Monday, December 31, 2018

From Midnight to Noon

Frank Sinatra famously sang that New York is a “city that never sleeps.” However, of all the sleepless nights, New Year’s Eve is Gotham’s most awake night, as tens of thousands often stand in frigid temperatures waiting for the ball atop a building in Times Square to descend. At the stroke of midnight, those in Times Square and everyone beyond, ring in the new year with embraces, songs, drinks and best wishes.

Midnight is the official demarcation point, as the day of the week, date of the month, and year change at that moment.

Midnight, also has various Jewish legal ramifications. There is also Jewish wisdom about Midday, or noon - midnight’s polar opposite, which is also the time of day many New Year’s eve revelers wake up. The famed super-commentary Rashi, notes three places where the phrase “the midst of the day” is employed in the Bible and how they are connected. First, Noah and his family entered the ark “in the middle of the day” (Genesis 7:13), in broad daylight. The people living at the time of Noah had sworn to physically block Noah and his family from entering the ark. God purposely resolved to instruct Noah and his family to enter the ark in the presence of everyone, to highlight the people’s inability to stop what God decreed.

Second, God liberated the Jews from Egyptian slavery in the “middle of the day” (Exodus 12:51). The Egyptians vowed to stop the Jews from leaving Egypt, even with axes and other weapons. God took the Israelites out in the middle of the day and dared anyone to try to stop Him. Finally, when describing Moses’ death (Deuteronomy 32:48), the term “in the middle of the day” is once again used. The Jewish people claimed that they would not allow Moses, the man who delivered them from Egypt, split the sea for them, provided the Manna and quail from heaven, hydrated the nation with water found in the desert, and gave the Torah to the Children of Israel, to die. Nevertheless, God summarily took back Moses’ soul in the middle of the day.


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Proudly Assert Your Jewishness

At times, even in public, we are called to stand up as Jews.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Moses’ Mysterious and Mortal Maternity

Moses is arguably the central and most important figure in the Hebrew Bible. Maimonides advances that of the 55 Jewish prophets, Moses’ type of prophecy was quite different and far more elevated than the other 54. No mortal knew God as did Moses, “face-to-face" (Deuteronomy 34:10). That is why he is simply known as Rabbeinu, our teacher.

After describing the enslavement of the Children of Israel under the Pharaoh who “knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8), the Torah records Moses’ birth, how his mother hid him from the Egyptian soldiers who were enforcing Pharaoh’s edict to drown the baby boys, and Moses’ miraculous salvation by the daughter of Pharaoh.

Therefore, the opening verse to the Bible’s greatest protagonist seems odd and grossly understated. “And a man went from the house of Levi and took [married] a daughter of Levi" (2:1). The names of this man, Amram, and this “daughter of Levi,” Yocheved, who were Moses’ parents, are not even disclosed until a later chapter.

Rabbi Yitzchak ben Rabbi Nissan of Vilna, a 19th century Lithuanian rabbi, suggested an interesting reason. In the commentary, he advances that given how central Moses is to the Jewish religion, the Torah sought to stress that he was but a mortal, born of mortals, in an effort to avoid even the slightest appearance of any deification, as is seen in other faiths.

God also buried Moses in an undisclosed location, with no witnesses, to avoid any deification. Praying to a person would fall under the severe prohibition of idolatry, a cardinal sin. Had Moses’s burial spot been known, well-meaning pilgrims may have traveled to that location to worship him, instead of God. Although most Jews maintain the custom of visiting the burial sites of loved ones and holy individuals for heavenly intervention, there is a minority who strongly oppose the practice, as one could inadvertently pray to the deceased, a violation of idolatry, instead of asking the dead to intercede with God, the true and sole destination of all prayers.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Jews Only Pray to God

Jewish prayer is only directed to the One and Only God, even if through an intermediary.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Hail The Accuser

In the era of social media, it is almost an everyday occurrence to be asked to sign a petition or to “like” a cause. When Emile Zola, the celebrated French novelist, published J’Accuse on January 13, 1898, corresponding to the 19th of Tevet, he could only hope that his essay would gain popularity and stir a response from the masses. He had no idea of the impact it would have on his own life.

J’Accuse was Zola’s reaction to the Dreyfus Affair. Zola was not only certain that the 1895 conviction of Captain Alfred Dreyfus on charges of espionage was a deliberate miscarriage of justice, but that it was primarily motivated by anti-Semitism.

Printed as an open letter on the front page of a liberal French newspaper, Zola accused:
Here then, Mr. President, are the facts which explain how a miscarriage of justice could be made; and the moral evidence, the financial circumstances of Dreyfus, the absence of reason, his continual cry of innocence, completes its demonstration as a victim of the extraordinary imaginations of commander [Armand] du Paty de Clam, of the clerical medium in which it was found, of the hunting for the "dirty Jews," which dishonors our time.

J’Accuse split public opinion. Dreyfus was given a second court-martial in 1899, but was once again found guilty (on forged evidence). However, shortly thereafter he was pardoned by the President of France.

As J’Accuse was addressed to the President of France, it did not surprise Zola that he was then charged with libel. Sentenced to a year in jail and a 3,000 Franc fine, Zola fled to England. He returned to France when a new government was formed in June 1899. Zola died of carbon monoxide poisoning four years later, two years before Dreyfus was fully exonerated.


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Pursue Justice:

Judaism greatly values the pursuit of justice, especially when someone is being wrongfully accused.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Jewish Boxing Days?

In many countries, especially those associated with the United Kingdom, December 26th is known as Boxing Day. There are divergent views as to the source of this day and the origin of the name of this secular holiday.

The Oxford-English Dictionary claims the observance denotes that on this day workers sought out holiday gratuities, or gift boxes. For some, it was a day to celebrate Christmas, since they worked on December 25th. In appreciation of their working on a holiday, the workers were given gift boxes to take home on their day off. Indeed, in the United States, it is common for people to give tips to bus drivers, teachers, door-men, newspaper deliverers, sanitation collectors, domestic help and the like.

Others claim the “box” does not refer to one’s laborers and service employees, but to the alms box found in places of worship, to provide funds for the needy. Finally, in some countries, Boxing Day is a shopping day featuring huge price reductions (similar to Black Friday in the United States). Some have even opted for Boxing Week.

The two primary goals of Boxing Day, i.e. tipping loyal employees and service providers, and offering alms to the poor, may have an early Jewish source as we find Jewish practices regarding the poor and service employees that are associated with holidays, which were instituted centuries prior to Boxing Day.

The custom among Ashkenazic Jews to recite Yizkor on the holidays (Yom Kippur, Shmini Atzeret, Pesach and Shavuot) is connected to the tzedakah Jews are mandated to share with the poor to enable them to experience joy on the holidays. Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, laws of Yom Tov 6:18) writes that those who rejoice on a holiday without helping to provide joy to the Jewish poor are really celebrating hedonistically. Only later, did the practice begin to dedicate tzedakah to the memory of one’s loved ones. A critical component of Yizkor is committing funds to tzedakah. This practice parallels the alms box that was prominent on Boxers Day.

The genesis of Chanukah gelt (“Chanukah money” in Yiddish), finds its source in 17th century Poland, where the children were given coins to be distributed to their Torah teachers. This parallels the practice of offering gratuities on Boxing Day.

Happy Boxing Day to one and all. Jewish Treats encourages one and all to tip and offer charity generously.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Tip Generously

Laborers in certain service industries count on gratuities to help support themselves. Tipping not only shows our gratitude, but may even help sustain these individuals as well.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Preacher Man

One does not often associate preachers with Judaism. There are, however, certain distinct personalities in Jewish history who are known for their ability to inspire through their oratory. The maggid (literally “teller”), as such a person is called, is known for bringing Torah and Jewish law to life through stories. This unique skill was epitomized by Rabbi Yaakov ben Wolf Kranz, better known as the Dubner Maggid (Maggid of Dubno, c. 1740 – 1804).

Born in Zetil, near Vilna, in Lithuania, Rabbi Kranz first began speaking in public in Mezeritch, Poland, where he was a student of the yeshiva there. He so impressed the town elders that they offered him a position as a preacher. After working in Mezeritch and Zolkov, he accepted a position in Dubno, where he remained for 18 years.

What made the Dubner Maggid such a powerful speaker was his use of parables, stories that illustrate moral points. When asked how he produced such accurate parables, he replied with a story of a man who found an archer at an archery range who had only perfectly accurate shots. When the man asked the archer how he had such consistent accuracy, the archer responded that first he shot the arrow and then he painted the target. The Dubner Maggid felt that this was very similar to his own method of preaching. First he understood the point he wished to make, and then he created the parable.

To help his listeners understand the words of the Torah, the Dubno Maggid created parables concerning kings, princes, parents, children, in-laws, and a wealth of other characters to whom the common person could relate. He was also recognized as a great scholar of Jewish law and his company was sought out by one of the greatest rabbis in Jewish history, the Vilna Gaon.

The Dubno Maggid passed away on the 17th of Tevet in 1804.


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Make Judaism Relevant

To make Torah relevant to our lives today, use allusions to modern day phenomena, reference contemporary culture, or apply cute stories to explain broader concepts.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Nittel Nacht

Jews of the 21st century may comment, or even grumble, about the pervasiveness of Christmas in our society, but, let's be honest, in this day and age, the effects of the holiday season are rather benign. Of course, we must still deal with frequent questions from our children about festive trees and the jolly guy in the red suit. But, nowadays, people do their own thing.

It might surprise some to know that Christmas Eve actually has a name in Ashkenazi Jewish tradition: Nittel Nacht. In many Ashkenazi communities, particularly in Chassidic communities, it is customary NOT to learn any Torah on Nittel Nacht from sundown until midnight. After midnight, however, one is encouraged to study.

Nittel (which may mean either hanged/crucified or birth) Nacht (night) is a custom whose origins are, unfortunately, lost. Many believe that the custom of not studying Torah on December 24th arose as a pragmatic act of protection. On a night of religious fervor among their Christian neighbors, and during days when one needed no real excuse to start a murderous pogrom, it was safest, perhaps, for Jews to stay inside their darkened homes rather than venture out to study collectively in a hall/synagogue. Other opinions believe it may be a custom that was established to minimize any feeling of holiness on that night. Still others opine that it is an act of mourning, commemorating the suffering of the Jewish people during various periods of the "Christian Age."

In Jewish life, customs have a strength of their own. Whatever the reason for Nittel Nacht, it is a custom that is still followed in various Ashkenazi communities around the world.

This Treat was last posted on December 24, 2012. 


Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Sensitivity to Jews in Danger

In addition to learning about, and helping, Jews in danger around the world, it behooves us to recall historical calendrical times when Jews’ lives were at peril.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Predicting the New Emperor before Exit Polls

On December 21 in the year 69 CE, the Roman Senate declared that Vespasian be elevated to serve as the Emperor of Rome. A famous Talmudical story (Gittin 56b) described how a rabbi foresaw Vespasian’s promotion from general to Emperor.

The Jewish residents of Jerusalem were suffering from a self-imposed famine and a siege by Vespasian’s legions. The militant Biryonim prevented Jews from going in and out of the city and starved their fellow Jews in an attempt to facilitate their more extremist plans to confront the Roman menace. The leader of the Biryonim, Abba Sikra, was the brother-in-law of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, the rabbinic leader of Jerusalem’s Jews. The two leaders devised a plan to enable Rabbi Yochanan to leave the city, past the Biryoni sentries. Rabbi Yochanan feigned illness and then death, and his students asked for the bier to be taken out of the city (burials are not allowed in Jerusalem due to its sanctity).

The scheme worked. Rabbi Yochanan emerged from the casket when approaching the Roman camp and upon seeing General Vespasian, stated twice, “Peace be unto you, O King.” Vespasian responded angrily that Rabbi Yochanan deserves execution on two counts: first, he said, “I am not the king and you addressed me as such.” Second, “If I am the king, why are you only coming now, to accord me regal homage?”

Rabbi Yochanan responded, “I knew you have to be a king because the Jewish prophets foretold that the Temple, which was to imminently fall, would be destroyed by a king. As to why I have only come now,” continued, Rabbi Yochanan, “it is because the Jewish extremists would not let me out.”

The two leaders continued talking until a messenger arrived from Rome and announced, “Rise! The Emperor has died and the Senate has decided to elevate Vespasian as the new emperor.”

Before leaving for Rome, Vespasian offered to grant Rabbi Yochanan a request. Rabbi Yochanan famously requested that the Sanhedrin (Jewish Supreme Court) be allowed to relocate to Yavneh unmolested, that the Roman government guarantee the survival of the family of Rabban Gamliel, the President of the Sanhedrin, and that the Roman physicians care for Rabbi Tzadok, who was in precarious health due to his fasting to avert the destruction of the Temple. Vespasian did honor these requests.


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The Root of Insight

The Talmud serves as more than a Jewish legal text. Insights into more mundane but important matters are shared as well.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

IPO Music

On December 26, 1936, corresponding to the 12th of Tevet, the Palestine Orchestra, founded by Polish-Jewish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, held its initial concert in Tel Aviv. At that time, Jewish musicians were being fired from orchestras all across Europe due to growing anti-Semitism. Between 1938 and 1945, the Palestine Orchestra was led by Leo Kestenberg, a German Jew unable to work anymore in his home country, Germany. While the initial performance was conducted by Arturo Toscanini, the famed conductor of the ubiquitous NBC Symphony Orchestra, William Steinberg served as the orchestra’s first principal conductor. That initial concert featured music from German composer Richard Wagner, a practice that ceased after Kristallnacht, and has become the de facto policy.

During World War II, the Palestine Orchestra performed 140 times in front of Allied troops, including a concert before the Jewish Brigade of the British Army at El Alamein, Egypt. After Israel declared independence, the orchestra was renamed the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO).

In addition to Toscanini, the IPO has been associated with other great conductors and musicians. From 1947 through 1988, acclaimed composer Leonard Bernstein shared his talents with the IPO. In 1988, the IPO named Bernstein Laureate Conductor, a title he kept until his death two years later. 

Celebrated conductor Zubin Mehta, was appointed Music Advisor of the IPO in 1969, having appeared as a guest conductor since 1961. In 1977, Mehta was appointed Music Director and in 1981, he was granted the title “Music Director for Life.” Although he himself was not Jewish, Mehta was associated with the IPO for five decades, having conducted thousands of concerts in Israel and abroad during his tenure. He flew back to Israel during the 1967 Six Day War, to conduct several concerts as a sign of solidarity with the Israeli people. In 1982, he brought the IPO to Southern Lebanon where Arabs in attendance rushed the stage after the concert to hug the musicians. During the 1991 Gulf War, with its threat of Iraqi Scud Missiles falling on Central Israel, Mehta conducted the IPO with an audience that had gas masks at their sides.

Since October 2013, Israeli pianist and conductor Lahav Shani (born in 1989) has served as guest conductor. In January, 2018, he was appointed IPO’s Music Director.


Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Support Israeli Art, Music and Culture

Find ways to support the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in Israel or abroad.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Relative Suffering

In Parashat Vayechi we find the patriarch Jacob saying goodbye, and offering blessings and words of wisdom to his loving family.

Before offering parting words to all of his sons, Jacob specifically blesses Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Menashe. The language of the blessingThe angel who redeemed me from all evil, may he bless the lads and may my name be declared upon them” (Genesis 48:16) has served for millennia as the spiritual aspiration of all Jewish parents when they bless their children.

Clearly, Jacob faced his share of difficulties during his challenging life. One can make the argument that the angel deputized to protect Jacob from harm should be called to task. Jacob’s parents sent him away, fearing his brother would kill him; he was deceived multiple times by his father-in-law, Laban; Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel died in childbirth; Rachel’s eldest son, Joseph, was attacked by his brothers and sold into slavery (Jacob was led to believe that he was ripped to pieces by a wild animal); despite learning 22 years later that Joseph was still alive and viceroy of Egypt, Jacob was forced to leave his beloved Land of Israel with his family and relocate to Egypt, due to a famine. And there is more.

Can it be said that this an angel redeemed Jacob from tribulations? Arguably, Jacob faced more trials in life than anyone, save for Job.

A story is told about a man, down on his luck, who approached his Rebbe, wanting to know why his life was so difficult. The Rebbe sent the man to find the answer from a certain individual. The man knocked on the door and informed the man to whom the Rebbe sent him why he was there. The petitioner saw unimaginable poverty, illness and agony. When the host was asked about his approach to suffering, he looked up at his guest and responded, “I have no idea why the Rebbe would you send you to me. I am a blessed man with a wonderful life and have no claims against the Almighty.” The petitioner left the house with his answer.

As Jacob faced his mortality, he realized how blessed his life really was, despite the many years of misery and sorrow that he experienced. That positive attitude is the blessing we pass from generation to generation.


Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Silver Linings

No matter how down one may feel, it’s both spiritually and emotionally constructive to find the light amid the darkness.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Tenth of Tevet

And it was in the ninth year of [King Zeddekiah’s] reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth (day) of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, came, he and all his legions, upon Jerusalem, and encamped upon it and built forts around it. And the city came under siege until the eleventh year of King Zeddekiah. On the ninth of the month [of Tammuz] the famine was intense in the city, the people had no bread, and the city was breached. (The Second Book of Kings 25:1-4)

Siege! The word itself resonates with pain and suffering. In the case of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in (587 B.C.E.), the siege was also the beginning of the end.

Having just vanquished the great Assyrian empire, the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, sent his troops to quell any rebellion in the land of Judea, whose heart was the city of Jerusalem. The siege lasted for a year and a half. During this time, the city suffered immensely. Starvation, thirst, disease...all the horrors of siege were borne out, just as it had been predicted by the prophet Jeremiah.

The siege of Jerusalem was the first step in what would become the Babylonian exile. When the Babylonians finally broke through the walls of the city, they destroyed the Holy Temple built by King Solomon. Adding to this great tragedy was the fact that the majority of the Jewish people were then exiled to Babylon.

The great sages declared the Tenth of Tevet, the day that the fateful siege began, as a fast day from sunrise to nightfall, to provide a time for people to reflect on their actions and do teshuva (repentance).

*This Treat was originally published on January 5, 2009. It is being re-Treated to help us better understand the Fast of the Tenth of Tevet.



Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Purpose of Fasting

Fasting is meant to help people focus on important issues when tragedy strikes.

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Source of Leadership

Great leaders can move mountains...or at least, masses of people. Ezra the Scribe was just such a leader, and it was his charisma and wisdom that inspired the Jews to leave their Babylonian exile and return to the land of Israel.

Many of the Jews living in Babylon had grown complacent in their exile. Ezra, however, was the student of Baruch ben Neriah, the man who had been the scribe and assistant to the Prophet Jeremiah in Jerusalem. As a living witness to history and a great scholar (and some say a prophet) in his own right, Baruch was an inspiring teacher. In fact, the Talmud (Megilla 16b) relates that “As long as Baruch ben Neriah was alive, Ezra did not leave him to go up [to Israel].”

The relationship of Ezra to Baruch and Baruch to Jeremiah is an important one for the Jews of every generation. Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers (1:6), encourages each Jew to “make for yourself a teacher/rabbi.” Ezra’s personal history demonstrates the significant impact that a teacher can have. Had Ezra learned with anyone other than the personal scribe of Jeremiah, perhaps he would not have had the strength to inspire so many people. 

Ezra did far more than lead the Jews from one city to another. He oversaw the construction of the Second Temple. He also reinstated laws that had been forgotten in the exile, and created new customs (such as calling three people to read the Torah on Mondays and Thursdays). He was such a great leader that it was said of him “Ezra was worthy of [bringing] the Torah to Israel, had Moses not preceded him” (Sanhedrin 21b). 


Tradition teaches that Ezra died on the 9th of Tevet.”

This Treat was last posted on December 16, 2010. 

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Master the Biographies of the Great Scriptural Heroes

Learning about the contributions of Biblical characters, such as Ezra the Scribe, will inspire us to aim higher and conclude that we should study even more.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Beauty and the Bess

On December 14, 2014, one of the most talked-about American Jews from the 1940s passed away. Bess Myerson, born in the Bronx on July 16, 1924, became the first and only Jewish “Miss America” when she won the 1945 pageant and its accompanying $5,000 scholarship, which she used to pay for graduate school at New York’s Julliard School of music and Columbia University.

The confluence of Ms. Myerson’s pageant victory and the horrific news reports and newsreels about emaciated Jews emerging from the concentration camps under Nazi hegemony was not lost on the media. Upon her death, Religion News Service suggested that “Bess Myerson represented the resurrection of the Jewish body – the journey from degradation to beauty.”

Ironically, Ms. Myerson was entered into the Miss New York City competition by someone else. She was embarrassed by the entry, as she was raised in a home that valued scholarship and culture (she was a very serious pianist). In fact, she had to borrow a bathing suit for that component of the competition. The Jewish view of beauty, preaches that while inner beauty is true and everlasting splendor, there is great value to external attractiveness as well, but within parameters.

The Jewish virtue of tzniyut, modesty, protects that which is most attractive and beautiful and reserves it for more private settings, not public ones. Tzniyut governs appearance and attitude, and encourages Jews to live with humility and to recognize that our commendable accomplishments and attributes are from God. But that divinity within each person, also means the Jews must carry themselves with dignity, honor as befitting a creation of the Almighty.

The Talmud (Shabbat 114a) warns, that a Torah scholar with a stain on his shirt is liable to the death penalty. This, of course was not meant to be taken literally. As representatives of God and the Torah, any “stain” on our clothes or character, reflects poorly on God, and His people. Jewish tradition clearly notes that the matriarchs were beautiful and that certain males were handsome such as Joseph and Absalom. As Jewish Treats has previously written, the Talmud relates that when one sees a person of exceptional beauty, one should recite a blessing that concludes: “Who has such [beautiful] things in His world.” Spouses need to be physically attracted to one another, which is why Judaism proscribes marriage until the couple have met and determined their mutual attraction.

Beauty is laudable and virtuous, so long as it is used properly and does not cause one’s humility to weaken.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Perform a Tzniyut Inventory

Ask yourself if your words, actions and mode of self-presentation balance attractiveness and self-esteem with humility and an awareness of the source of blessings.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Fast of the Fifth of Tevet

Aside from Yom Kippur, which is mentioned in the Torah, all the other fasts on the Jewish calendar are Rabbinic in nature, and find their rabbinic source in a single Scriptural verse: “Thus said the Lord, Master of Legions. The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth will be to the House of Judah for joy and for gladness and for happy festivals. Only love truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19). The rabbis interpret the ordinal numbers in this verse as referencing the months of the rabbinic fasts. Thus, the “fast of the fourth” refers to the 17th of Tammuz, the fourth month (Judaism begins numbering the months from Nisan, the month of Passover; the “fast of the fifth” references Tisha B’av, the anniversary of the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem; the “fast of the seventh” corresponds to the Fast of Gedaliah, on the 3rd of Tishrei; finally, the “fast of the tenth” refers to Asara b’Tevet, the fast of the Tenth of Tevet.

However, there is a dissenting view regarding the identity of the “fast of the tenth.” The Talmud (Rosh Hashana 18b) records the view of Rabbi Shimon, who suggests that the fast in the tenth month refers to a fast that is no longer observed, the fast of the Fifth of Tevet.

Scripture records that the prophet Ezekiel, who was living in Babylonia, first learned of the destruction of the First Temple a few days short of five months later, on the fifth of Tevet.

It happened on the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month, on the fifth of the month: a fugitive came to me from Jerusalem, saying, ‘The City has been conquered.’" (Ezekiel 33:21).

While today the fast of the fifth of Tevet is no longer observed, it behooves us to recall a day when the leading Jew of the time received word of the worst event of that era, and probably the worst event that had befallen the Jewish people up until that time, the Temple’s destruction! The time and location when one receives terrible tidings should remain forever seared in one’s memory. For the prophet Ezekiel, that was the day of the destruction.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Recalling Pain Can be like Re-living It

Be sensitive to those who recall difficult episodes they have encountered. Such recall can be as painful as the events themselves and can yield post-traumatic stress.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Goshen, Egypt

After recording the dramatic rendezvous between Joseph and his brothers, Jacob’s move to Egypt and Joseph’s brilliant economic plan, the very last verse in parashat Vayigash records the new “home away from home” of the Children of Israel, in Goshen. “Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen; they took holdings in it and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly.” (Genesis 47:27).

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein asks why this verse was necessary, after all, the Torah has already described Goshen as the new Egyptian home of Jacob and his descendants. Since there are no extra words in the Torah, what does this verse teach us? Rabbi Feinstein argues that this verse teaches Jews of all future generations how to survive and thrive as Jews when surrounded by the blandishments of alien cultures.

First, Rabbi Feinstein teaches, Jews flourish in foreign cultures only when they remember their distinctiveness. They could survive in Egypt so long as they remained true and close to Goshen, their specific enclave. To perpetuate Judaism, a Jew must live among others who share similar values, outlooks and practices.

Second, advanced Rabbi Feinstein, who lived most of his life on the Lower East Side of New York City.  Goshen was indeed in Egypt, a land that was hostile to morality, ethics and spiritually. The 210-year phase of Jewish destiny that would take place in Goshen served as the crucible for the growth of Jacob’s family into a nation and people. This incredibly important spiritual and moral development took place in Egypt, a country with dramatically opposed ethics and virtues to those of Judaism. The challenges of Egypt were confronted by the teachings and beliefs taught in Goshen.

When Jewish parents bless their daughters, they do so by mentioning the names of the four Matriarchs. When they bless sons, however, they invoke Joseph’s children, Ephraim and Menashe. Why not the Patriarchs? A common answer given is that Ephraim and Menashe were born and bred outside of the Land of Israel, yet were able to successfully transmit the values of the patriarchs, in Goshen, Egypt.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved. 

Celebrate Your Jewish Distinctiveness

While living in exile among different cultures, in order to perpetuate Judaism, Jews need to assure not to lose those special values that help Jews remain distinct.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Joosiers

Individual Jews first came to what is known today as the State of Indiana in the early years of the 19th century. Jacob Hays, who moved to Cahokia (now situated in Illinois) in 1822 was a tax collector and “Indian agent” for Fort Wayne, IN. Attorney Samuel Judah, a friend of famed Kentuckian Henry Clay, moved to Vincennes, IN, in 1818, ultimately serving in the state legislature from 1827-1840, Speaker of the 25th General Assembly and served as U.S. District Attorney from 1830-1833. The Gumberts family came to Evansville, IN, in 1837, followed by Isaac Heiman in 1838 and his brother in 1848. In 1842, Adam Gimbel moved his family to Vincennes. In the early 1850s, the Kuhn brothers, who established the investment firm of Kuhn, Loeb and Co., had moved to Lafayette, IN.

Indiana’s first Jewish congregation, Achdut V’Shalom, was opened in Fort Wayne in 1848. A year later, Indiana’s second synagogue opened in Lafayette, followed by a synagogue in Evansville in 1853. The first synagogue building was erected in 1865. By the turn of the 20th century, synagogues were situated in Indianapolis, Ligonier, Peru, Goshen, Terre Haute and Logansport.

Since that time, Jewish communities emerged in Indianapolis (estimated population 10,000); and in northwest Indiana cities of Gary, Hammon, Munster and Merrillville; South Bend; Fort Wayne and Evansville.

The Indiana Jewish Historical Society, housed at the Indiana History Center in Indianapolis, was created in 1972 as a repository for Indiana’s Jewish history. Jews have held office throughout Indiana serving as U.S. Attorneys, judges, mayors and state representatives.

Indiana became the second state in the United States to pass anti-BDS legislation on April 30, 2015. As of 2017, 17,345 Jews lived in the Hoosier state.

On December 11, 1816, Indiana became the 19th state of the Union.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved. 

Learn the Jewish History of Indiana

Before you travel to or through Indiana, learn its rich Jewish history.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Beauty and the Greeks

What does Noah’s son Yaphet have to do with the story of Chanukah and the mitzvah of circumcision?

When the Syrian-Greeks sought to force the Hellenization on the Judeans, one of the first mitzvot that they outlawed was brit milah, circumcision. In fact, performing a brit milah on one’s child became a capital crime. The Syrian-Greeks found circumcision particularly offensive because of their own culture’s devotion to the beauty and perfection of the human body. The ancient Greeks are renowned for their sculptures and naked athletics. From the perspective of the Hellenistic culture, the male body represented perfection. It was therefore unconscionable that the Jews should alter it, or maim it, especially by Divine decree.

The Greeks are known in the Bible as “Y’vanim,” the people of Yavan. They are, according to the sages, the direct descendants of Yavan, the son of Yaphet, the son of Noah.

Noah had three sons: Yaphet, Ham and Shem. Very little is written about Yaphet other than the fact that, following Shem’s lead, Yaphet covered his father’s nakedness, which had been exposed by Ham. For this noble act, Yaphet is praised. (See Genesis 5).

There is, however, much one can learn about a Biblical personality through his/her name. The name Yaphet derives from the Hebrew root (y-ph-h), which is the base of the word Yafeh, beautiful. Thus, beauty, and the admiration of beauty, are part of Yaphet’s nature. Consequently, Noah blessed him: “May God grant beauty to Yaphet, and may it dwell in the tents of Shem” (Genesis 9:27).

Yaphet is associated with beauty and adoration of the human body, the two cultural traits that came to define Yavan-Greece. Perhaps, then, it is not so surprising that they abhorred the dedication of the Jews to the mitzvah of brit milah.


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Is Chanukah Really Eight Days?

Today is the eighth day of Chanukah, known as “Zot Chanukah,” a reference to the Torah portion that is read on the eighth day of Chanukah. Chanukah is set apart as an eight-day holiday. On Passover, the eighth day only takes place in the Diaspora (a repeat of the seventh day) and on Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret, in many ways functions as an independent festival from Sukkot’s seven days.

The author of the Code of Jewish Law, Rabbi Yosef Karo, poses a powerful question that academically challenges the very need for an eighth day. If, as the story goes, there was only enough oil to burn for one day, but it ultimately lasted eight days, the miracle was seven days, not eight. If this is the case, why is the festival observed for eight days, if the first day was not miraculous? Rabbi Karo offers a few answers of his own. Others have suggested well over a hundred answers.

There are a few Talmudical references to eight days, which Jewish Treats would like to highlight. The Mishnah (Menachot 85b) relates that the ritual oil used for lighting the Menorah in the Temple came from olives grown in Tekoa. Rabbi Nissim of Gerona (1320-1376, Spain), known by his acronym, the RaN, writes that it took four days to travel from Jerusalem to Tekoa and four days back, which is the basis of the Chanukah story, and the oil that arrived eight days after the first lighting.

A second story about an eight-day festival appears in the Talmud as well. The Talmud (Avodah Zarah 8a) relates when Adam saw the amount of daylight decreasing day after day, he wrongly assumed that his sin in the Garden of Eden was causing the decrease in light hours and would result in the eventual total darkening of the world. Adam observed an eight day fast, which happened to end on the winter solstice. He was relieved to observe the days getting longer afterwards, and therefore celebrated an eight-day festival to thank God. This festival which also began on the 25th of Kislev, became the pre-cursor to Chanukah, and was also celebrated on the next seven days.

So, thanks to a fantastic question offered by a renowned rabbi, we have learned two fantastic answers explaining why there are eight days to this wonderful festival, to which we bid farewell this evening.

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Make the Most of Chanukah

Although we concluded the eight lightings last night, we still have much Chanukah left. Despite the rapidly approaching conclusion, there is still ample time to apply the timeless values of Chanukah – thanksgiving for God’s miracles – that continue to benefit us to this very day.

Friday, December 7, 2018

“A Day that will Live in Infamy”

In one of the 20th centuries most memorable and impactful speeches, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the previous day, December 7, 1941, “A day that will live in infamy” due to the deadly surprise attack on US. Naval forces in Pearl Harbor, HI by the Japanese Air Force. The president’s speech to a joint session of Congress, led to a Congressional declaration of war against Japan, and eventually, its ally, Germany.

The surprise attack on a Sunday morning left 2,403 dead, and 1,282 wounded. The bombardment resulted in 188 destroyed aircraft and caused the sinking of 21 naval vessels. Of the 2,403 who lost their lives that day, 2,335 men were military personnel and 68 were civilians. The breakdown of the military casualties was as follows: 2008 naval servicemen, 109 marines, and 218 Army men. 1,177 of the casualties resulted from the sinking of the U.S.S. Arizona.

An article by Marla Cohen of the JCC Association highlights some valorous acts by Jewish seamen based at Pearl Harbor.

Ensign Nathan Asher, a 23-year-old junior officer, was at the helm of the Naval destroyer USS Blue when the attack occurred. Knowing the battleship USS Idaho had already been torpedoed, Asher ordered the crew to take the destroyer to the mouth of the harbor to protect the larger ships from Japanese submarines. Although he realized that it may have been a suicide mission, he felt, in his own words, “I didn’t have time to feel any fear.”

Ensign Stanley Caplan, 26, was on the destroyer, the Aylwin and saw the Japanese attack. He took the helm and steered the ship into the open sea and shot down three or four Japanese planes. Caplan received the Silver Star for his valor.

From the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941 until Japan’s unconditional surrender in August, 1945, more than 550,000 Jews served in the U.S. armed forces. Sixty percent of all Jewish doctors under the age of 45, were in uniform during World War II. By the end of the war, 1,000 American Jewish servicemen had died in the service of their country and 40,000 sustained wounds. Two Jewish servicemen received the Congressional Medal of Honor, 157 received the Distinguished Service Medals and Crosses (including Navy Crosses) and 1,600 received the Silver Star.

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Thank Veterans and their Families for their Service

Thanking U.S. military veterans greatly benefits the Veteran. Acknowledging his or her willingness to sacrifice is always deeply appreciated. It is important to sensitize ourselves to the veterans’ willingness to sacrifice life and limb for the freedoms that we enjoy.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Chanukah Yum

While Jewish holidays are known for their food (except Yom Kippur, of course), most of these foods are not known for being particularly healthy. Chanukah is no exception. Forget matzah or apples, those are healthy in comparison--pull out your deep fryer, because Chanukah is a celebration of oil.

Soufganiyot (that’s Hebrew for doughnut): Did you know that Homer Simpson’s favorite treat is a traditional Chanukah delight in Israel? Deep fried dough, most often filled with an injection of jelly, is how Israelis celebrate the tiny cruse of oil found by the Maccabees. This tradition probably developed from the custom among some Sephardi Jews to celebrate Chanukah with bimuelos, which are best defined as a type of fritter.

According to Jewishrecipes.org, the Greek Sephardi community eat loukoumades, a popular, deep-fried Greek pastry comparable to a doughnut, coated with honey and cinnamon. “Romaniotes, the Jewish community in Byzantine Greece, called this pastry ‘Zvingous/Zvingoi.’... Today both Greek Jewish communities, Romaniotes and Sephardi--who immigrated to Greece five centuries ago--make these Chanukah treats.”

Latkes: (That’s Yiddish for pancake, in Hebrew they are called levivot): Read any children’s Chanukah book today and you’ll find descriptions of pancakes made of grated potato sizzling away in oil. But, potatoes were only introduced into European society in the 1500s (they originated in South America).

Prior to the introduction of the potato to the latke, Ashkenazi Jews celebrated Chanukah with cheese latkes. Same basic idea, yummy food fried into pancakes. Dairy, however, has its own special connection to Chanukah. Dairy foods were eaten as a reminder of Judith (Yehudit), who, according to tradition, was a beautiful widow who beheaded an enemy general by plying him with cheese and wine until he fell asleep (read the complete story here).


Happy Chanukah. Now get out the griddle and enjoy!

This Treat is posted each year in honor of Chanukah.


 

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The Challenge of Fitting In

The weekly Torah reading of Miketz (Genesis 41:1-44:17), which almost always coincides with Chanukah, tells the story of the rise of Joseph the son of Jacob from slave to viceroy. And while Miketz contains no Jewish oppression, no battles, and no outright miracles, Joseph’s story could well be viewed as a stark contrast to the story of Chanukah.

The story of Joseph is an affirmation of how to remain true to one’s faith while still succeeding in a non-Jewish society. He spoke Egyptian without an accent and pretended not to understand Hebrew. He dressed in royal robes. The people called him Tzaphenath Pa'nayach. Joseph was so well disguised by his Egyptian identity that even his own brothers could not recognize him.

Throughout his stunning career, however, Joseph never forgot who he was. When Joseph finally revealed himself, he declared: “...for it was to preserve life that God sent me before you” (Genesis 45:5).

Joseph recognized that his ability to maintain his faith, while living as an Egyptian, was beyond most people. That is why, when his entire family came to settle in Egypt, he asked Pharaoh to allow them to settle in Goshen as shepherds, separated from the Egyptian people by land and profession.

Chanukah celebrates Jewish identity and the determination of the people to fight assimilation. When the Syrian-Greeks conquered the land of Israel, they presented their Hellenistic lifestyle as one that was exalted and universal. But as Jews took on the external affectations of the Greeks--their dress, their language, their names--they did not have Joseph’s strength to eschew the heathen practices that were integral to the Hellenistic lifestyle.

Assimilation into surrounding cultures with a corresponding loss of Jewish identity has always been a challenge for the Jewish people. Joseph met the challenge successfully, can we?

 
This Treat was last posted on December 14, 2012.

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Show Your Jewish Pride this Chanukah

Find ways to display how you prioritize your Jewishness this Chanukah.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Spin the Dreidel

I have a little dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it’s dry and ready
Then, dreidel I shall play.

The Dreidel is a four sided top, with a single Hebrew letter on each of its sides. Before the game begins, all players are given an equal number of coins or candies. Each player makes an initial deposit of coins or candies to the middle of the circle and then takes a turn spinning the Dreidel. When it falls, depending on the Hebrew letter that is facing up, the following occurs:

Nun: Nothing happens, on to the next player.
Gimmel: The player wins the pot.
Hey: The player takes half the pot.
Shin: The player must put a coin/candy in to the pot.

Gambling?! On a Jewish holiday?

When the Syrian-Greeks ruled Judea (c. 167 BCE), they banned the study of Torah. The Jewish people defiantly continued to study and to teach their children. Under the threat of death, the children and their teachers met in secret, with a lookout to watch for soldiers. When the enemy approached, the books were quickly hidden and the Jews pretended to be gambling.

The letters on the Chanukah dreidel spell out Neis Gadol Hayah Sham, A Great Miracle Happened There (referring to Israel). In Israel, therefore, dreidels have a Pey instead of a Shin, representing the word Poh, which means Here, since the miracle actually occurred in the land of Israel.

So go ahead, gather a few friends, spend a few pennies and spin the dreidel without any guilt.

To learn more about Chanukah in general, please visit www.njop.org

This Treat is posted each year in honor of Chanukah.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.   

Giving Gifts

"One who is diligent in lighting Chanukah candles will have children who are scholars" (Talmud Shabbat 23b).
 

The desire for scholarly children was actually one of the motivations for the custom of giving Chanukah gelt (money). In modern times, money has been replaced by Chanukah presents. What is the connection between Chanukah lights, intelligent children and gelt?

Publicizing the miracle of Chanukah is so important that even a pauper, who has no money at all, is required to borrow money in order to buy oil for lighting. People therefore began to give a little money (gelt) to the poor so that they would not be embarrassed or forced to ask for assistance. Because the idea of "being diligent in lighting the Chanukah lights" is primary in both giving to the poor and meriting wise children, it became the custom to give children gelt as a reward for studying. Children who were diligent in their studies were rewarded with a shiny coin.

While gifts are an offshoot of the holiday, they represent an important element of Chanukah--chinuch, Jewish education.

The Maccabees fought so that their children and their children's children would be able to study Torah freely and be knowledgeable about their Jewish heritage. Jewish children are taught about Judaism not only for today, but for posterity as well, as it says in Proverbs 22:6: "Educate a young person in his/her own way, when he/she grows old he/she will not turn from it."

Over time, the simple practice of giving gelt (coins or presents) became a Chanukah custom - and not just for children. In truth, however, it is not surprising that gift giving has moved beyond just children. In our own day and age, we, the adults, also need encouragement to learn about who we are and what our Jewish heritage means.

 
This Treat is posted each year in honor of Chanukah.


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Give Spiritually Meaningful Presents

Think of giving Chanukah presents that represent the timeless messages of Chanukah.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

These Lights We Kindle

While the mitzvah of lighting the menorah is an outward-focused mitzvah - the menorah is lit in a window or doorway - it is also an opportunity for personal reflection on the deeper meaning of the holiday. Recognizing this, a special paragraph was added to the menorah lighting ritual. Ha’nayrot Halalu, as it is called, is recited immediately after the Chanukah blessings:

These lights we kindle upon the miracles, the wonders, the salvations and on the battles which You performed for our ancestors in those days in this season, through Your holy priests. During all eight days of Chanukah, these lights are sacred. We are not permitted to make ordinary use of them, but to look at them, in order, to express thanks and praise to Your great name for Your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvations.

Ha’nayrot Halalu reminds us that there are many extraordinary events within the celebration of Chanukah. There are the miracles, such as the single flask of oil lasting eight days instead of one. There are wonders, such as the fact that there remained even one single flask of pure olive oil still sealed by the High Priest. And there are salvations, such as the incredible courage of the small Jewish army to go into battle while so severely out-manned and their ability to overthrow the soldiers of the mighty Syrian-Greek empire.

Additionally, Ha’nayrot Halalu contains a reminder that while there are no work restrictions on one’s actions on Chanukah (as there are on the Biblical festivals of Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), one must not forget that the days of Chanukah are holy as well. Thus it is that one may not use the Chanukah candles for any purpose other than as a reminder of the many ways of God’s salvations.


This Treat is posted each year in honor of Chanukah.


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The Pope and the Jewish Prayer for Rain

Did you know that several centuries ago, a Pope impacted Jewish law?

Most Jewish events of note are based on the Jewish calendar. That’s why it’s surprising to learn that the date when Jews in the Diaspora begin requesting rain (for the Holy Land) in their prayers is based on the Gregorian calendar, not its Jewish counterpart.

The Mishnah in Ta’anit 10a claims that while we begin mentioning rain in our prayers on Shemini Atzeret, we do not actually begin requesting rain until the 7th of Cheshvan, 15 days later. The reason for the delay is to allow the Jewish pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for Sukkot to travel home without fearing for precipitation as a travel impediment. The travel time back to Babylon, crossing the Euphrates River, was about 15 days.

Regarding prayers for rain in the rest of the Diaspora, the Talmud then states that the prayers do not begin until 60 days from the “season” have elapsed. The reason for the delay in this case is not due to traveling, but because in those days, the Diaspora was on a lower altitude and did not need the rain as badly.

Since the seasons are based on the solar calendar, the date for the Diaspora is indeed based on the secular calendar. The autumnal equinox referenced above takes place on September 22 or 23rd. If this is the case, why is the prayer not scheduled for the end of November, sixty days later?

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII manipulated the secular Julian calendar in three ways, two of which were related to the frequency of the leap year. His new “Gregorian” calendar skipped February 29th in the century year (1900, 2000, 2100…). Pope Gregory’s alteration that impacts our liturgy stems from his decision to have the Julian calendar skip 10 days. The Pope decreed that in 1582, October 4th should be followed by October 14th. For these reasons the 60 days fall out about 10 days later. In the 21st century, the Julian date of September 23 becomes October 7 in the Gregorian Calendar. Hence December 4th and 5th.

Rabbeinu Asher claims that the Talmudic date of 60 days past the autumnal equinox only has bearing in Babylonia, due to its abundant rainfall. Other locales should follow the 7 Cheshvan date identified with the Land of Israel as did Provence (Southern France) and he approved of this practice.

Tonight, during the evening service (Ma’ariv) Jews outside the land of Israel begin praying for rain by inserting the phrase v’ten tal umatar’(please cause dew and rain to fall) in to the prayers. This prayer is recited until the last prayer prior to Passover.

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Pray for Rain!

For those living outside of Israel, the custom is to begin this evening adding a prayer for rain in the Ma’ariv (evening) service. Rain is essential for the sustenance of humankind and also extinguishes deadly forest fires.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Pure Olive Oil

While a large number of Jews today light Chanukah candles, the more traditional custom is to light the Chanukah candles using olive oil. This is done in order to most accurately recreate the original Chanukah miracle.



When God instructed Moses to construct the Tabernacle in the wilderness (the vessels of which were eventually placed in the Temple in Jerusalem), He specifically stated: “And you will command the children of Israel, to bring to you pure olive oil, pressed for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually” (Exodus 27:20).



Pure olive oil, known in Hebrew as shemen zayit zach,* is the first drop of oil when the olive is first squeezed or pressed. The Mishna states that there is nothing better than the first oil of the first crop, and the sages of the Talmud described the process of how this oil was produced:



“The first crop is when the fully ripe olives are picked from the top of the tree; they are brought into the olive-press, are ground in a mill and put into baskets. The oil which oozes out is the first kind [of oil]. They are then pressed with the beam, and the oil which oozes out is the second kind” (Talmud Menachot 86a).



Olive oil, which burns slowly, cleanly and without an unpleasant odor, has many uses both in daily life and in Jewish rituals. Indeed, oil is one of the ingredients that was offered with the sacrifices in the Temple. However, only the menorah required the purest shemen zayit zach from the first pressing.



“If the candlestick, which does not need [the oil] for eating [but as fuel], requires pure olive oil, how much more do meal-offerings, which [need the oil] for eating, require pure olive oil! But the text states, pure olive oil beaten for the light, but not ‘pure olive oil beaten for meal-offerings’” (Menachot 56b)


*It is interesting to note that the words shemen zayit zach, when written in Hebrew, are composed of eight letters, one of the many interesting allusions to Chanukah that are hidden in the Torah  (as found on inner.org).

This Treat is reposted in honor of Chanukah.

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A Ten-Light Chanukah Menorah?

In a summary of the Chanukah customs of Persian Jewry (Shlomo Tal edition, 1981, pg. 189-190), three options are offered regarding how to kindle the Chanukah lights. First, the common custom is listed, which is to kindle one light on the first night and add a candle each subsequent night. The second custom listed is to kindle three candles on the first night and add an additional candle each subsequent night. According to this tradition, one would end up lighting 11 candles on the final evening of Chanukah. The third custom suggested, called for lighting eight lights on the first night of Chanukah and adding eight additional lights on each subsequent night. According to this practice, 64 lights would be kindled on the last night, and a total of 288 lights would be kindled by one person over the entirety of Chanukah.

Rabbi Dr. Daniel Sperber, in his seminal work on Jewish customs, Minhagei Yisrael (vol. 1, chapter 23, pp. 167-168) claims that while the first listed custom of Persian Jewry is widespread throughout Jewry, the third custom is an anomaly, and Professor Sperber could not find any support for it.

Professor Sperber attempted to justify the second custom of lighting three lights the first night and add a light each subsequent night. The addition of the Shamash, the server candle which lights the other lights, serves a dual function. First, since one is not permitted to kindle from one light to another (Shabbat 22a), a separate wick is needed to illuminate the Chanukah lights. Second is the consensus of most halachic opinions that one must not use the light of the Chanukah candles for personal benefit. One should not, for example, read by the Chanukiah (Chanukah menorah), as that would be a prohibited use of the light. In order not to violate this precept, the sages added an additional light, the Shamash, so if one were to benefit from the lights of the candles, we assume it was from the additional light, not one of the lights fulfilling the mitzvah of kindling the Chanukah lights.

Professor Sperber postulates that lighting three candles the first night would accomplish the two goals of the Shamash – represented by two Shamash lights - and the one candle for Chanukah lighting. He notes that Chanukiyot have been discovered that have room for the eight Chanukah lights and two more spaces, i.e. ten in total. Many, if not most, of the Chanukiyot we use, actually have an extra space for the Shamash in addition to the places for the eight lights.

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