Friday, July 31, 2015

No Holiday as Joyous

Tu B’Av (The Fifteenth of Av) is no longer the well-known holiday on the Jewish calendar that it was in ancient times. In fact, in Talmudic times it was said: “There were no holidays so joyous for the Jewish People as the Fifteenth of Av...” (Ta’anit 26b).

On Tu B’Av, the unmarried maidens of Jerusalem would go out to the vineyards to dance together under the gaze of the unmarried men (sort of a Sadie Hawkins Day!). Each young lady would be dressed in white clothing borrowed from her neighbor so that those who came from wealthy families would not stand out and none would be embarrassed.

As they danced, the ladies would call out: “Young man, lift your eyes and choose wisely. Don't look only at physical beauty--look rather at the family [values], 'For charm is false, and beauty is deceitful. A God-fearing woman is the one to be praised...’” (Proverbs 31:30).

While in ancient times the same ceremony also took place on Yom Kippur, the day of Tu B’Av was specifically set aside for this celebration because it was the anniversary of the date on which inter-tribal marriages were permitted after the Israelites had entered the Land of Israel.

Today is Tu B’Av.

This Treat was last posted on August 11, 2014.


Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

The Burial at Betar

In war, a common means of humiliating the enemy is to refuse them burial of their dead (which is forbidden by the Geneva Convention). Certainly, demoralization was the goal of the Romans when they forbade the Jews from burying the dead after the fall of Betar on 9 Av, 133 C.E. And there were many dead--enough for the sages to pronounce that, “For seven years the gentiles fertilized their vineyards with the blood of Israel without using manure.”

The intensity of this statement underscores the extent of the massacre that accompanied the capture of Betar. There were, of course, other rebellions against Rome in other parts of their Empire. But the people of Judea seemed to especially enrage the Romans. Perhaps it was the fact that the Jews rebelled numerous times. Perhaps it was their strange, stubborn insistence on monotheism (in a world where the emperor was a diety). Whatever the reason, the Romans were particularly fierce in their repression of Bar Kochba’s rebellion.

An odd thing happened after the massacre at Betar. The Romans left the bodies out to rot in the sun–and yet they did not rot. When, years later, on the 15th of Av, permission was granted for burial to take place, the bodies had not decomposed. Rabbi Matnah explains: “It [15 Av] is the day when permission was granted for those killed at Betar to be buried...On the day when the slain of Betar were allowed burial, the benediction ‘Who is good and does good’ was instituted (as the 4th blessing of Birkat Hamazon: Ha’tov v’hameitiv) - ‘Who is good,’ because the bodies did not putrefy, and ‘does good,’ because they were allowed burial” (Ta’anit 31a).

This Treat was last published on July 29, 2012.


Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Extra Joy

Bring the joy of the day into preparing for Shabbat.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

International Friendship Day: Jonathan and David

In honor of today’s International Friendship Day, Jewish Treats presents the friendship of David and Jonathan. The sages state: “What is an example of the love which did not depend upon some ulterior interest? That of David and Jonathan” (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 5:19).

It would seem natural that David and Jonathan would be friends. When David joined the entourage of King Saul, they were peers, soldiers in the court of the king. More than just peers, David and Jonathan were brothers-in-law, since David married Jonathan’s sister Michal. 

On the other hand, Jonathan would have naturally perceived himself as the heir to the throne, whereas David was a simple shepherd who became a (seemingly) accidental warrior-hero by striking down Goliath and then continued to find constant favor with the people of Israel. To make matters all the more difficult for their friendship, King Saul, who had once favored David, saw him as a threat to the monarchy and frequently sought his demise. 

Jonathan, however, was honest with himself. He recognized that God’s favor was upon David, and he accepted it without hesitation. The sages group Jonathan as one of three supremely humble men, citing how Jonathan said to David, “You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you” (I Samuel 23:17).

When David received the news that both King Saul and Jonathan had been slain during the war with the Philistines, he was devastated. He verbally lamented the tragic loss to the nation of Israel, but added his own personal lament over Jonathan: “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; wonderful was your love to me, passing the love of women” (II Samuel 1:26). While David’s relationships with his many wives were fraught with personality issues, his friendship with Jonathan was honest and pure, without any political overtones to complicate it. 

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Fine Friends

Don't hesitate to let your friends know how much it means to you to have them in your life.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

This One and This One

Within the spectrum of Jewish law there are sometimes two seemingly incompatible opinions that are both correct. How can one rabbi permit something that another rabbi prohibits?

The fact of the matter is that disputes in the practice of Jewish law (halacha) are a natural part of the halachic process. The Torah sets general parameters for what is permitted and what is prohibited, for what one should do and how one should act, but there are many fine details that often need to be clarified. 

Numerous disagreements of this nature are recorded in the Talmud. Some of the most famous of these are the disputes between the Academy of Shammai and the Academy of Hillel. Like the great sages after whom these academies are named, these two groups of disciples often had opposing opinions. 

From the disagreements of the Academy of Shammai and the Academy of Hillel, however, comes an important and intriguing insight into when, according to Jewish law, it is permissible to argue:

Rabbi Abba stated in the name of Samuel: For three years there was a dispute between the Academy of Shammai and the Academy of Hillel, the former asserting, “the halacha is in agreement with our views” and the latter contending, “the halacha is in agreement with our views.” Then a bat kol (heavenly voice) issued announcing “[The utterances of] both are the words of the living God, but the halacha is in agreement with the ruling of the Academy of Hillel,” (Talmud Eiruvin 13b). The Talmud goes on to explain that the halacha follows the Academy of Hillel because “they were kind and modest.” 

The Talmudic principle that allows for two correct but conflicting opinions in Jewish law is known as “Eilu v’eilu divrei Elokim chaim”--This one and this one are the words of the Living God. A very important aspect of understanding the principle of “eilu v’eilu” is that the differing opinions can all be considered within the confines of halacha, when the arguments follow Torah principles and methodology, and are for the sake of establishing the proper path of Torah. 

Please note that the concept of "eilu v'eilu" is a concept in Talmudic learning but questions of halacha,of actual action, are decided by rabbis recognized for their ability to understand halacha.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Compromise

When differing in opinion with someone, try to find a compromise.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Stories for Little Jews

When the four children of Rabbi Baruch and Sadie Rose Weilerstein were little, they had no idea that their mother’s stories would change the face of Jewish children’s literature in America. In fact, Sadie Rose herself had no intention of publishing her stories until her own mother gathered those that were written and took them to the New York Public Library, where she was directed to Bloch Publishing, which specialized in Jewish publications. A few months later, Weilerstein’s What Danny Did: Stories for the Wee Jewish Child (1928) was released and received immediate praise.

That Weilerstein ended up writing for Jewish children is, perhaps, not so surprising. Born in Rochester, New York on July 28, 1894, Weilerstein received a B.A. in literature from the University of Rochester, one of the first women to do so. She then taught high school English at The Western New York Institution for Deaf Mutes (later Rochester School for the Deaf). In 1920, she married and assumed the role of Rebbitzen (Rabbi’s wife), first in Brooklyn, and then at the Community Synagogue in Atlantic City, N.J.

An active member of the National Women’s League of the United Synagogues, Weilerstein found the perfect outlet for her work in the Leagues’ Outlook magazine. It was there that her most famous creation, K’tonton, first appeared. K’tonton was unique not just for its Tom Thumb-like miniature protagonist, but also for its non-didactic storyline. Using humor and adventure, Weilerstein created stories that Jewish children could relate to because of their melding of American public life and Jewish home life. 

Sadie Rose Weilerstein published numerous works in addition to her K'tonton series and received several notable awards. She passed away in June 1993.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Read Jewish

Read Jewish stories to the Jewish children in your life. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Nations of Canaan

The people who lived in the Land of Canaan are often referred to as the Canaanites, but this was actually only the name of one of several nations of Canaan. Today’s Jewish Treat presents a brief introduction to each of the seven nations of Canaan listed in Deuteronomy 7:1: “When the Lord, your God, brings you into the land to which you are coming to possess it, He will cast away many nations from before you: the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivvites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and powerful that you.”

The Amorites consisted of several tribal settlements, as is mentioned in the Book of Joshua when it records the gathering of “the five kings of the Amorites” (10:5). According to Jewish tradition, the people were known for their large stature (two of their kings Og and Sichon are both referred to as giants) and their witchcraft, which is referred to in the Talmud, when it states: “All these are forbidden as Amorite practices” (Shabbat 67a).

The Canaanites were the largest group of people residing in the land. The Torah goes out its way to instruct the Israelites not to follow in the ways of the Canaanites, which, for the most part, focussed on the worship of the idol Baal. Long after the Israelites settled in the promised land, the Canaanites were like a plague to them and the two nations were frequently at war.

The Girgashites are listed as one of the seven nations of Canaan, but little else is mentioned of them. 

The Hittites are first mentioned in the Torah when Abraham buys Ma’arat Hamachpelah (burial cave) from Ephron the Hittite. Two generations later, Esau married Hittite women. The Hittites are mentioned several other times in the Torah, specifically as ethnic labels (e.g. Uriah).

The Hivites were, according to Genesis 34, the tribe of the residents of Shechem (whose prince kidnapped and raped Jacob’s daughter, Dinah). Mention of the Hivites in the rest of the Torah is minimal outside of their being one of the seven nations of Canaan, although it appears that their relationship with the Israelites was generally peaceful.

The Jebusites are Biblically significant because they were the original inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem.

The Perrizites are listed among the tribes already dwelling in the land of Canaan, but little else is mentioned of them. 

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Without Assumption

Never assume that you know another person's history.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mourning Jerusalem I: A Brief History of the First Temple

Today, Jews all over the world are observing the fast of Tisha B’Av. It is on this day that the Jewish people mourn the destruction of both the First and Second Temples. The First Temple was destroyed almost 2,500 years ago and the Second Temple 1,945 years ago. It is therefore not easy to understand what exactly it is that the Jewish people mourn.

A brief history of Jerusalem and the First Temple:

King David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and established it as his capital (c. 1040 BCE). He desired to build a sanctuary in which the Divine Spirit could dwell. However, God told David “You have been involved in war. The Temple is to be a site of peace, so your son, King Solomon, who will be anointed after you, will merit to build the Temple” (II Samuel 7).

“Solomon’s Temple” stood for 410 years. It served as the center of Jewish life, and Jewish pilgrims from all over ascended to Jerusalem three times a year. Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers (5:5) states that ten miracles occurred in the Temple--for instance, the fire of the altar was never extinguished by rain.

Unfortunately, during the rule of Solomon's son Reheboam, the united kingdom dissolved. The northern ten tribes formed one kingdom and the southern tribes (Judah and Benjamin) another. Strife between the two kingdoms, and their worship of idolatry, led to foreign conquest. First the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom (719 BCE) and then the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar (586 BCE) conquered Jerusalem, destroying the First Temple and sending most of the Jews into Babylonian exile.

The destruction of the First Temple was a massive trauma for the Jewish people, for the nation was now bereft of its spiritual epicenter.

*This Treat was originally published on August 6, 2008.


Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Mourning Jerusalem II: A Brief History of the Second Temple

The Babylonian Exile that followed the destruction of the First Temple lasted for 70 years. Under the leadership of Ezra and Nechemia, however, the Jews began to return to the land of Israel and to Jerusalem. Many chose not to return, but those who did rebuilt the Temple, although on a far more modest scale than the First Temple.

While the Jews had returned to the land, they were no longer independent and were ruled by a succession of empires including the Persians, Greeks, etc. There was a brief period of independence after the overthrow of the Syrian-Greeks (c. 165 BCE - the Chanukah story), but independence was short-lived.

By 64 BCE, Judea (Israel) was under the dominion of Rome. Around 37 BCE, the Romans appointed Herod as the ruler of Judea. While he was a murderous tyrant and not very religious, Herod was also a great builder. It was his grand redesign of the Temple that is the most famous image of the Second Temple.

Roman oppression, however, led to a general uprising. During the suppression of the Judean Revolt, the Temple, which had stood for 420 years, was destroyed by Titus in 70 CE. The famous Arch of Titus, which still stands in Rome today, depicts the pillaging of the Temple and its sacred vessels, including the Menorah.

Some years after the destruction of the Temple, Rabbi Akiva and several other rabbis saw the Temple lying in ruins. The Talmud (Makkot 24b) relates that when they beheld the destruction, his companions cried, but Rabbi Akiva laughed. When asked to explain his behavior, Rabbi Akiva said: “Because when I see this fulfillment of the prophecy of complete destruction and desolation (Micah 3:12), I know that the prophecy of the redemption (Zechariah 8:4) will also be fulfilled.” (The prophecies of redemption and destruction are linked in Isaiah 8:2.)

This Treat was originally posted on August 7, 2008.


Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Health first

While observing today's fast, be aware of staying safe and healthy. For example, if it is very hot, stay inside near a fan or air conditioner while fasting.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Tisha B'Av is Tomorrow*

The saddest day on the Jewish calendar, the ninth of Av, is tomorrow.*

 


(*)This year the 9th of Av is Shabbat so the fast is observed from sundown Saturday until nightfall on Sunday. Havdallah, the ceremony concluding Shabbat, is postponed until Sunday evening.


The restrictions of the day are very similar to Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. In addition to fasting (no food or drink) for a 25 hour period, additional restrictions include refraining from washing, using lotions, wearing leather shoes and marital relations. 


Aside from the differences in synagogue service, there are two major distinctions between the two days: 1. Work (creative labor) is permitted on Tisha B’Av, and 2. Tisha B’Av’s customs are mourning oriented, while Yom Kippur’s observances have a more joyous tone as we celebrate our anticipated absolution from sin via the suppression of our physical needs. After all, we are compared on Yom Kippur to angels (which is also why we wear white).


 Like the 17th of Tammuz, there are five events commemorated on Tisha B'Av (Mishnah Ta’anit 4:6).


1. God’s decree that the Israelites would wander in the wilderness for 40 years.

2. The destruction of the First Temple.
3. The destruction of the Second Temple.
4. The city of Jerusalem was plowed over by Turnus Rufus, a Roman general.
5. The end of the Bar Kochba revolt, when the Romans destroyed the city of Betar (see below).

Click here for later events on this date 


*This Treat was last posted on August 4, 2014.


Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.
 

The Tragic Story of Bar Kamtza

According to Jewish tradition, God allowed the Second Temple to be destroyed because of Sinat Chinam, senseless hatred between the people of Israel who were unable to get along with one another. As proof of the destructive force of Sinat Chinam, the Talmud records the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, and connects it to a path that led to the destruction of the Temple and the fall of Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem, a wealthy man was making a large party. The man instructed his servant to bring an invitation to his friend Kamtza. By mistake, however, the servant brought the invitation to a man named Bar Kamtza, who happened to be on bad terms with the host. Bar Kamtza arrived at the party, and the host immediately instructed him to leave. Bar Kamtza, not wanting to be embarrassed, offered to reimburse the host for whatever he consumed. The host continued to refuse, even as Bar Kamtza offered to pay for half, and then all, of the party. Then, in front of all the guests, including many respected sages who made no move to interfere, the host physically removed Bar Kamtza from the party. 

Angry and humiliated, Bar Kamtza took his revenge by telling the Roman Emperor that the Jewish people were rebelling and that they would reject any offering that the Emperor would send to be brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. When the Emperor sent a fine calf, Bar Kamtza waylaid it and made a tiny, almost unnoticeable blemish, that would make it an unacceptable as a sacrifice.   

The sages debated what to do and seemed inclined to offer the calf on the altar of the Temple and avoid antagonizing the already tense relationship with Rome. Rabbi Zecharia ben Abkulas, however, worried that people would come to believe that it was permitted to offer a blemished animal. The calf was not sacrificed. Rabbi Yochanan thus remarked: "Through the scrupulousness of Rabbi Zecharia ben Abkulas, our House has been destroyed, our Temple burnt and we ourselves exiled from our land” (Talmud Gittin 56a).

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Fast with Meaning

Make the most of the fast of Tisha B'Av by focusing on the effect of these tragedies on the Jewish people.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The First World War and the Jews

A great deal has been written about the devastation that resulted from the First World War, which left millions dead, thousands maimed and a generation devastated. For those who have never lived through a war, the extent of the losses is truly unimaginable.

For much of the Jewish population of Europe, the war meant both social and physical upheaval. The eastern front, where Russia battled Germany and Austria, cut through the center of European Jewish life. The Russian army moved into Austrian Galicia; the Germans and Austrians moved into Russian-controlled Poland; etc. As the enemy armies crossed each others’ borders, they had one thing in common - their dislike of the Jews.

Both sides of the war believed that the Jews were helping the enemy. In Czarist Russia, hundreds of thousands of Jews joined the army. Nevertheless, the Jewish population was accused of evading service, profiteering and supporting the enemy. Entire Jewish communities were banished from their homes near the front and sent deeper into Russia.

The Jews in Germany and Austria also heeded the patriotic call-to-arms.  Alas, here too, they were mistrusted by the government. In 1916, the German General Staff ordered the Judenzählung, a census of Jewish soldiers meant to determine whether the Jews were shirking their duties. The results show that the Jews were serving at the front proportionally to their numbers and were honest and dedicated. The results that were leaked, however, said the opposite.

Beyond the destruction of community and the economic hardships, perhaps the most terrible outcome of the First World War was the fact that the war-time suspicions of the Jewish populace festered into a belief that the Jews were responsible for the Germans losing the war (which they were blamed with starting as an attempt at world domination) and for orchestrating the Bolshevik Revolution that transformed Russia into the Soviet Union.

*World War I began on August 1, 1914, which was the 9th of Av.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Hydrate

The fast of Tisha B'Av begins Saturday night. Begin preparing by increasing your water intake. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Second Uprising

History is a study in cause and effect. On the 9th of Av (Saturday, July 25. Fast observed on Sunday, July 26), the Jewish people mourn two additional tragic events that followed the terrible destruction of the Second Temple: the plowing over of the Temple Mount and the catastrophic defeat of the Bar Kochba uprising at Betar.

In 130 CE, the Emperor Hadrian decided to rebuild Jerusalem, including, initially, the Temple. However, after visiting the ruins of Jerusalem, he decided to build a truly Roman city there, complete with a pagan temple on the very spot on which the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) had stood. The city was renamed Aelia Capitalina (Aelia as a derivative of his full name Publius Aelius Hadrianus, and Capitalina in honor of the Roman God Jupiter Capitolina).

Hadrian returned to Rome, leaving the rebuilding to the governor, Turnus (Tineius) Rufus. Rufus was no friend to the Jews. The Talmud is peppered with references to him, including conversations between Rufus and Rabbi Akiva, in which Rabbi Akiva responds to the Roman general’s questions "If your God loves the poor, why does He not support them?" (Baba Batra 10) and "Wherein does this day [Shabbat] differ from any other?" (Sanhedrin 65b).

Turnus Rufus began the rebuilding in a logical fashion, but did not necessarily take into consideration the reaction of the Jewish people. When he ordered the plowing over of the sacred grounds of the ruined Jewish Temple (which occurred on Tisha B’Av), the Jews were so incensed that they rose up in rebellion against the Romans. The rebellion was led by Simon Bar Kochba. The uprising lasted for three years and ended on Tisha B’Av in the year 135 CE with the devastating defeat at Betar. It is described in the Jerusalem TalmudTa'anit thus: “[The Romans] went on killing until their horses were submerged in blood to their nostrils...” (4:5).

*It is interesting to note that the Talmud records that after Turnus Rufus died, his wife converted to Judaism and married Rabbi Akiva.


This Treat was last posted on July 16, 2013.



Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

A Somber Week

In preparing for Tisha B'Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, keep this week low-key.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What’s in the Book: Job

While the Book of Job (Iyov in Hebrew) is frequently quoted, it is a book that not many lay-people read. A challenging work philosophically, it is written in a complex, poetic style.

The Book of Job opens by describing Job as perfect, upright, God-fearing and eschewing evil. The father of seven sons and three daughters, he was exceedingly successful and wealthy.

According to the narrative, God pointed Job out to His angel Satan and commended Job’s virtues. Satan countered that, with all his blessings, it was easy for Job to be righteous. This set in motion a cycle of tragedies for Job. In one day, disaster struck. First it was reported to him that he lost all of his wealth (various livestock) and then news came that the roof collapsed on the house where his children were feasting and his seven sons had perished. Job reacted by rending his clothes and declaring “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:20). Next Satan smote Job with painful boils, but Job still refused to curse God.

Job is visited by three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, who sit with him silently for seven days and seven nights. Job finally bewails his fate, but never blames God for his situation. In response, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zaphor try to comfort Job, but each actually infers that Job, or his sons, probably deserved the punishment because of some secret sin or wickedness. A fourth friend, Elihu, responds with a discourse on Divine Providence.

Job calls out to heaven and demands a reason from God. God answers, but does not explain Himself. Rather, God reminds Job of the difference between man and God. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of earth?” (38:4). The inference is that no human can possibly understand God’s motives or methods.

The Book of Job concludes with God rebuking Job’s friends for their presumptuousness. Job is restored to health and fortune, and a new family is born to him after the tragedy.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

No Suppositions

Hold off on judging a situation as good or bad, as one often does not know the entire situation.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Armistice

Many people assume that the end of a war implies that a peace treaty has been signed. Actually, there are several ways to end a military conflict: truce, cease-fire, armistice or peace-treaty. While these terms may all sound similar, each has its own subtle meaning and implication, with a peace treaty being the most secure.

Israel’s War of Independence, which began on May 14, 1948, was interrupted by several types of cease–fires. The actual fighting, however, is not considered to have ended until July 20, 1949, when the last of four separate armistice agreements was finally signed. The first armistice, which was signed on the Island of Rhodes on February 24, was with Egypt. The second, signed on March 23, was with Lebanon. Jordan signed an armistice on April 3rd. The last armistice was with Syria. (Iraq and Saudi Arabia were also involved in the fighting, but, as they did not share a common border with Israel, did not sign formal agreements.) In time, and after several other conflicts, Israel signed separate peace agreements of varying duration with each of these countries.

During the period leading up to and following the declaration of the State of Israel, Jews around the world held their breath, not quite certain what the outcome would be and, for many, not quite certain how they felt about the whole endeavor. With the signing of the armistices, however, the existence of the State of Israel seemed secure and world Jewry breathed a sigh of relief.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Peacecully

Try to create an atmosphere of peace wherever you are.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Month of Av

The months of the Jewish year are called in the Torah by number only (the first month, second month, etc.) Over time, during the exile, the months assumed the names given to them by host cultures and thus “Jewish” months as we know them today are actually Babylonian in origin. These names were so common, that 8 out of 12 are mentioned in the later books of the prophets. 

Even though the name Av is Babylonian in origin, one cannot help but take note of the subtle nuance of the name. Av means father, and in the fifth month of the Hebrew year, God’s persona of Father is truly demonstrated. 

It is stated in the Book of Proverbs (13:24): “One who spares his rod hates his child, but he who loves him, disciplines him in his youth.” God warned the Jewish people that their misguided behavior would result in disaster, but they ignored His warnings. Thus the beginning of the month of Av was the time of the destruction of both Holy Temples, disasters which the Jewish community commemorate with an annual day of mourning on the ninth of Av (Tisha B’Av). When He allowed the Babylonians (and then the Romans) to conquer Jerusalem, destroy the Holy Temple(s) and drive the Jewish people into exile, God had one fatherly goal in mind--that the Jewish people should see the error of their ways and correct themselves. 

A parent who punishes a child still loves the child and still wishes to share in the child’s happiness. Rejoicing is also an important facet of the month of Av. Tu B’Av (literally 15th of Av) is a day of tremendous rejoicing in Israel when, traditionally, unmarried maidens would go out to the field to find a husband. Thus in Av, after God completes the role of disciplinarian, He comes forward to watch, and enjoy, as His children rejoice. 


Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

First Week of Av

Assume the serious atmosphere of the week leading up to Tisha B'Av (the 9th of Av)  a day of great tragedy for the Jewish people.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

On Guard

The sanctity of life plays an unquestionably major factor in Jewish law. Not everyone, however, is familiar with how strongly Judaism stresses not only the sanctity of life, but also the sanctity of  the dead. From the moment a person passes away, even in the days or moments leading up to death, Jewish law and custom focuses on treating the dying person with the utmost respect.

While a great majority of the care for the body of the deceased and the preparation for burial is generally taken care of by the chevra kadisha, the Jewish burial society, the mitzvah of shmirah, guarding the body, is one that is often performed by the deceased’s friends and family.

The custom of having a shomer (male watchperson) for a deceased male or a shomeret (female watchperson) for a deceased female, is quite ancient. When it is referred to in the Talmud, the act of shmirah is stated as an obvious role that a person takes on: e.g. “One who watches a dead [body], even though it is not his own [relative], is exempt from the recital of the Shema” (Talmud Brachot 18a). From the moment of death until the burial, the body of the deceased is never left alone. In ancient times, the practical reason for guarding the body was to protect it from desecration by vermin - a need less obvious in today’s modern society. The spiritual concept for guarding the body, however, is the idea that the soul of the deceased hovers near the body after death. The shmirah (guarding) brings comfort to the soul, as well as to the immediate members of the  family.

Shmirah, which is often divided into shifts, is a highly regarded mitzvah. It is customary for a shomer/shomeret to recite Tehillim (Psalms) during their shift and to refrain from eating and drinking in the presence of the body. Out of respect, one performing the act of shmirah should also avoid such activities as chatting in general or talking on one’s cell phone.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Even for a Stranger

Contact your local Jewish burial society and sign up to do shmirah for those who do not have family to attend them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The End of the Inquisition

In 1834, President Andrew Jackson was censured by Congress, Charles Darwin spent the year on the HMS Beagle and a number of Upper Canadian towns were incorporated into the city of Toronto. In that same year, on July 15, the Spanish Inquisition was officially abolished after over 350 years.

Although the Spanish Inquisition is most often associated with Jewish history, it is interesting to note that the Inquisition began in 1478, with the goal of cleansing insincere Catholics from church-controlled territory. Only 14 years after the Inquisition began, all those identifying as Jews (or any other non-Catholic religion) were expelled from Spanish-controlled lands. Nevertheless, the Spanish Inquisition had a tremendous impact on both Jewish and World history. In the colonial era, the Spanish conquered and controlled territory on nearly every continent. With the Spanish conquistadores came the inquisitors, and when the inquisitors came, Jews (and conversos) fled to the next land. This was exactly how the first group of Jews came to New York City (then Dutch-controlled New Amsterdam).

By the 1700s, the Inquisition was fairly impotent. In the turmoil of world politics, monarchies slowly transformed into governments, while the Protestant Revolution and the French Revolution decreased the overall power of the Catholic Church. During this century, there were a few intermittent periods during which the Inquisition was cancelled, but it kept being reinstituted. Finally, in 1834, it was permanently abolished by a Royal Decree signed by regent Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, during the minority of Isabella II. The decree to abolish the Inquisition was also approved by the President of the Cabinet. Oddly enough, the Spanish government did not rescind the expulsion of the Jews until December 16, 1968.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Even in the Heat

Be aware of the statement that your clothing makes about you.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Why Vow?

The framework of Jewish life is set by Jewish law. And, while Jewish law covers almost all aspects of life, there is a great deal of latitude for personal choice within Jewish law. That being said, the choices a person makes, the decisions on which he/she takes a stand, can have a strong and lasting impact on their lives. This is, perhaps, the reason why the Torah takes such a strong stand on the issue of making a vow.

When people swear to do something, they make a serious commitment. Words, from a Torah perspective, are binding. (It is for this reason that many people, after promising to do something, will append the caveat "bli neder" - without intending to vow, to prevent themselves from vowing falsely.) In order to nullify a vow or an oath, one must do so in front of a "court" of knowledgeable people.

Why do people make vows? This question is the subject of a great deal of speculation. Indeed, according to the Jerusalem Talmud (Nedarim  9:1), the sages themselves questioned those who vow to undertake extra stringencies by asking: “Are not the things which the Torah has prohibited sufficient for you? [Why] must you add further prohibitions?”

One fascinating insight into the desire for undertaking additional stringencies can be found in Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers, where Rabbi Akiva is quoted saying: “...Tradition is a fence to the Torah; tithes [form] a fence to wealth, vows a fence to self-restraint; [and] a fence to wisdom is silence.” The idea expressed herein is that making a vow is meant to help a person stay strong when faced with something that is their particular, personal temptation. Having made that vow  strengthens their inner resolve to stay far away from that which might come to tempt them to break the law.

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One At A Time

When trying self-improvement projects, take on one realistic goal at a time.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Telephone, Gramaphone, Helicopter...Emile Berliner

Emile Berliner (May 20, 1851 - August 3, 1929) came to America to avoid being drafted as a soldier in the Franco-Prussian War. A native of Hanover, Germany, Berliner had trained as a merchant and worked as an accountant before emigrating. Settling first in Washington, D.C., and then in New York City, he worked a variety of jobs and studied physics at night at the Cooper Union Institute, all while pursuing his passion for tinkering with electronics.

In 1876, back in Washington, D.C., Berliner witnessed the launch of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. He was fascinated, and, working alone in his boarding house room, developed a “loose contact transmitter” that was a significant improvement on the original telephone transmitter technology.   Shortly after he filed a patent caveat on the transmitter, he was hired by the American Bell Telephone Company for research and development. He remained with them for seven years before setting up an independent research facility in Washington, D.C.

One of Emile Berliner’s greatest innovations, and one for which he is often not given credit, was the gramaphone. While Thomas Edison developed the cylindrical phonograph, Berliner transformed that technology by making musical recordings on flat disks, making it possible to create multiple copies of the same recording that could each be played multiple times. He later sold the licensing rights to the Victor Talking Machine Company (RCA).

In addition to his work on the telephone and the gramaphone, Berliner also made important innovations for parquet carpet, acoustic tiles and numerous pieces involved in building helicopters.

Although his life was full of exciting discoveries, Berliner took an active role in the burgeoning Zionism movement. He wrote several articles on the topic and numerous letters to the editors on the subject. Berliner is also noted for his dedication to educating the public on the importance of good hygiene, especially for children.

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Hydration

In the summer heat, stay healthy by drinking often.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Jews of Wyoming

While Wyoming is not a state known for its sizable Jewish community - there are today only approximately 1,150 Jews - the history of its community is over 140 years old. The territory of Wyoming, which did not become a state until July 10, 1890, was populated mainly by Native Americans until the arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1868. In the railroad’s wake came rapid development. As the railroad towns, known originally as “Hell on Wheels,” were transformed into the towns of Cheyenne and Laramie, settlers included a notable number of German Jewish immigrants. These settlers, many starting out as peddlers, often created the mercantile base for these growing towns.

By the time Wyoming became a state, there were enough Jews that a synagogue, Temple Emanuel, was established in Cheyenne. The congregation hired student rabbis from Cincinnati for the High Holidays.

As happened across the United States, the infrastructure established by the pioneering German Jews of the mid-19th century was soon overtaken and expanded by the influx of Eastern European Jews who arrived at the turn of the century. In Cheyenne, that meant that by 1919, Temple Emanuel had been absorbed into the newer Mount Sinai Congregation, which had been established in 1910 as an Orthodox synagogue.

During the first half of the 20th century, the Wyoming Jewish population remained steady, perhaps even growing slightly. In the latter decades, however, many young Wyoming Jews left the state for larger communities elsewhere, in the hope of finding better job opportunities and the chance to meet a Jewish spouse.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Shabbat Delights

Buy a special treat to enjoy tomorrow during the long Shabbat afternoon.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Professional Proofers

Jewish life centers around the Torah, which, for thousands of years, has been transmitted from generation to generation. With such an extended chain of transmission, it has often been noted how amazing it is that hand-written copies of the Torah from around the world are almost identically letter perfect. All the more fascinating is the fact that even as a Torah scroll has no vowels or  trope (cantillation) marks included, the vowelling and trope also match throughout the numerous Jewish communities. (While communities vocalize vowels and trope differently, nevertheless, the marks for these vowels and trope are consistent and universal.)

At one point in history, as the diaspora began to expand, a group of scholars arose who dedicated themselves to make certain that all Jewish texts were copied accurately, without error. The Masoretes, as these scholars were known, flourished between the 7th and 11th centuries. It should be noted that, as mentioned in the Talmud Ketubot 106a, Temple funds were used to pay “book readers” to proof the work of scribes.

The Masoretes are often referred to as schools, most notably, the school of ben Asher and the school of ben Naphtali, but these terms sometimes refer to specific scions of these families - Aaron ben Moshe ben Asher and Moshe ben Naphtali.

The Masoretes created codices, copies of the biblical and Talmudic texts to which they added vowels, trope and important notes and annotations in the margins. Additionally, the Masoretes made numerical notations such as the count of the number of letters and verses in each section of the Torah and also noted the repeated usages of certain words. The most famous of these codices are the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex.

*From the word mesorah, which means tradition.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Tone Proof

Before sending a letter or email, reread it to make sure that tone used therein is actually what you mean to convey.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Beautiful and Strange Creatures

Summer vacation means different things to different people, but one of the most common tourist activities of the season is a trip to the zoo. From time immemorial, human beings have been fascinated by exotic animals. Some want to see the ferocious creatures face-to-face, perhaps to allay their fears. Others want a taste of strange and distant places to which they can only dream of visiting.

Since time immemorial, there have been menageries of animals. It is therefore not surprising to discover that, according to Jewish law, there is a proper way to show appreciation for the species one beholds at the zoo.

The Talmud in Brachot 58b states that one who sees beautiful creatures or beautiful trees should say. “Blessed is He Who has such things in His world” (Baruch Atah Ah’doh’nai she’kacho lo b’olomo).* One might wonder what one should do at a zoo where, generally speaking, one is delighted by many such beautiful animals. The commonly accepted practice is that upon seeing the first impressive animal (a subjective decision), one should make this blessing while intending that the blessing apply to all the other beautiful creatures one will see.

It is fascinating to note that the sages specified three types of animals over which one should say a variant blessing, “Blessed is He Who makes strange creatures (Baruch Atah Ah’doh’nai meshane ba’briyot).* Two of these creatures also happen draw the biggest crowds - elephants and monkeys. (The identification of the third species, kifof, has been lost to tradition.No specific reason is listed in the Talmud for singling out these creatures, but it is fascinating to contemplate whether it is because of the heightened intelligence attributed to these specific animals.

Visiting the zoo is an excellent opportunity to truly appreciate the wonder and diversity of creation. If one visits the same zoo twice in 30 days and recited either or both of the blessings on the first visit, the blessing(s) should not be repeated.

*There is a debate as to whether the blessing should or should not be recited with God's name. Please consult your local rabbi.



Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Fine Weather

During the beautiful summer weather, take the opportunity to visit places that help you appreciate God's creation.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh

 Many people think of World War I as a European war, but, as its name suggests, the entire world was affected. In Palestine, which was part of the Ottoman Empire at that time, the war meant exile for any Jew who was not a Turkish citizen. For 24 year old Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh (even though he was born in Hebron) it meant relocating to Alexandria, Egypt.

A respected Torah scholar who had already published his first sefer (book of Torah scholarship) on the laws applicable to bar mitzvah youths, Rabbi Chaim Naeh made the most of his time in Alexandria. There were many Jews similarly exiled, and Rabbi Chaim Naeh’s Yeshivat Eretz Yisrael (an advanced Torah study institute) attracted over 200 students . During this time, Rabbi Chaim Naeh wrote Shenot Chaim, which was meant to serve as a Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (abridged Code of Jewish Law) for Sephardic Jews.

Following the war and the British takeover of Palestine, the exiled Jews returned. Rabbi Chaim Naeh moved to Jerusalem, where he served as the personal secretary of the Edah Hachareidis (a communal organization of Orthodox Jewry in Jerusalem) under Rabbi Chaim Sonnenfeld.

Rabbi Chaim Naeh continued his scholarship and communal involvement throughout his life. In 1948, he was involved in the creation of the Vaad Harabbanim (Council of Rabbis) of Agudath Israel. He also helped found both Kol Israel and Hamodia, two weekly newspapers for strictly Orthodox audiences.

One of Rabbi Chaim Naeh’s most notable contributions was his work on measurements. In his Shiurei Torah, Rabbi Chaim Naeh converted Biblical and Talmudic measurements into modern quantities. Much of his work was based on the views of Maimonides, during whose time the same Ottoman dirham that was in use in 20th century Palestine, had been a standard measure.

Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh’s yahrtzeit is 20 Tammuz. He passed away in 1954.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Modern Knowledge

When you learn about Jewish topics, take the time to understand them in a modern context.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Five Wise Sisters

Few women are mentioned by name in the Torah, and those who are, are generally the major players (i.e. Sarah, Rachel, Miriam). Yet twice in the Torah, Mach’lah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah--the five daughters of Zelophchad--are listed. In Numbers 27, they approach Moses and ask to inherit their father’s property in the Promised Land, since he died without sons. Because of their request, the law was established that “If a man dies with no sons, then his inheritance goes to his daughter(s)” (Numbers 27:8).

As the Israelites prepared to enter Canaan, the heads of the tribe of Menashe (Zelophchad’s tribe) approached Moses with a concern about Zelophchad’s daughters: “If they marry sons of the other tribes...their inheritance will be taken away from the inheritance of our fathers’ tribe (Menashe), and will be added to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they shall belong [since the children will be reckoned as part of their father’s tribe] (Number 36:3).” To ensure that this would not be the case, Moses ruled that Zelophchad’s daughters could marry whomever they wished, but only from among the tribe of their father (Menashe) so that the land would not be lost to the tribe.

Nothing more about these remarkable women is mentioned in the Torah, but the sages of the Talmud relate:

[They] were wise women, they were interpreters of scripture, they were virtuous. They [must] have been wise, since they spoke at an opportune moment...They [must] have been interpreters of scripture, for they said: 'If he had a son we would not have spoken' (Numbers 27:8)... [The explanation is that they said]: 'Even if a son [of his] had a daughter, we would not have spoken'. They were virtuous, since they married only such men worthy of them (Baba Batra 119b).


This Treat was last posted on July 27, 2011.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Planning

Make a legal will to be certain of the future.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Fast of the 17th of Tammuz

Everyone knows about Yom Kippur. There are, however, several other fast days in the Jewish calendar that are not nearly as well known. The fast of the 17th of Tammuz, which was on Shabbat, is observed today:

As mentioned in the Talmud, five events are commemorated on this solemn day:

1. Moses smashed the Ten Commandments when he found the Jews worshiping the Golden Calf.
2. The daily sacrifices ceased during the First Temple due to a shortage of sacrificial animals.
3. The walls of Jerusalem were breached leading to the destruction of the First (actually occurred on the 9th of Tammuz) and Second Temples.  
4. An idol was placed in the Temple during the First Temple era.
5. Apustamos (a Roman general) publicly burned a Torah scroll.

Based on the biblical verses found in Zachariah, Chapters 7 and 8, it is our practice to fast from dawn to nightfall.

For more information, click here.

This Treat was last posted on July 14, 2014.


Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

The Three Weeks

“When Av enters, we must lessen our rejoicing,” declare the Talmudic sages in Ta’anit 26b.

 In truth, however, this period of "sadness" begins on the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz (observed today) and lasts exactly three weeks - until Tisha B’Av (the Ninth of Av), the day on which we mourn the destruction of both the First and Second Temples.

 While all Jewish communities mark the 17th of Tammuz by mourning and fasting, in Ashkenazic communities, this mourning continues during the rest of the month of Tammuz by refraining from haircuts and shaving, listening to music, reciting a sheh'heh'cheh'yanu blessing on new garments, and celebrating weddings.

 From the first day of the month of Av onward (July 17, 2014), however, almost all Jewish communities have accepted upon themselves the period of mourning referred to as “The Nine Days.” During these nine days, we customarily avoid the following activities (along with all of the above):

 1) Eating meat or drinking wine (except on Shabbat).

 2) Bathing or swimming for pleasure. Some people take quick showers using cool water instead of hot so as not to derive pleasure from the shower. (One may bathe on Friday in preparation for Shabbat.)

 3) Doing laundry or wearing freshly laundered clothing (except for Shabbat). It is therefore customary to choose outfits for the nine days and wear them in advance of the nine days for just a few minutes so that they are not “fresh.” Children’s clothing may be laundered as needed.

 This Treat was previously posted on July 15, 2014.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Reflection

Take some time today for some solemn reflection on the travails of the Jewish people.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Insights into the American Revolution

The American Revolution was a time of great upheaval for the American colonists. Nearly everyone was affected, no matter whether they supported or opposed the revolution. The Jewish colonists were no different than their neighbors in the community’s divided loyalties.

Many Jews joined the revolution and fought alongside their fellow colonists. One noted Jewish soldier was Solomon Bush of Philadelphia, PA. In July 1777, Bush was appointed deputy adjutant-general of the Pennsylvania militia. Later that year, he was not only seriously wounded in the thigh during a skirmish with the British, but, shortly thereafter, taken prisoner. Freed during a prisoner exchange, Bush continued to serve the Continental Army, and, as a lieutenant colonel, was the highest ranking Jewish officer. (Bush is also noted in the congregation’s records as a contributor to Mikveh Israel Congregation in Philadelphia.)

While some sided with the colonists, others were loyalists.

Many of the Jews who were loyalists took refuge in British-controlled New York City . They were not wrong to be concerned about their safety. According to the Royal Gazette (published in New York): Mr. Isaac Hart, of Newport in Rhode-Island, formerly an eminent merchant, and ever a loyal subject, was inhumanly fired upon bayoneted, wounded in fifteen different parts of his body, and beat with their muskets in the most shocking manner in the very act of imploring quarter, and died of his wounds in a few hours after, universally regretted by every true lover of his King and country.

There were also many Jews who felt divided in their own loyalties. Abraham Wagg, who was living in New York City at the outbreak of the war, left for England in 1779. Although he chose to stay with the British, he nevertheless had positive feelings for the colonists and offered suggestions for bringing peace between the two sides.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

The Power of Shabbat

Jewish life ebbs and flows around the celebration of Shabbat. The days of the week are labelled by a count toward Shabbat (Sunday isYom Rishon, the first day; Monday is Yom Shaynee, the second day, etc). Fast Days (other than Yom Kippur) are rescheduled so that the celebration of Shabbat will not be compromised by the sadness of the fast. Indeed, with the exception of the fast of the tenth of Tevet, even Friday fasts are rescheduled. This year, the rule to push off the fast day from Shabbat effects both the fast of the 17th of Tammuz (this Shabbat) and the fast of the 9th of Av (three weeks from this Shabbat).

Shabbat is referred to as a gift God gave the Jewish people from his treasure room (Talmud Shabbat 10b). The gift is far more than a day off from work, a day to rest. It is a day of working on one’s relationship with God. The fulfillment of a complete and total observance of Shabbat is a powerful key to redemption.

On a personal level, the sages record that the proper observance of Shabbat is enough to negate even the sin of idol worship: “Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba said in Rabbi Johanan's name: He who observes the Sabbath according to its laws, even if he practices idolatry... is forgiven” (Talmud Shabbat 118b).

Additionally, Shabbat is meant to be a day of enjoyment: “Rav Judah said in Rav's name: He who delights in the Sabbath is granted his heart's desires” (ibid).

Shabbat is so powerful that it actually provides the key to salvation on a national level as well: “Rav Judah said in Rav's name: Had Israel kept the first Sabbath, no nation or tongue would have enjoyed dominion over them” (ibid).

Indeed, the unified observance of Shabbat by all Jews remains the continual hope of the Jewish people, as “Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai: If Israel were to keep two Sabbaths according to the laws thereof, they would be redeemed immediately”(ibid).


This Treat was last published on October 24, 2014.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Calendar Awareness

Be aware that this Shabbat, which happens to be July 4th, is also the 17th of Tammuz, a notorious day in Jewish history.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The End of the Tamid Offering

In the year that the Israelites left Egypt, on the 17th day of Tammuz, Moses descended from Mount Sinai to find the Jewish people dancing around the Golden Calf. In exasperation, Moses threw down the two tablets of law given to him by God, smashing them.

During the centuries that followed, the 17th of Tammuz continued to be an inauspicious day for the Jewish people, a day on which great tragedies occurred. It therefore became a day of fasting and repentance from sunrise to sunset.

One such tragedy that occurred on the 17th of Tammuz was the cancellation of the daily offerings in the First Temple. This offering, known as the tamid (constant), is first mentioned in Numbers (28:3-4,6): “This is the fire offering that you will bring for God: unblemished he-lambs in their first year, two each day, for a continual burnt-offering. One lamb you will offer in the morning, and the other lamb you will offer at dusk ... It is a constant burnt-offering, which was offered on Mount Sinai, for a sweet savor, an offering made by fire for God.”

When the Babylonians began their siege of Jerusalem, the Jews still had enough livestock within the walls to maintain the tamid offering. As the siege continued, however, the priests of the Temple struggled to maintain the Temple service. They even sent baskets of silver and gold over the wall to buy sheep for the offerings from the Babylonians. On the 17th of Tammuz, however, the basket was returned to them empty - there were no more sheep to be purchased, and so the daily offerings came to an end. Needless to say, the cessation of the daily offering was a significant blow to the morale of the people of Jerusalem and the entire nation.

This Treat was last posted on June 25, 2013.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.




Positive Generosity

If you are unable to help someone out financially, try to be supportive emotionally.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Canadian Jewish Congress

The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) was founded in 1919 with the intention of uniting the voices of numerous Jewish Canadian organizations. In its inaugural year, over 25,000 Jews across Canada voted for delegates to attend the first CJC conference in Montreal. At the conference, the CJC created the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society (JIAS), passed numerous political motions (such as a statement of loyalty to Canada) and elected an executive board. Despite the success of the initial convention, the CJC was a fairly dormant organization until the 1930s.

As in too many countries, the borders of Canada were basically closed to Jewish immigrants in the 1930s. With European anti-Semitism on the rise, the CJC was reconvened in 1934. It lobbied the Canadian government, with limited success, to open immigration to Jewish refugees. After the war, the CJC was involved in organizing relief and helping with displaced persons camps in Europe.

Over the course of the next several decades, the CJC set up organizational divisions focussing on the different needs of Canadian Jewry. The national organization  was highly active in political lobbying, most notably in support of Israel (for which Prime Minister Joe Clark - June 4, 1979- March 3, 1980 - tried to rebuke them at their 1982 convention but was himself rebuked when close to 50 delegates walked out) and on behalf of Soviet Jewry.

One fascinating initiative sponsored by the CJC was the International Jewish Correspondence (IJC), which  coordinated Jewish penpals around the world. In 2002, the IJC closed  its penpal services due to the popularity of online communication, but maintains a fascinating archive.

Although the Canadian Jewish Congress still exists, as of 2011, many of its primary functions are  under the auspices of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

Jewish Treats wishes its Canadian fans a happy Canada Day.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

O Canada

If you are a Canadian Jew, take pride in the freedom of religion that allows you to live a full Jewish life.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

SEVEN YEARS!

In Jewish tradition, there is special significance to the number seven. The seventh day is Shabbat, the day of rest. The seventh month is Tishrei, the month with the most holidays (Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot). The seventh year of the sabbatical cycle is the Shmittah year, when the land of Israel is meant to lie fallow.

One understanding as to what is significant about seven is that it is one step beyond nature. It therefore symbolizes that which is kadosh - a word that is often translated as holy but also means sanctified, as in separated from the mundane.

Today, NJOP’s Jewish Treats celebrates its seventh anniversary.

From the beginning, NJOP’s goal has been to provide short - but juicy - tidbits about Jewish life and Jewish history that, hopefully, increase the readers’ connection to their heritage and heightens their Jewish pride. The short, daily “action tips” included each day offer suggestions for actively increasing the Jewish style of one’s life, and the review of different Jewish prayers enable Jewish Treats’ readers to enjoy a more spiritual approach to sanctifying their day.

NJOP salutes our Jewish Treats fans and followers and thanks you for your continued interest and support. In honor of Jewish Treats seventh anniversary, we ask you each to commit to sharing Jewish Treats with seven of your Jewish friends!

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Feedback

Let Jewish Treats know what topics you have most enjoyed and what topics you would like to see addressed.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Goodly Tents

Much of Jewish life is built around community. Jews often live close to each other, often with a synagogue or synagogues at the center of their neighborhoods. As important as living in a community is, Judaism has always put a premium on maintaining individual privacy.

In the era of the Talmud, those living in towns and cities often built their homes around communal courtyards--comparable, perhaps, to today’s townhouse communities. Because people lived so close to each other, the Talmud contains detailed discussions about insuring privacy. For instance, it is written: “In a courtyard that one shares with others, a man should not make a door facing another person's door nor a window facing another person's window...On the side of the street, however, he may make a door facing another person's door and a window facing another person's window” (Baba Batra 60b).

Protecting individual privacy by not placing doors and windows that invade other’s privacy is more than good manners. The sages understood that respecting the privacy, and thus the modesty, of every Jewish family, is critical to maintaining the Jewish people’s mission to be a holy nation. Thus the Talmud continues:

Whence are these rules derived?--Rabbi Johanan said: From the verse of the Scripture, “And Balaam lifted up his eyes and he saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes” (Numbers 24:2). This indicates that he saw that the doors of their tents did not face one another, whereupon he exclaimed: “Worthy are these that the Divine presence should rest upon them!”


This Treat was last posted on July 7, 2011.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Nice Neighbors

Be aware of the sensitivities of your neighbors.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Truly Jewish Hospital

It happened during the Holocaust that Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam was shot in the arm by the Nazis. Afraid to go to the Nazi infirmary, which he felt meant certain death, Rabbi Halberstam used a tree leaf to staunch the bleeding and a branch to bind the wound. On that day, Rabbi Halberstam  decided that, were he to survive, he would build a hospital open to all people in the Promised Land.

It took years, decades really, but Rabbi Halberstam turned his dream into a reality. The Laniado* Hospital, located in Netanya, opened its doors in 1975. The hospital operates in strict adherence to Jewish law, which means far more than kosher food and Shabbat laws. Laniado is the only Israeli hospital that has never closed due to a strike; saving a life is of such importance to Jewish law that Rabbi Halberstam felt it important to include a non-strike clause in the hospital’s employment contracts.

The man behind the hospital was not a businessman or a medical pioneer. Rabbi Halberstam was, in fact, a Chassidic (Klausenberger) rebbe. Born in Romania in 1904, he was recognized early on as a  scholastic genius, and had a Chassidic following from a young age. Then came World War II. The Klausenberger Rebbe and his family were sent to Budapest. He was arrested several times. Living conditions were difficult, but Rabbi Halberstam refused to leave his followers. When the Nazis came, the Halberstam family was sent to Auschwitz. Only Rabbi Halberstam survived. His wife and 11 children were murdered.

After surviving multiple camps and work crews, Rabbi Halberstam finally made his way to New York. In Williamsburg (Brooklyn), he rebuilt his community (which became the Klausenberg-Sanz Chassidim). He also remarried and was the father of seven children after the war.  In 1960, Rabbi Halberstam moved to Kiryat Sanz, a Chassidic neighborhood that he established in 1958, in Netanya, in northern Israel.

Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam died on 9 Tammuz, 1994.

*Laniado Hospital was named after Alphonse and Yaakov Avraham Laniado, two Syrian Jewish brothers living in Switzerland who provided Rabbi Halberstam with the initial funds for the hospital.

Copyright © 2015 NJOP. All rights reserved.