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Abortion is a religious issue, but not in the way you think – Santa Fe New Mexican

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Abortion is a religious issue, but not in the way you think - Santa Fe New Mexican

Reading the Book of Psalms in the Twenty-First Century – Jewish Journal

It was with great anticipation that I read Rabbi Hayyim Angels latest commentary, Psalms: A Companion Volume (Kodesh Press, 2022). Like so many of his other books on biblical text, Rabbi Angels newest volumethis time a commentary on the Book of Psalms or Tehillimdoes not disappoint. Overall Rabbi Angel has written a relevant and readable commentary that will grow the readers appreciation for Psalms.

Tehillim often stands out as one of the most compelling yet enigmatic books in the biblical canon. Its authentic and powerful insight into human experience produces a uniquely penetrating and reflective experience that has endured for centuries. Psalms are often quoted by religious and secular leaders for inspiration and recognized as one of the great literary works of Western Civilization. In recent history leaders ranging from former President Barack Obama to former President Donald Trump have publicly reflected on Psalms (chapters 46 and 34 respectively).

The new commentary is divided into 13 discrete chapters covering a handful of Psalms. Each chapter stands on its own, exploring a different thematic or structural aspect of the Psalms. The subdivision of the book makes for pleasant readings that can be done in short bursts or longer continuous studies. Many classic points are discussed, including the original context, authorship, structure and overall message that helps the reader gain deeper appreciation and insight for these compositions. More in-depth discussions of intentional omissions, imperfect acrostics, difficult phrases, repetitive psalms and superscriptions are also addressed for more advanced readers seeking to engage with deeper biblical scholarship. Despite the complexity and advanced sources shared by the author, the text remains surprisingly approachable and readable.

Understanding Psalms is doubly important for Jewish readers as many chapters and verses are enmeshed in the traditional liturgy. Psalms forms the bedrock of traditional Jewish prayer, encompassing no less than 50 Psalms throughout the weekly and Shabbat prayers. While many chapters of Psalms may be familiar to readers, without context they can remain somewhat opaque in meaning. Having a masterful overview such as the one provided in this new volume gives one a deeper appreciation of these compositions and ultimately can contribute to more significant prayers.

Rabbi Angel quotes widely, citing secular academic, rabbinic, American, Israeli and even Karaite sources. His introduction of many contemporary Jewish scholars to the general reader is of particular interest and a real contribution to the field. High quality insights by the likes of Amnon Bazak, Amos Hakham Yehudah Elitzur, Elhanan Samet and Yakov Medan present the reader with new and sophisticated observations. Equally impressive are the array of traditional rabbinic scholars who are not often quoted in modern analyses such as Rabbis Yosef Albo, Moshe ibn Gikatilla and Yosef Hayyun. Both groups of Jewish scholars, contemporary and medieval, are given the spotlight in this volume to help decipher the intricate meaning of Psalms. That these rabbinic opinions are lesser known today is a lament underscored by the author in this short but powerful book.

The Maimonidean principle of accepting the truth from whoever speaks it is loudly reinforced throughout the rabbis commentary as he gives equal deference to all textually supported opinions. The volume includes a subtle suggestion that critiques on both ends of the commentary spectrum have forsaken the diversity of high quality rabbinic voices in the exegeses of Psalms. On one hand the ultra-orthodox approach produces an invented homogenous interpretation that this volume demonstrates was never maintained by traditional commentators. On the other hand, an equally extreme secular approach, which the author quotes often, operates on the opposite end of the same echo chamber by ignoring many important opinions from the rabbinic corpus. Rabbi Angel reinforces the idea that many of the modern secular scholarship issues related to biblical study were already addressed centuries ago by the traditional first rate scholarship of the rabbis in the Talmud and Midrash, leaving the reader with a greater appreciation for both rabbinic commentary and the Psalms.

The volume includes a subtle suggestion that critiques on both ends of the commentary spectrum have forsaken the diversity of high quality rabbinic voices in the exegeses of Psalms.

Interesting forays in the commentary include reading the Psalms as a midrashic-intertextual window to understanding the narratives of the Bible. Psalms often references biblical narratives or personalitiessuch as events in the life of King David, the destruction of Jerusalem, or the crossing of the Red Sea. Rabbi Angel contends that Psalms functions as an early form of commentary that helps elucidate these narratives for the reader.

Most importantly, the commentary focuses on the multiple understandings of the Psalms that can speak to readers on different wavelengths. For example, many familiar chapters of Psalms can simultaneously address issues on a personal, historical and national level. For example, what was once a lament of national proportions for the destruction of Jerusalem, can now be repurposed by an individual seeking to rebuild their personal lives after tragedy. Or a Psalm recounting the celebratory nature of the exodus from Egypt can be utilized for personal thanks and celebration. These multiple meanings are what Rabbi Angel contends have made the Psalms eternally relevant to generations of readers.

The wide diversity of opinions quoted in this volume demonstrates the complexity of Tehillim while leaving the reader with a sense of appreciation for the biblical text and the excellent arrangement of these sources by the author. Overall the resulting commentary is a very amicable volume rooted in traditional interpretation while fully taking into account modern scholarship. It will leave the reader inspired by timeless messages of Psalms and enthusiastic to further their study.

Dr. Murray Mizrachi is a business professor at the Murray Koppelman School of Business at CUNY. His advisory firm, Murray Mizrachi Consulting LLC, is based in New York City where he resides with his family.

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Reading the Book of Psalms in the Twenty-First Century - Jewish Journal

A Pennsylvania candidate for governor cuts ties with Gab, and antisemitism on the site spikes – Forward

Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano greets supporters on May 17, 2022. Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

By Jacob KornbluhAugust 02, 2022

In response to Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastrianos distancing of himself from Gab, after he was widely criticized for his embrace of the antisemitic social media platform, Gab users have stepped up their antisemitic postings including death threats and calls for violence against Jews a new report showed.

Mastriano, a state representative and leader of the Stop the Steal movement aiming to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, is running against Pennsylvanias Jewish attorney general, Josh Shapiro. Democrats and Jewish Republicans criticized Mastriano after it was reported that he paid Gab and its founder, Andrew Torba, a $5,000 consulting fee in April and maintained an active account on the site.

Gab, a far-right social media platform launched in 2016 has long been an online echo chamber for white nationalism and antisemitic tropes. Robert Bowers, the man who killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, had been a verified user of the site, where he posted neo-Nazi propaganda and calls for violence against Jews.

Under pressure, Mastriano last week disassociated himself from Torba, who frequently shared his antisemitic beliefs and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories in posts promoting the Republican candidates campaign. The candidate condemned antisemitism in all forms and closed his account.

Gab users responded with anger to Mastrianos move, according to Media Matters, a nonprofit group that monitors social platforms.

Where is Adolph when he is needed, wrote one user, referring to Nazi leader Adolph Hitler. Dear Lord, Smite Josh Shapiro, that weasel lying Jew, another user wrote. Other comments included, I would like to see their masonic temple in DC burnt to the ground, exterminate all Jews and they are a disease. Like cancer, need to be cut out and removed.

In a video on Saturday, Torba attacked the Godless media and doubled down on Christian nationalist views he had previously expressed. The only groups of people that are chosen are those that believe in Jesus Christ, he said, adding that the values cited in the Talmud disgusts him. He attacked Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the anti-Defamation League and called the group a Jewish Nationalist organization that endorses, promotes, and defends Zionism, or Jewish Nationalism.

Earlier this year Torba, celebrated the destruction of the Temple. Almost 2000 years later, that Temple is still not standing, he said in remarks at the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), founded by Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist, as an alternative to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Though Mastriano issued a statement saying Torba doesnt speak for him or his campaign, he stopped short of denouncing Torba or asking for a reimbursement.

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A Pennsylvania candidate for governor cuts ties with Gab, and antisemitism on the site spikes - Forward

Tuesdays primaries offered a glint of hope for Democrats this fall – The Guardian

Republican candidates from Arizona to Pennsylvania ought to worry. On Tuesday, voters in Kansas rejected efforts to gut a womans right to choose. In 2020, Donald Trump trounced Joe Biden there 56-42. Two years later, an anti-choice referendum went down in defeat 59-41. Suburban moms and dads had thundered; turnout soared. The supreme courts wholesale attack on Roe backfired.

The competing opinions authored by Justices Alito, Thomas and Kavanaugh may gift the Democrats a two-seat gain in the Senate, and doom Republican pick-ups of governorships in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Grasp more than you can hold, and you will be left with nothing, the Talmud says. On primary day, the high courts decision in Dobbs seems to have energized plenty of otherwise loyal Republicans. By the numbers, 65% of Americans believe the constitution enshrines a right of privacy even as they hold doubts about abortion.

Trump-endorsed Senate hopefuls JD Vance (Ohio), Mehmet Oz (Pennsylvania), Herschel Walker (Georgia) and Blake Masters (Arizona) must now answer for the Republicans war on autonomy. Vance also wants to ban pornography as he gives a greenlight to guns and embraces Marjorie Taylor Greene. He claims smut harms fertility rates.

A recent Fox News poll shows Democrats with double-digit leads in Pennsylvanias Senate and governors races. Doug Mastriano, the Keystone states Republican gubernatorial candidate, came under recent fire for his embrace of Christian nationalism and ties with antisemitic figures. And Dr Oz is Dr Oz.

Tudor Dixon, the Trump-backed winner of Tuesdays Michigan Republican gubernatorial primary, believes that a 14-year-old raped by a relative should be forced to carry her pregnancy to term. Yeah, perfect example, she told an interviewer.

Her remarks now are a centerpiece of incumbent Democrat Gretchen Whitmers re-election efforts. Dixon opposes exceptions to an abortion ban in cases of rape and incest. She trailed Whitmer by 11 points in a July poll.

The Michigan Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative may also appear on the fall ballot. Once upon a time opponents of Roe claimed the ruling was wrong because it was anti-democratic.

Adding fuel to this Great Lakes dumpster fire, Matt DePerno, Michigans prospective Republican attorney general, openly mused about restricting accessibility to contraception. At a Republican debate, he questioned the validity of Griswold, the pertinent 1965 supreme court ruling. For good measure, DePerno previously spearheaded efforts to undo Bidens 150,000-vote win in Michigan.

Tuesdays contests were also about the 45th president exacting revenge and promoting the big lie that he was defrauded of victory.

To be sure, not all Republicans were buying what the former guy was selling. But he had greater success than Kansass pro-lifers. Trumpism remains very much alive.

In the state of Washington, incumbents Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse stand on the verge of rebuffing primary bids by Trump-endorsed challengers. Both Representatives Herrera Beutler and Newhouse voted to impeach the ex-reality show host over his role in the January 6 insurrection.

On the other hand, Michigans Representative Peter Meijer, who voted for Trumps impeachment, lost to John Gibbs, a Trump-backed challenger. Gibbs had received a boost from congressional Democrats, as part of an audacious strategic move to empower Republicans they think will lose in the general elections. Meijer, a supermarket chain scion, lost by four points.

With the rightwing Gibbs as the Republican nominee, the Democrats may actually pick up a House seat. Had Meijer emerged with the Republican nod, he would have been favored. All this raises the question of whether Democratic talk about putting the country ahead of party is partisan blather.

Elsewhere, Trump claimed the head of Republican Rusty Bowers, the outgoing speaker of the Arizona senate. He had opposed efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and appeared before the January 6 select committee.

Days after Bowers testified, Trump declared: Bowers must be defeated, and highly respected David Farnsworth is the man to do it.

Farnsworth believes that Satan stole the 2020 election. Really.

This is a real conspiracy headed up by the devil himself, he explained at a debate.

Along with Farnsworth, Mark Finchem, a diehard election denier and conspiracy theorist, notched the Arizona Republican nomination for secretary of state. He too had Trumps blessing.

As for the states Republican primary for governor, Kari Lake holds a two-point lead with more than 80% of precincts reporting. Like Finchem and Farnsworth, Lake garnered a Trump endorsement and rejects Bidens legitimacy as president. Whether she actually wins the primary and can prevail against Democrat Katie Hobbs, the current secretary of state, remains to be seen.

With Kansass resounding no vote, Democrats have good reason to make abortion a major issue for the midterms. Of course, as Republicans learned on Tuesday, it is all too easy to go off the deep-end.

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Tuesdays primaries offered a glint of hope for Democrats this fall - The Guardian

Jewish day campers to gather in Great Neck after pandemic hiatus – Newsday

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, young Jewish campers from Chabad daycamps in Nassau, Suffolk andQueens will gather Wednesday as part of a Unity Day celebration in Great Neck.

More than 1,000second- to sixth-gradersfrom Camp Gan Israel, the largest network of camps on Long Island, will travel to the sprawling multi-acre home of the Chabad of Great Neck.There they'll attend a carnival, visit a petting zoo and even watch a BMX bike show, officials said. The event is organized by Chabad of Long Island,whose 50 branches across Long Island serve the local Jewish population.

"Exactly what they've missed is a sense of community," the director of Camp Gan Great Neck,Rabbi Zalman Baumgarten, said of children during the pandemic. "Even to just be with children from the other camps, other Jewish kids, to have a sense of normality. It's enjoyment, to see other kids, to see each other screaming to have kids get together, to show some unity, some togetherness It will be a nice day together."

Especially important, organizers said, is that the gathering comes in the middle of a period of mourning known as "The Nine Days" or"The Nine Days of Av" Av being the month on the Jewish calendar, "The Nine Days" observed this year from July 28-Aug. 6.

Thatobservance is"in recognition of the many tragedies and calamities" that have befallen the Jewish people, according to the Talmud events that date to the ancient destruction of temples by Babylonians and Romans. This year, itserves as a prelude to a once-in-seven-years observance in Judaism known as Year of Hakhel or, Gathering.

The director of Chabad of Long Island, Rabbi Tuvia Teldon,said in astatement: As we begin to come to grips with the detrimental effects that the pandemic has had on education, its so important for children to be able to strengthen their social bonds and to gather once more as a community. And amid the ongoing concerns of bigotry and antisemitism both locally and around the world, this event will serve to double down on Jewish pride.

The Chabad hosts camps inCedarhurst, Dix Hills, East Hampton, Great Neck, Melville, Merrick, Port Washington, Roslyn, Southampton, Stony Brook and Queens, with campers ranging in age from toddlers (2years old)to teens.

"Some of these kids have never known what's it like, because of COVID, to attenda large sporting event, a celebration in a park, to go to a concert, to go to a carnival," Rabbi Baumgarten said. "This willbe a wonderful experience."

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Jewish day campers to gather in Great Neck after pandemic hiatus - Newsday

Why Are There So Many Jewish Lawyers? – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

At the beginning of the book of Devarim, Moses reviews the history of the Israelites experience in the wilderness, starting with the appointment of leaders throughout the people, heads of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. He continues:

And I charged your judges at that time, Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between two Israelites or between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you. Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to G-d. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it. (Deut. 1:16-17)

Thus, at the outset of the book in which he summarized the entire history of Israel and its destiny as a holy people, he already gave priority to the administration of justice: something he would memorably summarize in a later chapter (Deut. 16:20) in the words, Justice, justice, shall you pursue. The words for justice, tzedek and mishpat, are repeated, recurring themes of the book. The root tz-d-k appears 18 times in Devarim; the root sh-f-t, 48 times.

Justice has seemed, throughout the generations, to lie at the beating heart of Jewish faith. Albert Einstein memorably spoke of Judaisms pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, an almost fanatical love of justice, and the desire for personal independence these are the features of the Jewish tradition which make me thank my lucky stars that I belong to it. In the course of a television program I made for the BBC, I asked Hazel Cosgrove, the first woman to be appointed as a judge in Scotland and an active member of the Edinburgh Jewish community, what had led her to choose law as a career, she replied as if it was self-evident, Because Judaism teaches: Justice, justice shall you pursue.

One of the most famous Jewish lawyers of our time, Alan Dershowitz, wrote a book about Abraham, whom he sees as the first Jewish lawyer, the patriarch of the legal profession: a defense lawyer for the damned who is willing to risk everything, even the wrath of G-d, in defense of his clients, the founder not just of monotheism but of a long line of Jewish lawyers. Dershowitz gives a vivid description of Abrahams prayer on behalf of the people of Sodom Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice? (Gen. 18:25) as a courtroom drama, with Abraham acting as lawyer for the citizens of the town, and G-d, as it were, as the accused. This was the forerunner of a great many such episodes in Torah and Tanach, in which the prophets argued the cause of justice with G-d and with the people. (See Abraham: The Worlds First (But Certainly Not the Last) Jewish Lawyer, 2015, by Dershowitz.)

In modern times, Jews reached prominence as judges in America among them Brandeis, Cardozo and Felix Frankfurter. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the first Jewish woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court. In Britain between 1996 and 2008, two of Britains three Lord Chief Justices were Jewish: Peter Taylor and Harry Woolf. In Germany in the early 1930s, though Jews were 0.7 percent of the population, they represented 16.6 percent of lawyers and judges.

One feature of Tanach is noteworthy in this context. Throughout the Hebrew Bible some of the most intense encounters between the prophets and G-d are represented as courtroom dramas. Sometimes, as in the case of Moses, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk, the plaintiff is humanity or the Jewish people. In the case of Job it is an individual who has suffered unfairly. The accused is G-d Himself. The story is told by Elie Wiesel of how a case was brought against G-d by the Jewish prisoners in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. At other times, it is G-d who brings a case against Bnei Yisrael.

The word the Hebrew Bible uses for these unique dialogues between heaven and earth is riv, which means a lawsuit, and it derives from the idea that at the heart of the relationship between G-d and humanity both in general, and specifically in relation to the Jewish people is covenant, that is, a binding agreement, a mutual pledge, based on obedience to G-ds law on the part of humans, and on G-ds promise of loyalty and love on the part of Heaven. Thus, either side can, as it were, bring the other to court on grounds of failure to fulfill their undertakings.

Three features mark Judaism as a distinctive faith. First is the radical idea that when G-d reveals Himself to humans He does so in the form of law. In the ancient world, G-d was power. In Judaism, G-d is order, and order presupposes law. In the natural world of cause and effect, order takes the form of scientific law. But in the human world, where we have free will, order takes the form of moral law. Hence the name of the Mosaic books: Torah, which means direction, guidance, teaching, but above all law. The most basic meaning of the most fundamental principle of Judaism, Torah min haShamayim, Torah from Heaven, is that G-d, not humans, is the source of binding law.

Second, we are charged with being interpreters of the law. That is our responsibility as heirs and guardians of the Torah she-be-al peh, the Oral Tradition. The phrase in which Moses describes the voice the people heard at the revelation at Sinai, kol gadol velo yasaf, is understood by the commentators in two seemingly contradictory ways. On the one hand it means the voice that was never heard again; on the other, it means the voice that did not cease, that is, the voice that was ever heard again (Deut. 5:19). There is, though, no contradiction. The voice that was never heard again is the one that represents the Written Torah. The voice that is ever heard again is that of the Oral Torah.

The Written Torah is min ha-shamayim, from Heaven, but about the Oral Torah the Talmud insists Lo ba-shamayim hi, It is not in Heaven (Bava Metzia 59b). Hence, Judaism is a continuing conversation between the Giver of the law in Heaven and the interpreters of the law on Earth. That is part of what the Talmud means when it says that Every judge who delivers a true judgment becomes a partner with the Holy One, blessed be He, in the work of creation (Shabbat 10a).

Third, fundamental to Judaism is education, and fundamental to education is instruction in Torah, that is, the law. That is what Isaiah meant when he said, Listen to Me, you who know justice, the people in whose heart is My law; do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their insults (Is. 51:7).

This is what Jeremiah meant when he said, This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the L-rd: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their G-d, and they shall be My people (Jer.31:33).

This is what Josephus meant when he said, 1,900 years ago, Should any one of our nation be asked about our laws, he will repeat them as readily as his own name. The result of our thorough education in our laws from the very dawn of intelligence is that they are, as it were, engraved on our souls. To be a Jewish child is to be, in the British phrase, learned in the law. We are a nation of constitutional lawyers.

Why? Because Judaism is not just about spirituality. It is not simply a code for the salvation of the soul. It is a set of instructions for the creation of what the late Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, ztl, called societal beatitude. It is about bringing G-d into the shared spaces of our collective life. That needs law: law that represents justice, honoring all humans alike regardless of color or class; law that judges impartially between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, even in extremis between humanity and G-d; law that links G-d, its Giver, to us, its interpreters, the law that alone allows freedom to coexist with order, so that my freedom is not bought at the cost of yours.

Small wonder, then, that there are so many Jewish lawyers.

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Why Are There So Many Jewish Lawyers? - The Jewish Press - JewishPress.com

Letter: The war on women is escalating – INFORUM

Local TV coverage lately has filmed a man standing in front of the Fargo abortion clinic holding a sign that reads "Babies are MURDERED here." This is one man's belief or opinion, but from the national polls I've seen it is certainly not the belief or opinion of the great majority of Americans. Unindoctrinated people do not think it is fair to strip the deeply personal rights of a grown woman and hand those rights to a half-formed blob of protoplasm.

Recent radical changes to abortion laws are not the result of a groundswell of anti-abortion public sentiment, but they are clearly the result a decades-long, determined effort by an unholy, undemocratic alliance of conservative politicians and patriarchal Christian churches. The politicians are mostly right-wing Republicans who have resisted the sexual revolution because it opened the door to many social changes unacceptable to them, including abortion, same-sex marriage, etc.

The offending churches are spearheaded by the Roman Catholic Vatican, which has preached for 150 years that human ensoulment at the moment of conception creates a complete human person, so any removal of the fertilized ovum, embryo, or fetus from the womb is a heinous, unforgivable act of killing a human---in other words, murder. However, absolutely nothing substantial or indisputable in the Talmud, Bible, or even the U.S. Constitution advocates, justifies or defends that quasi-legal assertion.

This has not stopped many state legislatures from enacting laws with severe penalties for women and their abettors accused of having abortions. Most ominously it was just reported that North Carolina legislators have proposed a law invoking the death penalty for doing or having an abortion. This is an eye for an eye, a life for a life, and it takes women's rights back uncomfortably close to the 1600s when women suspected of witchcraft could be brutally executed. If I carried a protest sign, it would read "The War On Women is Escalating!"

Dudley Wells lives in Twin Valley, Minn.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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Letter: The war on women is escalating - INFORUM

Jewish Perspectives On Termination Of Pregnancy – Los Alamos Daily Post

Rabbi Jack Shlachter

Los Alamos Jewish Center News:

Over the course of two recent consecutive Monday evenings, the Los Alamos Jewish Center hosted an adult education mini-series entitled Jewish Perspectives on Termination of Pregnancy.

The presenter, Rabbi Jack Shlachter, shared relevant Jewish source text passages with the in-person and Zoom audience.

Rabbi Jack, who returned to Los Alamos this spring following a few years in New York, explained that the Jewish perspectives are heavily nuanced; some situations require that a pregnancy be terminated, others permit termination, and yet others prohibit abortion.

This complex, contemporary topic can be informed by examining the Jewish sources; attendees at the Jewish Center were able to see the two full cartons of books assembled for the talks.

Texts providing insight into Jewish perspectives on abortion include materials from all three parts of the Jewish Bible; from ancient expansions on those biblical passages; from the Talmudic literature and sections from a medieval Jewish code of law; from the Jewish mystical tradition; and from questions and answers posed to rabbis on contemporary issues that may not be directly addressed in the ancient texts, such as use of electricity or airplane travel.

One such question-and-answer, composed in the Kovno ghetto during the Nazi occupation, is about abortion. The Nazis had ordered that pregnant Jewish women in this Lithuanian ghetto would be immediately executed, and rabbinical ruling was that in order to save the womans life, a pregnant woman was permitted to have an abortion.

Future adult education programs at the Los Alamos Jewish Center will address other contemporary topics such as gun control, and separation of church (synagogue) and state, using Jewish texts as primary resources.

Los Alamos Jewish Center offers Shabbat and Jewish holiday services, community Shabbat dinners, childrens religious/Hebrew school, adult learning, and holiday and social events.

For more information, visit http://www.lajc.org, email losalamosjewishcenter@gmail.comor call 505.662.2140.

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Jewish Perspectives On Termination Of Pregnancy - Los Alamos Daily Post

Those who push religion into our government dont belong there – Chicago Sun-Times

Enough using the Holocaust to justify hate. Enough using the slaughter of six million Jews, gypsies and LGBTQ folks in an attempt to sway voters. Enough lies about history to cover up a disdain for women and our rights. Video released of Republican candidate for governor Darren Bailey comparing the Holocaust to reproductive health care goes too far. He needs a history lesson. Illinois NOW says enough.

Hitler had one goal: racial purity. Millions of Jews, LGBTQ people, gypsies and the disabledwere slaughtered with the goal of a pure society. Antisemitic hate, replacement theory lies and comments from Bailey must be shut down.

I am a Jewish woman who had an abortion, and I speak about it so others realize they arent alone. Illinois NOW works to ensure our state remains a safe haven for abortion care and not the dystopian, anti-woman society Bailey dreams of.

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. We want to hear from our readers. To be considered for publication, letters must include your full name, your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes. Letters should be a maximum of approximately 375 words.

A pregnant student must have the right to an abortion so their education continues. The single mother who works two jobs to feed her family must have the right to decide her future. A 10-year-old rape victim must have the right to an abortion so her life and her future are not jeopardized.

Abortion rights dont exist in a vacuum. Health care access, equal pay and voting rights are just the start. Racial inequities in health care create huge disparities in maternal mortality rates.

Housing costs and mortgage discrimination make living in a community with quality air and water unattainable for many. A lack of representation in government makes it difficult for many to have a voice.

As a Jew, I am sick of those using their religion to dictate what women can do. The Talmud says a child doesnt exist until it takes its first breath outside of the womans body. Before birth, the fetus doesnt have a life of its own. As an abortion rights advocate, I believe those who push religion into our government dont belong there. There must be a separation of church and state.

It is appalling that Bailey believes it is OK to use one of the most horrific annihilations in modern history to justify keeping us barefoot, pregnant and subjected to the whims of his religion. We must vote for pro-choice candidates and keep religious zealotry out of our government and our bodies.

Laura Welch, president, Illinois NOW

While I want American basketball star Brittney Griner returned home as soon as possible, I have to say her foolishness in bringing vape canisters containing cannabis oil into Russia has to rank extremely high in the world of stupid.

How could she not know she had these questionable things in her suitcase? The Russians dont believe her, and neither do I. If I were visiting Russia, China or North Korea, I would be afraid to bring along a safety pin.

While such countries commit atrocities all the time, their draconian laws probably lend them some semblance of uprightness and integrity. Brittney is not the first, nor the last, to end up in a countrys tangled web. Travelers to foreign countries best beware.

Kathleen Melia, Niles

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Those who push religion into our government dont belong there - Chicago Sun-Times

Babylonian Talmud [Full Text] – Jewish Virtual Library

Seder Nezikin (Damages)

Seder Zeraim (Seeds)

Berachot

Pe'ah

Demai

Kilayim

Shevi'it

Terumot

Ma'asrote

Ma'aser Sheni

Hallah

Orlah

Bikkurim

Seder Nashim (Women)

Yevamot

Ketubot

Nedarim

Kiddushin

Seder Kodashim (Holies)

Zevahim

Menachot

Hullin

Bechorot

Arachin

Temurah

Keritot

Me'ilah

Tamid

Middot

Kinnim

Seder Tehorot (Purities)

Keilim

Oholot

Nega'im

Parah

Tehorot

Mikva'ot

Niddah

Machshirin

Zavim

Tevul Yom

Yadayim

Uktzim

1.Tenanof the original--We have learned in a Mishna;Tania--We have, learned in a Boraitha;Itemar--It was taught.2. Questions are indicated by the interrogation point, and are immediately followed by the answers, without being so marked.3. If there occurs two statements separated by the phrase,Lishna achrenaorWabayith AemaorIkha d'amri(literally, "otherwise interpreted"), we translate only the second.4. As the pages of the original are indicated in our new Hebrew edition, it is not deemed necessary to mark them in the English edition, this being only a translation from the latter.5. Words or passages enclosed in round parentheses () denote the explanation rendered by Rashi to the foregoing sentence or word. Square parentheses [] contained commentaries by authorities of the last period of construction of the Gemara.

Sources: Sacred Texts

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Babylonian Talmud [Full Text] - Jewish Virtual Library

The Eight Genders in the Talmud | My Jewish Learning

Thought nonbinary gender was a modern concept? Think again. The ancient Jewish understanding of gender was far more nuanced than many assume.

The Talmud, a huge and authoritative compendium of Jewish legal traditions, contains in fact no less than eight gender designations including:

In fact, not only did the rabbis recognize six genders that were neither male nor female, they had a tradition that the first human being was both. Versions of this midrash are found throughout rabbinic literature, including in the Talmud:

Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar also said: Adam was first created with two faces (one male and the other female). As it is stated: You have formed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. (Psalms 139:5)

Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar imagines that the first human was created both male and female with two faces. Later, this original human being was separated and became two distinct people, Adam and Eve. According to this midrash then, the first human being was, to use contemporary parlance, nonbinary. Genesis Rabbah 8:1 offers a slightly different version of Rabbi Yirmeyas teaching:

Rabbi Yirmeya ben Elazar: In the hour when the Holy One created the first human, He created him as an androgynos (one having both male and female sexual characteristics), as it is said, male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Said Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani: In the hour when the Holy One created the first human, He created for him a double face, and sawed him and made him backs, a back here and a back there, as it is said, Behind and before, You formed me (Psalms 139:5).

In this version of the teaching, Rabbi Yirmeya is not focusing on the first humans face (or, rather, faces) but on their sex organs they have both. The midrash imagines this original human looked something like a man and woman conjoined at the back so that one side has a womens face and a womans sex organs and the other side has a mans face and sex organs. Then God split this original person in half, creating the first man and woman. Ancient history buffs will recognize this image as similar to the character Aristophanes description of the first humans as both male and female, eventually sundered to create lone males and females forever madly seeking one another for the purposes of reuniting to experience that primordial state. (Plato, Symposium, 189ff)

For the rabbis, the androgynos wasnt just a thing of the mythic past. The androgynos was in fact a recognized gender category in their present though not with two heads, only both kinds of sex organs. The term appears no less than 32 times in the Mishnah and 283 times in the Talmud. Most of these citations are not variations on this myth, but rather discussions that consider how Jewish law (halakhah) applies to one who has both male and female sexual characteristics.

That the androgynos is, from a halakhic perspective, neither male nor female, is confirmed by Mishnah Bikkurim 4:1, which states this explicitly:

The androgynos is in some ways like men, and in other ways like women. In other ways he is like men and women, and in others he is like neither men nor women.

Because Hebrew has no gender neutral pronoun, the Mishnah uses a male pronoun for the androgynos, though this is obviously insufficient given the rabbinic descriptions of this person. Reading on we find that the androgynos is, for the rabbis, in many ways like a man they dress like a man, they are obligated in all commandments like a man, they marry women and their white emissions lead to impurity. However, in other ways, the androgynos is like a woman they do not share in inheritance like sons, they do not eat of sacrifices that are reserved only for men and their red discharge leads to impurity.

The Mishnah goes on to list ways in which an androgynos is just like any other person. Like any human being, one who strikes him or curses him is liable. (Bikkurim 4:3) Similarly, one who murders an androgynos is, well, a murderer. But the androgynos is also unlike a man or a woman in other important legal respects for instance, such a person is not liable for entering the Temple in a state of impurity as both a man and woman would be.

As should now be clear, the rabbinic interest in these gender ambiguous categories is largely legal. Since halakhah was structured for a world in which most people were either male or female, applying the law to individuals who didnt fall neatly into one of those two categories was challenging. As Rabbi Yose remarks in this same chapter of the Mishnah: The androgynos is a unique creature, and the sages could not decide about him. (Bikkurim 4:5)

In many cases, the androgynos is lumped together with other kinds of nonbinary persons as well as other marginalized populations, including women, slaves, the disabled and minors. For example, concerning participation in the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot) during which the Jews of antiquity would travel to the Temple in Jerusalem, the mishnah of Chagigah opens:

All are obligated on the three pilgrimage festivals to appear in the Temple and sacrifice an offering, except for a deaf-mute, an imbecile, and a minor; and a tumtum, an androgynos, women, and slaves who are not emancipated; and the lame, the blind, the sick, and the old, and one who is unable to ascend to Jerusalem on his own legs.

As this mishnah indicates, it is only healthy, free adult men who are obligated to appear at the Temple to observe the pilgrimage festivals. People who are not adult men, and men who are enslaved or too old or unwell to make the journey, are exempt.

As we have already stated, the androgynos was not the only person of ambiguous gender identified by the rabbis. Similarly, the rabbis recognized one whose sexual characteristics are lacking or difficult to determine, called a tumtum. In the mishnah from Bikkurim we cited earlier, Rabbi Yose, who said the androgynos was legally challenging for the sages, said the tumtum was much easier to figure out.

The rabbis also recognized that some peoples sexual characteristics can change with puberty either naturally or through intervention. Less common than the androgynos and tumtum, but still found throughout rabbinic texts, are the aylonit, who is born with organs identified as female at birth but develops male characteristics at puberty or no sex characteristics at all, and the saris, who is born with male-identified organs and later develops features recognized as female (or no sex characteristics). These changes can happen naturally over time (saris hamah) or with human intervention (saris adam).

For the rabbis, what is most significant about the aylonit and the saris is that they are presumed infertile the latter is sometimes translated as eunuch. Their inability to have offspring creates legal complications the rabbis address, for example:

A woman who is 20 years old who did not grow two pubic hairs shall bring proof that she is twenty years old, and from that point forward she assumes the status of an aylonit. If she marries and her husband dies childless, she neither performs halitzah nor does she enter into levirate marriage.

A woman who reaches the age of 20 without visible signs of puberty, in particular pubic hair, is deemed an aylonit who is infertile. According to this mishnah, she may still marry, but it is not expected that she will bear children. Therefore, if her husband dies and the couple is in fact childless, his brother is not obligated to marry her, as would normally be required by the law of levirate marriage.

A nonbinary person who does not have the same halakhic status as a male or female, but is something else that is best described as ambiguous or in between, presented a halakhic challenge that was not particularly foreign for the rabbis, who discuss analogs in the animal and plant kingdoms. For example, the rabbinic texts describe a koi as an animal that is somewhere between wild and domesticated (Mishnah Bikkurim 2:8) and an etrog yes, that beautiful citron that is essential for Sukkot as between a fruit and a vegetable (Mishnah Bikkurim 2:6, see also Rosh Hashanah 14). Because they dont fit neatly into common categories, the koi and the etrog require special halakhic consideration. The rabbinic understanding of the world was that most categories be they animal, vegetable or mineral are imperfect descriptors of the world, either as it is or as it should be.

In recent decades, queer Jews and allies have sought to reinterpret these eight genders of the Talmud as a way of reclaiming a positive space for nonbinary Jews in the tradition. The starting point is that while it is true that the Talmud understands gender to largely operate on a binary axis, the rabbis clearly understood that not everyone fits these categories.

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The Eight Genders in the Talmud | My Jewish Learning

The 8 Genders of the Talmud – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

The Jewish obligation to observe commandments is traditionally divided along male/female lines: men pray three times daily, while women dont have to; men put on tefillin, while women do not. Some womens recent efforts to observe the religious privileges theyre exempt from have made ripples in the Jewish world, and even the news.

But what if we told you that the foundation for all this was wrong? That Judaism recognized not two, but as many as eight genders? The Mishnah describes half a dozen categories that are between male and female, such as saris or ailonit the terms refer to an non-reproductive version of the male or female body, respectively and categories that refer to ambiguous or indeterminate gender.

Although these terms seem to provide the refreshing view that a binary view of gender in Judaism is relatively recent, a closer look shows that Mishnaic rabbis were apt to privilege maleness in the case of indeterminate or multiple genders. But contemporary scholars like Rabbi Elliot Kukla are repurposing that halakhic discourse to provide a road map for our recognition of non-binary people in todays Judaism. Gender-neutral restrooms start to look like small potatoes.

November 9, 2015

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The 8 Genders of the Talmud - Jewish Telegraphic Agency

What Happened to the Truth? – aish.com Personal Growth, Featured, Spirituality – Aish.com

Destroying lives through false accusations, innuendo and distortions has never been easier.

In his book Other Peoples Money and How Bankers Use It, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote, Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants. Shining a spotlight on an issue can expose and reveal corruption, dishonesty, fraud or abuse that otherwise might go unnoticed, ignored, or even excused. Brandeis wrote these words well before the Internet was a thought in anyones mind and he likely could not have even dreamt of the sunlight it would shine and the accountability it would generate.

The capacity for instant access to information also makes us better informed, allows us to think more critically, and empowers us to ask crucial questions that make us safer, healthier, and stronger. If you want to know more about your doctors education, read reviews of your landscaper, or see what your childs teacher posts on Facebook, the endless information is now just a click away.

Unfiltered sunlight can also be harmful, toxic, and cause cancer.

Brandeis was absolutely correct. Sunlight is indeed a great disinfectant. The internet has sanitized our world by holding people accountable for their behavior, choices, actions, positions, and writings. But what Brandeis didnt mention is that unfiltered sunlight can also be harmful, toxic, and cause cancer.

There has never been a greater vehicle to disseminate gossip and slander than the internet. Lives have been literally destroyed because of false accusations, innuendo, distortions, and untruths. Once upon a time thoughts, ideas, and opinions were only printed if they had merit and were deemed worthy and carefully screened by a publisher. Journalists had to vet their stories and fact checkers confirmed all assertions before an article went to print. While the system wasnt perfect, the result was authors gained credibility and readership based on their education, expertise, experience, and peer review.

Today, anyone can publish his or her ideas and opinions and even his or her version of facts with no expertise or credentials and with no consequence or accountability. Readership and popularity are often a function of salaciousness and sensationalism, not truth and accuracy.

Readers have an enormous burden to be vigilant and judicious before blindly accepting everything.

In his book, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters, Thomas M. Nichols elucidates this concept: People are now exposed to more information than ever before, provided both by technology and by increasing access to every level of education. These societal gains, however, have also helped fuel a surge in narcissistic and misguided intellectual egalitarianism that has crippled informed debates on any number of issues. Today, everyone knows everything: with only a quick trip through WebMD or Wikipedia, average citizens believe themselves to be on an equal intellectual footing with doctors and diplomats. All voices, even the most ridiculous, demand to be taken with equal seriousness, and any claim to the contrary is dismissed as undemocratic elitism.

All of this places an enormous burden on us, the readers and consumers of information, to be vigilant and judicious before blindly accepting everything we come across in print, online, or in person. Especially in the information age, we must ask ourselves, who is the author or speaker of these words? What authority or credibility do they have? How does what they are saying match up with what I know about the person, place, or issue being discussed? Is there another side to this story? Do I have all the facts and information to draw a conclusion?

The Torah instructs us to distance ourselves from falsehood. The Talmud says that Gods insignia is truth. To be Godly one must have ferocious loyalty and fidelity to the truth. Exaggerating, distorting and bending the truth distance us and alienate us from the Almighty.

When it comes to lying, it isnt enough to be committed to the truth and devoted to never lying, but one must distance themselves completely from lies and from liars.

The burden of making sure that the internet functions as a disinfectant and not as a toxin is on the readers and consumers of its content. We must be judicious, careful, and extremely vigilant, not only in what we write, but in how we process and accept what we read.

There is another danger of non-judicious consumption of what is available on the internet. Even when what is being reported is true, is it our business, do we need to know, will the knowledge help us or hurt others? The craving for salacious details and the appetite to know the story emanates from a unhealthy sense of inquisitiveness and our insatiable need to be in the know.

This phenomenon expresses itself in many scenarios. When some hear about a couple getting divorced, their first response is what happened? as if they are entitled to a report about the most personal and private details of a couple and often children going through a difficult time.

Many pay a shiva call and feel a need to ask, How did he or she die? Certainly the mourner is free to volunteer the cause of death if they like, but is it really our business and do we truly need to know?

When we ask, Why did he lose his job? or why did they break their engagement? or why is she still single? are we asking because we care about them, or is finding out somehow satisfying something in ourselves?

Judaism places great value on peoples right to privacy.

For some, the need to know stems from a sense of information is power. Information is social currency and the more we know, the richer and more powerful we are. For others, the need to know stems from an inability to live with tension or mystery. And yet, for others, the need to know is similar to whatever draws us to slow down and look at the accident on the highway even though it has nothing to do with us at all and only creates traffic for others.

Judaism places great value on peoples right to privacy. Jewish law demands that we conduct ourselves with the presumption that all that we are told even in pedestrian conversation is to be held in confidence unless it is explicitly articulated that we are free to repeat what we heard. We are forbidden to look into a neighbors property in a way that violates their privacy. We are instructed not to spread gossip, even if the information is absolutely true and entirely accurate. The Talmud (Bava Metzia 23b) goes so far as to tell us that we are permitted to distort the truth in circumstances that someone is prying for information that is none of their business and that they are not entitled to have.

The internet can be a great resource and blessing in our lives but the burden is on us to remain vigilant not to assume everything we read is true, or to read even things that are true, just because they are available to us.

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What Happened to the Truth? - aish.com Personal Growth, Featured, Spirituality - Aish.com

IT SEEMS TO ME: In support of the right to decide – Leader-Telegram

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David Halvini’s Great Light | David Novak – First Things

Any Jew who survived the Holocaust is a brand plucked from the fire (Zechariah 3:2). That is especially true of any European Jew, and even more so of any European Jew who survived the worst of the Holocaust: Auschwitz and then the Death March to Mauthausen in 1945. One such survivor was a sixteen-year-old youth named David Weiss from Sighet, Romania. Some of his fellow townspeople might have anticipated that this boy prodigy might become the world-renowned Jewish scholar that he did become. But in 1944 (the year he was brought to Auschwitz), they could not be sure that he would live at all, let alone live and remain even more devoted to the Torah and its attendant Jewish tradition than he had been in childhood. But he not only survivedhe prevailed. He became the great light of many lives.

He arrived in America in 1947 as a refugee and eventually found his way to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Immediately upon receiving his second rabbinical ordination and his doctorate, he joined the Talmud faculty there. He eventually hebraized his surname Weiss to Halivni (both meaning white), though he retained Weiss as his middle name. After leaving the seminary in the 1980s due to its serious departure from normative Jewish tradition (Halakhah), he held a chair especially established for him at Columbia University. He also founded the Union for Traditional Judaism, and became the dean of its rabbinical school, the Institute of Traditional Judaism. Upon his retirement from Columbia, he emigrated to Israel, where many came to consult him and benefit from his profound wisdom and empathy. On June 29, he died in Jerusalem at age 94..

Two points stand out in his remarkable life and career. In his scholarly career, Professor Halivni revolutionized the study of the Talmud by uncovering its complicated editing, whereby original sources were reworked, sometimes radically, by later, anonymous editors. More and more students of the Talmud (and they are legion) have adopted and employed his method in their study of this often difficult, even enigmatic, text. Indeed, a Jesuit friend of mine once called the Talmud the most layered text he had ever studied.

In his life, though, Rabbi Halivni was much more than an extraordinary academic. As an instructor of the Torah, and personally committed to its teaching, he showed that not only did his body survive the Holocaust, his soul survived it, too. Indeed, he more than survivedhe flourished. His light ignited many other souls as well. His faith, to be sure, was complex and sometimes involved intense struggle. Of course, there is plenty of precedent for this in Jewish tradition (a l Genesis 32:28, Israel means one who struggles with God). Rabbi Halivni was constantly troubled by why God hadnt rescued so many Jews (including his entire family) during the Holocaust. Nevertheless, he was always convinced that his survival in particular was for the sake of the Torah. His raison dtre was always to plumb the depths of Gods Torah and share his insights with his fellow Jewsand with interested gentiles as well. He did all this with exceptional grace and warmth.

I treasure every one of my many encounters with this great man over the more than sixty years that I knew him. During this period of mourning, I am trying very hard to recall as many of them as possible. His mark on my life and work is indelible. And My servant David is a prince in their midst (Ezekiel 34:24). Who David Weiss Halivni was for us in this world, we hope he will also be for us in the world-yet-to-come. For now, we have to be somehow content with only the memory of him.

David Novakholds the J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto.

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David Halvini's Great Light | David Novak - First Things

The 125 greatest Jewish movie scenes of all time (101-125) – Forward

Scenes from "Inglorious Basterds," "Funny Girl" and "Der Dybbuk" capture a Jewish je ne sais quoi. Photo by Angelie Zaslavsky

By PJ GrisarJuly 01, 2022

Bar mitzvah boy Danny is stoned, but has navigated his rite of passage successfully and, as the movie approaches its bleak climax, he is allowed into old Rabbi Marshaks inner sanctum. There, the old, white-bearded rabbi, with an almost inscrutably European accent delivers a koan-like statement on life: When the truth is found / to be lies / and all the joy within you / dies / dont you want somebody to love? Its a gorgeous bit of old world wisdom except that its not really. The rabbi, with a transistor radio in his ear, is quoting Jefferson Airplane and goes on to list, with Dannys help, the members of the band as if Marty Balin and Paul Kantner were Talmudic sages. (DF)

Danielle (Rachel Sennott), spends much of this films hour-and-a-half runtime slowly breaking down as she grapples with her impending college graduation, her queerness and her parents expectations. But toward the end, when she has a breakdown and knocks a stack of prayer books onto the floor, stunning the roomful of mourners into silence, she finally seems to realize the gravity of the moment, kissing each siddur as she carefully replaces it onto the table. After spending the film lashing out against her community, the moment makes it clear that Danielle is still deeply rooted in her Judaism. (MF)

Kaveh Nabatians feature debut is a sensory overload in the best way possible, melding orange-tinted Bolex footage, ballet and extreme close-ups of chickens about to be killed in a Santeria ritual. In the middle of the vertiginous tale of Afro-Cuban ballerino Leonardo and the Iranian-Jewish Canadian Nasim, whom he exploits for a visa, is something rarely committed to film: a Mizrahi brit milah with ululating women and more than a smattering of Farsi from the crowd. Leonardo, despite his own Santeria practice, appears taken aback by this display. In interviews, Nabatian emphasized the importance of showing Iranian Jewish customs in the film, and cast his own father as Nassims dad (and the sandek).

Its a funny tidbit that a Harvard Jewish frat party played a pivotal role in the development of Facebook. A side effect of it is that the movie The Social Network recreates for all eternity what an early 2000s AEPi Caribbean night was like. Otherwise, the awkward dancing to calypso music and creepy banter of Jewish comp cci majors ogling Asian coeds would be lost forever. Most cringeworthy is when Brazilian Jewish Facebook founder Eduardo Saverin explains why Jewish men are attracted to Asian women: Theyre hot, smart, not Jewish and can dance. (AS)

Rebuked by his people, abandoned by his allies, and sold out by his worthless brother Adonijah, Israels deposed King Solomon (Yul Brynner) prepares to make his final stand against the advancing Egyptian army. With his forces severely depleted and outnumbered, Solomon faces what looks like certain defeat. But as the Egyptians begin their westward charge, Solomons soldiers raise their polished shields to the rising sun in the east, blinding their opponents and sending them plummeting en masse into a massive chasm in front of the Israeli lines. Never underestimate the wisdom of Solomon! (DE)

Toward the end of Alain Resnais biopic about the infamous Russian-born Jewish conman Serge Alexandre Stavisky (Jean-Paul Belmondo), the well-connected swindlers associates reveal their true colors. Learning the police are searching his Paris apartment and that his grift will soon come undone, Staviskys right-hand man, Borelli, doesnt mince words about their future together. We dont know you anymore, he says, going on to growl that Staviskys crimes prove you should never trust foreigners refugees Jews. As this disavowal proceeds with a rare film score by Stephen Sondheim the camera turns around Stavisky, the weight of his outsider status finally dawning on him. He is the Jew on display and, now that hes outlived his usefulness, he will become the scapegoat.

Dr. Felix Klauber (Ricardo Cortez) has left the old neighborhood to treat Park Avenue hypochondriacs in a swanky office with a battery of receptionists. His childhood sweetheart, Jessica (Irene Dunne), walks into Felixs new practice like shes entering the Land of Oz, baffled by how far hes come from his principles and shocked when shes told he never sees anyone except by appointment. When she manages to get an audience, she berates him in biblical terms for selling his birthright (a family clinic) for a mess of pottage. Youve forgotten the ghetto, all your fine promises, she says. (CR)

The marked difference of the Israeli protagonist of Nadav Lapids film is noted almost immediately by his new neighbors in Paris. When the pair find him unconscious in the tub, one of them does a quick appraisal: circumcised. As Forward contributing film critic Daniel Witkin noted in his review, this is but one of the films phallocentric instances of wherever you go, there you are.

When you think of Golden Age stars who knew some Yiddish, Jimmy Cagney may not seem like a top-line candidate. He should. In an immediately iconic moment in Roy Del Ruths film, Cagneys Matt Nolan offers a ride (in the mameloshn) to a frustrated Yiddish-speaker asking an Irish cop for directions. What part of Ireland did your folks come from? asks the gobsmacked policeman. Delancey Street, thank you, Cagney answers with a smirk.

Yiddish Art Theater founder Maurice Schwartz, who wrote, directed and starred in this adaptation of Sholem Aleichems Tevye stories, brought a certain anti-gentile animus to bear on the story of Chavas interfaith marriage. And given the timing 1939 who could blame him? In this telling, Chava leaves her husband and cruel in-laws when an antisemitic edict forces Tevya to leave the village. Petitioning her father to rejoin the family, she cries, Your old belief is truer, deeper. Now I finally know my soul belongs to you. Where you are, I am. Of course the old softie takes her back.

Moses and the Israelites observe a proto-Passover Seder in Cecil B. DeMilles second crack at Exodus. Its a chilling sequence. Outside the huts of the Hebrew camp, the angel of death is killing the Egyptian firstborns. The cries of their parents can be heard as Moses nephew Eleazar questions his uncle about the unleavened bread on the table. Moses explanation is interrupted by the frantic whinnying of a horse outside. The horrors of the scene beyond these walls recalls the countless Jews who risked death to observe their Seders only at this one point in history are they the safe ones. A stoic Moses tells Eleazar to always remember, He passed over your house.

Ernst Lubitschs uproarious backstage comedy culminates in a feat of stunning stagecraft as Jack Bennys Joseph Tura places a fake beard on a corpse and passes for a dead Nazi double agent. As Jackson Arn notes in his essay, the sequence is delightful for reducing a Gestapo officer from from swagger to pathetic groveling in under three minutes, and all it takes is a theater prop.

No one has ever enjoyed making fun of Hitler as much as Mel Brooks. Both in his award-winning movie/musical/musical-movie, The Producers and in this remake of the Ernst Lubitsch comedy of the same name, Hitler is a ridiculous, yet pivotal, character. In a musical comedy sketch, Brooks, as the leader of a Polish theater ensemble, plays Hitler as a singing, dancing, insecure dictator who wants a little peace. Of Poland that is.

The only way to get even with anybody is to ridicule them. So, the only real way I could get even with Hitler and company was to bring them down with laughter. Mel Brooks on Inside Comedy

Its one of the most famous pieces of writing by one of the quintessential Jewish writers: A traveler comes to a gate and asks the gatekeeper to let him pass; the gatekeeper refuses, and years pass, the traveler refusing to accept that hell never be allowed further. For his interpretation of Kafkas Before the Law parable, Orson Welles had the brilliant idea of using pin-screen animation instead of actors,to make the parables meaning even more inscrutable (the exclusion of Jews from a Christian society? the torturous, Talmudic maze of Judaism itself?). Maimonides wrote that he believed in the coming of the mashiach, and though he may tarry, still I await him every day. In the prologue to The Trial, Kafka and Welles seem to ask, What if he tarries forever? (JA)

In the middle of Josh and Benny Safdies white-knuckler, theres a moment of reprieve as overleveraged jeweler Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) smokes cigars with his father-in-law (Judd Hircsh) after a Seder, talking basketball and the price of an opal. Suddenly, a column of children files into the room darting around the furniture. This ritual blurs by without explanation, but Jews know. These kids are looking for the afikomen and are on the make just like their dad.

In a chilling sequence, a Jewish doctor (Yiddish-Soviet actor Veniamin Zuskin) and his gentile friends part ways. The non-Jews go in the direction of a cemetery, with a casket; a column of countless Ukrainian Jews wend their way to a mass grave. Filmed on site at Babyn Yar, director Marc Donskoi shows the massacre by machine gun in unflinching detail. Men, women and children fall in the ravine as storm clouds roll overhead. Several years after this was shot, Babyn Yar would be filled with waste from a brick factory; in 1952, the films star, Zuskin, would be executed on the Night of Murdered Poets.

Gidi Dars drama, written by and starring Shuli Rand and his wife, Michal Bat-Sheva Rand, was Shtisel before Shtisel and without all the fake payot. In a transcendent moment, the childless Moshe confides to God that he is profoundly sad. He is, in fact, a lump of sadness. He cant afford to celebrate Sukkot. He wonders aloud why God hasnt repaid his devotion and, even more so, that of his wife, Mali. Moshe sits on a park bench, clapping his hands for his lucky day. His fervent prayers are intercut with a scene in an office, where we learn a charity has 1,000 spare shekels meant for a man who died. Its a Sukkot miracle. Too bad that convicts will interrupt Moshe and Malis chag.

From the early days of Yiddish talkies, this film, helmed by Sidney Goldin, is a thrilling display of some of the greatest cantorial voices of the time including Mordechai Hershman, Joseph Shlisky, Yoselle Rosenblatt (the film was released the year after he died) and more. The most compelling scene and, sadly, one which has long been missing from surviving prints is of legendary cantor/composer Zeidel Rovner, who, at the age of 78, was one of the oldest professional hazzanim. He is joined by Shaya Engelhart, the youngest cantorial sensation, in a beautiful rendition of Rovners setting of a Tisha Bav prayer. (HS)

Midway through Christopher Guests mockumentary about community theater, dentist-turned-actor Dr. Allan Pearl reflects on the entertaining bug he inherited from his grandfather Chaim Pearlgut, an erstwhile star in New Yorks Yiddish theater scene. Black and white lithographs flash across the screen, filled with noses the size of grapefruits and costumes straight from the shtetl. But what was the production that made Chaim a star? It was, of course, the sardonically irreverent play Dybbuk, Shmybuck: I Said More Ham. (JZ)

Ill have what shes having, says Estelle Reiner, the directors mom.

Its always a volatile moment when the bride and groom are lifted up in chairs at a Jewish wedding. In this Argentinian movie by Jewish screenwriter Damin Szifron, the bride suspects her new husband of infidelities and its when the klezmer band starts playing that everything spins out of control. (AS)

Barbra Streisand wrote, directed, and stars in this musical about the girl whose father gives her a Talmudic education reserved for men. After his death she continues her study dressed as Anshel, a male Yeshiva student, secretly in love with classmate, Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin). During Shabbat dinner at the home of Avigdors fiancee, Hadas (Amy Irving), Yentl/Anshel has a rare moment of double consciousness: She is both a woman admiring another woman and a man appreciating that womans submissiveness. No wonder, he loves her, she sings in an inner monologue. The moment she sees him, her thought is to please him. (CR)

While this justly celebrated musical rom-com, featuring the irrepressible gamine Molly Picon, is brimming with memorable scenes, with songs penned by her and musical collaborator Abe Ellstein, the most underrated sequence features co-star Dora Fakiel. Fakiel is in the street, singing Oy, hert zikh ayn, mayne libe mentshn (Please Hear Me Out, Good People), a heartbreakingly poignant and metaphoric ballad, oozing with lush modal movement whose lyrics ask, How such a small fiddle can contain so much pain? (HS)

In this parody of the Universal monster movies, Gene Wilder plays the grandson of Dr. Frankenstein, and corrects people when they mispronounce his last name. Its not Franken-stein, but rather the more Anglo-sounding Fronk-en-steen. Brooks gag highlights the trend in which American Jews changed their last names to avoid prejudice and to better their social position. (JK)

In a scene that became instantly iconic, soldier Daffi (Nelly Tagar), hoping to leave her remote outpost, holds a stapler to her temple. Thats the only way Ill get any attention, she insists. No one at her base is impressed and the stapler is empty. Kill yourself first and then well report it, says one of her comrades, as Daffi moves on to attempt suicide with even more office supplies.

Thus concludes our list of the 125 greatest Jewish movie scenes. But as with so many Jewish texts, there is room for vigorous debate, commentary and supplements. If you think we missed something (and were certain we did) feel free to send an email to Grisar@Forward.com.

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The 125 greatest Jewish movie scenes of all time (101-125) - Forward

In Defense of Wasting Time: On C. Thi Nguyen’s Games: Agency As Art – lareviewofbooks

I PLAY GAMES: video and board games. Im ashamed of it, and ashamed that Im ashamed ashamed because such games carry an air of childishness and frivolity, and ashamed at my shame because, well, why should anyone care? But I do care, so I play my games in private, sitting in my bowl of feelings, engaged but discreet.

C. Thi Nguyens Games: Agency As Art is about games, and about why nobody should be ashamed of them playing them, designing them, or discussing them with other adults. I read the book, and I stopped being ashamed. Unfortunately, I dont know what a game is anymore. This is a review about that.

The first thing that struck me about Nguyens book is what it did not say, the place where it did not begin. For more than half a century, games video games especially have been blamed for everything from hooliganism to school shootings. Studies to the contrary notwithstanding, the weight of these accusations is felt in every serious conversation about the activity; despite the artistry in modern game design, non-gamers still dont ask, Are they good? but only, Are they safe? For all of the industrys users and the numbers are indeed massive this flavor of pastime is still stuck on the far side of respectability. At work you might talk about Succession, but not Animal Crossing.

Nguyen, a philosopher at the University of Utah, is not interested in engaging in this debate. Instead, his book addresses a critique that seems more minor but is ultimately harder to shake: that even if games arent bad, they are certainly a waste of time; they are simply a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles in the words of Bernard Suits (quoted early in the book) the operative word being unnecessary. Furthermore, games offer nothing that could not be provided through some more worthy pursuit.

Now, even amateur gamers will intuit that this cant be true, but Nguyens philosophical firepower is directed at explaining why it is not true. If you think games are a waste of time, argues Nguyen, it is only because you have fundamentally misunderstood how humans decide to spend their lives. Specifically, you have forgotten about interactive experiences, and it is the creation of exquisitely personal interactive experiences that separates games from all other pursuits.

It is in shoring up the human desire for experiences that Nguyen makes his most profound observation: yes, humans think in terms of means and ends, but the latter is sometimes just an excuse for the former. Sure, sometimes our ends dictate our means I go to the store so I can satiate my hunger but just as often we select ends because the means themselves are appealing. A person who sets forth on a long hike through a national park, on a trail that will deposit them exactly where they started, is clearly using get to the end as a thin excuse to have a glorious day. A college student playing the board game Settlers of Catan only ever cares about acquiring sheep and wheat cards because those goals allow her to have an experience with friends. Many modern board games are more fun if youre bad at them, and a father playing Checkers against his child might not be trying to win at all. Goals, argues Nguyen, can be enduring I brush my teeth because I want them to remain healthy but they can just as easily be conveniences, assumed to enable an experience, and quickly discarded once the experience concludes.

But Nguyen then takes it a step further: if games are enjoyable experiences propped up by flimsy objectives, and if games are judged by their enjoyability, then game design is the art of engineering paths to success that make for a pleasurable, beautiful experiences. The game designers special tool to do this is the rule, which confines the player to a particular set of choices and win conditions. Because of this, games arent always pleasant to observe; some, like those that make you strap a VR headset to your face, are downright off-putting. But this is fine; unlike music or film, the aesthetics of games unfold through doing, not looking (though millions of Twitch streams might disagree on this point). Sometimes you just have to be there.

Its the intentional use of well-crafted goals to create unique experiences that makes games special. Every game, from Candy Land to Call of Duty, places the gamer in the position of agent, responsible to perform, to choose. We adore games because we adore being agents; we like making choices, we like sitting in someone elses chair, and we especially like the rule-based constraints that force our choices to be blissfully less complicated than actual life. Nguyen also makes the keen insight that we like our games to be just hard enough to make us feel that we have used our all to win; it is games like these that grant us the ever-elusive sense of achievement.

Good books have a funny way of making trouble for themselves. As I read Games, I found myself agreeing; as I read more, I found myself agreeing too much. The core problem of Games is that Nguyens answer is stronger than his question, and as the book proceeds it becomes more and more difficult to understand why the book should focus on the things we traditionally call games in the first place. With the concept aesthetic striving play, Nguyen gives us a way of finding games in all corners of our lives and if its no longer shameful to do so, why not call those things games, too?

Im asking this question abstractly, but Im thinking about it in terms of one text, a passage derived from the Talmud that celebrates the righteousness of Jewish pastimes above all others.

We are thankful to you, our God, for putting our lot among those who sit in the study hall and not among those who sit on the corners. We get up early and they get up early: we get up early for Torah, and they get up early for frivolous things. We work and they work. We work and are rewarded; they work and are not rewarded. We run and they run. We run to a life in the World to Come, and they run to an empty chasm.

But why should this be so? Following Nguyen, the cacophony of the beit midrash, the study hall, is not much different from a busy night at the board game caf: both are forms of aesthetic striving, both involve friendly competition, and neither is designed to make anything. Indeed, the idea that Torah study is a form of play helps example both why it is so beloved in certain Jewish communities and why people who are not engaged in that learning find it so hard to appreciate; it is, in the parlance of the Talmud, supposed to be done lshma, for its own sake. To take it further: Why not imagine all religious ritual as a kind of game or even all secular ritual? Why should we not situate ourselves in a world full of games?

Nguyen acknowledges this extension but seems hesitant to pursue it. Toward the beginning of the book he gestures at Johan Huizinga, whose 1938 book Homo Ludens did in fact make the case that games are genetically linked to rituals, performances, and all sorts of activities that take place within the so-called magic circle, in which the normal rules of life are suspended and we enter what the book Ritual and Its Consequences calls an as if or could be universe. Nguyen says that he thinks games are different, but he never really gets around to explaining how. If anything, Nguyen acknowledges the fuzziness of his category: late in the book he warns against companies that gamify employee work goals, providing a fantasy of value clarity that obscures the essential messiness of the real world. In an interview with Ezra Klein, he notes that QAnon and other conspiracy theories have turned American politics into research that serves as a kind of self-fashioned puzzle box. If we are willing to admit it, life is full of games. The people who worry that games will remove us from reality need not be concerned; in the modern world, there is no unified reality from which we can be removed.

This actually strengthens Nguyens case for the categorys importance because it addresses the books other major fault: its inability to recognize that the reversal of means and ends is never permanent, that the two run into each other constantly and that this confusion of means and ends is a basic element of our emotional lives. Consider it: the football player whose college scholarship is riding on the outcome of a match. The almost comical number of video games that are metaphors for depression. The trauma survivor who plays Candy Crush to ease his symptoms. The concept of the sore loser. Such messiness has already motivated more than one academic critique of the book, and while Nguyen tries to accommodate them by putting up taxonomies, the simpler solution is simply that games are porous to reality and will always be so.

Of course, it is still possible to waste ones time. Ironically, Nguyens defense of unnecessary obstacles allows us to evaluate whether the particular unnecessary obstacle weve selected is well chosen. No defense of games will shake off the idea that some people are getting up early for frivolous things, are running toward an empty chasm. There will never be agreement on how best to live life; life, as Nguyen tells us, is too complicated for that. In a game, for once in my life, I know exactly what it is that Im supposed to be doing, he says. I feel this. There is never any shame in finding ones purpose.

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Inheriting America, then choosing America | Jon Spira-Savett | The Blogs – The Times of Israel

This week, I printed out a copy of the declaration of intent to become a United States citizen made by my great-grandfather, Wolf Landsman, in the city court of Utica, New York. My sister Ellen found this document a few years ago, which is dated July 8, 1893.

In it, my great-grandfather declares that he renounces all allegiance to the czar of Russia, which I cant imagine was very difficult for him. What was difficult for him was English. The document is filled out in beautiful handwriting, but not his; it belongs to Clarence Stetson, a court clerk who, a couple of decades later, became president of the Common Council, Uticas city council. Mr. Stetsons impeccable penmanship records Wolf Landsmans city of birth in Russia, though it looks to me like the clerk just made up some approximation of what he heard my great-grandfather say. All my great-grandfather could do was mark an X.

Wolf Landsman was 18 years old when he landed in New York City, and he was 21 years old when he came to the court in Utica for this declaration, and thanks to him and my other seven great-grandparents, 130 years ago, give or take, I am a citizen of the United States of America.

When I was 21 years old, I decided to leave the United States, and while I was still 21, I decided once and for all not to. I turned 21 in Israel, living for a year in fulfillment of an intention I declared when I was just about to turn 18. On July 8, 1988, 95 years after Wolf Landsmans declaration of intent to become an American citizen, I was in between, just back to the States and with a plan to spend the next seven years studying before I would make aliyah. But sometime in the last two months of my age, I realized I still wanted to be American.

Two things happened that fall when I returned to college from my year away. One was I met a girl, who is now my wife.

The other is a bit harder to describe, because it has to do with ideas. I realized that the ideas I found most compelling, even after a year in Israel, were American ideas, and the questions that I couldnt stop talking about were American questions.

The life of my mind was American. What I found engrossing was: freedom and individuality, and how freedom and individuality are the biggest challenges to community and the soil in which community grows or does not grow. And how freedom and individuality are the biggest challenges to figuring out how much we are responsible for one another, which is the fundamental question of politics and government.

I was utterly surprised to discover that I was still American deep down, after a year in Israel immersed in Talmud, which I had never studied before, and after working so hard to become a fluent speaker of Hebrew, and finally being comfortable in the yeshivish banter that makes religious Jewish college students feel like one of the crowd. My ratio of non-Jewish to Jewish friends had dropped rapidly. That was the 21-year-old who decided he was permanently American. That guy was studying Talmud in his free time, with Thoreau and Emerson and Tocqueville and Carol Gilligan sitting on his shoulder and stuck in his head.

Obviously the girlfriend was a factor, since she had no interest in aliyah but we had just started dating, so how big a factor could that have been? What I think actually happened is that I noticed how little sleep I was losing about this difference between us. That was surprising too, since I was a brooder by nature. But I didnt feel any inner tension, like this was an argument we were going to have to have one day about the future of our relationship. Thats what I noticed, thats what clinched it for me: This isnt hard for me. I really am going to stay here in America.

My candidate for president got destroyed that year; my political philosophy was repudiated nationally, which is to say my own interpretation of these ideas about freedom and individuality and community that were all I could think about and talk about. But I didnt say to myself: See, you dont belong here. Just the opposite.

I was coming to realize that I was addressing the American ideas at the core of my life in a Jewish way, on all kinds of levels.

In my mind, this is how I think about freedom and individuality: Henry David Thoreau, who would not compromise one bit with conventional society and went off to live in the woods all on his own, who went to jail rather than pay taxes that would help fund what he thought was an unjust war he is talking to Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, who in the Talmud was banished after he couldnt persuade the rest of the rabbis to set the law his way, even when God sent miracles and a voice down from Heaven to back him up. Ralph Waldo Emersons essay on individualism talks to Rav Yosef Soloveitchiks essay on shlichut, on finding ones unique individual mission in the world.

I think about how freedom is the basic, precious truth we learn from the Exodus, and how much more precious that freedom is than what John Locke or Thomas Jefferson ever wrote about. How that freedom compels us to stop at Mt. Sinai and enter into covenant, and what that teaches about the kinds of covenants free people in America have to make or ought to make.

I think about how freedom is what allows us to think new thoughts and be wrong without being thrown in jail, and what forces synagogues to be compelling or wither away, instead of just being the thing your parents did so you do too.

I think about how freedom is also the fundamental challenge to our humanity, even the basic idol. It was free people who chose the make a golden calf and worship a thing made of gold. It was free people who imagined themselves trading the challenge of rising spiritually for the fleshpots back in Egypt and the thought of a life free of difficult decisions and moral agency. That Torah about freedom talks to the challenges today, of freedom that opens up to mere materialism, to unrestrained competition and social competitiveness. A freedom that can make everything a commodity, including ourselves allowing our interests, our time, even our unique talents to be valued in our own eyes by what they are worth in the short-term to others. Freedom can overwhelm us with the present moment, with all the choices right now of what to do or buy or think or be outraged about. All of which can disconnect us from the larger and longer stories we are part of, which we author and co-author.

I think about how the tradition that views tzedakah more as taxation than charity wants us to understand the blessing we say first thing in the morning, praising the Divine sheasanu bnai chorin, who has made us free people. How does the person who wakes up into freedom also wake up into responsibility? I want to know how in talmudic detail and philosophical detail and political detail how do we deal with the question of freedom and mutual responsibility.

Some look at the phrase Jewish American, or American Jew, and see a space between the words, a gap between two aspects of consciousness. Or they see a dash like a minus sign, where one word or maybe both take something away from the other. I see rather a chemical bond, not ionic, but covalent. A sign of the energy that flows uniquely when two entities are bound together, and something new emerges that is different from either atom on its own.

The hyphen in Jewish-American is one of the most exciting things I know. What made me decide to be American, to file my own declaration at the age of 21, just as my great-grandfather had, is that hyphen. Being Jewish is how we understand being American; being American is how we find the greatness in Judaism.

Ive been talking about ideas in my head, but those ideas are tied up with stories, about my past and the teachers and role models related to those ideas, and the projects and mitzvahs and failures around those ideas, and the communities made possible around those ideas. I teach regularly that we each need to reconnect to our own ideas about freedom and individuality and community and responsibility, and to the stories of our lives and our legacies. It has soothed me this past week to do this; it has soothed me whenever America has been hard to celebrate.

But its about more than soothing. Our environment of free press and free expression, which are great freedoms that environment can also take our breath away quite literally. The only way we reclaim the capacity to act freely is to reconnect ourselves to our ideas and to the stories around those ideas. We become bigger than the difficulty of the moment we get more breath and breathing room when we think about freedom, and when we tell the kinds of stories I am telling, and bring all the characters in those stories to our side again.

There is nothing more practical in this moment. We need our ideas, and we need all those stories. We need them in our minds and we need to share them in conversations, our partners in action and the people who matter to us the most. The people who get things done, who make a difference in our country, are people who know in depth what they think about freedom and responsibility, and why.

You may think this doesnt matter, that someone has decided what the official answer is to all these questions, and what difference does it make what you think. But freedom isnt just about what the Supreme Court says. Its about our culture. Its about what we teach and model for our young people. Its about how freedom and community are expressed in our cities and towns, which are very much under our control. Its about how we build community in conditions of great freedom and individuality among Jews. And its about how we understand ourselves, in every way we have agency.

I pulled out my great-grandfathers citizenship declaration this week because I was invited to say some words at an event this week about immigration issues. At the last minute, I found out that our talks would be translated on the fly for those whose English is comparable to my young great-grandfathers. And when the evening was over, I thought about how remarkable that Wolf Landsmans American declaration could be read out 129 years later almost to the week by his great-grandson, the rabbi, in a New England church, his Russian-speaking X and the court clerks beautiful English becoming a story retold extemporaneously in Spanish. Then, in the hour that followed, I listened to familiar themes and to new stories, from people and groups I dont know well enough, who are new to this country in our generation. Now their ideas about individual freedom and the potential for community join the mix in my head, and remind me that I have to keep engaged in thinking and working on the same ideas and the same questions. And so too must we all.

Thats hard work, but good work. It has been a difficult couple of weeks and more, but still we deserve a celebration. To help us look back, and look around, and look in our minds to locate ourselves again on this weekend of celebrating American freedom. We will find ourselves and become larger again. This is where we are supposed to be. Right here, in the United States of America. Choose America, again. Find yourself here, and you wont find yourself alone.

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Inheriting America, then choosing America | Jon Spira-Savett | The Blogs - The Times of Israel

Memories of the Heart – Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters – Lubavitch.com

Elisha Wiesel speaks with Lubavitch International about his famous father and raising his children to love Yiddishkeit

Your father, Elie Wiesel, put the tragedy of his personal experience in the Holocaust to work, raising awareness about the danger of antisemitism and the evil of hatred. You yourself have begun to speak out against antisemitism, sometimes as you did at the UN this past February with indignation, even anger. Is that something youd say came from your father?

My father was not an angry person, so I wont blame him for this. But I think theres a time and a place to get appropriately angry. Today, being a victim seems to be the only way to get the microphone. We shake our heads and sit there stunned, shockedfor exampleby the stupidity of the argument against Israel about disproportionate killing. This rhetoric is absolutely antisemitic, absolutely hateful, because the only way to get proportionality is to turn off the Iron Dome for an hour so that more Jews die. So we need to raise our voices. We need to respond. Sometimes, you have to get angry with these people, because its the only way that they realize they have crossed a linefrom pontificating to calling for absolutely murderous results.

The world knows Elie Wiesel as the most famous Holocaust survivor, a prolific author, activist, and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Who was Elie Wiesel to you, his only child?

When I was young, I thought my father was a weak person. A lot of the other kids had parents who were throwing a baseball with them, teaching them how to catch a football, taking them skiing. That was not my father.

At age eight or nine, Id hear a friend say his father had served in the IDF and was now flying planes for El Al. Another would say his father was a pharmacist, saving people with his medicines. I would say, I think something really bad happened to my father, and he talks about it.

But my impression of my father changed a lot over the years. In my twenties, I began to appreciate the person who existed before the war. He was a bright, engaged, curious student, full of affection. I began to appreciate the incredible childhood that he had and I could see the young person that hed been. I no longer saw him as just a snapshot.

You once said that you struggled as a child: it was difficult being in your fathers shadow and trying to carve out your own identity. What were you looking for?

I felt that there was this path that had been constructed for me, and an expectation that I would be a mini Elie. I went to a Modern Orthodox yeshivah where my father was very well known. So, of course, I was supposed to be the best-behaved student in class. I mean, your father is Elie Wiesel, so how could you possibly be goofing off and not paying attention? I felt very boxed in by all of the expectations of who I was supposed to be. I was desperate to break out.

What did that look like?

As an adolescent, I went through a very strong inflection point. I began to question everything. I felt Yiddishkeit was useless to me, and I found myself completely on the other side.

How did your father relate to your adolescent frustrations?

He didnt always know how to connect with me. My parents were first-generation immigrants from European families. They didnt get a guidebook on how to be an American parent in the twentieth century, and I think they struggled with it. My father was a very patient man, and he continued to love me no matter what horrible things I said or did. Ultimately, I think that that served him well as a parenting strategy. Its one that I try to remember. But Im sure it was very hard for him.

I think my father felt that he had placed a big burden on me by bringing me into this world. At a time when it was hard for anyone to keep faith and fight the forces of assimilation, it was a difficult thing to be the sonthe only sonof a famous Holocaust survivor whose family had been almost decimated. And he felt bad for me that all that weight was on my shoulders. He tried to lessen the burden. He tried to protect me and let me live my own life.

What was the turning point in your relationship with your father?

In 1995, I joined my father on a trip to Sighet, his childhood hometown. That was a turning point. We also went to Auschwitz on that trip, but thats where the Jewish community went to die. Sighet is where the Jewish community lived. In Sighet, my father could describe what his day looked like, how he would run home from cheder, or from choir practice, stopping at his grandmothers windowon Fridays she had a fresh challah to give him as she asked him what he learned that day. This was powerful for me.

This is where my father grew up, and its charged with all fourteen or fifteen years of his memories before Auschwitz. Being there allowed me to see him as someone who had this incredible strength to persevere, with life, with family, with Yiddishkeit, and to engage with the world after the Shoah.

Where do you think that resilience came from?

It came from the way he was raised. My father was not raised in a vacuum. I could feel my grandparents fingerprints in all this.

My father loved Judaism, loved the world. He had an incredible thirst for knowledge. You dont get that in a vacuum. He was raised in a loving home. He had a strong sense of identity. And when you have that, you have the self-confidence that can take you forward in life.

This is something that I only appreciated when I had kids of my own and started thinking about what shapes character and what shapes destiny.

Were there other turning points for you?

Growing up, I didnt get to experience a big family or joy in Judaism, and that was really missing for me. But my father gave me a gift when he passed. He wanted me to say Kaddish for him, and when I started to visit shuls to do so, I saw joy. I saw joy in the davening, joy in everythingfrom Birkat HaMazon, to the Torah class, to the kids running around.

The joy of Yiddishkeit seems to be an important theme in your family life.

We only get this narrow window to give our children the values and experiences we want them to remember. I want my son to have experiences hes going to remember ten years from now, when he has to make his own decisions about life. I dont feel Im going to get my kids to have a lifelong interest in Judaism by lecturing or giving them rational arguments.

What he will remember is that he and a friend would sit in shul and have a good time together, and occasionally theyd get up and dance with us and run around. Hell remember the experience of the lively singing, and hell know the songs and be able to sing along. Hell remember that great feeling at the Shabbos Kiddush in shul, where youre schmoozing and the food is great, and people are happy to see each other. These are things hes going to rememberin his heart, not in his head. So Im much more focused on that.

My son is almost sixteen. And Im respectful of his time and his choices. He knows that I expect him to wear tefillin with me every day. He doesnt go to a Jewish school, so we daven together every morning. We go to shul together when we can, and we experience the liveliness, the spirit of Yiddishkeit.

Your father was a serious student of Gemara. He loved learning Talmud, he said. You also are studying Talmud. What has that been like?

Im on this seven-year adventure, making my way through all of Shas, seeing every corner of the Talmud. I study with a chevruta. I could spend the rest of my life studying, because how can you possibly master this conversation thats been occurring for 2,000 years? Were flying 1,000 miles an hour at 30,000 feet, so I know that Im not getting it in depth. But occasionally theres something that I want to double-click on and go deeper. Im keeping a journal of the things that I find the most memorable so that when I do it the second time around, I can go even deeper. It has been an incredible experience.

Its also taught me to appreciate the depth in which my father was swimming, and what he was inspired by. Ill be sitting in shul and reading a certain Haftorah, and I know what my father would have been thinking about.

In a 2012 interview in these pages, your father spoke about his personal relationship with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He said the Rebbe urged him to marry and have a family.

I have only one side of their correspondencethe letters the Rebbe wrote to my father. No matter what they would be talking about, the Rebbe would end by saying, By the way, are you married yet?

He was constantly reminding my father that this was the most important thing he could do to really defeat Hitler. To really show that he stood for all the things he said he stood for: You need to get married, you need to have kids, and they should grow up to be Chasidic, G-d-fearing kids. And if theyre not Lubavitch, thatll still be good. He did it with a sense of humor.

Did your father live to see the way you have evolved?

He didnt live to see my sons bar mitzvah, which Im very sad about. But he lived to see my kids have Jewish literacy. He taught my son alef-bet on his knee. And he saw that we were beginning to make Shabbos a joyful time, that I could raise a Jewish family with joy very much at the center of the experience.

This article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of the Lubavitch International magazine. To download the full magazine and to gain access to previous issues pleaseclick here.

Read the rest here:

Memories of the Heart - Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters - Lubavitch.com

Gemara: The Essence of the Talmud | My Jewish Learning

The teachings transmitted by the rabbis in the centuries following the destruction of the Second Temple formed the core of what has come to be known as rabbinic Judaism, which still provides the framework for the various types of Judaism practiced today. The most widely studied of these rabbinic teachings are known collectively as the Talmud, which has two parts: Mishnah and Gemara.

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The Mishnah is the earlier work, compiled from the teachings of sages living at the end of the Second Temple period and in the century following the destruction of the Temple.

A study book of laws and value statements that express the classical rabbis vision of Judaism, the Mishnahs preoccupation is promotion of a religious and legal tradition both continuous with the past and practical for life in the post-destruction Diaspora. The Mishnah contains multiple opinions on many laws and does not often suggest which is the most authoritative. The plurality of Jewish practice is preserved in the text.

Sages in both Babylonia (modern-day Iraq) and the Land of Israel continued to study traditional teachings, including the Mishnah, describing the teachings as having been passed down from Moses at Sinai (either literally or figuratively). The oral discussions were preserved, either by memorization or notation, and later edited together in a manner that places generations of sages in conversation with one another. These teachers were interested in bringing greater harmonization between biblical and rabbinic traditions, largely by providing proof-texts for known laws and explaining differences between the biblical and rabbinic versions of laws. This is the origin of the Gemara.

There are actually two works known as Gemara the Babylonian Gemara (referred to as Bavli in Hebrew) and the Palestinian (or Jerusalem) Gemara (referred to as Yerushalmi). The term Gemara itself comes from the Aramaic root g.m.r (equivalent to l.m.d, in Hebrew), giving it the meaning teaching.

Although the Yerushalmi was completed earlier (with material spanning roughly 200-500 C.E.), it was eclipsed by the much longer Bavli (200-600 C.E.). The Bavlis popularity may be due to the work of the Gaonim of Babylonia, who cited that work in the legal judgements (responsa) that they sent to communities throughout the Diaspora. Both Gemaras were written in a combination of Hebrew and Aramaic dialects and share the teachings of sages known by the term Amoraim (in the singular, Amora).

Hevruta study at Pardes, a nondenominational yeshiva in Jerusalem. (Courtesy of Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, http://www.pardes.org.il)

Gemara encompasses several literary genres, and subject matter ranges from the sacred to the profane. While it is often misrepresented as merely a commentary on the laws of the Mishnah, the Gemara has an intricate relationship with the Mishnah and a far greater scope. Although it is organized in accordance with the structure of the six orders of the Mishnah, mishnaic teachings are, for the Gemara, the launch pad for diverse topics: prayer, holy days, agriculture, sexual habits, contemporary medical knowledge, superstitions, criminal and civil law.

The Gemara contains both halakhah (legal material) and aggadah (narrative material). Aggadah includes historical material, biblical commentaries, philosophy, theology, and wisdom literature. Stories reveal information about life in ancient times, among Jews and between Jews and their neighbors, and folk customs. All of these genres are blended together with the halakhic material, in what is sometimes described as a stream-of-consciousness fashion filled with meaningful tangents and digressions.

In dealing with the teachings of the Mishnah, the Gemara has multiple functions. It explains unclear words or phrasing. It also provides precedents or examples to assist in application of the law and offers alternative opinions from sages of the Mishnah and their contemporaries (known as Tannaim). Whereas the Mishnah barely cites biblical verses, the Gemara for nearly every law discussed introduces these connections between the biblical text and the practices and legal opinions of its time. It also extends and restricts applications of various laws, and even adds laws on issues left out of the Mishnah entirely (for example, the key observances of Hanukkah). Multiple opinions of sages are weighed against one another, often without presenting a conclusion.

Talmudic teachings have been most often studied in groups or pairs among masters and students and/or between two partners in learning. A pair of study partners is called a havruta. The havruta-style provides a challenging, lively, and intimate environment in which to explore the rich spiritual and intellectual depths of the Talmud.

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Gemara: The Essence of the Talmud | My Jewish Learning



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