Friday, November 16, 2018

Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman was born on July 31, 1912 to Sara Ethel (Landau) and Jeno Saul Friedman, Carpathian Jewish immigrants living in Brooklyn, NY. As a child, his family relocated to Rahway, NJ and he was awarded a scholarship to Rutgers University, from where he graduated in 1932. Friedman planned to become an actuary, but was convinced that economics could help end the depression. He decided to pursue the study of economics at the University of Chicago, where he received an M.A. in 1933.

Friedman married Rose (nee Director) Friedman (1910-2009), a free market economist with whom he frequently collaborated academically. Rose was born Staryi Chortoryisk in present-day Ukraine to a prominent Jewish family, who immigrated to Portland, ME, in 1914.

The Friedmans moved to Washington, D.C. in 1935, hoping President F.D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” would solve some of the economic challenges facing the nation. While Friedman supported the job-creation initiatives, he frowned upon the price and wage fixing proposals. During World War II, Friedman contributed to the wartime tax policy, aiding the creation of the system of tax withholdings, in order to infuse the government with money that would fuel the war effort. Later, he admitted that while the cash was needed at the time, he wished there were a way to abolish the system of withholding.

In 1943, Friedman began work at Columbia University at its Division of War Research, and completed his doctorate there in 1946. Armed with his new Ph.D., Friedman accepted a faculty position teaching economic theory at the University of Chicago, where he held court for the next 30 years. During the 1954-1955 academic year, Friedman traveled to Cambridge, England, serving as a Fulbright Visiting Fellow.

Friedman published “Capitalism and Freedom” in 1962, which drew attention to him outside of the academic world of economics. He concluded that a government should not intervene in its economy unless absolutely necessary and that free markets are the best way to grow an economy.

Friedman received the 1976 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and the complexity of stabilization policy. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan awarded him the National Medal of Science and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Friedman and his wife retired to San Francisco in 1977, where he lived out the rest of his days. He died on November 16, 2006. He was survived by his wife and two children.

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Note the Jewish Nobel Laureates

The number of Jewish Nobel Laureates far outpaces Jewish representation in the general population. Jews have greatly impacted on society for the better.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Can There Be Too Much Joy?

The Talmud (Mo’ed Katan 8b) rules that we may not get married during the intermediate days of a festival. The Talmud offers two reasons for the prohibition. First, because we do not mix one joyous celebration with another joyous celebration, in Hebrew ein m’arvin simcha b’simcha (conducting marriage ceremonies on the Shabbat and Biblical Holidays is also proscribed). Second, the sages did not approve of an individual rejoicing in his marriage, which would cause him not to fully celebrate the festival.

The Talmud identifies the source for the injunction of intermingling celebrations from a verse in Kings I (8:65) which describes the two-week celebration marking the inauguration of Solomon’s Temple, which ended in time for the Sukkot festival. The Talmud observes that since the two events did not overlap, it seems to prove that the two events could not take place simultaneously.

The Tosafot, citing the Jerusalem Talmud (Moed Katan 1:7), cite another source, from our parasha, Parashat Vayeitzei. After Laban deceived Jacob by delivering Leah, not Rachel, to the bridal chamber, he agreed to allow Jacob to marry Rachel, only after a week had elapsed (Genesis 29:27). Why, asks the Talmud, did Laban not simply make another wedding immediately after Jacob discovered the subterfuge? The Talmud answers because Jacob needed to celebrate his marriage with Leah for a full week, prior to entering into the joy of marriage with Rachel. The two celebrations could not be intermingled.

The Shulchan Aruch, Code of Jewish Law (Orach Chaim 546) rules that marriages do not take place on Biblical holidays (people may, and do, get married on the rabbinic holidays of Chanukah and Purim).

Rabbi Chaim Chizkiya Medini (1834-1904) in his encyclopedic work on Jewish law, S’dei Chemed, asks if a synagogue dedication can take place on a festival, or would it violate the principle of mingling joy? He ruled leniently, reasoning that the two types of joy both need to be physical joy. However, the dedication of a synagogue is more spiritual than physical. He also saw the joy of the synagogue dedication as an extension of the joy of the festival. It seems that the celebration of the dedication of a synagogue pales in comparison to the dedication of Solomon’s first Temple in Jerusalem, which, according to the Talmud, is the source for the prohibition.

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Celebrate Fully!

When participating in a simcha (a joyous occasion), do so with unbridled joy and with full enthusiasm.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Zionism Is Not Racism!

After acquiring control over the territory known as Palestine in the aftermath of its victory in World War I, the British soon realized that there were no simple solutions when two peoples claim the same land.

Despite the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the British government wavered back and forth on its support of a Jewish state in Palestine, eventually asking the nascent United Nations to suggest a course of action. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 calling for the creation of independent Jewish and Arab states in the area known as Palestine, which triggered jubilation among Palestine’s Jews.

The Arab nations opposed Israel’s existence from the moment Resolution 181 passed, engaging in regional wars in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, all of which Israel survived. The Arab bloc, along with its benefactor the Soviet Union, tried to harm Israel diplomatically, by equating Zionism, the Jewish yearning for a return to its ancestral homeland, with racism. On November 10, 1975, corresponding to 6 Kislev, General Assembly Resolution 3379 concluded that Zionism is “a form of racism and racial discrimination” passed 72 to 25, with 32 abstentions.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations (and future President of Israel) Chaim Herzog delivered a blistering rebuttal from the rostrum of the United Nations General Assembly by noting that Arabs serve as ministers in the Israeli government, are members of Israel’s army and its security services, and that Arabic is an official language of Israel. Herzog called the resolution “anti-Semitic.” He concluded his speech, “For us, the Jewish people, this resolution based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance, is devoid of any moral or legal value. For us, the Jewish people, this is no more than a piece of paper and we shall treat it as such.” Herzog then dramatically ripped up a draft of the resolution.

U.S. ambassador to the UN, and future New York senator, Daniel P. Moynihan, in condemning the resolution, declared that the United States will not accept or “acquiesce this infamous act,” and codifying anti-Semitism as international law.

Sixteen years later, on December 16, 1991, as a pre-condition to Israeli participation in the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 46/86 revoked Resolution 3379, by a vote of 111-25 with 13 abstentions.

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Fight Anti-Semitism

Tragically, there is still much anti-Semitism in the world. It is our duty to make certain that anti-Semitism and other forms of baseless bigotry are defeated.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

First On The Court

Born in 1856, in Louisville, Kentucky, Louis Dembitz Brandeis was the child of European immigrants who maintained a minimal Jewish identity. However, his maternal uncle, Lewis Dembitz, lived a more Jewishly involved life-style and inspired Brandeis’ subsequent Zionist activities.

Brandeis graduated from Harvard Law School at 20 with the highest (at that time) grade point average in the history of Harvard. After a brief stint in Louisville, he set up a practice in Boston. Achieving financial success, Brandeis began representing causes he believed in, purely for the love of the law. Professionally, Brandeis was involved in breaking monopolies, creating the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Trade Commission. He is also noted for his articulation of the legal “right to privacy” concept.

Brandeis was nominated by President Woodrow Wilson to become a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1916. On June 1st, he was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a Senate vote of 47 to 22. He was the first Jewish Justice on the Supreme Court. While his Jewish identity was certainly the cause for some opposition, it was his reputation as a crusader for social justice that predominately energized his opponents.

Although Brandeis had a distant relationship with his Jewish heritage, he was an ardent Zionist. During World War I, he chaired the Provisional Executive Committee for Zionist Affairs (predecessor to the Zionist Organization of America, ZOA). In 1919, however, he left ZOA after an administrative disagreement with Chaim Weizmann (later President of Israel). He remained active on a personal level, including using his political influence to benefit the Zionist movement.

Sadly, Brandeis never witnessed the creation of the independent State of Israel. He died of a heart attack in 1941, two years after resigning from the Supreme Court. Brandeis was survived by his wife Alice nee Goldmark, and two daughters, Susan Gilbert and Elizabeth Raushenbush.

Justice Louis Brandeis was born on November 13, 1856.

This Treat was originally posted on June 28, 2010.

If you enjoyed this mini-biography, check out Jewish Treats: 99 Fascinating Jewish Personalities.

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Jewish Trailblazers

Today, a Jewish Supreme Court Justice does not make headlines for their ethnicity, only because others before them broke the glass ceiling. Appreciate the Jewish trailblazers who came before us in many professions and accomplished the firsts for our people.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Memorial Day Museum

Washington, DC, is a city of museums. Beyond the vast assortment of divisions and galleries at the Smithsonian Institute and the many political memorials, there are also smaller museums throughout the city. For instance, if you head to Dupont Circle, you can visit the National Museum of American Jewish Military History (NMAJMH).

First suggested by the Jewish War Veterans (JWV) Association, NMAJMH's creation was part of the organization’s move to Washington, DC, from New York.

The Museum opened in 1954 at the JWV’s new building on New Hampshire Avenue. At that time, it was known as the National Shrine to the Jewish War Dead, and it was mostly a repository for documents and memorabilia. Four years later, the Shrine became a full-fledged museum when it was granted a Congressional charter. In 1983, the museum and the JWV moved to their current location on R Street (NW), a dignified brick edifice that houses two floors of permanent and special exhibit space.

NMAJMH does more than just house and display Jewish military memorabilia, it is also an excellent research resource.

Permanent exhibits include displays on known Jewish war heroes, such as Major General Julius Klein, who served in both World Wars. Special exhibits focus on important matters for Jews in the military, tributes to the supporting family members of those in the military and on specific historical figures like Uriah Levy.

In addition to their exhibits, the museum reaches out over the internet to educate people about the role of Jews in the military, to fight anti-Semitism and to advocate for veterans in general. The online undertaking is known as the American Jewish Military Heritage Project.

This Treat was originally posted on May 30, 2016. 

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Support our Veterans!

Show hakarat hatov (Hebrew for gratitude) to those who were willing to offer life and limb to protect the American way of life.

Friday, November 9, 2018


Kristallnacht, literally the Night of Crystal but generally translated as the Night of Broken Glass, was a tragic turning point in the fate of Germany’s Jewish community. The country-wide pogrom began on November 9, 1938, and lasted through the 10th. Over the course of Kristallnacht, close to 100 Jews were killed, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested, hundreds of synagogues were burned and desecrated and over 7,000 Jewish shops were vandalized and had their shop windows shattered.

The outbreak of violence was orchestrated by Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. However, the Nazi leadership firmly maintained that the actions were a spontaneous uprising of the German people against the Jews. They also used fabricated Jewish crimes in order to enact further oppressive laws against Jews, including diverting insurance payments for property destroyed in the pogroms.

The excuse for the so-called “spontaneous” pogrom was the death, on November 9th, of German diplomat Ernst Vom Rath in Paris. He was shot by a 17 year old Jewish youth, Herschel Grynszpan. Young, unemployed and an illegal resident trying to avoid deportation from Paris, Grynszpan shot the diplomat as a reaction to his parents’ deportation to Poland. The Grynszpans had lived in Hanover, Germany, since 1911. In October 1938, the Germans expelled all Polish Jews from German soil just as Poland was about to implement a new law removing Polish citizenship from anyone residing outside of Poland for more than five years. But Poland refused to take the refugees, and 12,000 Jews were put in refugee camps at the border.

The involvement of German citizens in the pogroms, or at the very least the lack of protest from neighbors (and neighboring countries), affirmed the Nazi’s belief that they could do as they pleased concerning the Jews. Previously oppressive measures had been non-violent, but Kristallnacht was the first step toward the horror of the “Final Solution.”

Today is the 80th anniversary. 

This Treat was last posted on November 9, 2017. 

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Never Forget and Act!

Recent tragic events remind us of the words in the Passover Hagaddah: “In each generation there are those who rise to destroy Jews.” It behooves the Jewish community on days such as today, to do everything we can to stop these forces of hatred from continuing.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Kindness of Meah She’arim

On trips to Israel, many travel to the quaint Jerusalem neighborhood known as Meah She’arim. Meah She’arim is home of the Yerushalmi “ultra-Orthodox” community who seek insularity and famously ask those visiting their community to comply with their rigorous dress code. Aside from the Judaica stores and shopping, entering the area almost transports one back to a different century within a modern city. The name of the enclave Meah She’arim finds its source in this week’s Parasha, parashat Toledot.

Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him” (Genesis 26:12). The description of Isaac’s agricultural return, 100 times his initial investment, in Hebrew is rendered as Meah She’arim.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all described as shepherds. Other than this textual source, there is no mention of any of the patriarchs being farmers. Given that Isaac spent his life building upon and re-creating his father Abraham’s experiences, it is odd to learn that he deviated somewhat vocationally.

The Biblical commentator Rashi teaches that Isaac’s agricultural success was due to a Divine blessing. But the author of the Midrash Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer, Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, concurs with other Midrashic sources who maintain that the miraculous growth really refers to Isaac’s tithes bearing fruit, and not to mean that Isaac had become a farmer. God blessed all of Isaac’s charitable work, so it would be extremely successful.

The Talmud (Yevamot 79a) declares that three character traits distinguish the Jewish people: compassion, modesty/bashfulness and kindness to one another. Scripture is full of examples of these traits embedded in our greatest leaders. Sharing charitably with those in one’s surroundings, is learned from many actions of the patriarchs and matriarchs. Tithing and charity may be virtues we learn from Isaac. The tight-knit community of Meah She’arim is but one Jewish community that is renowned for its kindness and its abundant communal institutions that were established to help its citizens.

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Set Aside Funds for Charity

Judaism encourages giving a tenth of one’s income (after taxes) to charitable causes.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

North Star State’s First Jewish Senator

Rudolph Ely Boschwitz was born on November 7, 1930 in Berlin, Germany to his Jewish parents Lucy (Dawidowicz) and Eli. When he was 3, coinciding with Hitler’s rise to power, the Boschwitz family immigrated to New Rochelle, NY. Rudy attended Johns Hopkins University, and pursued graduate studies both at the NYU Stern School of Business and NYU Law School, where he graduated in 1953. In 1956, Rudy married Ellen Antoinette Loewenstein; they have four sons.

Although he was admitted to the New York and Wisconsin state bars, Boschwitz went into business and founded Plywood Minnesota in 1963 and served as its chairman. Eventually the name changed to Home Valu Interiors, which grew into a home improvement chain with 68 stores.

After a successful business career, Rudy entered politics. In November, 1978, Rudy was elected as an Independent-Republican to the United States Senate representing the State of Minnesota, the first Jew to represent Minnesota in the Senate. He defeated the Democratic incumbent Wendell Anderson, who, in 1977, as Governor of Minnesota, had himself appointed to fill the seat of Minnesotan Vice President Walter Mondale. After two terms in Washington, Boschwitz was defeated by Democrat Paul Wellstone in 1990. Boschwitz challenged Wellstone again in 1996 but lost a second time.

Boschwitz’ seat has been occupied by a Jew until the recent resignation of Senator Al Franken. Senator Wellstone was killed in a plane crash, days before the 2002 election, and was won by Brooklyn-born Norm Coleman. Senator Coleman lost a very tight election to Al Franken in 2008, who was re-elected in 2014. 

In 1991, President George H.W. Bush dispatched Boschwitz to Ethiopia as his emissary. Boschwitz’s negotiations helped lead to Operation Solomon, which saw the airlifting of 14,325 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. In 2005, president George W. Bush appointed Boschwitz as U.N. ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Boschwitz continues to be a strong supporter of Jewish and pro-Israel causes, most notably his leadership roles with Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

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Take Pride

Learn about Jewish politicians and appreciate their accomplishments.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Go Vote! It’s an American and Jewish Value!

Voting in free and fair elections is one of the most profound privileges Americans and citizens of other democratic countries enjoy. Almost 700,000 American soldiers* have died in wars to protect the American way of life, whose bedrock value is a citizenship who votes its leaders into office. But, even in the United States, suffrage was not initially granted to all citizens.

For most of human history, Jews did not live in democratic societies where citizens’ votes selected leaders. As such, halachic literature on the responsibility of voting in democratic elections is relatively recent.

An Israeli citizen approached the Chazon Ish (1878-1953), asking the rabbi’s opinion regarding the fact that he had been prevented from voting because he had not paid his municipal taxes. The Chazon Ish instructed the Jew to sell his tefillin, in order to pay his taxes, which would enable him to vote in upcoming elections. “You can fulfill the mitzvah with borrowed tefillin, but the privilege of voting cannot be borrowed from someone else,” argued the Chazon Ish. (“Lectures for the Book of Genesis” by Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, pg. 156.) He clearly viewed voting as a significant mitzvah!

Rabbi Eliezer Shach, (1899-2001), a leader of Israeli Orthodox Jewry after the passing of the Chazon Ish, argued that if Jews do not vote, their influence cannot be taken seriously. “Voting is what enables us to make our voices be heard, and that is of value in itself… The more people vote, the more we will be able to accomplish” (“Rav Shach Speaks,” pages 52-53, based on a letter written in April, 1977).

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the leading halachic (Jewish legal) decider in the United States in the late 20th century, in a letter dated October 3, 1984, wrote the following patriotic words.

“On reaching the shores of the United States, Jews found a safe haven. The rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights have allowed us the freedom to practice our religion without interference and to live in this republic in safety. A fundamental principal of Judaism is hakarat hatov, recognizing benefits afforded us and giving expression to our appreciation. Therefore, it is incumbent upon each Jewish citizen to participate in the democratic system which guards the freedoms we enjoy. The most fundamental responsibility incumbent on each individual is to register and to vote. By this, we can express our appreciation and contribute to the continued security of our community.” Rabbi Feinstein was known to vote in every single election, whether determining the presidency or the local school board.

*this figure does not include the over 500,000 Americans who died during the U.S. Civil War.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Go Vote!

In addition to engaging in a patriotic and civic act, voting may also help fashion policies which you value.

Monday, November 5, 2018


Yesterday was the 23rd anniversary of the death of Yitzchak Rabin, who was assassinated on November 4, 1995.

Born in Jerusalem on March 1, 1922, Rabin grew up in Tel Aviv. He entered the military service in 1941 when he joined the newly formed Palmach. During World War II, he fought for the British authorities, but later fought against British control of the Land of Israel.  In 1964, Rabin was appointed the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, and was thus in charge during the 1967 Six Day War.

In Rabin’s post military career, he first served as the Israeli Ambassador to the United States for five years. Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Rabin was elected to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and was appointed Minister of Labor by Prime Minister Golda Meir. When Meir resigned, Rabin became Prime Minister. He led the country for two years, during which time the Sinai Interim Agreement was signed with Egypt and the passengers on a hijacked plane at the Entebbe (Uganda) airport were rescued during Operation Entebbe*. Rabin resigned when it was determined that the family’s U.S. bank account, opened while he lived in Washington, D.C., was in breach of Israeli law due to its lack of authorization.

Rabin remained an active Member of Knesset and served as Minister of Defense from 1984-1990.

Rabin’s second term as Prime Minister, which began in 1992, is best-known for the Oslo Accords with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which were signed on September 19, 1993. Rabin also signed a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994. The same year, he, along with Shimon Peres and Yassar Arafat, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Less than a year later, Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir, an Israeli citizen.

*The operation's code name was Thunderbolt. It was later renamed Operation Jonathan.

This Treat was last posted on October 26, 2015. 

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Watch the Rhetoric

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin's assassination followed poisonous rhetoric within Israeli society.  Words do matter.  Care should be exercised so that inflammatory words not be used that may lead to an act of violence.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Say Shabbat Shalom

NJOP stands in solidarity with the Squirrel Hill community in Pittsburgh and expresses its profound condolences to the members and families of the Tree of Life Congregation who lost their lives on Shabbat. It is our hope that the outpouring of love and support from the broader Jewish community and from people of good will across the length and breadth of America, may serve as some small comfort as the community mourns the loss of precious lives and face the pain and suffering experienced by others at the synagogue. Profound thanks to the Pittsburgh Police Department who risked life and limb to save other potential victims from death and harm. May God grant comfort to the families who lost loved ones and a Refuah Shelayma, a speedy and full recovery, to all those who were injured in this terrible attack. With this is mind, today we are resharing our Jewish Treat about the power of wishing someone a Shabbat Shalom, a Sabbath of Peace.
Life provides us with a plethora of opportunities to pronounce blessings. There are blessings on foods, blessings on doing a mitzvah, and even a blessing after using the restroom. Not all blessings are formal declarations (those that start with Baruch Ah’tah Ah’do’nai...,Blessed are You God...). Saying “God bless you” when a person sneezes is also a blessing.

The greeting “Shabbat Shalom” is also a blessing. Shabbat is a day of rest, of spending time connected to the Divine...this is hard to do if one is not at peace, or is agitated or worried. Additionally, the word “Shalom” is derived from the word shaleim, which means whole or complete. Greeting someone with “Shabbat Shalom” is more than wishing them to “have a nice day,” although it is sometimes meant as such. Rather, it is a blessing for someone to have a Shabbat of peace in which no worries interfere with their connection to the Divine, so that their souls can feel the wholeness promised in the World to Come. (Shabbat is said to be a “taste of the World to Come.”)

If one truly intends that the words “Shabbat Shalom” be a blessing, the words must be pronounced in the proper manner. Too often, as people hurry on their way, even when walking home from synagogue on Shabbat, they mumble “Shabbat Shalom” at any Jewish-looking person who draws close. Ideally, we should wish “Shabbat Shalom” while smiling and looking our fellow Jew in the eye. This is regarded as presenting a “sever panim yafot,” a cheerful countenance, as prescribed in Ethics of the Fathers 1:15.

This Treat was last posted on October 22, 2010. 

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Join Worldwide Jewry this Shabbat in Remembering the Victims in Pittsburgh

Join worldwide Jewry this Shabbat in remembering the victims in Pittsburgh. Participate this Shabbat in Jewish Federations of North America's Solidarity Shabbat, and online in the AJC’s #ShowUpforShabbat campaign. Go to synagogue this Shabbat!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Fathers and Time

Of the three patriarchs, the one with the briefest of appearances and the fewest mentions in the Biblical verses is certainly Isaac, son of Abraham and father to Jacob. A Talmudic passage attributes the three daily prayers to three different verses, each one associated with a patriarch. The morning service, Shacharit, is attributed to Abraham (Genesis 19:27); the afternoon service, Mincha, was first prayed by Isaac (Genesis 24:63); and the evening service, Ma’ariv, or Arvit, is ascribed to Jacob (Genesis 28:11).

The verse associated with Isaac appears at the end of this week’s parasha, when Abraham’s servant escorts Rebecca to meet and marry Isaac. It states: “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the evening time; and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming” (Genesis 24:63). Rabbi Elie Munk (1900-1981 Germany and Paris), in his classic “The World of Prayer” explains the connection between each patriarch and the time of day of the prayer attributed to them. His words, quoted below, are well worth repeating.

Abraham’s life was like the rising sun that waxes even brighter. Blessed with abundant success in all his undertakings, he stood alone facing the entire world and summoning it to the altar of the One and Only God. Yet he was neither envied nor hated, but highly revered as a prince of God.

During Isaac’s life the light began to grow dimmer. The sun, which had shone for his father, had passed the zenith and had begun to descend. Isolated on account of his ‘walking before God,’ he was greeted only with envy by his contemporaries for the divine blessings he received. He had to withdraw into himself and his household. With his birth the ominous presage of ‘your offspring shall be strangers’ becomes a reality.

Finally, with Jacob, the shadows of night close in. His entire life was a concatenation of trials and tribulations. Only in fleeting moments did he experience the joy of life. 

Yet all three Patriarchs, much as their lives differed, found the way back to God in prayer. They left as their heritage to us the means of elevating ourselves to God from the most divergent times of life: - when the rays of morning rouse all to life, when the waning of the sun turns us to earnest self-contemplation, and when the night summons us to rally our thoughts towards God.

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Stop And Pray

The afternoon prayer can be the most challenging, as it cannot be fulfilled upon waking, or prior to going to sleep. Find time to pray to God in the middle of the day.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Jewish Community of Vegas, Stays in Vegas! Jews of Nevada

When the territory now known as Nevada was acquired in 1848 after the Mexican War, “Forty-Niners”, headed west to mine for gold. By the late 1870s, there were about 1,000 Jews in Nevada, although very few were actual miners. Almost every area of settlement, such as Genoa, Virginia City, Austin, Eureka and Hamilton, had retail stores owned by Jews, where people purchased clothing and dry goods. When even ten Jews settled in one area, a Hebrew Benevolent Society was established to help the needy, arrange prayer services on the High Holidays and purchase land for the purpose of Jewish burial. While, until more recently, the Jewish population of Nevada did not exceed 1% of the state’s total population, Jews were always represented in civil leadership.

In addition to mining, Nevada is renowned for its gambling casinos. Legalized gambling ended in 1911, but was reinstated in 1931, since Nevada’s citizens fled the state during the harsh conditions of the Great Depression. (Divorce was legalized later that year as well). As a result, Las Vegas became the entertainment and gambling capital of the world. Gambling’s underbelly also brought organized crime, which also featured some famous Jews.

Although the first synagogue in Nevada, affiliated with the Reform movement, was founded in 1876, the first synagogue building was not erected (in Reno) until 1921. The next one was built in Las Vegas, in 1963. The Reno synagogue brought the first resident rabbi to Nevada in 1932, Rabbi Hersh Opoczynski, who anglicized his name to Harry Tarlow. He and his wife opened the first boarding house for those seeking legal divorces.

But the main narrative of Nevada’s Jews is linked to the proliferation of gambling casinos in Las Vegas between 1947 and 1967. Ubiquitous entertainment centers such as Caesars Palace, Desert Inn, Flamingo, Sahara, Aladdin, Riviera, Sands and Tropicana were all Jewish owned, and expanded greatly more recently, with the arrival of Sheldon Adelson’s Venetian and Steve Wynn’s eponymous casino. This expansion resulted in the exponential growth of Las Vegas’ Jewish community. As of 2007, Vegas supported 19 synagogues of all stripes. A $25 million donation from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson funded the creation of 3 Jewish day schools and a high school. In 2017, the Jewish population of Nevada was recorded as 76,300.

Nevada was officially welcomed into the Union, in the midst of the U.S. Civil War, on October 31, 1864.

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Study Jewish Communities

Study about the Jewish communities you visit when you travel and support them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Chaim Weizmann

Many of the greatest names in Israeli history belong to leaders of military battles and to eloquent spokespersons who rallied the Jewish people to fight for a modern homeland. Chaim Weizmann’s field of “battle” was the game of diplomacy. His great skill in this most delicate realm made it all the more appropriate that his final title was that of the first President of the State of Israel.

Born in Russia in 1874, the third of fifteen children, Weizmann followed his Jewish cheder education with gymnasium and multiple universities. A scientist by training, he received degrees from universities in Germany and Switzerland and taught at the University of Geneva before accepting a position as senior lecturer at University of Manchester in 1904.

Weizmann became a British citizen. During the first World War, he gained national attention when he developed a process for producing acetone, a critical explosive component that greatly benefited the British war effort. His national security work enabled him to make many influential and important contacts.

An ardent Zionist, Weizmann attended every Zionist conference in Basil, Switzerland except the first. Weizmann’s belief was that the Zionists could only succeed if there were people settling the land while diplomatic maneuvers were put in place. Weizmann played a critical role in the creation of both the Weizmann Institute for Science and Hebrew University.

Weizmann’s diplomatic victories were of great significance. It was his efforts that resulted in the Balfour Declaration. He was the diplomat who sat with the Hashemite Prince Feisal and reached a (short-lived) agreement with the Arabs. And it was known that Weizmann influenced the United States to support both the Partition Plan and Statehood.

In 1952, after serving four years as President, Weizmann died at his home in Rehovot. Chaim Weizmann passed away on November 9, 1952, corresponding to the 21st of Cheshvan.

This Treat was last posted on April 26, 2012.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Be an Activist!

Learn from the lives of those who dedicated themselves to virtuous causes.

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Poet and A Martyr

Hannah Senesh (Szenes) was born in Budapest, Hungary, to an assimilated, middle-class family. An avid diarist from the age of 13 until her death, Hannah maintained a personal journal that reflected the literary talent she had inherited from her father, Bela, a playwright who died when she was six.

While the Senesh family were not active participants in Jewish religious life, both Hannah and her brother George were ardent Zionists. In 1939, at age 18, Hannah gave up her dream of a university education, went to Palestine (now called Israel) and enrolled in an agricultural school. She later joined Kibbutz S'dot Yam (Fields of the Sea) in Caesarea.

Back in Hungary, the entire Jewish community (including Hannah's mother) was suffering terribly due to local anti-Semitism. Although the Germans did not officially occupy Hungary until 1944, the Hungarian government allied itself with the Axis powers. Worried about her mother and anxious to do something to stop the Nazis, Hannah joined the British Army, volunteering to be parachuted across enemy lines as a spy.

In June 1944, Hannah parachuted into Yugoslavia and, together with a band of underground Jewish partisans, crossed the border into Hungary. Unfortunately, they were quickly captured. The radio transmitter in their possession was evidence enough to have them imprisoned.

The Nazis held Hannah in prison for nearly five months, during which time she was able to communicate with her mother. She was tortured, repeatedly, but refused to give the Nazis any information. On November 7, 1944, corresponding to the 20th of Cheshvan, the 23 year-old Hannah was executed by firing squad. She refused to be blind-folded.

Hannah's diaries and poems, which she sent to her mother, were later published. Several of her poems became popular Hebrew songs. The courage displayed by this young woman has been an inspiration to many generations of young people.

One of her most famous poems:
My God, My God, I pray that these things never end,
The sand and the sea,
The rustle of the waters,
Lightning of the Heavens,
The prayer of Man. 

This Treat was last posted on April 21, 2011.

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Make sure to recognize the ultimate sacrifice made by Jewish heroes so Judaism could continue.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Sarah’s Whereabouts Determine Jewish Law

Parashat Vayeira begins with Avraham convalescing after his circumcision. Unexpectedly, he sees three “visitors,” whom the Midrash identifies as angels, come toward his home. Excited to welcome guests, he washes their feet, and promises them a meal. Avraham asks his wife Sarah to prepare bread, while he slaughters meat, and brings the guests a scrumptious meal. He stands over them, making sure they are eating.

Then the “guests” ask a bizarre, perhaps immodest, question. “And they said to him, where is Sarah your wife? And he said, Behold in the tent” (Genesis 18:9). After asking this question, the angels inform Avraham and Sarah that in a year hence they will be blessed with a son, despite their advanced age. The Midrash explains the need for three angels: one angel came to heal the sick Abraham, another angel came to inform Abraham and Sarah of their impending parenthood, and a third angel came to destroy the evil city of Sodom. Once the angel concluded his task of visiting Avraham, it was tasked with saving Lot and his family.

So why did the angels need to ask about Sarah’s whereabouts before dispatching their jobs?

Tradition maintains that the Jewish Messiah will be a descendant of King David. But, King David himself is a descendant of the righteous Moabite convert, Ruth. The Moabite nation was born from the union between Lot, Abraham’s nephew, and one of his daughters. The Torah (Deuteronomy 23:4-7) declares that Moabites may not be accepted as converts because they did not act hospitably toward the Israelites while they were in the Wilderness and because they hired Balaam to curse the Israelites.

If this is true, how could Ruth be accepted as a convert? How could David be a legitimate king of Israel?

The Talmud (Yevamot 77) notes that Moabite men are proscribed from joining the Jewish people, because they were the ones who decided not to provide victuals to the wandering Israelites. The rabbis in the Talmud were unsure if Moabite women could be accepted or not. After all, would the women, had they had the opportunity, have fed the Israelites? The Talmud concludes, based on a ruling of the prophet Samuel, that we do accept Moabite women as converts.

Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, the first Gerrer Rebbe known as the Chidushei HaRim, suggests that this is why the angels asked about Sarah’s whereabouts. If she were demonstrating hospitality, which she was, the law would allow the conversion of female Moabites. This debate proved relevant to the angels, as they needed to know whether Lot and his daughters should be saved in order to eventually produce Ruth and King David.

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