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Mother of All Prophetic Superiority – The Talmud on the Megillah, Lesson 31 –

Posted By on February 26, 2020

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan is the Spiritual Leader and Executive Director of Chabad Flamingo in Thornhill, Ontario, serving one of Canadas most dynamic Jewish communities. He also serves as Chaplain of the York Regional Police Service. He is an active member of Torontos Vaad HaRabbanim (Council of Orthodox Rabbis), and a voting member of the COR Kashruth Council of Canadas executive rabbinical board. Rabbi Kaplan is featured regularly on many local television and radio shows. He is a sought after speaker, with hundreds of lectures on He and his wife, Faygie, are blessed with eight children. Artistically endowed, the rabbi enjoys drawing, sketching and creating charcoal portraits.

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Mother of All Prophetic Superiority - The Talmud on the Megillah, Lesson 31 -

Enduring Prophecies – The Talmud on the Megillah, Lesson 30 –

Posted By on February 26, 2020

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan is the Spiritual Leader and Executive Director of Chabad Flamingo in Thornhill, Ontario, serving one of Canadas most dynamic Jewish communities. He also serves as Chaplain of the York Regional Police Service. He is an active member of Torontos Vaad HaRabbanim (Council of Orthodox Rabbis), and a voting member of the COR Kashruth Council of Canadas executive rabbinical board. Rabbi Kaplan is featured regularly on many local television and radio shows. He is a sought after speaker, with hundreds of lectures on He and his wife, Faygie, are blessed with eight children. Artistically endowed, the rabbi enjoys drawing, sketching and creating charcoal portraits.

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Enduring Prophecies - The Talmud on the Megillah, Lesson 30 -

Could studying ancient ink help shed new light on the Dead Sea Scrolls? – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on February 26, 2020

Could studying the ink used to pen the Dead Sea Scrolls help scholars shed light on the many mysteries still surrounding them?According to Ira Rabin, senior scientist at the Federal Institute of Material Research and Testing (BAM) in Berlin and the Center for the Studies of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) in Hamburg the answer is a resounding yes.Ancient Jewish Sages were very well aware of the importance of ink in Jewish practice.As it was taught Rabbi Meir said: When I was with Rabbi Yishmael, I used to put iron sulfate into the ink [with which I wrote Torah scrolls], and he did not say anything to me. When I came with Rabbi Akiva, he prohibited me so, reads a passage of Talmud in the Tractate of Eruvim (13a, William Edison Edition translation via passages in the Bible mention the action or the need of writing something down. From those, the question of the Sages became what constitutes writing. Beginning at the time of the Mishna, the rabbis discussed the issue in several perspectives: from the fact that writing was an activity prohibited on Shabbat which therefore required a precise understanding to the characteristics of a kosher Torah scroll (fit for use for a public reading in the synagogue) as well as of other objects such as tefillin and megillah scrolls. The ingredients that could be employed to produce inks were also mentioned. A few centuries later, Moises Maimonides would systematically cover these issues in his Mishneh Torah.Today, the study of manuscripts offers scholars a treasure trove of information hidden in plain sight, complementing those presented by the texts themselves, as Rabin explained to The Jerusalem Post after a workshop devoted to identifying and investigating historical ink types held at the National Library of Israel on Tuesday.The materiality of a manuscript is part of the manuscript itself and it offers a lot of information about the time, place, use and technological development of when it was created, she explained.The scholar pointed out that while the study of inks has been important in conservation for quite a while, especially because of the corrosive nature of certain types of ink, its understanding as an archaeological discipline is very recent.It has been developing basically in the past 10 years, she noted.At the workshop, she highlighted that the center where she works in Germany focuses on bridging the gap between the humanities, the natural sciences and technology and does so by assisting paleontologists, archaeologists and other scholars with their needs.According to Rabin, much could be discovered by analyzing the Dead Sea Scrolls which are one of her areas of expertise. In her studies so far, she has especially focused on the parchments.The Dead Sea Scrolls are a group of dozens of manuscripts dating back to a period between the 3rd century BCE and the 1st century CE that were uncovered in eleven caves near the site of Qumran. They include both manuscripts that are the most ancient known copies of parts of the Hebrew Bibles as well as other religious writings. They are currently kept at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.The ink of the Dead Sea Scrolls has not been properly studied yet, and I hope that the Israel Antiquities Authority will allow it soon, Rabin highlighted.She explained that some of the manuscripts were analyzed in the Nineties, including one, Genesis Apocryphon, which was almost completely destroyed by the corrosiveness of the ink used, something very unusual, because corrosive types of inks appeared only much later on, in the Middle Ages.Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written in carbon ink, the most ancient ink on earth, in use since at least 2,000 BCE and up until today, she pointed out, adding that carbon ink is created through a dispersion of carbon particles in a binder and is not corrosive.We do not know however, if other materials, and especially metals, were mixed in the ink as well in some of the manuscripts, Rabin told the Post.One of the questions that intrigues scholars in the field is why at some point, after using a certain type of ink for centuries if not millenniums, people started to use other materials, an instance of which happened around the 3rd century BCE.I personally connect this event with the figure of Alexander The Great, who assembled a great empire and created a need for more ink. Since carbon ink was expensive people started to adulterate it with other substances making similar ink but not as expensive, Rabin said.I do think it is very important to further study the ink of the manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, because of the knowledge the materiality of the manuscripts can give us and because I hope very much to be able to produce a three-dimensional or four-dimensional socio-geographic map of the times and the places where people were using different inks from the 4th century BCE to the 6th/7th century CE, the expert concluded.

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Could studying ancient ink help shed new light on the Dead Sea Scrolls? - The Jerusalem Post

Charitable acts are our calling – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on February 26, 2020

This is the first of four special Shabbatot known as Shabbat Shekalim. The portion and the other three upcoming are all tied to Purim or Passover. Two scrolls are removed. The first covers the weekly portion Mishpatim/Exodus. The second Torah reading pertains to Shekalim.

It is forbidden to count the Jews in an ordinary manner. When a census was required, Jews would contribute items. Each item was counted; thereby, giving us an accurate count. In the wilderness, the people rich and poor alike contributed a half-shekel each for the construction and upkeep of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was a portable sanctuary that accompanied the Jews through the desert. This was very holy and sacred and G-d's dwelling place.

The Torah goes into great detail requiring the specifications and materials to build the tabernacle in next weeks portion. The tabernacle also housed the tablets of 10 Commandments, both the broken set as well as the complete set. This commandment and opportunity to contribute equally showed everyone was beloved in the eyes of G-d. We are at our finest when we are united and driven to share equally. A similar concept can be found in the daily minyan. There is a requirement of 10 people for a service. Each individual relies on the other to achieve this sacred goal. It is discussed in the Talmud that this mitzvah of contributing toward the Tabernacle was an antidote for the future.

Next month we will celebrate Purim and read of the wicked Haman. He paid a bounty of 10,000 silver coins to destroy the Jews. The Talmud teaches that G-d gives the antidote before the wound. Our ancestors contribution toward the tabernacle offset Hamans wicked plans.

Even though we dont have a tabernacle or holy temple anymore, we should engage in charitable acts. We need to serve G-d equally. There is no elitist or pretense. We are each created in G-ds image and should act accordingly. In essence, we are all living tabernacles with the ability to commit holy acts.

By reading this portion we re-awaken our benevolent desire to perform G-ds will. When we read the portion it is as though we have participated in the mitzvah. Lastly, we can contribute to organizations that perpetuate Judaism and ensure our survival in the future.

Cantor Aaron Shifman is cantor at Bnai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike.

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Charitable acts are our calling - Cleveland Jewish News

G-d has always shown great compassion for the weak – The Times of Israel

Posted By on February 26, 2020

The Torah has always shown great compassion and mercy for the weak and unfortunate: the orphan, the widow, and the stranger.

In the Torah section last week called Parsha Mishpatim, however, Gd takes up the plight of these hapless individuals by declaring that any cruelty shown to them incurs His wrath. In verse 22:22, the repetition of the verbs If you oppress, afflict him [beware,] for if he cries, cries out to Me, I will hear, hearken to his cry, underscore the severity of tormenting these downcast people.

Even more, the Midrash asserts the strange position that A great affliction and a small affliction are all the same.

Rav Soloveitchik elaborates: The degree of hurt is irrelevant; causing transient humiliation and causing severe physical pain are both subsumed under affliction. A word, a gesture, a facial expression by which the widow or the orphan feels hurt; in short, whatever causes an accelerated heartbeat that comes under oppression Neither the nature nor the magnitude of the oppression mitigates the punishment. (Chumash Mesoras HaRav, Shemos pp.202-203)

The Talmud (Semachos 8:4) tells the story of R. Shimon b. Gamliel who was told by R. Yishmael that perhaps he was being punished because, You were at the table or asleep and a woman came to inquire about her ritual purity, and the attendant told her: He is asleep; for the Torah said: If you torment them (the widow and orphan) . . . and continued: Then I shall kill you by the sword.

Again, in the Ravs dramatization of the event: What was wrong in R. Shimons conduct? He had come home exhausted after a full days work and lay down for a short rest. It had been a busy day: an entire load of communal responsibilities pressed heavily on his frail shoulders. Cruel Rome continued its ruthless policy of religious persecution and the economic ruin of the people While he was dozing, a woman entered with an inquiry: is she ritually pure or impure? The attendant, knowing how fatigued R. Shimon was, advised her to wait until he awoke; he did not wish to disturb R. Shimon. How, then, the question arises, did R. Shimon afflict the woman?

The woman was a poor widow, and extremely sensitive. While waiting for R. Shimon, the thought may have gone through her head: had my rich neighbor come with a similar question, the attendant would have acted differently: he would have aroused R. Shimon. Because of my poverty and loneliness, she may have thought, he didnt mind making me wait; she sighed and brushed away a tear. So, R. Shimon did afflict a widow, and thus violated a Biblical prohibition. Her tear was responsible for the tragic death of R. Shimon. (See the Ravs essay The Community in Tradition 17:2, pp.17-18)

The question, of course, is why should the penalty of aggrieving the orphan, widow and stranger be so harsh and exacting? To this, the Rav offers this fundamental insight whose application goes well beyond the specific command against afflicting these individuals. Here are the Ravs own words:

Each individual possesses something unique, rare, which is unknown to others; each individual has a unique message to communicate, a special color to add to the communal spectrum. Hence, when a lonely man joins the community, he adds a new dimension to community awareness. He contributes something which no one else could have contributed. He enriches the community existentially; he is irreplaceable. Judaism has always looked upon the individual as if he were a little world (microcosm); with the death of the individual, this little world comes to an end.

In the Ravs view, this existential worth of the individual is rooted in the religious belief that man as a natural being exists once in an eternity, that the very singleness of man makes him indispensable and hence infinitely precious.

When I recognize this truth, my perception of the thou goes far beyond the physical. It is more than that: it is an act of identifying him existentially, of affirming his singular role as a person who has a job to do and that only he can do properly.

If so, what must inexorably follow from this belief is this: To hurt a person means to tell him that he is expendable, that there is no need for him. The Halacha equated the act of publicly embarrassing a person with murder. Why? Because humiliation is tantamount to destroying an existential community and driving the individual into solitude. It is not enough for the charitable person to extend help to the needy. He must do more than that: he must try to restore to the dependent person a sense of dignity and worth. That is why Jews have developed special sensitivity regarding orphans and widows since these persons are extremely sensitive and lose their self-confidence at the slightest provocation. [Therefore] The Bible warned us against afflicting an orphan or a widow. (Ibid, p.16)

In other words, for the Rav, the Torahs admonition against afflicting those less fortunate extends to treating anyone with disdain and dismissive contempt.

To act as if you have no use for someone, to be apathetic to their struggles, to ignore their distress is to be guilty of oppressing the widow. In fact, Ibn Ezra comments on the transition in verse 22:21 from the plural to the singular and back by asserting that not only the oppressor but the passive observer as well will be considered equally culpable of the same transgression if upon witnessing the degradation the shaming of another human being, he chooses to remain silent. There are no other instances in the Torah where the onlooker receives the same punishment as the instigator.

When we take a step back and contemplate the content of our culture, it certainly appears that our world is increasingly becoming a place where all too many are just out for themselves, that the other is devalued as an it rather than a thou, exploited consciously or otherwise, it matters little for the selfish ambitions and pleasures of the urbane human predator.

To refuse to grant to any person the dignity he deserves as a human being created in the image of G-d is to perpetrate an unforgivable crime upon the self-esteem and innate respectability of that person not to mention the sacrilegious rejection of Gds purpose in placing him in this world in the first place.

The Jew is uniquely chosen to fight the battles for the weak and unfortunate. We were strangers in Egypt and G-d brought us out and said to never forget the experience.

It is the Jew that is in the forefront of Civil Rights, even if it goes against our interest.

Henry Fonda had the words in the famous movie the Grapes of Wrath, but they are taken from the bible as if G-d had said them:

Wherever theres a fight, so hungry people can eat, Ill be there. Ill be all around in the dark. Ill be everywhere. Wherever you can lookwherever theres a fight so hungry people can eat, Ill be there.

Yehuda Lave writes a daily (except on Shabbat and Hags) motivational Torah blog at YehudaLave.comLoving-kindness my specialty.Internationally Known Speaker and Lecturer and Author. Self Help through Bible and Psychology. Classes in controlling anger and finding Joy. Now living and working in Israel. Remember, it only takes a moment to change your life. Learn to have all the joy in your life that you deserve!!! There are great masters here to interpret Spirituality. Studied Kabbalah and being a good human being with Rabbi Plizken and Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, my Rabbi. Torah is the name of the game in Israel, with 3,500 years of mystics and scholars interpreting G-D's word. Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement

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G-d has always shown great compassion for the weak - The Times of Israel

A Moment in Time: If You Had One Moment to Speak With God . – Jewish Journal

Posted By on February 26, 2020

Dear all,

If you had the chance to call God for just one moment (after all, the call rates are out of this world), what would you ask?

What happens after I die?

Why do bad things happen?

Where are You?

Do You understand me?

Do You ever need help?

The truth is, a call to God is not long distance. We can call out at any time. But we should be aware that the conversation is two-way. According to a section in the Talmud (Shabbat 31a) God has questions for us as well:

Are you ethical in your business?

Are you being the real you?

Do you make time for your spiritual life?

Do you have hope?

Are you planting seeds for the next generation?

We all have the opportunity to take a moment in time each day to both call out as well as to listen closely to the important questions of life. Whats on your mind? And how might you respond to the questions posed in return?

With love and Shalom,

Rabbi Zach Shapiro

"Please note that the posts on The Blogs are contributed by third parties. The opinions, facts and any media content in them are presented solely by the authors, and neither The Jewish Journal nor its partners assume any responsibility for them. Please contact us in case of abuse."

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A Moment in Time: If You Had One Moment to Speak With God . - Jewish Journal

International Booker Prize-Winner Jennifer Croft on the Highs and Lows of Translating Olga Tokarczuk –

Posted By on February 26, 2020

A stopped clock hung prominently in the Wrocaw apartment where I was trying to finish translating Olga Tokarczuks monumental latest novel, The Books of Jacob, in time for my 31 December 2019 deadline. It was the studios only artwork. Jet lag and anxiety made it hard for me to sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time and, whenever I opened my eyes, I would see those gargantuan hands and think, How can it already be so late? No matter that the clocks face read 5:25, an eternal neither-day-nor-night. Inever saw that. I only ever saw the time I thought it might be there or in New York or London or Los Angeles an hour so advanced I could never possibly catch up with, let alone accomplish, my slippery task: the re-creation in English of a 1,000-page masterpiece of historical fiction, buzzing with present-day relevance, by an author who had just been awarded the Nobel Prize.

Olgas 12th book, The Books of Jacob, is, without a doubt, her magnum opus. Published in Polish in 2014, it followed on the heels of Flights (2007), her inventive constellation novel as the author described it which I translated, and her feminist eco-thriller, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (2009), translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. Olga was always a critical and popular success in Poland, one of those rare writers who manages to balance dazzling literary feats with consummate accessibility, deftly navigating new narrative structures and even genres while maintaining an inviting, easy-going style. Like a number of her previous works, The Books of Jacob was a national bestseller for months. Then, in 2015, shortly before the elections that installed the right-wing Law and Justice party in Poland, when tensions in the country were exceptionally high, Olga received Polands highest literary prize, the Nike, and everything changed.

Instantly, and for the first time, Olga became notorious in circles of people who did not read her books. She, her publisher and I were inundated with death threats, rape threats and every possible variation of racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic abuse. The basis for the mounting controversy was the perceived political content of The Books of Jacob; the basis for that perception was a televised post-prize interview in which Olga said, among other things: We have come up with this history of Poland as a tolerant country [] Yet, we committed hideous acts as colonizers, as slave owners and as murderers of Jews.

The Books of Jacob begins in 1752 in Rohatyn, in what is now western Ukraine, and winds up in a cave near Korolwka, now eastern Poland, where a family of local Jews has hidden from the Holocaust. Between mid-18th-century Rohatyn and mid-20th-century Korolwka, in a swirling succession of third-person accounts, Olga escorts her readers across present-day Turkey, Greece, Austria and Germany, as well as different territories of Poland and Ukraine, capturing the spirit and climate of each location in rich description and in the enactment of the interesting customs particular to each place.

The novel is divided into seven books: The Book of Fog, The Book of Sand, The Book of the Road, The Book of the Comet, The Book of Metal and Sulfur, The Book of the Distant Country and The Book of Names. Together, these seven sections tackle love, hate, birth, death, sex, the sacred, prejudice, exile, torture, class, language, languages, the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 so influential on Voltaire, Immanuel Kant and other Enlightenment thinkers, Halleys Comet in 1758, seen as an omen of the end of the world, plague outbreak, alchemy, Kabbalah, friendship, parenthood, Talmud-burning, blood libel, geopolitical machinations, gender, serfdom, the earnest search for truth, the cynical manipulation of perception, medicine, transcendence, power and more, always subtly, carefully, in keeping with Olgas intellectual project, which despite the wild controversy her televised statement provoked isnt one of timeliness so much as timelessness.

To my mind, Olgas discourse hinges upon a couple of questions. First, whether human beings, who are inevitably fragile and flawed, can (and should) be forgiven mistakes and bad actions by those who get to know them, possibly (or probably) aided by narratives like novels and works of non-fiction. In other words, is empathy, fuelled by an understanding of the progression of another persons struggles over time, enough to allow the wounds of the past to fully heal? Like other European writers of her generation, Olga does seem to have faith in the power of story to reconcile. As Lars Saabye Christensen says in his recent novel Echoes of the City (2019), translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett: Memory is sorrow. History is reconciliation. Lexically, Olga emphasizes the delicacy of the characters who populate her books but, structurally, she permits paragraphs and pages to wash over them until they seem less breakable than honed, smooth and perfectly integrated into the honed smoothness of all those with whom they have interacted, for better or for worse, over the course of the text.

If narrative can fill in where human beings are found lacking, the next key questions of Olgas project still loom large: who gets to tell those stories or those histories and how can she, bogged down in time and fragility, know what she knows?

As I was translating Flights, and then The Books of Jacob, and then her Nobel Prize acceptance speech committing to memory Wikipedia entries on modes of transportation and anatomy, historical hats and hairstyles Olgas own feelings about information and the internet evolved. In 2007s Flights, she dedicated a section to Wikipedia:

As far as I can tell, this is mankinds most honest knowledge project. It is frank about the fact that all the information we have about the world comes straight out of our own heads, like Athena out of Zeuss. People bring to Wikipedia everything they know. If the project succeeds, then this encyclopedia undergoing perpetual renewal will be the greatest wonder of the world. It has everything we know in it every thing, definition, event and problem our brains have worked on; we shall cite sources, provide links. And so we will start to stitch together our version of the world, be able to bundle up the globe in our own story. It will hold everything. Lets get to work! Let everyone write even just a sentence on whatever it is they know best.

At that time, Olgas only caveat had to do with the capacity of language to organize knowledge and information; the section goes on to suggest an alternative to Wikipedia that somehow represents the chaos of everything we dont know. For the vastness of these contents, she writes, cannot be traversed from word to word you have to step in between the words, into the unfathomable abysses between ideas. With every step well slip and fall.

Olga has noted that the idea to write The Books of Jacob began not with Jacob Frank, charismatic cult leader, but rather with Benedykt Chmielowski, priest and author of the very first Polish encyclopedia, published between 1745 and 1746. Less sexy at first glance, perhaps, but Chmielowskis compendia of knowledge, available to all, were the building blocks of the Enlightenment, their guiding principle the same as that of Western democracy: he who knows acts wisely, in accordance with his knowledge. Cataloguing information was another reaction to the hunger for structural change that propelled the Frankists to rebel against the laws of the Talmud, then convert to Catholicism, try for noble titles and then rebel against those, too. Many of the Frankists sought to deepen and expand their understanding, not through wider reading la Chmielowski, but rather through mystical experiments such as prophesying and Kabbalah. Olgas novel weaves together these separate but related efforts from the perspective of a third party who effortlessly knows all: the matriarch Yente, in limbo between life and death, looking down upon all of Olgas characters and, in the end, Olga herself.

Olga delivered her Nobel acceptance speech in Stockholm on 7 December 2019. In it, she noted: John Amos Comenius, the great 17th-century pedagogue, coined the term pansophism, by which he meant the idea of potential omniscience, universal knowledge that would contain within it all possible cognition. This was also, and above all, a dream of information available to everyone. Would not access to facts about the world transform an illiterate peasant into a reflective individual conscious of himself and the world? Will not knowledge within easy reach mean that people will become sensible, that they will direct the progress of their lives with equanimity and wisdom?

When the internet first came about, it seemed that this notion would finally be realized in a total way. Wikipedia, which I admire and support, might have seemed to Comenius, like many like-minded philosophers, the fulfilment of the dream of humanity now we can create and receive an enormous store of facts being ceaselessly supplemented and updated that is democratically accessible to just about every place on Earth.

A dream fulfilled is often disappointing. It has turned out that we are not capable of bearing this enormity of information, which instead of uniting, generalizing and freeing, has different-ated, divided, enclosed in individual little bubbles, creating a multitude of stories that are incompatible with one another or even openly hostile toward each other, mutually antagonizing.

Furthermore, the internet, completely and unreflectively subject to market processes and dedicated to monopolists, controls gigantic quantities of data used not at all pansophically, for the broader access to information, but, on the contrary, serving above all to programme the behaviour of users, as we learned after the Cambridge Analytica affair. Instead of hearing the harmony of the world, we have heard a cacophony of sounds, an unbearable static in which we try, in despair, to pick up on some quieter melody, even the weakest beat. The famous Shakespeare quote has never been a better fit than it is for this cacophonous new reality: more and more often, the internet is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.

Now it would seem that the so-called information superhighway has driven all of us in between the words, into the unfathomable abysses between ideas, though not in the productively mystical mode Olga had entertained in Flights. Her professed disappointment verges on despair: the question of who gets to tell all our necessary stories is now more vexed than it ever was before. Now understanding is bogged down in time and fragility and the internet, deafened by the roar of trolls with their death threats and rape threats and anti-Semitic abuse, by wilful misinformation, by marketing and propaganda.

Many of us, in Wrocaw or New York or London or Los Angeles, or anywhere in the world, now wonder how it can already be so late. The climate has changed. We let that happen. Obsessed with our own history, regardless of its source, we have ignored the planet that makes us capable of stories at all.

I turned in my translation of The Books of Jacob 12 days late. Afterwards, I was overcome by a sense of loss: this magisterial creation that belonged to me alone for all those years, in all those different places the thing that has kept me company no matter what was gone. Then I realized that, on the other side of the globe, Olga was hard at work on her next novel, and I moved on. Yet, I was unable to shake the sense of belatedness that is, perhaps, the only truly timeless element of literature, though I hope Olga and others will keep trying to identify more.

This article first appeared infriezeissue 209 with the headline Frozen Time.

Main Image:The Lisbon Earthquake of1755, 1755, copper engraving. Courtesy: New Kozak Collection, Prague

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International Booker Prize-Winner Jennifer Croft on the Highs and Lows of Translating Olga Tokarczuk -

2020s in Religion: Facing the challenge of more hate, rethinking Jewish identity – The Oakland Press

Posted By on February 26, 2020

Editors Note: This is part seven in a series of Religion News Service interviews with experts discussing what the new decade may bring in religion.

Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin (Courtesy photo)

The Talmud says: Ever since the destruction of the Temple, prophecy has been given into the hands of children and fools. I am neither, but let me tell you what I see in the stars for world Jewry in the coming year. The picture is not pretty. This past year has seen the rapid acceleration of anti-Semitic incidents both in Europe and in the United States. The social contract, complete with an immune system that guarded against the excesses of hate, has vanished.

No, this is not Berlin, 1938. And yet, it is disturbing and disorienting. European Jews are accustomed to this; it has been part of their narrative for the past thousand years. For American Jews, this is something for which nothing in their history or experience has prepared them.

More disconcerting: With the exception of certain major cities, synagogue affiliation rates are dropping. Fewer young people are getting a quality Jewish education. With a shrinking sense of religious community less communal Velcro young Jews, and others, will be less prepared to meet the external challenges they will face.

But there is hope.

Synagogues might be shrinking, but alternative kinds of communities and structures are growing. The number of Jewish startups, and the energy within them, is admirable. The Jewish arts are experiencing a new vitality.

So, in 2020: There will be more hate. The election year will cause more of it to spew out of the body politic. Jews will need to figure out how to creatively face that challenge. It will not be easy, but my money is on the Jews.

Salkin writes the award-winning column Martini Judaism at RNS. He also serves as the senior rabbi of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla.

Rabbi Joshua Stanton (Courtesy CLAL)

Who is a Jew?

In the next decade, progressive denominations may succeed in promoting a more inclusive definition, both in the United States and Israel. In the United States, arobust new studyindicates that at least 12% to 15% of the American Jewish population are people of color. These American Jews have been underrepresented both in population studies and (far more importantly) in most communal institutions and places of leadership.

Major denominations and organizations are alreadyworking to ensure that all Jews feel at home and are treated as equal members of the Jewish people, and more will follow suit.

You can expect stronger relationships,allyship and coalitions with communities of color, so that Jews of color can proudly embrace all of their identities. American Jewish denominations would do well to listen to Jewish millennials and members of Generation Z, who are coming of age in record numbers before our eyes.

These rising generations require our willingness to see each person as a unique individual, rather than as part of a broader category or binary. The jury is out as to whether we will learn to do so.

In Israel, the ultra-Orthodox Rabbinates monopoly over marriage and life-cycle events may end, breaking its power to tell hundreds of thousands of people that they are not really Jews at all.More than two-thirds of Israeliswant this change already.

Eight hundred thousand Israelis now identify as Reform or Conservative Jews, and they are less and less likely to allow fundamentalists who dominate niche areas of government to tell them what to do.

Prepare for a comeback by progressive Jewish movements in both countries, if we are able to listen to those who are chronically underserved and collaboratively create new opportunities for spiritual experience with them.

Stanton leads East End Temple in Manhattan. He is a senior fellow at the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

Next installment: The future of the religious right, digital religion, collective leadership

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2020s in Religion: Facing the challenge of more hate, rethinking Jewish identity - The Oakland Press

Listening To Gd – The Jewish Press –

Posted By on February 26, 2020

Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Two words we read towards the end of our parsha naaseh ve-nishma, We will do and we will hear are among the most famous in Judaism. They are what our ancestors said when they accepted the covenant at Sinai. They stand in the sharpest possible contrast to the complaints, sins, backslidings and rebellions that seem to mark so much of the Torahs account of the wilderness years.

There is a tradition in the Talmud that G-d had to suspend the mountain over the heads of the Israelites to persuade them to accept the Torah. But our verse seems to suggest the opposite, that the Israelites accepted the covenant voluntarily and enthusiastically:

Then [Moshe] took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, We will do and hear [naaseh ve-nishma] everything the L-rd has said. (Ex. 24:7)

On the basis of this, a counter tradition developed, that in saying these words, the assembled Israelites ascended to the level of the angels.

Rabbi Simlai said, when the Israelites rushed to say We will do before saying We will hear, sixty myriads of ministering angels came down and fastened two crowns on each person in Israel, one as a reward for saying We will do and the other as a reward for saying We will hear.

Rabbi Eliezer said, when the Israelites rushed to say We will do before saying We will hear a Divine voice went forth and said: Who has revealed to My children this secret which only the ministering angels make use of?

What, though, do the words actually mean? Naaseh is straightforward. It means, We will do. It is about action, behavior, deed. But readers of my work will know that the word nishma is anything but clear. It could mean We will hear. But it could also mean, We will obey. Or it could mean We will understand. These suggest that there is more than one way of interpreting naaseh ve-nishma. Here are some:

1) It means We will do and then we will hear. This is the view of the Talmud (Shabbat 88a) and Rashi. The people expressed their total faith in G-d. They accepted the covenant even before they heard its terms. They said we will do before they knew what it was that G-d wanted them to do. This is a beautiful interpretation, but it depends on reading Exodus 24 out of sequence. According to a straightforward reading of the events in the order in which they occurred, first the Israelites agreed to the covenant (Ex. 19:8), then G-d revealed to them the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20), then Moses outlined many of the details of the law (Ex. 21-23), and only then did the Israelites say naaseh ve-nishma, by which time they had already heard much of the Torah.

2) We will do [what we have already been commanded until now] and we will obey [all future commands]. This is the view of Rashbam. The Israelites statement thus looked both back and forward. The people understood that they were on a spiritual as well as a physical journey and they might not know all the details of the law at once. Nishma here means not to hear but to hearken, to obey, to respond faithfully in deed.

3) We will obediently do (Sforno). On this view the words naaseh and nishma are a hendiadys, that is, a single idea expressed by two words. The Israelites were saying that they would do what G-d asked of them, not because they sought any benefit but simply because they sought to do His will. He had saved them from slavery, led and fed them through the wilderness, and they sought to express their complete loyalty to Him as their redeemer and lawgiver.

4) We will do and we will understand (Isaac Arama in Akeidat Yitzchak). The word shema can have the sense of understanding as in G-ds statement about the Tower of Babel: Let us, then, go down and confound their speech there, so that they shall not understand [yishmeu] one anothers speech (Gen. 11:7). According to this explanation, when the Israelites put doing before understanding, they were giving expression to a profound philosophical truth. There are certain things we only understand by doing. We only understand leadership by leading. We only understand authorship by writing. We only understand music by listening. Reading books about these things is not enough. So it is with faith. We only truly understand Judaism by living in accordance with its commands. You cannot comprehend a faith from the outside. Doing leads to understanding.

Staying with this interpretation, we may be able to hear a further and important implication. If you look carefully at Exodus chapters 19 and 24 you will see that the Israelites accepted the covenant three times. But the three verses in which these acceptances took place are significantly different:

Only the third of these contains the phrase naaseh ve-nishma. And only the third lacks a statement about the peoples unanimity. The other two are emphatic in saying that the people were as one: the people responded together and responded with one voice. Are these differences connected?

It is possible that they are. At the level of naaseh, the Jewish deed, we are one. To be sure, there are differences between Ashkenazim and Sefardim. In every generation there are disagreements between leading poskim, halachic authorities. That is true in every legal system. Poor is the Supreme Court that leaves no space for dissenting opinions. Yet these differences are minor in comparison with the area of agreement on the fundamentals of halachah.

This is what historically united the Jewish people. Judaism is a legal system. It is a code of behavior. It is a community of deed. That is where we require consensus. Hence, when it came to doing naaseh the Israelites spoke together and with one voice. Despite the differences between Hillel and Shammai, Abaye and Rava, Rambam and Rosh, R. Yosef Karo and R. Moshe Isserles, we are bound together by the choreography of the Jewish deed.

At the level of nishma, understanding, however, we are not called on to be one. Judaism has had its rationalists and its mystics, its philosophers and poets, scholars whose minds were firmly fixed on earth and saints whose souls soared to heaven. The Rabbis said that at Sinai, everyone received the revelation in his or her own way:

And all the people saw (Ex. 20:15): the sounds of sounds and the flames of flames. How many sounds were there and how many flames were there? Each heard according to their own level of understanding what they were experiencing, and this is what it means when it says (Ps. 29:4) the voice of the L-rd in power, the voice of the L-rd in majesty.

What unites Jews, or should do, is action, not reflection. We do the same deeds but we understand them differently. There is agreement on the naaseh but not the nishma. That is what Maimonides meant when he wrote in his Commentary to the Mishnah, that When there is a disagreement between the Sages and it does not concern an action, but only the establishment of an opinion (sevarah), it is not appropriate to make a halachic ruling in favor of one of the sides.

This does not mean that Judaism does not have strong beliefs. It does. The simplest formulation according to R. Shimon ben Zemach Duran and Joseph Albo, and in the twentieth century, Franz Rosenzweig consists of three fundamental beliefs: in creation, revelation and redemption. Maimonides 13 principles elaborate this basic structure. And as I have shown in my Introduction to the Siddur, these three beliefs form the pattern of Jewish prayer.

Creation means seeing the universe as G-ds work. Revelation means seeing Torah as G-ds word. Redemption means seeing history as G-ds deed and G-ds call. But within these broad parameters, we must each find our own understanding, guided by the Sages of the past, instructed by our teachers in the present, and finding our own route to the Divine presence.

Judaism is a matter of creed as well as deed. But we should allow people great leeway in how they understand the faith of our ancestors. Heresy-hunting is not our happiest activity. One of the great ironies of Jewish history is that no one did more than Maimonides himself to elevate creed to the level of halachically normative dogma, and he became the first victim of this doctrine. In his lifetime, he was accused of heresy, and after his death his books were burned. These were shameful episodes.

We will do and we will understand, means: we will do in the same way; we will understand in our own way.

I believe that action unites us, leaving us space to find our own way to faith.

Originally posted here:

Listening To Gd - The Jewish Press -

Likud to Ashkenazi: Apologize to the Druze, final warning – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on February 26, 2020

The Likud party tweeted on Tuesday evening a warning to Blue and White politician Gaby Ashkenazi warning him for the last time that unless he apologizes to the Druze community they will release how he tried to join Likud and also the refusals you got because of your awful words in your recordings. The Likud claims that recordings exist in which, as IDF chief of staff, Ashekanzi allegedly offended the Druze.

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Likud to Ashkenazi: Apologize to the Druze, final warning - The Jerusalem Post

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