Friday, September 19, 2014

The Light of the First Day

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. And God said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:1-4).

When most people think of natural light, they think of the sun. Strangely enough, the sun (along with the moon and stars) was not created until the fourth day. So what was the “light” that God placed in the world on the first day?

Rashi, commenting on Genesis 1:4, explains that God “saw that it was not proper for the wicked to use it [the first light] so He separated it for the righteous in the world to come.” Obviously, the light that Rashi is describing is not our everyday light. That first light is frequently construed to be a form of righteousness “spiritual light.” In fact, the Midrash in Bereshit Rabbah explains the first light as the light that shone when "God cloaked Himself in a white shawl, and the light of its splendor shone from one end of the world to the other" (Bereshit Rabbah 3:4). This description implies that the light refers to a Divine radiance, a pure form of righteousness.

Rabbi Elazar states that with this first light “a person could see with it from one end of the world to the other”(Chagigah 12a). After God created the light and saw that it was good, He separated it from the darkness. Or, as our tradition explains, He hid it in the Torah!

The idea that the righteous light was hidden in the Torah, brings a new dimension to the verse in Psalms 97:11: “Light is sown for the righteous.” The righteous, through their relationship with Torah and mitzvot, can uncover this holiness.

But what about the rest of us, the not so righteous? Proverbs 20:27 declares that “the soul of man is the candle of God.” Just as a candle holds a small bit of light, each human is invested with a spark of the Divine light with which we are able enlighten the entire world.


This Treat was last posted on September 3, 2010.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Selichot

In addition to the unique prayer services of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the High Holidays are known for one other service: selichot. A collection of religious poems and verses, selichot are penitential prayers that help one focus on the mood of the season.

An integral part of the selichot service is the repetition of the "Thirteen Attributes of God's Mercy" (Exodus 34:5-7). After the incident with the Golden Calf, Moses returned to Mount Sinai and assuaged God’s anger at the Israelites. According to the Talmud (Rosh Hashana 17b), God, appearing as a prayer leader wrapped in a prayer shawl, instructed Moses that the Jewish people should recite the following "Thirteen Attributes of God's Mercy" and they would be granted forgiveness:

Hashem: He is merciful (to one before he/she sins).

Hashem: He is merciful (to the sinner who repents).

Ayl: He is powerful.

Rachum: He is compassionate.

V’chanun: He grants even undeserved favors.

Erech Ah'payim: He is slow to anger, allowing the sinner time to repent by not exacting immediate punishment.

V’rav Chesed: He abounds in lovingkindness and leniency.

V’emet: He abounds in truth and keeps His promises.

Notzer Chesed La’alafim: He maintains lovingkindness for thousands of generations.

Nosay Avon: He forgives sins that result from temptation.

Va’fesha: He forgives sins of rebellion against Him.

V’chata’ah: He forgives sins committed carelessly or unknowingly.

V’nah'kay: He completely forgives the sinner who returns to Him in sincere repentance.*

In Sephardi communities, the recitation of selichot begins on Rosh Chodesh

Elul and continues through Yom Kippur. In Ashkenazi communities, the recitation of selichot begins on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashana (unless Rosh Hashana begins on a Monday or Tuesday, in which case it begins the previous Saturday night). The first communal recitation of selichot in the Ashkenazi community usually takes place after midnight. On all other days until Yom Kippur, selichot are usually recited prior to the morning service.

--Explanations of the 13 Attributes are from The Companion Guide to the Yom Kippur Prayer Service by Moshe Sorscher, printed by Judaica Press.



This Treat was previously published on Augusts 30, 2013.


Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Guided

Use the Divine light within you to guide you in your actions.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Three Ts

On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we declare: "Repentance, prayer and charity remove the evil of the decree!" In Hebrew, these constitute the 3 Ts: Teshuva, Tefila and Tzedaka.

Teshuva (repentance), a central theme of the High Holidays, means more than just saying "sorry." Teshuva means recognizing one’s errors and making an effort not to repeat them. In many ways, teshuva is a private act because one must be introspective in order to recognize one’s own mistakes.

Tefila (prayer) is the acknowledgment of God as the King and Ruler of the universe. Tefila is almost private, but not quite. It is a conversation between the person and God.

Tzedaka (charity) is a critical step necessary to reverse an evil decree simply because it constitutes an action. The performance of this mitzvah affects the person giving, the person receiving, and its benefits often extend to others as well. Tzedaka is reaching out beyond one’s self, and is thus a public act.

Everything that a person does affects the world in multiple ways. It affects the person’s relationship with him/herself, his/her relationship with the Divine and his/her relationship with his/her fellow human beings. The path to reversing an evil decree must therefore involve the private, the spiritual and the public spheres of our lives.




*This Treat was previously published on August 22, 2013. 

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Five Names of Rosh Hashana

In Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashana has several names that can help us understand the importance and power of this holiday.

Rosh Hashana literally means "Head of the Year" because Rosh Hashana marks the point when we begin the new calendar year (e.g. from 5774 to 5775).

Yom Harat Olam means "The Birthday of the World."

Yom Hazikaron means "The Day of Remembering."

Yom Hadin means "The Day of Judgment."

Yom Teruah means "The Day of Sounding (the Shofar)." This is the actual name that the holiday is called in the Torah.

Ok, so there are five different names for the holiday. What is the significance of that? How do these different themes relate to each other?

The Teruah is the staccato sound blown on the shofar. Yom Teruah serves as a call to attention because this day is Yom Hadin, the Day of Judgment, and it is imperative that one be cognizant of the importance of the day.

It is the Day of Judgment because it is Yom Hazikaron, the day on which God looks back and "remembers" our deeds, individually, collectively and historically (a record of over 4,000 years of Jewish history).

Why is this the Day of Remembrance? Because it is the anniversary of the creation of the world (Yom Harat Olam). Since the annual cycle is closing, it is the perfect time for reflection and judgment. This new beginning allows us to enter the new year with a clean slate.

And since the old year and the new year are seamless, this day is also Rosh Hashana, the head of the year.


This Treat was last posted on September 10, 2012.


Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Now Is The Time

If you have determined behaviors you wish to change in the new year, set up strategies to be successful.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Article VI

Today, September 17, is Constitution Day, in honor of the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1787. The Constitution was a radical document at that time, and one of the most unique aspects of it was its recognition that a person’s religious beliefs should not cause him/her to be denied political rights.

When discussing the separation of church and state, most people quote the First Amendment of the constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

This is not the only place where religious freedom is protected in the Constitution. The third paragraph of Article VI states: “...but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

To understand the significance of this law, one must know that even into the 19th century, a person seeking public office in a Christian country often needed to swear on a Bible and affirm that they were faithful to church and state. Article VI made it clear that religion would not hold a person back from Federal office. 

Because the framers of the Constitution were careful to maintain the rights of the individual states, the prohibition against requiring a religious test or oath was for Federal positions only. Each state had a right to determine its own law, and eight states did incorporate a religious requirement for their officeholders: Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Some of these states have removed these laws, while other simply no longer enforce them.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

National Gratitude

As the High Holidays begin, be grateful for living in a country that protects one's freedom of religion. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Returning

One of the dominant themes of the High Holiday season is repentance. In Hebrew, repentance is known as teshuva and it is a multi-tiered process that requires more than just feeling bad about one’s transgressions. 

Like almost all Hebrew words, teshuva is based upon a three letter root. The root letters of teshuva are shin-vav-vet. These letters are also the building blocks for words related to returning. If teshuva is a process of repenting - of regretting a wrong action, confessing it, apologizing and taking action not to repeat that same error - how is it related to the idea of returning?

According to tradition, each time a person transgresses a Jewish law, his/her neshama (spiritual soul) is distanced from its connection with the Divine. Acts of repentance bring one back closer to that connection. 

In the Torah, God clearly foretells that the Children of Israel will sin and stray from Torah observance, and that they will suffer as a result. The Torah also predicts  that the Jewish people will return to the ways of the Torah and that when they are ready to do so, their repentance will be readily accepted. 

Much of the language of repentance in the Torah is written in the plural form and speaks collectively to the Children of Israel. But the teshuva spoken of at this time of year is attainable for all individuals as well, as it says in Deuteronomy 30:2, “And you (singular) shall return to the Lord your God and hearken to His voice.” In this verse, the use of the singular is significant, reminding every Jew that teshuva is within his/her personal reach. 

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

To Do

Repenting, prayer and charity are the three keys to a successful new year. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Yente the Yiddish Writer

Yiddish literature entered its modern era in the 1860s, when Jewish writers began using the Germanic Jewish language to compose stories and poems. Many of the early writers of this era are still famous, such as Shalom Aleichem (Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich 1859-1916) and Isaac Leib (I.L.) Peretz (1852-1915).

Among those who made their mark in Yiddish literature was Yente Raybman Serdatzky. Born on September 15, 1877, in Lithuania, Serdatzky was the daughter of a scholar who supported his family by selling used furniture. Yente Serdatzky was given both a Jewish and a secular education, and was raised in a home that was a gathering place for Kovno’s Yiddish writers. 

After spending a few years in Warsaw, Serdatzky emigrated to America (leaving behind, it should be noted, a husband and three children). She went first to Chicago and then settled in New York, supporting herself running soup kitchens as she worked on her writing. 

Serdatzky published stories, sketches and one-act plays in a variety of Yiddish periodicals. After a fight with Abraham Cahan, the editor of The Forward in 1922, Serdatzky stopped writing for 27 years. Eventually, she began publishing again in the 1950s, mainly in Nyu Yorker Vokhnblat .

Serdatzky’s work often focused on immigrant women with similar backgrounds to her own. The lives of the women Serdatzky portrayed were not easy. The ideal world they sought to build was unattainable, they were often exploited by the men in their lives and alienated by the male activist  with whom they sought to partner in action. 

Yente Serdatzky passed away on May 1, 1962.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Enjoy the Classics

Read Yiddish literature (in translation) to get a flavor of the lost world of pre-World War II Eastern European Jewry.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Property Lines

Building permits, site surveys, inspectors and codes are all part of the jargon when it comes to construction and land development in the 21st century. While frustrated homeowners may complain of the bureaucracy that these rules create, the fact is that they were designed for the protection of property owners. Whether intentional or not, these laws are also an extension of the Torah’s prohibition not to move the boundary-markers of one’s fellow. 

When the Children of Israel conquered the Promised Land, the territory was divided among the twelve tribes.  Within each tribal portion, the land was further divided among the families in a division that was meant to be eternal. Every 50 years, at the Jubilee, all lands were automatically returned to family of the original property holder. One might therefore think that this would make a prohibition against property theft irrelevant, but fifty years is a long time and it is easy to forget that ownership is temporary. (Remember, at the end of the day, the saying is true - You can’t take it with you.)

The act of moving boundary-markers is considered so insidious that God instructed it to be included among the actions of the accursed. In Deuteronomy 27, Moses instructed the Israelites that following their entry into the Promised Land, they were to position half the tribes of Israel on Mount Gerizim and the other half on Mount Ebal. The Levites were then to call out a series of curses, among which was “Cursed be he that removes his neighbor’s boundary marker”(Deuteronomy 27:17).

Perhaps this act is ranked as so offensive because it is both audacious and sneaky at the same time. It is highly likely that the markers were moved in the middle of the night, enabling the theif and perpetrator to point to the physical facts of where the boundary-markers are now set.  For this double perfidy, the perpetrator is especially cursed. 

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Honesty

Be honest in your dealings with all people. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The First Moshav

Have you ever been to a kibbutz?  If you have toured Israel, or thought of touring Israel, then you know that a kibbutz is a collective agricultural settlement based on a Communist/Socialist philosophy. You may, however, have never heard of the other popular type of cooperative agricultural settlement - the moshav. The primary distinction between a moshav and a kibbutz is the independence of the members.

The first moshav, Nahalal, was officially established on September 11, 1921. Nahalal was built on land owned by the Jewish National Fund in the Jezreel Valley, an area known for its fertility and for its mosquitoes (and malaria). The name of the settlement is the same as that of a Biblical village in the tribal territory of Zebulun (Joshua 19:15).

The settlement of Moshav Nahalal was initiated by immigrants from the Second and Third Aliyah (waves of immigration to Israel from Europe). Many of the settlers of Nahalal who had previously lived on a kibbutz were attracted to the communal spirit of kibbutz life but wanted more independence. On the Moshav, members leased and worked their portion of farm land - as opposed to the land being communally owned and farmed. Another major distinction of moshav life was the maintenance of the traditional family structure. Whereas on the kibbutz children were raised in communal housing, the moshav children lived with their parents. The philosophy of the moshav was reflected in the architectural design of the moshav, which placed community buildings surrounded by family homes as the center of concentric circles.

In addition to being the first moshav, Nahalal was also known for its Girls’ Agricultural Training Farm, which was established in 1929 by the Women’s International Zionist Organization in order to help female immigrants from Eastern Europe acclimate to what was required of them to make the Jewish homeland flourish. In the 1940s, it became a co-educational farming school of the Youth Aliyah movement.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Family Life

As the holiday season gets busy, be considerate of the needs of your family.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Incomplete Repentance

“Repentance” sounds like a grand and powerful word. In truth, the most important adjective that must be attached to the act of repentance is the word “sincere.”

At one time or another, we all experience insincere apologies, and it doesn’t make anyone feel better to receive one. Since an apology is critical to the repentance process, an insincere apology does not bode well for true repentance.

One particular story in the Bible highlights the tragedy brought about by an insincere apology: King Saul, the first King of Israel, was responsible both because of a general commandment in the Torah (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) and a personal directive issued through the words of the prophet Samuel, to completely wipe out the Amalekites, ancient enemies of the Jewish people. While he was victorious over them, “Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, oxen ... and lambs, and all that was good...”(I Samuel 15:9).

When confronted the next morning by Samuel (to whom God had already expressed his anger over Saul’s disobedience), King Saul’s response was to declare that he had listened to the Divine command, capturing King Agag alive and destroying the Amelekites. He then added, “the people took of the spoils, sheep and oxen, the chief of the devoted things” (I Samuel 15:21) to sacrifice to God. Finally, Saul admits his wrong-doing, but still does not take responsibility: “I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of God, and your words; because I feared the people, and hearkened to their voice” (I Samuel 15:24).

By blaming the people, Saul voided his apology. Perhaps, if he had immediately recognized his mistake, admitted it and apologized sincerely, the dynastic line of kingship would not have been removed from his family and given to David.

This Treat was last posted on September 19, 2011.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Think First

Be sincere when you apologize.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Coming to California

When we think of California today, we think of perfect weather, beautiful beaches and Hollywood stars. Before these modern dreams, however, California was a land of wild settlers who had come to seek their fortunes in gold.

While there were some early Jewish settlers along the western coast, major settlement in the area began only after gold was discovered in 1848. Treacherous as the journey west was, whether by land or by sea, thousands arrived to seek their fortunes, either as miners or by supplying the miners.

The population of California grew so quickly that by September 9, 1850, California was able to become the 31st state of the United States. At the time of statehood, the largest city of the state was San Francisco, which was the location of the primary Californian Jewish community of the 19th century. The first organized High Holiday services took place in San Francisco, and in Sacramento, in 1849, and, by 1851, there were two established congregations: Shearith Israel (English, Polish, Sephardic) and Congregation Emanu-El (French and German).

During the boom years of the mid-19th century, the Jews of San Francisco flourished. It was estimated that in the 1970s, Jews made up 7% of the city’s population.* From early on, Jews were included and even welcomed in the municipal government. In 1887, San Francisco’s mayor, Washington Montgomery Bartlet, who was of Sephardic descent, was elected governor of California. Alas, nine months after taking office, the first (and only) Jewish governor of California died of Brights Disease.

By the turn of the century, the boom of the gold rush had subsided, although California’s population continued to grow. Thanks to the state’s early history, however, Jews were, by then, an established presence within the state’s population.

*JewishVirtualLibrary (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/California.html)

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Two Weeks

As Rosh Hashana is in just over two weeks, make certain to have plans for where to attend services. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Literacy

Today, September 8, is the United Nations Organizations of Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) International Literacy Day. Established in 1965, International Literacy Day is meant to bring attention to the importance of literacy and education, and to the fact that there are still millions of adults around the world who lack basic literacy skills.

Literacy, education and a schedule of study have always been top priorities in Jewish life. Traditionally, the teaching of the aleph-bet, the Hebrew alphabet, begins at the age of three. The verses of the Torah are taught beginning at age five, Mishna (the oral Torah) at age ten (Pirkei Avot 5:21). Indeed, as far back as the days of the Talmud, the Jewish people established a system of formal education when Joshua ben Gamla (1st century B.C.E.) “came and ordained that teachers of young children should be appointed in each district and each town”(Talmud Baba Batra 21a).

Adult literacy is just as valued in Jewish life as basic education. While until recently only the best and brightest (who could afford it) went on to advanced Torah schools, known as yeshivas, today, everyone  is encouraged to continue studying the Torah and the Talmud throughout their lives.

While the Torah’s directives for Jewish education are understood to be primarily focused on boys, as men have different obligations regarding studying Torah, Jewish women in most cultures had a considerably higher level of literacy than other women. In Europe, where they were not taught the “Holy Tongue” (Hebrew), Jewish women were often literate in Yiddish or the language of the country in which they resided. Today, many Jewish women study Torah on an advanced level.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Hebrew School

As the school year gets into full gear, see to it that the children in your life are also enrolled in a Hebrew school program. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Heartfelt Repentance

It is easy to speak of teshuva (repentance), but, actually, the process of repenting is quite challenging. Much can be learned about repentance from the story of Eleazer ben Dordia recorded in Talmud Avodah Zara 17a:

It is noted that ben Dordia “did not leave out any harlot in the world without coming to her.” Upon one such visit, a voice came out of the harlot declaring that Eleazer ben Dordia’s repentance would never be accepted (since he had lost his place in the World to Come).” Ben Dordia was terribly shaken. He cried out first to the mountains, then to the heaven and earth, the sun and moon and even to the constellations, asking each in turn to plead for mercy for him. Each element of nature refused to plead for him, declaring that they had their own need for mercy. Finally, ben Dordia declared: “The matter then depends upon me alone!”

Ben Dordia put his head down and wept until he died, at which point a heavenly voice declared that Rabbi Eleazar ben Dordia had earned his place in the World to Come.

It is interesting to note the Talmud concludes this story with the reaction of the sage Rebbi, who wept and said “‘One may acquire eternal life after many years, another in one hour!” (Avodah Zara 17a).

One of the most important parts of the teshuva process is acknowledging and confessing one’s transgression(s). But, just stating one’s guilt, or, in ben Dordia’s case, admitting that he had sinned and seeks mercy, is only a first step. One has to truly feel regret for the improper actions. Ben Dordia finally realized that just as he alone was responsible for his actions, he alone was responsible for his repentance.

Why did Rebbi cry? Because ben Dordia’s repentance was so honest and heartfelt that it was immediately accepted. It was, indeed,  so pure that he had achieved an almost unattainable level of repentance.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Shabbat Contemplation

Shabbat is a time for joy. This Shabbat, contemplate all the things you are doing right in your life.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cartoon Power

The mesmerizing imagery in Syd Hoff’s classic children’s books  Danny and the Dinosaur and Sammy the Seal (and Herschel the Hero!) may evoke a bygone era, but the storylines remain perennially popular. Born in The Bronx, NY, on September 4, 1912, (original name Sydney Hoffberg), Hoff’s acclaim as a children’s author was parallel to his fame as a cartoonist.


Hoff was inspired to become a cartoonist after he met Milt Gross (1895-1953), who was known as “America’s Great Yiddish Humorist.” At the time, Hoff was studying at the National Academy of Design. Shortly after meeting Gross, who would become his lifelong friend, Hoff had his first cartoon accepted by The New Yorker. His work was later also published in The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire, and was syndicated in Hearst newspapers across the country.

Like many Jewish cartoonists of the early twentieth century, Hoff’s drawings were considered to have a particularly Jewish flavor. Hoff used the world around him to inspire his cartoons, and so, in his early years, he brought to life the Jewish immigrant families of The Bronx. After he married his wife, Dora “Dutch” Berman, and following the birth of their two daughters, Hoff moved to Miami Beach, Florida---once again centering himself in a thriving Jewish community.

Hoff’s cartoons expressed adult themes and humorous satire. A good number of his cartoons were published in “leftist” newspapers and magazines under the pseudonym A. Redfield to avoid controversy, but he always remained concerned about being accused of being a communist. His newspaper comic strips were family oriented and served to boost the nation’s morale during the second world war. His children’s books were known for their gentle messages of uniqueness and acceptance.

Syd Hoff died on May 12, 2004.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Will I Forgive You For What?

An ancient Jewish proverb declares: “Loose tongues are worse than wicked hands.”

Truth is, people do the most damage to each other with their mouths. Things done with our hands, such as injuries, thefts, etc, can be repaired. Words, however, are like feathers in the wind--they fly too fast to catch and can never be taken back. Jewish law regards lashon harah, wicked speech such as gossip and slander, as one of the worst of the transgressions that one commits against fellow humans.

Here is the dilemma: During the months of Elul and Tishrei (before and during the High Holidays), repentance must be our top priority. Repentance for hurting another person requires that we personally ask that person’s forgiveness. What do I do if I spoke badly about someone, in a fit of anger? Now that we are friends once again, how do I ask properly for forgiveness?

The answer to this dilemma depends on the extent of the “damage.” If the gossip itself created known negative consequences, then the person should be asked directly for forgiveness. If no harm was done and it is known that the person will be understanding about the incident then forgiveness should be asked.

However, if informing a person that you spoke about them would result in embarrassment or hurt, it is acceptable to ask for general forgiveness, without going into detail. Indeed, causing additional embarrassment to the person might actually necessitate asking for mechila (forgiveness) once again.

This Treat was originally posted on September 6, 2012.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Make Amends

Make the extra effort to create peace with people with whom you have had a difficult relationship.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Not To Be Mixed

Like oil and water, certain things are not meant to be mixed together. According to Jewish law, it is forbidden to mix-breed different species of cattle, sow one’s field with mixed seed, or wear garments of mixed fibers (wool and linen).

Whereas the agricultural prohibitions of the Torah only pertain to a small percentage of today’s population, the issue of wearing wool and linen together is still very much a concern of modern times. The specific prohibition reads: “You shall not wear combined fibers, wool and linen together” (Deuteronomy 22:11). This mixture is generally referred to as shatnez, which is a Hebrew acronym for “combed, spun and woven,” the ways in which fabrics are processed.

The prohibition of wearing shatnez is known as a chok, a law for which there is no textual explanation. It is interesting to note, however, that linen represents materials made from that which is grown from the earth, whereas wool is an animal by-product.

The prohibition of shatnez includes all articles of clothing that are manufactured with and contain both wool and linen, whether they actually touch each other or not.  One may, however, wear wool and linen separates, as long as they are not attached to one another.

In an era when most people buy their clothing “off the rack,” one must be especially careful about shatnez. According to halacha, even a woolen jacket containing a single strand of linen may not be worn. Given the minute amount of linen, however, it is not likely that linen would be listed on the materials’ tag of the clothing. Therefore, it is customary for all articles of clothing that include either wool or linen to be brought to a shatnez checker (available in most larger Jewish communities). One must be particularly careful when purchasing men’s suits, where linen is often hidden in the lining of the collar. If shatnez is found within an article of clothing, it can often be removed, rendering the article wearable.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Wardrobe Check

Be aware of the materials used in your clothes.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Employees and Employers

The American labor movement, which developed in the late 19th century, strived to ensure that workers were paid fairly, were provided with a safe working environment and were protected from being taken advantage of by their employers. Many of the prominent American labor activists of the 20th century were Jews, which is, perhaps, not surprising considering that the foundation of workers’ rights is found in the Torah and the Talmud. The Torah deals with such issues as paying workers on time, workers’ access to excess produce, and the right to set working hours. For instance:

Raba also said: If one engaged laborers for a piece of work, and they completed it in the middle of the day; if he has some [other] work easier than the first, he can give it to them, or even if of equal difficulty, he can charge them [with it]; but if it is more difficult, he cannot order them to do it, and must pay them in full. (Talmud Baba Metzia 77a).

What is interesting about Jewish law concerning employers and employees is that it strives to create a balance of responsibility. For instance:

Rab also said: If one engaged laborers for irrigation, and the river failed at midday; if such failure is unusual, the loss is theirs [the laborers must assume the cost of the lost time]. If usual [for the river to fail and]: if [the labourers] are of that town, the loss is theirs; if not, the loss is the employer's (ibid).

This Talmudic passage explains that employers are not responsible for unforeseen circumstance or for difficulties that the employees should expect before the work begins. However, if the employer knows of a problem but did not take precautions, or failed to warn the laborers in advance, the employer is responsible for the added expenses.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Your Job

Give your work your full effort. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

On the Blech

Challah, chicken soup, gefilte fish, kugel, chamin/cholent...the delightful foods associated with Shabbat are seemingly endless. Perhaps they are so delightful because the Shabbat foods are prepared with special love and care.

It is widely acknowledged that much of the special spirit of Shabbat is due to the three Shabbat meals that are served on the Day of Rest (Friday night dinner, Shabbat lunch and seudah shlishit). The big question, however, is how it is possible for the great cooks of Shabbat meals to make such amazing fare when cooking is one of the 39 m’la’chot (forbidden creative labors on Shabbat).

In halacha, cooking is referred to as bishul, and the first thing one needs to understand regarding bishul is the proper definition of cooking. According to halacha (Jewish law), one performs an act of bishul when heating a substance to a point where it undergoes a physical change (for instance, sauteing vegetables so that they are nice and soft or so that the flavors of spices merge with them). The temperature at which such changes takes place (beyond which one may not heat food) is referred to as yad soledet bo, which literally means when a hand recoils from the intense heat (approximately 110°).

In order to avoid heating a substance beyond the point of  yad soledet bo, the food should not be placed on (or very close to) direct heat. Food that had been cooking before Shabbat on a direct heat source* and has reached the point of being cooked, may remain cooking on Shabbat, but once it is officially Shabbat, no uncooked or partially-cooked food may be placed onto the heat.

In order to serve warm food on Shabbat, many people use what is now commonly referred to as a blech, the Yiddish term for a sheet of metal that is placed over the burners/elements on the stove before Shabbat.  The general principal of using a blech is that only solid foods that have been fully cooked (even if they have already cooled) may be reheated.

Today’s Treat is a basic overview of the law of bishul on Shabbat and should not be used as a halachic guide. To learn more about proper Shabbat food preparation, please consult a rabbi.

*Please note that a flame or element may not be adjusted or extinguished on Shabbat.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Favorite Foods

Choose some of your favorite foods, and prepare them for Shabbat.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Firstborn’s Double Portion

For much of history, there were few greater advantages in life than being a firstborn son. It is well-known that among the European nobility, the eldest son inherited both the family title and the family land. The younger sons either became knights or entered the clergy.

The idea of primogeniture has its roots in the Torah’s laws of inheritance, by which the eldest son receives a double portion of the inheritance. This means that if there were three sons, the inheritance would be divided in four, with two portions going to the eldest (for information on women and inheritance, click here.) A firstborn son is defined as the naturally delivered  first child of the father’s line. If the child was delivered by c-section or has an older sister, he does not qualify as a firstborn son.

While these laws were culturally standard in many cultures for many generations, in the post-industrial era most children follow a career different from that of their parents. Today, few people distinguish their firstborn sons from their other children, and yet, halachically, the firstborn son still has rights to a double portion.

Because most parents today wish to divide their estates evenly, they write what is sometimes referred to as an “halachic will.” There are several ways in which a will can be used to provide an equal inheritance. The most common practice is for a person to create a contract in which the estate is technically given away a few minutes before the time of one’s death, rendering the estate a gift and not an inheritance.

Writing a will in an important responsibility. Those wishing to ensure that their will, or the will they intend to write is halachically sound, should consult their local rabbi.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Never Too Early

It is never too early in one's life to prepare a will. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Seeking God In Elul

Psalm 27 is read twice daily from the beginning of the month of Elul through the holiday of Sukkot in order to help each Jew develop a beautiful relationship with the Divine.

“One thing have I asked of God, one thing do I desire: that I may dwell in the house of God all the days of my life, to behold the graciousness of God, and to visit in His Temple” (27:4). This poignant phrase is an expression of the true longing that is reflected in this psalm. While one may look to God as a protector and a savior (which, indeed, is how God is referred to through much of this psalm), it is critical to also seek out God and to try to be close to Him.

Psalm 27 was written by King David, who certainly did not have an easy life (King Saul wanted him dead, his sons rebelled...), and yet King David remained steadfast in his faith in God. With all his troubles, David had the incredible gift of being able to look at the world and recognize the ways in which God protected him. “Had I not believed that I would look upon the goodness of God in the land of the living!--Hope in the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, hope in the Lord" (27:13-14).

The month of Elul, which leads into Rosh Hashana, is a time for reflecting on the wonderful gift of having a relationship with the Divine--and how one can work to achieve that relationship.

This Treat was last posted on August 9, 2013.


Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

The Alarm Clock

New beginnings are often difficult.

For those who are not “morning people,” every day is a new beginning, and we must be thankful to whoever invented the alarm clock, which keeps us from being labeled as “slothful” and “lazy.”

No other beginning is quite as profound as the one we face annually at Rosh Hashana. During the High holidays, God gives all people the chance to face His judgment and wipe their slate clean.

Looking honestly at one's actions and resolving to make changes to one's life is a daunting task. Just as in the morning, people naturally desire to continue sleeping and not wake up at what feels like the crack of dawn, most people wish to roll over and bury their heads back in the blanket rather than face the challenge of change.

The great symbol of Rosh Hashana is the shofar. Knowing well the nature of people, the sages realized that what was really needed was an "alarm clock." They therefore instituted the custom of blowing the shofar every morning during the month of Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashana. When the shofar is sounded in the synagogue, it is meant to serve as an alarm clock that awakens our souls and reminds us that Rosh Hashana is soon at hand.

This Treat was last posted on Monday, August 7, 2013.

One Month

Use the next month to prepare to make the most of Rosh Hashana.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Using A Live Virus

Mention the polio vaccine and most people think of Jonas Salk. The fact is, however, that the polio vaccine used today is actually based on the work of another Jewish physician, Albert Bruce Sabin. 

Sabin, who was born Albert Saperstein on August 26, 1906, in Bialystok, Russia (today Poland), emigrated to America with his family when he was 16 and graduated from New York University medical school in 1931. During World War II, as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, he developed vaccines for Japanese encephalitis and dengue fever.

Reports of cases of the polio disease have been recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphs (images of children with withered limbs), but the outbreaks of the early twentieth century reached epidemic proportions. Thousands of children died, and thousands more were left permanently disabled. (It wasn’t just children: Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted the disease when he was 39.)

Working at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital before and after the war, Sabin made a critical discovery that the polio vaccine thrived in the small intestines (as well as on nerve tissue). Sabin wanted to introduce live avirulent (non-harmful) viruses into the intestines to fight the full virus where it was most potent. In 1955, he and his research associates tested the vaccine on themselves before it was tested on hundreds of prison inmates (a common practice of the time). There were no adverse effects. 

However, just before Sabin was ready for wide-scale testing, Jonas Salk began testing his vaccine that was created through dead viruses. Salk’s vaccine worked, but only for a limited time and prevented the complications rather than the illness. Foreign colleagues believed more in Sabin’s vaccine, arranging for the vaccine to be tested and used in the Soviet Union, Mexico and several other countries.  In 1960, Sabin was finally permitted to run a trial in Cincinnati. It proved effective, and Sabin’s live vaccine became the primary polio vaccine.

Sabin continued to work on fighting numerous other infectious diseases. From 1969-1972, he was president of the Weitzman Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. After retiring to the States, he held several high-level research positions and was particularly interested in finding a link between viruses and cancer.

Albert Sabin died of heart failure in March 1993, at age 86.




Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Your Priority

Make your health a top priority. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Disclaiming a Mystery

Who doesn’t like a good mystery? In the twenty-first century, whodunnits dominate the best-sellers lists, perhaps because one feels safer knowing that no matter how elusive--the bad guy will lose in the end. Interestingly enough, even the Torah talks about mystery murders, the ones whose perpetrators are never found. 

In Deuteronomy, the Torah discusses what should be done, “If one is found slain...lying in the field and it is not known who killed him” (Deuteronomy 21:1). According to the text, the elders of the city nearest to where the body is found are required to kill a heifer at the place of the murder and declare, “Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. Forgive, O Lord, Your people Israel, who You have redeemed, and suffer not innocent blood to remain in the midst of Your people Israel” (21:7-8).

It is interesting to note that when no murderer is found, the guilt appears to be placed upon the entire town and, specifically, upon the elders and judges. The sages, seeking to understand the reason for this communal blame, ask: “Can it enter our minds that [the members of a] Court of Justice shed blood?!...[Rather, the meaning is that] we dismissed him [the victim] without supplying him with food, we did not see him and allowed him go without an escort” (Talmud Sotah 46b).

The guilt of the city elders is that it seems that neither they nor the people of the city for whom they are teachers and role models, cared enough about this stranger to either secure his/her safety or have a clue as to who might have committed this heinous crime. 

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Say Hello

When you meet someone visiting your community or neighborhood, take a few minutes to say hello and make them feel welcome.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Center of Worship

When the Jews wandered in the wilderness, sacrificial services were performed by the kohanim (priests) in the Mishkan (Tabernacle). After King David conquered Jerusalem, his son and successor, King Solomon, built the First Temple in Jerusalem, which was the ultimate fulfilment of the verses in Deuteronomy 12:10-11: 

When [God] gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety; Then it shall come to pass that the place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you.

In the wilderness the Israelites traveled together (almost like a giant city on the move). But, what happened when they began to settle in the Promised Land and were suddenly dispersed over a wide territory of land?

To find the answer, one could, of course, scan through the Book of the Prophets, which chronicle the era between the Israelites settling the land and the eventual destruction of the First Temple. Or, one can look to the Talmud for an answer, since the Talmud seems to trace the history of the centers of Jewish worship:

Before the Mishkan was set up, “high places” were permitted and the service was performed by the firstborn; After the Mishkan was set up, “high places” were forbidden and the service was performed by priests...When they came to Gilgal (their first encampment on the west side of the Jordan River) “high places” were [again] permitted...When they came to Shiloh (where the Mishkan remained for 369 years), “high places” were [again] forbidden...When they came to Nob and to Gibeon, “high places” were [again] permitted...When they came to Jerusalem, “high places” were forbidden and were never again permitted (Zevachim 112b).

This Talmudic passage provides an insight into early history of the Jewish people. Bringing sacrifices to “high places” was only permitted in times of need--before the Mishkan was built, while the people were marching to conquer the Promised Land, etc. When they were at rest, as promised in Deuteronomy 12:10, then the service was centralized either at the Mishkan or at the Temple.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Get To Know

Find a synagogue in your area and join them this Shabbat.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Jews of Hawaii

According to The American Jewish Year Book (2012), there are approximately 7,000 Jews residing in the state of Hawaii. While there was no established community until the 20th century, according to the log of The Neptune, a whaling ship that visited Hawaii in August 1798, the Hawaiian King Kamehameha I was accompanied aboard by a “Jew cook.” No further information is recorded.

Less mysterious is the story of Elias Rosenberg, who came to Honolulu from San Francisco. Rosenberg traveled with a Torah scroll and a silver yad (pointer). Having bequeathed himself the title of rabbi, he became fast friends with the Hawaiian King David Kalakaua. Rosenberg purportedly taught the king Hebrew and acted as some sort of sooth sayer – offering favorable “horoscopes” to the king and other influential people. Apparently, Rosenberg did have some level of foresight, as he hastily returned to San Francisco in 1887, just before King Kalakaua was forced to become a figurehead rather than a true monarch. 
"King Kalakaua's Torah and yad"
by Wmpear via Wikipedia 

Rosenberg passed away a month after returning to California. The Torah scroll remained in the keeping of the king. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this story is that even into the 1940s, the fledgeling Jewish community borrowed the “Kalakaua Torah scroll” for High Holiday services. Today, it is in the possession of Temple Emanu-El in Honolulu. 

Although Hawaii did not became a state until August 21, 1959, a United States military presence has been at Pearl Harbor since around 1876. To care for Jews in the military stationed there, the National Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) established the Aloha Center in 1923. The community began to flourish and the Honolulu Jewish Community was established in 1938. Today, there are at least 9 congregations serving the Jews of the Hawaiian islands. 

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Starting Up

As the school year starts, make certain the kids in your life are enrolled in a Hebrew school program.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mosquitoes No More

There are few insects as disliked as the mosquito. When people wonder about the purpose of annoying bugs, the mosquito is the first one whose existence they question. (As a point of interest: “Rab Judah said in Rab’s name: Of all that the Holy One, blessed is He, created in His world, He did not create a single thing without purpose...[He created] the [crushed] mosquito [ to serve as a remedy] for a serpent’s [bite] - Talmud Shabbat 77b).

In the early 20th century, as waves of Aliyah began to settle the Land of Israel, the mosquitoes and malaria were particularly problematic. The rate of infection (90% of workers) was significant enough that it was questionable whether agricultural settlement could succeed. Compounding the problem was the fact that the most promising farmland was a swampy breeding ground for mosquitoes. 

The man credited with making the farmland safe was Dr. Israel Kligler (1888-1944). Born in Galicia and raised in New York, Kligler held a Ph.D from Columbia University in Bacteriology, Pathology and Biochemistry when he fulfilled his lifelong dream and moved to Israel in 1921.

Shortly after arriving in Israel, Kligler directed the Malaria Research Unit of the Joint Distribution Committee. He studied the land, the swamps, the mosquitoes and the remedies already being tried--handouts of Quinine and planting Eucalyptus trees, neither of which successfully resolved the problem. Kligler helped set up the Malaria Research Institute and began to study the mosquito larvae. He introduced larvae-eating Gamusian fish to the water, sprayed insecticide into large pockets of larvae and developed new drainage techniques, such as changing the direction of the water flow in irrigation channels.

After Kligler successfully remedied the malarial mosquito problem in Israel, he went on to build  a successful research career, working at both Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University. 

August 20 in World Mosquito Day.

"Anopheles Stephensi" by Jim Gathany -
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #5814.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Protect Yourself

 
If you're heading into the wood, try to protect yourself from insect bites.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Flying High

There is no telling to what heights Arthur Welsh might have soared, had he not perished in the crash of the Wright C Plane that he was testing with Leighton Wilson Hazelhurst, Jr., on June 11, 1912, in College Park, MD. Welsh, whose given name was Laibel Wellcher, was only 31 years old.

Born on August 14, 1881, in Kiev, Welsh arrived in the United States with his family when he was 9 years old. The family settled in Philadelphia, PA. When Welsh was 13, his father died. Not long thereafter, his mother remarried, and the family relocated to Washington, D.C. Welsh attended both public and Hebrew school and had a positive Jewish identity. In 1901, when he joined the U.S. Navy, he changed his name to Arthur "Al" Welsh to avoid anti-Semitism. 


After four years of service, Welsh was honorably discharged. A few years later, Welsh met Anna Harmel at a Young Zionist Union meeting, and they were married in October 1907. The Welshes were members of Congregation Adas Israel in Washington, D.C.

In 1909, Welsh witnessed the Wright brothers testing their new military flier in Fort Myer, VA, and was immediately entranced. Although he lacked the technical qualifications they sought, Welsh sent the Wrights a letter applying for a job. When his written appeal did not succeed, he went in person to Dayton, OH, where his tenacity won out. Welsh entered the first class of the Wright Flying School in Montgomery, Alabama, in March 1910. He trained with Orville Wright and became an instructor at the Wrights’ Huffman Prairie airfield in Dayton. After joining the Wrights’ exhibition team, Welsh established new records in altitude and speed and won several flying competitions. 

Welsh was running the Wright C Plane through the Army Aviation School’s multi-point test when it crashed into a field of daisies. While official inquiries attributed the crash to pilot error, Welsh’s actual culpability in the crash has always been disputed. 

Today, August 19, is National Aviation Day.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Follow Your Dream

If you have a dream, make an effort to achieve it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue"

The directive to create a judicial system is set out in Deuteronomy 16:18-20. God commands the Israelites to appoint judges and law enforcement officials in all their cities and towns. These judges are instructed to judge the people with “righteous judgment,” an idea that is defined in the following verse:

“You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show favoritism, and you shall not take a bribe, for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts just words.”

The true goal behind a righteous justice system is not just that the laws be enforced, but that justice be upheld. This heavy responsibility devolves upon the judges. Therefore a judge, ideally, must have enough self-knowledge to ensure impartiality.

Monetary bribery is an obvious perversion of justice. But a person may be swayed by a vast array of other factors: flattery, class status, etc. Indeed, even the personal appearance or comeliness of a litigant can affect a judge's sentiment if the judge is not careful.

For this reason, the Torah demands, “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). A judge must make decisions with extreme care. Once the case is heard, the judge must evaluate if any external factors have affected the judgment and if a truly just decision is being rendered.

So numerous are the pitfalls of being a judge that Rabbi Ishmael declared, “He who shuns the office of judge rids himself of enmity, theft, and false swearing. He who presumptuously rules in Torah matters is foolish, wicked, and arrogant” (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 4:9).

This Treat was last posted on July 14, 2009.


Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Awareness

Be aware of the things that affect your judgement of other people and try to remain non-judgemental.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Bene Israel of India

Early in the era of the Second Temple, a terrible shipwreck occurred on the Indian coast. Fourteen survivors, seven men and seven women, made it to shore. Settling in the Indian village of Navgaon, they rebuilt their lives and raised families according to the traditions of their ancestors. This is the origin story of the Bene Israel, one of the largest groups of Jews in India (along with the Bnei Menashe and the Cochin Jews).

In time, the Bene Israel began to assimilate and some of the ancient Jewish traditions were lost. However, there was much that they continued to observe, such as the Jewish festivals (with the exceptions of Chanukah and Tisha B’Av, which were added to the calendar later). They avoided eating fish that did not have fins and scales. They performed circumcision on the eighth day. They also observed Shabbat on Saturday.

For centuries, few knew of the Bene Israel. At some point, around 1000 or 1400 C.E. (the date is disputed), a man named David Rahabi discovered the community. He immediately set to work reintroducing the Jewish knowledge they had lost and trained religious leaders, known as Kajis, to guide the Bene Israel.

Around the mid-1700s, the Bene Israel began to leave their villages and move into the city of Bombay (now Mumbai). In 1796, they built the first synagogue, Shaar Harachamin, in the city. Under British rule, the Bene Israel were often involved in the military and the civil service, but also became active in many Indian industries.



In 1948, many Bene Israel moved to Israel. It was not an easy transition. In addition to the cultural differences, they were not immediately accepted by their fellow Jews as legitimate Jews. The Bene Israel protested their mistreatment, and, in 1964, the Israeli Rabbinate issued a formal declaration confirming their full acceptance as Jews.

Today, August 15, is India Independence Day.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Scent Of

Place aromatic flowers on the table to add a beautiful fragrance to your Shabbat celebration.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Community Ties

It is a commonly stated idea that, with the expansion of the world of social media, the idea of community has changed. Where once people turned to communal organizations for drawing them together, they now find these ties online. The question that then follows is what Jewish life becomes when centered online. 

In Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), the sages note that the world stands on three things: Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Chasadim (Torah, prayer and acts of kindness). Certainly one can learn Torah through online study. Indeed, the full spectrum of the Jewish community is already providing a feast of Jewish knowledge online.

Avodah, prayer, is not quite so simple. While the Jewish concept of prayer is introspective (l’hit’pallel to pray, actually means to judge oneself), the act of prayer itself is mandated into the public domain by the need to pray with a minyan (prayer quorum of 10). And while all 10 people do not, according to Jewish law, have to pray (some may have prayed earlier), they must all be together in the same room (not an internet chat-room). However, education websites are an excellent way for one to familiarize themselves with the prayers.

Gemilut Chasadim, acts of kindness, have most certainly been enhanced by the internet. Opportunities for charitable giving have increased, and people are exploring new ways to “do for others.” But, what about “facetime?” Judaism places great significance on a physical community, on people actually being together and interacting with each other. In fact, the great sage Hillel said (Ethics of the Fathers 2:5) “Do not separate yourself from the community.”

Maintaining Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Chasadim (Torah, prayer and acts of kindness) takes a physical community. Religious laws such asminyan and eiruv, in combination with gemilut chasadim, create a natural fabric of interactions between people. Through today's technology, however, Jews have a wonderful opportunity of discovering new ways to enhance themselves and their own communities.

This Treat was last posted on November 23, 2009.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Incorporate

Incorporate Torah, prayer and acts of kindness into your life daily. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

More Than a Financier

Known as the Juden Kaiser (the Jewish Emperor), Rabbi Samson Wertheimer was a man of incredible accomplishment. Born in Worms in 1658, he was educated in the yeshivot of Worms and Frankfurt-am-Main. In his late twenties, he moved to Vienna, where he became an associate of the successful banker Samuel Oppenheimer. Through this association, Wertheimer gained the confidence of Emperor Leopold I of the Holy Roman Empire and eventually, after Oppenheimer’s death, became the Emperor’s financier and creditor. Wertheimer managed such affairs as provisioning the empire’s involvement in the Spanish War of Succession, arranging the dowry of a Polish princess marrying into the Emperor’s family and financing the payment of some 400,000 florins to Prince Eugene of Savoy.

In addition to his political and financial success, Wertheimer was dedicated to Jewish life and the Jewish community. He was a well-respected scholar and was given the title of Rabbi of Prague and Bohemia. Additionally, as the most powerful Jew in the empire, Wertheimer had special privileges (such as the right to reside in Vienna), as well as the right to grant foreign Jews permission to remain in Vienna overnight.

Wertheimer’s financial resources allowed him to make a serious impact on Jewish life both in Europe and in the Holy Land. He built numerous synagogues in Hungary, founded and endowed a Talmudic academy in Frankfurt-am-Main, and helped rebuild the Jewish community in Eisenstadt after the local count tried to rebel against the emperor. The synagogue there is still known as Samson’s Schule.

After his death on 17 Av (1724), at age 66, his children, who had all married into prominent families, continued his legacy of generosity.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved.