Monday, September 29, 2008

New Year, New Understanding

Know someone who is looking for a new Rosh Hashana experience? Maybe one of these Beginner Services is just what they need: Beginner Service Locations

Annulment of Vows

"I swear that this time I will lose weight”

“I am going to pray every day...”

We make promises all the time. We swear that we are going to do something, and then hope that we will be in a position to fulfill the vow.

But did you know that according to Torah, words have actual binding force and may not be taken lightly. The Jewish legal view on oaths and vows is based on the verse, “He shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that he has uttered” (Numbers 30:3).

When you swear to do something, you’ve made a serious commitment. Words, from a Torah perspective, are absolutely binding. (It is for this reason that many people, after promising to do something, will append the caveat “bli neder” - without intending to vow, to cover themselves from vowing falsely.)

According to the Torah, vows and oaths, however, can be retroactively nullified, by a “court” of knowledgeable people.

It was considered particularly important by the sages that, as the High Holidays approach, people ensure that they have not violated their previous year’s vows. They therefore created a formal nullification of vows that all are urged to perform before Rosh Hashanah. Known as “Hatarat Nedarim,” the traditional “annulment of vows” takes place in front of a Jewish court of at least 3 knowledgeable men. In addition to nullifying past vows made “in error,” the Hatarat Nedarim also declares that any such statements made in the coming year should be considered as null and void.

(Of course, the nullification only covers those vows that are allowed to be nullified - not vows such as those regarding owing someone money - and vows that are made by one individual to another.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Singing About the “Woman of Valor”

Aishet Chayil, “The Woman of Valor,” which is traditionally sung at the Shabbat table on Friday nights, is actually a selection of verses from the Book of Proverbs (31:10-31) written by King Solomon. It has been speculated that Solomon wrote these verses either as “provincial wisdom” on the ideal qualities of a wife, or as a tribute to his mother, Batsheva. Some commentaries have suggested that the verses of Aishet Chayil are descriptions of the Torah, Shabbat, and the soul, all of which have feminine names in Hebrew and thus assume some feminine attributes. As with all of the books of the Bible, Proverbs reflects a deeper understanding of the relationship between the Jewish people and God.

The Midrash teaches that on the day of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai the Jewish nation was married to God, with the Torah serving as the ketubah (marriage contract). The Aishet Chayil section of Proverbs, therefore, can also be read as a description of the ideal Jewish nation – prosperous, generous, beautiful, loyal and happily laboring for the fruits of the Torah.

Why is Aishet Chayil recited on Friday night? The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 11) cites one esoteric reason: The Sabbath declared: “Master of the Universe, every day of the week has a partner except for me!” The Almighty answered: “The People of Israel will be your partner.” While this is an obvious metaphor, it represents the deeper understanding that the relationship of the Jewish people and God is a relationship of holiness, which is best celebrated on Shabbat, the day that is unique in its holiness.

Appreciation

When stating your appreciation for another person, be specific. Thank you is nice, but thank you for supporting me when I was upset (as an example) is even nicer.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Year Is Set

Rosh Hashana, the head of the year, is the day on which God determines the fate and fortunes of both individuals and communities for the year to come. It is assumed that on this day God determines exactly how much money one will earn in the coming year.

But if God decides on Rosh Hashana that a person is to earn $80,000 for the year, what need is there for that person to remain “good”? Since judgment has been already rendered, can’t we just relax until next Rosh Hashana?

The Talmud addresses this question on a communal level (Rosh Hashana 17b):

Let's say that on Rosh Hashana the Jewish people were judged to be in the category of the completely righteous, and Heaven decreed abundant rainfall for that year. But, later on they went off the straight and narrow. Reducing the total amount of rainfall is impossible, because the decree has already been issued. Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, may make it rain during the wrong season or on land that does not require rain.

On Rosh Hashana a judgment is rendered. How that judgment is executed (whether in a single check, a monthly increase, or random $1 bills that are spent without thought) is up to each of us.

Reflection

Reflect on the good things that happened to you this past week...this past month...this past year. Take a deep breath, smile and say "Thank you."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Watch What You Say

One of the greatest figures in early-twentieth century Jewish life was a modest rabbi known as the “Chafetz Chaim” (Translation: He who desires life), in honor of his first published work. His real name was Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagen, and he lived from 1838-1933.

The Chafetz Chaim’s achievements during his lifetime were legion, and he was highly active in Jewish affairs across Europe. He was the founder of the great yeshiva in Radin and he helped establish Agudath Yisrael (Organization for Torah Judaism). He was also the author of the Mishna Berurah, a commentary on the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law).

However, the Chafetz Chaim is best known for his campaign against Loshan Harah, wicked speech. The Chafetz Chaim realized that people had grown lax about watching their words and careless about what they chose to discuss. Speaking badly about another person, whether maliciously or not, is extremely destructive. Lashon Harah is often compared to an arrow. Once the words have been released, they cannot be recalled. When gossip is unleashed, the repercussions can never be undone.

The Chafetz Chaim spent a lifetime dissecting and explaining the complex rules regarding proper speech.

Next time you visit the proverbial water cooler, keep Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagen in mind, and please think before you speak!

Bite Your Tongue

Hold back on telling a story about someone else.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The 3 Ts

On Rosh Hashanah we declare: “But repentance, prayer and charity remove the evil of the decree!” In Hebrew, these constitute the 3 Ts: Teshuva, Tefilah 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 to recognize one’s own mistakes.

Tefilah (prayer) is the acknowledgment of God as the King and Ruler of the universe. Tefilah 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, their relationship with the Divine and their relationship with their fellow human beings. The path to reversing the evil of the decree must therefore involve the private, the spiritual and the public spheres of our lives.

Tip the Box

Drop a dime into the next charity (tzedaka) box that you see.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Alarm Clock

New beginnings are always difficult.

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

No beginning is quite as profound as the one we face annually at Rosh Hashana. On the Jewish New Year, G-d gives all people the chance to face His judgment and wipe their slate clean.

The great symbol of Rosh Hashana is, of course, the shofar. When the shofar is sounded in the synagogue, it is meant serve as an alarm clock that awakens our souls and reminds us of the awesomeness of the day.

Knowing well the nature of people, our sages realized that what we really needed was an alarm clock with a “snooze” function. Yes, “snooze,” that wonderful button that tells us that we must get up very, very soon, but not yet. The snooze button reflects the recognition that people naturally desire to continue sleeping and not get up at what feels like the crack of dawn. The rabbis therefore instituted the blowing of the shofar every morning during the month of Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashana.

Every morning, during the synagogue services, the shofar is sounded in the synagogue, allowing us to push the “snooze” button, and reminding us that the real alarm, the Rosh Hashana alarm to which we must truly waken, is soon at hand.

Tickets, Tickets Here

Make certain you have tickets or reservations, as needed, for your synagogue's High Holiday Services.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Covered Eyes

It is customary that after the Shabbat Candles are lit, both hands are waved towards the face (symbolically drawing in the light of the candles and the sanctity of Shabbat) and the eyes are covered. The blessing is recited with the eyes still covered. Why?

The sages taught that a blessing should always precede the action, meaning that the blessing for a mitzvah is recited before performing the mitzvah. For instance, one says a blessing over an apple and only then eats the apple; one says the blessing over the Chanukah candles and only then lights the candles.

The laws of Shabbat, however, prohibit the creation of a flame. Since Shabbat is accepted as soon as the blessing is recited, one must light the candles (do the action) before making the blessing. By covering the eyes before reciting the blessing, one is unable to benefit from the light of the candles until after the blessing is said. When the person making the blessing uncovers her/his eyes, it is as if she/he is seeing the light of the Shabbat candles for the very first time. In this way, the blessing has been recited before the action of the mitzvah is performed.

NJOP's Candle Lighting Home Page

Making New Friends

Go to synagogue and stick around after services to shmooze

The Flag Of Israel

The Israeli flag was specifically designed with stripes to recall the image of a tallit - the Jewish prayer shawl. Its top and bottom blue stripes are reminiscent of the sky and the sea. While some tallits (tallitot) have blue stripes, others have black or white or a veritable rainbow of colors. We need to ask: Why the stripes, and is there any significance to the colors?

The stripes in general are present to beautify the four-cornered garment, in fulfillment of a loose understanding of the verse (Exodus 15:2), “This is my God and I will glorify Him.” This principle is often invoked as a source requiring Jews to make an object used for a mitzvah as beautiful as possible (within one’s means, of course). Think about elaborately designed candlesticks, menorahs, mezuzahs, spiceboxes, etrog boxes, chuppahs, beautifully adorned Torahs, mikvehs and synagogue structures, and you get the idea.

Blue in particular has significance as the color associated with the tzitzit (fringes) commandment (Numbers 15:38), which originated from a special aquatic creature called “hilazon.” The blue is meant to remind Jews of the sea, which reminds us of the sky, which reminds us of God, which reminds us to be good Jews (Rashi’s comment on Numbers 15:38). As the official blue color for the tzitzit was unavailable for hundreds of years, blue stripes were therefore placed on the body of the tallit garment to serve as a reminder of the commandment.

Jewish Virtual Library
Israeli Government’s history of the flag

Make an Offer

When the person in the line behind you only has one item, offer to let them pay before you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Torah, To What Can I Compare Thee?

Various biblical verses and rabbinic texts compare the Torah to different natural resources to teach us about the greatness of the Torah in terms that can be readily understood. After all, we relate to natural resources all the time.

In Proverbs 6:23, the Torah is compared to light because it illuminates darkness, and, when focused, can even reach deep recesses and far corners.

The Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, records how Torah is compared to rain “precisely to emphasize that its most important effect is to make each of us grow to our full potential.” (Rabbi Sacks' article)

The Talmud (Taanit 7a) compares the Torah to fire, wood/tree, water, milk & wine.

Fire (Jeremiah 23:29): Just as fire cannot endure alone, without fuel or air, Torah needs to be studied with partners who bring different perspectives, produce new ideas and sharpen logical arguments to withstand challenges.

Wood (Proverbs 3:18): Just as a small piece of wood can light an entire woodpile, small-time scholars (also known as students) are the tinder that challenge their teachers to become greater scholars.

Water (Isaiah 55:1): Just as water flows downward from a higher place, Torah can only exist in a person who receives it humbly from a "higher place," such as a teacher.

Wine and milk: These drinks last longer and “stay good” in earthenware vessels (i.e. a barrel). Similarly, Torah survives best in a humble person.

Hey Teacher

Call up an old teacher (or someone else who influenced you in your youth), reintroduce yourself, and thank them for the impact they made on your life.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Final Analysis

After the soul departs, it journeys to the gates of heaven where it must present its case for entry. The Talmud (Shabbat 31a) states, “In the hour when an individual is brought before the Heavenly court for judgment, the person is asked:

1. Did you conduct your [business] affairs honestly (literally - with faithfulness or trustworthiness)?

2. Did you set aside regular time for Torah study?

3. Did you work at having children (literally - involved with populating the earth)?

4. Did you look forward to the world’s redemption?”

Aside from the simple interpretation of the words, perhaps there are deeper implications behind these questions. How can these questions be understood for those who were not meant to be Torah scholars,or those who did not have children?

1. Were you an honest person in the things you said and in all your affairs? Did you live a life in which everyone knew you to be trustworthy?

2. Did you learn about Judaism? Did you apply these teachings to your life? Did you study regularly to utilize your brain to its greatest capacity?

3. Did you leave the world a better place for children? Did you do your part to support the education of the next generation?

4. Did you do your part to bring about peace in the world (which will lead to redemption)?

Commandments and rituals are certainly important in Jewish life. But these “heavenly” questions focus on a person’s personal mantra and behavior as well as one’s interpersonal relationships.

A Private Tally

Write a list of all the "good deeds" you did today (even lending your friend a pencil!) and read the list before going to bed. Tomorrow see what other "good deeds" you can add to your list.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Music - This is not your father’s Hava Nagila

Popular Jewish music has become an increasingly diverse market over the last sixty years. What was once limited to cantorial music and klezmer classics has evolved into single artists, boys choirs, hip-hop bands and a cappella groups.

Music has always played an important role in Jewish life. One of the best known sections of the Torah is the Shira, the song sung by the Israelites after the crossing of the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) (Exodus 15:1-21). In fact, in ancient times one of the most important jobs of the Levites was to sing in the Holy Temple. King David was renowned as a musician.

Music, in fact, has been a means of spiritual connection with the divine throughout Jewish history. Indeed, the revolutionary Hassidic masters used music to uplift their souls and to inspire their followers to strive for spiritual heights. From niggunim (tunes without words) to Shabbat zmirot (songs sung at the Shabbat table) to the beautiful Psalms, music has always uplifted us.

The selection today is much more diverse, avant garde and bohemian, especially in Israel where the Jewish population is a melting pot of cultures from around the world. With influences such as Middle Eastern melodies (e.g. Yemenite, Syrian, Iranian), the rhythms of the former Soviet Union and the creativity of the Israeli culture, not to mention the impact of Western popular music, Jewish music choices are a veritable metaphor, reflecting the multi-dimensional history of the Jewish people through the vast realms of the diaspora.

Whistle While You Work

Hum a happy song on your way home from the office and set the "tune" for your evening!

Friday, September 12, 2008

It's About Just "Being"

The holiness of Shabbat emanates from humankind acknowledging its relationship with G-d. Whether through agriculture or commerce, humanity struggles daily to control the world. In modern times, humankind has been, by and large, very successful at governing nature - mighty rivers have been redirected and the hardest substances on earth have been cut to humankind’s will. We have even created new chemical elements.

The ability to overpower nature also tends to give humankind a sense of complete independence from any “greater power.” It is easy to forget that God actually controls the many minute details that make wheat grow and copper bend. Abstaining from labor on Shabbat reminds us, weekly, that God controls the world. Six days of the week are filled with “doing,” Shabbat is for “being.”

A Little Something Extra

Pick up a bouquet of flowers on your way home to adorn tonight's dinner table.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Forty Years and Forgiveness

Why did the Jews wander in the desert for forty years? Because Moses refused to ask for directions! It’s an old joke.

The Jews “wandered” for so many years as a consequence of the sin of the spies. After the Israelites completed fashioning the Tabernacle, G-d was prepared to bring them straight into the Promised Land. But the people balked. Not trusting Moses’ promise that it was a land of milk and honey, they dispatched spies. Ten of the twelve spies reported that the inhabitants of the land were so awesome that it would surely be impossible for the Israelites to conquer them. The people wept bitterly all night, completely ignoring Joshua and Caleb who praised the land lavishly, urging the people to go forward.

G-d was ready to wipe his hands clean of these people who time and again refused to accept His kindness and who complained at every opportunity. Once again, the Israelites were spared because Moses beseeched G-d to forgive them.

G-d’s response (Numbers 14:20-23): “I have pardoned according to your word. But...all those who have seen My glory, and My signs, which I wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness...they shall not see the land that I promised to their forefathers.”

While G-d forgave the people, it did not mean that there were no consequences. The people who had been redeemed from Egyptian slavery were not ready, psychologically, to be given a land of their own – it would have to wait for their children. It was a bitter lesson for the Israelites.

This ancient lesson applies to us as well. We must all take responsibility for our actions. While those we wrong may forgive us, the consequence of what we have done may be irreversible!

Talking about forgiveness: Project Forgiveness

The Little Things

Be grateful for the little things. Thank G-d when you find an easy parking spot or when the bus comes on time three days straight.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

To Jew and Jew and Jew

Judaism is both a religion and a nationality. The Talmud teaches us (Shavuot 39a) “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh,” that all Jews are responsible (literally “guarantors”) for one another. In the most ancient interpretation of this idea, Jews have always felt a vital connection to other Jews, no matter the Jew’s citizenship (ie. Russian, Cuban, French, etc).

This is why Jewish hostages taken in Iran, a blood libel in Russia or Atlanta (GA), the Dreyfus affair in France, and the more recent anti-Semitic attacks in Europe and elsewhere have been met with rapid Jewish responses and intense activism. Jews care about other Jews.

There is a story told of a Jewish officer in WWI who had his eye on the enemy officer across the battlefield. He planned to personally “take care” of him when his unit surprise-attacked the enemy. Just before he fired on the enemy officer, the Jewish officer heard his intended target cry out, “Sh-ma Yis-ra-el A-doh-nai Eh-lo-hay-nu” (see the bottom of this e-mail). Instead of pulling the trigger, he offered a brotherly hand to the “enemy” as they concluded together “A-doh-nai Echad.” While war is a horrible reality, some human connections transcend the battlefield.

Jews embarrass easily when other Jews do something bad or are reflected on negatively in the press. We tend to take much pride in the great accomplishments of Jews (think of Einstein and Koufax). It’s all part-and-parcel of being a “guarantor” who takes responsibility for other Jews.

Spread the Feeling!

Pay a compliment to the next five people that you see.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

L'Chaim

Fiddler on the Roof made the Jewish drinking slogan “L’Chaim” - To Life! - famous. Where does the phrase come from? Why do Jews say “To life!” when drinking?

Many concepts in Judaism can best be understood through exploring where they are first mentioned in the Bible. The first person to drink wine was Noah, shortly after he emerged from the Ark. He got drunk and humiliated himself in front of his sons, before two of them covered him with a blanket.

The next to get drunk was Abraham’s nephew Lot, whose daughters took advantage of his inebriated state to become pregnant from him.

We wish “L’chaim” to others when we drink in the hope that the alcohol we consume will not do any physical or spiritual damage to us. It has been scientifically suggested that those who drink wine in moderation actually receive health benefits from it. Health benefits = good life! We’ll drink to that! L’Chaim!

Entertainment Tonight

Call a nursing home and tell them you'd like to provide entertainment for the residents (sing, play music, or read).

Monday, September 8, 2008

Origin of the "Jew"ish Species

If the nation that was redeemed from Egyptian bondage and experienced revelation at Sinai was known as the Israelites, or the Children of Israel, why are they now called “Jews”? After all, if we are the Children of Israel, shouldn't all Jews, not just natives or citizens of Israel, really be called “Israelis” or “Israelites”?

Two suggestions as to why Jews are called Jews:

1. The tribe of Judah is the tribe from which the Davidic dynasty arose (and from which the Messiah is destined to come). After the death of King Solomon, the nation split in two. The northern 10 tribes created their own independent Kingdom of Israel. The 2 southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, became known as the Kingdom of Judah.

While both kingdoms were eventually conquered and exiled, the expulsion of the northern 10 tribes was permanent. The southern tribes, however, were only in exile for 70 years and the people then returned to their land. The area in which they dwelled became known as Judea and its people Judeans. In the flow of time and history, Judeans became Jews.

2. The Hebrew spelling of Judah is Yud - Hey - Vav - Daled - Hey. When the daled is removed, the remaining letters spell the Hebrew name of God. Therefore, the label Jew alludes to both Judah and to God and is a constant reminder of the relationship we have with the Divine.

Turning Green

Recycle your old computer or toner cartridges.

Friday, September 5, 2008

M'la'cha

The Torah prohibits "work" on Shabbat, but what does that mean? After all, serving a meal to your family could be seen as work.

The Torah hints at the definition of Shabbat work by using the word m'la'cha rather then the common word avodah. M'la'cha has a specific definition: creative work, and is only used in one other place in the Torah, in reference to the building of the Tabernacle. The Rabbis understood from the linkage that the type of work prohibited on Shabbat is any type of labor which was used to build the Tabernacle. Called the 39m'la'chot, these “creative works” are actually categories for determining whether an activity is allowed on Shabbat or not. The 39 m'la'chot are:

(1) Ploughing (2) Sowing (3) Reaping (4) Gathering (5) Threshing

(6) Winnowing (7) Selecting (8) Sifting (9) Grinding (10) Kneading

(11) Baking (12) Sheep-shearing (13) Bleaching

(14) Combing raw materials (15) Dyeing (16) Spinning

(17, 18, 19) Weaving operations (20) Separating into threads

(21) Tying a knot (22) Untying a knot (23) Sewing, (24) Tearing

(25) Trapping/Hunting (26) Slaughtering (27) Skinning, (28) Tanning

(29) Scraping pelts (30) Marking out (31) Cutting to shape

(32) Writing (33) Erasing (34) Building (35) Demolishing

(36) Kindling a fire (37) Extinguishing (38) Finishing an object

(39) Carrying between private and public areas

Enjoy Doing Nothing

Take a half-an-hour relaxation break sitting in a garden while simply admiring God's creation.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Accepting Responsibility

Before a person can ask for forgiveness, he/she must acknowledge and accept responsibility for his/her action--a character trait that was exemplified by Judah, son of Jacob.

Genesis 38, the story of Judah and Tamar: Tamar was married, successively, to Judah's two oldest sons, both of whom died. Afraid that his youngest son would meet the same fate, Judah sent Tamar home and told her that his third son was not old enough to fulfill the commitment to marry his brother's widow. Tamar waited and waited. Realizing that Judah would never wed her to his third son, Tamar decided to take radical action when she heard that Judah had gone to shear his sheep. Dressing like a harlot, she seduced Judah, taking his staff, his cord and his signet as collateral for payment. Judah did not recognize her. Tamar conceived, and when Judah found out that she was pregnant, he accused her of harlotry and demanded that she be burned. When she showed his collateral (proving that Judah was the father), Judah stood up and publicly admitted his guilt, saying: "'She is more righteous than I; for I did not give her to Shelah, my son." Judah then married Tamar, and she gave birth to twin boys.

By admitting his error, Judah indicated that he was a true leader among his brothers. This remarkable character trait continued on through his descendants who eventually established the great monarchy of Israel (starting with King David).

Question: Is confessing a sin the same as asking forgiveness, or does a specific request need to be made? Post your response!

Want to ask forgiveness? Try Project Forgiveness

Debt Out

Pay back your co-worker for the coffee he/she bought for you.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Visiting the Sick

The practice of visiting the sick, known in Hebrew as “Bikur Cholim,” literally means “to check on the ill.” Why is the word "check" used rather than "visit"?

On a simple level, the idea of “checking” means to quickly see that all is in order (and offering help if necessary)--but not to spend too much time! While some who are ill might desire a longer visit, certainly having a chance to rest is a necessity for many of them. “Checking on the person” implies that visiting time is limited to a visit of reasonable length.

On a deeper level, out-of-the-ordinary experiences, whether an individual illness or a natural disaster that results in many victims, are meant to give the sufferers, survivors and onlookers an opportunity to reflect on life and on their own priorities.

In this sense, “checking” on the ill is a reminder to the afflicted and the visitors alike to “check on their deeds” and commit to self-improvement.

Chicken Soup

Friend under-the-weather? Surprise him/her by bringing some delicious chicken soup.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Biblical Immortals

In Rabbinic literature, several Biblical characters are depicted as “not having died” a natural death. Of these, two such non-deaths are mentioned directly in the Torah: Elijah the prophet and Hanoch (Adam’s great-great-great-great grandson and Noah’s great grandfather). Elijah’s end is described in Kings II 2:11, while Hanoch’s is a bit more obscure in Genesis 5:24, though it is elaborated upon in the Talmud and Midrash.

In Elijah’s case, we commemorate his “presence” on earth with an appearance at the Passover seder and at every brit milah (cirumcision ceremony). (We’ll talk about the connections between those another time.) Hanoch’s legacy is not generally celebrated.

The Talmud makes reference to a number of people who were so righteous they would not have died had death not been brought upon the world through the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Elijah and Hanoch “did not die” because they were extremely righteous. Additionally, Jewish law requires two witnesses to attest to the truth of an idea, and Elijah and Hanoch serve as witnesses that human beings would have been immortal were it not for Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

From Eternity 'Til Beyond

Learn something about Jewish history and contemplate what it means for the present and the future.