Preparing for Tisha B’Av During a World Pandemic – A 25-hour period of fasting and reflection begins on Wednesday night, July 29 – Chabad.org

Every year, Jews around the world don non-leather shoes, and make their way to synagogues and Chabad centers for evening services, followed by the mournful reading of Eichah (the book of Lamentations), the slim volume in which the prophet Jeremiah mourns the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. This year, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread throughout the world, many will be attending services wearing masks with social-distancing measures in placea stark reminder of the unprecedented reality the world is now facing. And many others will be observing the day at home, reading the prayers in English or Hebrew, some with the help of audio recordings.

Tisha BAv (the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av) commemorates, among other things, the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, and the subsequent dispersion of the Jewish people throughout the world. It is observed this year as the sun sets on Wednesday, July 29, and ends the following night. The day of mourning includes a 25-hour fast that lasts throughout the night and day.

While most Jews will fast as usual, those with specific health concerns, including vulnerabilities due to COVID-19, are advised to consult a rabbi and a medical professional before deciding how to proceed.

Unique among the days observances is the ban on most Torah study since the commands of Gd ... gladden the heart. To that end, many watch educational or inspirational films that focus on the struggles and triumphs of the Jewish people throughout the last 2,000 years of exile (often Holocaust-related). Others will attend online classes and study sessions on the sad parts of the Torah that may be studied, including Eichah, andportions of the Talmud and Midrash that tell of the destruction of Jerusalem and the hardships of exile.

In addition to the dim lighting in many synagogues, the atmosphere everywhere is further darkened by the fact that many people sit on upturned benches or crates since mourners are not to sit upright on chairs of ordinary height.

But within the despondency lies a kernel of joy. The Talmud teaches that the long-awaited messiah was born on the Ninth of Av. In the afternoon, when the mourning restrictions are somewhat lifted, many follow the custom of sweeping the floors in anticipation of his imminent arrival.

Once night falls, the mourners will recite evening prayers, wash their hands and troop outside to joyously say the Kiddush Levanah, recognizing the regrowth of the moon, traditionally seen as a symbol of the Jewish people.

And before the week is out, the full moon will figure prominently in the celebration of the 15th of Av (Tu BAv). Among many other causes for celebration, this minor holiday (described in the Talmud as one of the happiest of the year) marks a complete rebound from the sadness of Tisha BAv.

For Tisha BAv services and programs near you, visit the Chabad center locator page here.

Articles and videos on Chabad.org for study before and on the day of Tisha BAv can be found here.

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Preparing for Tisha B'Av During a World Pandemic - A 25-hour period of fasting and reflection begins on Wednesday night, July 29 - Chabad.org

The indomitable spirit of the Jewish people – The story of Yavne – The Jerusalem Post

Do all roads lead to Yavne?Among the most well-known Talmudic stories is the tale of R. Yohanan ben Zakkais daring escape from Jerusalem at the height of the siege by the Romans in 70 CE, found in the Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 56a-b. According to that account, R. Yohanan had himself smuggled out of the city in a coffin so that he could negotiate with Vespasian, the commander of the Roman forces and soon to be declared Emperor. He requested that the emperor give him Yavne and its sages. In doing so, R. Yohanan b. Zakkai ensured the spiritual continuity of the Jewish people despite the impending destruction of the Temple and the eternal capital. Yavne would become the center of the nascent rabbinic movement which was responsible for the reestablishment of Judaism in the post-Destruction world.Though this story is most closely associated with the fast of Tisha BeAv, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, marking the destruction of the First and Second Temples, its enduring appeal no doubt lies in its profound optimism. It is a story of the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people. Even after suffering a devastating defeat and the loss of their spiritual center, the rabbis immediately rebuilt, ensuring the continuity of Judaism. The rabbis of Yavne would teach that through the continued study and practice of Torah, the people could maintain their relationship with God and continue their historic mission in the world, even in the absence of the Temple.But there is another, less well-known version of R. Yohahan ben Zakkais escape that lacks this message of hope. Lamentations Rabbah, a midrash compiled in the Land of Israel probably about 100 years before the editing of the Babylonian Talmud, tells a much darker tale. This version makes no mention of Yavne. After repeatedly failing to save the city from destruction, all that R. Yohanan ben Zakkai requests is that prior to his final assault, Vespasian leave the western gate [of Jerusalem] which goes out to Lod open until the third hour, so that those who wish can escape and avoid being killed. This story offers no vision for life in the post-Destruction era. It does not look forward to the ultimate triumph of the rabbis in maintaining the continuity of Jewish tradition. It focuses on the bare physical survival of remnant of the Jewish people. This story reminds us that through much of Jewish history, heroism was defined simply by the will to live until the next day. Gods promise to Israel was manifest by the simple fact that some Jews were not killed. Most of the time, we prefer to dwell on the more optimistic vision of the Babylonian Talmud. But perhaps on Tisha Beav, it is the starker focus of the midrash which is most appropriate.The writer is a senior lecturer in Bar-Ilan Universitys Berman Department of Literature of the Jewish People. This article is based on his recent piece The Road to Lydda A Survivors Story: Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkais Flight from Jerusalem According to Eicha Rabba 1:5 that appeared in Jerusalem Studies in Hebrew Literature 31 (2020) 27-64.

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The indomitable spirit of the Jewish people - The story of Yavne - The Jerusalem Post

Even More Harm Than We Think – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The haftorah of Shabbos Nachamu (Yeshayah 40:1) begins with the words, Comfort, comfort My people, says Hashem.

The Yalkut Shimoni Eichah says that since the retribution was double, the expression of comfort in this haftorah is doubled as well.

We know, however, that Hashem metes out punishment middah kneged middah. So how could our punishment have been double? Also, doesnt every nation sin? Why were we punished so harshly?

The Yismach Yisroel explains that every deed of the Jewish people has a powerful effect on the entire world. He notes further that every deed actually consists of two components: the act itself and the consequence of that act.

Hashem designated us as His chosen nation. Hashem has chosen you for Himself to be a treasured people from among all the peoples (Devarim 14:2). We are unique and different in our disposition and temperament.

Every Jewish soul is bound to Hashems kisei hakavod the throne of glory with a chut hameshulash (a threefold chain that is not easily broken), which stretches through the heavens, the constellations, and the earths atmosphere. When we do a mitzvah, it makes an impression all along the way, beyond the world, and up to the kisei hakavod. One good act, one pasuk of Torah learned, one pasuk of Tehillim said, brings holiness and purity to the entire world.

This fundamental mechanism is also at work when a Jew commits a sin; a ripple of cause and effect extends throughout the world and beyond.

When we say in our personal prayer for forgiveness (in Shemone Esrei), Grant me atonement for my sinsand make whole all the names that I have blemished in your great name, we are referring to the injury we caused with our transgressions.

The Talmud tells us (Yoma 86b) that the entire world is forgiven on account of one individual who repents. A Jew has the power to bring merit to all of mankind.

The actions of the nations of the world, in contrast, have no such effect on the universe. There is no connection to Hashem that is impacted by their aveiros.

So now we understand why we received a double punishment. Our sin was double because of the sin itself and the negative effect of the sin that pulsated throughout the world.

And Hashem gives us a double measure of nechamah (comfort) because teshuvah mahavah repentance out of love turns our sins into merits and brings us closer to Hashem than we ever were.

Rabbi Israel Abuchatzera (1890-1984), known as the Baba Sali, was born in Morocco to a distinguished rabbinic family. He was renowned as a legendary Talmudic scholar, a great ohev Yisroel, and a holy man who could work miracles through his prayers. In his early years, his love for the people of Eretz Yisrael often took him from Morocco to Israel until he eventually settled in Netivot.

On one of these trips, a violent storm arose at sea on Shabbos. The skies turned ominously dark, the winds turned fierce, and towering walls of water slammed into the ship. The captain told all the passengers that the ship was in danger of capsizing.

Baba Sali had remained below deck in his cabin on the holy day of Shabbos, immersed in prayer and learning. When the gabbai heard the captains warning, he hurried down to Baba Salis cabin and shared the information.

Baba Sali responded that he would like to make kiddush. The gabbai was puzzled by his reaction, but he did not question the tzaddik. He brought Baba Sali a kiddush cup with some wine, and Baba Sali recited kiddush with deep kavanah.

He partook of the wine, and then went up on deck with the shiurei mitzvah (the remaining wine from kiddush in his cup). He walked over to the railing on the side of the ship and poured the shiurei mitzvah into the raging waters below. Immediately, the sea quieted and the storm abated.

The people on board could not believe their eyes and were inspired with a strong belief in G-d. When the ship docked, the passengers tried to offer Baba Sali a reward as they thanked him and kissed his hand.

Baba Sali would accept nothing. In his self-effacing manner, he quietly stated, It was all Hashems doing.

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Even More Harm Than We Think - The Jewish Press - JewishPress.com

One for Israel exposes abusive teachings of rabbis, explains that Jesus loves and esteems women [videos] – Patheos

One For Israel, an evangelical Christian organization promoting the gospel to Jews and Muslims in Israel, has exposed Rabbinical teachings that oppose scripture and put women in darkness and shame. The groups hope by exposing the abusive teachings of some rabbis is to shine the light of truth to show that Yeshua loves and esteems women.

While the Bible presents women as heroes, the oral Torah (Talmud) invented by the rabbis, often presents women in a completely different way, One for Israel argues.

In the groups series that answers Rabbinic objections, one video made national headlines and caused a firestorm in Israel, which resulted in one religious lawmaker resigning from the Knesset.

Some of the language the rabbis use is offensive and is NSFW. Some of the quotes the group exposes in the video are:

often rude, nauseating and humiliating and some even encourage violence against women! THANK GOD not all Rabbis are like this! And thankfully not all rabbis take the oral law seriously. Also its true that in some sections of the Talmud you can even find a few positive statements about the women but here we would like to present the overwhelming weight and the heart of the rabbinic theory regarding the status of women and the exclusion of women.

Some of the quotes from Rabbis and the Talmud are explicit and disturbing, and the episode below is not intended for children.

The group published statements of rabbis who spit on women, push them to the back of the bus, and make the following claims:

Rabbi Maimonides position on men having sex with baby girls is not that different from Irans former supreme leader, Ayatollah RuhollahKhomeini: Its considered less despicable if the girl is under three-years-old.

A three year old plus one day is sanctified for intercourse (in marriage) because the girls body heals. Intercourse with a girl younger than three isnt considered intercourse, according to Rabbi Avrahim Stavi. If she is younger than three, both are exempt from punishment for intercourse did not occur, according to the Talmud.

When accused of lying about these quotes, the group posted videos of the rabbis making the statements. The rabbis claims are described and translated into English:

Heres an explanation of what happened, and more information about the organization:

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One for Israel exposes abusive teachings of rabbis, explains that Jesus loves and esteems women [videos] - Patheos

Redeeming Relevance: When Moshe Threw a Book Across the Classroom – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

At the end of Moshes introductory oration in Devarim, something very strange happens. He performs the commandment of designating the three cities of refuge for manslaughterers on the eastern side of the Jordan.

This is strange for a number of reasons. First in spite of the truly nice teaching of doing something good even if you cant finish it the designation of these cities was only tentative, until the other three could be designated on the western side. Secondly, why now? Moshe received the commandment before he started his speech and presumably even before his discussion with Menashes tribal leaders about inheritance at the end of the Book of Bemidbar. If he was really so eager to grab up the commandment as soon as possible, why did he wait until now? Moreover, by giving such an honor to the eastern side of the Jordan which was not on par with the land God had chosen to give the Jews was he not perpetrating a slight to the full-fledged Land of Israel?

Using my experience as a teacher and lecturer, I have a suggestion as to what happened: Though I generally have a good rapport with my listeners, there have been a few times that even though I was saying something of extreme importance, my listeners did not seem overly impressed. At such times, I have to admit the temptation to throw a book across the room, to shake the group out of its stupor. Perhaps this is essentially what happened to Moshe here.

Let me explain. Most of Devarim is Moshes series of parting lectures to the Jewish people. Two things about them are clearly felt the first is that they are long, often abstract and sometimes even appear repetitive; and the second is that Moshe accordingly uses diverse tactics to keep the Jews listening. But in this case, it was not enough to just tell a story or give an illustration. Apparently, the situation required something more drastic like throwing a book across the room! Not out of anger, but because he felt he had to do something to get the Jews to truly focus on what he was saying.

You may wonder what is so dramatic about Moshes act here. While it may not be immediately obvious to us, I think it was obvious to Moshes listeners just as it would be to the rabbis many hundreds of years later: I believe that the Jews of the time all understood what is pointed out in the Talmud (Makkot 9b-10a), that since the three cities Moshe separated were to serve about 20 percent of the tribes, they were completely out of proportion (as the other 80 percent would also only have three such cities). The Talmud explains that this is because violence was much more common on the eastern side of the Jordan.

Of course, the Talmuds rabbis could look at the historical record to make its observation, whereas the Jews in front of Moshe could only surmise that this would be the case. But it was an easy surmise aimed at a target with which Moshe apparently had some unfinished business. When the tribes of Reuven and Gad had requested to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan, Moshe goes into one of his most powerful rebukes. And even when they give him all sorts of assurances that they would help the other tribes conquer the original Land of Israel, Moshe expresses continued doubts.

As the rabbis also point out, Moshes concerns about these tribes were borne out. While they did help in the conquest, their relatively lackluster moral behavior after that gave them the dubious honor of being the first tribes sent into exile. Moshe foresaw this, because he knew that it could only have been a tepid level of commitment to God and His Torah that could have brought so great a concern about their property as to seek out better land for their livestock. If they may have been too far gone on such a trajectory, it did not stop Moshe from holding them up as an example of what would happen to the rest of the Jews if they did not start paying more attention. That is to say, listen or end up like these two tribes which Moshe had already compared to the nefarious spies. Right now!

When Moshe was giving his speech, we do not read how the Jews responded. Still, here was an old leader making a long speech to a new generation impatient to get to the other side of the Jordan. In other words, the deck was stacked against him. And yet Moshe had some pretty important things to say, the bottom line of which was, Dont be tepid about the Torah!

If the class is falling asleep, the teacher needs to take drastic action. When Moshe divided the cities, that is apparently exactly what he did.

And dont forget to listen to my related podcast, Janis Joplin, Bari Weiss and Moshe Rabbenu?

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Redeeming Relevance: When Moshe Threw a Book Across the Classroom - The Jewish Press - JewishPress.com

The Real Reason the Beit HaMikdash Was Destroyed – The Jewish Voice

By: Ariel Natan Pasko

Any generation in which the Beit HaMikdash [the Temple] was not rebuilt in their days, its considered as if they destroyed it, (Talmud Yerushalmi Yoma 5a).

As we enter the Nine Days, before the fast of Tisha BAv, commemorating both Temples destructions, we need to investigate deeper into this situation.

If were responsible, we need to ask, whats the real reason the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, why it hasnt been rebuilt and, how can we fix it?

Theyre hard questions to deal with, and even tougher answers, but if we (the Jewish people), want Geulah Shleima, complete redemption, the total truth must be confronted, and the real reason must be rectified.

To do the Tikkun (to fix, heal, repair) the sins of our forefathers and foremothers, we must know precisely, not just in a general way, exactly how they damaged their relationship with HaShem (the God of Israel).

What exactly caused the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, Jerusalem, and the long exile of the Jewish people?

The rabbis in the Talmud Bavli ask, Due to what reason was the First Temple destroyed? [And answer] It was destroyed due to the fact that there were three things that existed [were out of control] during the First Temple era: Idol worship, forbidden sexual relations, and bloodshed, (Yoma 9b)

Then the rabbis of the Talmud ask, But why was the second Sanctuary destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah study, Mitzvot, the [observance of] precepts, and the practice of charity and kindness?

They answer, Because there was Sinat Chinam, wanton hatred without cause. That teaches you that groundless hatred is considered equivalent to the three grave sins of idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed together, (Talmud Bavli 9b).

Then we are taught by the rabbis, that the Sinat Chinam was, brought on by the Lashon HaRa, slander of Jews by other Jews, that actually caused the destruction of the Second Temple, and relate the story of Kamtza and bar Kamtza. (Talmud Bavli, Gittin 55b56a).

Thats what were taught every year, senseless hatred and slander, caused the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple

But what caused the Lashon HaRa and wanton hatred?

There are many, many Shmirat HaLashon (be careful with your speech) groups operating around the Jewish world today. Many, many articles and books have been written, audios and videos made, since the big push of the Chafetz Chaim, almost 150 years ago, which put Shmirat HaLashon on the Jewish radar. Sincere people, try to watch their words and speak positively. Many work on loving all Jews regardless of affiliation.

So, why havent the Jewish people fixed the sin yet? Why hasnt the Beit HaMikdash been rebuilt? Why hasnt Mashiach, the messiah come?

I believe its because weve been focusing too much on the Talmud of Galut (exile), the Talmud Bavlis explanation, and havent learned well enough, the Talmud of Geulah, the Talmud of Redemption, the Talmud Yerushalmi.

We begin with the Talmud Yerushalmi (Yoma 4a) which comes to the same conclusion about the destruction of the Second Temple as does the Talmud Bavli namely, that it was due to Sinat Chinam.

However, the Yerushalmi (Yoma 4b) whose text is identical till this point with the Bavli, adds three important words, that explain everything, what Sinat Chinam really came from. R. Yochanan ben Torta, adds, Ohavin et HaMamon, having too much of a lust for money.

The 18thcentury commentator, from Germany, Rabbi David ben Naphtali Frankel, (his Korban Edah, is like the Rashi on the Bavli), explains this further in his glosses to his Korban Edah, the Shirei Korban.

It comes to teach, that their love for money, led to being jealous of each other, it wasnt that they lusted for money to buy necessities for themselves, and, they were careful to give their tithes [charity] etcBut, they lusted for the money [possessions] of their friends, and this is what led to the jelousy and senseless hatred.

It wasnt a lust for money per se, as anti-Semites have accused Jews of historically, but they were obsessive,in whats commonly called today keeping up with the Joneses.

Simply put, they broke the Tenth Commandment, as stated in Parshat Yitro, at Mount Sinai, You shall not covet your neighbors house. You shall not covet your neighbors wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or whatever belongs to your neighbor, (Exodus 20:14).

Then repeated by Moses, in the upcoming Parsha, Vaetchanan, And you shall not covet your neighbors wife, nor shall you desire your neighbors house, his field, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor, (Deuteronomy 5:18).

There you have it, the real reason for the Beit HaMikdashs destruction and why it hasnt yet been rebuilt.Instead of being joyful, about what they had received from HaShem, they wanted more, until it led to jelousy and hatred.

Are we any better today?

Talking about Lashon HaRa and Sinat Chinam out of context, doesnt help us repair the sin. We need laser beam focus on the real reason.

Modern marketing and advertisings main goal is stimulating the feeling of lack in people. Two minutes earlier, someonedidnt feel anything missing in their life, and now they do.

And, what about when the neighbor rolls up in a new car How do you feel?

Now that you know the cold hard truth; in a nutshell, beware of modern advertisings influence and the values of international consumer culture today, which leads to, if unchecked, covetousness, jelousy, dissatisfaction, Lashon HaRa, and finally Sinat Chinam

Maybe, if we learn the lesson quickly enough, God-willing, instead of fasting for Tisha BAv (the 9thof Av) this year, well be too busy, rebuilding the Beit HaMikdash instead.

Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Masters Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko.

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The Real Reason the Beit HaMikdash Was Destroyed - The Jewish Voice

What Is the Talmud? | My Jewish Learning

Talmud (literally, study) is the generic term for the documents that comment and expand upon the Mishnah (repeating), the first work of rabbinic law, published around the year 200 CE by Rabbi Judah the Patriarch in the land of Israel.

Although Talmud is largely about law, it should not be confused with either codes of law or with a commentary on the legal sections of the Torah. Due to its spare and laconic style, the Talmud is studied, not read. The difficulty of the intergenerational text has necessitated and fostered the development of an institutional and communal structure that supported the learning of Talmud and the establishment of special schools where each generation is apprenticed into its study by the previous generation.

Want to learn Talmud with us? Daf Yomi is a program of reading the entire Talmud one day at a time, and My Jewish Learning is offering a daily dose of Talmud in your inbox. Sign up for it here!

In the second century, Rabbi Judah the Patriarch published a document in six primary sections, or orders, dealing with agriculture, sacred times, women and personal status, damages, holy things, and purity laws. By carefully laying out different opinions concerning Jewish law, the Mishnah presents itself more as a case book of law. While the Mishnah preserved the teachings of earlier rabbis, it also shows the signs of a unified editing. Part of that editing process included selecting materials; many of the traditions that did not make it into the Mishnah were collected in a companion volume called the Tosefta (appendix, or supplement).

After the publication of the Mishnah, the sages of Israel, both in the land of Israel, and in the largest diaspora community of Babylonia (modern day Iraq), began to study the both the Mishnah and the traditional teachings. Their work consisted largely of working out the Mishnahs inner logic, trying to extract legal principles from the specific statements of case law, searching out the derivations of the legal statements from Scripture, and relating statements found in the Mishnah to traditions that were left out. Each community produced its own Gemara which have been preserved as two different multi-volume sets: the Talmud Yerushalmi includes the Mishnah and the Gemara produced by the sages of the Land of Israel, and the Talmud Bavli includes the Mishnah and the Gemara of the Babylonian Jewish sages.

In some ways, the Talmud was never completed; the Tosafist commentators during the middle ages extended to the whole of the Gemara the same kinds of analysis that the sages of the Gemara had performed upon the Mishnah. Other commentators, like Rashi, sought to explain the text in a sequential manner.

Many modern scholars have begun applying the tools of literary and linguistic analysis to the text of the Talmud. Some have used these tools to focus on the underlying uniformity and consistency of the text, while others have done sophisticated analysis of the sources and alleged history of the text. Still others have examined the literary artistry of the Talmud. Many scholars have, with varying degrees of success, tried to use the Talmud as a source for historical inquiry.

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What Is the Talmud? | My Jewish Learning

What is the Talmud? Biblical Meaning & Definition


tal'-mud (talmudh):





1. Zera`im, "Seeds"

2. Mo`edh, "Feasts"

3. Nashim, "Women"

4. Neziqin, "Damages"

5. Kodhashim, "Sacred Things"

6. Teharoth, "Clean Things"




1. Treatises after the 4th Cedher

2. Seven Little Treatises


The present writer is, for brevity's sake, under necessity to refer to his Einleitung in den Talmud, 4th edition, Leipzig, 1908. It is quoted here as Introduction.

There are very few books which are mentioned so often and yet are so little known as the Talmud. It is perhaps true that nobody can now be found, who, as did the Capuchin monk Henricus Seynensis, thinks that "Talmud" is the name of a rabbi. Yet a great deal of ignorance on this subject still prevails in many circles. Many are afraid to inform themselves, as this may be too difficult or too tedious; others (the anti-Semites) do not want correct information to be spread on this subject, because this would interfere seriously with their use of the Talmud as a means for their agitation against the Jews.

I. Preliminary Remarks and Verbal Explanations.

(1) Mishnah, "the oral doctrine and the study of it" (from shanah, "to repeat," "to learn," "to teach"), especially

(a) the whole of the oral law which had come into existence up to the end of the 2nd century AD;

(b) the whole of the teaching of one of the rabbis living during the first two centuries AD (tanna', plural tanna'im);

(c) a single tenet;

(d) a collection of such tenets;

(e) above all, the collection made by Rabbi Jehudah (or Judah) ha-Nasi'.

(2) Gemara', "the matter that is leaned" (from gemar, "to accomplish," "to learn"), denotes since the 9th century the collection of the discussions of the Amoraim, i.e. of the rabbis teaching from about 200 to 500 AD.

(3) Talmudh, "the studying" or "the teaching," was in older times used for the discussions of the Amoraim; now it means the Mishna with the discussions thereupon.

(4) Halakhah (from halakh, "to go"):

(a) the life as far as it is ruled by the Law; (b) a statutory precept.

(5) Haggadhah (from higgidh, "to tell"), the non-halakhic exegesis.

II. Importance of the Talmud.

Commonly the Talmud is declared to be the Jewish code of Law. But this is not the case, even for the traditional or "orthodox" Jews. Really the Talmud is the source whence the Jewish Law is to be derived. Whosoever wants to show what the Jewish Law says about a certain case (point, question) has to compare at first the Shulchan `arukh with its commentary, then the other codices (Maimonides, Alphasi, etc.) and the Responsa, and finally the Talmudic discussions; but he is not allowed to give a decisive sentence on the authority of the Talmud alone (see Intro, 116, 117; David Hoffmann, Der Schulchan-Aruch, 2nd edition, Berlin, 1894, 38, 39). On the other hand, no decision is valid if it is against the yield of the Talmudic discussion. The liberal (Reformed) Jews say that the Talmud, though it is interesting and, as a Jewish work of antiquity, ever venerable, has in itself no authority for faith and life.

For both Christians and Jews the Talmud is of value for the following reasons:

(1) on account of the language, Hebrew being used in many parts of the Talmud (especially in Haggadic pieces), Palestinian Aramaic in the Palestinian Talmud, Eastern Aramaic in the Babylonian Talmud (compare "Literature," (7), below). The Talmud also contains words of Babylonian and Persian origin;

(2) for folklore, history, geography, natural and medical science, jurisprudence, archaeology and the understanding of the Old Testament (see "Literature," (6), below, and Introduction, 159-75). For Christians especially the Talmud contains very much which may help the understanding of the New Testament (see "Literature," (12), below).

III. The Traditional Law until the Composition of the Mishna.

The Law found in the Torah of Moses was the only written law which the Jews possessed after their return from the Babylonian exile. This law was neither complete nor sufficient for all times. On account of the ever-changing conditions of life new ordinances became necessary. Who made these we do not know. An authority to do this must have existed; but the claim made by many that after the days of Ezra there existed a college of 120 men called the "Great Synagogue" cannot be proved. Entirely untenable also is the claim of the traditionally orthodox Jews, that ever since the days of Moses there had been in existence, side by side with the written Law, also an oral Law, with all necessary explanations and supplements to the written Law.

What was added to the Pentateuchal Torah was for a long time handed down orally, as can be plainly seen from Josephus and Philo. The increase of such material made it necessary to arrange it. An arrangement according to subject-matter can be traced back to the 1st century AD; very old, perhaps even older, is also the formal adjustment of this material to the Pentateuchal Law, the form of Exegesis (Midrash). Compare Introduction, 19-21.

A comprehensive collection of traditional laws was made by Rabbi Aqiba circa 110-35 AD, if not by an earlier scholar. His work formed the basis of that of Rabbi Me'ir, and this again was the basis of the edition of the Mishna by Rabbi Jehudah ha-Nasi'. In this Mishna, the Mishna paragraph excellence, the anonymous portions generally, although not always, reproduce the views of Rabbi Me'ir.


The predecessors Rabbi (as R. Jehudah ha-Nasi', the "prince" or the "saint," is usually called), as far as we know, did not put into written form their collections; indeed it has been denied by many, especially by German and French rabbis of the Middle Ages, that Rabbi put into written form the Mishna which he edited. Probably the fact of the matter is that the traditional Law was not allowed to be used in written form for the purposes of instruction and in decisions on matters of the Law, but that written collections of a private character, collections of notes, to use a modern term, existed already at an early period (see Intro, 10).

IV. Division and Contents of the Mishna (and the Talmud).

The Mishna (as also the Talmud) is divided into six "orders" (cedharim) or chief parts, the names of which indicate their chief contents, namely, Zera`im, Agriculture; Moe`dh, Feasts; Nashim, Women; Neziqin, Civil and Criminal Law; Qodhashim, Sacrifices; Teharoth, Unclean Things and Their Purification.

The "orders" are divided into tracts (maccekheth, plural maccikhtoth), now 63, and these again into chapters (pereq, plural peraqim), and these again into paragraphs (mishnayoth). It is Customary to cite the Mishna according to tract chapter and paragraph, e.g. Sanh. (Sanhedhrin) x.1. The Babylonian Talmud is cited according to tract and page, e.g. (Babylonian Talmud) Shabbath 30b; in citing the Palestinian Talmud the number of the chapter is also usually given, e.g. (Palestinian Talmud) Shabbath vi.8d (in most of the editions of the Palestinian Talmud each page has two columns, the sheet accordingly has four).

1. Zera`im, "Seeds":

(1) Berakhoth, "Benedictions":

"Hear, O Israel" (Deuteronomy 6:4, shema`); the 18 benedictions, grace at meals, and other prayers.

(2) Pe'ah, "Corner" of the field (Leviticus 19:9; Deuteronomy 24:19).

(3) Dema'i, "Doubtful" fruits (grain, etc.) of which it is uncertain whether the duty for the priests and, in the fixed years, the 2nd tithe have been paid.

(4) Kil'ayim, "Heterogeneous," two kinds, forbidden mixtures (Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9).

(5) Shebhi`ith, "Seventh Year," Sabbatical year (Exodus 23:11; Leviticus 25:1); Shemiqqah (Deuteronomy 15:1).

(6) Terumoth, "Heave Offerings" for the priests (Numbers 18:8; Deuteronomy 18:4).

(7) Ma`aseroth or Ma`aser ri'shon, "First Tithe" (Numbers 18:21).

(8) Ma`aser sheni, "Second Tithe" (Deuteronomy 14:22).

(9) Challah, (offering of a part of the) "Dough" (Numbers 15:18).

(10) `Orlah, "Foreskin" of fruit trees during the first three years (Leviticus 19:23).

(11) Bikkurim, "First-Fruits" (Deuteronomy 26:1; Exodus 23:19).

2. Mo`edh, "Feasts":

(1) Shabbath (Exodus 20:10; 23:12; Deuteronomy 5:14).

(2) `Erubhin, "Mixtures," i.e. ideal combination of localities with the purpose of facilitating the observance of the Sabbatical laws.

(3) Pesachim, "Passover" (Exodus 12; Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 28:16; Deuteronomy 16:1); Numbers 9, the Second Passover (Numbers 9:10).

(4) Sheqalim, "Shekels" for the Temple (compare Nehemiah 10:33; Exodus 30:12).

(5) Yoma', "The Day" of Atonement (Leviticus 16).

(6) Cukkah, "Booth," Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34; Numbers 29:12; Deuteronomy 16:13).

(7) Betsah, "Egg" (first word of the treatise) or Yom Tobh, "Feast," on the difference between the Sabbath and festivals (compare Exodus 12:10).

(8) Ro'sh ha-shanah, "New Year," first day of the month Tishri (Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1).

(9) Ta`anith, "Fasting."

(10) Meghillah, "The Roll" of Esther, Purim (Esther 9:28).

(11) Mo`edh qatan, "Minor Feast," or Mashqin, "They irrigate" (first word of the treatise), the days between the first day and the last day of the feast of Passover, and likewise of Tabernacles.

(12) Chaghighah, "Feast Offering," statutes relating to the three feasts of pilgrimage (Passover, Weeks, Tabernacles); compare Deuteronomy 16:16 f.

3. Nashim, "Women":

(1) Yebhamoth, "Sisters-in-Law" (perhaps better, Yebhamuth, Levirate marriage; Deuteronomy 25:5; compare Ruth 4:5; Matthew 22:24).

(2) Kethubhoth, "Marriage Deeds."

(3) Nedharim, "Vows," and their annulment (Numbers 30).

(4) Nazir, "Nazirite" (Numbers 6).

(5) Gittin, "Letters of Divorce" (Deuteronomy 24:1; compare Matthew 5:31).

(6) Cotah, "The Suspected Woman" (Numbers 5:11).

(7) Qiddushin, "Betrothals."

4. Nezikin, "Damages":

(1) (2) and (3) Babha' qamma', Babha' metsi`a', Babha' bathra', "The First Gate," "The Second Gate," "The Last Gate," were in ancient times only one treatise called Neziqin:

(a) Damages and injuries and the responsibility; (b) and (c) right of possession.

(4) and (5) Sanhedhrin, "Court of Justice," and Makkoth "Stripes" (Deuteronomy 25:1; compare 1Corinthians 11:24). In ancient times only one treatise; criminal law and criminal proceedings.

(6) Shebhu`oth, "Oaths" (Leviticus 5:1).

(7) `Edhuyoth, "Attestations" of later teachers as to the opinions of former authorities.

(8) `Abhodhah zarah, "Idolatry," commerce and intercourse with idolaters.

(9) 'Abhoth, (sayings of the) "Fathers"; sayings of the Tanna'im.

(10) Horayoth, (erroneous) "Decisions," and the sin offering to be brought in such a case (Leviticus 4:13).

5. Qodhashim, "Sacred Things":

(1) Zebhahim, "Sacrifices" (Le 1).

(2) Menachoth, "Meal Offerings" (Leviticus 2:5,11; 6:7; Numbers 5:15, etc.).

(3) Chullin, "Common Things," things non-sacred; slaughtering of animals and birds for ordinary use.

(4) Bekhoroth, "The Firstborn" (Exodus 13:2,12; Leviticus 27:26,32; Numbers 8:6, etc.).

(5) `Arakhin, "Estimates," "Valuations" of persons and things dedicated to God (Leviticus 27:2).

(6) Temurah, "Substitution" of a common (non-sacred) thing for a sacred one (compare Leviticus 27:10,33).

(7) Kerithoth, "Excisions," the punishment of being cut off from Israel (Genesis 17:14; Exodus 12:15, etc.).

(8) Me`ilah, "Unfaithfulness," as to sacred things, embezzlement (Numbers 5:6; Leviticus 5:15).

(9) Tamidh, "The Daily Morning and Evening Sacrifice" (Ex 29:38; Nu 38:3).

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What is the Talmud? Biblical Meaning & Definition

Talmud’s solution to the coronavirus dilemma: Save lives, or the economy? – Haaretz

Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate in economics, recently wrote that President Donald Trumps policy is Lets die for the Dow! Not long afterward, when Columbia University researchers estimated that an earlier lockdown would have saved the lives of 36,000 people, Krugman criticized the administration for its dumb decision to move to open up for business as usual which was based on cost-benefit considerations.

Krugman is not suggesting that saving lives must always be the top priority. In his view, it is even silly to say that we cant put a price on human life. Whats absurd about Trumps approach, he believes, lies in the presidents refusal to save lives even when the cost-benefit calculation tilts clearly in the direction of life. He notes that economists estimate the value of a statistical life at $10 million, so the economic calculation should have directed that lives be saved.

Krugman is a utilitarian. The utilitarian approach argues that moral action accords the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. The moral principle that derives from this is the maximalization of happiness. The mainstream economists have adopted utilitarian theory. Another economics Nobel laureate, Kenneth Arrow, has criticized those colleagues for adopting it as an exclusive philosophy.

Utilitarianism in the service of economics has undergone a number of vulgarizations, such as a transition to monetary indices and an aspiration to maximize the national interest, instead of taking a universal human approach. The height of utilitarianism lies in the economic approach to tort law, which recommends coming to terms with damage to body and life, arguing that the goal is not to minimize damages but to arrive at an optimal number of damages.

I would like to point out two additional approaches to this moral dispute. The first is that of philosopher Karl Popper: Instead of asking how to maximize happiness, one can ask how to minimize suffering. Poppers students, in looking at the coronavirus, will therefore seek to minimize both the physical, bodily suffering and the economic suffering that is, mainly the suffering of the individuals who have been afflicted by the virus and its economical consequences.

The second talmudic approach is the polar opposite of Trumps preferring the Dow to human life. It is also very different from the utilitarian-economic approach. According to the Talmud, pikuah nefesh regard for human life must override matters of Mammon. Setting forth the laws of damages, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 74a) states: Let his money not be dearer to him than his body.

Exegetes of the Talmud argued over how to interpret the discussion about whether one is permitted to save oneself by using another persons money. The Tosafists 2nd century C.E. commentators on the Talmud note that its clear that a person is permitted to save his life with anothers money, as theft is not one of the three violations of religious law in which a Jew must give his own life rather than commit the violation (yehareg veal yaavor). The question is only whether he is required to compensate the other.

Of course, contradictions can arise between several situations involving pikuah nefesh. The talmudic approach is that the saving of a close life takes priority over the saving of a distant life. That is a sensible demand: It is difficult to know what will lead to what, and therefore it is important to avert danger to life that is immediate known in legal terminology as clear and present danger.

Its true that the methods being used to cope with the coronavirus epidemic can break people economically. But citizens who suffer financial losses as a result of the publics self-defense measures can be compensated.

In terms of the competition between Trumps approach and the utilitarian approach, we should also include in the discussion the talmudic approach of choose life. Unlike Krugman and other economists who aspire to come up with an arithmetic formula to solve this problem, the Talmud will not quantify life in terms of money. It perhaps rejects certain approaches such as those that do not respect human life sufficiently but leaves the discussion open.

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At the start of the coronavirus crisis, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said that it is better to die on your feet than on your knees. For the macho dictator, caution means a loss of honor, whereas for the Talmud, the choice of life is honor itself.

The Talmud contains brilliant advice about economics. The most important piece of advice is to beware of the human tendency to sometimes prefer money over life and our decision makers should be guided by that humanistic outlook.

The approach favored by Trump and Lukashenko, who have scorned human life, is the outright opposite of the Talmuds approach as opposed to the policy followed by Sweden and Britain, which initially tried to carry on as usual, ostensibly to achieve herd immunity. Surprisingly, Swedens chief epidemiologist said recently that this was not the goal, that the policy had been aimed only at preventing the collapse of hospitals. The Swedes viewed lockdown as an unrealistic policy, because it cannot be extended indefinitely. Strict lockdowns may temporarily contain the virus but wont prevent it from returning, whereas people may suffer and die just from sheer seclusion. The Swedes were not indifferent to human life, but gambled on a different way to protect people, drawing on medical experts. It seems that, for its part, Britain denied that it aimed to achieve herd immunity, even though its prime minister discussed that policy publicly.

The rule in Jewish tradition is that on medical questions, one asks the physicians, and if there is disagreement between them i.e., If, however, two doctors state that the patient must eat [on Yom Kippur], then even if a hundred doctors say that he does not have to eat, and even if the patient himself says that he does not have to eat, he should be given food regard for life is preferred (Shulhan Arukh, Chapter 618).

Its worth bearing that in mind when making decisions about the coronavirus pandemic, which is rife with conflicts between money and life.

Moreover, we need to beware of the influence of Trumpism on Israel, especially when we see Israel adopting a similar policy in other places in connection with the coronavirus crisis (such as by transferring money from the general public to the stockholders). The physicians who specialize in dealing with COVID-19 should be the ones to decide factually, on the ground, what the dangers are and what measures are needed to mitigate them. Society, for its part, needs to be ready to pay with money in order to save lives and not have people die for the stock market. In the long term, societies that respect human life are those where the quality of life will soar.

Dr. Uri Weiss, a scholar of law, economics and rationality, is a fellow of the Polonsky Academy at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

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Talmud's solution to the coronavirus dilemma: Save lives, or the economy? - Haaretz

Talmud and Midrash | Judaism | Britannica

Talmud and Midrash, commentative and interpretative writings that hold a place in the Jewish religious tradition second only to the Bible (Old Testament).

The Hebrew term Talmud (study or learning) commonly refers to a compilation of ancient teachings regarded as sacred and normative by Jews from the time it was compiled until modern times and still so regarded by traditional religious Jews. In its broadest sense, the Talmud is a set of books consisting of the Mishna (repeated study), the Gemara (completion), and certain auxiliary materials. The Mishna is a collection of originally oral laws supplementing scriptural laws. The Gemara is a collection of commentaries on and elaborations of the Mishna, which in the Talmud is reproduced in juxtaposition to the Gemara. For present-day scholarship, however, Talmud in the precise sense refers only to the materials customarily called Gemaraan Aramaic term prevalent in medieval rabbinic literature that was used by the church censor to replace the term Talmud within the Talmudic discourse in the Basel edition of the Talmud, published 157881. This practice continued in all later editions.

The term Midrash (exposition or investigation; plural, Midrashim) is also used in two senses. On the one hand, it refers to a mode of biblical interpretation prominent in the Talmudic literature; on the other, it refers to a separate body of commentaries on Scripture using this interpretative mode.

Despite the central place of the Talmud in traditional Jewish life and thought, significant Jewish groups and individuals have opposed it vigorously. The Karaite sect in Babylonia, beginning in the 8th century, refuted the oral tradition and denounced the Talmud as a rabbinic fabrication. Medieval Jewish mystics declared the Talmud a mere shell covering the concealed meaning of the written Torah, and heretical messianic sects in the 17th and 18th centuries totally rejected it. The decisive blow to Talmudic authority came in the 18th and 19th centuries when the Haskala (the Jewish Enlightenment movement) and its aftermath, Reform Judaism, secularized Jewish life and, in doing so, shattered the Talmudic wall that had surrounded the Jews. Thereafter, modernized Jews usually rejected the Talmud as a medieval anachronism, denouncing it as legalistic, casuistic, devitalized, and unspiritual.

There is also a long-standing anti-Talmudic tradition among Christians. The Talmud was frequently attacked by the church, particularly during the Middle Ages, and accused of falsifying biblical meaning, thus preventing Jews from becoming Christians. The church held that the Talmud contained blasphemous remarks against Jesus and Christianity and that it preached moral and social bias toward non-Jews. On numerous occasions the Talmud was publicly burned, and permanent Talmudic censorship was established.

On the other hand, since the Renaissance there has been a positive response and great interest in rabbinic literature by eminent non-Jewish scholars, writers, and thinkers in the West. As a result, rabbinic ideas, images, and lore, embodied in the Talmud, have permeated Western thought and culture.

The Talmud is first and foremost a legal compilation. At the same time it contains materials that encompass virtually the entire scope of subject matter explored in antiquity. Included are topics as diverse as agriculture, architecture, astrology, astronomy, dream interpretation, ethics, fables, folklore, geography, history, legend, magic, mathematics, medicine, metaphysics, natural sciences, proverbs, theology, and theosophy.

This encyclopaedic array is presented in a unique dialectic style that faithfully reflects the spirit of free give-and-take prevalent in the Talmudic academies, where study was focussed upon a Talmudic text. All present participated in an effort to exhaust the meaning and ramifications of the text, debating and arguing together. The mention of a name, situation, or idea often led to the introduction of a story or legend that lightened the mood of a complex argument and carried discussion further.

This text-centred approach profoundly affected the thinking and literary style of the rabbis. Study became synonymous with active interpretation rather than with passive absorption. Thinking was stimulated by textual examination. Even original ideas were expressed in the form of textual interpretations.

The subject matter of the oral Torah is classified according to its content into Halakha and Haggada and according to its literary form into Midrash and Mishna. Halakha (law) deals with the legal, ritual, and doctrinal parts of Scripture, showing how the laws of the written Torah should be applied in life. Haggada (narrative) expounds on the nonlegal parts of Scripture, illustrating biblical narrative, supplementing its stories, and exploring its ideas. The term Midrash denotes the exegetical method by which the oral tradition interprets and elaborates scriptural text. It refers also to the large collections of Halakhic and Haggadic materials that take the form of a running commentary on the Bible and that were deduced from Scripture by this exegetical method. In short, it also refers to a body of writings. Mishna is the comprehensive compendium that presents the legal content of the oral tradition independently of scriptural text.

Midrash was initially a philological method of interpreting the literal meaning of biblical texts. In time it developed into a sophisticated interpretive system that reconciled apparent biblical contradictions, established the scriptural basis of new laws, and enriched biblical content with new meaning. Midrashic creativity reached its peak in the schools of Rabbi Ishmael and Akiba, where two different hermeneutic methods were applied. The first was primarily logically oriented, making inferences based upon similarity of content and analogy. The second rested largely upon textual scrutiny, assuming that words and letters that seem superfluous teach something not openly stated in the text.

The Talmud (i.e., the Gemara) quotes abundantly from all Midrashic collections and concurrently uses all rules employed by both the logical and textual schools; moreover, the Talmuds interpretation of Mishna is itself an adaptation of the Midrashic method. The Talmud treats the Mishna in the same way that Midrash treats Scripture. Contradictions are explained through reinterpretation. New problems are solved logically by analogy or textually by careful scrutiny of verbal superfluity.

The strong involvement with hermeneutic exegesisinterpretation according to systematic rules or principleshelped develop the analytic skill and inductive reasoning of the rabbis but inhibited the growth of independent abstract thinking. Bound to a text, they never attempted to formulate their ideas into the type of unified system characteristic of Greek philosophy. Unlike the philosophers, they approached the abstract only by way of the concrete. Events or texts stimulated them to form concepts. These concepts were not defined but, once brought to life, continued to grow and change meaning with usage and in different contexts. This process of conceptual development has been described by some as organic thinking. Others use this term in a wider sense, pointing out that, although rabbinic concepts are not hierarchically ordered, they have a pattern-like organic coherence. The meaning of each concept is dependent upon the total pattern of concepts, for the idea content of each grows richer as it interweaves with the others.

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Talmud and Midrash | Judaism | Britannica

A burning house – A universal lesson | Shahar Azani | The Blogs – The Times of Israel

This week we commemorateTisha BAv, the annual day of fasting when we mourn the calamities which had befallen the Jewish people over the generations. One major catastrophe we lament for, deeply seared into our collective psyche, is the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. by legions of the Roman Empire. The smoke billowing off the Temple marked the beginning of two thousand years of exile, out of which we only recently emerged, with the re-establishment of the Jewish State in 1948.

Tisha BAv provides us with an opportunity to revisit one of the most famous stories in the Jewish tradition, attached to the destruction of the Temple, that ofKamtza and Bar-Kamtza,told in the BabylonianTalmud,TractateGittin(pages 55b-56a).

Because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, Jerusalem was destroyed,the Talmud tells usand continues: A certain man in Jerusalem had a friend namedKamtzaand an enemy calledBar-Kamtza. He once made a party and said to his servant, Go and bring Kamtza. However, instead of invitingKamtza, the man went and brought the hosts arch-rival,Bar-Kamtza. When the host noticed his arch-rival at the event, he turned to him and exclaimed:what are you doing here? Get out!. Bar-Kamtzalooked around and, fearing the immense embarrassment of his banishment from the party, implored the host and offered to pay. First, he offered to pay for whatever he consumed at the party, then he offered to pay for half the cost of the party, and eventually even proposed to cover the hosts ENTIRE expense. Yet, the host adamantly refused, grabbed him by the arm and threwBar-Kamtzaout, in front of everyone. According to tradition,Bar-Kamtzawas so upset with the sages, who sat at the event, noticed the entire affair and did nothing, that he went and incited the Romans against Jerusalem, thus bringing about its destruction.

Like anything Jewish, and especially Talmudic, there are so many interpretations and directions to this story. However, what remains with me is the simplest of outlooks and most important of lessons the notion ofpersonal responsibility to national catastrophes.What we do as individuals in our personal lives has a direct impact on us as a whole. The way we behave towards one another counts, how we carry ourselves on social media counts. This lesson is so fundamental, so basic, it too often goes unnoticed, almost taken for granted. Year in and year out, it seems we are in constant need of being reminded of it. Hatred barricades us with walls, surrounds us with shadows and fears, prevents us from looking at one another in the eye. It guarantees others are forever remote, distant, not like us. It is the engine of estrangement, in an age when positive proximity is whats needed if we are ever to progress, evolve and develop.

This is a lesson that is not unique to the Jewish people, whose power and value are universal, hence its strength. In July 2007, I stood on stage at the center of a Nairobi megachurch. The topic was ISRAEL, but the lesson was personal. A few months before, Kenya experienced a horrible wave of internal struggle following controversial elections. The violence that killed and displaced many in that peaceful country was mainly between Kenyans of different tribes. It was an inferno of incitement and hatred, out of which the country emerged slowly, painstakingly, yet successfully, carrying with it severe wounds both physical and mental. Standing before the crowd on that sunny Sunday noon, dust filled the air as thousands of hopeful eyes were eager to hear a message from Israel. With a translator by my side on stage, I chose to read them the Talmudic story above, ofKamtza and Bar-Kamtza(Hebrew translated to English translated to Kiswahili if youre curious) and implored: be kind to one another, for you alone hold the key for a better future. The message resonated. It sunk, and so did the understanding that we are all one. We are all human, in our faults and merits, and a Jewish lesson of old resonated with Kenyan Christians in the heart of Nairobi thousands of years later.

So it could, and should, resonate today, in the streets of Israel, where demonstrators are marching every night. So it could, and should, resonate today in the beautiful streets of these United States of America, which have seen enough pain and anger.

We dont have to agree to understand we are one and the same, and our future is in our hands. No matter our views, heed the smoke and flames and remember the universal truth spelled in the Book of Genesis:

By the sweat of your brow, you will eat bread,until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken;for dust you are, and to dust, you will return.

Be good, people.

Speaker, Author, JBS Senior Vice President. Formerly Israel's Consul for Media Affairs in NY and diplomat at Israel's Foreign Ministry. Thankful for every day. Hopeful for the future.

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A burning house - A universal lesson | Shahar Azani | The Blogs - The Times of Israel

Love, community, mysticism: The intrigue and observance of Tu B’Av – thejewishchronicle.net

Tu BAv may not be as well-known as the fast day that immediately proceeds it Tisha BAv but theres more to this minor holiday than you might think.

Imbued with community, romance and a touch of mysticism, Tu BAv might just be the holiday needed in these days of COVID-19 anxiety, racial unrest and pre-election jitters.

To really understand what has come to be known as the Israeli Valentines Day, you must begin several days earlier on the Hebrew calendar, on Tisha BAv, according to Beth El Congregations Rabbi Alex Greenbaum.

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Tisha BAv is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar; Tu BAv is the happiest day of the year, said Greenbaum, noting that modern Judaism marks the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem on Tisha BAv as well as other bad things in Jewish history.

According to a midrash, Tisha BAv is the day that God told the Israelites they would be forced to wander the desert for 40 years and that the adult generation would perish without stepping foot in Israel. On Tisha BAv night, for the next 40 years, Moses commanded the people to dig their own graves and sleep in them. Every year, a number of Israelites died in those graves. On the 40th year, surprisingly, the remainder of that original adult generation did not die. Thinking they had erred in their calculation of the date, the Israelites repeated the process five more times until Tu BAv when they saw a full moon and knew they were correct in their calculations. The Israelites marked the occasion with a celebration.

The holiday of Tu BAv, or the 15th day of the month of Av, is one of the greatest holidays mentioned in the Talmud, explained Rabbi Henoch Rosenfeld of Chabad Young Professionals of Pittsburgh. As a matter of fact, the Talmud says that there is no greater festival for the Jewish people than the 15th of Av and, believe it or not, Yom Kippur.

Rosenfeld blames the lack of mention in the Torah for the obscurity of the holiday but notes there is definitely a unique spiritual energy to tap into on the 15th of Av.

During the Second Temple period, that energy was channeled beyond spiritual concerns as well.

All the young women of marriageable age would dress in white, Chabad of Squirrel Hill Co-Director Chani Altein explained. They would dress in white gowns so the boys wouldnt be able to recognize who was rich, who was poor, who had more material value, and they would dance in the fields. The young men would pick a woman and they would get married. It wouldnt fly today but it became a day for group weddings and a day of romance and love.

Tu BAv was also the day members of various Israeli tribes were permitted to marry one another, Altein explained. This was the day we could mingle and marry the men of any tribe. Dropping this ban helped create a sense of community.

While the modern celebration includes romance and community, Altein noted, throughout history there have been mystical events of God showing he still loved us.

One of those moments was during the battle of Betar, the last battle of the Bar Kochba rebellion. During the fighting, thousands of Jews were killed by the Romans, who would not allow the Jews to bury their dead. When the Jews finally were able to recover those killed, their bodies were still fresh and intact, they hadnt rotted, Altein said, despite a 15-year gap. The day of the miracle? The 15th of Av.

Rosenfeld pointed out that in more recent times, Tu BAv has become a day of community and celebration.

Its really the hope for redemption among the exile. Any time you have light in the darkness it causes the light to shine that much brighter. Tu BAv is joy among mourning. Traditionally, it has been celebrated by communities coming together. Its been associated with young people coming together.

In Pittsburgh, the young adults at Moishe House are marking the holiday by coming together (virtually) to read queer Jewish love poems and discuss what love means in the modern age.

Moishe House resident Moses* admitted that no one in the house knew about the holiday more than a month ago. He said it was while planning a Tisha BAv event when they came across this other holiday online. We were intrigued by it because none of us were aware of it. We thought it was a cool opportunity to share it with our community.

Love is a fun topic for people, he added.

Greenbaum pointed out that for centuries the holiday was observed only by skipping the tachanun prayer in morning services. It wasnt until modern Israel that people started to embrace it. Its become a Jewish Valentines Day, but I dont know if people are giving flowers to their spouses.

Raimy Rubin, who lives in Israel, noted that while Hallmark cards, chocolates and flowers dont yet mark the holiday in the Jewish state, over the last several years its been harder to get a restaurant reserved, especially at the nice restaurants.The holiday is a popular day for people to get engaged, added Rubin, manager of impact measurement for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. In fact, he proposed to his wife within a day of the holiday.

Despite COVID-19 forcing social distancing there are ways to celebrate the holiday, according to Rosenfeld.

I would say people can get together with a couple of friends in a safe manner and celebrate your Judaism, have a couple, three or four friends over on your deck, share some drinks, talk about what Judaism means to you, he said. Talk about why you are Jewish, why you are proud to be Jewish. And then when you all leave, dont just stop there, each of you pick up the phone and call a friend and share your conversation with them so that we can continue spreading that community warmth.

And, if you decide to make Tu BAv a night of romance, Altein pointed out that theres no social distancing required with your spouse. Make your own little romantic getaway in the backyard, carve some time out for each other. PJC

Moses last name was withheld by request.David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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Love, community, mysticism: The intrigue and observance of Tu B'Av - thejewishchronicle.net

In the Talmud, God admits Hes wrong. Theres a lesson there about free speech. – Forward

This article is part of a new series called On Persuasion. We asked thought leaders to consider what persuasion means to them. What works in terms of persuading people? Is it moot in 2020? What is the Jewish value of persuasion? Should we be opening our minds to other points of view, or closing them to dangerous ideas? Read all the pieces here.

Theres a famous story in the Talmud that I think about sometimes when people are discussing free speech, open debate, and who deserves to be considered an authority on a particular topic. As the story goes, the rabbis are debating a very technical and specialized question about whether or not a particular oven is susceptible to ritual impurity under the laws of kashrut. The majority of the rabbis conclude that the oven is impure, but Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus insists that it is pure, and he refuses to bend on the matter.

Joel Swanson | Artist: Noah Lubin

Insisting God agrees with him on this point of Jewish dietary law, Rabbi Eliezer says, If the halakhah [Jewish law] is in accordance with my opinion, this carob tree will prove it. The tree then rises into the air and flies away.

But the other rabbis insist that Jewish law is not determined based on carob trees, so Rabbi Eliezer reaches for another divine sign, and causes a stream of water to flow backwards. When that fails to convince, he makes the walls of the study hall tremble and fall down, and finally calls forth a voice from heaven itself, which asks the other rabbis, Why are you differing with Rabbi Eliezer, as the halakhah is in accordance with his opinion in every place that he expresses an opinion?

You would think that, in matters of Jewish law, this would be the ultimate trump card. After all, Rabbi Eliezer has the voice of heaven on his side, defending his interpretation of kosher laws. But the story does not end there.

Instead, the other rabbis cite Deuteronomy 30:12, which states that the Torah is not in heaven. Because the Torah is not in heaven, heavenly voices have no special authority to interpret it. As Rabbi Yirmiyah reminds Rabbi Eliezer, Since the Torah has already been given from Mount Sinai, we do not pay attention to heavenly voices.

Rabbi Eliezer may have heaven on his side, but it does not matter. The majority rabbinic ruling stands.

This is a pretty radical story from Jewish tradition. As scholar David Stern argues, it represents nothing less than effectively invoking Scripture against God.

Even more radical is Gods response: Far from being angry or upset that the rabbis have usurped heavenly authority over the Torah, God is amused. The story concludes by telling us that God listens to this rabbinic debate in heaven while smiling and laughing. My children have triumphed over Me; My children have triumphed over Me, God says.

I think of this Talmudic tale regularly when I think about free speech and persuasion as Jewish values. The story has been taken as the ultimate argument for pluralist debate in Jewish tradition, for establishing a culture of dialogue in which dissenters rights are treated respectfully, and an ideal deliberative culture is modeled.

The rabbis are so committed to the ideal of open debate, deliberation, and discussion that they hold this ideal to be more important even than listening to the voice of heaven. And the God of the Talmud cares so much about open debate that He approves of His people challenging His opinion, in His own voice.

As numerous scholars have pointed out, theres a lesson here about certitude and doubt. If even God is willing to be wrong, to be bested by rabbinic interpreters, then who are we to think that we possess the whole truth, and to be unwilling to listen to those who disagree with us?

The Talmud asks us to accept imperfection and uncertainty and to see the process of debating laws and texts as more important than the finished result. As Rabbi Maurice Harris points out, its an imperfect religion, this rabbinic Judaism that God endorses, and the rabbis central self-descriptive sacred text, the Talmud, tells us so.

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As the Talmud recognizes, there are limits to our knowledge, and there can be something beautiful to accepting those limits and seeing them as opportunities to learn from debating with others and listening to other points of view.

Even God listens to the point of view of rabbis who disagree. Its in our imperfections that debates begin.

This is why it is so important that the Talmudic text, despite ultimately siding with the majority of the rabbis who rule the oven to be impure, nonetheless preserves the minority opinion of Rabbi Eliezer. Readers of the Talmud often point to the seemingly odd fact that this text records minority rabbinic opinions about Jewish law that have been overruled by the majority.

If the purpose of the text is to issue authoritative rulings about Jewish law, why include these rejected opinions at all? But as the British scholar Hyam Maccoby points out, the reason given by the Mishnah for this preservation is that one day these minority opinions may become the basis for a revision of the law.

We should always listen to minority opinions because sometimes they contain wisdom that the majority has overlooked. The debate is an unending process that is never complete. In a very real sense, the process itself is more important than the result.

This brings us to one final paradox in the famous story of Rabbi Eliezer summoning heaven to testify to his opinion. As Talmud scholar Daniel Boyarin notes, the rabbis claim the right to overrule heaven based on the principle in Deuteronomy that the Torah is not in heaven. But in order to argue that the Torah is on earth and not in heaven, they have to appeal to the heavenly authority of this verse from Deuteronomy itself.

In other words, to claim the right from God to interpret the text on earth, they cite a verse that only gets its authority from the fact that the rabbis believe it comes from God. They rely on the very authority that they also disavow.

I think that offers one final lesson for us today in our modern context. The rabbis value free debate and deliberation, and they listen to one another and remain open to being challenged. They talk back even to God. But ultimately, they all rely on one standard text, as the basis for their debates.

They can disagree strongly because they all read the same Torah.

At a time when our objective sources of facts in the news media are increasingly under attack as fake news, this is an important reminder: We need to share some sources in common before we can even begin to argue. If we cant agree on which sources are reliable, well never get anywhere.

But within that basic framework, argue away. The Talmud tells us that even God has limits to His (or Her) knowledge of the text. God wants us to talk back and to challenge.

And if God can be wrong, who are we to think we know everything?

Joel Swanson is a contributing columnist for the Forward and a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago, studying modern Jewish intellectual history and the philosophy of religions. Find him on Twitter @jh_swanson.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

In the Talmud, God admits Hes wrong. Theres a lesson there about free speech.

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In the Talmud, God admits Hes wrong. Theres a lesson there about free speech. - Forward

The Pope who Printed the Talmud – Aish

Pope Leo X allowed a remarkable group of men to produce the first printed set of Talmud.

A volume of the Talmud dedicated to the Pope? It seems unlikely but the very first printed edition of the Talmud was in fact dedicated to Pope Leo X, who reigned as pope from 1513 until his death in 1521.

For millennia, copies of the Talmud had been painstakingly written by hand. It could take many years to complete a set of all 63 masechtot, or tractates, of the Talmud.

In 1450, a German bookmaker named Johannes Gutenberg invented the very first printing press. He used it to print pamphlets and calendars, and several copies of the Bible. The Gutenberg Bible is considered the very first printed book ever produced in Europe. In the ensuing years, other printers copied Gutenbergs invention and began printing books. Several Jewish books were printed using the new mechanical invention but nobody ever attempted to print an entire copy of the Talmud. For years, sets of the Talmud continued to be written laboriously by hand.

That changed in 1519, after years of bitter debates, when the very first complete edition of the Talmud was produced using the new invention the mechanical printing press.

One of the very first printers to produce Hebrew books in Europe was Daniel Bomberg, a Christian printer who moved from his native Antwerp to Venice in 1515 and opened a printing press business there. Venice at the time was home to a vibrant Jewish community, and Bomberg realized that he could prosper by catering to this under-served market.

Printing Jewish books wasnt so easy. His initial requests for a license were repeatedly turned down by Church and city officials. Bomberg started offering local officials ever larger bribes to allow him to print Jewish books. After paying 500 ducats an enormous sum he was granted a ten-year license to print Hebrew books.

Bomberg got to work immediately, hiring learned Jews to help him. He petitioned Venices officials for permission to hire four well-instructed Jewish men. Jews living in Venice at the time could only live in the Ghetto and were forced to wear distinctive yellow caps whenever they left the Ghettos gates. Bombergs assistants were granted permission to wear black caps like other non-Jewish workers.

Together, they started printing copies of the Chumash, the Five Books of Moses, and other Jewish books. Bomberg and his Jewish assistants decided to include the text of Targum Onkelos, the translation of the Hebrew text written by the celebrated First Century Jewish scholar Onkelos, a popular custom still in practice today.

Bombergs pro-Jewish business activities were made somewhat easier by the climate in Europe overall, which was becoming more tolerant of Jews, thanks in part to an Austrian Jewish physician named Jacob Ben Jehiel (also known as Jacob Lender).

Very little is known about Jacob Ben Jehiels personal life. Whats clear is that he was a learned Jew, fluent in Hebrew, who worked as a doctor. He died in about 1505 in Linz, Austria. Unusual for a Jew, he rose to become one of the most influential men in the Holy Roman Empire, working as the personal assistant of Emperor Frederick III, who ruled from 1452-1493. It was noted that the two men were fast friends, and Jacob Ben Jehiels friendship influenced Frederick III to be sympathetic to his Jewish subjects. At the time the emperors enemies complained he was more a Jew than a Holy Roman Emperor. Jacob was so beloved by the Emperor that Frederick III knighted him, raising him from a lowly Jewish outcast to the ranks of the nobility.

One day, a young German nobleman named Johann von Reuchlin contacted Jacob, asking for his help in learning Hebrew. Hed studied with a Jew named Kalman in Paris, von Reuchln explained, and had learned the Hebrew alphabet. Now he wanted to learn more. Jacob Ben Jehiel agreed to tutor the Christian nobleman and taught him to read and write Hebrew. They struck up a friendship that would lead to von Reuchlin defending Jewish scholarship across Europe and to the first printing of the Talmud.

Now fluent in Hebrew, Reuchlin championed Jewish books, defending Jewish scholarship from Catholic zealots who wanted to ban Jewish literature and burn Jewish books. He had many Jewish friends and was remarkably tolerant of Jewish viewpoints and scholarship. When Catholic officials demanded that he and other scholars condemn the Talmud, von Reuchlin replied contemptuously that one not condemn what one had not personally read and understood. The Talmud was not composed for every blackguard to trample with unwashed feet and then to say that he knew all of it.

Johann von Reuchlin

In the early 1500s, von Reuchlin engaged in what was known as the Battle of the Books, arguing that Jewish scholarship had merit and that Hebrew books ought not to be banned.

Reuchlins main adversary in the Battle of the Books was Johannes Pfefferkorn, a Jew who converted to Christianity. He turned on his fellow Jews and caused years of pain and misery for Jewish communities across Germany.

Pfefferkorn was a butcher by trade but he was also in trouble with the law. He was arrested for burglary in his 30s, spent time in prison, and subsequently found himself unemployable. In order to reverse his ill fortune, he volunteered to convert to Christianity and to have his wife and children convert as well. Pfefferkorn embraced Catholicism under the protection of the Dominicans, the strict Catholic order that administered the feared Inquisition. The Dominicans wasted no time in using Pfefferkorn to help bolster their attempts to persecute Jews and to ban Jewish books.

In the years between 1507 and 1509, Pfefferkorn wrote a series of booklets claiming to illuminate the secret world of Jewish thought. Although Pfefferkorn's writings show that he had a very poor grasp of Jewish scholarship, that didnt deter him as he churned out booklet after booklet excoriating Jews and the Jewish faith. His pamphlets were written in Latin and aimed at Catholic scholars and priests. They had names such as Judenbeichte (Jewish Confession) and Judenfeind (Enemy of the Jews), and Pfefferkorn falsely claimed that Jews were devious and blasphemous and that their literature ought to be banned. Though he wasnt educated enough to study it himself, Pfefferkorn demanded that the Talmud be banned in Europe.

Using Pfefferkorns booklets as proof, Dominical authorities demanded that Jews be expelled from towns which had large Jewish communities, including Regensburg, Worms and Frankfurt. Their campaign succeeded in Regensburg and the citys Jews were expelled in 1519.

Pfefferkorn and his supporters managed to convince Emperor Maximilian I to briefly ban the Talmud and other Jewish books in cities across Germany and to destroy any and all Jewish books that could be found. This alarmed more liberal Catholics, including Johann Reuchlin, whod spent so long learning Hebrew and studying Jewish holy books with Jacob Ben Jehiel. Reuchlin objected and wrote passionate defenses of the Talmud and other Jewish books. Eventually, Maximilian I reversed his decree.

The Battle of the Books raged across German cities and was debated among the educated class: should the Jewish Talmud and other holy books be banned, or were they worthy of preservation and study? Historian Solomon Grayzel notes that There was not a liberal Christian in Europe, nor a single critic of the forces of bigotry within the Church, who failed to range himself on the side of Reuchlin in defense of the Jewish books Everyone who was not a peasant in Europe was thus ranged on one or the other side in the controversy. The only people who were forced to stand aside and not participate were the ones most directly concerned the Jews. (From A History of the Jews by Solomon Grayzel. Plume: 1968)

Reuchlin eventually gained a powerful ally: Pope Leo X. A cultured, educated man, Leo X came from the fabulously wealthy Medici family. He was disposed to be tolerant towards Jews so much so that at one point the Jews of Rome wondered if his benevolence towards them was a sign that the Messiah was on his way: community elders even wrote to Jewish leaders in the Land of Israel asking if they, too, had seen signs of the Messiah coming.

Pope Leo X

In 1518, Leo X took a public stand in the Battle of the Books: not only should the Talmud not be banned and burned, he stated, but he gave a Papal Decree allowing it to be printed using the new mechanical printing presses that were all the rage in Europe. Some individual volumes of the Talmud had already been printed; now, the Pope was allowing a complete set of all 63 volumes of the Talmud (called Shas in Hebrew) to be produced. Joannes Bomberg, whod already built up a Jewish business at his printing press in Venice, was given the commission to print this first complete set of Shas on his printing presses. It was an unprecedented show of support for Jews in Europe.

But Pope Leo X imposed one crucial condition: Daniel Bomberg could print the Talmud only if he included anti-Jewish polemics in the books. Realizing that this would alienate potential readers, Bomberg successfully lobbied against including anti-Jewish screeds in his Jewish books. He did, however, make one concession to the Popes generosity: the first four volumes of the set of Talmud he was printing were dedicated to Pope Leo X.

Bomberg Babylonian Talmud, Venice Pesachim

Local Jews were reluctant to buy expensive new volumes of the Talmud dedicated to a Catholic leader whose Church regularly persecuted Jews and Jewish communities across Europe, even if Pope Leo X himself was sympathetic towards Jews. Sales were sluggish and Bomberg realized he had to make some changes, including dropping the dedication to the Pope. He also turned to Jacob ben Chaim ibn Adonijah, a Jewish proofreader from Tunisia, for help. (There is some evidence that ibn Adonijah might have converted to Christianity, like some other printers who specialized in Hebrew books in Venice at the time.)

Bromberg and ibn Adonijah devised a layout of their printed editions of the Talmud that is still in use today. They placed the Talmud text in the middle of the page, and included key commentaries on the Talmud around the central text. The commentary by Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki (known as Rashi), a Medieval French scholar was printed on one side of the page. Commentaries by a group of other Medieval Jewish sages known as the Tosefotists are found on the opposite side of the page.

This layout made it easy to read and study, and proved an immediate hit with customers. Though their title pages no longer carried a printed dedication to Pope Leo X, these beautiful books continued to be printed with his permission, enabling even more Jewish communities to study and learn from complete sets of the printed Talmud.

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The Pope who Printed the Talmud - Aish

Digital Archive Takes Talmudic Approach to Americas Founding Texts – Jewish Week

Could democracy take a page from the Talmud? The creators of Sefaria think so.

Since 2012 the website has offered free access to classic Jewish texts and linked commentary, establishing itself as an invaluable resource for millions of teachers, students and scholars.

Now its applying the same approach to foundational texts of American democracy. It launched the project, fittingly, on July 4 with a small library of texts including the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers and a selection of presidential addresses all connected by hyperlinks to other texts and with the ability to read them side by side. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, for example, includes links to related content in case law, presidential addresses and state constitutions.

Sefaria is hoping to replicate what is now a protoype to other bodies of knowledge beyond the Jewish canon.

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Brett Lockspeiser, Sefarias chief technology officer and a co-founder, said, The real magic of Sefaria and this is the real magic of the Torah tradition, its not something we invented is in the interconnections. Just putting texts on websites is not particularly novel and not particularly interesting in itself. It gets exciting when you click on a line of text and then a sidebar opens and you get this whole array of voices that are talking to that point and you open things up side by side.

The approach, Lockspeiser said is a lot about the tension that happens between multiple voices. Thats a principle of the democratic process, of democratic society, is wanting to be able to respect different voices playing a role. The text can serve as a model of what we want our society to look like.


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Digital Archive Takes Talmudic Approach to Americas Founding Texts - Jewish Week

Hope is a power you don’t have to relinquish – St. Louis Jewish Light

The last book of the Torah is a multilayered narrative opening with an experienced Moses reminding a new generation of Israelites about the challenges their parents faced as they left a narrow place of ancient Egyptian servitude. The Book of Deuteronomy is calledDevarimin Hebrew.

Devarimcan be interpreted as both words or things. The book can be described as a 37-day speech given by Moses as the Israelites camped at the shores of an uncrossed river propelling them into an uncertain future. This year, the story of those unsettled people resonates with where we all are: unsettled, crossing into uncharted territory, held captive in the face of serious communal, national and global challenges.

Moses begins witheileh hadevarim, these are the things concerning the Wilderness, concerning the Flat Land, opposite the Sea of Reeds, between Paran and Tophel, and Lavan and Hazeroth, and Di-Zahav.

The Sages, noting unique characteristics of the book, refer toDevarimasMishnah Torah, the repetition of Torah. Rather than downloading the messages from the Divine Server and transmitting them verbatim as in earlier books, Moses is now theshaliach,the messenger who conveys the Divine sentiment in his own words.Ever seeking new meaning, the rabbis ask: Whats with the geography lesson? Why did Moses take it upon himself to expound this Torah with these words?

Some commentators call his address a form of rebuke or admonishment for previous events occurring in stops along the way. Moses begins by reminding the Israelites about their extended journey through the wilderness. He reminds them that lifes burdens are, at times, a direct result of their beliefs and values.

Other voices thought Moses was worried that his own death would create more uncertainty and wanted to explicate the laws he had received and transmitted. He offers what the rabbis frame as a constructive critique of how they got to the edge of a new life in a new land. He reminds them about their arguing and bickering, their ethical and moral failures. Moses highlights where they came from and what the future might hold.

Other voices sayDevarimis not a book of rebuke nor a book that introduces new legal doctrine. It is an exercise in clarification as Moses shares his unique perspective distilled from a lifetime of experience, suffering, success and failures.This portion is always read just prior to the observance of Tisha BAv, the Jewish memorial to historic, devastating loss and destruction. The portionDevarimis read onShabbat Chazon, the Sabbath of Vision.

Twice Moses admonishes the Israelites to turn themselves around. Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlov taught that memory was given to us to remember the future where we are going and who we are becoming. Experience can cloud or expand ones vision. Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses our teacher, is offering his timeless vision to us. Vision about what is possible and an equally compelling vision of what is probable if we continue to travel along the same path, suffering the same pitfalls, enduring the same diet of despair.

There is a Yiddish saying: If you dont know where you are going, any road will do. The Talmud section onBrachot(Blessings) tells us to never leave a person without words of promise, words of hope.

Like the Israelites who wandered aimlessly for a significant period of time, we, too, seem to be struggling with what we can reasonably hope for when life seems so tragically unpredictable. We have crossed the threshold of the familiar and have been living on a diet of fear, isolation, plague reports, unmet essential needs, acts of violence, and discouraging economic, social and political projections.

Hope is a continuum.

Hope is not the belief that everything was, is or will be fine,author Rebecca Solnit writes. For her, hope is an embrace of the unknown, a gift you dont have to surrender, and a power you dont have to relinquish.

My hope is that as we find our way through this new reality, we are able to choose a path fulfilling the promise and blessing of a good life with more heart, understanding, restraint, courage and care.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Dale Schreiber is a chaplain providing Jewish care coordination for Pathways Hospice and Palliative Care, and has a private practice, Renewal-in-Action, specializing in resiliency, spiritual development and compassion fatigue recovery. He is a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association, which coordinates the weekly dvar Torah for theJewish Light.

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Hope is a power you don't have to relinquish - St. Louis Jewish Light

Judaism, baseball, and the drive for normal – The Jewish Standard

Dr. Solomon Schechter, president of the Jewish Theological Seminary, once told my young grandfather, Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, then a student at the seminary, Unless you can play baseball, youll never get to be a rabbi in America.

My grandfather never played baseball and never really understood the game. He told me he once went to a game but didnt enjoy it; the noise kept interrupting his thinking. My grandfather ultimately was more interested in the Book of Ruth than Babe Ruth and Talmud more than a triple play.

I grew up in different generation, as an avid Mets fan who still had a keen interest in Talmud, and the Schechter quote was always a source of amusement to me. I never felt that a rabbi had to know baseball, and I dont believe that Schechter did either. What he was conveying to my young grandfather was the belief that in America, or anyplace else, a rabbi had to be part of the people and aware of the culture in which he or she was living.

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Taking this for granted, I never fully appreciated the significance of sports and sporting events in America as much as now. I have always understood the oversized aspect of sports in America and recognized the overblown importance it has in our society. In America, sports teams have the ability to elicit civic pride and sports bring communities together in a way that few other activities and organizations do. But throughout this pandemic, sports and sporting events have taken on a new role, the drive for normalcy.

The past few months have been frightening, stressful, and the most unusual months in our lives. The vision of empty streets and the sounds of sirens still haunt many. It is no wonder that when restrictions were eased, even a bit, many took the opportunity to celebrate and return to normal life. Many areas throughout our country are paying a steep price for such actions, and while it is easy to castigate them, the drive for normalcy is very real, very understandable, and very human.

All this brings me back to baseball. Baseball is called Americas game. In early spring, as teams were preparing for a new season, the virus hit. Sporting events were literally stopped mid-game, and leagues put their seasons on pause. The past few weeks have seen the resumption of some sporting events, but this week baseball started its season, with great restrictions, and the National Basketball Association will be resuming its season with similar caution as well. I dont know if these attempts will be successful, but I am rooting for them, more than for any individual team. You see, these events are more than games. They are a beacon of hope and a reminder that life continues even in a pandemic.

None of this diminishes the danger of the disease or of the real pain physical, economic, and emotional that this virus has and is inflicting on people and our society. The dangers are real, but so is the human need for socialization and normal life. We find ourselves on the edge of a knife trying to navigate safe and prudent behavior with our need for normalcy. This is the balancing act that we, too, are navigating at the Montebello Jewish Center.

Several weeks ago, we resumed our in-person Shabbat morning services. There was trepidation, but with strict limits and guidelines, we were able to gather for prayers. Not everyone is comfortable, and some should not put themselves in the way of even a diminished risk, so we are also livestreaming our services.

At the end of our first Shabbat service, there was a feeling of elation. We were able to pray together and be together. For the first time in weeks, we could feel normal or as normal as you can while wearing a mask and sitting at least six feet away from your neighbor. Still, the experience brought joy, and the renewed belief that we will get through this and return to normal life, whatever that may look like after the pandemic.

This week, our country started such an experiment in baseball stadiums around the country and on basketball courts in Orlando, Florida. There are no fans in the seats and the games are different, but there are games, and with them comes the hope of normalcy.

Some of us may not follow baseball, but I believe that all will be rooting for it now. Resuming games in a safe fashion may serve to teach us that we can resume life in a safe fashion, and we will all be better for it.

Joshua S. Finkelstein is the rabbi of the Montebello Jewish Center, an egalitarian Conservative synagogue in Suffern.

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Judaism, baseball, and the drive for normal - The Jewish Standard

Who Wrote the Bible? – History

Over centuries, billions of people have read the Bible. Scholars have spent their lives studying it, while rabbis, ministers and priests have focused on interpreting, teaching and preaching from its pages.

As the sacred text for two of the worlds leading religions, Judaism and Christianity, as well as other faiths, the Bible has also had an unmatched influence on literatureparticularly in the Western world. It has been translated into nearly 700 languages, and while exact sales figures are hard to come by, its widely considered to be the worlds best-selling book.

But despite the Bibles undeniable influence, mysteries continue to linger over its origins. Even after nearly 2,000 years of its existence, and centuries of investigation by biblical scholars, we still dont know with certainty who wrote its various texts, when they were written or under what circumstances.

READ MORE: The Bible Says Jesus Was Real. What Other Proof Exists?

The Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, narrates the history of the people of Israel over about a millennium, beginning with Gods creation of the world and humankind, and contains the stories, laws and moral lessons that form the basis of religious life for both Jews and Christians. For at least 1,000 years, both Jewish and Christian tradition held that a single author wrote the first five books of the BibleGenesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomywhich together are known as the Torah (Hebrew for instruction) and the Pentateuch (Greek for five scrolls). That single author was believed to be Moses, the Hebrew prophet who led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and guided them across the Red Sea toward the Promised Land.

Yet nearly from the beginning, readers of the Bible observed that there were things in the so-called Five Books of Moses that Moses himself could not possibly have witnessed: His own death, for example, occurs near the end of Deuteronomy. A volume of the Talmud, the collection of Jewish laws recorded between the 3rd and 5th centuries A.D., dealt with this inconsistency by explaining that Joshua (Moses successor as leader of the Israelites) likely wrote the verses about Moses death.

READ MORE: Inside the Conversion Tactics of the Early Christian Church

Rembrandt van Rijn, painting of Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law, 1659.

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That's one opinion among many, says Joel Baden, a professor at Yale Divinity School and author of The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the Documentary Hypothesis. But they're already asking the questionwas it possible or not possible for [Moses] to have written them?

By the time the Enlightenment began in the 17th century, most religious scholars were more seriously questioning the idea of Moses authorship, as well as the idea that the Bible could possibly have been the work of any single author. Those first five books were filled with contradictory, repetitive material, and often seemed to tell different versions of the Israelites story even within a single section of text.

As Baden explains, the classic example of this confusion is the story of Noah and the flood (Genesis 6:9). You read along and you say, I dont know how many animals Noah took on the ark with him, he says. In this sentence it says two of every animal. In this sentence, he takes two of some animals and 14 of any animals. Similarly, the text records the length of the flood as 40 days in one place, and 150 days in another.

READ MORE: Discovery Shows Early Christians Didn't Always Take the Bible Literally

To explain the Bibles contradictions, repetitions and general idiosyncrasies, most scholars today agree that the stories and laws it contains were communicated orally, through prose and poetry, over centuries. Starting around the 7th century B.C., different groups, or schools, of authors wrote them down at different times, before they were at some point (probably during the first century B.C.) combined into the single, multi-layered work we know today.

Of the three major blocks of source material that scholars agree comprise the Bibles first five books, the first was believed to have been written by a group of priests, or priestly authors, whose work scholars designate as P. A second block of source material is known as Dfor Deuteronomist, meaning the author(s) of the vast majority of the book of Deuteronomy. The two of them are not really related to each other in any significant way, Baden explains, except that they're both giving laws and telling a story of Israel's early history.

According to some scholars, including Baden, the third major block of source material in the Torah can be divided into two different, equally coherent schools, named for the word that each uses for God: Yahweh and Elohim. The stories using the name Elohim are classified as E, while the others are called J (for Jawhe, the German translation of Yahweh). Other scholars don't agree on two complete sources for the non-priestly material. Instead, says Baden, they see a much more gradual process, in which material from numerous smaller sources was layered together over a longer period of time.

READ MORE: Why Bibles Given to Slaves Omitted Most of the Old Testament

Just as the Old Testament chronicles the story of the Israelites in the millennium or so leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ, the New Testament records Jesuss life, from his birth and teachings to his death and later resurrection, a narrative that forms the fundamental basis of Christianity. Beginning around 70 A.D., about four decades after Jesuss crucifixion (according to the Bible), four anonymously written chronicles of his life emerged that would become central documents in the Christian faith. Named for Jesuss most devoted earthly disciples, or apostlesMatthew, Mark, Luke and Johnthe four canonical Gospels were traditionally thought to be eyewitness accounts of Jesuss life, death and resurrection.

12th-13th century depiction of evangelists Luke and Matthew writing the Gospels.

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But for more than a century, scholars have generally agreed that the Gospels, like many of the books of the New Testament, were not actually written by the people to whom they are attributed. In fact, it seems clear that the stories that form the basis of Christianity were first communicated orally, and passed down from generation to generation, before they were collected and written down.

READ MORE: What Did Jesus Look Like?

Names are attached to the titles of the Gospels (the Gospel according to Matthew), writes Bible scholar Bart Ehrman in his book Jesus, Interrupted. But these titles are later additions to the Gospels, provided by editors and scribes to inform readers who the editors thought were the authorities behind the different versions.

Traditionally, 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament were attributed to Paul the Apostle, who famously converted to Christianity after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus and wrote a series of letters that helped spread the faith throughout the Mediterranean world. But scholars now agree on the authenticity of only seven of Pauls epistles: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon. These are believed to have been written between A.D. 50-60, making them the earliest known evidence for Christianity. Authors of the later epistles may have been followers of Paul, who used his name to lend authenticity to the works.

By the 4th century A.D., Christianity had been established as the dominant religion in the Western world, and the New and Old Testaments as its most sacred texts. In the centuries to come, the Bible would only become more central to the lives and faiths of millions of people around the world, despite the mystery surrounding its origins and the ongoing, complex debate over its authorship.

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Glimpsing The Beis HaMikdash – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

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Most of the year, the haftorah is thematically connected to the parshah. During the Three Weeks, however, we read haftoros (the tlasa dpuranisa) that have no connection to the weekly parshah. The last of these three haftoros starts, Chazon Yeshayahu The vision of [the prophet] Yeshayahu which gives this Shabbos its name: Shabbos Chazon.

Every aspect of our Torah even a seemingly incidental custom is precise and significant. Since Jews customarily call this Shabbos Shabbos Chazon, we may assume that on this Shabbos some vision is accessible to all Jews.

What vision is that? Every year the Rebbe would cite an answer given by the renowned Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev that on this Shabbos, a distant vision of the future Beis HaMikdash is shown to every Jew. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok explained his answer with a parable:

A father had an expensive garment made for his son. The son, however, misbehaved and the garment got torn to pieces. His father had another garment made for him, but the son got that one torn, too. His father then had a third garment made, but he didnt give it to his son to wear; instead, he showed it to him on rare occasions, telling him that if he behaved well, he would eventually wear it. That way, he accustomed his son to behave properly until such time that behaving well would become so natural to him that he would be given the garment to wear.

Both the first and the second Beis HaMikdash were destroyed because of our misdeeds. Subsequently, Hashem constructed the third Beis HaMikdash in heaven and withheld it from us until such time that we will deserve it. To arouse our yearning to possess this priceless treasure, Hashem shows us once a year on Shabbos Chazon a distant vision of it, inspiring us to conduct ourselves properly so that we will merit attaining it.

One might ask: To perceive this exalted vision, a person has to be at an extraordinarily high spiritual level. Most of us arent on this level and dont actually see it, so whats the point of telling us were being shown this vision?

The Rebbe answered citing the Talmuds explanation (Megillah 3a, Sanhedrin 94a) on Daniel 10:7: I, Daniel alone, saw the sight, and the men who were with me did not see the sight, but a great fright fell upon them and they fled to be hidden. Since they didnt see, asks the Talmud, why were they frightened? It answers, Although they didnt see, their mazal [spiritual source] saw.

Similarly, the source of our soul which far transcends the level of the soul in our body perceives the vision of the future Beis HaMikdash, and that seeps down to the soul within our body, inspiring us to improve our conduct and grow closer to Hashem.

One might ask further: Why is this vision shown right before Tisha BAv, when the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, rather than on Shabbos Nachamu (after Tisha BAv), which consoles us for the destruction and our exile?

And if it must be shown during the Three Weeks to inspire us to improve our conduct, why not at the beginning of the Three Weeks as opposed to their end? And why were we told this explanation of Shabbos Chazon only 200 years ago (by Rabbi Levi Yitzchok, who lived from 1740-1809), as opposed to the many previous centuries of our exile?

The Rebbe explained that whenever Hashems presence is concealed, it is concealed for the purpose of a subsequent greater revelation. Chassidus offers the analogy of a great scholar who, in the midst of a profound lecture, suddenly grasps an even deeper intellectual idea. For a while, he stops explaining the subject matter while he delves mentally into the ideas depth, exploring its details and wealth of explanation. Only after this interruption during which his previous process of revelation is temporarily concealed from his students does he resume his lecture, which now is substantially enriched by his new realization.

Since the purpose of the Three Weeks of concealment is an eventual greater revelation of the era of Moshiach their inner essence is that revelation, and the greater the darkness, the greater the ultimate inner revelation. And since improving our conduct overcomes the concealment, the best time to inspire us to improve is near the end of the Three Weeks concealment, when the darkness is greatest.

Likewise, over the course of our long exile, the best time to inspire us to bring about this exalted revelation is during the darkness close to our exiles end. Hence the reason for us not knowing this explanation of Shabbos Chazon until the generation of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok.

May our heartfelt efforts finally bring our exile to a close.

(Based on teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)

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Glimpsing The Beis HaMikdash - The Jewish Press - JewishPress.com

Are Reports Of The Persecution Of Yemenite Jews Completely False? – Yeshiva World News

Recent reports in Yemenite media outlets and an Egyptian newspaper that the Iranian-backed Houthi rebel group in Yemen has rounded up the countrys few remaining Jews as part of an ethnic cleansing campaign may be completely false, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Israels Foreign Ministry told The Post that they have been asked by many sources about the report but it appears to be false. Another international organization with connections to the Jewish community in Yemen also told The Post that it investigated the reports and found them to be false.

Despite the claims that the allegations are false, the Yemenite embassy in Washington quoted the reports, apparently in order to slander the Iranian-backed Houthis, but did not mention whether they investigated or verified the reports.

A report in the Hebrew Yated Neeman quoted a senior source in the Yemenite Jewish community in Monsey who scoffed at the claims of the Houthis cutting off the supply of electricity and water of Jews in Yemen and preventing them from buying food, saying that infrastructure in the country is not reliable for Muslims or Jews.

Theres no electrical supply for the Muslims in the same way theres none for the Jews, said Rav Faiz Gradi, a leader of the Yemenite Jewish community who immigrated to the US a decade ago. The country is in a difficult situation and the electrical infrastructure hasnt been functioning for years.

Rav Gradi spoke about the Talmud Torah he left behind in Yemen and his private home that he refused to sell before he left due to the mikvah in his home that was still needed by the remaining Jews.

I have a Muslim neighbor who guarded my house. A while ago he called me and said: Theyre pressuring me to sell them the house and my life takes priority. Release me from my promise.'

I had received several offers to buy my home in the past. It was worth a nice amount of money but the Houthis forced my neighbor to sell it to them for a tiny pittance. I didnt sell it earlier when I could have received a good price since I have a mikvah in my home and the community that remained behind was using it. I couldnt cut them off from basic Jewish necessities.

Some of the families that made aliyah to Israel left behind many possessions and appointed Muslim guardians whom they trusted. One of them, who was in charge of most of the possessions, recently stopped answering phone calls. Theyre aware that he made a deal with the Houthis who are financially strapped.

Rav Gradi was reluctant to discuss the current situation of the Jews of Yemen but mentioned that the only planes currently allowed to land at the airport in the capital city of Sanaa are US and UN aid planes. Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy in Yemen, supports the Jewish community and assists them, he added.

All these years, the Shearis Hapleita (the few remaining Jews) refused to make aliyah to Israel due to their fear of educational and tznius issues, Rav Gradi said. They heard from their brothers who made aliyah before them and understand that Israel is not for them. The US is also not appropriate for their lifestyle.

They searched for an Arab country that would agree to accept them and there are a number of countries that may be willing to host them with assistance from the US. Perhaps well be zocheh to soon see a new Yemenite community in a country with a similar Arab nature but without threats to its security and Yahadus, Rav Gradi cryptically concluded.

(YWN Israel Desk Jerusalem)

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Are Reports Of The Persecution Of Yemenite Jews Completely False? - Yeshiva World News