Jewish Holidays

Tisha B'Av: Not Just for the Orthodox!

Tisha B'Av: Not Just for the Orthodox!

We all know that much “history” – what happened during andbefore our lifetimes -- greatly affects “who we are” and how we self-identify.   Yet, fewof us consciously define our lives in an expressly historical way.   Unlesswe experienced a traumatic or clearly life-changing event, we don’t say or eventhink “I am who I am because of what happened.” Nor do we think or say, “I am a link in a chain of many generations.”  But doing so would likely enrich the meaning inand of our lives.  In this week’s Torah portion, Devarim, the first inDeuteronomy, Moses knows that he is soon to die.  How does he begin his last oration?  Rather than praising G-d or reiterating theCommandments, he begins with a narrative history of Israel’s experiencessince receiving the Commandments.  Perhapshe realizes that to ensure the future of the “Jewish people,” his mostimportant task is to ensure that they don’t forget theirpast –especially the bitter parts.

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Of Bonfires and Biases: Lag BaOmer in the “Territories”

Of Bonfires and Biases: Lag BaOmer in the “Territories”
The phrase “Hilltop Outpost in the Territories” may conjure up the following image:  A remote spot, far from “Israel proper,” in mostly, or entirely, Palestinian-occupied area.  A few, far right-wing religious zealots individuals or families flout the law and bring international scorn, consuming widely disproportionate government funds (thanks to disproportionate right-wing political support in the fractious Knesset) and other resources (security, utilities, etc.), in furtherance of what they consider their Biblical mandate.  
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Independence Days: 1840 and 2012

Independence Days: 1840 and 2012

The Jerusalem (N.Y.) Gazette

July 4, 1840

Strike Up the Band! Our glorious nation is 64 years young today!  It’s a day to celebrate and to reflect in amazement and gratitude on the miraculous feat wrought by God through our brave predecessors!  With  unmeasured sacrifice and valor, the Greatest Generation rose up against tyranny, defeated the mightiest army on earth, and established a new republic conceived in liberty. 

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A Passover Pilgrimage of the Mind

A Passover Pilgrimage of the Mind

The drive from Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv up into Jerusalem takes only about 35 minutes in non-rush hour traffic.  After initially crossing the coastal plain, one begins the steady climb of about 2,500 feet into the Judean Hills.  I always watch across the highway for a glimpse of the slowly-disintegrating personnel carriers left rusting as memorials to the soldiers and civilians who died there during the 1948 War of Independence.  Then, I scan the hills for the first glimpse of the “Chords Bridge” tower that now marks the principal entry into the Holy City.  All the while, as my vehicle (usually a van-taxi) downshifts up the mountain, I marvel at the thought of my ancestors leaving their homes and making this laborious and dusty ascent by foot or donkey three times each year.  The book of Deuteronomy

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Why is Passover so popular?

Why is Passover so popular?

During Passover, the normal sequential Torah reading cycle pauses to revisit passages in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that address Pesach observance.  Even in America, where, to a great extent, most Jews limit their ritual observance and are comfortable living in the nominally Christian (or secular) culture, Pesach observance – one or two Seders, eating of matzoh, and chametz avoidance for most or all of an entire week – is generally or closely followed.  Why do Jews who otherwise minimize Jewish rituals cling to those of Passover?  Here are ten possibilities:

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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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Purim

Purim
The next Jewish “Hol-y-day” is Purim on March 7th-8th. Purim is immediately preceded by the Fast of Esther and followed by Shushan Purim. As the date approaches, I will post entries about the meanings and traditions of Purim. In the meantime, be ... Continue Reading »
Feb 20
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A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb