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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

What Is the Talmud? | My Jewish Learning

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

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

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

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

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

Studying Jewish texts at Mechon Hadar, an educational institution in New York City working to empower Jews to create and sustain vibrant, practicing, egalitarian communities of Torah learning, prayer and service. (Emil Cohen/Mechon Hadar)

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

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

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What Is the Talmud? | My Jewish Learning

South Park’s Cartman converted to Judaism, but can he move to Israel? – The Times of Israel

In South Park: Post-Covid, a special episode of the irreverent TV cartoon that aired onThanksgiving, Eric Cartman has converted to Judaism. He is a tallit-wearing Orthodox rabbi who studied Talmud, married a woman named Yentel, and named his children Moishe, Menorah, and Hakham.

Will Cartman take the next step and apply to make aliyah to Israel? The Law of Return, the law which established who has the right to claim citizenship in Israel, states, Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh. For the purposes of this law, Jew is defined as a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion. So Cartman should be approved for aliyah, right? Not so fast.

For the moment, let us assume that Cartman can produce a document indicating he has no serious criminal record. Let us also assume he went through the conversion process with rabbis who were affiliated with one of the major streams of Judaism and has a certificate of conversion. Now what?

Cartman may apply through a representative of the Jewish Agency (a shaliach aliyah). He will be asked to present letters from the converting rabbi describing the preparation and study that led up to his conversion. In addition, he will be asked to provide a letter stating that he has continued to be affiliated with a synagogue. Cartman will then have to undergo an interview with a representative of the Jewish Agencys Aliyah Department.

But Cartman should not pack up for his big move quite so quickly. The Jewish Agency may not act as quickly as he would hope. They may ask, in the name of Israels Interior Ministry, for additional documents. They may then go back and again ask for yet additional documents that had not initially been requested.

If Cartman converted through an Orthodox Beit Din, he may have a problem obtaining approval. There are surprisingly few Orthodox rabbis in North America who are acceptable to the Interior Ministry. This owes to an agreement made over a decade ago between Israels Chief Rabbinate and the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America), the mainstream Modern Orthodox rabbinic association.

When a candidate for aliyah has undergone conversion through the Conservative/Masorti movement, the Masorti Rabbinical Assembly in Israel is asked if we stand behind the conversion. This occurs when there may be a question in the mind of the shaliach. The same applies to those who convert through the Reform movement. The Reform movement will be asked if they stand behind the conversion.

With regard to an Orthodox convert wishing to make aliyah, even if the process had been sincere, and the converting rabbis are respected, approval of the converting Beit Din must come from the official Chief Rabbinate. Many, perhaps most, Orthodox rabbis in North America are not acceptable to the Chief Rabbinate.

Should it be that Cartman had been converted by rabbis who were not affiliated with any of the major rabbinic organizations and who daven (pray) at a synagogue that is not affiliated with a major association of synagogues, his right to make aliyah will likely be challenged. This can take months and even years.

Should Cartman seek to understand the cause of the delay in processing his aliyah application, chances are that he would contact his shaliach or officials at the Jewish Agency. If that shaliach bothers to reply, Cartman is likely to be told that there is nothing to be done as his file is under consideration in the Interior Ministry.

He may be told that there are issues that are being investigated. Which issues? That information is often not supplied to the applicant. At other times, the information provided by the authorities is just inaccurate. The sincerity of the conversion may even be questioned by bureaucrats within the Interior Ministry.

It certainly should be the role of the Aliyah Department (which has some very devoted and hardworking people) to advocate on behalf of Diaspora Jews who have applied for aliyah and who have seemingly met all of the demands spelled out in the Interior Ministrys criteria for aliyah. But sadly, in far too many cases this does not happen. Rather than pressure the Interior Ministry to act in keeping with the criteria for aliyah by a convert to Judaism (which, oddly, have never officially been published), the Jewish Agency, and/or the Interior Ministry, will allow the applicant to twist in the wind without providing full information as to what issues may be causing the delay. Or they may simply say that the matter is out of their hands.

Efforts to make the system a bit more user-friendly have gone nowhere. The Interior Ministry, obligated under their own criteria to provide an answer to the applicant within sixty days, rarely does so. Efficiency improvements promised by high-ranking Jewish Agency officials have gone nowhere.

Cartman has one advantage: he is a Caucasian from North America. Converts from less affluent countries, in particular applicants of color, will often find the aliyah application process nothing short of hellish. Too often the only way to obtain a just result requires turning to the courts. But this process is costly and lengthy.

It seems that officials at the Jewish Agency are reluctant to challenge the Interior Ministrys actions. They appear uninterested in rocking the boat. Perhaps they fear losing their aliyah mandate to Nefesh BNefesh, which years ago largely supplanted the Jewish Agencys role in encouraging and assisting North American aliyah. Perhaps they are stuck in a way of thinking created by the decades of ministry control by the Haredi Shas political party.

Cartman is just a TV caricature, but given the severe deficiencies at both the Interior Ministry and the Jewish Agency, the aliyah process can all too often be just as cartoonish.

Rabbi Andrew Sacks is the director of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel and the Religious Affairs Bureau.

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South Park's Cartman converted to Judaism, but can he move to Israel? - The Times of Israel

Larry David has never been more Jewish than in this season’s ‘Curb’ J. – The Jewish News of Northern California

Curb Your Enthusiasm has always been a Jewy show, but this season it is downright Jewish.

On the HBO sitcom, now in its 11th season, Larry David has never been shy about surfacing, and lampooning, Judaism and Jewishness. He has contemplated the dilemmas of Holocaust survival, waded into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (via a local chicken restaurant) andgotten stranded on a ski lift with an Orthodox Jew on Shabbat.

This season, its not just the occasional matzoh ball joke, orthe Yiddish lesson he gave Jon Hamm in the season premiere. David is plunging into questions of Jewish pride and belief, and if he isnt exactly Abraham Joshua Heschel, he could provide a Jewish educator with a semester of lively classroom debate.

In the latest episode, for example, a Jew for Jesus joins the cast of the show that Larrys character is developing for Hulu. Although neither Larry nor his Jewish friends are remotely religious, they seem genuinely upset by the actors apostasy, and Larry gives him a rather sober warning that he shouldnt proselytize on set.

A week earlier, a member of his golf club (played by Rob Morrow) asks Larry to pray for his ailing father. Larry declines, saying prayer is useless. He also wonders why God would need, or heed, the prayer of a random atheist like himself instead of the distressed son who wants his father to live.

For anyone who has gone to Hebrew school, its a familiar challenge, usually aired by the wiseacre in the back row who the teacher suspects is perhaps the most engaged student in the classroom. And it is not just atheists posing the question, Why pray? The Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a devout Orthodox Jew,believed thatworship of God must be totally devoid of instrumental considerations.

In addition to a Jewish funeral, the episode has a bonus theological theme: Middah kneged Middah, or as Morrows character puts it, what goes around comes around. Morrow warns Larry that his actions will have consequences, which actually gives Larry pause. If anything, the entire Curb enterprise is an exercise in Jewish karma. Larry is constantly being punished in ways large and small for his actions, inactions, meddling and slights. As the old theater expression has it, if Larry opens a donut shop to drive a rival out of business in act one, his own shop will burn to the ground in act three.

To dismiss him as self-hating is to miss out on the unmistakably Jewish conversation at the heart of the show.

A prior episode was even more self-consciously Jewish: Larry attends High Holiday services only because he lost a golf bet to the rabbi, and he literally bumps into a Klansman coming out of a coffee shop. The latter sets off a string of plot twists, as he and the KKK guy trade a series of favors and obligations that will have disastrous consequences for both. Larrys salvation comes at the end, when he blares a shofar from his balcony, literally raising the alarm on antisemitism and waking his neighbors to the threat of white supremacy.

The episode suggests the failure of good intentions. Larry spills coffee on the Klansmans robe and offers to have it dry-cleaned. Good liberal Jew that he is, Larry appears genuine in his belief that empathy is a better response to hate than confrontation, and that if he turns the other cheek it might lower the temperature in a post-Trump America. Of course, it doesnt work out that way, and the last word goes to his friend Susie Green, who performs a pointed act of Jewish sabotage that gets the Klansman pummeled by his fellow racists. Give David credit for embedding within a preposterous half-hour of television a debate about vengeance and resistance that engaged the followers of Jews as different as Jesus and Jabotinsky.

Make no mistake: The Larry David character is sacrilegious and heretical, and Curb is no friend of the religious mindset. But to dismiss him as self-hating is to miss out on the unmistakably Jewish conversation at the heart of the show. Davids character is a deeply principled person: Most of the nonsense he gets himself into is the result of his enforcing unspoken social rules that others appear to be flouting, whether it is taking too many samples at the ice cream counter or dominating the conversation (poorly) at the dinner table. Larry is rude and inconsiderate, but he is seldom wrong. He is what Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchikmight have called a Halachic Man an actualizer of the ideals of justice and righteousness, evenwhen the rest of the world resents it.

If you think I am overdoing it, remember thatthere is an actual discussion in Talmud about the right and wrong way of putting on a pair of shoes.

And just as in the Talmud, there are no easy answers in Davids moral universe: If a friend lends you his favorite, one-of-a-kind shirt, and you ruin it, what are your obligations to him? (See:Bava Metzia 96b)If a thief breaks into your house and then drowns in your swimming pool, which wasnt protected by the required fence, who is owed damages and how much? (See:Ibn Ezra on Exodus 22:1-2)

In last weeks episode, Larry even touched on consciously or not a classic debate in the Talmud: If you and a friend are stranded in the desert, and your canteen has only enough water for one of you to survive, must you share it or save your own life?

Yes, Larry was talking about sharing a phone charger, but if the Sages had cell phones, what do you think theyd be talking about?

Continued here:

Larry David has never been more Jewish than in this season's 'Curb' J. - The Jewish News of Northern California

Larry David Has Never Been More Jewish Than in This Season’s ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ – Jewish Exponent

By Andrew Silow-Carroll

Curb Your Enthusiasm has always been a Jewy show, but this season it is downright Jewish.

On the HBO sitcom, now in its 11th season, Larry David has never been shy about surfacing, and lampooning, Judaism and Jewishness. He has contemplated the dilemmas of Holocaust survival, waded into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (via a local chicken restaurant) and gotten stranded on a ski lift with an Orthodox Jew on Shabbat.

This season, its not just the occasional matzoh ball joke, or the Yiddish lesson he gave Jon Hamm in the season premiere. David is plunging into questions of Jewish pride and belief, and if he isnt exactly Abraham Joshua Heschel, he could provide a Jewish educator with a semester of lively classroom debate.

In the latest episode, for example, a Jew for Jesus joins the cast of the show that Larrys character is developing for Hulu. Although neither Larry nor his Jewish friends are remotely religious, they seem genuinely upset by the actors apostasy, and Larry gives him a rather sober warning that he shouldnt proselytize on set.

A week earlier, a member of his golf club (played by Rob Morrow) asks Larry to pray for his ailing father. Larry declines, saying prayer is useless. He also wonders why God would need, or heed, the prayer of a random atheist like himself instead of the distressed son who wants his father to live.

For anyone who has gone to Hebrew school, its a familiar challenge, usually aired by the wiseacre in the back row who the teacher suspects is perhaps the most engaged student in the classroom. And it is not just atheists posing the question, Why pray? The Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a devout Orthodox Jew, believed that worship of God must be totally devoid of instrumental considerations.

In addition to a Jewish funeral, the episode has a bonus theological theme: Middah kneged Middah, or as Morrows character puts it, what goes around comes around. Morrow warns Larry that his actions will have consequences, which actually gives Larry pause. If anything, the entire Curb enterprise is an exercise in Jewish karma. Larry is constantly being punished in ways large and small for his actions, inactions, meddling and slights. As the old theater expression has it, if Larry opens a donut shop to drive a rival out of business in act one, his own shop will burn to the ground in act three.

A prior episode was even more self-consciously Jewish: Larry attends High Holiday services only because he lost a golf bet to the rabbi, and he literally bumps into a Klansman coming out of a coffee shop. The latter sets off a string of plot twists, as he and the KKK guy trade a series of favors and obligations that will have disastrous consequences for both. Larrys salvation comes at the end, when he blares a shofar from his balcony, literally raising the alarm on antisemitism and waking his neighbors to the threat of white supremacy.

The episode suggests the failure of good intentions. Larry spills coffee on the Klansmans robe and offers to have it dry-cleaned. Good liberal Jew that he is, Larry appears genuine in his belief that empathy is a better response to hate than confrontation, and that if he turns the other cheek it might lower the temperature in a post-Trump America. Of course, it doesnt work out that way, and the last word goes to his friend Susie Green, who performs a pointed act of Jewish sabotage that gets the Klansman pummeled by his fellow racists. Give David credit for embedding within a preposterous half-hour of television a debate about vengeance and resistance that engaged the followers of Jews as different as Jesus and Jabotinsky.

Make no mistake: The Larry David character is sacrilegious and heretical, and Curb is no friend of the religious mindset. But to dismiss him as self-hating is to miss out on the unmistakably Jewish conversation at the heart of the show. Davids character is a deeply principled person: Most of the nonsense he gets himself into is the result of his enforcing unspoken social rules that others appear to be flouting, whether it is taking too many samples at the ice cream counter or dominating the conversation (poorly) at the dinner table. Larry is rude and inconsiderate, but he is seldom wrong. He is what Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik might have called a Halachic Man an actualizer of the ideals of justice and righteousness, even when the rest of the world resents it.

If you think I am overdoing it, remember that there is an actual discussion in Talmud about the right and wrong way of putting on a pair of shoes.

And just as in the Talmud, there are no easy answers in Davids moral universe: If a friend lends you his favorite, one-of-a-kind shirt, and you ruin it, what are your obligations to him? (See: Bava Metzia 96b) If a thief breaks into your house and then drowns in your swimming pool, which wasnt protected by the required fence, who is owed damages and how much? (See: Ibn Ezra on Exodus 22:1-2)

In last weeks episode, Larry even touched on consciously or not a classic debate in the Talmud: If you and a friend are stranded in the desert, and your canteen has only enough water for one of you to survive, must you share it or save your own life?Yes, Larry was talking about sharing a phone charger, but if the Sages had cell phones, what do you think theyd be talking about?

Andrew Silow-Carroll is the editor-in-chief of The New York Jewish Week and senior editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Larry David Has Never Been More Jewish Than in This Season's 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' - Jewish Exponent

The Bible Says What? ‘Only the bald are pure’ – Jewish News

Leviticus 13:40 contains my favourite verse: If a man loses the hair of his head and becomes bald, he is pure. My photograph shows that I am extremely pure. This strange verse comes in a part of the Torah that seems to link skin disease with divine punishment.

As a hospital chaplain, I was called to the bedside of a Chasid with an infected arm. He said: Tell me what sin I have committed that is makingGod punish me. We became friends, but I could not comprehend a cruel God who would use disease as punishment. He could not understanda Jew who didnt see diseaseas punishment.

On festivals, we chant the Torah verse: God merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in kindness. The verse end, which tells how the sins of parents are visited upon children, is omitted because we seek out the compassionate side of God. Ours is nota God who punishes with disease.

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However, does Leviticus suggest that my Chasidic friends view of a punitive God is correct? My bald verse occurs in a section interpreting a leprous condition called tzaraat. Clothes could suffer from tzaraat (mildew?), as could houses (rising damp?). Tzaraat was evidence that a person or an object had been touched by ritual impurity. The Israelites felt that sometimes God used skin ailments as punishment, just as God sometimes used frogs, locusts, darkness and hailstones. But we cannot extrapolate from this that illness must be understood as punishment. Sometimes a frog is just a frog.

The Talmud interprets tzaraat as punishment for slander. Claiming disease as punishment from God is to slander the ill. Rather we should treat the ill like God, with compassionate and abounding kindness.

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The Bible Says What? 'Only the bald are pure' - Jewish News

Banning abortion would attack our religious freedom as Jews J. – The Jewish News of Northern California

I had my first abortion when I was 16, the result of immaturity and a lack of comprehensive sex education at my suburban Detroit high school in the 1970s. I had another abortion in my early 40s, after my amniocentesis revealed troubling chromosomal abnormalities. It was a pregnancy that my husband and I had very much wanted. And yet, I do not regret either abortion, and I do not feel shame. On the contrary, I view them as medical procedures akin to any other legal, accessible, science-driven form of medical care.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court seems more likely than ever to take away our legal right to the medical care of a safe abortion. If the court overturns Roe v. Wade the 1973 case that affirmed our constitutional right to abortion 26 states are certain or highly likely to ban abortion outright. These statewide bans would disproportionately impact vulnerable people who do not have the economic means to travel to other states to access abortion care.

But banning access to abortion care doesnt impact only low-income people. It is a direct attack on our religious freedom as Jews. Restrictive abortion laws are rooted in a Christian understanding that life begins at conception. This tenet is antithetical to Jewish faith. The Talmud teaches that life begins at the first breath not at conception. Moreover, Jewish sources explicitly state that abortion is not only permitted but required if the pregnancy endangers the pregnant persons physical or psychological health. Indeed, Judaism affirms that the pregnant persons health and well-being always come before that of the fetus. Moreover, adhering to a Christian understanding of when life begins goes against the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees that no single religion should be enshrined into law or dictate public policy on any issue, including abortion.

The case before the Supreme Court was a carefully orchestrated effort by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an organization with a $50 million annual budget to drive the Christian right agenda. The ADF is a religious army that writes model bills in concert with mission-aligned state lawmakers and funds any resulting legal cases. The ADF wrote the Mississippi law that is now before the Supreme Court, and it is the same organization driving a tsunami of anti-LGBT bills in states across the country. The ADF and its partner organizations, including the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation, believe the United States was ordained by God as a White Christian nation. Banning abortion care and limiting the rights of LGBT people are just the start of their ultimate goal of creating a White Christian nation in all forms.

To be sure, the Jewish community is not consonant. Jews who are anti-choice and those who dont align with the LGBT movement may legitimately feel that these issues are out of sync with their values.

But this isnt simply about abortion rights. That a medical procedure is up for political debate at the Supreme Court points to the underlying corrosive nature of the discussion. Its hard to identify many other examples in which the government is allowed to restrict access to something that is demonstrably medically safe, and in many cases required to protect a persons physical and/or emotional health.

Whats at stake isnt just a right to choose, but all of our rights to determine for ourselves how to engage in our own faiths and to lead our best lives.

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Banning abortion would attack our religious freedom as Jews J. - The Jewish News of Northern California

7 false statements about the Jews remaining in Ethiopia – The Times of Israel

The situation in Ethiopia is that the afflictions besetting the Jewish communities are multiple and biblical in nature: war, plague (COVID), famine, and locusts. In addition, the community has been affected by internal unrest in Gondar. The Jewish community, unlike other Gondar residents, has no place to go if Gondar is invaded or cut off, since their relatives are no longer in the villages, having made aliyah to Israel.Food costs have escalated dramatically. Grain which cost 35 birr one year ago now costs 64 birr. There is no reason on the horizon to expect mitigation of the situation in the near future. Funds from Israeli relatives have dried up as there is no way for them to be transferred to Ethiopia by messenger. The daily laborer jobs have all but completely disappeared, due to the economic dislocations caused by COVID. And it is impossible to predict the fortunes of war.

Given the dire predicament, knowing what is real and what is not is just that critical.

There are many more falsehoods prevalent about the community. What is clear is that if Israel does not take immediate steps to evacuate all 14,100 Jews, it will bear at least partial responsibility for any deaths that occur. And national JFNA, if it does not respond to emails sent weeks ago begging for help in the light of the emergency situation, will be replicating the sins of the American Jewish community in the far, far darker years before World War II, when it placidly allowed the Saint Louis to sail back to Europe.

Joseph Feit, an attorney, is currently chairman of SSEJ and a past president of NACOEJ. He is a past president of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry and has been active on issues relating to Ethiopian Jewry for three decades. Feit has received awards from the Knesset, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish communities of Addis Ababa and Gondar for his work on behalf of the Ethiopian Jewish community.

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7 false statements about the Jews remaining in Ethiopia - The Times of Israel

Chabad course explores life, death and the afterlife in the age of COVID-19 – The Columbus Dispatch

Danae King|The Columbus Dispatch

In a time punctuated by death, Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann wants people to learn how to appreciate life.

Kaltmann, executive director of the Lori Schottenstein Chabad Center in New Albany, is encouraging people to take a virtual course titled Journey of the Soul.

The course, offered by the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, will explore beliefs about death, the soul and the afterlife. The Chabad Center is offering the six-session course over Zoom for $80 starting Wednesday. Feb. 3. It will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, and those interested can register at http://www.chabadcolumbus.com.

Death is both mysterious and inevitable,Kaltmann, who is also one of the course instructors, saidin a statement. Understanding death as a continuation of life reveals the holiness of life while putting everything in a dramatically new context. The soul is on one long journey that is greater than each particular chapter.

The course, for Jewish and non-Jewish people, will begin by discussing Jewish beliefs on life and death.

Judaism emphasizes the importance of life on Earth over all else,though Jews do believe in heaven, said Chris Johnson, clinical professor of sociology at Texas State University. Johnson wrote a book on different religions views on the afterlife and death titled How Different Religions View Death & Afterlife.

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The Talmud says live each day like its your last day and that will be a very meaningful day, Kaltmann told The Dispatch.

The Talmud, the book of Jewish law, is one of the most challenging religious texts in the world to read.

You can't live a meaningful life unless you understand what life is all about, Kaltmann said of the course, which counts as continuing education for some medical and mental health professionals. What this is about is how to live a life. When you understand death, then that causes you to understand life.

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Kaltmann, who has worked in Columbus for 29 years, did four funerals in two weeks for the first time in December because of the number of people dying from the coronavirus.

He said that understanding death will cause people to live life with more meaning, especially because its important in Judaism to live for your loved ones who have died as their ambassador in this world.

Unlike some Christian denominations, Jewish people dont really focus on the afterlife, Johnson said.

Theyre more concerned about making this life better and this world (better), he said.

And Jews focus on thegrieving loved ones left behind after a person's deathand their care, Johnson said.

Jan Leibovitz Alloy, 68, of the East Side, said she knows there is a concept of heaven in Judaism but that shes not really familiar with what heaven actuallyis because it isnot emphasized.

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Alloy, who plans to take the course, has not lost any close family members during the pandemicbut remembers when her grandparents died and the Jewish rituals that comforted her during her time of grief.

The Jewish tradition of throwing a handful of dirt into a person's grave, for example, seemedlike a final goodbye, she said.

And shiva, a seven-day periodof mourning during which close relatives sit after a persons funeral, also helpedher grieve.

The shiva rituals, I think, are very comforting, Alloy said. To have people take care of you for seven days and talk to you and tell stories about your loved ones. And the persons name is mentioned over and over and over. I think thats very comforting.

Alloy, who is Jewish, thinks a lot about death when it comes to her parents, who are still alive but well into their 90s.

"I wonder,geez, what comes next?" she said. "It's not that I will grieve any less when my parents die, but I will at least have a better understanding of what to do and what others have done before me."

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Alloyis hoping to learn more about what other faiths believe about death, grieving and the afterlife through the course.

Johnson believes that comparing different belief systems is important.

"Being able to independently investigate truth is absolutely essential for one's soul and one's outcome in life," he said, adding that classes like "Journey of the Soul" can be important learning opportunities for people investigating different faith approaches.

The reason Jews don't emphasize the afterlife is because, while they believe it's great, it's not the same because there is no free choice in heaven as there is on Earth,Kaltmann said.

Holidays during COVID-19: Holiday-ending horn blast called a 'catharsis' for Jewish people

"When you choose to do good, that's powerful, that's the ultimate," he said.

Jews live life and do good deeds for their loved ones who have died, after they go through the mourning process, Kaltmann said.

He hopes the course gives people hope.

"By understanding we are our loved ones' ambassadors, then we can be more impactful in our daily lives," he said. "So by understandingdeath, we can live life."

dking@dispatch.com

@DanaeKing

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Chabad course explores life, death and the afterlife in the age of COVID-19 - The Columbus Dispatch

This deadly tragedy at a Yiddish performance is the reason it’s illegal to yell ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater – JTA News – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

(JTA) Former President Trumps impeachment defense team intends to argue that his infamous Jan. 6 speech, in which he exhorted his followers to fight like hell and march to the Capitol,was permitted by his First Amendment rights to free speech. Political opponents are already calling reference to the well-known Supreme Court decision (Schenck v. United States, 1919) that limits free speech to exclude harmful expressions such as, most famously, falsely yelling fire! in a crowded theater.

The phrase is not theoretical: It was drawn from a tragedy that occurred on a cold night in January 1887 at the Hebrew Dramatic Club of London and took the lives of 17 people.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, a Supreme Court justice and noted theater fan who frequently traveled to London for the season (sometimes even publishing his impressions in The New York Times), precisely recorded the events of that night in his memorable phrase. To be sure, other fatal stampedes had occurred closer to home, including at a church in 1902 and a Christmas party in 1913. But it was the Hebrew Dramatic Club incident that found expression in Holmes decision and subsequently in popular American discourse.

The legal basis for the performance was somewhat sketchy: Theatrical performances in London required a permit, hence the official designation of the Yiddish theater as a club. (Two years later, the owner would be fined 36 pounds, plus an additional 3 for court costs, for failing to procure one, and also for selling spirituous liquors on the premises.) According to contemporary reports, some 500 people paid a shilling and packed the theater, which apparently had a capacity of 300, to see Jacob Adler, the famous Odessa-born heartthrob, perform in Der Spanisher Tsigayner (The Spanish Gypsy).

The circumstances of the accident are not clear. In his memoirs, Adler asserts that the shout of fire! came from an audience member who confused a stage fire with a real threat. A major investigative report in Lloyds Weekly Newspaper suggests that someone in the theater accidentally broke a gas line. Although the flow of combustible material was quickly stanched with a handkerchief, the distinct smell filled the crowded chamber, prompting a stagehand to quickly shut off the gas line, engulfing the chamber in darkness. It was at this point that someone falsely shouted fire, perhaps fearing an explosion.

The resulting stampede for the exits would ultimately result in the 17 deaths primarily women in their teens and 20s who had come to see Adler in person. The oldest victim was a 70-year old tailor named Isaac Levy along his wife, Gertrude; the youngest was 9-year-old Eva Marks of Spital Street. Lurid line drawings of the dead and the dying were featured in the weekend edition of The Illustrated Police Newswith titles like The Fatal Spot and Laying out the Dead.

Students of Talmud may remember another distant tragedy of a similar nature. A group of Jews, hiding in a cave somewhere in the Judean Desert, were startled by the sudden fear that the Romans were upon them. In the chaos that ensued as they struggled to escape, they killed one another in greater numbers than their enemies had killed among them (Shabbat 60a), later discovering that they were alone: There was no reason for anyone to cry Romans! in the crowded cavern.

The circumstances of Schenck v. United States were far from a crowded Yiddish theater the case revolved around the distribution of flyers that encouraged young men to resist conscription. Yet Holmes saw the common element the use of communication in such a manner that one might reasonably expect a clear and present danger and a subsequent evil to result. In such cases, Holmes wrote in the majority opinion, the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.

The question before the U.S. Senate is essentially the same. Will the senators reach a similar conclusion?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.

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This deadly tragedy at a Yiddish performance is the reason it's illegal to yell 'fire!' in a crowded theater - JTA News - Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Maternal influence a key in building a nation – The Jewish Star

By Rabbi Dr. Tvzi Hersh Weinreb

When I was young, I was an avid reader of novels. As Ive grown older, I have found myself more interested in good biographies, especially those of great men that try to focus on what made them great. Particularly, I try to discover the roles played by father and mother in the formation of these personalities.

Bible and Talmud contain much material about the lives of prophets, kings and sages, but only occasionally give us a glimpse of the role that parental influences played in making them great.

I recently came across a passage in a book by a man I admire, Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Reines (1839-1915). He led an innovative yeshiva in Lida, Lithuania, and was a founder of the Mizrachi Religious Zionist movement. A prolific writer, one of his works is entitled Nod Shel Demaot, which translates as A Flask of Tears.

Rav Reines writes about the important role mothers play in the development of their children, sons and daughters alike. He emphasizes the role of the mother in the development of the Torah scholar.

The sources of his thesis include a verse from this weeks Torah portion, Yitro, in which we read that the L-rd called to Moses from the mountain and said, Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

The Midrash explains that the house of Jacob refers to women and the children of Israel to men. Both men and women must be involved if we are to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Why the women? asks the Midrash, which answers, Because they are the ones who can inspire their children to walk in the ways of Torah.

Rav Reines adduces another biblical verse to make his point. He refers to the words in the very first chapter of the Proverbs, in which King Solomon offers this good counsel: My son, heed the discipline (mussar) of your father, and do not forsake the instruction (Torah) of your mother.

Then comes the tour de force of Rav Reines essay: the biographical analysis of a great Talmudic sage, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya. The student of Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot) will recognize his name from a passage in Chapter Two where we read of the five disciples of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai. They are enumerated, and the praises of each of them are recounted. Of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya, we learn, Ashrei yoladeto (happy is she who gave birth to him).

Of all the outstanding disciples, only Rabbi Yehoshuas mother is brought into the picture. What special role did she play in his life that earned her honorable mention?

Rav Reines responds by relating an important story of which most of us are sadly ignorant. Bereshit Rabba 64:10 tells of a time, not long after the destruction of the Second Temple, when the Roman rulers decided to allow the Jewish people to rebuild the Temple. Preliminary preparations were already under way for that glorious opportunity when the Kutim, usually identified with the Samaritan sect, confounded those plans. They maligned the Jews to the Romans and accused them of disloyalty. The permission to rebuild was revoked.

Having come so close to realizing this impossible dream, the Jews gathered in the valley of Beit Rimon with violent rebellion in their hearts. They clamored to march forth and rebuild the Temple in defiance of the Romans decree.

However, the more responsible leaders knew that such a provocation would meet with disastrous consequences. They sought for a respected figure, sufficiently wise and sufficiently persuasive, to calm the tempers of the masses and to quell the mutiny. They chose Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya for the task.

The Midrash quotes Rabbi Yehoshuas address in full detail. He used a fable as the basis of his argument:

A lion had just devoured its prey, but a bone of his victim was stuck in his throat. The lion offered a reward to anyone who would volunteer to insert his hand into his mouth to remove the bone. The stork volunteered, and thrust its long neck into the lions mouth and extracted the bone.

When the stork demanded his reward, the lion retorted, Your reward is that you can forevermore boast that you had thrust your head into a lions mouth and lived to tell the tale. Your survival is sufficient reward. So, too, argued Rabbi Yehoshua, our survival is our reward. We must surrender the hope of rebuilding our Temple in the interests of our national continuity. There are times when grandiose dreams must be foresworn so that survival can be assured.

Rav Reines argues that this combination of cleverness and insight was the result of Rabbi Yehoshuas mothers upbringing. He was chosen for this vital role because the other leaders knew of his talents, and perhaps even knew that his ability to calm explosive tempers and sooth raging emotions is something he learned from his mother, of whom none other than Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai had exclaimed, Happy is she who gave birth to him.

This wonderful insight of Rav Reines is important for us to remember, particularly those of us who are raising children. Psychologists have long stressed the vital roles that mothers play in child development. In our religion, we put much stress on the fathers role in teaching Torah to his children but we often underestimate and indeed sometimes forget the role of the mother.

We would do well to remember that Rav Reines is simply expanding upon G-ds own edict to Moses at the very inception of our history: Speak to the house of Jacob! Speak to the women as well as to the men.

Mothers, at least as much as fathers, are essential if we are to create a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

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Maternal influence a key in building a nation - The Jewish Star

OPINION: Rabbi Sacks taught us that education is a matter of life and death – Jewish News

It is no surprise that a Chief Rabbi would promote Jewish education, but Rabbi Lord Sacks took it to new heights. He gave an urgency to the issue in the way he publicly addressed the topic.

To defend a country, he would say, you need an army, but to defend a civilisation you need schools. Rabbi Sacks made such statements often, including in his maiden speech in the House of Lords.

Drawing a parallel between national security and schooling makes a stark point. A nation must invest in education with as much determination and resources as it does for its military might.

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Something I, and many of his students, have realised is how rooted all of Rabbi Sackss ideas were in Jewish sources. He had a unique way of expressing them in succinct and compelling ways that were equally accessible to Jew and non-Jew, religious and not. Yet, in his absence, I think it is valuable to uncover some of the rabbinic texts on which he drew. This one particularly so.

It says in the Jerusalem Talmud (Chagigah 1:7), Rabbi Yudan Nesia sent Rabbi Chiya, Rabbi Asi and Rabbi Ami to visit the cities of the Land of Israel They came to a certain place and did not find any Torah teachers there, so they said to the locals, Bring the defenders of the city to us.

Thecitys watchmen were brought out. The rabbis said, These are the defenders of the city? In fact, these are the destroyers of the city! Said the locals, Who then are the citys protectors? The rabbis responded, They are the teachers of Torah, as it is written, Unless God builds the house, its builders labour in vain on it; unless God watches over the city, the watchman keep vigil in vain. (Psalms 127:1).

The three rabbis were reminding the people of the city that it is foolish and dangerous to appoint security forces without also focussing on educational needs. If people are not taught the values and beliefs of their society then in times to come they will leave and disperse, and then there will be nothing left to defend.

The context of this story in the Jerusalem Talmud makes it abundantly clear that the very survival of our people is predicated on Jewish education.

Based on this perspective, Rabbi Sacks emphasised that the Jewish view of moral education was radically different to that of general society.

The modern educational approach is to present autonomous choices. Children are taught to articulate their personal preferences in a completely non-judgmental context. No way of life is to be advocated as better or worse than any other. But, wrote Rabbi Sacks in The Politics of Hope (p.176), this is not how we learn. It is not the way we learn anything, let alone the most important question of all, namely how to live. To learn any skill, as Aristotle noted, we need to see how master-practitioners practice their craft. We need to watch and imitate, at first clumsily, then with growing fluency and confidence.

He goes on to say that once a student is grounded in the Jewish tradition, then there is room for questioning, but first and foremost, education is the transmission of a tradition. We inherent it from our parents and pass it on to our children. There will be innovations and adaptations along the way, but if we love it then, says Rabbi Sacks, we will do so harmoniously, not destructively. In the end we are all but temporary guardians of our tradition. And, reading Rabbi Sacks, he still has much to teach us about it.

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OPINION: Rabbi Sacks taught us that education is a matter of life and death - Jewish News

Prince of the Torah – Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

BNEI BRAK, Israel -- Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, 93, can't use a phone. He rarely leaves his house. His family says he has never been successful in making a cup of tea. His closest aides think he doesn't know the name of Israel's prime minister. He studies the Torah for, give or take, 17 hours a day.

Yet despite his seeming detachment from worldly life, Kanievsky has become one of the most consequential and controversial people in Israel today.

The spiritual leader of hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, Kanievsky has landed at the center of tensions over the coronavirus between the Israeli mainstream and its growing ultra-Orthodox minority.

Throughout the pandemic, authorities have clashed with the ultra-Orthodox over their resistance to anti-virus protocols, particularly their early refusal to close schools or limit crowds at religious events. Similar conflicts have played out in the New York area.

RABBI AT THE FORE

Kanievsky, issuing pronouncements from a book-filled study in his cramped apartment in an ultra-Orthodox suburb of Tel Aviv, has often been at the fore of that resistance. Twice, during the first and second waves of the pandemic in Israel, he rejected state-imposed anti-virus protocols and would not order his followers to close their yeshivas, independent religious schools where students gather in close quarters to study Jewish scripture.

"God forbid!" he exclaimed. If anything, he said, the pandemic made prayer and study even more essential.

Both times he eventually relented, and it is unlikely that he played as big a role in spreading the virus as he was accused of, but the damage was done.

Many public health experts say that the ultra-Orthodox -- who account for about 12% of the population but 28% of the coronavirus infections, according to Israeli government statistics -- have undermined the national effort against the coronavirus.

REACTION HAS BEEN FIERCE

The reaction has been fierce, much of it centered on Kanievsky.

The rabbi "must be arrested for spreading a disease," blared a column last week in Haaretz, a liberal newspaper. "This rabbi dictates the scandalous conduct in the ultra-Orthodox sector," said an article in Yedioth Ahronoth, a centrist news outlet.

The backlash exaggerates the rabbi's role and that of the ultra-Orthodox in general. Ultra-Orthodox society is not monolithic, and other prominent leaders were far quicker to comply with anti-virus regulations. Ultra-Orthodox leaders say the majority of their followers have obeyed the rules although their typically large families, living in tight quarters under what is now the third national lockdown, have inevitably contributed to the spread of the contagion.

Born in what is now Belarus in 1928, Kanievsky immigrated to what was then Palestine before World War II. He has spent most of his subsequent waking life studying Jewish texts, gradually building a following among the so-called Lithuanian Jews, a non-Hasidic sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews with eastern European roots who form roughly a third of the Haredim in Israel.

FILLED THE VACUUM

When the sect's previous leader died in 2017, Kanievsky was one of two senior rabbis who filled the vacuum, which gave him considerable authority over the sect as well as an ultra-Orthodox political party that now forms part of the government.

His pedigree adds to his prestige: his father and uncle were legendary spiritual leaders. But it is his relentless Torah study that gives the rabbi his authority -- his followers believe his encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish teachings endows him with a near-mystical ability to offer religious guidance.

"They see him as a holy man," said Eli Paley, chairman of the Haredi Institute for Public Affairs, a Jerusalem research group. "They see their existence as relying on Rabbi Chaim and his Torah learning."

On a recent afternoon in his apartment in the ultra-Orthodox enclave of Bnei Brak, Kanievsky appeared oblivious to the controversy raging around him. He sat silently at a small wooden table covered in a silvery tablecloth, surrounded by religious books. His wrinkled and reddened hands gripped a white book of scripture. Since rising before dawn, he had been studying the Chullin, a rabbinical text on the laws of ritual slaughter, and would continue to study late into the night.

'SUSTAINS THE WORLD'

"He believes the Torah sustains the world," said Yaakov Kanievsky, his 31-year-old grandson and the rabbi's main mediator with the outside world. "Without Torah learning, we don't have any reason to live. It's written in the Bible -- if you stop learning, the world will collapse."

For a few hours each day, Rabbi Kanievsky stops studying to take questions from his followers, who either put their requests in writing or pose them in person during visiting hours. Since the rabbi is hard of hearing, the questions are relayed by his grandsons, who shout them in the rabbi's ear and, when necessary, contextualize the questions and clarify their grandfather's terse, mumbled answers.

A few such exchanges at the start of the pandemic quickly gained national notoriety.

"There is now a great epidemic in the world, a disease called corona, and it affects many people," one grandson shouted in the rabbi's ear last year, after a question from a visitor, according to a video of the conversation. "He asks what they should take upon themselves so this disease does not get to them and there are no problems."

'LEARN TALMUD'

"They should learn Talmud," the rabbi whispered in response.

"The question is," Yaakov asked his grandfather on a separate occasion, "if grandfather thinks that they should close the schools because of this?"

"God forbid!" the rabbi replied.

In an interview, Yaakov Kanievsky, better known as Yanki, said that these brief clips don't tell the whole story. The rabbi, he said, has long complied with government policy.

"There are things that get misunderstood," Yanki Kanievsky said. "He takes [covid-19] very seriously, and he takes the patients very seriously."

Several weeks into the pandemic, the rabbi ordered his followers to obey social-distancing guidelines, even equating scofflaws to murderers. In June, he said masks were a religious obligation. In December, he gave his blessing to the vaccine, not long after recovering from the virus himself. In recent days he condemned a group of Haredi young people who clashed with police officers trying to enforce coronavirus regulations.

HE REVERSED HIMSELF

And he ultimately reversed himself on closing the yeshivas, which remain closed or under quarantine during the current lockdown.

"If you look at the news tonight, there will be one Haredi school open, and people will say, 'Oh, it's all Rabbi Kanievsky's fault,' " Yanki Kanievsky said. "But it's really not."

Yanki Kanievsky's dominant role in his grandfather's life has led to questions about who is really in charge, and whether Rabbi Kanievsky is alert enough to judge matters of national importance. Critics say the grandson controls who can and can't reach the grandfather -- even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not been granted the privilege of speaking with Rabbi Kanievsky directly.

The younger Kanievsky said that his grandfather is entirely his own man and that it would be impossible to influence him even if he tried. Everyone has the right to ask him anything -- they just have to line up and wait their turn.

"I can't tell the rabbi what to say," Yanki Kanievsky said. "If he thinks I'm trying to manipulate him, I am finished."

But without speaking to the rabbi directly, it is hard to know exactly what he thinks. As the interview with Yanki Kanievsky drew to close, we asked for a final audience with the rabbi.

Yanki Kanievsky shook his head. Rabbi Kanievsky was taking a nap.

The home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, whose pronouncements have made him one of the most controversial figures in Israel today, in Bnei Brak, Israel, Jan. 24, 2021. Kanievsky is the spiritual authority for hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, but his pronouncements on the coronavirus have made him a villain to many. (Dan Balilty/The New York Times)

Yaakov Kanievsky, left, listens to a familys request for a blessing before repeating it to his grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, at his home in Bnei Brak, Israel, Jan. 24, 2021. Rabbi Kanievsky is the spiritual authority for hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, but his pronouncements on the coronavirus have made him a villain to many. (Dan Balilty/The New York Times)

Followers of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky line up at his home to receive a blessing or to ask questions, which he answers for a few hours a day, in Bnei Brak, Israel, Jan. 24, 2021. Kanievsky is the spiritual authority for hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, but his pronouncements on the coronavirus have made him a villain to many. (Dan Balilty/The New York Times)

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, center, whose pronouncements have made him one of the most controversial figures in Israel today, with his grandson Yaakov Kanievsky, at the rabbi's home in Bnei Brak, Israel, Jan. 24, 2021. Kanievsky is the spiritual authority for hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, but his pronouncements on the coronavirus have made him a villain to many. (Dan Balilty/The New York Times)

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Prince of the Torah - Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Guest Column: Choosing an End to COVID | The Jewish News – The Jewish News

Isolation. Fear. Grief. It is an unfortunate truth that Jewish history gives us a deep understanding of the same difficulties we are all experiencing during this time of COVID. But our tradition was forged as a powerful response to the very hardships that can plague us.

Huddled together at the edge of the Promised Land, the Torah envisions a people who easily could have been resigned to their fate, or prayed for things to be different, or waited for someone to save them.

Instead, we the inheritors of that moment are reminded that the ultimate responsibility is ours: I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse choose life! (Deuteronomy 30:19).

I am deeply honored that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed me to the newly formed Protect Michigan Commission. Along with a wide range of faith, business, medical and civic leaders, our task is to help encourage our friends and neighbors to take the critical step of getting a vaccine as soon as it is available to them. It will take each one of us to ensure that 70% of Michiganders over the age of 16 are vaccinated, a vital threshold that will allow all of us to emerge from this pandemic.

To some, it may seem obvious. But this Commission was necessary because we know that there is a significant percentage of Americans expressing vaccine hesitancy. There are lots of explanations for this some reasonable (unsure if a vaccine developed so quickly will be safe or effective) and some not reasonable (the vaccine is going to change your DNA or implant a tracking chip inside you).

Many in our community have already been vaccinated, and even more are lined up to receive theirs. But for anyone who may be dubious, I would respectfully offer two guidelines.

First, Jewish tradition has long required us to maintain our health as a pathway to spiritual truth. The great sage Maimonides, himself a physician, taught more than 800 years ago that medical care is an obligation, not a choice, so that we might continue to fulfill our highest purpose on Earth. In fact, the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 16b) goes so far as to forbid crossing an unstable bridge putting ourselves at unnecessary risk is a violation of Jewish law!

Just as important, to me, is the notion of communal responsibility. The entire Book of Deuteronomy could be read as a statement about how our own actions affect those around us. It is not that you or I will be blessed or cursed it is that you and I and all of us together will be blessed or cursed, depending on the righteous actions of our entire community.

That is the challenge of today. If you are hesitating about getting the vaccine, doctors and scientists are clear that it is worse to go without it. And even if that isnt enough, do it for the sake of your friends, your family, those in your synagogue or at work, or even those you dont know. I pray that 2021 will be the year in which all of us stand united in choosing to be vaccinated in choosing life!

Rabbi Mark Miller is senior rabbi of Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township.

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Guest Column: Choosing an End to COVID | The Jewish News - The Jewish News

Yitro contains the foundational experience on which all of Judaism rests – thejewishchronicle.net

Parshat Yitro contains the foundational experience on which all of Judaism rests the revelation at Sinai. We repeat this section twice annually: this week, during the reading of the Torah, and in a few months on the festival of Shavuot, when we calendrically relive those events.

Our tradition always pairs the Torah reading with a haftarah that thematically parallels the primary reading. When challenged to find the analogue to Sinai, our Sages chose prophetic readings that dealt with the personal revelatory experiences of great prophets: Isaiah for Yitro, and Ezekiel for Shavuot. However, the two readings are starkly different: Isaiahs description of his angelic dedication to prophecy is terse and almost matter of fact, while the opening chapter of Ezekiel is lush with detail, with an almost hallucinogenic tint to Ezekiels breathless verbal rendering of the mind-altering experience of revelation.

The Talmud is aware of this strange dichotomy, and offers the following intriguing distinction:

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Rava said: All that Ezekiel saw, Isaiah saw as well. To what may Ezekiel be compared? To a villager who saw the king. And to what may Isaiah be compared? To a city-dweller who saw the king (Chagigah 13b).

Rava teaches that while the experience that both prophets beheld was identical, the presentation of them in scripture is quite different, just as two viewers of the same royal retinue may describe what happened to them differently. Maimonides in his philosophical work The Guide for the Perplexed, suggests that the city-dweller and villager are similes reflecting different levels of spiritual development, and that Isaiah was on a mystically superior level to Ezekiel.

Strikingly, the Maharsha (R. Shlomo Eideles, 16th-century Poland) does not understand this as a simile, but rather as a biographical observation about both prophets. Isaiah grew up in Jerusalem as a royal relative, while Ezekiel, according to the Maharsha, was a native of the village of Anatot. (This seems to be predicated on a Midrashic tradition that teaches that Ezekiel was a close relative of the prophet Jeremiah, who the Tanakh does indeed identify as a native of Anatot.) While the mystical revelation was indeed identical, the sophisticated and aristocratic Isaiah described it in a subtle, understated fashion, while Ezekiels rural and more humble origins, untouched by the pomp and circumstance of the royal court, led him to describe the angelic vision in a much more excited, almost naive way.

This observation about the perception of revelation is relevant for the Torah as a whole. Torah and the system of halacha makes objective demands of every Jew, which are identical. How we experience those mitzvot, though, is a highly personalized experience, and God expects us to observe His normative commands in a way that binds us to him filtered through the unique lens of our own experience.PJC

Rabbi Daniel Yolkut is the spiritual leader of Congregation Poale Zedeck. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.

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Yitro contains the foundational experience on which all of Judaism rests - thejewishchronicle.net

Remembering a Great Rabbi Who Asked Questions Rather Than Answering Them – Algemeiner

A Torah scroll. Photo: RabbiSacks.org.

In the latest edition of the Brooklyn Jewish journal Hakirah, there is a fascinating article on Rav Joseph Ber Soloveitchik (1903 -1993) by David. P. Goldman, entitled The Ravs Uncompleted Grand Design. Goldman himself is a Renaissance man an economist, a musicologist, an expert on China, a scholar. But this blog is about JB, as Rav Soloveitchik was affectionately known. There were two great men who had a profound impact on American Jewry during the past century, the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rav Soloveitchik. They represented the different major streams of Orthodoxy in our times.

Rav Soloveitchik was born on February 27, 1903, in Eastern Europe. He came from one of its greatest rabbinical dynasties, known as Brisk. After an intensive Talmudic education, he went on to graduate from Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin with a Ph.D. in epistemology and metaphysics. In 1932, he emigrated to the US. He settled in Boston and took up a rabbinical position. In 1941, he began to teach the main Talmud class at Yeshiva University. He ordained some 2,000 rabbis in his career, and his lectures attracted thousands of devotees. He was held in enormous respect by everyone. He died in 1993.

His two most widely read publications areThe Lonely Man of FaithandHalakhic Man arguably the most significant philosophical analyses of Jewish religious ideology in our times. His unique approach was a combination of European phenomenological philosophy with mysticism and religious experience. His profound rational analysis overlaid a deep commitment to study and religious practice in the context of individual commitment. Unusually, among the Eastern European rabbis who came to America, he was a passionate Zionist and a strong advocate of womens education at the highest level. He was a proponent of Torah UMadda, Torah study, and secular wisdom. Intellectually and academically, he stood head and shoulders above the rest.

My contact with him was only through his writing. And it came as a surprise to read in Goldmans essay, this quote attributed to the great man. In lamenting the state of much of rabbinic leadership and the lack of passion for religious life, he said:

February 5, 2021 12:13 pm

And therefore, I affirm that I can identify one of those responsible for the present situation and that is none other than myself. I have not fulfilled my obligation as a guide in Israel. I seem to have lacked the ability-the personal power-required of a teacher and Rav or perhaps I lacked some of the desire to fulfill the role completely and I did not devote myself completely to the task my students have received much Torah learning from me and their intellectual standing has strengthened-but I have not seen much growth on the experiential plane. I have fallen short as one who spreads the Torah of the heart.

I was stunned by his humility and honesty. He was no more a failure than Moses, who also was very strong and yet humble, a modest man who struggled throughout his life with his mission. Anyone involved in teaching, advocating, and fighting for a cause, must feel a profound sense of failure sometimes, for not living up to ones own expectations. Similarly, anyone with any sense of introspection must inevitably think that he or she could have done more to inspire and to achieve. But what did he mean by the present situation?

In every society, there is a huge gap between the intellectual thinkers and the masses who are not. Most people anywhere are superstitious and credulous. They have little time for grand ideas but simply struggle to cope with life and making the best of it

It was to these people that Hasidism spoke when it emerged in the 17th century. Then too, there was a huge divide between those like the brilliant Vilna Gaon, the academic Lithuanian intellectual who was a Talmudist, mathematician, and mystic, and the early Hasidic masters who spoke to the simple uneducated people who needed a Rebbe for guidance and to speak to God on their behalf.

These are two very distinct models of leadership, the popular and the elite. This is the dichotomy that the two great rabbis of the previous generation represent. Lubavitch Hasidism brings Judaism to the masses. Their emissaries cater for and speak to the ordinary person or for those who are lost and searching. Their fundamentalism is a comfortable safety zone that helps them deal with the practical preoccupations of every Jew.

On the other side, you have the Lithuanian, Yeshivish rigorous standards of the academy with more of an emphasis on individuality; Soloveitchik, on the other hand expected all his pupils to rise to the heights. He was addressing those already committed who wanted more. What is depressing is the current Lithuanian rejection of the scientific. Perhaps that is where Rav Soloveitchik felt his elitism was being overwhelmed, with conformity as anti-intellectualism having taken a firm grip on large parts of the Orthodox world.

Different times call for different responses. Perhaps we have needed the conformist, social Judaism, while we rebuild Jewish life after the Holocaust. But it has come at a price of producing a leadership dominated by a gerontocracy of cloistered men of incredible learning yet out of touch with reality. Our leaders seem like rabbits blinded by the headlamps of a car, unable to see that their policies and fundamentalism are not equipping millions to cope with the challenges of modernity. But if, on the other hand, you encourage intellectual thought and individualism as Rav Soloveitchik did, you cannot expect to create a movement of blind loyalty and obedience willing to march at one persons command.

There is much to criticize in the Orthodox world today. Yet is our situation that bad? There are moreJews than ever before studying Torah, committed to religious life by choice, rather than circumstances. There are more religious academics producing quality work on philosophy, history, and the whole gamut of intellectual activity. Compared to the paucity I knew as a young man, the pool of talent in Jewish religious life has swelled beyond imagination. I cannot be pessimistic.

Rav Soloveitchik was committed to Torah in all its majesty, which transcends human social manipulation and anodyne placebos. He has continued to inspire both through his late great son-in-law Rav Aaron Lichtenstein and the Yeshivah Har Etzion in Israel, where his grandson reigns. It might not be a legacy of Facebook friends and clicks, but it is all the more profound and long-lasting for that.

Rav Soloveitchik was fearless. He could stand up to the hard right and the zealots. Unlike most rabbis nowadays, he was not frightened of offending. He would never compromise his beliefs. He was not interested in power or fame. He set an amazing example in the words of the prophet Micah, of walking humbly with God. They dont make them like that anymore.

There is a lovely story told about Rav Soloveitchik that one day someone asked him for a blessing. Now, Hasidic Rebbes and Kabbalists are constantly being asked to give blessings to heal, to find a wife, to succeed in business. Rav Soloveitchik was a rationalist, a mystic, and a halakhist. He did not believe in giving meaningless blessings. When he was asked for one he replied: A blessing? Why? Are you an apple?

The author is a writer and commentator currently living in New York.

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Remembering a Great Rabbi Who Asked Questions Rather Than Answering Them - Algemeiner

Lucky Numbers and Horoscopes for today, 4 February 2021 – The London Economic

These are uncertain times, but if you want to find out what your future has in store keep up to date with our daily horoscope forecasts and astrology readings.

TODAYS MOTIVATIONAL QUOTE:

A person who seeks help for a friend, while needy himself, will be answered first. The Talmud

TODAYS WISDOM FROM AROUND THE WORLD:

Happiness is like a sunbeam, which the least shadow intercepts, while adversity is often as the rain of spring. Chinese Proverb

TODAYS CHINESE PROVERB:

Common sense goes further than a lot of learning.

FOR THOSE OF US BORN ON THIS DAY:

Happy Birthday! The months ahead are likely to start on a slightly unsettling note, thanks to unhelpful influences, which will have you feeling a little dissatisfied with your current lot, especially in terms of work or school. The changes youll need to make wont necessarily be easy, but once youve tackled them youll feel much happier. There will be more challenges from the planets in terms of romance; summer will be more of a low point, followed swiftly by a very fulfilling fall, where everything will seem to fall into place. Singles are likely to meet someone very special in November! The New Year will see you needing to address a noticeable balance between work/school and your personal relationships.

Yesterdays muddled thoughts will recede significantly, but one related matter may linger on throughout the day. Dont believe everything you hear: its not a day for overt or direct action; its more a day to stand back and observe, since theres an emphasis on a revelation or a communication!

Todays Numbers: 3, 14, 21, 30, 36, 42

A cooler-headed vibe has the capacity to bring the focus back to the present so you can concentrate on personal matters. That said; it may be wise to get ahead of yourself on the domestic front. This is because you may well encounter a minor interruption or glitch; one which you perhaps hadnt anticipated!

Todays Numbers: 7, 15, 28, 33, 37, 46

A marginally fretful vibe may highlight an inconvenient matter. If its something that youve forgotten, then deal with it as soon as possible. However; if its something more subtle or internal, such as a concern or worry, then it may be a wise to leave it until Sunday at least!

Todays Numbers: 1, 5, 14, 20, 39, 43

A calmer vibe has the capacity to provide a generally soothing mood for most water signs. That said; the need for an overhaul or change may need to be kept in perspective, since this desire will be largely driven by the temporary impact of the moon. Keep things light for the next couple of days!

Todays Numbers: 7, 12, 26, 32, 37, 48

Theres a slightly clumsy vibe at large. Do take care with verbal communications in particular, since a slip of the tongue could divulge something you did not intend to reveal. Dont be in too much of a hurry to jump to conclusions too quickly, because its possible that youll get something slightly wrong!

Todays Numbers: 9, 14, 21, 30, 36, 42

Today is likely to be a little less sparkling, but highly beneficial. It may not be the best time for beginning new projects or embarking on creative ventures, but it is an excellent day to tie up any loose ends, especially when it comes to one specific and possibly confusing matter!

Todays Numbers: 3, 7, 12, 23, 38, 47

A rather unreliable Jupiter/moon mix is likely to imbue you with all good intentions and then block the way with minor glitches. There is only so much that you can do. By the same token; it may be too easy to get too caught up in someone elses dramas and problems!

Todays Numbers: 4, 11, 20, 29, 36, 43

A more reliable planetary vibe could help close a possible communication gap. In particular, a misunderstanding in romantic matters can be resolved quite smoothly on both sides. In general, if you can take advantage of the warmer undercurrent, you may just see something in an improved light!

Todays Numbers: 7, 15, 28, 37, 39, 45

Although it may feel like a wishy-washy day, tomorrow will reignite the fun element and will liven up a few other signs too, so for now, dont overdo anything that youre likely to regret. Specifically; there could be one very minor flashpoint to avoid, smooth over or reverse!

Todays Numbers: 2, 18, 21, 30, 36, 44

Its a great day to act on previous decisions, since the generally reliable vibe will help you to adapt vaguer ideas and plans into definite ones. That said; its perhaps not a great day for decisive action. Nor will it be a good idea to try and micro-manage a romantic matter!

Todays Numbers: 3, 7, 13, 20, 39, 44

Its a day where you might end up questioning recent strategies and tactics, especially if they havent worked as well as you had hoped. You may also wonder if you have perhaps veered off track. However; as with many other signs, its not a day to act on temporary doubt. Wait until tomorrow at least!

Todays Numbers: 5, 11, 20, 29, 33, 47

A subtly gentle vibe has the capacity to reverse a marginally negative misunderstanding: this is likely to revolve around an emotional or support matter. Perhaps the air will be cleared or an understanding reached. Its also possible that you receive some good or helpful news too!

Todays Numbers: 6, 13, 28, 32, 36, 44

Want to know what the future holds? Get a FREE tarot card reading.

CELEBRITIES BORN ON THIS DAY:

Famous people born on your birthday include:Pamela Franklin, David Brenner, Lisa Eichhorn, Oscar De La Hoya, Brandon Bug Hall, Natalie Imbruglia, Bug Hall, Clint Black, Alice Cooper, Dan Quayle

CELEBRITY GOSSIP:

Sienna Miller has been drawing attention to the difficulty faced by women actors in Hollywood trying to find challenging roles. However, the planets are going to be bringing Sienna some very positive news on the career front in the next month or so!

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Lucky Numbers and Horoscopes for today, 4 February 2021 - The London Economic

Parashat Yitro: On Leadership and Family – My Jewish Learning

Four figures a man, a woman, and two boys approach Moses. They havent seen their son-in-law, husband, father since he went to Egypt to confront Pharaoh, but they have heard all about what God did for Moses and for Israel. Put yourself in their places. How must they be feeling? Do the two boys even remember their father? Do they worry that he wont remember them? Are they awed by the stories about their dad? Are they anxious, shy, excited? Do they not know what to expect?

And Zipporah, Moses wife: Has she dressed up so that Moses will be awed at her beauty, as he was when they first met? Is she excited? Is she hesitant? So much time has passed. Will she still know her husband or will they be like strangers meeting for the first time?

The Torah says nothing of any of this. We must fill out the scene, using our imagination to step inside each characters mind, reading between and behind the lines to their thoughts. All the Torah says is this: Moses went out to meet his father-in-law; he bowed low and kissed him; each asked after the others welfare, and they went into the tent. (Exodus 18:7)

Consider what this implies. Yitro, Moses father-in-law, his sons Gershom and Eliezer, and Zippora are all mentioned by name. Yet, Moses greets only his father-in-law, kissing him and taking him into the tent. Moses, it seems, turns his back on the others, leaving them standing there alone. What must that have felt like to his wife and children? How much pain and confusion must they have felt?

Parashat Yitro is often discussed as a Torah portion about leadership. It is a story about giving, and more importantly taking, advice. Yitro teaches Moses to delegate, proposing a model that has been emulated in judicial systems and institutional structuring ever since. Moses demonstrates how to begin to bring together a people around a new vision, as one society committed to shared ideals and values. The portion teaches many lessons about how to implement change and build a nation or organization.

Why then does it begin with this scene of Moses ignored family?

Perhaps it is because we all too often fall into the same leadership trap as Moses. Our lives are so busy and our responsibilities of such importance that we ignore the people we love the most. We are working so many hours that we miss family activities, meals, bedtimes, or weekends. Even if we are physically present, we are often so stressed and exhausted that were unable to emotionally connect. And when we are at home together or around the same table, we are still each on our own devices, in our own personal worlds. We place our professional obligations ahead of the needs of our families. We forget to stop and focus on one another.

Centuries after he stood before Pharaoh and with his people at Mount Sinai, Moses is deliberately sidelined by the rabbis who created the Passover Haggadah. Despite his leadership role, Moses is written out of the Exodus story and the redemption narrative as we recall it at the Passover Seder. Why? One answer is that our sages wanted to ensure that we remember that God performed the miracles of deliverance for our ancestors not Moses. At Passover, we are to focus on God as the source of our freedom.

But there may be another reason Moses is left out. More so than any other holiday, we associate Passover and the Seder with family. Since that first Passover celebration in Egypt, when the Israelites were commanded to gather to celebrate their imminent escape from slavery, Passover has been the holiday of family gatherings. Many Jews earliest memories include gathering around the Passover table, different generations interacting with each other.

Perhaps Moses is not at the table with all when we recall the Exodus because when it comes to matters of family, Moses is no role model. At the central Jewish celebration involving family, there is simply no place for Moses and the all-too-familiar leadership paradigm he puts forth in Parashat Yitro.

Our tradition makes us aware that there were not just immediate consequences for Zipporah, Gershom, and Eliezer in our story. There were long-term consequences for Moses, too. When we ignore our families, they arent the only ones hurt. We hurt ourselves, as well. Our rabbis make this point by taking Moses out of the story, giving him no credit in the Passover Haggadah for his leadership.

Moses family life is a challenge to each of us. Can we bridge the tension between our families and our work? Imagine how much more complete Moses would have been as a leader if he had been able to incorporate into his understanding of Israelite society the excitement, fear, shyness, and love his wife and sons were feeling. Imagine if Moses had personally opened up and shared his dreams with them, letting them into his spiritual and emotional life. Wouldnt they all have been more fulfilled? Wouldnt his legacy have been even more fully remembered and sustained?

May we each learn to appreciate and embrace the importance of our family, even as we engage our passions for our work and our leadership. So may it be Gods will and our own!

Read this Torah portion, Exodus 18:1 20:23 on Sefaria

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About the Author: Rabbi Michelle Fisher is the executive director of MIT Hillel. She has also worked as a congregational rabbi on both coasts and served in the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps. Prior to her ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary, she earned a masters degree in Chemistry from MIT.

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Parashat Yitro: On Leadership and Family - My Jewish Learning

Expanding our universe of obligation | Guest Perspectives | smdailyjournal.com – San Mateo Daily Journal

In the book of Deuteronomy, the final of the Five Books of Moses, there are two seemingly contradictory verses that describe the tension between a world of aspiration and a world with people in need.

First, There shall be no needy among you (Deuteronomy 14:4-5). Gods desire of humankind is to work toward creating and living a vision where no one will suffer. Second, and more practically, There will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy. (Deuteronomy 15:11). As much as there is a genuine yearning to create an equitable world where no one will suffer, getting there may be impossible. At the same time, though it is not upon us to complete the task, neither are we free to ignore this sacred work.

The pandemic has magnified the deepening gaps that exist in our world. Yes, its true that we have all experienced tremendous loss over the last year. The loss of life and livelihood is real, not to mention a heightened sense of loneliness and isolation. Even more poignant are the growing inequities that exist between people based on gender, class and race. While, perhaps, we have crossed the midway point where a glimmer of light has emerged, there is something we can all do right now to illuminate the darkness.

One of my favorite teachings in Jewish tradition comes from the Talmud. We sustain all people, we care for the sick, and we bury the dead, regardless of our faiths or differences, for the sake of peace. We show up for and expand our universe of obligation to collectively move the needle to make change. As a solidarity cohort of more than 40 faith leaders from a wide range of religious and spiritual traditions in San Mateo County, we know how difficult it is to serve right now and we are grateful to so many people who have prioritized working in service of others. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we are all only as safe as the most vulnerable among us. People are hurting; some struggling simply to survive. As the truth of our interdependence becomes ever clearer, these times are calling us to respond with courage and compassion in preserving the safety and well-being of all people in our community. As our cohort continues to work toward our vision of creating a more moral San Mateo County, we are asking all of our fellow siblings to join us in an intentional action to help one another.

Recently, and perhaps again in the near future, many of us have received stimulus funds to help make a small dent during these trying and unprecedented times. If these funds can help you or your family, we hope that they can ease your burden, even if only temporarily. And for those of you who received your funds and can pay them forward, we call on you to expand your universe of obligation for the sake of peace.

The Peninsula Solidarity Cohort is partnering with local organizations like Samaritan House and Second Harvest that are part of Thrive, the Alliance of Nonprofits for San Mateo County, to help us start at the local level. Our goal is to keep our neighbors in need fed, clothed, housed and healthy, so that all can survive the pandemic, rebuild our economy and preserve our community. If there is another local or even global organization that speaks to your heart, consider giving some or all of you stimulus payment to help someone else in need.

Though it saddens me that we will probably never achieve the vision that God had in mind of creating a world without need, I truly believe that what God wants for us is to never stop trying. Through this lens, caring for the needy in our midst and working to build a more equitable and just world, is a sacred responsibility that transcends time. For in doing so, we will not only be able to once again see the dignity and worth in every one of Gods creations, we will bring ourselves one step closer to a world of wholeness and peace.

Corey Helfand is the senior rabbi at Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City and a member of the Peninsula Solidarity Cohort, a coalition of interfaith leaders working for the common good in San Mateo County. For local giving, visit Samaritan House at samaritanhousesanmateo.org, Second Harvest Food Bank at shfb.org, or for other nonprofits in the Thrive alliance, visit thrivealliance.org and search under membership nonprofits.

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Expanding our universe of obligation | Guest Perspectives | smdailyjournal.com - San Mateo Daily Journal

Cartoon Saloon and the New Golden Age of Animation – The New Yorker

Though the movies budget was small by mainstream standards, it was significant for a tiny studio; at the peak of production, Cartoon Saloon employed eighty-five animators in Kilkenny. Luckily, Young had reserves of entrepreneurial charm. (Brother Aidans look was inspired by Young, Moore told me.) At an industry forum, he buttonholed Didier Brunner, the founder of a French studio called Les Armateurs, which ended up co-producing the film and helped it secure international distribution. Critics loved the movie, and it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. It lost to Pixars Up, which had a budget many times as large.

Pete Docter, the director of Up, told me that when he first saw The Secret of Kells he was struck by how it defied prevailing trends. At the time, he said, it was all about 3-D, and Cartoon Saloon were instead embracing the graphic. They were embracing flatnessnot only the flatness of an animation tradition, but also of Celtic design, and merging these things together in ways that were really unexpected but also very sophisticated. In the studios approach to the form, he said, he recognized a countercultural force.

No one expected a childrens film about manuscript-making monks to be the next Lion King, and no one was disappointed when it wasnt. (The studio told me that the movie made around two million dollars.) After it was finished, Cartoon Saloon shrank to twelve people in a single office. Stewart went to Laika Studios, a stop-motion outfit near Portland, Oregon, which also released its dbut feature in 2009, the Oscar-nominated Coraline. Moore told me that everyone at Cartoon Saloon could have got on a flight to L.A. and walked into a job at a major studio; for a time, he thought about doing so. But, after the Oscars, I started to meet people who worked at Pixar and places like that, he said. And they were, like, Man, you guys are living the dream! Youre doing what everybody wishes they could do, making your own films in your own way.

It wasnt easy. The studio had no other projects far enough along in development to attract funding; Young, Moore, and Twomey all had to take out personal loans to keep the company afloat. But Moore had an idea, which had come to him while Kells was still in production. On a holiday in County Kerry, he was sketching on the beach with his son, who had recently turned ten, when they saw what appeared to be large rocks. As they got closer, they realized these were seals that had been clubbed to death. Ben was devastated. The family was renting a cottage from a local woman, who explained that fishermen blamed seals for the declining fish population. The real culprit was overfishing. In the old days, she said, it would have been considered bad luck to kill a seal.

The remark reminded Moore of stories hed heard as a child about selkies, mythical creatures who changed from human to seal form and back again. When people believed in those stories, there was a better, more pantheistic way of looking at the world, he told me, rather than just simplifying everything down to the very commercial logic of The seals are eating the fish, were losing money, kill the seals. With the Irish screenwriter Will Collins, he wrote a story about a ten-year-old boy named Ben, who lives on the coast with his father, a lighthouse keeper named Conor, and his mute and seemingly haunted little sister, Saoirse. Their mother has disappeared. Conor, lost in grief, sends the children to live with their overbearing grandmother in Dublin. Saoirse becomes ill: she and her mother, Ben discovers, are selkies. Saoirse and Ben journey back to the coast, and on the way they encounter a group of fairy folk and a sinister owl-witch named Macha, who steals emotions and keeps them in jars.

Ive watched Song of the Sea with my seven-year-old more than once. His cousin has a small but pivotal role in the filmwhen Saoirse finally sings the titular song, the voice you hear belongs to my niece, Lucy OConnellbut my son is indifferent to her star turn. He reacts strongly, on the other hand, to a scene in which Ben confronts Macha, who has taken Saoirse captive. Youre so full of emotions! Macha says. I can see them in your face. Nasty, terrible things! Macha is voiced by the great Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan, who also provides the voice of the grandmother, and there is an uncanniness to the character, at once predatory and maternal. She gazes at Ben with fiery raptors eyes and strokes his face with hands both soft and lethally taloned. All this seems to overwhelm my son in a way that most of the cartoons he watches never do, because they are precisely calibrated not to. Song of the Sea holds his attention but doesnt condescend to it; the movie is more expertly paced than Kells, but stretches of it are quiet and elegiac.

If you go back and watch Bambi, its very slow and lyrical, Moore told me. Its a little tone poem of a film, compared to what Disney would do now, with their story science, where like every ten minutes something happens that moves the character on to the next bit. Theres a really clear formula for keeping kids engaged now. Cartoon Saloon doesnt exactly ignore this formulathe studio makes adventure stories with child heroes who follow clear narrative arcs. But its movies allow the viewer space to dream and to wander.

Song of the Sea earned Cartoon Saloon its second Oscar nomination, and made more than twice as much at the box office as Kells did. This time, there was streaming money, too. We had Amazon writing a big check, without us having to do much of that work at all in terms of distribution, Gerry Shirren, a onetime Sullivan Bluth production employee who is now Cartoon Saloons managing director, told me. Days before the Oscar nomination was announced, the studio released its second TV series, Puffin Rock, created by Moore and Young with Lily Bernard, then a background artist at the studio. A peaceful show about a puffin named Oona and her gentle adventures on a little island, it became a surprise hit on the Chinese streaming platform Tencent Video, where it was watched fifty-five million times in its first six weeks. It ran for two seasons, was nominated for an Emmy, and is now on Netflix. After sixteen years, Cartoon Saloon had chanced upon something like commercial stability.

This past summer, shortly after Irelands internal travel restrictions were lifted, I met Paul Young, now a bespectacled fortysomething with a neat red beard, at one of the studios three offices in Kilkenny. It was nearly emptyalmost all the animators were still working from home. As we walked through the I.T. department, Young plucked a stuffed animal from a shelf. It was Oona; a line of plush toys will go into production next year, to coincide with the release of a Puffin Rock movie. Young made a point of saying that the prototypes manufacturer had strict standards for sustainability and fair trade. Later, Moore told me the same thing, but he was plainly ambivalent about the prospect of commercial diversification. I used to sort of buy into that whole sustainable-consumption model, he said, but I dont see it that way anymore. You know, No ethical consumption under capitalism, and all that.

Moore originally imagined Cartoon Saloon as a kind of artists coperative. Its actual structure is more corporate than thatlargely, Moore said, because people prefer a regular paycheck and a gaffer they can complain about over pints on a Friday. There is necessarily some tension between the commercial possibilities offered by a successful studio and the vision that drew Moore to the work in the first place.

That hoped-for spirit does live on, everyone told me, in the culture of the studio. Louise Bagnall, who went to work there eight years ago, in her late twenties, said that, almost as soon as she was hired, she was encouraged to pitch ideas for things she wanted to make. Moore and his co-founders didnt want Cartoon Saloon to employ the industrial approach hed seen at Sullivan Bluth. Bagnall worked on the animation for Song of the Sea, and then on Cartoon Saloons third feature, The Breadwinner, which was directed by Twomey. Set in Kabul in 2001 and based on a young-adult novel by the Canadian writer Deborah Ellis, The Breadwinner is about an Afghan girl who is forced to earn a living when her father is imprisoned by the Taliban. An elegantly structured film, aimed at an older audience than the studios other features, it also has a distinct visual language, with clean-lined characters and a more realist style. The movie garnered the studio its third straight Oscar nod. Bagnall got a nomination the following year, for a short film she directed, called Late Afternoon.

While Moore, as a director, develops the art and the story for his films hand in hand, Twomey, Bagnall learned, focusses first on the narrative. She spends a lot of time, when directing, on whats called the animaticthe rough storyboard that is used for editing before the animation proper begins. She obsessively tweaks the narrative, doing many of the voices herself. Midway through production of The Breadwinner, she was diagnosed as having breast cancer; she would go in for chemo on a Friday, and feel well enough by Tuesday to get back to work. Work gave me some sense of normality, she said. I could look at a scene of animation, and if there was a problem with it I could fix it.

Shes now working on an adaptation of My Fathers Dragon, a childrens book from 1948 by the American author Ruth Stiles Gannett. It will be released by Netflix and will have the studios largest budget to date. Bagnall is the assistant director. Twomey, whose husband also worked in animation at Cartoon Saloon before becoming a stay-at-home dad, told me that the studio has begun to be shaped by a younger generation of animators, whose sensibilities were informed, in some cases, by watching The Secret of Kells as kids. Theres kind of a weird circular thing going on now, where they were influenced by us early on, and then in the meantime theyve taken on board lots of other influences and become themselves, and then were influenced by them in turn, she said. These days, one of the founders primary ambitions is that the studio outlive, and outgrow, their own involvement with it.

When the pandemic hit Ireland, in the spring, Wolfwalkers was in the final stages of production. Cartoon Saloons hand-drawn animation was mostly complete, and a skeleton crew in Kilkenny completed the visual effects. The films score was in the can; vocal tracks were recorded by singers in their own homes. The studios staff in Ireland had been working with overseas partners since the beginning, so Zoom was familiar to them long before it became the predominant global mode of workplace chatter.

Late in the summer, I finally met Moore in person, for lunch at an otherwise empty restaurant a short walk from one of the studios offices. Hed grown an impressive lockdown beard since I last saw his face on my laptop. As I studied the menu, he pointed to a subheading below the vegetarian section: Inspired by Cartoon Saloon. The company has more non-meat-eating staff than your typical Kilkenny business, he explained. Hed just returned from putting the finishing touches on Wolfwalkers, with Stewart, at a partner studio, in Paris. His fingernails had been painted matte graythe work of his granddaughter, he told me. Two years ago, Ben had a daughter, and Moore, at forty, became a grandfather. This clearly brought him great joy, but at first, he told me, hed found it difficult to accept that his son was about to have all the responsibilities of fatherhood. Various strands of anxiety, personal and political, became entangled: hed wake in the night terrified about climate change and capitalism and the kind of world that awaited his granddaughter. Shirren eventually took him aside, he said, and gave him a gentle pep talk about the negativity he was bringing to the office.

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Cartoon Saloon and the New Golden Age of Animation - The New Yorker



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