Friday, February 23, 2018

The Sabbath of Remembering

This Shabbat is Shabbat Parashat Zachor, the Sabbath of Remembering.

The Torah portion that is read as the Maftir (additional) portion, after the conclusion of the regular weekly Torah reading, commands the Jewish people to remember that the nation of Amalek attacked our weak, tired and elderly shortly after the Jews crossed the Red Sea (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Therefore, there is a mitzvah to destroy Amalek. Parashat Zachor is always read on the Shabbat before Purim.

The Amalekites traveled many miles in order to attack the Jewish people from behind, attacking the weak and the stragglers. Miraculously, the Jewish people defeated the Amalekites in a one day war. This attack underscored the evil character of the Amalekites. God had just performed great miracles for the Israelites and no nation dared attack them, except Amalek, who hit them from the rear.

The nation of Amalek is known for its all-consuming love of self, and reliance on violence to prove its superiority. The Midrash (Sifrei 296) tells us that the wording in Deuteronomy 25:18, "Asher kar'cha ba'derech," literally means that Amalek "happened" upon the Jews. This, the rabbis explain, is a description of the personality of Amalek: Amalek represents the belief in chance, of the haphazard dictates of "fate," which opposes the Jewish belief in Divine providence. Amalek's philosophy negates the concept that there is a purpose to humanity or to creation itself--again the antithesis of Jewish philosophy.

Parashat Zachor is read on the Shabbat before Purim because Haman was a direct descendant of Amalek. Like his forefathers, Haman was the archenemy of the Jews. He wanted to wipe them out. Neither begging, bribery nor debate would have changed Haman's mind because the Jewish nation represented a spiritual force which he abhorred.

This Treat is reposted annually on the Friday of Parashat Zachor.
Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved. 

Light and Happiness

What is the connection between the holiday of Purim and Havdalah, the ceremonial conclusion of Shabbat? The simple answer is the single verse from the Book of Esther that is recited by the officiant during Havdalah: “La’yehudeem hayetah orah v’simcha v’sason v’yikar; And for the Jews there was light, happiness, joy and honor” (Esther 8:16). Not only is this verse recited as part of Havdalah, but, both on Purim and on Saturday night, it is customary for the verse to be recited both by the reader/reciter and by the people listening. 

In fact, Esther 8:16 is one of four verses that are traditionally recited by both the reader and the congregation during Megillah reading on Purim. The other three verses are:

 "There was a certain Jew in Shushan the castle, whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair the son of Shimei the son of Kish, a Benjamite"(2:5).

"And Mordecai went forth from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a robe of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan shouted and was glad" (8:15).

"For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Achashverosh, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren; seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his seed"(10:3).

These verses are frequently referred to as “verses of redemption.” The custom for them to be recited by the public as well as the reader appears to be sourced back to the Geonic period (c. 600 - 1000 C.E.).* It has been suggested that these verses mark positive turning points in the fate of the Jews. (There is a separate custom  for congregations to read aloud the names of the 10 sons of Haman, preferably in one breath.)

The origin of the custom for pausing during the Havdalah ceremony to allow all present to recite this line from the Book of Esther is unclear. However, it is likely that this custom was a cross-over from the custom of reciting it aloud during the reading of the Megillah.

* http://menachemmendel.net/blog/verses-of-redemption-in-the-megillah/

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved. 


Hear It

Make an effort to hear the portion of Zachor read in synagogue this Shabbat.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Four Mitzvot of Purim

This year, Purim will be celebrated on Thursday, March 1st (beginning Wednesday evening, February 28th, after sunset). Four mitzvot are associated with the holiday:

Megillah Reading - Book of Esther - The Megillah is read twice on Purim, once at night and once during the day. In order to properly fulfill the mitzvah of Megillah, it is necessary to hear every word during the reading. For this reason it is imperative that people not speak during the Megillah reading.

Mishloach Manot/Shalach Manos - Sending Gifts - On Purim day, every Jew should give at least one Mishloach Manot gift containing at least two different types of ready-to-eat food items.

Matanot La'evyonim - Gifts to the Poor - Giving to the poor is a mitzvah all year round. However, the mitzvah to do so on Purim is in addition to the general mitzvah of tzedakah (charity). To properly fulfill the mitzvah of Matanot La'evyonim one must give to two poor individuals. Although one may fulfill this mitzvah by giving a minimal amount of money to each person, the sages noted that the highest form of fulfilling this mitzvah is by giving enough money for a meal, or the equivalent in food. This mitzvah may be fulfilled by donating beforehand to an organization that will distribute the money or food on Purim day.

Seudah Festive Meal - One should partake in a festive meal on Purim day. The minimum to fulfill this mitzvah requires that one ritually wash one's hands (netillat yadayim), eat bread and then recite the Birkat Hamazon, the Grace after Meals.

The Purim seudah is often associated with drinking, and people cite the reason for this as the Talmudic quote: "A person should drink on Purim up to the point where they cannot tell the difference between 'Blessed is Mordechai' and 'Cursed is Haman.'" (Megillah 7a and Shulchan Aruch--Code of Jewish Law) - which is sometimes interpreted as drinking more than one usually does or enough to make one sleepy.

(While drinking on Purim is often seen as a mitzvah, risking one's life is never permitted. Whether host or guest, it is important to be responsible:
1-Do not drink and drive.
2-Beware of underage drinking. While Purim is a religious holiday, and underage alcohol consumption is allowed for religious occasions, adults are still responsible for minors. Please do not give young people any alcohol beyond the bare minimum of wine, if at all.)


This Treat is reposted annually in honor of Purim.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved. 



May His Name Be Erased

“Purim Holiday/Purim Holiday/A big holiday for the Jews
Masks and noisemakers/Songs and Dance/Let’s make noise rash rash rash.”
(Classic Hebrew Purim Song - Chag Purim)

Although noisemakers are not mentioned in the Book of Esther, they are one of the items most frequently associated with the holiday of Purim. Most English speakers refer to these noisemakers as groggers (also spelled graggers), and they can best be defined as the musical instrument known as a ratchet. In modern Hebrew, a noisemaker is called a ra’ashan. As implied by the Yiddish origin of the word grogger, these noisemakers are of Ashkenazi origin, although they have, with few exceptions,  become common in most Purim celebrations.

It is not clear when the grogger in its current form became popular, but it appears to be a derivative of the custom noted by Rabbi Moshe Isserles (16th century Poland) of writing the name Haman on two smooth pieces of wood or stone and banging them against each other until the name was no longer legible.

It is known that the custom reflects the mitzvah that one should “blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget" (Deuteronomy 25:19). In connection to Haman, there are numerous ways in which this commandment was fulfilled:

1) After saying Haman’s name, the phrase Yimach Shemo, His name should be erased, is stated.

2) Writing the name Haman on the bottom of one’s shoe and stamping out his name.

3) An effigy of Haman is either hung, pelted with stones and/or burned. (This was a custom in the Babylonian Gaonic period and in some old European communities, and may not be acceptable within the context of modern western society.)

It should be noted that many Sephardi, Mizrachi and Yemenite synagogues do not permit noisemaking during Megillah reading itself as they consider it a violation of appropriate decorum. In those synagogues where noisemakers are permitted, it is important that the noise end on cue, so that the Megillah reading may continue in a fashion in which all congregants will be able to hear each word of the reading.
This Treat is reposted in honor of Purim.


Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved. 

Find the Time

Begin preparing for the upcoming holiday of Purim by contacting your local synagogue for the times of Megillah reading.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dancing on Ice

Competing for artistic and athletic mastery on ice has been part of the fun of winter long before the Winter Olympics, and Jews have often taken part in the joy of ice skating. In fact, Louis Rubenstein, called “The Father of Canadian Figure Skating,” was one of the first to incorporate dance-like movements to the act of making figures on ice. Today’s Jewish Treat presents a brief glimpse at some early Jewish figure skating champions.

According to many commentaries, the winner of the 1908 Olympic gold might have been Lily Kronberger (1890-1974), had she competed. Although she did not compete in the Olympics, the Budapest born skater had an incredible career. She won bronze in 1906, at the first World Championship to include women, and again in 1907. In 1908, although not in the Olympics, she not only became the official Hungarian champion, but claimed the first of four successive Gold Medals at the World Championship. Kronberger is also noted for being the first competitive skater in figure skating history to choreograph her routine to music (she brought her own brass band) and to express emotion.

Other great Jewish skaters were Laszlo Szollas (1907 - 1980) and Emilia Rotter (1906 - 2003) who, at both the 1932 and 1936 Winter Olympics, were awarded the Bronze Medal for pairs skating. The Hungarian skaters were also World Champions in 1931, 1933, 1934 and 1935 (with silver in 1932).

Little is known about the fate of Lily Kronberger and Emilia Rotter during World War II other than that they survived. Szollas entered the military and fought against the Soviet Union. He was captured and spent four years in Siberia as a Prisoner of War. Szollas went on to attend medical school and became a Sports Medicine Doctor.

Lily Kronberger was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, as was Emilia Rotter in 1995.

Thoughtful

Take time out of your schedule to check on people you know who are going through challenging times.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Resident Alien

Perhaps you are familiar with the Hebrew term “ger,” derived from the Hebrew term “lagoor” - to dwell or sojourn. While ger is often translated as stranger, it is also the Hebrew term for a convert, one who chooses to become a part of the Jewish people. Because a convert chooses to join the People of Israel both physically and spiritually, the longer term ger tzedek, righteous convert, is often used as well.

In the Torah and throughout Jewish literature, there is another term that is often associated with the word ger. That term is ger toshav, which is technically translated as a stranger who lives among you. A ger toshav is not a convert to Judaism, but rather is a non-Jew who makes a choice to live among the Jewish people in the Jewish homeland. The ger toshav had to be approved, so to speak, to reside among the Jewish people because Exodus 23:33 directs that “They [idolators] shall not dwell in your land lest they cause you to sin against Me [God] and worship their gods.”

In the Talmud, a ger toshav is defined as follows:

Any [Gentile] who takes upon himself in the presence of three mitzvah observant people not to worship idols. Such is the statement of Rabbi Meir; but the Sages declare: Any [Gentile] who takes upon himself the seven precepts which the sons of Noah undertook; and still others maintain: ...A proselyte who eats of animals not ritually slaughtered, i.e., he took upon himself to observe all the precepts mentioned in the Torah apart from the prohibition of [eating the flesh of] animals not ritually slaughtered (Talmud Avodah Zarah 64b).

The topic of today’s Jewish Treat was inspired by the United Nations designated World Day of Social Justice (February 20). It is fascinating to note how the topic of foreigners dwelling among the Children of Israel is already dealt with even in the Torah. The “resident alien” (ger toshav) is mentioned at least seven times in the Torah, sometimes stating things he may not partake in (like the Passover offering), but other times referring to the ways in which his rights must be respected (for instance in the right to use a city of refuge). In other words, newcomers were welcome, and protected, upon the understanding that the newcomers would respect the Torah as the law of the land.

Friendly Neighbor

When you have a new neighbor, help them feel welcome.

Monday, February 19, 2018

President Warren Harding

In honor of President’s Day, Jewish Treats presents a quick look at the relationship of President Warren Harding (1865 - 1923) and the Jews.

Although Harding may be criticized for restrictive immigration legislation, his overall relationship with the Jewish people seems to have been positive and supportive. During his tenure in office (1921 - 1923), activists of the Zionist Movement sought his support for creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Even as he heard opposition from the State Department and prominent Jewish anti-Zionists (such as Adolph Ochs, of The New York Times), Harding gave his whole-hearted support to the endeavor when he signed the 1922 Lodge-Fish Resolution that stated that the United States favored:

The establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jews, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which should prejudice civil and religious rights of Christians and all other non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and that the holy places and religious buildings and cites in Palestine shall be adequately protected. 

Harding lauded the significance of the Resolution in his Rosh Hashana Greeting to the Jews of America on August 21, 1922, when he noted the significance of the possibility of a Jewish homeland for “not only to the Jewish people, but to their friends and well-wishers everywhere, among whom the American nation has always been proud to be numbered.”

Beyond his support for the creation of a Jewish homeland, Harding was not hesitant to express positive sentiments about the Jewish people. In January 1923, he sent an apology for not being able to attend the Golden Jubilee Dinner of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (due to his wife’s health). In his note, which was printed in The New York Times on January 25, 1923, he stated: “One of the marvels of humanity’s story has been the strength and persistence of the Jewish faith and continuing influence and power of the Jewish people.”


Leadership

If you hold a leadership position in any type of organization, put your heart into making it the best it can be.

Friday, February 16, 2018

When Adar Begins

The month of Adar begins today. About Adar, the twelfth month of the Jewish calendar year, the Talmud (Ta’anith 29a) states: “Mee'sheh'nichnas Adar, marbin b'simchah," With the beginning of Adar, rejoicing is increased.

One might think that this increase in joy is because Adar is the first month of spring. While winter is not completely gone, it is certainly on its way out. That may be enough reason for others to rejoice, but the Jews have the wonderful holiday of Purim to make our spirits joyful.

Celebrated on the 14th day of the month of Adar,* Purim is the holiday that commemorates good overcoming evil. In a nutshell, the story of Purim revolves around the plot, launched in the year 518 BCE by Haman (the wicked viceroy of the Persian-Median King Achashverosh), to kill all the Jews in Achashverosh’s kingdom. Haman’s hatred of the Jews reached a psychotic level when Mordechai, the leader of the Jewish community, refused to bow to him. Haman requested and was granted permission by Achashverosh to issue a decree calling for the death of all the Jews. Haman, however, was unaware that Achashverosh’s new queen, Esther, was actually Jewish and was Mordechai’s niece. With significant courage (and tremendous faith in God), Esther revealed Haman’s wicked plot to the king, thus saving the Jewish people.

In celebration of their salvation, the Jews feasted, gave charity and exchanged gift baskets with each other. They celebrated being alive with tremendous joy and rejoiced at being part of a wonderful nation. It is the energy of their joy that permeates the entire month of Adar so that even now, 2,500 years later, when Adar begins, rejoicing is increased.

* Some ancient walled cities, such as Jerusalem, celebrate on the 15th of Adar.

This Treat was originally posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2012.


Adar Shalom

Have a Shabbat full of Adar joy!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Spiritual Harvest of the Ant

Are you familiar with Aesop’s Fable of “The Ant and the Grasshopper”? It’s a morality tale about hard work and planning ahead, and it might just have you picturing the original version of Disney’s Jiminy Cricket. But the moral of Aesop’s Fable is actually one that can be found in one of Judaism’s ancient texts, The Book of Proverbs, that is attributed to King Solomon.

Lazybones, go to the ant; Study its ways and learn.
Without leaders, officers, or rulers,
It lays up its stores during the summer, Gathers in its food at the harvest.
How long will you lie there, lazybones; When will you wake from your sleep?
A bit more sleep, a bit more slumber, A bit more hugging yourself in bed,
And poverty will come calling upon you, And want, like a man with a shield.
(Proverbs 6:6-11)

Quite obviously, this set of verses can speak to every person about the importance of diligence, hard work and not procrastinating. (Indeed, it would not be surprising if this verse were quoted to not a few difficult-to-rouse teenagers.) Wise as this advice may be for practical living, the words of the Tanach (24 books of the Bible) are meant to provide spiritual guidance.

Very often people postpone spiritual matters for later. In their youth, they are concerned about immediate results and in their early adulthood they are focused on the everyday business of earning a living. These verses serve as a warning not to neglect one’s spiritual needs. Just as an ant gathers its nourishment and stores it over time, so too must people gather their mitzvot and increase their Torah knowledge throughout their lifetimes.

Deeper Exploration

When you find a topic of interest through Jewish Treats or another Jewish education source, take the time to explore it further.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Muscular Judaism

As the Zionist Movement developed, one of its secondary goals was to transform Jewish life by freeing it from what was considered a ghetto mentality, a societal mind-set of being weak and oppressed. For Max Nordau (1849-1923), a physician and author who was a co-founder of the World Zionist Organization, this meant moving away from bookish intellectualism and focusing on creating something he called “Muscular Judaism” (or, in his native German tongue, Muskel Judentum).

Even in Nordau’s day there were Jewish men and women who excelled in athletics or served as soldiers in their nations’ armies. But he was also aware that the anti-Semitic press made a point to emphasize the Jewish characteristics of being bookish and physically weak.

“Muscular Judaism” did not become a major movement in the Jewish world, but it did inspire many to get more involved in physical activity. In Vienna, Austria, a Jewish sports club named Hakoach Vienna (The Strength of Vienna) became home to a championship soccer team that played in Austria’s 1st class division. They proudly donned blue and white uniforms and toured throughout Europe, England and the United States (where many players defected after being impressed with the lack of overt anti-Semitism).

http://www.worldsoccer.com/blogs/hakoah-wien-355877


Hakoach Vienna had its own stadium and facilities for a wide range of sports. Its swimming pool was the training ground for record setting Austrian swimmer Judith Haspel, who chose to forego Olympic glory rather than compete in Munich. Hokoach was forced to close in 1938, when Austria came under Nazi control. After the war, it reopened briefly.

Unfortunately, Max Nordau never saw the Zionist dream become a reality. One can thus only imagine how proud he would have felt about the fulfillment of his Muscular Judaism ideals in the Israeli army and the host of exceptional Jewish athletes competing throughout the world.


Positive Exercise

When exercising, think about the fact that you are fulfilling the mitzvah of guarding one's being.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Wayward Sons

While the Biblical canon has many stories of redemption and miracles, it also records narratives that demonstrate the true struggles of real people.  Real people know of the commonly heard lament that raising children isn’t easy, and that certain children are more difficult than others. Such were the sons of Eli, the High Priest who served in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in Shilo in the years just before and after the birth of the Prophet Samuel. The sons’ names were Hophni and Pinchas.

Now Eli was very old. When he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel and how they had illicit relations with the women who performed tasks at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I get evil reports about you from the people on all hands. Don’t, my sons! It is no favorable report I hear the people of the Lord spreading about. If a man sins against a man, the Lord may pardon him; but if a man offends against God, who can obtain pardon for him?” But they ignored their fathers plea (I Samuel 2:21-25).

For this, Eli is informed that his family would lose its exalted position and would be cut off from the benefits of the priesthood. The consequence would not immediately go into effect - perhaps so Eli could continue the important work of raising Samuel, but would begin, he was told, on the day that Hophni and Pinchas die.

Several years passed until this occurred. When Eli was 98 years old, and the Israelites were at war with the Philistines, it was reported to him that both of his sons had been killed in battle and that the Ark of the Lord had been captured. Out of distress, Eli fell off of his seat, broke his neck and died. At the same time, his daughter-in-law, Pinchas’ widow, gave birth to the new generation that would feel the actual consequences of God’s reprimand (Ibid. 4:1-19).


Parenting Tip

Jewish parenting supports strong guidance from parents.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Jew Who Played for Germany

It is impossible to imagine what the thoughts of Rudi Victor Ball were when high ranking Nazi officials asked him to rejoin his German ice hockey teammates and play for Germany in the 1936 Olympic Games. Aware of the growing anti-Semitism in Germany, Ball had left Berlin and its SC Berliner ice hockey team in 1933 and joined the Swiss League playing for St. Moritz. So what drew him back to Germany to be the only Jewish athlete among Germany’s Olympians?

First a little background: Rudi Ball was born in Berlin in 1911 to a German father and Lithuanian Jewish mother. During his childhood, hockey was still a fairly new sport in Europe, and he did not even see his first hockey game until he was 15. Within a couple of years, he debuted on SC  Berliner’s second line. His two brothers, Gerhard and Heinz, also took up the game and, by 1929-30, all three were among Germany’s top players. At 5'4" and 140 lbs, Rudi was shockingly fast and skillful. He gained international notice and was considered a premiere European player. After the Ball brothers moved to St. Moritz, they went on to play for Diavoli Rosso Milano (Milan, Italy).

As the 1936 Olympics approached, Germany selected the players for its national team and deliberately ignored Ball. However, Gustav Jaenecke, Germany’s only other star player and one of Rudi Ball’s close frends, refused to play without him. The Germans, for whom Olympic victory was supremely important, recognized that they had no chance in ice hockey without Jaenecke and that Bell would be a critical asset. Rudi agreed to play for Germany with one stipulation - that his parents be allowed to emigrate.

The Germans finished 5th in Olympic hockey in 1936, because Rudi Ball ended up playing with an injury. The Nazis kept their end of the bargain and the Balls moved to Johannesburg, South Africa. Rudi continued to play for SC Berliner until 1948, when he moved to South Africa. Ball passed away in 1975, He was posthumously inaugurated into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 2004.

Give A Call

Make it a habit to call your family and build your relationship.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Rules for a Burglar

A burglar is, by definition, one who commits the act of breaking and entering a dwelling at night with the intent to commit a felony. This definition is very important in order to understand what the Torah has to say about this particular type of crime.

“If the thief is seized while breaking-in, and he is beaten to death, there is no bloodguilt in his case. If the sun has risen on him, there is bloodguilt in that case...” (Exodus 22:1-2).

If a burglar is killed in the act of breaking and entering, the person who killed him is not held liable. The reason for this is explained in the Talmud: “Raba said: What is the reason for the law of breaking-in? Because it is certain that no person will be inactive where their property is concerned; therefore this one [the thief] must have reasoned, ‘If I go there, he [the owner] will oppose me and prevent me; but if he does I will kill him.’ Hence the Torah decreed, ‘If he come to slay you, forestall by slaying him [first]’” (Sanhedrin 72a).

The very next verse, however, states that “if the sun has risen,” if there is light, then the balance changes. The sages saw the interplay of these two connected verses and explained that now, with the ability to see the intruder, one must try to determine the intentions of the burglar before reacting. “If it is as clear to you as the sun that his intentions are not peaceable, slay him; otherwise, do not slay him...If it is as clear to you as the sun that his intentions are peaceable, do not slay him; otherwise, slay him” (ibid).

Finding a person in one’s home in the middle of the night is terrifying, and may be considered justification for responding with violence. The sages, however, offer a warning that before one reacts, one must carefully assess the situation to determine the true threat to one’s life.



Reading Place

Arrange a cozy corner for some relaxing Shabbat reading.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Majority Rules

After the Torah was given, Moses served as the sole judge of the Jewish people until a judicial hierarchy was established at the suggestion of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. One judge was assigned to every hundred men. This judge could appeal, if necessary, to a higher court (a judge over a thousand). Only the most difficult disputes were brought to Moses for adjudication.

While this system was an improvement, it was only the first step in the development of the halachic judicial system. Eventually, the Jewish courts were constructed of three levels:

The Great Sanhedrin was composed of 71 sages and served as both a judicial court and a legislative body.

Little Sanhedrins, each composed of 23 judges, handled capital cases.

The Batei Din (plural for Bet Din, House of Judgement), however, were the most common courts. They dealt with both civil law and religious law. A bet din is composed of three judges and is the only halachic judicial system that still functions today.

The Jewish legal system was an improvement over the common ancient system that consisted of single judges, because it recognizes human fallibility. As Rabbi Ishmael ben Yosi noted (Ethics of the Fathers 4:8): “Do not judge on your own, for there is none qualified to judge alone, only the One [God]. And do not say, ‘You must accept my view,’ for this is their [the majority's] right, not yours.”

Human beings are far too easily swayed: by the tears in a litigant's eyes, by the clothing of the accuser or the title of the defendant, or, God forbid, by outright bribery. Therefore, under the bet din system, even in minor cases, a majority decision is necessary.

This Treat was last posted on June 4, 2009.

Just Ask

Have a question on Jewish law? Ask a local rabbi.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Kotzker

The Chassidic movement, which started with the Baal Shem Tov in the early 1700s, was known for its joyous attitudes, its focus on good deeds and the celebration of miracle makers. Whereas much of the Jewish world was focussed on rigorous learning, Chassidut focussed on a more personal relationship with the Divine. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgensztern, better known as the Kotzker Rebbe, brought these two worlds together. By the time he was 13, he had completed the study of the entire Talmud. Although his family was not Chassidic, he was drawn to this fairly new movement and became a student of Reb Simcha Bunim of Peshicha. When Reb Simcha Bunim passed away, many of his students chose Reb Menachem Mendel, now living in Kotzk, Poland, as their new rebbe.

The Kotzker Rebbe was known for his impatience with false piety and for his down-to-earth, sometimes sharp-witted, statements. Two examples of his world view are:

People are accustomed to look at the heavens and to wonder what happens there. It would be better if they would look within themselves to see what happens there. 

Do not be satisfied with the speech of your lips and the thoughts in your heart, all the promises and good sayings in your mouth, and all the good thoughts in your heart, rather you must arise and do.

Beginning in 1839, the Kotzker Rebbe left his followers and went into seclusion until his passing on 22 Shevat 1859, at the age of 72. He was succeeded by his son, Rabbi David Morgensztern. The Kotzker Rebbe left no written works (and burned his manuscripts when they were completed), but, later, his teachings were collected and published by his students.

Better Me

Working on becoming a better person is an important Jewish value.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Meaning of “Lamed”

Today’s Treat is brought to you by the Hebrew letter lamed and the number 30, as that is its value in gematria (a mystical system of understanding deeper meanings through numeric connections). The Twelfth letter of the twenty-two letter Hebrew alphabet, it shares the same sound as the English letter “L.” In its block print form (used in most printing), it is a unique letter that is easily recognizable as it stands taller than all the other letters.

Lamed is special in more than just its appearance and its common usage within words. As with many letters of the Hebrew alphabet, it also stands as a preposition when used as a pre-fix. The letter lamed represents “to” and “for” - as in giving something to the woman or doing something for the man. It is also used when discussing a location to which something or someone is heading. Another unique lamed role is its use to signal the infinitive form. Every Hebrew verbs’s most basic conjugation is its infinitive form (e.g. to speak, to act, to write), and every infinitive in Hebrew starts with the letter lamed.

So why is today’s Treat dedicated to the letter lamed and what is the significance of its connection to 30? Tonight is the annual Dinner of NJOP, the organization that brings you Jewish Treats. This year’s Dinner celebrates 30 years since NJOP was founded (as the National Jewish Outreach Program) by Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald.

Thirty is considered an age by which a person has reached maturity. They hopefully have an idea of where they are going in their lives and recognize a pathway toward growing success. Lamed’s connection to the mature 30, but also the preposition “to”/”for” and the basic verb infinitive form, teaches the lesson that this is the time to look forward toward where we are going and to work harder and take action. NJOP at 30 is an experienced educational organization that has made an impact on hundreds of thousands of Jews, and, through Jewish Treats, brings positive joyous, Jewish experiences to tens of thousands more. Having achieved 30 years, now is the time for NJOP and Jewish Treats to move toward the future with vigor.

T.I.A.

In honor of NJOP's 30th anniversary, please help support NJOP and Jewish Treats. Click Here

Monday, February 5, 2018

Unexpected Sri Lankan History

Today’s Jewish Treat will take a brief look at an unexpected location for Jewish history: Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon).

Located off the southern tip of India, Sri Lanka’s Jewish community today is based in a Chabad House in Columbo, Sri Lanka’s capital city. Despite the oral tradition of Sri Lankans that, as recently as World War II, Columbo actually had a synagogue that was referred to as “The Rotunda,” there is no record of its existence.

A Jewish presence in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) has been traced back to the 10th century, when, according to reports from a Muslim correspondent, the king’s council consisted of four Jews among the sixteen advisers. Noted 12th century Jewish travel writer Benjamin of Tudela reported a community of 3,000 there. But the 16th century brought the Portuguese, whose conquest resulted in most of the Jewish community leaving, hiding or assimilating due to fear of the Inquisition.

Some Jews returned with Dutch colonization in the mid-17th century, and many more came when the British took over in 1802. In fact, in 1809, the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, Alexander Johnston, proposed encouraging Jewish emigration to boot the economy. The plan never went into effect, but the success of Jews on the island is demonstrable by stories such as that of the prominent Jewish de Worms family. The de Worms established a coffee plantation near Kandy, named the Rothschild Estate (there was a cousin relationship). When coffee failed, the de Worms were one of the first to change their crop to tea. In 1847, Gabriel de Worms stood for election and won a seat on the Legislative Council. However, he never took is seat because he refused to take the Christian oath and no exceptions were allowed. (The de Worms eventually left Sri Lanka in 1865.)

Unfortunately, after independence in 1948, a long-term civil war erupted. During this time, almost all of the Jews of Sri Lanka left for safer harbors.

Today’s Treat is in honor of Sri Lanka’s Independence Day, which was yesterday, February 4th.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.
Bibliography

A Warm Cup of Anything

When you curl up with a hot drink on a cold day, don't forget to thank God by reciting a blessing.

Friday, February 2, 2018

A Phrase of Praise

If you’ve ever been in a synagogue and heard a bunch of congregants seemingly mumble something after the chazzan (prayer leader) recited a blessing and wondered what they were saying, and why, and when...then, hopefully, today’s Jewish Treat will provide you with an answer. The phrase that is recited is Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo, which means “Blessed is He and blessed be His name.” It is recited in response to hearing God’s name in a blessing (after Baruch Ahtah Ah’doh’nai...Blessed are You God). There are, however, several caveats to its recitation.

During a prayer service, there are certain sections of prayer when one is not permitted to interrupt except to say Amen, which is considered an obligatory response to a full blessing. Saying Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo, while considered important and praiseworthy, is not obligatory, and, therefore, one would not interrupt during these parts of the service to recite it.

One possible source for the custom of reciting Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo is, according to Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel (aka the ROSH) as cited by his son, Rabbi Jacob ben Asher (aka the TUR) in his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, the verse “When I call upon the name of the Lord, exalt our God” (Deuteronomy 32:3).

Because the recitation of Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo is to praise God after hearing his name, the phrase is generally not recited when one listens to a blessing that includes his or her fulfilment of a mitzvah, because then it is as if one is saying the blessing one’s self. For example, Kiddush is often recited only by one person at the Shabbat table, but fulfills the mitzvah for everyone present (click here for more on this concept). Only Amen is the proper response.

It should be noted that there are some rabbinic authorities who do not feel that Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo should ever be recited because it interrupts prayer and hinders one from hearing the blessings properly.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.
Bibliography

Attention To

When someone says a blessing, pay attention to hear the words.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Feeling Fit Focused on Napoleon

Believe it or not, body building as an international sport, has Jewish roots. Today, in honor of his birth date, Jewish Treats presents a brief biography of Ben Weider, who, together with his brother Joe, created the International Federation of Body Builders (IFBB) and played a critical role in the fitness revolution of the twentieth century.

Born on February 1, 1923, Weider dropped out of school at 13 to work. When he came of age, Weider entered the military and, during World War II, served in the Canadian Army’s intelligence division. When he returned to Montreal in 1946, Weider turned his brother’s interest in body building into a business. The brothers started with a small magazine, Your Fitness, through which they also sold equipment and nutritional supplements. Eventually their publications were expanded to include Flex, Muscle and Fitness, Men’s Fitness and Fit Pregnancy. In 1965, the Weiders introduced the first Mr. Olympia competition, which is still considered a top competition for body builders.

Much of Ben Weider’s work consisted of traveling around the world, building up the IFBB and, at the same time, working to enhance peaceful relations between peoples. He built a gym in the Israeli Knesset and was welcomed in numerous Arab states. In the era of the Cold War, he was invited to countries in the Soviet Bloc. He even managed to have an integrated body building IFBB tournament in 1978 South Africa. In 1984, Weider was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Body building was not Weider’s only passion. He was also a self-taught and highly respected Napoleonic scholar. He published four books on Napoleon and introduced the theory that Napoleon died not from stomach cancer but from arsenic poisoning.

Ben Weider passed away on October 17, 2008. Throughout his life, Weider earned numerous honors and awards, such as the Order of Canada and the Order of St, John. For all of his fame, Weider was also a philanthropist who gave generously, particularly within the Montreal Jewish community. The Young Man’s Hebrew Association and the educational complex of the Lubavitch community are two prominent edifices which bear his name.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.
Bibliography

Join a Class

Get involved in exercise because taking care of your body is as important as taking care of your soul.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

More Than Just Trees

Thousands of blue boxes and a dream that encompassed a nation...that was the foundation of the Jewish National Fund (JNF or Keren Kayemet L'Israel). Today, JNF is best known for its commitment to environmentalism and its dogged campaign to reforest the land of Israel (you know, plant a tree in honor/memory of a loved one). 

One might say, however, that JNF was founded as a giant real estate conglomerate whose sole client was the Jewish people. At the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in 1901, the assembled delegates discussed (as they had at previous congresses) the establishment of a national fund to purchase land in Palestine. When the Congress tabled the motion, Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement, stepped forward and called upon his colleagues to reconsider their hesitations. After his passionate speech, a new vote was held and the Fund was established.

The Zionist Congress resolved to raise 200,000 pounds sterling...and so it began, donation by donation, much of it collected in little blue charity boxes from around the world. In fact, these blue charity boxes (or pushkahs) became a symbol of the Zionist movement.

When JNF acquired its first parcel of land in Hadera, it immediately began planting trees, an act vital to the development of the land. Much of what had once been arable land had been overworked or neglected. The topsoil had been eroded. The trees helped revitalize the land.

In time, after the creation of the State of Israel, JNF was transformed into an organization that dealt with a wide variety of Israel’s needs, from environmental to employment for new immigrants. JNF has focused on the Negev desert, investing in new and innovative ways to bring life to the harsh desert climate, and dealing with Israel’s critical water resource issues. 

This Treat was originally posted on January 18, 2011.



Terrific Trees

In honor of the New Year of Trees (Tu B'Shevat), Jewish Treats presents some thoughts on trees and nature as found in the Bible.

1) In the second chapter of Genesis, humankind is instructed to not only "work" the land, but to carefully "guard" it. "And God put the human being in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to protect it" (Genesis 2:15).

2) The Bible sets as a foremost priority caring for the land by properly seeding and planting it. "When you will come into the land, and you will plant any tree for food..." (Leviticus 19:23). Planting trees is regarded as the first step in building an ecologically sound environment.

3) The Bible insists that newly planted trees must be properly protected so they may thrive--"For three years [the fruit] shall be restricted to you, it shall not be eaten" (Leviticus 19:23). In Hebrew, this mitzvah is known as orlah.

4) Even in times of war, when human lives are at stake, the Bible forbids wanton ecological destruction. Jewish armies were strictly enjoined from destroying the fruit-bearing trees of cities under siege: "When you lay siege to a city for many days to wage war against it and to capture it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them" (Deuteronomy 20:19). The rabbis warned that when a tree is cut down for no purpose its cry extends from one end of the world to another! (Me’am Loez)

To find more information on Tu B'Shevat and an outline of a Tu B'Shevat Seder, click here.

This Treat was last posted on January 25, 2016.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.


Thinking Trees

Go forward from Tu B'Shevat with a greater conscientiousness toward the importance of trees.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tu B'Shevat is Coming

While it may seem as if winter has just begun, it may be time to look beyond the turbulent weather and see that spring is just around the corner. You might wonder how one can possibly think of spring at the present time, but, according to Jewish wisdom, now is precisely the time because Tu B'Shevat is the New Year for trees.

Tu B'Shevat, literally, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, marks the official (halachic) start of spring in Israel, even though the weather is still cold. According to Jewish tradition, this is the day on which the long dormant sap in the trees begins to flow again.

Why is Tu B'Shevat celebrated as a holiday and elevated to the status of being one of the four New Years on the Jewish calendar? In Judaism, a holiday usually marks a day on which there is a unique connection between the spiritual and physical worlds and signals an event from which we can learn and grow.

Because of Tu B'Shevat, Jews around the world are given a moment to stop and think about the trees and the greenery around them. Spiritually, there is much that one can learn from a tree. For instance, almost every person goes through a “spiritual winter,” a time in which it is hard to connect to God or to follow religious beliefs. According to tradition, deep within each Jew there is a pintele yid (Yiddish for a "little bit of Jewish spirit"). Like the frozen sap that is thawed by the coming of spring and brings new life to the tree, the pintele yid can be ignited by a spark of inspiration and revitalize the Jewish soul.

Some people follow the custom of eating special Israeli foods and conduct a special Tu B'Shevat Seder. For more information on Tu B'Shevat or for an outline of a Tu B'Shevat Seder, please visit www.njop.org

This Treat is posted annually in honor of Tu B'Shevat.


Feast of Fruit

Gather some friends and share a fruitful feast to honor the New Year of the trees.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Do you Shukle?

If you’ve ever watched a traditional prayer quorum, or even just the prayers of a traditional Jew, you might wonder what all the motion and bodily movement is about. Forward-back, forward-back - the movement is almost like swaying (and indeed, some people do shukle side to side). This rocking-like action is known by the Yiddish term shukling, which means shaking.

An original source for shukling is not clear, but Rabbi Moses Isserles (a.k.a. the Rema 1520 - 1572) connects it to the verse in Psalms that states, “All my limbs will declare ‘God, who is like You?’” (Psalms 35:10).

Shukling is not just for prayer. It is also common for someone immersed in the study of Torah to shukle. According to Rabbi Jacob ben Asher (a.k.a. Ba’al Haturim, 1269-1340), this swaying is connected to the trembling of the Children of Israel when they received the Torah at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:14). Interestingly, Rabbi Yehuda Halevi (1075-1141) wrote in The Kuzari: “Have you not seen a hundred people reading in the Torah as if one man stopped reading in one moment and continued in the next” (2:80), which some have understood as implying that the forward-back motion of shukling developed from people taking turns looking in the holy books (before printing presses made books easy to replicate).

While shukling is a common practice, the most important objective during prayer is to have kavanah (proper focus). Therefore, if the act of shukling is distracting, one should pray standing still or move in a way that better helps them concentrate. While shukling, it is discouraged, however, to make large or strange motions that might distract others or, more specifically, from swinging one’s head from side to side, in a way that might look arrogant.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.
Bibliography

My Place

Establish a place in your home where you are able to concentrate while saying prayers.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Rebuke for Good

It is “human nature” to question the ups and downs of life. Of course, people mostly question the downs of life. The Jewish view of the world, however, is that nothing happens by chance. We mortals only have a limited view. The larger picture, however, is something that people, nations, and even entire generations, cannot see.

One perspective on the hardships of life can be found in the writings of King Solomon in the Book of Proverbs: “Do not reject the discipline of the Lord, my son; Do not abhor His rebuke. For whom the Lord loves, He rebukes, as a father [does to] the son whom he favors” (3:11-12). The message conveyed in these two verses is one of comfort. The challenges that God sends in one’s life are meant to help one grow, and the tests one endures and survives are meant for one’s own benefit. According to many commentaries, the ordeals that one suffers in this world countermand potential punishments in the World to Come.

An important aspect of these verses is the analogy of God’s relationship to humankind as that of a father to a son. Just as a parent does not delight in punishing a child, so too God does not bring suffering to a person for no reason. A parent, however, sees how the consequences of reproof often help a child become a better person. This proverb of King Solomon serves a reminder that in times of trial one should look for a way to grow and remember to think of God as a father that cares.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Favorite Wine

Use your favorite wine to sanctify Shabbat by reciting kiddush tonight.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Shabbat of Song

Music speaks to the heart, and, not surprisingly, the heart often speaks through music. Thus, when the Israelites crossed the Sea of Reeds (aka the Red Sea) and witnessed the destruction of the pursuing Egyptian army, they burst into spontaneous song (led by Moses). 

Az Yashir Moshe U’v’nei Yisrael... Then sang Moses and the Children of Israel...(Exodus 15:1). The song, which is recorded in Exodus 15:1-19, is known as the Shirah (the song). The Shabbat on which this Shirah is chanted in the synagogue (Parashat B'shalach) is known as Shabbat Shirah.


The lyrics of the Shirah constitute exalted praises of God, Who saves the Jewish people. Recounting the miraculous event, the Shirah calls out: “For the horses of Pharaoh went into the sea with his chariots and his horsemen, and God brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the Children of Israel walked on dry land in the midst of the sea.” (15:19).


Why is a special name given to this Shabbat? Because the Shirah inspires us to remember the heights that our people can reach.


Those who have read the Bible cannot help but notice that such spontaneous praise and gratitude from the Israelites was rare. The Israelites spent much time complaining. They wanted meat (Exodus 16), worshiped the golden calf (Exodus 32), sinned with the Moabite women (Numbers 25), etc. But when the Israelites reached the far side of the Sea of Reeds, their faith in God and in their own significance was at an all time high. There was no restraint in their praise of God.


This Treat is reposted each year for Shabbat Shirah.


Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Graciously

Remember to express your gratitude to God and to other people.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Maiden

Among the many remarkable women who appear in the annals of Jewish history, the Maiden of Ludmir stands out as a unique and holy woman. Her actual name was Chana Rochel Verbermacher, and according to Chassidic lore, she was consider very much like a Chassidic Rebbe who gathered followers in her court of holiness.

Born around 1806 in Ludmir, Ukraine, Verbermacher was the only child of a well-to-do merchant who provided his daughter with a superior education, far beyond the norm for girls at the time. According to the oral tradition (and there are very little written records of the Maiden of Ludmir), Verbermacher suffered a near-death illness in her teens, perhaps not long after she lost her mother.

Unlike most young ladies in her shtetle, Verbermacher had no interest in marriage. After her father passed away, leaving her a substantial inheritance, Verbermacher had a Beit Midrash (study hall) built. She devoted herself to studying holy texts.  Others came to study with her and soon her Beit Midrash mirrored the activities of a Chassidic court. She shared Torah wisdom, offered advice, gave blessings and shared meals with her followers at a Tisch.

“The Maiden” faced a great deal of pressure from the Chassidic establishment to marry and eventually she consented, but the marriage did not last long. “The Maiden” put all of her energy into studying and helping her followers.

Around 1859, Verbermacher left the Ukraine and moved to Jerusalem. Here too, she gathered a following of people drawn to her holy ways. In addition to acting as a spiritual leader, it is believed that “The Maiden” often led groups of Jews on a pilgrimage to the Tomb of Rachel.

The Maiden of Ludmir died in the late 1880s. Tradition states that a large group of mourners escorted her body to be buried on the Mount of Olives.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.
Bibliography

Encourage Education

Encourage the Jewish education of the children in your life.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Don’t Miss the Strategy

The story of the Exodus is one that is, perhaps, all too familiar. It is read annually as part of the weekly Torah readings, of course, at the Passover seder and has been integrated into popular culture by such films as The Ten Commandments and The Prince of Egypt. However, its very familiarity makes it easy for a reader to overlook the important details of the narrative. One excellent example of this is the journey of the Israelites to the Sea of Reeds/Red Sea.

Have you ever wondered why, if the Children of Israel were being guided by God, they ended up trapped between the sea and the Egyptian army? It was not, as one might assume on a quick read, a situation of a strategic error, but rather part of God’s purposeful plan for Pharaoh. Until this point in the narrative, every time Pharaoh had agreed to let the Children of Israel go free, he had changed his mind. The permission he granted after the tenth plague turned out to be just as fickle, and so God arranged for the Israelites to witness the miraculous closure to Pharaoh’s hold over them.

Exodus 14 begins with God instructing Moses to speak to the Children of Israel “and let them turn back and encamp in Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea” (Exodus 14:2). Since God then told Moses how Pharaoh would react, the important words here are “let them turn back.”

The Biblical commentator Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo ben Isaac 1040 - 1105) writes that the Israelites “approached nearer to Egypt during the entire third day in order to mislead Pharaoh, so that he would say, ‘They [the Israelites] are astray on the road.’” The plan, as recorded in the Torah, went precisely as planned. Pharaoh was lured into chasing his former slaves to the sea, where God provided a miraculous salvation and a final resolution to the problem of Pharaoh.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.
Bibliography

Learning Partners

Find a friend to become a "learning partner" and explore the intricate texts of the Torah.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Blessings

The Hebrew word for blessing is bracha. People are most familiar with this term from the formulation of Jewish prayers that start with the word Baruch, Blessed. Those who are familiar with Hebrew will recall that almost every Hebrew word is derived from a 3 letter root. By looking at other words that share the root letters of bracha - Beit, Reish and Chaf - a deeper understanding of a bracha may be gained.

BERECH: The word berech refers to a bend in the body, usually referring to the knee joint. In ancient times it was common to pray on one’s knees, demonstrating humility and an acknowledgment that we mortals are not the source of our own achievements. Bowing reminds us to recognize that there is a Higher Power.

BRAICHA: A braicha is a well, a natural source of water. Water is the fundamental ingredient of life. On a spiritual level, the Torah is likened to water because tapping into the spiritual power of the Torah is essential for the soul. And what is the wellspring of the Torah, the source of this great spiritual energy? God. When you dip your hand in a pool of water, it ripples and radiates outward from the point of impact. No bracha is without its “ripple effect.” From these related words, we learn that a bracha is an act of reaching out to the Source of all energy (God). A bracha enables both the giver and the receiver to see beyond themselves to that Divine Source.

This Treat was originally posted on November 6, 2008.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Slow Talk

When you say a bracha, slow down and think about the words.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Songs of the Ibn Ezra

The joy of Shabbat is expressed in many ways throughout the “Day of Rest.” For those of a musical bent (and even for those not so musically inclined), one of the joys of the Shabbat meals is the singing of z'mirot (Shabbat songs). Today’s Jewish Treat presents two z’mirot composed by Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1164).

Ki Eshmara Shabbat is a zemer (song) designated for the Shabbat lunch meal. Its repeating refrain translates to “If I keep the Shabbat Day, God will guard me. It is a sign for eternity between Him and me.” The five verses of the song each describe a different aspect of Shabbat observance such as refraining from creative work, the use of two loaves of challah and even the prohibitions of fasting or mourning on Shabbat. Ki Eshmera Shabbat is included in most prayerbooks and in the special z’mirot songbooks used on Shabbat.

While many z’mirot have been penned over the years, not all remain popular. Ibn Ezra’s other zemer, Tzamah Nafshi Ley’lokim (“My Soul Thirsts for God”) , is not found in most Shabbat songbooks printed today. The song was composed to serve as an introduction to the Shabbat morning service’s Nishmat prayer, but was adopted to be sung as a Friday evening zemer. It is interesting to note, however, that this lovely poem about connecting to God was, according to record, always sung by the Chatam Sofer (1762 - 1839), who believed that it was written with Ruach Hakodesh (Divine inspiration).

To listen to a traditional version of Ki Eshmara Shabbat, click here.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.
Bibliography

Sing It

Enliven your Shabbat meals with singing.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

In a South American City

On January 18, 1535, the city of Lima, Peru, was founded to serve as the capital of the Peruvian Viceroyalty. The region’s mining riches drew, among others, a large number of Crypto-Jews (Conversos, Jews who lived as Christians in public) who lived in relative peace until February 7, 1569, when King Phillip II of Spain ordered the establishment of the Inquisition in Lima.

Early Peruvian Jewish history is not a happy one. The first auto-da-fe occurred in December 1595. These grim trials of pre-determined guilt were repeated in 1600 and 1605. In 1639, the largest auto-da-fe (ever) occurred in Lima. Over 60 people, accused of being part of La Complicidad Grande (The Great Congregation), were tried for practicing and/or preaching Judaism.

The end of the Inquisition in Lima in 1806 meant Jews could come to Peru and live openly. Moroccan Jews came as trappers and traders in the early nineteenth century. In the 1870s, there was an influx of Jews from Alsace, France. While they assimilated into the general populace, they established the Sociedad de Beneficenci Israelita, which still exists today. Around this same time there was a boom in the demand for rubber, drawing adventurous businessmen into the interior of the country. A smaller Jewish community developed in the interior region in Iquitos, and while that community was not sustained, it left a mark on the region such that a surprising number of their descendants have come forward today looking to rejoin the Jewish people.

World War I brought Jews from the fallen Ottoman Empire - from Turkey, Syria and North Africa. It is interesting to note that there are particular references to the immigration to Lima and other South American cities of a large group of Jews from the town of Novoselitsa on the Romanian border.

The Jewish population of Lima has never been large. Today there are still several active synagogues and the Leon Pinelo school to serve that community of a little more than 2,500 members.

By Reproducción (Museo de la Inquisición (Lima)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.
Bibliography

State Your

Take time out of your day to talk to God about the things you most desire.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Where to Wear Tefillin

While Jewish Treats has previously discussed the requirements for kosher tefillin (Click here for a full description of tefillin, including the difference between the box worn on the head and the box worn on the arm), it should be noted that the ways in which the tefillin are worn are profoundly symbolic. The actual method for “laying tefillin,” as it is called, is intricate and should be reviewed with a rabbi or one experienced in putting on tefillin.

The tefillin shel yad (of the arm) is always placed on the “weaker” arm. Thus righties place them on their left arms and lefties on their right arms. The box of the tefillin shel yad is placed on the inner arm above the elbow, on top of the muscle, and is lined up to aim at one’s heart, the center of one’s emotions and desires. Speaking of heart, many find meaning in the fact that the strap of the tefillin shel yad is wrapped around the lower arm seven times, just as a bride circles a groom seven times beneath the wedding canopy, alluding to the concept that the Jewish people are married to God. Finally, the strap of the tefillin shel yad is wrapped around one’s hand so that the different criss-crossings create the letters shin, daled and yud, Sha’dai, a name of God representing "He Who sets boundaries on the world."

The box of the tefillin shel rosh (of the head) is placed centrally just above the forehead (at the natural hairline), while the knot that ties the two ends of the strap of the tefillin rests just above the nape of the neck. Just as the tefillin shel yad symbolically represents dedicating one’s emotions to serving God, the tefillin shel rosh represents the dedication of one’s intellect to serving the Almighty.

This Treat was last posted on January 26, 2012.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.