Entries for March 2012

Tzav: Jewish Messiahs

Tzav: Jewish Messiahs

Any mention of the word “Messiah” is likely to put Jews on edge.  The reason is obvious; in common American usage (although Jews virtually never use that word in English), “Messiah” refers to the person/Divinity referred to by Christians.  Our alleged “failure” to accept their “Messiah” as our “personal savior” led to nearly two millennia of persecution and murder. But, “Messiah” is not inherently a Christian word, concept, or even phenomenon.  It is used in Torah and in many other places throughout Jewish scripture.

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Mar 28

Attention Jews: "Good News" on Prime Time!

Attention Jews: "Good News" on Prime Time!

Recently, my wife, daughter, and I watched television together in modern fashion: each simultaneously surfing the web and checking email. We shared comments about this or that while we half-noted what flickered across the room.  Suddenly, my attention moved from the small screen on my lap to the larger one.   A brief commercial with a colorful banner reading “www.Isaiah53.com” appeared.  This was certainly something different for early evening TV!  As it ran, several people enthusiastically explained how their religious doubts and confusions had disappeared after reading that chapter of the Bible.   The commercial ended with an urging to visit the website. 

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Mar 26

Mussar Topic and Assignment for March 31

Mussar Topic and Assignment for March 31
For our next Mussar class, March 31 at 1:30, please: 1) read Morinis's pages on Patience, 55-62, 2) think about/post in a conspicuous place in your home and/or office, repeat many times to yourself his phrase "Whatever may obstruct me from reaching my foals, it is possible to bear the burden of the situation" (or any other suitable phrase you prefer), and 3) jot down how you encounter the trait of "Patience" in your life between now and the class!    
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Siddur Class For This Saturday March 24th

Siddur Class For This Saturday March 24th
This week’s (3/24) Opening the Jewish Treasure Chest: the Siddur class will take place at 1:30 pm.  After reviewing the seven “rubrics” of the daily morning prayer service and their themes, we will explore the image-rich and Kabbalah-inspired prayers and traditions for donning tallit (prayer shawl) and t’fillin (phylacteries).  Please review these prayers in your siddur and bring your tallit and t’fillin!  Women don't wear t'fillin, you might say??? See the accompanying image!  
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Vayikra: A Different “Approach” to “Sacrifice”

Vayikra: A Different “Approach” to “Sacrifice”

This week, Jews all over the world are beginning to study the book of Leviticus, or in Hebrew, ויקרא Vayikra, which means: “And He Called.”  The reference is to G-d calling to Moses to tell him what to say to the Israelites.  Leviticus contains some of the loftiest, most inspiring passages in the entire Hebrew Bible, such as Love your neighbor as yourselfYou shall be holy, and Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof.   But Vayikra also contains much “gory” material on a subject that most of us would prefer to disregard as distasteful and archaic: animal sacrifices. 

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Mar 21

Vayakhel-P'kudei: Virtue and Leadership

Vayakhel-P'kudei: Virtue and Leadership

Now that Purim has passed, we look ahead to the holidays ofPesachandShavuot.They mark our liberation from Egypt and, seven weeks thereafter (hence, the holiday's name), our receipt of Torah. These were the formative events in the birth of the Jewish nation. All nations, most especially young ones, need leaders who inspire public confidence. George Washington has been called "the one indispensable man" of American history, and certainly not only because of (indeed, perhaps in spite of) his military aptitude. Moses could hardly be less a seminal figure for the Jewish nation. Yet, he was not its only key leader.

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Mar 15

Ki Tissa: Moses’ Horns: Not a Mistranslation

Ki Tissa: Moses’ Horns: Not a Mistranslation

This week’s Torah portion contains one of the most fateful words in the history of the Jewish people!  That word is קרן “keren.”  ...   In the 4th century, St. Jerome translated the Bible from Hebrew into Latin.  His translation eventually became the official version of the Roman Catholic Church.  According to this week’s parashah, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai bearing the two tablets in his hand, he didn’t know that קָרַן עוֹר פָּנָיו בְּדַבְּרוֹ אִתּוֹ.”   Jerome translated this phrase into Latin as “cornuta esset facies sua ex consortio sermonis Dei” – “his face was horned from the conversation with the Lord.” 

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Feast or Fast? The Politics of Purim

Feast or Fast? The Politics of Purim
Today (Wednesday, March 7, 2012), the thirteenth day of the Hebrew month of Adar, is תענית אסתר: the "Fast of Esther."  Traditionally, by which I usually mean "as established by the rabbis of the Talmudic era," today is a day of fasting to commemorate Mordechai, Esther, and the Jewish people's fast in dreadful anticipation of the impending attack by the Persian populace. But before today's date became the "Fast of Esther," it was a day of great celebration!  Like Purim, it commemorated Jewish salvation from imminent threat of extermination.   It was then called "Nicanor's Day." 
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Tetzaveh: A Kindle for the Soul

Tetzaveh: A Kindle for the Soul

In this week’s portion, Tetzaveh, G-d continues instructions to Moses concerning construction of the Tabernacle. The portion begins at Exodus 27:20 with this sentence: וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד  The Jewish Publication Society translates this verse as: “You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly.”  It’s a practical translation, but to simply leave it at that risks completely missing what may be the more important meaning of the verse.  Let’s look at a few of the actual words.  

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Mar 01

He who guards his mouth preserves his life
Proverbs 13:3