on a sense of Jewish identity to their own children.

“These kids are Jewish, they really are,” says Kim.

Unfortunately, a strong sense of personal Jewishness didn’t stop the haters. At school, in the synagogue and in casual conversation, respondents recalled getting the same doubtful looks and comments that I did. If it wasn’t “Funny, you don’t look Jewish,” it was “Oh, you must mean half-Jewish.” (This is usually the case when your father is Jewish; in more traditional strains of Judaism, it is believed that Jewish identity flows through the maternal line.)

Refreshingly, the respondents managed to turn these confrontations into opportunities. “They felt that they had to assert their Jewishness in a much stronger way,” says Kim. “So they’d end up saying, ‘I am legitimately Jewish, and you’re wrong in your assumptions about me and Jews.’ “

As an exploratory first paper, the study was limited. Besides the small sample size, almost all of the participants had Chinese or Japanese heritage, and none were raised Orthodox Jewish.

Nevertheless, Kim and Leavitt’s approach is “highly original and needed,” says Keren McGinity, the editor of the journal in which the work was published, and a Jewish historian at Brandeis University who specializes in intermarriage. “The very idea that there can be multi-racial, multi-ethnic Jews is a wake-up call.”

Far from being “diluted,” these mixed-race Jews saw themselves as critical to what today’s Jewish values are all about. For them, “multi-raciality and Jewishness are intrinsically tied together,” the authors wrote.

“These kids are thinking about being Jewish in a variety of ways,” says Leavitt. “Spiritually, religiously, culturally, ethically. It’s a huge smorgasbord of what parts of Judaism they draw on to connect with.”

“What Do You Mean, ‘Half-Jewish’?”

This question is always a tricky one. Do I cite my grandmother’s matzo ball soup? My love for the lilt of Hebrew prayer? The fact that I was so drawn to my Jewish roots that I ended up working for a Jewish magazine? Like Buchdahl, I can no more explain what makes me feel Jewish than what makes me feel Chinese, or female, or human. I usually go with, “It means I really, really like Chinese food.”

The point, for Kim and Leavitt, is that today’s Jews have a choice. For millennia, being Jewish was like being pregnant: You either were, or you weren’t. But as the number of Jews with hyphenated identities continues to rise, that idea needs rethinking. Maybe it isn’t an all-or-nothing affair. Maybe the question shouldn’t be, “Are you Jewish?” but: “How are you Jewish?” Maybe, for some, being chosen can be a choice.

Rachel is a writer and editor at Moment Magazine, an independent Jewish magazine. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, WIRED, New Scientist and Slate. Follow her on Twitter at @rachelegross.

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Part Asian-American, All Jewish? : Code Switch : NPR

Holocaust | What is Holocaust denial? – Projet ALADIN

Posted By on November 19, 2017

Holocaust denial is the belief that the Holocaust did not occur as it is described by mainstream historiography.

Key elements of this belief are the explicit or implicit rejection that, in the Holocaust:

In addition, most Holocaust denial implies, or openly states, that the current mainstream understanding of the Holocaust is the result of a deliberate Jewish conspiracy created to advance the interest of Jews at the expense of other nations.

Most historians and scholars reject Holocaust denial as “grounded in hatred, rather than any accepted standards of assertion, evidence, and truth” and a “pseudoscience” that “rejects the entire foundation of historical evidence,” instead motivated by an anti-Semitic ideology.

Some of the most prominent representatives of Holocaust deniers have been shown in court to have a pattern of falsifying historical documents (e.g. David Irving) or deliberately misrepresenting historical data (e.g. Ernst Zndel). This history of Holocaust deniers distorting, ignoring, or misusing historical records has led to almost universal condemnation of the techniques and conclusions of Holocaust denial, with organizations such as the American Historical Association, the largest society of historians in the United States, stating that Holocaust denial is “at best, a form of academic fraud.”

Similarly, Public Opinion Quarterly, summarizing the work on the subject done by a range of historians including Jaroff, Lipstadt, Riech, Ryback, Shapiro, Vidal-Naquet, Weimann, and Winn concludes “No reputable historian questions the reality of the Holocaust, and those promoting Holocaust denial are overwhelmingly anti-Semites and/or neo-Nazis.”

Many Holocaust deniers insist that they do not deny the Holocaust, preferring to be called “Holocaust revisionists”. They are nevertheless commonly labeled as “Holocaust deniers” to differentiate them from historical revisionists and because their goal is to deny the existence of the Holocaust, as it is commonly understood, rather than honestly using historical evidence and methodology to examine the event.

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Holocaust | What is Holocaust denial? – Projet ALADIN

German Nazi grandma jailed for Holocaust denial | The …

Posted By on November 12, 2017

A German woman dubbed the Nazi grandma was sentenced to 10 months in jail for Holocaust denial.

Ursula Haverbeck told a court in Hamburg last week that the Nazis Auschwitz death camp is only a belief.

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Haverbeck was charged in April with Holocaust denial after calling the Holocaust in a statement broadcast on television the biggest and most sustainable lie in history. She made the statement to reporters outside of the trial of former SS guard Oskar Groening.

Groening was convicted in July as an accessory to the murder of 300,000 in Auschwitz.

Convicted former SS officer Oskar Groening listens to the verdict of his trial on July 15, 2015 at court in Lueneburg, northern Germany. Oskar Groening, 94, sat impassively as judge Franz Kompisch said the defendant is found guilty of accessory to murder in 300,000 legally connected cases of deported Jews who were sent to the gas chambers in 1944. (AFP PHOTO/TOBIAS SCHWARZ)

Haverbeck challenged the court to prove that Auschwitz was a death camp, the German Deutche Welle reported. She was sentenced on Nov. 12.

Magistrate Bjoern Joensson, who issued the sentence, said it is deplorable that this woman, who is still so active given her age, uses her energy to spread such hair-raising nonsense.

She is a lost cause, he added, according to Deutche Welle.

Haverbeck already has a criminal record, including two fines and a suspended sentence for sedition. She said she will appeal the sentence.

It is illegal in Germany to deny or downplay the Holocaust.

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German Nazi grandma jailed for Holocaust denial | The …

Anti-Defamation League Blasts Larry Davids SNL Monologue …

Posted By on November 10, 2017

The Anti-Defamation League says Larry Davids Saturday Night Live monologue in which the Curb Your Enthusiasm creator pondered his dating options in a concentration camp was offensive, insensitive & unfunny all at same time.

The ADLs stance, tweeted by the organizations CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, was in line with plenty of Twitterers who started slamming the bit before the shows cast made its goodnights.

He managed to be offensive, insensitive & unfunny all at the same time Quite a feat, wrote Greenblatt.

Davids monologue watch it above started out with the comics standard self-deprecation, joking about being a total loser during his single New York days. Then he pivoted to riskier territory Hollywoods recent flood of sexual harassment allegations.

I couldnt help but notice a very disturbing pattern emerging, which is that many of the predators are Jews, said David, whose Curb Your Enthusiasm once included a plot about mistaking Survivor cast members with camp survivors, said. I dont like it when Jews are in the news for notorious reasons.

I know I consistently strive to be a good Jewish representative, David said after a crude joke about Harvey Weinstein. When people see me, I want them to say, Oh, there goes a fine Jew.

Then he dove in head first.

Ive always been obsessed with women and often wondered, if Id grown up in Poland when Hitler came to power, and was sent to a concentration camp, would I still be checking out women in the camp? I think I would.

Hey Shlomo, look at the one by barracks 8, David continued. Oh my God, is she gorgeous?! Id like to go up and say something to her.

Of course, the problem is there are no good opening lines in a concentration camp: Hows it going? They treating you OK? You know, if we ever get out of here, Id like to take you out for some latkes.

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Anti-Defamation League Blasts Larry Davids SNL Monologue …

Eitz Chaim A Messianic Jewish Synagogue in Richardson, Texas

Posted By on November 7, 2017

Eitz-Chaim is a congregation committed to prayer, discipleship, and service. If you have a need or aprayer request, let us hear from you.

(see contact info at end of newsletter)

Weekly Shabbat Drash by

Dan Juster

Due to scheduling with the church,Shabbat services on November 4 will be held at Eitz Chaims former location 650 West Campbell for this dayONLY. There will be no coffee or oneg at the building, and all afternoon activities are cancelled for that day with the exception of theHispanic Ministry which will meet at 2:30 pm. You may bring a sack lunch if you like and fellowship in the side yard where the picnic tables are. It should be a nice day on Shabbat.

Please RSVP to Margaret Huey by November 3.407-933-2002margaret@hueyhouse.com

November 11 at the end of OnegShe is registered on Amazon and needsgirl clothingOnesies, sleep gowns, zip pajamas, dresses and bows, etc. Gift cards for local Forney restaurants would also be especially helpful.

Vyeira He appeared

Testing Abrahams Faith

Genesis 18:1-22:24

2 Kings 4:1-37 (A); 4:1-23

Luke 2:1-38

Just a reminder Eitz Chaim does not pass the plate we have a tzedakah box at the back of the sanctuary for tithes and donations.

Some early believers suffered persecution that put them in a serious financial hardship. They relied on the help of the rest of the Body of Messiah which was provided with joy. The Body has grown to what it is today and more than ever some believers need the help of others. Supporting the saints financially is a biblical mandate that translates into great blessings for both those who give and those who receive, not to mention those reached with the Gospel and saved as a result. Who wouldnt want to be part of a biblical win/win/win situation? ~Olivier Melnick

We are members of the messianic Jewish alliance of America (MJAA). We need to support our Alliance! We strongly urge everyone receiving this email to please register for this conference, by going toThe MJAA Regional Conference Information page. Use buttons above!

Only by registering can you attend the entire weekend of events, including all the special speakers, seminars, workshops, etc.

Yes, the public worship services are free and everyone should attend, but we really urge you to register for the entire conference and go to everything else as well.

For example, our own David Schiller and Dr. Marc Chernizer are speaking, but if you are not registered for the entire conference, you will not be able to hear them speak.

The registration fee is very modest, and helps support our Alliance!

Everyone else from out of town has to pay for airfare and hotel and meals, but all you have to do is pay a modest registration fee, so theres no reason not to sign up!

Please note that our EC Shabbat services are canceled on Saturday, November 18, and we instead will all be attending the conference service that morning. Childcare is provided.

They are also special childrens, youth, and singles programs throughout the entire weekend.

The conference is at the Hilton DFW Lakes executive conference center in Grapevine.

Please also note that the times for the services are different than our normal times. For example, the Saturday morning service starts at 9:30 AM, not 10:30 AM.

Please also note that EC is hosting the Friday night worship service, so you will want to be sure to attend that as well.

Please register today!

Remember Eitz Chaim WILL NOT be meeting at Central Church on November 18.

We will be at the MJAA Conference

Hilton DFW Lakes

Executive Conference Center1800 Highway 26E, Grapevine, Texas, 76051-9641

MEETING ADDRESS: 1651 E.Campbell Road Richardson, TX 75082

MAILING ADDRESS: PO Box 832568 Richardson TX 75083

Services: 10:30 AM, SaturdayPhone: 972-231-3884

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Learn the shortcut to rapid spiritual growth brought to you by Michael Wilkerson. When I learned this my spiritual growth took off like a rocket ship.

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Rabbi Schiller begins a new mini-series on the Book of Hebrews. Today we look at Hebrews 1 & 2, and see the utter uniqueness of YShua, the radiance of Gods glory and the exact representation of His Being.

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Eitz Chaim A Messianic Jewish Synagogue in Richardson, Texas


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