Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Importance of Dad

In honor of Father's Day, Jewish Treats presents this classic Treat on the importance of a father.

Where does a child learn to be a mentsch (a good person)? From his/her parents! Indeed, in the Talmud (Sukkot 56b) it even notes that a child repeats in the streets what he/she hears at home.


According to Dr. David Pelcovitz (author of Balanced Parenting), research studies have found that the active involvement of both parents in a child’s moral education is the strongest predictor of children's moral reasoning and empathy as they grow older.


In the traditional family model, in which mom tends to have the central role in parenting (i.e. spends a lot more time with the kids), it is important to note that these studies have found particular importance in dad’s involvement.


The father is often seen as the enforcer of the rules laid down by the mother. However, far more important than being involved in discipline is dad’s actual involvement in teaching his child(ren) how to live a Jewish life (i.e. being a mentsch), which has an incredibly positive influence on the child’s future. As King Solomon wrote in Proverbs (22:6), “Educate a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”


According to the sages of the Talmud, after circumcision and Pidyon Haben (redemption of the first born son), a father’s primary responsibilities are to teach the child Torah, to find him/her a spouse, and to teach the child a trade. Some say, to teach him/her to swim too (Kiddushin 29a). At the bare minimum, his fatherly obligations are to make certain that the basic necessities of child-rearing are attended to (by a third party if necessary). But, the best child-rearing includes dad sharing his time, knowledge and wisdom, and truly leaving a lasting and meaningful impression on his children.


This Treat is reposted each year in honor of Father's Day.


Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved

Call If You Can

If you haven't already, call your father for a shmooze.

Friday, June 15, 2018

A Trap of Wealth

If I were a rich man...The most important men in town will come to fawn on me...When you’re rich they think you really know...

The now classic words from the Broadway show Fiddler on the Roof speak a sad truth -- people often convolute having wealth with having wisdom or deserving of leadership status. In many ways, this was the case of Korach, a cousin of Aaron, Miriam and Moses, who led a rebellion against their leadership.

The Aggadah and Midrash (extra biblical texts containing further narrative, part of the oral tradition) add some critical information about Korach that help explain why the sages state “Which [dispute] was not for the sake of Heaven? The dispute of Korach” (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 5:17).

Korach was used to being in charge and respected. He was not your average Israelite or even an average Levi. The Talmud maintains that Korach was a fabulously wealthy individual and records that “The keys to Korach’s treasury were a load for 300 white mules. They even declared that the verse in Ecclesiastes 5:12, ‘Riches hoarded by their owner, to his misfortune,’ refers to the wealth of Korach” (Talmud Pesachim 119a). Furthermore, according to the Midrash, Korach acquired his wealth as “overseer of Pharaoh’s house, and the keys to [Pharaoh’s] treasuries were in his hands” (Numbers Rabbah 18:15).

One of the many underlying themes in Jewish life is to remember that all of one’s blessings come from God. And yet, the more successful one is, the more easily one believes that success is solely a product of one’s own efforts, which is an attitude that leads a person to seek out honor. The Midrash states about Korach: “Two men of wealth arose in the world - Korach of Israel and Haman of the nations of the world, both of whom perished from the world. Why? Because their gifts were not from the Holy One Blessed is He, rather, He allowed them to grab them for themselves” (Numbers Rabbah 12:7).

A wealthy person may be wise, or a wealthy person may be a lucky fool blessed with good fortune. It is prudent to always judge leaders not by their apparent success, but by their words, actions and wisdom.

Keeping Humble

Be grateful for your successes.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

This Surgery Is Elective

In the late twentieth century there was, according to anecdotal evidence, an epidemic of “deviated septum” among American Jewish girls. The implication, along with many not-so-funny jokes, was that many young Jewish women were finding medical reasons to have rhinoplasty.   Today, in the 21st century, cosmetic surgery and rhinoplasty are basic and easily available options and have moved from being a tabloid title of derision to being an advertised standard option for anyone.

Pikuach nefesh, saving a life, is always a primary priority in halacha (Jewish law) discussions. But, plastic surgery, particularly elective procedures done purely for aesthetic purposes, does not fall into the life-saving category, and one might wonder if these procedures are therefore allowed according to Jewish law. This question has been discussed by many important halachic experts since the 1960s, when the practice first became popular.

One common argument raised in the discussion of cosmetic surgery is the religious prohibition of chavala, injuring one’s body. However, it is commonly accepted, as explained by Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides/Rambam), that this prohibition refers specifically to hostile actions.

Another primary point made is the question of safety. It is not permissible to put one’s life in danger unnecessarily, and many cosmetic procedures require general anesthesia. Advances in technology and medicine, however, have made those risks negligible in most cases. Pikuach nephesh raises the issue of health and healing, the validity of which many may question when discussing cosmetic surgery. However, in may cases, the benefits of the surgery is to heal a person’s internal needs by helping to create a positive sense of self, which can be just as important as a healthy body.

Like most choices filtered through a Jewish lens, every case involves an individual halachic decision and one should always discuss such issues with a rabbi.

I Like Your....

 Be generous in giving compliments to those around you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Other Hand Washing

It’s been a lovely meal, from the fresh-baked French bread to the sinful chocolate mousse -- every bite. All that is left to do is to recite Grace After Meals (Birkat Hamazon) thanking God for the food. But would you be surprised to learn that there is an additional religious rite to perform before the concluding Grace?

Just as the hands are washed before a meal (in which one eats bread), before the conclusion of the meal there is a special hand washing ritual known as mayim acharonim (literally: “final waters”).

Mayim acharonim is usually done at the table with a small cup of water and a small bowl into which to spill the used water. There is no blessing, and the “dirty” water should either be covered or removed from the table before Birkat Hamazon. Customs for mayim acharonim vary. Some only do it when there are three or more people present, some only when there are 10 or more, and others every time one eats bread. Likewise, how much of the hand or fingers are washed varies according to custom.

Some sages have disputed the necessity of maintaining this practice because it stems from the need to wash off “Sodomite salt.” This pungent salt was sometimes mixed into table salt in Talmudic times and could potentially cause blindness if rubbed in the eye. Since this salt is no longer in use, the mayim acharonim might appear to be unnecessary.

Washing one’s hands as part of Jewish ritual, however, is not about cleanliness of the body (although that is an added bonus), but cleanliness of the soul. As one is about to thank the Creator for all that has been provided, washing one’s hands reminds a person to separate from the physical and to focus on the spiritual.


This Treat was last posted on January 30, 2009.

The Custom of the Law

When confronted with different customs on fulfilling Jewish law, check with your family or local community rabbi to know which custom to follow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Choral in the Capitals

The history of Jewish settlement in Russia is as long and complex as the narrative of the ever-shifting areas of Russian power. In the 18th century, Empress Catherine the Great banished all Jews from Russia proper, sending them to the Pale of Settlement, but exceptions were made and small Jewish communities began to develop in cities such as St. Petersburg and Moscow. By 1869, several years after Czar Alexander II relaxed the restrictions on Jewish settlement, there were at least 10 Jewish prayer groups meeting in St. Petersburg. With special permission from the Czar, and in agreement to his specifications, the development of St. Petersburg's Grand Choral Synagogue began in 1870, although a plot of land was not purchased until 1879.The synagogue came into partial use in 1886 and was finally consecrated and opened in 1893.

Like Russian Jewry, the Grand Choral Synagogue has survived the challenges of war and oppression. It served as a hospital during World War I and was bombed during the Siege of Leningrad (as the city was then known) during World War II. Having maintained its sacred trust even throughout the anti-religious Soviet era, the Grand Choral Synagogue is, today, a registered landmark.

In Moscow, which became Russia's capital in 1918, there is also a Choral Synagogue that was built around the same time. The Jewish community hired Simon Eibschitz to design a synagogue in 1881. In 1886, the plans were officially approved. In 1888, when construction was well-underway, the city insisted that an exterior image of a Torah scroll and the building's domes be removed. The builders complied and work resumed, at least for a little while. In March 1891, the city's new General Governor, Prince Serge Aleksandrovich, began expelling groups of Jews, starting with artisans. By June 1892, when Aleksandrovich officially shut down the Choral Synagogue along with several others, close to 20,000 Jews had been expelled.

If not for the Russian Revolution, this would possibly have been the end of the synagogue. In the midst of the chaos, Czar Nicholas declared religious freedom. The synagogue was refurbished by architect Roman Klein and then reopened in 1906.

Once reopened, the Moscow Choral Synagogue managed to stay relevant during the Soviet Era, although there were many times of danger. In 1948, Israeli Ambassador Golda Meir attended High Holiday services there, much to the chagrin of the Soviet authorities watching her, which launched a major movement of Jewish consciousness among Soviet Jews.

Today, the synagogue has once again been refurbished and is now the center of the city's Jewish life.

Synagogue Life

Get involved in your local synagogue, explore your options of prayer services, social programming or, quite often, community activism.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Philosophy, Religion, A Jewish Civilization

Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan was born on June 11, 1881, in Lithuania. His family moved to America in 1889. After receiving a traditional Jewish education, Kaplan studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) while also attending first the City College of New York, followed by graduate studies at Columbia University. Upon completing his education, Kaplan accepted a rabbinic position at New York's Kehillath Jeshurun and began teaching at JTS.

Early in his career, Kaplan began developing certain unique thoughts and concepts about Jewish theology. He placed great importance on viewing Judaism as an evolving civilization, which he called "peoplehood.” One way he put this philosophy into action was in supporting efforts to create places like the Jewish Center in Manhattan, of which he became the founding rabbi in 1918. The Jewish Center acted as a community center with arts, culture and athletics, built around a synagogue. As Kaplan's personal philosophies continued to develop away from traditional thought, however, he was released from his employment at the Jewish Center in 1921. The next year he helped create the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, where he served as rabbi and where he oversaw what is considered the first American public Bat Mitzvah, that of his daughter Judith.

Developing philosophies such as prayer as a tool of self-conscientiousness and a naturalistic concept of God, Rabbi Kaplan found himself more and more isolated from the established and more traditional American Jewish theologic organizations, although he did maintain his teaching position at JTS. In 1939, beginning with Judaism As A Civilization, Rabbi Kaplan published books explaining his unique view points. Following his belief in a broader understanding of a Jewish society, he helped create the University of Judaism (now the American Jewish University), that strived to encompass the diversity of the American Jewish community. Five years after Rabbi Kaplan's retirement from JTS (1963), he and his son-in-law, Rabbi Ira Eisenstein, created the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, marking the official founding of the Reconstructionist Movement.

Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan passed away in New York City on November 8, 1983, at age 102.

Proud Judaism

Fill your home with items that enhance your pride in being Jewish.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The People's Request

One of the most significant events in the journey of the Children of Israel through the wilderness was the incident of the spies. Sent into the Land of Canaan to assess its potential for settlement, ten of the twelve tribal leaders sent as spies reported upon their return that the land was fearsome and that the Children of Israel would be no match for its inhabitants. The Israelites cried out in panic and, in consequence, God determined that their entry into Israel
would be delayed for one generation. 

In the Book of Numbers, the description of these events begins with two small but significant words: “Shlach lecha,” “Send for yourself” (Numbers 13:1).  According to many commentaries, these words, spoken by God to Moses, point to the fact that God did not plan on having the Children of Israel send spies into the Land of Canaan, but that He commanded it in response to a request from the Israelites. This understanding is supported by Moses’ own words as he related the history of the Israelites’ travels in the Book of Deuteronomy: “Then all of you came to me and said, ‘Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us...” (Deuteronomy 1:22).

It is easy to think of Scripture as a tome of commandments, of one-directional instructions from God to Moses to the Jewish people. The narrative of the spies, however, reveals a subtle insight into the deeper relationship of God and the Jewish people, which is never one-directional.

A Chance To Enhance

This Shabbat, spend a few moments meditating on how you can enhance your relationship with the Divine.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Great Jewish Tenor

There was a time, in the first half of the 20th century, when chazanut (cantorial/synagogue music) was the rage in the American Jewish community. In fact, there were celebrity chazanim (cantors), some of whom were even famous outside of the Jewish world. Of these “superstars,” the most prominent was Yossele Rosenblatt.

Born in a small Ukranian town in 1882, Rosenblatt was already performing by the time he was eight, and once he was Bar Mitzvah, he was often asked to lead services by serving as chazan. At 17, Rosenblatt began a journey that took him and his new wife to Vienna, then to Munkacz, where he served as a chazan for the chassidish community, and then to Pressburg, where he remained for five years until he moved to Hamburg. In 1905, Rosenblatt made his first of more than 200 recordings, the distribution of which helped spread his name throughout the worldwide Jewish community.

At the invitation of Congregation Ohab Zedek, Rosenblatt came to New York City in 1912. His duties as the congregation’s chazan left him time to travel and perform, and Rosenblatt quickly gained renown. In 1917, while traveling on a Liberty Bond Tour, he was offered a position with the Chicago Opera, who even offered to assure conditions that would meet all of his religious needs. But Rosenblatt felt uncomfortable with the secular setting and declined.

Rosenblatt held featured recitals at both Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera. He was paid handsomely and received regular royalties from his recordings. But, in addition to his eight children and extended family, Rosenblatt was both extremely generous and overly trusting. In 1925, he was forced to declare bankruptcy after a bad investment. In order to repay his creditors, Rosenblatt began performing in Vaudville. He insisted on performing without scenery or costume and was hugely popular. When Warner Brothers began filming The Jazz Singer, they offered Rosenblatt an incredible sum to play the father. When he refused, the producers convinced him to allow one scene of him performing a popular Yiddish song.

Yossele Rosenblatt passed away at age 51, in Israel, on 25 Sivan, 1933. He had just finished a performance tour of the Holy Land while also recording a documentary when he suffered a fatal heart attack.

Deep Inspiration

Listen to Jewish music and allow it to inspire your spiritual side.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Mezuzah: Complete Fulfillment

A mezuzah on the doorpost is a public sign of a Jewish home. If you open the decorative container of the mezuzah you will find a piece of parchment with two sets of Hebrew verses from Deuteronomy, hand-lettered in black ink. The first set opens with the words: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (6:4-9). The second begins with “And it will be if you will listen diligently to all my mitzvot” (11:13-21). Both verses contain the commandment to “write these words on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,” the very mitzvah that is fulfilled by attaching these verses to one’s doorway.

On the back of the parchment, the scribe writes the Hebrew letters shin, daled and yud, one of the seven names of God that is also an acronym for the words Shomer Daltot Yisrael, He guards the doorways of Israel. But the mezuzah is not supposed to be regarded as a good luck charm. Rather, the mezuzah is meant to serve as a reminder of what is written on it--that there is one God and we have a relationship with Him--so that we might cultivate our awareness of Him and walk in His ways.

To help us remember God at all times, the mezuzah is affixed to the doorpost at the entrance to every room in our home (except for the bathroom). Although synagogues and study halls do not require a mezuzah because both already have their own innate sanctity, nevertheless mezuzot are often hung at these locations, but without a blessing. Also, we do not affix a mezuzah to a non-permanent structure, such as a sukkah. The presence of the mezuzah elevates the atmosphere of our homes and reminds us of what truly matters.


This Treat was last posted on March 23, 2009.

To Find Mezuzot

Contact your local Judaica store or Jewish scribe to purchase any mezuzot you might be missing.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

No Refuge in Alaska

Purchased from the Russian Empire in 1867, the territory of Alaska was the United States’ “Last Frontier.” Following its 1899 gold rush, which helped lay the foundation of Alaskan infrastructure for many of its larger population areas, development soon became a priority of the territory’s governing bodies. Among the many opportunities discussed is one that became almost a footnote in Jewish history.

In November 1938, just after KristallnachtHarold Ickes, the United States Secretary of Interior, suggested at a press conference that the territory of Alaska could be a haven for the Jews of Germany and German occupied territory. A formal proposal titled “The Problem of Alaskan Development” (focusing on development rather than a humanitarian campaign) was written by Interior Undersecretary Harold Slattery. The proposal called for four areas to be designated for the settlement of refugees, particularly, but not exclusively, Jewish refugees. The goal was not altruistic. Ickes and Slatterly and their supporters saw the potential for these refugees to boost the area’s economic development.

Alas, the plan did not receive the expected support. There were the obvious objections from anti-Semites who opposed any increase in Jewish immigration. However, the proposal also received little Jewish support. Ickes’ plan made the Jews of the time nervous that they would be accused of trying to take over a portion of the country. (In 1938, no one knew how desperately such plans would be needed!) The collapse of the Slattery Report was the result of President Roosevelt’s proposal that the United States would allow 10,000 refugees to be admitted per year for five years, but of those, no more that 1,000 per year could be Jewish.

In an interesting footnote to this footnote, the Slattery Report was not the first proposal for Jewish settlement in Alaska. In 1906, Russian emigre Abe Spring proposed that the Jewish victims of Russian pogroms be allowed to settle in the far north territory, but the idea was rejected by Congress.

Note: There was a resurgence in interest in the Slattery Report after the publication of Michael Chabon’s novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (2009), which presented an alternate history as if the proposal had been accepted and Alaska had become a Jewish settlement area.

Thanks for the Yum

Take a moment and thank God for the wonderful array of foods one can choose.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Proverb For More Than Parents

While there is no single Biblical or Talmudic text that can be compared to any of the formal parenting advice books that abound today, there are frequent pieces of sound parenting advice that may be found throughout the Biblical canon, particularly in Mishlei, The Book of Proverbs.

Often, when one reads advice on child rearing one is struck by how simple the advice is and, yet, how significant. With the verses from Mishlei, however, the wisdom’s seeming simplicity is also rife with deeper meaning to apply elsewhere in one’s life. For instance, Proverbs 13:1: “A wise son [hears] his father’s instructions, but a scorner hears no rebuke.”

From a parenting point of view, one could understand this as referring to recognizing the appropriate time and place to rebuke one’s child. Everyone hopes that their child will be responsible and not break rules, but when they do, when a child is in the heat of the moment or the throes of rebellion, nothing a parent can say by way of chastisement will be heard.

Wisdom does not always come with age. Indeed, the appellation of “scoffer” can apply to adults as well. One who wishes to enhance their Jewish living will do so, and this is, metaphorically, the wise child who hears instructions. But what of those who deliberately disdain Jewish life? This proverb is a succinct reminder that approaching such a person with harsh words or forceful actions will not change their point of view.

Modelling

Rather than use rebuke, model the behavior you believe is best.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Haftarah

Every week, on Shabbat, a portion of the Five Books of Moses is read in synagogue. This portion is known as the parasha. In addition to the parasha, a section from the Prophets (Neviim) is also read each Shabbat, immediately after the conclusion of the Torah Reading Service. This reading is known as the Haftarah. 

While there is no definitive source that confirms when this custom actually began, it is speculated that it commenced during the Syrian-Greek occupation of Judea (the Chanukah story). King Antiochus prohibited the study of the Torah. Because the prohibition was specific to the five Books of Moses, the Jewish people chose to read aloud a section from the prophets that somehow related to the weekly portion. After the victory over Antiochus, although the regular Torah reading was renewed, the custom remained.

Haftarot are read on Shabbat and festival mornings and during the afternoon service on fast days. (On Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, a haftarah is read during both the morning and the afternoon service.) The final person called to make the blessing over the Torah (the aliyah)is known as the baal maftir, the extra. In addition to making the blessing over the final Torah verse recited, the baal maftir also recites the blessings over the haftarah. 

On the whole, the basic content of the haftarah is the same throughout the Jewish world. There are, however, some differences in the choice of readings between Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities, and even between other smaller communities within this divide (for instance, the community of Frankfurt-on-Main, Germany).

Unlike the reading of the Torah, the reading of the haftarah does not need to be chanted from a scroll, although it often is. The haftarot also have a separate and distinct trope (tune) from the Torah reading.

This Treat was last posted on February 5, 2010.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

The Prophets

Take time to explore the writings of the Prophets to get a better understanding of the development of the Jewish people.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Waving Levites

Every society, large and small, has a hierarchy, and in the society defined by the Torah for the Children of Israel, there is a well-defined system that guides its spiritual life. The basic Jewish hierarchy consists of three groups: the kohanim (priests), who performed the lead role in the sacrificial services in the Tabernacle/Temple; the Levites, who were designated to serve and assist the kohanim in maintaining the service in the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple; and the Children of Israel, who fulfill their spiritual obligations through the sacrificial service;

God chose the Levites to take the place of the firstborn Israelites, who were originally meant to serve the kohanim but were denied that honor for joining in the sin of the Golden Calf. The Levites inauguration was marked by a specific ceremony during which the entire tribe was presented as a “wave offering,” in which each Levite was physically lifted off of the ground and “waved” north, south, east, west, up and down:

You [Moses] shall present the Levites before God, and the Children of Israel shall lay their hands upon the Levites. An Aharon shall offer the Levites before God for a wave-offering from the Children of Israel, that they may do the service of God (Numbers 8:10-11) ... And I [God] have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel. And I have given the Levites to Aaron and to his sons from among- the Children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the tent of meeting (ibid. 18-19).

The wave offering of Levites was a one-time event. It is fascinating to contemplate the ceremony’s purpose and its effect on the nation as a whole. By the Children of Israel “laying hands” upon the Levites and participating in the wave offering, the nation performed a physical act demonstrating their acceptance of the Levites’ elevated status, and, at the same time, confirmed the God-given role of the Levites to assist the Kohanim in the spiritual service of the people.

Always Check

Make it a habit to check food packaging for kosher certification, even if it is something you have purchased before.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Batsheva and David

The story of David and Batsheva is one of the most famous “romantic” stories in the Biblical canon, and one of the most controversial.

Batsheva's first husband, Uriah, was a soldier in King David's army. The Midrash tells us that Uriah gave his wife a "conditional divorce," as did all soldiers in David's army. This agreement stated that if the husband did not return safely from battle, the couple were officially divorced as of the date of the husband’s departure for war (so that there was no question about a woman's ability to remarry if her husband never returned).

The army went to battle, however, King David remained in Jerusalem. One evening, David saw Batsheva bathing on a neighboring roof. He invited her to the palace and, well ... When Batsheva informed him that she was with child, David called Uriah back from war and instructed him to take a visit home. Uriah, however, insisted on remaining with his troops. Angered by Uriah's refusal to follow his orders, the king quickly dispatched him back to the front, where Uriah was killed in action.

David erred in trying to cover up his actions, but because Uriah refused to visit his wife and then died before reuniting with her, the conditional divorce went into effect from the date of Uriah’s departure to battle, allowing David and Batsheva to legally wed.

Nevertheless, the prophet Nathan chastised David for his actions. The depth and sincerity of David's repentance is one of the qualities for which David is praised.

Batsheva and David’s first son died, but their second son, Solomon, survived.

This Treat is taken from NJOP’s Aishet Chayil Study Program.

Favorable Reasoning

Assess all information with the goal of finding favorable reasoning for the actions of others. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Celebrating a Daughter

On his 8th day of life, a baby boy has his brit milah (circumcision) and is given a Jewish name. But how do Jews celebrate the birth of a girl? While there are no mandatory rituals in honor of a Jewish girl’s birth, it is customary to name her during a Torah reading service after her birth. Many people wait until Shabbat,  but the naming can also take place on Monday or Thursday, or if there is a special Torah reading such as Rosh Chodesh.

There are additional customs of celebration, as well, depending on one’s background or community.

In traditional Ashkenazic society, there is a strong custom that the parents sponsor a special kiddush (refreshments for the congregation or community) after services on a Shabbat within one year of the girl's birth. In this way, the parents not only publicly celebrate the great gift they have been given, but also give their friends and neighbors the opportunity to offer their blessings to the child and to the family.

There is a Sephardic custom called the Zeved Ha'bat (The Gift of a Daughter), which is a combination of both a formal feast and baby naming. Over the last few decades, many non-Sephardic North American communities have also begun to celebrate what is called a Shalom Bat (Welcoming a Daughter) similar to the Zeved Ha'bat.


This Treat was last posted on June 16, 2009.

Mazal Tov

When invited to a kiddush in honor of the birth of a girl, make certain to go over to the parents and wish them mazal tov.

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Memorial Day Look At The Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery, the United States’ most noted military burial ground, was established in May 1864. At that time, and for half a century thereafter, military tombstones bore no markers distinguishing people of different faith, and so the Jewish soldiers who had the honor of an Arlington burial passed into history unidentified as Jews.

In the early 1990s, a man named Kenneth Poch learned of the Jewish Civil War soldiers buried in Arlington through Mel Young’s book Where They Lie: Someone Should Say Kaddish. A Brooklyn native living in Reston, VA, Poch went to Arlington to visit the graves of those soldiers and realized that all around him, within the mass of white grave markers, there was a history that needed to be recorded and made public. For the next ten years, until he succumbed to ALS in December 2003, Poch researched and recorded the fascinating stories of the Jews buried at Arlington.

Some of these soldiers died in war, such as Private First Class Robert Cohen, who was shot in the woods by the Nazis along with 85 other American Prisoners of War, and Sergeant Major Lawrence Freedman (nicknamed “Super Jew”), who was killed in Somalia in 1993.

Other soldiers were buried at Arlington after long, productive post-war years. These include Sir Moses Ezekiel, a Confederate soldier who became a famous sculptor and was knighted both in Italy and Germany, and Rear Admiral Bertram Korn, the highest ranking Jewish chaplain in U.S. military history.

In addition to soldiers, the graves of Arlington include burial sites for military nurses such as Lieutenant Colonel Rae Landy, and astronauts, including Judith Resnick of the Challenger Mission.

Upon his death, Poch’s incredible collection of research files were donated to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington.

For Freedom

Take the time to honor those soldiers who have given their all to protect our freedom.

Friday, May 25, 2018

It’s About the Relationship

Marriage, in the construct of Jewish law, is a practical agreement by which, at its most basic, a woman is guaranteed support and protection and a man has the prospect of progeny to carry on his family line. The knowledge of a child’s paternity, assumed guaranteed by the sanctity of marriage, was significant for both keeping the inherited land in the family and, more widely, maintaining the tribal holdings in the era before the exile of the ten northern tribes.

The issues of tribal identity and land ownership is connected to one’s paternity (whereas one’s Jewish heritage is matrilineal), thus the practical necessity of the prohibition against adultery. But, those represent only one aspect of the consequences of infidelity. The act of marrying, whether for business-like reasons or for love, fosters the creation of a sacred trust, and adultery betrays that trust. Thus, when it is discovered or admitted that a married woman had relations with a man other than her husband, it is regarded in Jewish law as a capital crime.

But what happens when a man grows jealous of his wife and believes, whether true or not, that his wife had been unfaithful? What happens if he warns her not to be seen alone with the man of whom he is jealous, but she is witnessed in seclusion with the paramour anyway? This is the specific situation for the “ordeal of the bitter waters” described in the fifth chapter of the Book of Numbers. The ritual, which could only take place in the time of the Tabernacle or the Temple, is extremely complex, and today’s Treat will not go into its details, about which much commentary has been written. The results of a guilty woman drinking the bitter water was the enigmatic consequence that her “belly will swell and [her] thigh waste away” (5:27). However, if she was innocent, she was unaffected.

At the heart of the concept of Sotah (the term for the suspected wife), is the poisoned relationship of this husband and wife. He is jealous, but she is also not guiltless. She is acting in a way that promotes his jealousy (secluding herself with another man after being warned not to). When reading the verses of the Sotah, or hearing reference to it, think not of fairness and accusations, but of how very difficult a relationship had become for the husband to be willing to call out his wife for a public ordeal with the accusation of adultery. The purpose of the Sotah ritual is to try to save the marriage by proving the wife’s innocence through a Divine test.

For Peace

Always do what you can to promote a peaceful relationship between a husband and wife. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Cover Your Ears

Understanding proper speech, according to Jewish tradition, is critical to one’s personal development. Proper speech does not refer to manners or etiquette, but rather to avoiding a broad category of speech known as lashon harah. While lashon harah is literally translated as evil speech, it is most often known as gossip and malicious speech.

Since the root of lashon harah is speech, it might be surprising to learn that the act of listening to lashon harah is considered more problematic than actually speaking evil, because active, positive listening supports and encourages the speaker. By listening to lashon harah, one risks transgressing the additional Torah prohibition against accepting a false report.

Almost everyone has, at one time or another, found themselves in a situation where they are in a group or with a friend, and the conversation turns “toxic.” Sometimes it is malicious, sometimes it’s innocent, and sometimes it just seems fun. How should one respond? If possible, change the subject or step away from the conversation. If, however, one cannot withdraw from the situation, then it is very important not to accept what is being said as fact.

There is, however, yet another twist to the laws of listening to lashon harah. There are some situations in which one is actually permitted to listen to a person’s negative speech - but always to be taken with a “grain of salt.” For instance, one may listen, if one believes that they can help a bad situation and bring peace between the two sides or, perhaps, right a wrong. If one believes that allowing the speaker to vent will sooth the situation, then one can even listen, but not accept what is being said as true.

The laws of lashon harah are often intuitive and yet complicated at the same time, and many books have been written on the topic. At the core of these laws, however, is Judaism’s constant goal of pursuing interpersonal peace.

Line on Hand

Prepare a line to have on hand to remove yourself from a negative conversation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rabbi Tarfon

Studying the Talmud is a most exciting adventure that introduces a person to a host of intriguing historic personalities who had a profound impact on Jewish life. With so many different sages spanning several generations, it is often hard to see these rabbis as individuals. Today’s Jewish Treat presents a brief biographical background of one such sage: Rabbi Tarfon.

If the name Rabbi Tarfon rings familiar, it might be because he is one of the five sages named in the Haggadah who stayed awake all night reciting the story of the Exodus. He is also cited twice in Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers. In fact, Rabbi Tarfon is quoted close to 50 times throughout the Mishna, often in dialogue with Rabbi Akiva.

Part of the third generation of Mishna sages, Rabbi Tarfon was a kohen (priest) who was born before the destruction of the Second Temple and could actually recall witnessing the Temple service, even hearing the voice of the High Priest. He also came from a wealthy family and was known for his generosity. He accepted terumah (an offering/tithe given to the priests) in order for the mitzvah to be fulfilled, and when he participated in a pidyon haben (redemption of the firstborn), he gave away what he had been paid.

The Midrash in Leviticus Rabbah relays one interesting incident that seems to personify Rabbi Tarfon and his relationship with Rabbi Akiva, who was both his friend and his student.  Rabbi Tarfon accepted an offer from Rabbi Akiva to invest in some “durable goods.” Rabbi Akiva took Rabbi Tarfon’s money and gave it to poor Torah scholars. When Rabbi Tarfon asked about his investment, Rabbi Akiva brought him to a Torah study hall and declared that these were the “durable goods.” Rabbi Tarfon was delighted and declared Rabbi Akiva his teacher in wisdom and in conduct.”

Although not confirmed, it is believed that Rabbi Tarfon’s burial site is in a sealed cave on Mount Meron in Israel.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Wise as Solomon

King Solomon is best known for his brilliance and wisdom, attributes that were actually a requested gift from God. It happened this way:

One night, God spoke to Solomon in a dream and told him to ask for whatever he desired. The adolescent Solomon responded that he was “but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in” (Kings I 3:7). He therefore requested that God “give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge Your great people?” (Kings I 3:9).

In the dream, God grants him his wish, greatly pleased that Solomon had not requested riches or vengeance upon Israel’s enemies (or his own).

Solomon’s new-found wisdom is quickly tested by the famous “Case of the Two Mothers.”

Two harlots who lived together gave birth within a few days of each other. Harlot A claimed that Harlot B had accidentally lain on her own child and killed him, and then exchanged the dead baby for Harlot A's living baby. The defendant's response was, "No! The living one is mine!" Solomon listened to them and, unable to clarify the case without witnesses, he surprised everyone by ordering that the child be cut in two, giving each mother half.

Solomon knew the true mother (and awarded her the baby) when she called out a plea to retract his cruel order, offering to waive her claim to save the baby's life. The other woman, however, insisted on letting the sword do its grisly work. (Kings I 3:16-27).

This Treat was last posted on June 2003, 2009.

Help Me, Please

Don't hesitate to ask God for help in becoming a better person.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Give Them a Choice

There is an oft-cited Midrash (Sifrei, Dvarim 343) describing how God offered the Torah to the other nations of the world before He gave it to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. According to this Midrash, the first nation to whom He offered the Torah asked what was in it. When God told them about the law prohibiting stealing, they couldn’t fathom a life without theft. The next nation reacted incredulously to the prohibition of adultery; they were horrified at the idea that God would monitor people’s bedroom behavior! Another nation was unable to accept the prohibition of murder ... and so on. When God asked the Jewish people if they would accept the Torah, there were no questions. They declared: “Na’aseh v’nishma” (“We will do and we will listen”).

So, if one understands the Midrash correctly, it sounds like the so-called “chosen people” were God's last choice for receiving the Torah. However, God understood that, unlike the other nations, the Israelites were truly free to accept the Torah since they did not yet have a homeland, they did not yet have an existing government, culture or “way of life.” It was this freedom that God gave them when He brought them out of Egypt into the wilderness that made the Jews more inclined to receive the Torah. They were not chained to a pre-existing life-style and thus were not reluctant to change themselves for the better. Perhaps this is the practical reason why the Jews were able to accept the Torah so readily.

One must also bear in mind that the Israelites still remembered the generation that had come to Egypt and those who had been enslaved. They still claimed the spiritual heritage of Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebecca, and Jacob, Rachel & Leah.

It is this heritage that we have today. On Shavuot we commemorate the day that God gave the Torah to our ancestors. Now the choice is ours.
This Treat is reposted annually in honor of Shavuot.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Two Pillars of Five

Jewish law, and thus Jewish life, rests on two pillars, the mitzvot between a person and God and the mitzvot between one person and another. These two pillars of law are laid out in the Ten Commandments.

According to the sages, the first five commandments concern one’s relationship with God. The second five are concerned with interpersonal relationships. Strikingly enough, these two sets of five parallel each other:

1) I am the Lord your God and 6) Do not murder: When someone murders another person, the perpetrator, in effect, denies that the victim is created b’tzelem Eh'lokim, made in the image of God. A murderer assumes that there is no higher power who will either punish him/her or who will punish the person whom he/she feels has wronged him/her.

2) You shall have no idols and 7) Do not commit adultery: Just as adultery is being unfaithful to one’s spouse, worshiping idols is tantamount to being unfaithful to God.

3) Do not make a false oath and 8) Do not steal: One who swears falsely in God’s name distorts the trust that people place in God to uphold justice. One who steals twists the trust another person puts in him/her.

4) Sanctify the Sabbath and 9) Do not bear false witness: By sanctifying the Sabbath day, one bears testimony that God created the world and redeemed the Jews from Egypt. Violating the Sabbath denies both.

5) Honor your mother and father and 10) Do not covet your neighbor's possessions: By honoring our parents, we recognize God as our Creator, thereby honoring Him as well. When we covet our neighbor's possessions we deny God as the Ruler of the world and believe that we have been denied something that we deserve.

This Treat is reposted in honor of Shavuot.

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To You All

NJOP and Jewish Treats wish you all a wonderful and meaningful Shavuot holiday.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Book of Ruth

Ruth was the Moabite wife of Machlon, one of the sons of Elimelech and Naomi, a wealthy couple who had fled Bethlehem during a bitter famine. Elimelech's family had settled in Moab, a neighboring country with which Israel had a history of conflict.

When Elimelech and his two sons died, Naomi chose to return to her homeland. Her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, decided to go with her. When they reached Israel, however, Naomi urged them to go back to their fathers’ homes. Orpah did leave. Ruth refused, declaring: "Where you [Naomi]  go, I shall go, your people will be my people...your land will be my land, and your God will be my God" (1:16).

Upon their return to Bethlehem, Ruth and Naomi lived a lonely and impoverished life. People resented that Naomi’s family had fled the famine, and they did not trust her Moabite daughter-in-law. To keep from starving, Ruth gathered excess barley that fell during the harvest in the field of Boaz, a relative of Elimelech. Boaz noticed Ruth’s unique qualities of modesty, loyalty and humility and encouraged her to continue gleaning in his field until the end of the harvest.

In the meantime, the elders of Bethlehem debated whether Ruth was a true convert and whether she could marry a Jewish man. Naomi, however, knew that Ruth was devout and sincere. She directed Ruth to go to the ceremony at the close of the threshing and seek out Boaz, who had been so kind to them. She told Ruth to present herself to him as a potential mate and assured Ruth that Boaz would take care of her.

That night, Ruth demurely waited at Boaz’s feet, signaling her intentions. Boaz, who was much older, an established landowner and a leader in the community, had not thought of himself as a possible suitor until that night.

Boaz and Ruth married and their son, Oved, was the grandfather of King David. The Book of Ruth is read on Shavuot, which, according to tradition, is the anniversary of David's birth and death.


This Treat is reposted annually in honor of Shavuot.



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Preparing for the Torah

Shortly after the Israelites encamped at the base of Mount Sinai, they agreed to accept the Torah and do all that God had commanded. And so, God declared that He would bring Himself, in the form of a thick cloud, close to the people, that they might hear Him speak. First, however, God instructed Moses that the people must prepare themselves. 

There is no way to describe the effects of being in the presence of God because there is no human being alive today who has experienced this level of holiness. In fact, Moses was the only prophet who had direct interaction with God, and God’s Presence at Mount Sinai when the Torah was given was a one-time-only event. 


However, it is understood that being in the Divine Presence requires preparation, both physical and spiritual. Therefore, the Israelites, under the guidance of Moses, prepared themselves for three days. They washed their clothes and prepared their souls. 


It was not just the people who needed to be prepared. God’s presence affected the inanimate earth as well. The Israelites were instructed, under threat of death, not to go up, or even draw close to, the mountain until the shofar was sounded. 


The three days preceding Shavuot (Sivan 3, 4 and 5) are known as Sh'loshet Yemei Hagbalah, the three days of boundaries. These three days were, and still are, days of preparation. Today, while we do not stand at the physical base of Mount Sinai, we can, and should, prepare ourselves to ascend to a higher level of spirituality and religious commitment on Shavuot. 


Today is the first day of the Sh'loshet Yemei Hagbalah, the three days of preparation. The holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the receiving of the Torah, begins on Saturday night, immediately after Shabbat.  


This Treat is reposted in honor of Shavuot.


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The First Ten Reviewed

Prepare for Shavuot by reviewing the Ten Commandments.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Day of Distinction

On the first day of Sivan in the year 2448 (Jewish calendar), only seven weeks after leaving Egypt, the Israelites reached the Wilderness of Sinai. On the desert plain around the mountain, they set up camp and watched as Moses set off toward the mountain to hear God's will.

The next morning, Moses called for the elders of Israel and transmitted God's message to them (which they then related to the rest of the nation). God had instructed Moses to tell the Israelites:

You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself. Now, therefore, if you will listen to My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own treasure from among all peoples; for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation (Exodus 19:4-6).

On that day, 2 Sivan 2448, the Israelites made the most monumental decision in history. They chose to become a people with a distinct and direct relationship with God. They chose to become God's servants, to follow His rules and to faithfully serve Him. They chose to strive for holiness. On the second of Sivan, they chose to be “chosen” when they responded with one voice: “All that God has spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8).

The second day of Sivan is not marked as a holiday, as is the sixth of Sivan (Shavuot), the day on which the Israelites actually received the Torah. However, to honor the agreement that was presented and accepted on this day, the second of Sivan is known as Yom Ha'meyuchas, the Day of Distinction.

This Treat is reposted in honor of Shavuot.


Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Whose First Fruits

When the Oral Law was first codified, most Jews lived in agrarian settings. Today, being less familiar with agrarian culture, some people find it difficult to relate to some of the discussions in the Mishna (Oral Law) regarding planting or livestock. Although we may no longer farm or herd flocks, the importance of responsible land ownership and use is a value that has remained throughout time.

For Jewish farmers in the land of Israel, one of the mitzvot that is part of the cycle of crop production is that of bikkurim, the first fruit offering. The first fruit to blossom on each plant of the seven species of the land of Israel (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates) is marked (with a string) to be set aside for an offering at the Temple. One might assume that this mitzvah would apply to all farmers, but, in fact, the rabbis understood the pronouns in this commandment to be very specific: “You shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you shall bring in from your land” (Deuteronomy 26:2).

The Mishna (Bikkurim 1:2) states that “tenants, lessees, or occupiers of confiscated property--or a robber--may not bring them...because it says, ‘the first-fruits of your land.’” As significant as the first fruits are, the relationship of the farmer to the land upon which the plant grows is also important.

But ownership of the land is not the only criteria. “These may not bring them [bikkurim]: He who plants on his own soil, but sinks [a shoot] so that [it] nourishes from the territory belonging to an individual or to the public...[or similarly]...so that it grows on his own property”(Bikkurim1:1). In other words, this mitzvah can only be performed by one who makes certain not to infringe on the property rights of others or the public.

This Treat is posted annually in honor of Shavuot.




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Commitment

Use Shavuot as a time to recommit yourself to Jewish living.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Feast of Weeks

Shavuot, which we begin celebrating Saturday night (May 19th), is the only holiday in the Torah not listed by the date on which it is to be observed. Rather, the Torah teaches that this festival takes place on the day following the 49th day after the first day of Passover (see Counting of the Omer). The name Shavuot, therefore, reflects the fact that this holiday occurs seven complete weeks (shavuot) after Passover. In mystical terms, the number 7 represents the natural order of things, and so, a complete, natural cycle has occurred.

The natural cycle that has been completed is agricultural. Therefore the holiday is also called Chag Ha'bikurim, The Holiday of the First Fruits, and is the time when the offering of the First Fruit of the harvest was brought to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem as a gesture of thanksgiving for the successful crop.

Seven times seven days, the count of 49, expresses the natural cycle, but Shavuot takes place one day after the seven weeks--one step beyond the natural cycle. It is, therefore, also representative of an event beyond nature.

When the Israelites left Egypt, the people acted as though they were merely cousins bonded by mutual misery. By the end of seven weeks, however, at the base of Mount Sinai, the former slaves rose above their normal human limitations and, by accepting the Torah, took upon themselves a total commitment to God, the final step in becoming the Nation of Israel. Shavuot is therefore also known as Z'man Matan Torateinu, the time of the giving of our Torah.

This Treat is reposted annually in honor of Shavuot.




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In the Wilderness

The Torah was given to the Jewish nation in the midst of the wilderness on a tiny mountain called Sinai. Throughout the Torah, however, there is much focus on the “Promised Land” and the mitzvot that can only be performed when the Israelites settle the land.

There are two significant ideas that one may learn from the fact that the Torah was given in the desert:

1) The Torah is not only for those who live in the Land of Israel. Its laws and precepts are meant to be practiced by the Jewish People no matter where they may live. (It must, of course, be noted that there are a significant number of mitzvot that can only be observed in the Land of Israel itself.)

2) Attaining possession of the Holy Land is a great reward. The Israelites spent their time in the wilderness preparing themselves, studying and practicing the laws of the Torah. The books of the Prophets, which record the history of the Jewish people following their entry into the Promised Land, teach that whenever the people strayed from the Torah, the land was conquered and the people subjugated until they mended their ways.

There is no question that the Jews are bound to the Land of Israel. This fact is evident throughout the Bible, the Talmud, the liturgy, and the extensive canon of Jewish writing. Judaism, however, is bigger than a particular location. Judaism is a way of living wherever a Jew may be.


This Treat is reposted in honor of Shavuot.



Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved

A Menu to Plan

Plan and begin to prepare a holiday menu for this upcoming weekend's Shabbat-Shavuot celebration.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Green Cheesecake at Midnight

The holiday of Shavuot has three well-known, and well-loved, customs:

Decorating our Homes and Synagogues with Plants and Flowers: According to the Midrash, at the time of the giving of the Torah, Mount Sinai burst forth in blossoms of verdant greenery, covered with plants and flowers. This is the basis for the custom of decorating our homes and synagogues with plants and flowers on Shavuot.

Dairy Foods: On Shavuot, it is customary to eat dairy foods – cheesecake and blintzes are particular favorites.

Among the reasons given for this custom are:

Once the Torah was given, the Israelites refrained from eating meat because they needed to learn the laws of kosher slaughter and to make their utensils kosher. They specifically chose to eat dairy and give themselves the time necessary to learn the laws.

On a more mystical level, the gematria (numeric value of the Hebrew letters) of the word chalav, milk, is 40. Forty corresponds to the forty days and nights that Moses spent on Mount Sinai learning the Torah.

All-Night Learning: To demonstrate our love for Torah and our appreciation for God's revelation on Mount Sinai, it is customary to stay up all night on the first night of Shavuot either studying Torah, listening to lectures on Torah topics, or simply discussing Jewish ideas.

Another reason given for the custom of learning all night is to atone for the apathy of the Israelites, who, according to tradition, actually overslept on the morning that they were to receive the Torah, rather than being wide awake in excited anticipation.

This Treat is reposted annually in honor of Shavuot.


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A Different Set of Loaves

There are several well-known connections between the holiday of Passover and the holiday of Shavuot. The most obvious of these is that the celebration of Shavuot is dependent on the count of 49 days that begins on the second day of Passover. Additionally, on Passover we retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt and on Shavuot we celebrate the true culmination of that event, the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

One fascinating juxtaposition of the two festivals is that whereas on Passover there is a prohibition against eating bread, on Shavuot the priests brought a special Offering of the Two Loaves (of bread) in the Temple. In fact, they were specifically leavened bread (chametz), as opposed to the unleavened bread (matzah) of Passover. The holiday of Shavuot is also known as Chag Habikurim, the Holiday of the First Fruits, because of the offering of the first fruits that was brought to the Temple. Although the Offering of the Two Loaves was officially separate, it was another form of offering “first fruits,” as the Two Loaves were made from the first cut of the new wheat harvest.

Generally, when one thinks of sacred Jewish bread, one imagines beautifully braided challahs, perhaps the stunning twelve (or more) stranded challahs often seen at weddings or bar/bat mitzvahs. Actually, the Offering of the Two Loaves were shaped like large bricks. Their dimensions were seven hand-breadths long, four and a half hand breadths wide and four 'fingers' high (approximately 22 inches x 9.5 inches x 3 inches).

The rules associated with the Two Loaves go into great detail as to the preparation of the wheat and the loaves. The Torah instructs that the Two Loaves be taken as a wave offering, after which each of the priests is given a small piece to consume with a portion of the peace offerings. All of this comes to underscore our constant dependence upon God for our sustenance and our gratitude to Him for our total well-being.

This Treat is reposted in honor of Shavuot



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Get Ready

Contact your synagogue and ask for their holiday schedule.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Jerusalem Day

In 1947, when the United Nations approved the plan to partition the British Mandate of Palestine (Israel) into a Jewish state and an Arab state, they determined that Jerusalem would be an "international city" for a period of ten years. The plan was approved by the Jews, and the day after it came into effect, the new state was attacked by the surrounding Arab states (as the Arabs had not accepted the Partition Plan).

At the time of the cease-fire that ended the 1948 War for Independence, Jordan was in control of the Old City and eastern Jerusalem. Jews lost all access to the Western Wall,  the only accessible point (at that time) to the holiest site of the Jewish faith as it is the last standing structure from the retaining wall that supported the Holy Temple. Nearly all of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was destroyed.

On June 5, 1967, the Middle East was once again at war. The war itself lasted six days, but on June 7, 1967 - 28 Iyar 5727 - Israeli paratroopers took the Old City and, for the first time in almost twenty years, Jewish prayers were recited at the Western Wall.

Eleven months later, the government of Israel declared a new holiday, Jerusalem Day, Yom Yerushalayim, on the 28th of the Hebrew month of Iyar. In Israel on this day, there are state ceremonies and parades, as well as commemorations for the soldiers who died in the battle for Jerusalem. Yom Yerushalayim is also celebrated in many communities outside of Israel with special assemblies and programs. Religious observance of this holiday, by means of the recitation of Hallel, varies by community.

This Treat is reposted annually.


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Thank You, Mom

In honor of all our favorite Jewish Mothers, we've decided to re-Treat this special Mother's Day edition of Jewish Treats!

Don’t forget to call your mother today, or send her flowers or a card. For those very, very out of the loop, today is Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is a day set aside to show the moms in our lives how much we appreciate them. It’s a sweet and wonderful idea...but according to the Torah, every day is Mother’s Day.

The very first commandment that God gave to Adam was to “be fruitful and multiply.” Traditionally, this mitzvah is only considered obligatory upon men, not women.

This seems strange. After all, women are the ones who carry the children in the womb, nourish the infants from their breasts, and, traditionally, take the brunt of the child-rearing responsibility. If anything, “peru oo’revu,” be fruitful and multiply, should be a woman’s mitzvah!

According to the sages, however, the mitzvah of “peru oo’revu” is not obligatory on a woman because of the inherent dangers in childbirth. It has only been in the last 100 years or so that the number of fatalities during birth has become minimal, and Torah law does not command people to put themselves in life-threatening situations.

Perhaps, however, the danger inherent in motherhood is not just physical. Motherhood changes a person, restricts her and demands that she sacrifice many of the things she most values in life (sleep, independence, etc.). At the same time, through motherhood, a woman has the chance to not only experience the immense power of creation, but also to emulate God's endless ability to give.

Motherhood, therefore, is both a choice and an opportunity. And it is because of this choice, and the sacrifices inherent therein, that one should give his/her mother honor, respect and even gratitude, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day.

For more on the mitzvah of honoring one's mother and father, please click here


This Treat is repost annually for Mother's Day.

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