Friday, August 29, 2008

Meet Rashi, Most Innovative of Teachers

His real name was Shlomo (Solomon), and his father’s name was Itzhak (Isaac). RAbbi SHlomo Itzhaki, RASHI, is perhaps the most revered and the most popular of all commentators on the primary Jewish texts, namely the Bible and the Talmud. His lucid yet simple style is designed to answer elementary and fundamental questions that challenge students and prevent them from understanding the true meaning of the text.

Born in Troyes, in 1040, he lived in France most of his life, save for some of his academic years abroad and when he spent years traveling to test the need for his elucidations. His notes were recorded in notebooks--first by him and later by his students.

Rashi earned his living from his vineyards. He had two or three daughters, and was the father-in-law and grandfather to great scholars, some of whom argued with many of the teachings and writings of their revered grandfather, often suggesting “better” interpretations.

Toward the end of his life, the Crusades swept across France and the Rhineland, destroying many Jewish communities. Those murdered included some of Rashi's friends and relatives. He died in 1105, leaving an amazing legacy that exists to this day. Most Bibles and Talmuds printed by Jews contain Rashi’s commentary.

In order to remember the years of Rashi’s life, may we suggest a memorable “line”: “Rashi lived from 1040 to 1105. He accomplished a lot in 25 minutes.”

For more detailed biographies of Rashi:

Rashi900.com

Jewish Virtual Library

Something Savory

Savor a nice glass of fine kosher wine with (Shabbat) dinner tonight.

PS: Look for the Rashi label in your local kosher wine selection!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Primary Sources

Here is a very brief summary of 5 important Jewish texts of the last 3,300 years.

Bible (Tanach): Its 24 books consist of: 5 Books of Moses (the Torah), 8 Books of Prophets, 11 miscellaneous Books of Writings. The first 5 books consist of the words of God as transmitted to Moses. The next 8 were composed by the prophets. The final 11 were written over a period of a thousand years by various authors, including prophets and other important figures. The basis for all laws, ethics, and homiletical lessons in Jewish life is found in the Hebrew Bible.

Mishnah: The Oral Torah, given at Sinai at the same time as the written one. Transmitted from Moses to generations of teachers and students until they were transcribed into 6 major “orders,” 63 volumes, by Rabbi Judah the Prince (app 200 C.E.), out of fear that these teachings might otherwise be forgotten and lost forever.

Gemarah: Hundreds of years of scholarly rabbinic discussions concerning the teachings of the Mishnah. The Gemarah represents the fundamental basis for Jewish law and practice for close to 1,500 years. Transcribed by Ravina and Rabbi Ashi in approximately 500 C.E. The Mishnah and Gemarah together are sometimes called the “Talmud.”

Mishnah Torah: A monumental 14 volume code of Jewish law organized by general subjects, authored by Maimonides (1135-1204). Maimonides also wrote the Sefer Hamitzvot, an enumeration and elaboration on the traditional count of 613 commandments in the Torah.

Shulchan Arukh: An abridged code of Jewish law, authored by Rabbi Joseph Caro (of Safed, Israel), with the glosses of Rabbi Moses Isserlis (of Krakow, Poland). Divided into 4 major sections addressing: Daily Living (includes Sabbath and holidays), Kosher Food and Miscellaneous Laws, Civil and Business Law, and Laws of Marriage and Divorce. The Shulchan Arukh is the authoritative resource of applied Jewish law and practice since it was written almost 500 years ago.

Spread the Word

Lend a friend an inspirational book.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Brother’s Forgiveness

Looking for a good example of forgiveness? Look no further than the biblical Joseph. His brothers threw him into a dark pit, expecting him to die. They then sold him as a slave to passing merchants, and lied to their father about his fate. Yet, when they were reunited 22 years later, Joseph exclaims to his brothers:

“I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. Do not be grieved or angry with yourselves that you sold me to here, for God sent me early to preserve life...You will dwell in the land of Goshen, and be near me, you, and you children, and your children's children...and there I will sustain you; for there are yet five years of famine; lest you come to poverty, you, and your household, and all that you have” (Genesis 45:5-10).

Certainly, when Joseph was first sold as a slave he was hurt and angry. How could he not be? But with time, and as events unfolded, he was able to look back and see how critical it was that he had arrived in Egypt sufficiently early, to be there in time to save Egypt from the great famine. This change in perspective made holding a grudge against his brothers impossible and true forgiveness the only available avenue.

Explore the power of forgiveness: www.projectforgiveness.com

Turn It Around

When something upsets you, try to recognize how it might actually be to your benefit.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Water: A Kabbalistic Idea

Judaism is unique in its focus on achieving holiness. There are differing definitions for “holiness,” dependent on time (e.g., Sabbath), place (e.g., the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a synagogue*), or person (e.g., prophets, sages). The first step to achieving holiness is maintaining a state of “taharah,” a spiritually pure status that allows a person to enter into holy places and participate in sacred activities.

Water is an important conduit to achieving “taharah” (purity). A person looking to be cleansed from an impure spiritual status (called “toomah”) immerses completely in water in a specifically designed “mikveh.” This applies to Jewish men, Jewish women, and those who are converting to Judaism.**

In the language of the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), “water” alludes to acts of kindness. One who engages in acts of kindness all the time has taken an important step closer to achieving the exalted status of “being holy.”


* Anyone can enter a synagogue - its “holy status” is due to the fact that holy activities such as prayer and study take place there. It has a different dimension of holiness than the Temple Mount.

** The mikveh turns non-Jews into Jews, completing the conversion process. It enables them to participate in a Jewish life from which non-Jews are exempt.

Pitching In

Help a friend clean their house or office.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Legend of the Sneeze

Why do people say “God bless you” or “Gezundheit” when someone sneezes? The latter expression is a shortened version of the Yiddish phrase “Gezunterheyt,” which literally means “You should be well.” What gives?

In “Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer” (aggadic-midrashic work ascribed to Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, c. 100 CE) it is recorded that in ancient times, a person who sneezed would die, because an exhaled sneeze through the nostrils is the way to return the soul to God who had first breathed life into man through his nostrils (Genesis 2:7).

According to the Midrash, our forefather Jacob prayed (successfully, thank G-d!) that death not be so swift. In Jacob’s time, people did not age; rather they died without any notice. Jacob asked that people be given time to “set their house in order.” The aging process is a reminder that we are mortal and will not live forever, so get ready!

And “Gezundheit"? It became a traditional Jewish response to one who sneezed, who’s soul had just been spared the trauma of returning to its maker.

Take Care of Yourself

Schedule your annual physical. Keeping healthy is a mitzvah too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Lighting the Way to Peace

The very last act performed before bringing Shabbat into the home is the lighting of the Shabbat candles. While this mitzvah is considered one of the three primary mitzvot of a Jewish woman, Shabbat candles may also be lit by a man.

Shabbat candles have long been the symbol of Shabbat. Why are they so important, especially if the mitzvah of lighting candles is done before Shabbat actually begins? The candles are lit just before Shabbat because one may not kindle a flame on Shabbat, since kindling is considered “creative work.” The actual candles, however, must burn well into Shabbat evening, since the light of the Shabbat candles is perceived as a critical part of creating oneg Shabbat -- an enjoyable Shabbat atmosphere.

One is supposed to enjoy Shabbat, and stumbling about in a dark house is hardly a way to experience enjoyment. Today, when every house is filled with electric light, it may be difficult to grasp the importance of candles. It should be recalled, however, that electric light came into use only at the beginning of the last century. The burning Shabbat candles, often placed on or near the dining room table, ensure Shalom Bayit, peace in the home, for Shabbat evening. Even today, in rooms filled with electric light, there is a special soothing feeling when watching the flickering flames of the candles cast playful shadows as they add a glow of sanctity to the Shabbat setting.

Learn more about Shabbat Candle Lighting: Spirituality At Your Fingertips.

For Candle Lighting times in your neighborhood, visit www.njop.org

Add Some Atmosphere

Enjoy a (Shabbat) candlelight dinner tonight.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

God's Forgiveness

In the first set of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), the Torah makes it quite clear that God will distance Himself from, and even punish, those who do not follow His commandments and will reward those who do follow the given path (see Exodus 20:2-6). Yet shortly thereafter, as the people wait at the foot of Mt. Sinai for Moses to return, they create and worship the Golden Calf. Logically, based on the covenant that had been forged at Mt. Sinai, upon sinning so grievously the people should have been immediately destroyed by God.

Only Moses understood how close to destruction the Israelites were, and only Moses had the ability to petition God not to smite them. Moses knew, the covenant of accountability notwithstanding, that God awaits the petitions and prayers of his people. In fact, God taught Moses how to elicit a more merciful response (Exodus 34:6-7), one that takes into account the peoples’ need for time to improve and change. If the people repent, the punishment will be averted.

Forgiveness comes in all sizes, shapes and packages. If God can forgive His people even when complete destruction is warranted, then humans should surely emulate the Divine quality of self-control in order to avoid serious confrontations with others.

Anyone can ask for forgiveness. Visit www.projectforgiveness.com

Without Doubt

Give others the benefit of the doubt.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Ultimate Opponent

“The most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win--but to take part; just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well” (Pierre de Coubertin).

Ari Taub, a Canadian Greco-Roman Olympic Wrestler and one of the Jewish athletes competing in the 2008 Olympics, quoted the Olympic Creed when being interviewed about the upcoming games.

By emphasizing the meaning and power of struggle, Ari Taub, in effect, stated an essential Jewish concept.

Jacob, the third patriarch (son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham), did not have an easy life: his twin brother Esau hated him, he lived in exile, his father-in-law cheated him, etc. When Jacob started back toward the land of Canaan, he did so in fear of attack by Esau. The night before he was to meet his brother, Jacob camped alone. Suddenly, an angel came upon him and the two wrestled until dawn, ending with Jacob demanding a blessing. The angel’s enigmatic response was: “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Israel, the alternate name of our forefather Jacob and the name of the nation, literally translates as: “He who has struggled/wrestled with God.” As individuals, the Children of Israel frequently wrestle with society and with themselves in order to maintain their Jewish identities. From the patriarch Jacob, the Children of Israel learn that it is only through struggle that we become stronger and better.

Read more about Ari's incredible journey to the Olympics: Calgary Herald

Goals

Write down what you want your spiritual life to look like in 5 years.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Significance of the Mezuzah

Much of the inner meaning of the mezuzah is rooted in kabbalistic concepts and personal anecdotes. On the simplest level, the affixed mezuzah serves as a reminder of the Biblical message and its contents. On a deeper level, it serves to raise the spiritual “value” of the home, as the physical structure is an ongoing fulfillment of a mitzvah.

The kabbalists maintain that the mezuzah “protects” the home and the people who dwell therein from spiritual and physical harm. Some people check their mezuzahs when they experience misfortune or illness to see if the writing conforms to the law. A cracked letter, which may be caused by time or the elements (or a cracked or missing letter that was overlooked in the original writing) are flaws which invalidate a mezuzah, and the mezuzah must be repaired. Until the repair is completed, the commandment is not being fulfilled.

An actual mezuzah parchment is not inexpensive since it must be written by hand and is labor intensive. There are many beautifully designed cases that one can purchase to protect the scroll. Decorating a doorway with a mezuzah is a relatively painless endeavor worth all the “mitzvah points” that constantly accrue. It serves as a proud sign and symbol of a Jewish home. Go for it!

Sit Ups

Give your seat to an older person.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Swim Baby Swim

Hot summer days and dramatic Olympic competitions bring to mind the joy of swimming. But swimming is more than a sport or a relaxing pastime, swimming is the only modern “sport” that is specifically mentioned in the Talmud.

Kiddushin 29a lists those things that a parent is obligated to do for his/her child: “The parent is obligated to circumcise and redeem his [first-born] child (via a pidyon haben), teach him Torah, find him a wife, and teach him a craft. Some say, also to teach him to swim.”

Circumcision and pidyon haben are specific religious rituals that intimately connect a child to the Jewish people. Teaching a child Torah is teaching him/her the rules of life--the paths of morality, and the laws of justice. More than that, teaching a child Torah gives the child the tools for spiritual growth. Finding a spouse and learning a craft are the foundations for successful adulthood. Starting a family and having a means of supporting a family are the fundamental building blocks of civilization.

But why swimming? Our rabbis maintain that the injunction to teach a child to swim is to be taken both literally and figuratively. To teach a child to “swim” really means teaching a child to survive in a world that abounds with spiritual and physical dangers.

Raising a child means preparing him/her to face all of the challenges and joys of life, be they spiritual, physical or societal.

Point Reduction

Arrange a defensive driving course to help people learn better road safety (and to reduce points on their license).

Friday, August 15, 2008

No Holiday As Joyous

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

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

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

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

To receive more Jewish Treats like this one every weekday click here and subscribe!

Say It With Feeling

Tell the people in your life how much they mean to you.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Forgiveness

Many feel that the three hardest words to say are: “I am sorry.” Yet, we all know how very important those words are. Indeed, saying one is sorry, or at least admitting one’s guilt, is a critical part of the process of teshuvah, repentance.

Equally important, however, is the ability to hear someone’s apology and to accept it. Even greater is the ability to forgo an apology and forgive the person for hurting you.

Jewish tradition teaches that one is only obligated to ask for forgiveness three times. After three refusals, the person is no longer held accountable for their misconduct, as he/she has demonstrated true regret. The one who will not accept a sincere apology after three requests for forgiveness, however, is now guilty of bearing a grudge.

What is wrong with bearing a grudge against a person who really hurt you? Beyond the fact that it is a violation of a Torah prohibition (Leviticus 19:18), bearing a grudge affects the bearer psychologically. A person bearing a grudge is, in general, less happy with the world and with other people because he/she cannot get past the feeling that he/she was wronged.

The ability to forgive another person is a gift that is rather easy to bestow. And when it is done with sincerity, it is as much a gift to ourselves as it is to the person we forgive.

Take the first step in forgiving someone or asking for forgiveness. Visit www.projectforgiveness.com

Say Sorry

Say sorry for the little things, like forgetting about the person you put on hold.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sharing the Jewish Treats Wealth

We at the National Jewish Outreach Program believe a positive, joyous Jewish experience is attainable on a daily basis. Sometimes it just takes a small reminder, such as an image in an e-mail Inbox.

We are proud of Jewish Treats and hope you appreciate receiving it.

The Mishnah in Ethics of the Fathers (4:1) teaches that every person can be a teacher, that every person can have something to share. You can have a part in teaching others on a daily basis if you forward Jewish Treats to your friends and e-mail contacts, encouraging them to subscribe as well.

It does not take very long to read. It does not take very long to forward. Spread the wealth so many more people can receive a bite-sized dose of Judaism, daily.

Giving Back

Give a class for friends or the public on something in which you have expertise, such as cooking or self-defense.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mezuzahs and Doorposts

You may wonder about that little oblong amulet - the mezuzah - that is often found on the doorposts of offices or synagogues. You might even have one on the entrance to your own home.

What’s it all about?

Reference to the mezuzah is found in two paragraphs in the Torah - Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21, both of which contain the statement “And you shall write [these words] on the doorposts of your homes and on your gates.”

“These words” refers to the two paragraphs in which the sentence concerning mezuzah is found. The words inside the mezuzah are handwritten in the same manner as a Torah scroll, on a small parchment that is rolled up and placed inside the case. These two paragraphs also serve as the first two paragraphs of the “Shema” prayer and speak of the connection that the Jewish people have to God, and methods we can employ to constantly bring God into our lives through introspection, prayer, study, and action.

A doorway must have two sideposts and a top lintel to require a mezuzah. The mezuzah is affixed to the doorpost on the right as one enters a room. Its constant presence serves as a reminder of its Biblical message. Bathrooms and small closets do not require a mezuzah, but most other doorways in the home do.

Wikipedia's Mezuzah
Mezuzah.net

Being There

Call to spend some time with a friend who lives alone or who may need a little pick-me-up.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Prayer

There are many reasons for praying. Here are three:

1. To connect to God.

2. To have the feeling of “being heard.”

3. To feel spiritually connected. It can produce a spiritual feeling similar to that experienced during meditation.

Traditionally, Jews pray to God three times a day, in recognition of the three times the patriarchs, Abraham (morning), Isaac (afternoon), and Jacob (evening), prayed in Genesis 19:27, 24:63, 28:11. While a set formula for prayer was established long ago and may be found in the traditional prayer book (siddur), those who are not familiar with the formal prayers or do not have access to a prayer book may choose to recite or compose their own prayers.

The most obvious prayer is a personal plea for something needed. However, it is sometimes even more appropriate to pray for someone else or to simply praise God for all He has done and continues to do for us - such as giving us life, clothing, a home, a job and food.

While anyone can have a bad day (and may choose to blame God for it), the source of all goodness is, of course, God. An ancient and important way to recognize the goodness in our lives is through prayer.

Join a Cause

Volunteer at a not-for-profit organization that needs help or does work that appeals to you.

Friday, August 8, 2008

9th of Av Tisha B'Av

The saddest day on the Jewish calendar.

Known as the Fast of the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av), the observances of the day are very similar to Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. In addition to fasting (no food or drink) for a 25 hour period from sundown Saturday to nightfall on Sunday, additional restrictions include refraining from washing, using lotions, wearing leather shoes and marital relations.

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

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

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

2. The First Temple was destroyed.

3. The Second Temple was destroyed.

4. The Bar Kokhba revolt ended with the Romans destroying the city of Betar.

5. The city of Jerusalem was plowed over by Turnus Rufus, a Roman general.

See here for a brief overview of the day

See here for explanations of the observances

See here for later events on this date

See here for a more elaborate overview of the day

See here for Wikipedia’s general overview

Copyright © 2008 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Family First

Call a family member with whom you have not spoken recently.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mourning Jerusalem II

A Brief History of the Second Temple.

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2008 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Alone Ranger

Call or visit an elderly neighbor(s), especially those who are widowed or otherwise living alone.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mourning Jerusalem I

On Sunday, August 10,2008, the fast of Tisha B’Av will be observed by Jews worldwide as we mourn the destruction of both the First and the Second Temples, destroyed almost 2,600 years ago and 2,000 years ago, respectively. Why would we mourn for tragic events of such a distant past?

A brief history of Jerusalem and the First Temple may help us begin to understand:

When King David captured Jerusalem and made it his capital (c. 1040 BCE), he desired to build a sanctuary in which the Divine Spirit could dwell. However, G-d told David “You have been involved in war. Your son, Shlomo (Solomon), whose name means peace and will be blessed with peaceful times, will merit to build the Temple for Me.” (Chronicles I 22:8-10)

“Solomon’s Temple” stood for 410 years. It was a center of Jewish life in Jerusalem, to which Jewish pilgrims from all over ascended three times a year on holidays. Ethics of the Fathers (5:5) states that ten miracles occurred in the Temple on a daily basis.

After Solomon’s death, a northern kingdom comprised of ten tribes seceded while Judah and Benjamin remained in the south. Internal, brotherly strife between the two kingdoms, along with rampant idolatry led to foreign conquest. Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom around 719 BCE; Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar (586 BCE) conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and sent most of the Jews into Babylonian exile. The exiled and those who remained suffered traumatically as the nation was now bereft of its spiritual epicenter.

Copyright © 2008 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Dinner Winner

Unexpectedly pick up or make dinner for your roommate or loved one.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Is It Kosher?

All natural produce in its original form is kosher -- including fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Once anything is processed -- such as frozen foods, canned goods, repackaged goods, juices, etc., supervision is required. Processing raises questions, notably: Are the processing machines ever used for non-kosher foodstuffs (e.g. lard on machines to keep things running smoothly is a common problem)?

Milk must come from a kosher animal, and eggs must come from a kosher bird. (A blood spot on an egg yolk must be removed.) Kosher cheese, grape juice and wine must all be made under kosher supervision. The presence of uncertified grape juice is what makes many seemingly-kosher products (especially fruit drinks and soft drinks) not kosher. The presence of non-kosher gelatin (an animal by-product) also renders many products not kosher.

Dairy products and meat products (including poultry) may not be mixed. Fish, however, may be mixed with dairy.

Lists of kosher animals appear in Leviticus 11 and in Deuteronomy 14. Kosher animals have split hooves and chew their cud (cows, sheep, goats, deer, bison, etc). Those that have only one sign (only chew cud - camel, hare, hyrax; only have a split hoof - pig) are not kosher. Animals of prey are not kosher. Birds of prey are not kosher. Kosher birds are known based on tradition (most commonly chicken, duck, turkey, etc).

Kosher fish have fins and scales, ruling out crustaceans, sharks and tentacled creatures.

Birds and animals must be slaughtered according to a very precise procedure in order to be kosher. A botched slaughtering renders the animal unkosher. All blood must be removed from kosher-slaughtered animals prior to cooking because eating/drinking blood is forbidden (Leviticus 3:17; 7:26-7; 17:10-14; Deut. 12:16). No ritual slaughter is required for fish.

No certification required on these products

Kosher supervision symbols

Copyright © 2008 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Knowing Needs - an action

Voluntarily offer people rides, instead of waiting for them to ask.

Monday, August 4, 2008

An End To Sibling Rivalry

August 2, 2008 coincided with the first day of the Hebrew month of Av, marking the beginning of the period known as "The Nine Days."

The first of Av is the yahrtzeit (anniversary of the death) of Aaron the High Priest, the brother of Moses and Miriam (Numbers 33:38). The great sage Hillel said about Aaron: "Be among the disciples of Aaron, love peace and pursue peace..." (Ethics of the Fathers 1:12).

Though Aaron was older, Moses was called to lead the Israelites out from slavery in Egypt. Aaron, who was later chosen to serve as the head of the priestly dynasty, accepted his younger brother’s ascendancy with a full and open heart - he even greeted Moses with a kiss upon his return to Egypt. (Exodus 4:27)

In a time when an older brother was naturally regarded as the leader of the family, Aaron was able to sublimate his own feelings for the benefit of the people, never displaying any evidence of jealousy or sibling rivalry. Consider other rivalries in patriarchal families: Ishmael hated Isaac, Esau hated Jacob, Joseph’s brothers hated him. Before them, Cain famously argued with and murdered his younger brother, Abel. Aaron’s and Moses’ relationship was clearly unique.

The Talmud maintains that God caused the Second Temple to be destroyed by the Romans because of the Jews' "wanton hatred" for each other and their inability to "get along." There is no better time than these early days of Av to remember to follow the example of Aaron the High Priest, who loved peace and pursued peace.

For more on the Nine Days, click here.

Copyright © 2008 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Acknowledge someone else's thoughts or ideas.

Today's Treat was inspired by an e-mail received from Fabia Preminger.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Keeping Those Hands Clean

Some people wash their hands obsessively, while others are careful to use hand sanitizer. Still others opt to skip the sink and soap completely. For the “clean freaks” among us, perhaps the "Employees must wash hands" sign is disturbing. After all, what about everyone else?

Jewish law strongly recommends washing one’s hands after using the facilities and before eating (especially when eating bread). Hygienic? Certainly. But in this case, water is used to remove “spiritual impurities” that come upon the hands from touching certain body parts or due to general contact with a not-so-clean, physical world (a Kabbalistic idea).

Jews are charged to strive for a level of holiness (Leviticus 19:2), which is accomplished through preparing for, and participating in, holy activities. Washing one’s hands before eating turns eating into a holy act (“We eat to live!” - Proverbs 13:25). Washing after leaving the restroom enables one to properly participate in a holy act. Many people also wash their hands before prayer. The significance is obvious.

In the first two examples we’ve cited, the washing of hands is followed immediately by the recitation of a blessing. The washing and the blessing help us recognize that food is a gift of God and acknowledge God’s role in allowing our body to function properly.

Copyright © 2008 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Think Ahead

Call your friend when you are going to the grocery store and offer to do their shopping.