Adin Steinsaltz: Rabbi who brought the Talmud within reach of millions – The Independent

Adin Steinsaltz was an Israeli rabbi who devoted nearly a half-century to translating the Talmud for modern readers, an epic undertaking that unlocked for millions of people a foundational but often impenetrable Jewish text.

He died on 7 August in Jerusalem. He was 83. His death was announced by the Steinsaltz Centre in Israel, which describes as its mission making a world of Jewish knowledge accessible to all, and was reported in publications including the Jerusalem Post, which said the rabbi had been hospitalised for a lung infection. In 2016 he had a stroke that left him unable to speak.

One of the most famous passages in the Old Testament arises in the book of Exodus, when Moses, leader of the enslaved Israelites and their defender before the pharaoh, demands that he let my people go. Rabbi Steinsaltz, as one of the most prominent intellectuals in modern Judaism, adopted a wry take on that ancient cri de coeur: Let my people know.

He was a genius, Walter Reich, a professor at George Washington University and frequent commentator on Jewish thought and affairs, wrote in an email, describing the rabbi as one of the greatest and most consequential scholars of the past thousand years of the Jewish people.

Rabbi Steinsaltz wrote dozens of books, including a seminal volume on Jewish mysticism, The Thirteen Petalled Rose, and commentaries on subjects ranging from philosophy to biblical zoology. In addition to his centre in Jerusalem, he founded religious schools in Israel and the former Soviet Union. He dabbled in science fiction and detective stories, an indulgence allowed, perhaps, by his propensity for 16-hour workdays.

But he was best known for the project that he took on in 1965, when he was in his late twenties and brought his encyclopedic knowledge to bear on an encyclopedic text the Talmud. Its 2,700 folio pages record centuries of rabbinical discourse on a universe of topics relating to ancient Jewish life, from observance of the Sabbath and Kosher dietary laws to agriculture in the Holy Land, civil and criminal law, family relations and Jewish beliefs on the betterment of the world.

Along with the Torah, the Talmud is one of the seminal texts of Judaism. Written in rabbinical Hebrew and Aramaic, it is also deeply arcane, intimidating to nearly all but the most learned scholars, who may devote a lifetime to the study of the Talmud and still consider their understanding of it incomplete. Even translations Rabbi Steinsaltzs was not the first failed to render readily comprehensible the pages that brim to the margins with rabbinical commentaries upon commentaries.

One could not possibly open the Talmud 50 years ago and just start reading it, Lewis Glinert, a professor of Hebrew studies at Dartmouth College, said in an interview. It was in every respect a closed book.

The task that Rabbi Steinsaltz set out for himself was not only to translate the Talmud into modern Hebrew but also to make it user friendly, Glinert said. He added modern punctuation, paragraph divisions, illustrations and extensive background material engendering fury among purists but thrill among uninitiated readers.

This was a way of opening up the Talmud to I wont say the average person, but to Jews and Gentiles who were prepared to invest time and energy into it, Glinert said. For them, it was opening up this whole world ... opening up the ancient Jewish treasures to whoever wants to come and learn.

Rabbi Steinsaltz employed a team of translators who laboured over the task through interruptions including several Middle East wars; a modern Hebrew edition was completed in 2010. The Steinsaltz Talmud (or portions thereof) was translated into several other languages, including English. A volume in Russian was released in 1996.

The Talmud is the central pillar of Jewish knowledge, important for the overall understanding of what is Jewish, Rabbi Steinsaltz once told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. But it is a book that Jews cannot understand. This is a dangerous situation, like a collective amnesia. I tried to make pathways through which people will be able to enter the Talmud without encountering impassable barriers. Its something that will always be a challenge, but I tried to make it at least possible.

Detractors accused Rabbi Steinsaltz of simplifying a text whose wisdom was revealed through the laborious process of deciphering it. Reading the Steinsaltz Talmud in English is like trying to understand what a crossword puzzle is when the words have been filled in, Arthur Samuelson, a reviewer, wrote in The Nation. You get the idea but you miss the point: process is everything.

But even his fiercest critics, according to Reich, are said to hide their copies of the Steinsaltz volumes in brown paper wrappers.

Some American critics, themselves relatively innocent of serious and sustained Talmudic study but moved nonetheless to offer themselves as defenders of the Talmuds purity, have decried Steinsaltzs English edition as false, superficial and a mimicry of the real thing, Reich wrote in 1990.

To say that, however, is to misunderstand the value and purpose of his achievement, the review continued. Whatever simplifications he introduces are more than balanced by the advantages they confer to the student who would otherwise find himself unable to even begin Talmud study.

In 2010, when Rabbi Steinsaltz completed the last of the 45 volumes of his translation, The New York Times reported that 3 million copies had been sold around the world.

According to the Times, Rabbi Steinsaltz was born on 11 July 1937, in Jerusalem, in what was then the British mandate of Palestine. His father, a socialist, fought with the Republicans against Francisco Francos fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War. The intellectuals most venerated in their household were not rabbis but rather Marx, Lenin and Freud.

Nonetheless, Rabbi Steinsaltzs father engaged a Talmudic tutor for him when he was 10 years old. I dont mind about your behaviour or your beliefs, but nobody in our family will be an ignoramus, he recalled his father saying. That exposure to Judaism, along with what Rabbi Steinsaltz described as his innate scepticism towards atheism, led him to Orthodox Judaism.

I came to the point, he told the Times, where the world could not contain my desire for truth. He later became a follower of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Hasidism. Under the guidance of the movements longtime leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, he adopted the Hebraicised surname Even-Israel.

Known throughout his life for his unbridled intellectual curiosity, Rabbi Steinsaltz studied mathematics and physics at university. He worked as a teacher and a principal before devoting himself to his translation of the Talmud.

Since I started the work at a relatively young age, obviously I didnt take into account the immense effort it requires, which includes not only the work of researching and writing, but also many logistical problems, Rabbi Steinsaltz told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in 2009.

But sometimes, when a person knows too much, it causes him to do nothing, he continued, observing that it seems its better, sometimes, for man, as for humanity, not to know too much about the difficulties and believe more in the possibilities.

Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, rabbi, born 11 July 1937, died 7 August 2020


Adin Steinsaltz: Rabbi who brought the Talmud within reach of millions - The Independent

Our highest obligation: Strive to be a ‘mench’ – The Jewish Star

By Rabbi Binny Freedman

Iremember the first Mishnah I ever learned, and it wasnt in a classroom.

The synagogue we attended when I was five years old had a strict decorum, and I recall the challenges this presented to my parents; vague images of my red-faced and embarrassed father carrying me out of synagogue kicking and screaming come to mind.

I had succeeded in escaping from the seat next to my father and ran up to the front of the synagogue. Rabbi Dr. Simon Greenberg, who was a talmid chacham, had an honored place in the front row, and I can still remember his piercing eyes and warm smile. He had the largest hands I had ever seen, and somehow, he succeeded in getting hold of me (I was not easy to catch) and hoisting me up to sit on his lap.

I can still remember the sefer he was holding, and his query as to whether I knew what it was. And I even remember the text of the Mishnah, which he proceeded to teach me in its entirety. Most people, catching hold of a rambunctious five-year-old shouting and yelling in synagogue, usually head for either their parents or the door. But he chose instead to teach me the entire first Mishnah of the Talmud in its entirety, right there on his knees.

Most of all, I still remember how important I felt as a five year old, to be sitting on this great rabbis lap, all the way in the front of the synagogue with, so it seemed to me, nothing more important to him than our conversation. Looking back, those few moments must have had a strong impact on me, as I still remember not only the text he taught me, but the entire conversation as well.

Mentsch is a hard word to translate. It refers not to a persons wisdom, or brilliance, but to the pure human decency such wisdom is meant to produce. It would be safe to say that my path to teaching began not from some brilliant insight full of wisdom but rather from a simple moment filled with a Torah scholars willingness to spend time on a text even with a noisy five year old boy.

We are in the midst of preparing for Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe. On Yom Kippur we will beat our breast and cry out our regrets over the missed opportunities and mistakes of the last year. Most people spend time considering the actions we regret, but very little focus on whether our character needs refining, as well. What of the less measurable challenge of being, generally, a fine human being? Is there a mitzvah to be a mentsch?

At the beginning of this weeks portion, Ki Tavoh, we read:

Yekimchah Hashem Lo leam kadosh, ki tishmor et mitzvoth Hashem Elokechah vehalachta beDeracahav (Hashem will raise you to Him as a holy nation when (because) you will fulfill the mitzvoth of Hashem your G-d, and walk in His ways) (Devarim 28:9).

All of the blessings we hope to receive as a people seem to be based on this clause, VeHalachta BeDeracahav (and walk in His ways). But what does this mean?

Maimonides lists this particular phrase as a separate mitzvah, in his Sefer HaMitzvoth (Positive Commandment 8), implying that there is a specific mitzvah we are expected to fulfill. Maimonides actually spells this out in his Hilchot Deot, the laws of character development. In his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah, where the Rambam delineates and organizes the entirety of Jewish law, the second set of laws, right at the beginning of the first of his 14 books, concern the Jewish recipe for becoming a mentsch. Second only to the laws of the foundations of Torah (Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, the basic principles of faith in Judaism), Maimonides believed Judaism begins with the challenge of becoming a mentsch.

And the basis for his insistence that adherence to a Torah lifestyle begins with the obligation to become a good person is our verse, VeHalachta BeDeracahav.

In other words, it is not just commendable when a person becomes a mentsch, it is an obligation, without which we are not fulfilling one of the basic ingredients of Judaism. A closer look at Maimonides Hilchot Deot reveals that a person who is too angry or too stingy, too greedy or too lazy, is transgressing (or at least not fulfilling) one of Judaisms basic mitzvoth. In fact, the context in which this mitzvah appears here in the Torah, suggests that it is a far more important mitzvah to develop ones character than putting on tefillin, or even refraining from eating pork!

Indeed, the Rambam points out that not only are we obligated to refine our character, but also indeed we have to do teshuvah for our lacking in these areas. The teshuvah process we seek to achieve in the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah is not just about our mistaken actions, but our incomplete character traits as well (Hilchot Teshuvah or Laws of Repentance 7:3). We have to repent, says the Rambam, for every moment of anger, jealousy, hatred, greed, arrogance and pride.

In fact, this is the true meaning of the verse in Isaiah read on the afternoon of community fast days: Yaazov rasha darko, veish aven machshevotav (Let the wicked leave his path, and the man of iniquity his thoughts) (Yishayahu 55:7).

Preparations for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur begin with our determination to make ourselves into better human beings.

Rav Kook (in his Arpelei Tohar) suggests that all of a persons problems and all the baggage we carry in life, stem from ones relationship with Hashem. If my relationship with and perception of G-d is skewered, then I will be skewered as well.

If my G-d is an angry G-d, then on a certain level, I will be an angry person, and if my G-d is only a G-d of judgment, then I will be a person filled with judgment. But even more, if I cannot see the piece of G-d inside every human being, beginning with myself, then I have an incomplete and skewered perception of G-d.

A version of this column appeared in 2012.

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Our highest obligation: Strive to be a 'mench' - The Jewish Star

Ambassador Michael Oren on His New Book and the Presidential Election – Algemeiner

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren. Photo: The Israel Project.

Michael Oren is no longer Israels ambassador in Washington or a member of the Knesset.

But hes managing to keep busy, Oren assures me in a phone interview to promote The Night Archer, his new book of short stories.

He has a novel, To All Who Call in Truth, coming out in November. Hes working on another collection of short stories. Hes an informal foreign policy adviser to a number of political figures. Hes raising money to finish a nonfiction book called Creation, about Israels founding and 1948 War of Independence. Hes coordinating Israel 2048, a manifesto outlining a vision for what Israel should look like on its 100th birthday. Hes learning French, keeping up with the Daf Yomi program of a page a day of Talmud study and enjoying five grandchildren.

Theres no boredom here, Oren says.

September 2, 2020 2:08 pm

The Night Archeris full of things that might be a bit surprising coming from a diplomat. Theres a Passover afikomen hunt that includes a searcher stumbling on his fathers porn stash. Theres a Holocaust survivor-turned-commercially-successful-writer-and-frequent-honorary-doctorate-recipient, having an affair with an unpaid intern young enough to be his granddaughter.

Theres another story about a Philip-Roth-like character in paradise. Did I have fun writingthat, Oren says, acknowledging with a laugh that many stories in the book would seem undiplomatic. He emphasizes, in response to my question, that the Holocaust survivor character was not based on any one real individual but was rather a composite.

I had fun reading these stories.

In a brief, erudite introduction to the short stories, and in our phone call, Oren says that the short story, imagination constrained by the structure of brevity, is a characteristically Jewish combination of freedom and discipline.

The freedom-limit paradox can be confounding but also intoxicating, Oren writes in the introduction, telling the story of a friend who was born Jewish but hated his heritage.

The friend accompanied Oren to synagogue for Simchat Torah, the holiday when Jews dance and sing while embracing the scrolls.

The friend, Oren writes, was flummoxed. Theyre celebrating a book that tells them all these things they cant do?

Reports Oren, unable to grasp the contradiction, the friend finally, in desperationbegan to study the Bible and then the Talmud, and eventually became observant.

Before Oren rings off, I ask him, as the former ambassador and the author of Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide, how he views the upcoming American election and its potential effects on USIsrael relations.

Both candidates running are very pro-Israel, Oren says. A Biden administration might bring policy differences over the Palestinian issue, West Bank settlements and the Iran nuclear deal, Oren points out. He notes, though, that Trump has also offered to negotiate a deal with Iran. Oren suggests that Israel could help by spelling out clearly what would be a good deal with Iran.

The bigger picture, he says, is that Israel depends on a strong and self-confident America.

It was concerning instead to see what appeared like a superpower that is not quite certain how to police itself, much less police the world, Oren adds.

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Ambassador Michael Oren on His New Book and the Presidential Election - Algemeiner

Let’s marginalize the bigots | OP / ED | – The Suburban Newspaper

On September 11, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I addressed the Canadian Club of Montreal to recruit Quebeckers to fight antisemitism and all forms of hatred.

What inspired me to speak at that podium on that day was not some of the dangerously crazy conspiracy theories related to 9/11 although I tackled them; it was the major spike in antisemitic incidents in this country that took place in the Spring of 2004. Bnai Brith Canadas League for Human Rights catalogued 857 incidents that year, making 2004 the worst-ever year up to that point for antisemitic activity in Canada.

Early one Monday morning, while I was shaving before heading off to work at BMO, my wife Elizabeth expressed alarm at the cowardly hate-filled firebombing of the library at the United Talmud Torah school in Montreal and a weekend-long rampage of tombstone-toppling and swastika-painting in Toronto. She said, Tony, we need to do something about it. While she was right, at the time, we were not quite sure just what that something should be.

After speaking with friends in the Jewish community and giving it considerable thought, we concluded that this was not an issue for the Jewish community to solve. It was indeed an issue for all of us to solve. So, we assembled a coalition of leading Canadian business and community leaders who were pointedly not Jewish to stand up and speak out against antisemitism. This group included Laurent Beaudoin, Andr Desmarais, Claude Lessard, Ral Raymond, and Marc Tellier. We took out full page ads in newspapers across the country. We called this initiative FAST, which stands for Fighting Antisemitism Together.

Elizabeth, who had taught Grade Four at the Beth Rivkah Academy for Girls when we were first married and living in Montreal, knew that hate was all too often learned at the parental knee. She believed that the best way to reach and open up young hearts and minds was through education. With the help of leading educators in planning the curriculum and Montreal-born Ben Mulroney in providing an introduction that spoke to kids, we launched two curriculum-based programs to help teachers. Choose Your Voice is for children in grades 6, 7 and 8 and Voices into Action is for students in high school and CEGEP. Since their inception, more than 667,000 students at 4450 schools across Quebec have been through these programs.

Fifteen years ago, the founders of FAST declared that the time has long since passed for silence in the face of antisemitism and other forms of hatred, bigotry and racism. While there is no question that FASTs educational initiatives have had a positive impact, sadly, we cannot declare mission accomplished. Last year, there were 2,207 antisemitic incidents in Canada or an eye-popping average of 6 incidents per day, with online harassment up 11 per cent, according to BNai Brith.

Having turned 75 this year, in the middle of a pandemic, and wanting to ensure that FAST continues its unique and important mission, I transitioned the leadership of FAST to Dr. Catherine Chatterley, a brilliant University of Chicago-trained historian, who is a leading global expert in the study of antisemitism.

With COVID-19, the 2020-2021 school year is going to be a challenging one for teachers, students, and parents. As Quebec teachers prepare their lesson plans, I hope they will avail themselves of our free curriculum-based resources ( and, which have won the Canadian Race Relations Foundation Award of Excellence, and are available in both English and French.

As Canadians, we are long past the point where we should permit the bigots to spread their poison unscathed. Let us dedicate this school year to emboldening and encouraging those young and still open hearts and minds to stand up and speak out against discrimination, wherever and however it rears its ugly head. Lets marginalize the bullies and bigots, strip them of their influence, and take away their power to intimidate. Lets take direct aim at antisemitism, racism and all the other ugly isms that pollute our world. Canada is the greatest country on earth, and we all have a responsibility to ensuring that everyone feels safe, secure and free to be who they are.

Tony Comper is co-founder of FAST and was president and chief executive officer of BMO Financial Group

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Let's marginalize the bigots | OP / ED | - The Suburban Newspaper

End this year, with its curses! | Yaakov Jaffe | The Blogs – The Times of Israel

This Shabbat at Maimonides, we will have the unusual experience of reading 147 curses as part of our Shabbat morning Torah reading.

Ever since our shul reopened to read Parshat Bamidbar, following our shut-down in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been reading two Torah readings each week, and this week we finally come full circle reading the regular weekly parsha, Ki Tavo, along with our final make-up parsha, Bechukotai.

Following the ruling of Rabbi Hershel Schachter and others, and in recognition of the teachings of our founder, the Rav zl (Sheiurei Ha-Rav Tefilah #38) and his teachers teacher the Vilna Gaon we have been careful to read every Parsha this Jewish calendar year proudly affirming that for whatever COVID has taken from us, it has not deprived us of the opportunity to read the entirety of Hashems Torah together as a community.

Were doing so on behalf of the entire greater New England community. Since its founding in 1937, Maimonides has always been the central, premier Torah institution in all of New England, and more Torah is studied daily in our Yeshivah than in any other building in Massachusetts. It is because of our intense passion for Torah study, that it is fitting that we have been making up each of the Parshiot that might have been lost.

And so, this week, our two Parsha readings both feature curses Ki Tavo features the 98 curses of Moses just prior to his passing, and Bechukotai the 49 curses given Har Sinai, for a total of 147 curses read in a marathon Torah reading this Shabbat. The two sets of curses are often juxtaposed and compared: narrative voice (Megillah 31b), severity (Bava Batra 88b, Rashi Devarim 28:23), and length (Midrash Tanchumah Nitzavim 1).

One of the oldest rules of setting the Torah reading schedule, appearing in the Talmud (Megilah 31b) and attributed to Ezra and the early second temple period, is that the curses are to be read in the penultimate week of the year, to convey a sense May the year end with its curses. We ironically read the harsh predictions of what might happen to the Jewish people not with a sense of anxiety or sadness, but with an optimistic view that perhaps all these curses are part of the destiny of last year, now beyond us. Perhaps for the upcoming year Begin the new year with its blessings!

5780 was a difficult people for all of us, in the Jewish people and in the entire world, and it is important to engage in a symbolic act to hope that the worst has passed us, so we can focus about renewed beginning and the blessings of a new year. We are hopeful that the year soon-to-begin will carry with it vaccines, cures, and health for all of humanity.

This week we will scream Chazak, Chazak, Ve-Nitchazek: Be strong! We have finally concluded are reading of Vayikra, we have finally complete this years Torah reading and may we be strong moving forward into next year!

In the merit of the sense of completion and finally closing the circle of Torah readings, may the curses of the past year end, and may the new year bring for us only blessings.

Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Jaffe is the Rabbi of the Maimonides Kehillah, and the Dean of Judaic Studies at the Maimonides School in Brookline, Mass.

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End this year, with its curses! | Yaakov Jaffe | The Blogs - The Times of Israel

A sweet and sour history of Jews and pickles – The Jewish Star

By Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

Pickling, the process of preserving food by preserving it in salt or brine, has a long history. For thousands of years, pickling fruits and vegetables even meat, fish and eggs has allowed people to store food long-term. In the years before refrigeration, this was a crucial way of making sure people had enough food to eat year-round.

There are two methods of pickling food. Marinating foods in vinegars or other acidic liquids kills most bacteria, ensuring that pickled foods can last for years even without refrigeration. Pickles can also be marinated in brine, a salty liquid. This causes fermentation and the growth of edible bacteria, and prevents the development of harmful bacteria that can cause spoilage.

Pickling also imparts a delicious flavor. Here are seven little known facts about the Jewish love of pickles, along with some recipes for quintessentially Jewish pickled dishes. Enjoy!

Ancient pickles?

Cucumbers, one of the most popular pickled foods, are native to India. In ancient times they were sold and eaten throughout the Middle East, including ancient Egypt. The Torah even records that after the Jews left Egypt, they missed the cucumbers and other flavorful produce theyd eaten in Egypt:

We remember the fish which we were wont to eat in Egypt for nought; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic. (Numbers 11:5)

Its likely that the cucumbers mentioned by our Jewish forebears were pickled in some way. Ancient cucumbers tasted extremely bitter and the ancient Egyptians cooked their cucumbers by lightly fermenting them. The resulting pickled vegetables were slightly alcoholic, and were seemingly eaten for their mind-altering properties.

Talmudic pickle description

The Talmud says, Salting is like hearing and marinating is like cooking (Chullin, 97b). This is one of the earliest descriptions of preserving food by pickling in ancient times.

According to the Jewish law, pickling food is akin to cooking it. Just as the laws of keeping kosher prohibit cooking meat and dairy items together, so too is it prohibited to pickle meat and dairy foods in the same jar.

Pickling foods by marinating in vinegar or salt seems to have been so common in Talmudic times that the Talmud even records a disagreement between two sages, Rabbah bar Rav Huna and Rava, over whether sprinkling salt on foods while sitting at the Shabbat table can be considered pickling.

The Talmud concludes that since its unlikely a diner would sprinkle sufficient quantities of salt on their foods that their meals could become pickled, salting foods poses no problem on Shabbat (Shabbat 75b). The discussion paints a fascinating portrait of a world in which so much food had to be salted and pickled to preserve it that the act of pickling was seemingly on everybodys minds at meals and when preparing foods.

Preserving food in the shtetl

For generations, pickled foods made up a large portion of poor peoples diets. For the impoverished Jews of Eastern Europe, pickles were a crucial means of preserving food and ensuring that people had enough to eat during the long winter months.

Vegetable pickles, especially cabbage, beet, and cucumber, were staples in the diet of Jews in Poland, Lithuania, the Ukraine, and Russia, notes Claudia Roden in The Book of Jewish Food (1996).

In addition to preserving vital foods and vitamins, pickles piquant taste provided a counterpoint to the often bland Eastern European diet. Jews became known for making tasty pickles.

Housewives would prepare stocks of winter provisions, Roden records, leaving them to ferment in cellars and outhouses. To the country markets, where peasants brought their farm produce, Jewish housewives brought their pickles in barrels for sale.

Pickled herring

One of the most iconic Jewish pickles is also one of the most unlikely sounding pickled herring.

For centuries herring has been a popular fish in the Baltic nations of northern Europe; locals preserved herrings by various means, including salting, smoking and pickling. In the Renaissance, Dutch fishing fleets trawled the Baltic Sea for herring, and cornered the market: the Netherlands had a substantial Jewish population, and Jews became key agents in the Netherlands herring trade.

Jewish traders pickled herring and exported it all over Europe without spoiling. A popular method was to pickle the fish in a marinade of vinegar, sugar and onions. Once herring was pickled, Jewish chefs sometimes packaged it in a wine sauce or a cream sauce.

Jewish chefs became connoisseurs of various forms of pickled herring: shmaltz herrings are larger, fatty fish. Matjes herring are younger and smaller.

Pickled herring became a mainstay in Jewish homes throughout Europe, and was particularly popular as a Shabbat delicacy and a Hanukkah holiday meal. When Jews moved to the United States in the 1800s, they brought their love of pickled herrings with them, selling the delicacy from pushcarts. In 1925, a Jewish girl who immigrated to America and lived on the Lower East Side of New York, Anzia Yezierska, published a semi-autobiographical novel The Bread Givers about what life was like for those penniless, pious Jewish immigrants.

Facing semi-starvation, the daughter of the family takes a job selling pickled herring on the streets: I was burning up inside me with my herring to sell like a houseful of hungry mouths my heart cried, Herring herring! Two cents apiece!

A Yiddish saying summed up the special place that the humble pickled herring had in the hearts of Ashkenazi Jews: Bmakom sheeyn ish, iz hering oykh a fish (Where there is no worthy man, even a herring is a fish).

Today, Jews continue to enjoy pickled herring. In fact, Israel, despite its small size, is one of the worlds top importers of herring, after the Netherlands, Germany, Ukraine and LIthuania.

Depraved pickles

Jews living in the tenements in New York and other cities would place barrels containing cucumbers, cabbage, beets and other vegetables in brine each summer when produce was plentiful, then let them pickle in cool cellars and basements during the long cold winter. This way, poor families could have access to vegetables, albeit in pickle form.

Even when Jews didnt make their own pickles, they could easily be found in many Jewish neighborhoods. In the 1920s, the Lower East Side in New York had no fewer than 80 kosher pickle factories.

Available year round, cheap, and ready to eat, pickles fed tenement dwellers and reminded many Eastern Europeans of the lands they had left behind, the New York Tenement Museum notes.

For many non-Jewish Americans, the Jewish fondness for pickles was evidence of Jews supposed degeneracy. The famous American doctor and author Susanna Way Dodds, who published copiously about a healthy lifestyle at the turn of the 20th century, opined that pickled cucumbers could morally corrupt children: The spices in (pickles) are bad, the vinegar is a seething mass of rottenness and the poor little innocent cucumber if it had very little character in the beginning, must now fall into the ranks of the totally depraved.

The NYC Board of Education even launched its school lunch program as a way of weaning immigrant children off their habit of eating pickles.

Kosher dills

In Europe, many non-Jewish cooks used vinegar to pickle their foods. Derived from wine, vinegar was just too expensive for many Jewish cooks to use. Instead, Jewish housewives turned to brine, with salt and water as the primary ingredients. It became popular to add garlic and dill to the brine, and in time kosher dills pickled cucumbers were a quintessentially Jewish delicacy.

Other Jewish pickles include sours, half sours and sweets. These names refer to the length of time theyre fermented. Sours are fully fermented in brine for weeks. Half sours are partially fermented in salt brine for two to four weeks. Sweet pickles are pickled in salt brine and also in sugar, which also acts as a fermenting agent.


Heres a recipe for Kosher Dill Pickles to try at home:

1/3 cup kosher salt

2 lbs. Kirby cucumbers, washed and halved or quartered lengthwise

5 cloves garlic, crushed

1 large bunch of fresh dill, washed thoroughly

Combine the salt and 1 cup boiling water in a large bowl. Stir to dissolve the salt. Add a handful of ice cubes to cool the mixture, then all the remaining ingredients.

Add cold water to cover. Use a plate slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl and a small weight to keep the cucumbers immersed. Set aside at room temperature.

Begin sampling the cucumbers after 4 hours if your quartered them. It will probably take 12 to 24 hours or even 48 hours for them to taste pickled enough to suit your taste.

When they are ready, refrigerate them, still in the brine. The pickles will continue to ferment as they sit, more quickly at room temperature and more slowly in the refrigerator. They will keep well for up to a week.

Sephardi pickled delicacies

Sephardi Jewish cuisines contain delicious pickled vegetable dishes. Pickled lemons, pink pickled turnips and pickled eggplants are all delectable Sephardi dishes that have become staples in many Israeli kitchens, no matter where their ancestors came from.

Pickles and marinated vegetables had an important place in the old Sephardi world, notes Claudia Roden, who grew up in Egypt. They were brought out as appetizers with drinks and again as side dishes during the meal. Originally a way of preserving seasonal vegetables, they became delicacies to be eaten as soon as they were ready.

Here is a wonderful and easy recipe for Torshi Left, a turnip pickle that was brought to Israel by Egyptian, Syrian and Lebanese Jews and is a quintessentially Israeli condiment today.

2 lbs turnips

1 beet, raw or cooked, peeled and cut in slices

3 or 4 garlic cloves, cut into slices

3-3/4 cups water

3 to 4 Tbsp. red or white wine vinegar

2-1/2 Tbsp. salt

Peel the turnips, cut in half or quarters, and put them in a jar interspersed with the slices of beet and garlic. In a pan bring the water, vinegar, and salt to the boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Then pour over the turnips. Let cool before closing the jar.

(Variation: You may also add a chili pepper.)

Pickle in refrigerator as long as possible; the longer turnips stay in the marinade, the stronger your pickles will be. Roden notes that in her family the kids could never wait until the pickles were ready and would snack on them while they were still crisp. Taste every few days to get a sense of how strong youd like this pickle to be.

Recipes from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden, Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Read more by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller at

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A sweet and sour history of Jews and pickles - The Jewish Star

Holy Witnesses – Torah Insights – Parshah –

Witnesses are an important part of every judicialsystem. Yet, as is often the case, Judaism presents a deeper dimension andperspective on the function and purpose of witnesses.

According to the Talmud, there are two categories ofwitnesses, clarifying witnesses and establishing witnesses. Clarifyingwitnesses are witnesses in the conventional sense. They observe an event andlater testify that the event indeed occurred; for example, witnesses cantestify that a man borrowed one hundred dollars from his friend. The witnesses,however, have no part in the transaction; the borrower is morally obligated torepay the loan whether or not the witnesses testify. It is the loan that obligateshim, not the witnesses.

The second category, establishing witnesses, isentirely different. According to Jewish law, there are events that have nolegal significance unless there are witnesses present. For example, thewitnesses at a wedding ceremony not only attest that the wedding took place,but actually establish the marriage itself. Without proper witnesses, themarriage would have no legal significance.

In other words, the clarifying witnesses reveal thelegal reality, and the establishing witnesses actively participate increating a legal reality. But these two categories of witnesses are not justlegal definitions; theyre relevant to the inner, spiritual dimension of theTorah.

The prophet Isaiah tells us: You are My witnesses, says the Lrd.We are the witnesses charged with the responsibility to testify and revealthe truth of Gd throughout the earth.Our spiritual task as witnesses contains both dimensions, clarifying andestablishing, We serve as clarifying witnesses when we recognize the presenceof Gd in the magnificent universe He created. When we remind ourselves andothers of the good inherent in the world and within people.

Yet merely observing, appreciating and sharing doesnot capture the full potential and greatness of the Jew, for the Jew is awitness to a marriage, the marriage between Creator and creation, between theGd and the Jewish people, between heaven and earth. As previously explained,the witnesses of a marriage are establishing witnesses, part of the creationand establishment of the marriage.

To be a witness to the marriage of heaven and earth,the Jew must do more than appreciate and focus on the inherent Gdliness foundon earth. The Jew must partner with Gd in creation. The Jew actively improvesand elevates the world around him. He transforms the mundane by imbuing it withmeaning and holiness. The Jew doesn't just tell a story, the Jew seeks toactively create it.


Holy Witnesses - Torah Insights - Parshah -

Running a Jewish day school just got a lot more expensive and parents shouldn’t be the only ones paying the price. – JTA News – Jewish Telegraphic…

BALTIMORE (JTA) The coronavirus pandemic has made it even more difficult to expect parents alone to bear the huge costs of educating their children.

During the past few months, online instruction has become our new normal. This critical innovation has salvaged our childrens education, but its inferior to in-person instruction and requires a higher level of parental involvement. It creates significant stress and challenges for working parents, single parents and parents of multiple school-aged children.

For private schools, including Jewish day schools like those associated with the Orthodox Union, these issues are entwined with challenging economic realities. Some parents, heavily burdened by high tuition in the best of times, are suffering the economic consequences of the pandemic and are concerned about the inevitable weaknesses of the virtual school experience. They may balk at paying the same yeshiva tuition rates for a year of remote learning.

But we need to remember that the schools themselves are in a bind, too. They must invest in the things that will make physical reopening possible: new air filtration systems, increased cleaning costs, personal protective equipment, Plexiglas partitions and other infrastructure changes, as well as more staff to teach smaller classes. They also must be prepared for the real possibility of switching to remote schooling at a moments notice a challenge in other ways.

To weather these challenges, and for the longer term, we must produce more than educational tweaks and expanded scholarship pools. All of us who care about our schools and our families need to create a paradigm shift in education funding.

When youre paying day school tuition or supporting an individual institution, youre not just paying for the costs of teacher salaries and the building itself youre investing in the future of our communities. So we need to think communally instead of transactionally.

We used to do this more. As Yossi Prager wrote for Jewish Action in 2005, American Orthodoxys vast day school system was built and nurtured by countless individuals who understood in the Talmudic tradition of Joshua ben Gamla that thriving Jewish day schools are a communal imperative. The funding model for these institutions was dependent more on communal support and far less on tuition dollars.

The sacrifices and commitment of these builders and funders are reminiscent of the magnificent Talmudic story of the man who planted a carob tree that would not bear fruit for 70 years, by which time he would be long gone. Nevertheless, he happily invested in planting for future generations, who because of his efforts would find their world filled with beautiful fruit trees.

While funding our schools and yeshivas remains a core communal responsibility in practice, many of these institutions have come to depend increasingly on tuition payments. So instead of being community-supported institutions, many schools rely on the current parent body for funding.

The current system of financing Jewish education is relatively recent, and subsidizing tuition for those who struggle to afford it was viewed as a communal obligation into the 20th century. In his Hatakanot BeYisrael, Rabbi Yisrael Schepansky notes the varied ways in which communities levied taxes to support tuition for those unable to pay: Some communities assessed based on means, others imposed a head tax and at least one community levied a kind of sales tax on shechita, or kosher slaughter.

Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, in his Aruch Hashulchan (Yoreh Deah 245:9-10), wrote that fathers who are able to hire teachers for their children and grandchildren are obliged to do so, and if a parent of means nonetheless wishes to enroll his child in the community yeshiva, he is obliged to contribute much money in order to benefit the poorer children of the community.

The conclusion is inescapable: In the Jewish worldview, Jewish education is not a consumer good but a communal obligation.

We must explore the causes of the shift away from this philosophyand what can be done to reverse it for the longer term. But today, with virtual schooling a likely piece of this years plan, we must also mobilize to minimize any immediate and lasting damage to our children, families and institutions.

All of us in the community-at-large, whether or not we have school-aged children, must come together to support both schools and parents by shouldering more of the financial burdens of keeping our schools open. We must organize as communities and galvanize support that assists the schools while bringing real and immediate relief to parents.

At the same time, parents should also recognize the challenges all schools face and realize that even if they may not be benefiting as much from the school this year, they must do their part to ensure the school will be around and be equipped to educate their child and others in the future.

And schools should acknowledge the stresses and challenges faced by their parent body, recognizing that in a framework of virtual school where students are getting less parents may be less ready to pay the usual fare.

This year, we all need to think beyond what we will be getting for our dollars. We need to keep planting and caring for the carob trees so that they will be there for us, for our children and grandchildren, and for our broader communal future.

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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Running a Jewish day school just got a lot more expensive and parents shouldn't be the only ones paying the price. - JTA News - Jewish Telegraphic...

Heichal HaTorah Bais Medrash Enters Its Second Year with 40 Talmidim – Join us this Zman! – Yeshiva World News

This past year, Heichal HaTorah of Teaneck, NJ began the Heichal HaTorah Bais Medrash. Designed for young men returning from yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel, HBM boasts world-class rebbeim, new facilities, serious and friendly chaveirim and an opportunity to earn a convenient and affordable college degree. The HBM will be open this Elul in-person.

Current talmidim of HBM, hailing from yeshivas such as Kerem BYavneh, the Mir, and Netiv Aryeh, form a small student body. In the warm and friendly atmosphere, the talmidim enjoy spending Shabbosim together, learning together, and playing basketball together. Ive never seen a yeshiva so successful in creating a permeating feeling of you are wanted here, we care about you, in the way Heichal HaTorah does, says Yehuda Assouline, a talmid of HBM.

Rav Aryeh Stechler, the Rosh Yeshiva, described HBM as a makom Torah where, talmidim can come and reach their full potential in learning and Avodas Hashem. And indeed, the rebbeim of HBM are committed to ensuring that each talmid feels comfortable and welcome, a key component to their success in Talmud Torah.

Of course, the core mission of HBM is excellence in Talmud Torah, and the rebbeim of HBM excel at clear and passionate teaching. Several of the rebbeim have published seforim, such as the HBM Mashgiach, Rav Moshe Don Kestenbaum, who wrote Olam Hamiddos, a world-famous mussar sefer. The Bais Medrash schedule balances iyun, bekius, and mussar, and, in addition, the rebbeim offer various chaburos for those talmidim interested in other topics such as Mussar and Chassidus. Because each of the rebbeim is deeply dedicated to their talmidim, each of the talmidim has a deep connection with his rebbeim. I really cherish my close relationship with the Mashgiach, Rav Kestenbaum, says Tzviki Liff, who has come to HBM after learning at Merkaz HaTorah and the Mir. The Bais Medrash has two other shiurim, offered by world renowned talmid chacham Rav Yitzchak Reichman, one of the leading lamdanim to come out of Shaar HaTorah in Queens, and son-in-law of Shaar HaTorah Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Sholom Spitz. Another morning shiur is offered by Rav Moshe Genack, author of Birchas Moshe, and son of OU CEO, Rav Menachem Genack. In addition, Rav Genack coordinates the Iyun Kal Afternoon Seder Program.

The HBM talmidim enjoy learning in the brand new Rozehzadeh Bais Medrash, recently dedicated by Dr. Joe and Mrs. Lori Rozehzadeh in memory of Dr. Rozehzadehs father. My father would have delighted in the chance to see young men learning Torah in an open environment where they are free to pursue their Judaism and spiritual growth, says Dr. Rozehzadeh.

The Bais Medrash believes that talmidim should be equipped with the skills to succeed in their chosen career path, says Rav Aryeh Stechler. HBM partners with several colleges to afford talmidim the opportunity to earn a B.A. Currently, HBM has four different paths for talmidim to earn their degrees, including partnerships with Fairleigh Dickinson University and Landers College. The diversity of options allows for the flexibility that many talmidim need. Rav Stechler encourages all talmidim of HBM to pursue their degrees at the right time and pace for each individual. All college classes take place in our yeshiva building or online and are taught by Bnei Torah.

Talmidim at HBM also find plenty of opportunities to enjoy time with each other. With a basketball court, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and a close-by dormitory, the chevra of HBM form life-long friendships. Because all of the talmidim are invested in growth in middos and learning, the camaraderie and relationships are unparalleled. I could not have asked for a better chevra, says Yoni Sokol, who is learning in the Bais Medrash while pursuing a degree at FDU.

Rav Stechler opened Heichal Mesivta just seven years ago with nothing but a dream. Now, with 160 talmidim registered for the Mesivta and 40 talmidim registered for the Bais Medrash, Heichal is a central makom Torah in the NY/NJ area.

To learn more about the Bais Medrash or register for Elul,

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As The Night Gets Longer – The Jewish Press –

Photo Credit: Jewish Press

For most of us, the 15th Av is little more than a day on which davening is shorter because no Tachanun is said. In fact, though, the day has deep significance. The Talmud (Taanis 31a; Bava Basra 121b) states, From now on, whoever adds increases. Rashi explains: From the 15th of Av onward, whoever adds nights to the days by studying Torah adds life to his lifetime.

The Talmud notes that the suns power and intense heat start to noticeably weaken at this time. As the Rashbam explains, the nights get longer and the days get shorter, and therefore one should study Torah at night, too. In fact, the Talmud states, Night was created only for Torah study (Eiruvin 65a).

The Rambam goes even further: Although there is a commandment to study Torah [both] during the day and at night, a person learns most of his wisdom only at night. Therefore, a person who wishes to be privileged with the crown of Torah should be careful with all his nights, not to waste even one with sleep, eating, drinking, conversation, and the like, but only with Torah study and subjects of wisdom (Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:13).

Subjects of wisdom, in this context, say the commentaries, mean the most profound Torah subjects, which Rambam earlier defined as pardes maaseh merkavah and maaseh bereishis, knowledge of Hashem and His creation (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 4:13).

Night is ideal for studying Torah because normal daytime disturbances and problems dont disrupt our attention and concentration, making it easier to explore subjects in depth and remember them.

At night, we are more spiritually attuned, we are free of daytimes material influences, and we are more open to humility and holiness. Therefore, Torah study at this time has the ability to bring us spiritually closer to Hashem in a more conscious and profound way. For the above reasons, night is also ideal for a cheshbon hanefesh (spiritual stocktaking) in Krias Shema or saying Tikkun Chatzos.

So when Rashi writes of adding life to [ones] lifetime, he doesnt just mean better health and longer life; he also means an improved quality of life not just in the next world, but even in this one. As our Sages say, You will see your world [to come] in your lifetime [in this world] (Berachos 17a).

Chassidus, based on the Kabbalah of the Arizal, highlights the full moon thats visible on the 15th of Av. The moon symbolizes the Jewish people, who are compared to the moon (as we say in Kiddush Levana) and who therefore count their years based on the lunar calendar. Gentile nations, on the other hand, base their calendar on the sun, the heat of which represents, in Kabbalah, the overwhelming power of the forces of evil.

The 15th of Av is even greater than the 15th say of other Jewish months since it immediately follows the low point of Tisha BAv. The ascent from that low point to the 15th has the advantage of light shining into darkness, which makes it more effective and most appreciated.

The high point achieved on 15th Av when the heat of the sun, representing the powers of evil, begins to diminish is therefore a time to intensify the forces of holiness by studying more Torah at night and delving deeper into our studies, making both quantitative and qualitative improvements.

Other reasons the Talmud gives for celebrating 15th Av are connected to Jewish unity and love of ones fellow Jew. So its an appropriate time to improve in these areas too, replacing the reason for this exile baseless hatred with unconditional love thereby bringing the ultimate geulah of Moshiach, may he come now!

(Based on teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)

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The Survivors’ Talmud: When the US Army Printed the Talmud – The Jewish Voice

By: Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

As World War II drew to a close in 1945, survivors of the Nazi death camps tried to rebuild their shattered lives in Displaced Person (DP) camps, many of which were housed in the very concentration camps in which Nazis had recently tortured and murdered Jews and others.

On September 29, over three months after the end of the war in Europe, US President Harry S. Truman wrote a scathing letter to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was in charge of American troops in occupied Germany, describing the horrific conditions that Jews were still living in. Pres. Truman quoted from a report on the conditions in the DP camps that hed commissioned: As matters now stand, we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them except that we do not exterminate them. They are in concentration camps in large numbers under our military guard instead of S.S. troops. One is led to wonder whether the German people, seeing this, are not supposing that we are following or at least condoning Nazi policy.

Truman argued that we have a particular responsibility toward these victims of persecution and tyranny who are in our zone. We must make clear to the German people that we thoroughly abhor the Nazi policies of hatred and persecution. We have no better opportunity to demonstrate this than by the manner in which we ourselves actually treat the survivors remaining in Germany.

With American support, Jewish life slowly began to return to the camps. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee moved into many DP camps and helped distribute food and medical supplies. They also helped set up Jewish schools in the camps, aided at times by the American army and also by some remarkable rabbis whod survived the Holocaust and were determined now to rebuild Jewish life.

One huge problem prevented the resumption of Jewish education and religious services: while the Nazis murdered as many Jews as possible and tried to wipe out Jewish existence, they also destroyed countless Jewish books, Torah scrolls and other ritual objects. Allied officials were able to find some Jewish prayer books in Nazi warehouses, but the ragged Jewish survivors in DP camps still lacked many basic Jewish books and supplies.

One leader who stepped in to help was Rabbi Avrohom Kalmanowitz. Born in Russia, Rabbi Kalmanowitz was head of the renowned Mir Yeshiva, one of the greatest yeshivas in the world. In 1939, with war looming, Rabbi Kalmanowitz decided to relocate his famous school from Lithuania to Kobe, in Japan. He set out to bring 575 members of the school, but soon found himself leading nearly 3,000 Jews who were desperate to escape Nazi Europe. He led this group, which included many sick and elderly Jews, across Russia and Siberia and onto Japan. For much of the journey, stronger members of the group would carry those who couldnt walk on their backs.

After Japan attacked the United States, Rabbi Kalmanowitz moved his yeshiva once more, to Shanghai. There he improvised printing presses using stones and managed to publish 38,000 Jewish books. While Hitler was burning books and bodies, Rabbi Kalmanowitz later recalled, the men of Mirrer (the Mir Yeshiva) who had traveled 16,000 miles from Lithuania to Shanghai were using stones for printing presses to keep the light of learning alive. After the end of the war, Rabbi Kalmanowitz returned to Europe, and once more championed the printing of Jewish books and preservation of Jewish life.

Rabbi Kalmanowitz was a leading figure in the Agudat Harabbanim and the Vaad Hatzalah. He cultivated contacts with American military officials and oversaw the printing of Jewish prayer books, Passover Haggadahs, copies of the Megillah of Esther for Purim, and even some volumes of the Talmud. Rabbi Kalmanowitz is a patient and appreciative old patriarch, Gen. John Hilldring, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas, wrote to a colleague. I can think of no assistance I gave anyone in Washingtonthat gave me more satisfaction than the very little help I gave the old rabbi. Rabbi Kalmanowitz requested resources to print even more Jewish books but was told that with the acute shortage of paper in Germany, more ambitious plans to print Jewish books was impossible.

Seeing Rabbi Kalmanowitzs success in printing some Jewish books and even some volumes of the Talmud, another Jewish leader in Europe at the time began to dream of an even more ambitious project. The chief rabbi of the US Zone in Europe was Rabbi Samuel Abba Snieg. He was a commanding figure. Before he was captured by the Nazis he was a chaplain in the Lithuanian army. He was sent to the Jewish Ghetto in Slabodka, a town near Kovno in Lithuania which was renowned as a center of Jewish intellectual life. From there, Rabbi Snieg was sent to the notorious Dachau concentration camp. He survived, and after being liberated dedicated his life to rebuilding Jewish life. He was assisted by Rabbi Samuel Jakob Rose, a young man whod studied at the famous Slabodka Yeshiva before the Holocaust. They resolved to approach the US military for help in printing copies of the Talmud the first volumes of the Talmud to be printed in Europe since the Holocaust.

A set of Talmud called Shas is made up of 63 tractates, comprising 2711 double-sided pages. For millennia, its many volumes have been studied day and night by Jews around the world. Printing a complete set of the Talmud would send a powerful message that Jewish life was possible once again.

Whom to ask for help? General Joseph McNarney was the commander of American forces in Europe. The rabbis wondered if there might be a way to reach him with their request, and decided to approach his advisor for Jewish affairs, an American Reform rabbi from New York named Philip S. Bernstein.

Rabbi Bernstein came from a very different background from the black-hatted Orthodox rabbis laboring in the DP camps. On the surface, perhaps, the men looked very different. But Rabbi Bernsteins mother had come from Lithuania and he had a deep attachment to Jewish life and was open to requests for help in rebuilding Jewish education in the DP camps. Rabbi Snieg and Rabbi Rose explained their proposal to print whole sets of the Talmud on German soil, and Rabbi Bernstein became an enthusiastic supporter of the plan.

They arranged a meeting with Gen. McNarney in Frankfurt where they asked if the US army would lend the tools for the perpetuation of religion, for the students who crave these texts Gen McNarney realized that printing sets of the Talmud would be a powerful symbol of the triumph of Jewish life supported by American forces in the lands where it had so nearly been wiped out. On September 11, 1946, he signed an agreement with the American Joint Distribution Committee and Rabbinical Council of the US Zone in Germany to print fifty copies of the Talmud, packaged into 16 volume sets. It would be the first time in history that an army agreed to print copies of this core Jewish text. The project became known as the Survivors Talmud.

The team immediately ran into obstacles. First, it was impossible to find a set of Shas (the entire Talmud) anywhere in the US Zone of former Nazi lands. Every Jew in Poland was ordered, upon pain of death, to carry to the Nazi bonfires and personally consign to the flames his copy of the Talmud, one testimony recorded. In the end, a member of the American Joint Distribution Committee brought two complete sets of the Talmud from New York.

Even though the US Army had agreed to print the volumes, some officials objected to the expense. The timeframe and scope of the project kept changing. Then there was the sheer labor involved in printing what eventually became nineteen-volume sets of the Talmud: each copy needed 1,800 zinc plates which had to be painstakingly set and proofread. The project began in 1947 and was finally completed in late 1950. we are Gott sie Dank (Thank God) packing the Talmud an American Joint Distribution Committee employee wrote in November, when they began distributing the Talmud. The Joint paid for additional sets of the Talmud to be printed; in the end, about 3,000 volumes were made. These were then shipped all over the world wherever Holocaust survivors from the the DP camps were settling. The Survivors Talmud made its way to New York, Antwerp, Paris, Algeria, Italy, Hungary, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Greece, Yugoslavia, Norway, Sweden, and Israel.

From the outside, these sets of the Survivors Talmud looked like any other set of Shas. Their special origin is only visible on the title page, which shows a picture of the Land of Israel as well as a concentration camp surrounded by a barbed wire fence, with the words From bondage to freedom, from darkness to a great light. Below is this touching dedication:

This edition of the Talmud is dedicated to the United States Army. The Army played a major role in the rescue of the Jewish people from total annihilation, and their defeat of Hitler bore the major burden of sustaining the DPs of the Jewish faith. This special edition of the Talmud, published in the very land where, but a short time ago, everything Jewish and of Jewish inspiration was anathema, will remain a symbol of the indestructibility of the Torah. The Jewish DPs will never forget the generous impulses and the unprecedented humanitarianism of the American Forces, to whom they owe so much.

Some individual owners of this remarkable set of Talmud wrote their own dedications as well. One rabbi of a small town in Israel near Jerusalem recalled how he lost his wife and children when they were murdered in the Holocaust. Living in Israel, he spent his days studying from his Survivors Talmud. On the first page he hand-wrote his own dedication as well, which surely was the hope of many other survivors who studied this remarkable Survivors Talmud as well:

May it be Thy will that I be privileged to dwell quietly in the land; to study the holy Torah amid contentment of mind, peace, and security for the rest of my days; that I may learn, teach, heed, do and fulfill in love all the words of Thy Love. May I yet be remembered for salvation for the sake of my parents who sanctified Thy name when living and when led to their martyrs eath. May their blood be avenged! May I merit to witness soon the final redemption of Israel. Amen.

This was the prayer of so many of the Jews who helped print and then studied the Survivors Talmud. This remarkable undertaking was a way of declaring that no matter how terrible circumstances became, Jews would always find a way to return to the Jewish texts that have always sustained us.


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The Survivors' Talmud: When the US Army Printed the Talmud - The Jewish Voice

The Life and Legacy of Torah Scholar and Prolific Author Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz – Jewish Journal

Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, Torah scholar, longtime educator, prolific author and one of the greatest commentators on Judaism of his generation, died Aug. 7 in Jerusalem. He was 83.

The Jerusalem Post reported the cause of death was acute pneumonia. He had been hospitalized since Aug. 4 due to a lung infection.

Steinsaltz, perhaps best known for his groundbreaking commentary of the Babylonian Talmud, which is credited with making the ancient Jewish texts more accessible, was buried on the Mount of Olives. Hundreds of family members, colleagues and students stood in the heat and Chasidic nigunim (melodies) following the burial.

My husband, Yaakov, and I had the privilege of working for him, and my husband also studied under him.

Once in a generation is there a project so expansive, so extraordinary, that it revolutionizes Jewish scholarship for hundreds of thousands perhaps millions of people, and for future generations. Steinsaltz is perhaps best known for his seminal Babylonian Talmud, and as the lyrics of the Haggadah song Dayenu say, That would have been enough for us.

He also produced commentaries on the Tanakh, the Mishnah, the Mishneh Torah and Tanya. All of these now are available to scholars and lay people and, in the future, they will become accessible digitally.

Two years ago, a dinner was held in Jerusalem in honor of Steinsaltzs 80th birthday. The eclectic collection of guests, like those who attended his funeral (streamed live on Facebook), varied in age and appeared diverse in religious style. This reflected Steinsaltzs greatest achievement: To be a giant whose intellect could reach the stars yet communicate and interpret the treasures of the Torah to those below, who are as numerous as the sands of the Earth.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Congregations of the Commonwealth of Britain, was a keynote speaker at Steinsaltzs dinner. He said, He was trained as a scientist but has the soul of a poet. He was brought up by very secular parents. Adin told me that his parents insisted that he learn Gemara because they wanted him to be an apikoros (heretic), not an amaretz (ignoramus) . With his creative genius, he has taken the most complex texts and turned them into the simplest messages. Sacks quoted the verse in Isaiah, Vekol baneich limudi HaShem And all your children shall learn of God, and noted how there have been attempts to create egalitarianism in wealth and in power and they have failed, but that Steinsaltz has dedicated his life to creating something egalitarian by opening the doors of study to everyone.

According to Rabbi Meni Even-Israel, Steisaltzs son and executive director of the Steinsaltz Center, which continues his work, Steinsaltz became Torah observant when he was 16. He studied chemistry and physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem but he spent most of his time on Jewish studies and spent many hours with Rabbi Shmaryahu Sasonkin and the late Rabbi Shlomo Zavin. He also studied for a brief time at the Chabad Yeshiva in Lod, Israel, and published essays, gave lectures and conducted educational activities for teens.

In 1965, Steinsaltz married his wife, Sara. He opened a small hesder yeshiva where students divide their time between study and military service and founded the Israel Institute of Talmudic Publications in Jerusalem in cooperation with the Prime Ministers Office and the Ministry of Education and Culture. With that, he began his lifes work: Translating the Talmud from its original Aramaic into modern Hebrew, and adding a commentary that a layperson could understand. He was only 28. This isnt as surprising as one might think because at 24, he had been appointed the youngest school principal in Israel, at a school in the Negev.

Although the small yeshiva couldnt sustain itself beyond the first year, it was a microcosm of things to come. My husband who was one of the six students, recalled, The highlight was the seudat shlishit (the third Sabbath meal) that we had at the home of the Rav every week. The singing, his inspirational stories, the atmosphere this was what made the yeshiva special. teinsaltz went gone on to found a plethora of educational institutions, and that special atmosphere permeates them all.

The work of a lifetimeSteinsaltz expected to complete his Talmud project within 13 years. It took 45. The first volume was published less than a year after opening the center. It was followed by 40 additional volumes and the project was completed in December 2010. The English version is titled The Essential Talmud.In 1991, he changed his last name to Even-Israel under the guidance of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, with whom he became very close, but retained his given name. In 1988, Steinsaltz was awarded the Israel Prize, considered the nations highest cultural honor, along with many other prestigious prizes.

The Steinsaltz Hebrew Talmud received endorsements from several great rabbis including Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the Admor of Erlau.

While working on the Talmud project over those 45 years, Steinsaltz also published more than 60 books, numerous essays, recorded video classes and taught and lectured throughout the world. He established a network of educational institutions for the Jewish community in the former Soviet Union, including the first yeshiva formally acknowledged by the authorities (in 1989, before the fall of the Soviet Union), a Jewish university and a training school for preschool and elementary school teachers.

Steinsaltz also established other schools that are inspired by his worldview, including an army yeshiva (Yeshivat Hesder) in Tekoa, Israel, and the Makor Chaim elementary, middle and high schools in and near Jerusalem. Sadly, the Makor Chaim high school yeshiva in Kfar Etzion became well known when two of the three teenage boys who attended that yeshiva were kidnapped and killed by terrorists in 2014. (One of them, Naftali Fraenkel, was my student.)

But the yeshiva has morphed its tragedy into days of unity, in which the yeshiva sends students to secular schools in Israel to interact and create dialogue. During the seven years I taught at Makor Chaim, I discovered it was a high school yeshiva with out-of-the-box thinking and an atmosphere of curiosity, creativity and joy.

By 1976, Steinsaltz also had created the Shefa Institute, comprising an elite group of students who would study, write pedagogical materials and teach educational programs for adults creating a new dialogue with Jewish texts. My husband was one of the researchers, and Steinsaltz hired me to help produce Shefas adult educational activities.

I vividly remember meeting with him in his private office in the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. It is written in Talmud Succa 21:2, Even the prosaic conversations [sihat hulin] of wise men are equal to the entire Torah. And indeed, even Steinsaltzs comments on prosaic matters were filled with rich philosophical insights and colorful anecdotes. It was a privilege just to sit quietly and listen while he expounded on educational issues and Israeli society, by way of introduction to the next project. The benefit of this close contact gave us a rare opportunity to know Steinsaltz when he was much younger, and even then, a visionary and dreamer.

Yehudit Shabta, an editor and translator, worked for Steinsaltz from 1989. She tells the following story to illustrate his worldview: When our daughter was a year old, we brought her to the Rav for a bracha (blessing). He said to the child, I bless you that your parents will not get in the way of your growth.

Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov, filmmaker and daughter of Sylva Zalmanson, one of the 12 Soviet Jews who tried to escape the USSR in 1970 by hijacking a plane and was imprisoned for years, wrote in a public Facebook post on Aug. 7 about her experience with Steinsaltz. She was 16 and rebellious. Everyone had advised her mother to be tough on her. Zalmanson took her daughter to Steinsaltz and he had one piece of advice: Only love.

We have many books by Steinsaltz in our home that have informed our teaching on Talmud, Chassidut, Tanakh, Jewish mysticism and more. One of my favorites is a little book that I consult when authoring a new biblical musical Biblical Images: Men & Women of the Book, which always enchants with refreshing and deep insights on biblical figures central to our national shared consciousness.

Am Yisrael has lost a Torah giant. His wisdom and his smile, which lit up the world, now will continue to glow through his students and the works he left behind.

Toby Klein Greenwald is an award-winning playwright and director of biblical musicals for Raise Your Spirits Theatre.

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The Life and Legacy of Torah Scholar and Prolific Author Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz - Jewish Journal

Mind Over Milkshakes – The Jewish Press –

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In a fascinating study conducted at Yale University, participants were each given a 380-calorie milkshake. Half the participants were told it was a sensible, 140-calorie shake, and half were told it was an indulgent, 620-calorie shake. In reality, everyone received the same 380-calorie milkshake.

In a true testament to the subjectivity of satiation, the people in the indulgent milkshake group rated themselves fuller than those in the sensible milkshake group.

But the researchers didnt just rely on peoples self-reporting on how full they felt. They also measured the levels of ghrelin, a gut hormone whose presence is associated with feeling hungry. They found lower levels of ghrelin in the people who thought they were drinking the indulgent shake even though in reality they ingested the same number of calories as the people who thought they drank the sensible shake!

In other words, our mindset can actually impact the biology of how full we are, which in turn affects the subjective sensation of how full we feel.

InParshat Ekev, Moshe informsBnei Yisraelthat when they enter the Land of Israel, they will eat, be satisfied, and bless G-d. These words are the source of the commandment to sayBirkat HaMazon Grace After Meals. The trigger for this obligation is feeling satisfied. Yet, the rabbis of the Talmud set a precise amount of food that obligates one sayBirkat HaMazonif eaten (either an olive-sized or egg-sized amount of bread).

The Talmud presents an enigmaticaggadicdialogue between G-d and the angels in which the angels ask G-d how He can show favor to the Jewish people (as is implied in the Priestly Blessing) when fairness and justice usually preclude showing favoritism. G-d replies by noting that even though the Torah only requires Birkat HaMazonto be said after being satiated,Bnei Yisraelsay it even after only eating an olive- or egg-sized piece of bread.

This cryptic passage, and the rabbinic criteria for saying Birkat Hamazon, requires explanation. If the message lies in the importance of going above and beyond bare requirements, why chooseBirkat HaMazonas the example? Additionally, if one is only obligated to say Birkat HaMazonwhen full, isnt saying it when not full problematic? Wouldnt it be a blessing made in vain (beracha levatala)?

Perhaps the significance of reciting Birkat HaMazonon an olive- or egg-sized piece of bread is as follows: Its not that Jews recite blessings even though they arent full. Rather, its that they worked on their attitude, and as a consequence their biology changed as it relates to being full. They trained themselves to become satiated with a smaller amount.

Mishlei states, A righteous person eats to satisfy his soul. The ideal is to eat enough to have energy to serve G-d, not to indulge if there is no physical or spiritual benefit.While we should all consult relevant health professionals for guidance on what and how much to eat, perhaps the Talmuds message is that we can adjust our mindset to decrease the amount of food we require in order to feel satiated.

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Why Is the Ketubah Written in Aramaic? – Questions & Answers –

The Ketubah is the marriage contract that outlines the obligations of the husband to his wife, as well as the financial compensation due to the wife in the event of the marriages dissolution through divorce or widowhood. Similar to a Get (divorce document), the Ketubah is traditionally written in Aramaic, the common language of the Jews during Talmudic times.

Why was it originally written in Aramaic, not Hebrew? And why is it still written in that language today, when most of us are more proficient in English or another language?

The importance of the Ketubahs precise and exact language cannot be overstated, due to the legal nature of the Ketubah as well as its deeper spiritual significance.

In fact, having a properly written kosher Ketubah is so criticalnot just to the marriage ceremony itself, but to married life in generalthat it is problematic for a couple to live together, even temporarily, without a kosher Ketubah. (In the event that the document is lost or destroyed, or if a serious error is found in its text, the couple must immediately obtain a replacement from a rabbi.)

For centuries, going back to Talmudic times, the sages have pored over the Aramaic Ketubah formula, ensuring that each word is precise, and especially looking out for words that may have multiple meanings.

As with contemporary contracts, the more important the contract, the more experts youd have review the language to tighten it and make sure it is precise. So it is no wonder that the contract for marriage, one of the most important and monumental steps that one takes in life, bonding two half-souls into one union, needs to have extremely precise language. Thus, we use the traditional Aramaic text, which has gone through the rigor of centuries of Talmudic scholars.

Although it is theoretically possible to have a Get or Ketubah in another languageif written precisely, in accordance with all the relevant laws, etc.halachah only permits this in extreme situations.

To be sure, there are many translations of the Ketubah, both in English and Hebrew (including on our site). And since the Ketubah is a legal document, one should certainly read a translation to understand what is written in it (or at the very least, have the rabbi explain the basics of the document). Nevertheless, the actual Ketubah used for the marriage should be the traditional text, ensuring that it is precise and kosher.

Aside from the legal aspect of the Ketubah, there are deeper reasons for the Aramaic as well.

The Ketubah has been written in Aramaic going back to Second Temple times, imbuing the text with holiness and the tradition of our ancestors. Thus, using the traditional Aramaic text of the Ketubah links us and our future family to our ancestors rich and illustrious heritage.

The Ketubah and the Get are actually written in Aramaic with a sprinkling of Hebrew. A document that alternates between two languages is generally invalid. So why is it OK here?

Among other explanations, Rabbi Moses Isserlis explains that Aramaic has a certain holiness to it (going back to Mount Sinai ) and can therefore go together with Hebrew, the Holy Tongue.

In fact, parts of the Bible itself, as well as the Oral Torah as recorded in the Talmud, are written in Aramaic. Furthermore, some of the special prayers, such as the Kaddish, are also recited in Aramaic, signifying that Aramaic is considered a special and unique language.

But why was Aramaic chosen over Hebrew?

On a homiletic level, many cite a Midrash regarding the time before Gd gave the Jewish people the Torah. Wishing to keep the Torah in Heaven, some angels claimed that mere mortals could not be trusted to study the Torah. In reply, Gd promised that the Jewish men would occupy themselves with learning Torah.

Yet, in the text of the Ketubah, the Jewish men accept upon themselves unconditionally to work their very hardest to support their wives. This can theoretically be used by the angels to bolster their case that the Jews cannot be relied upon to study Torah assiduously.

The sages teach us that the angels understand all languages except for Aramaic. Thus, some explain, by writing it in Aramaic we prevent the angels from using the Ketubah in their argument.

In a somewhat similar vein, some cite another Midrash.

When the time came for Gd to create Adam, Gd consulted the ministering angels. The Angel of Truth said, Dont create humans, for they will be full of lies. The Angel of Peace said, Do not create them, for they will be in constant strife! What did Gd do? He grabbed the Angel of Truth and hurled him to the earth.

While that took care of the Angel of Truth, the commentaries ask, how did Gd contend with the Angel of Peace?

The commentaries explain that, based on the halachah that one is allowed to bend the truth to keep the peace, now that the need for absolute truth had been thrown down, it was possible to maintain peace.

However, part of the text of the Ketubah reads, I will work, honor, feed and support you in the custom of Jewish men, who work, honor, feed and support their wives faithfully. The Aramic word translated as faithfully, , literally means in truth. Thus, when we are creating a union that will, with the help of Gd, result in more of mankind, we are stating that it will be with truth. This gives room for the Angel of Peace to again raise objections that there will be a lack of peace. To avoid this, we write it in a language that the angels dont understand.

These homiletical explanations, while not the main reasons for the Aramaic Ketubah, stress the importance of being mindful to imbue our new home with Torah and peace.

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Cherish the Small Comforts that Bring Your Joy in an Unsettled World – Jewish Journal

Weve recently moved. Our family feels blessed that our children will create memories in this beautiful home. The kids have claimed their spaces, started to decorate their rooms and seem to have forgotten that they lived anywhere else.

Our home has become more than a dependable place. My husband and I breathe a sigh of relief when we walk through the door, as if the confusion and horrors of the outside cant possibly penetrate our inner sanctum. The mental game we play with ourselves is perhaps one many of us choose to enter: If we just close the curtains and turn off the news, then everything will be OK.

We know, everything is not OK. Far from it. Yet, maybe one of the ways to wade through the waters is to find those pieces of comfort that displace the feeling of being unsettled.

What brings you comfort during an unsettling time? Some simple favorites: Watching the waves crash on the beach, eating a heaping pile of spaghetti and meatballs, five pairs of hands putting together a seemingly impossible puzzle, and prolonged snuggling at bedtime with plenty of lullabies. Do these comforts change the realities of the outside? Not at all. Do these comforts help relieve our unsettled spirits? For a few blessed minutes, yes.

The Talmud explains that three areas ease a persons mind: a pleasant voice, sight and smell. Meaning, sometimes, a beautiful piece of music or prayer, seeing someone that brings joy to your face and smelling the sweet aromas of a favorite recipe are more healing than we imagined. Does listening to classical music in your backyard replace the Hollywood Bowl? Never. Does watching grandchildren through a screen replace physical hugs and kisses? It cant. However, we must take comfort in the ways we can, knowing that these substitutions are not forever. And surprisingly, some of those substitutions can quell the heart in more ways than one.

Emerson reminds us that, Nobody can bring you peace but yourself. We can retrain our senses, allowing simple pleasures to settle our souls. The unsettled world is still there, not to be ignored, eager for our willingness to engage, change and mend. But to brace ourselves for the ongoing struggle, we must find those comforts that nourish, replenish and restore.

In this unsettling world, may a few comforts bring us joy and a lingering peace.

Shabbat shalom.

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Yeshiva Education – The Best of Both (OPINION) – BKLYNER – BKLYNER

Pincus Orlander

My great-great-uncle, Rabbi Levi Yitchok Gruenwald, fled Vienna after the Anschluss in 1938 and came to New York City with my grandparents where he started his own congregation. His Williamsburg-based synagogue included a yeshiva with dual curriculum within its education system, focusing on the faith as well as skills to live in New York. Rabbi Gruenwald was able to form his congregation and its educational extension because of the religious freedom that America prides itself on.

The yeshiva system is the best of both worldsit allows for a cultivated religious education coupled with academic skills to help its students become productive members of society. It prioritizes the philosophy and values of Jewish heritage and religion to play a major role in our childrens educational experience and personal development by relying on rigorous Talmudic study to continue to be the primary source of guidance and inspiration of the Jewish people. Yet the New York State Education Department is trying to sanction yeshivas because their curriculum is different.

The yeshiva system requires students to read, speak and learn in multiple languages, a skill that is proven to improve memory and concentration in young people. This allows students to develop an analytical brain to really grasp a wide variety of information. All of my children are currently in yeshiva schools and they are becoming intelligent, valuable members of society through an education rooted in their faith.

I attended the yeshiva Belz Elementary and High School in Brooklyn, New Yorkthe same school as a critic of yeshivasand then went on to receive my degree in speech pathology from Touro College. My experience with yeshiva education guided me on this path and allowed me to become the successful professional that I am today. It put me in a position to create a practice focused on multiculturalism, helping children of all backgrounds improve their speech, reading, writing and overall educational experience. My yeshiva education taught me to give back to the community which has provided me with so much.

Freedom of religion and cultural diversity are cornerstones of the American experience. That is why my great-uncle fled to New York: he knew he would be able to live as who he was and practice what he believed in. The NYS Education Department stepping in and taking away our rights to lawfully teach our pupils ethnic, religious and moral values beneficial to their personal development and their communities is nothing other than wholly un-American.

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Delaware to require teaching of the Holocaust, genocide – Forward

Auschwitz, a concentration camp in Poland.

(JTA) The state of Delaware will require the teaching of a Holocaust curriculum in middle and high schools starting with the 2021-22 term.

A bill signed into law late last month by Gov. John Carney mandates that public schools implement curriculum on the Holocaust and genocide for students in grades 6 through 12. Each district can develop its own curriculum, according to the Delaware State News.

The Halina Wind Preston Holocaust Education Committee of the Jewish Federation of Delaware, an interfaith volunteer group comprised of Holocaust survivors and their families, Holocaust scholars, teachers, clergy and community advocates will provide guidance and resources, according to the report.

The bill passed the state legislature unanimously.

Ann Jaffe, a Holocaust survivor living in Delaware, participated in the signing via videoconference. She spoke to the House and Senate about her experiences and has regularly spoken at schools in the state for several decades.

I am the last generation of first-hand witnesses, and I am 89-years-old. I am glad to know that when I will be gone, the schools will continue our work, Jaffe said in a statement at the signing, WDEL reported. The importance of teaching the Holocaust and about genocide in Delaware schools is great. How can we expect our children to remember and learn from history they did not know?

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Delaware to require teaching of the Holocaust, genocide - Forward

Berachos: The Key To Fearing Hashem – The Jewish Press –

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Now, what (mah) does Hashem ask of you? Only to fear Hashem, to go in all His ways and to love Him (Devarim 10:12).

The Talmud (Menachos 43b) says we learn from this verse that one is obligated to recite 100 blessings a day. Rashi and Tosfos explain that the word mah can be interpreted as meiah, which means 100.

The Talmud (Berachos 33b) asks about this verse: Is fear of heaven a minor matter? Why is it presented as it were no big deal that Hashem is only asking that we fear Him? In fact, even Avraham Avinu was only declared to be a fearer of Heaven Now I know that you fear Hashem (Bereishis 22:12) after the Akeidah. Clearly, properly fearing Hashem is very difficult. How, then, can the Torah obligate ordinary men to accomplish this extraordinary task?

Perhaps the answer lies in the 100 berachos this verse requires us to say. Each beracha establishes an infrastructure that promotes yiras Hashem. With each beracha, a person says thank you to Hashem, recognizing what He does for us and acknowledging that everything comes from Him. Saying a beracha provides us with a moment of reflection that concretizes the omnipresence of Hashem in our lives. Doing so is thus a tried-and-true means of achieving yiras Hashem.

Yet, we say certain berachos so many times that we dont even think when we say them. How, then, can they inspire emunah and yiras shamayim?

R Dovid Moshe Braverman suggests reflecting deeply when reciting a beracha. It is known that reciting Birchas HaMazon with deep kavanah is a segulah for parnassah. So when saying, Who nourishes the entire world in His goodness with grace, with kindness and with mercy contemplate these words. Think of the grains and the produce, the magnificent array of colors that make fruits and vegetables so appealing, the life-giving nutrients and vitamins that saturate them all created and arranged by Hashem because He loves us. A person will then start thinking about his livelihood and wellbeing, and his yiras Hashem will grow as he appreciates everything Hashem does for him in this world.

Here are additional suggestions to acquire and improve ones yiras Hashem:

* Rav Shach says reciting berachos from a siddur, especially Birchas HaMazon and Asher Yatzar, inspires deeper introspection and thought.

* R Yehuda Tzadka recommends dividing a beracha into phrases and pausing between each one to reflect on its meaning. Baruch Atah Hashem. Pause. Elokeinu Melech Haolam. Pause. Shehakol Niheyeh Bdvaro. Acting in this manner will accustom a person to saying each beracha with deep kavanah.

* Say berachos with more kavannah, but focus on one beracha at a time.

* Chazal state that saying berachos out loud increases ones emotion and kavanah.

The Michtav MEliyahu notes that yiras Hashem provides protection against failure to follow the ways of the Torah. If a person lacks yiras Hashem, his heart is subject to the wiles of the yetzer hara who will determine what his heart desires. Yiras Hashem safeguards our Torah, our mitzvos, and our lives.

R Dovid Baharan was a great tzaddik who lived in Yerushalayim. One year, R Baharan was seen during Succos sitting with his head bowed on his shtender, crying for over two hours in the shul of the Gra, located in the Shaarei Chesed neighborhood. One of his friends approached him and asked why he was so distressed.

He explained that in the morning he had risen early to make the beracha on lulav and esrog. However, as he concluded the beracha, he noticed that the hadassim had slipped out of the holder, perhaps making his beracha one that was said lvatalah (in vain). Members of the shul, which was widely known to have an impressive group of talmidei chachamim, cited the specific chapter in Shulchan Aruch which states that if one of the species was removed, the person has still fulfilled the mitzvah.

R Dovid argued that even if he had fulfilled the mitzvah, he was still concerned that the beracha itself had been said in vain because of the missing species, as indicated by the Mishnah Berurah.

The next year on Succos, R Dovid was once again seen crying in the corner with his head down on the shtender. His friend approached him and asked, Did the same thing chalilah happen to you again?

R Dovid replied, Chas vshalom. I took extra care to make sure it wouldnt.

So why are you crying? inquired the friend.

R Dovid answered, What happened last year gives me no rest. I cannot forget that I was not careful enough to make sure there was no possibility I would make a berachah lvatalah.

R Dovids response reflected true yiras Shamayim. He had not done anything wrong whatsoever. Yet, a full year later he was still worried that his performance of a mitzvah had not been complete and perfect.

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Berachos: The Key To Fearing Hashem - The Jewish Press -

A Personal Relationship With God Is Reachable if We Believe in It – Algemeiner

A Torah scroll. Photo:

In his old age, the late Sir Roger Bannister was the absolute epitome of an elderly British gentleman urbane, well-spoken, and courteous to a fault, the type of person you would have guessed had spent his pre-retirement working life as the manager of a local bank, or as the headmaster of an upscale grammar school.

Indeed, those guesses would not have been far off the mark. In 1954, Bannister graduated Oxford University medical school, and he spent almost 40 years as a neurologist, retiring in 1993 at the age of 64.

But his decades-long professional career as a physician and his quaintly charming demeanor in later life are of little relevance to the fact that this avuncular man with an infectious smile and a twinkle in his eye was one of the most famous athletes of all time.

Bannisters fame rested on the fact that on May 6, 1954, in front of a surprisingly small number of spectators at an amateur runners event at Oxford UniversitysIffley Road track, he ran a full mile in just under four minutes 3:59.4, to be precise becoming the first person on record ever to do so.

August 9, 2020 11:05 am

Remarkably, it almost didnt happen. In the summer of 1952, Bannister had competed at the Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland. Already known for his extraordinary running talent, expectations for Bannister were high, and he was the favorite to win the 1500 meters.

But at the last minute, the race schedule changed, throwing his routine into disarray and he came in fourth. Tremendously disappointed by his failure to win a medal, he contemplated abandoning athletics for good. But after some careful reflection and soul searching, he decided not to give up, instead setting himself a new target he was going to be the first athlete in the world to break through the four-minute-mile barrier.

His success in this endeavor was far from a foregone conclusion. In 1947, at the age of 18, Bannister ran his first competitive mile in 4 minutes 24.6 seconds. By 1949 he was running a mile in 4:11, and in 1950 he had managed 4:09. Then, in 1951, he ran the mile in 4:07.

On May 2, 1953, Bannister ran a mile in 4:03.6 but as hard as he tried, and as much as he trained, he found that he simply could not run a mile in less than four minutes.

And he was not the only one trying; other top runners were trying too, and achieving better times than him: on June 5, 1953, the US runnerWes Santeeran a mile in 4:02.4, and later that year, AustralianJohn Landyran it in 4:02.0. But doing it any faster than that seemed impossible.

The following year, Landy made various attempts to beat his own record, running 4:02.4 in January 1954, 4:02.6 in February, and in April 4:02.6 again. It was all in vain. The record for the fastest mile was still held byGunder Hgg of Sweden, who ran it in 4:01.4 on July 17, 1945 in Malm.

Almost 10 years had passed without anyone breaking this record, and sportswriters and medical experts declared that it was not possible for humans to run a mile in under four minutes. The countless failed attempts by Bannister and others seemed to prove them right.

When Bannister unexpectedly managed to do what no one had thought possible on that damp day in Oxford, everyone imagined it was a complete one-off, and that it would take years for anyone to get there again, if ever. Less than six weeks later, Landy ran a mile in 3:58 in Finland, and then, at the Empire Games in Vancouverin August, Bannister won the first-ever race in which two men ran a mile in under four minutes.

In June 1957,Don Bowdenbecame the first American to do it, running a mile in 3:58.7 in Stockton, California. In fact, since that fateful day in May 1954, the sub-4, as it is known, has been achieved over 1,400 times, with the current one-mile world record held by Moroccan runner Hicham El Guerrouj, who ran it in a staggering 3:43.13 in Rome, on July 7, 1999.

Over the years, whenever Bannister was asked how he had broken through that unbreakable barrier, heanswered simply it didnt make sense to me that there was a barrier.

As far as he was concerned, if someone could run a mile in 4.01.2, then there would definitely be someone who could run a mile in less than four minutes. Bannister would say that he was determined to be that person, adding that he knew that once that psychological barrier which is all it was was breached, there would be many more who would get through it too. And despite his humility and understatedness, he was absolutely right.

In the Torah portion of Eikev, during one of the last speeches Moses gave to the Jewish people before passing away, he posed a question for the nation to consider (Deut. 10:12): what is it that God wants from you?

Before giving anyone the opportunity to answer, Moses answered the question himself, beginning his answer with the Hebrew wordski im only that

The clear implication of this phrase is that Moses wished to suggest a simple, achievable way for the nation to please God. But what actually ensued was a list of goals and targets that was so beyond the grasp of ordinary mortals, it almost seems comical: you should fear God, walk exclusively in His paths, love Him, and serve God with all your heart and soul, keeping all His commandments and laws.

Really? If thats the case, we may as well all give up before we start. After all, why embark on a Mission Impossible?

To compound the problem,the Talmud (Berachot 33b) quotes this verse and notes how difficult it is to achieve an acceptable level of fearing God. In order to resolve this problem, the Talmud proposes that what is virtually impossible for ordinary people was easy for Moses, which was why he included the fear of God on his list of what God wants from all of us.

But how exactly is that an acceptable solution? And surely Moses would not have deliberately set us up to fail?

But perhaps the Talmud is telling us something very profound in its simplicity. What is recorded as Moses advice is a reflection of who he was, and it is this that should truly inspire us. For Moses, the fear of God seemed like the most natural thing in the world. One might even speculate that had you asked Moses how he could ever have suggested breaking through an unbreakable barrier, he might very well have replied, It doesnt make sense to me that there is a barrier.

And if an entire nation would witness a man like Moses, for whom the fear of heaven was a simple and rudimentary aspect of life achievable, with no barrier it would undoubtedly make a powerful impression, thereby enabling many others to achieve the same result.

Moses proposition may have been a reflection of who he was humble and understated but it paved the way for something much more important. Suddenly the high bar became a reality that was within the reach of all of us. Psychological barriers are there to be broken, but you need to know that it is possible to break them.

And as it turns out, our relationship with God is not an unachievable sub-4; instead it is an attainable goal. All we need to do is believe we can get there.

Rabbi Pini Dunner is the senior spiritual leader of the Beverly Hills Synagogue.


A Personal Relationship With God Is Reachable if We Believe in It - Algemeiner

Adin Steinsaltz, Groundbreaking Talmud Translator, Dies – The New York Times

JERUSALEM Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, a prolific Jewish scholar who spent 45 years compiling a monumental and ground-breaking translation of the Talmud, has died. He was 83.

The Steinsaltz Center, the Jerusalem educational institute he founded, said he died Friday in Jerusalem after suffering from pneumonia.

Steinsaltz, an educator who established a network of schools in Israel and the former Soviet Union, wrote more than 60 books on subjects ranging from zoology to theology. But the Talmud, the central text in mainstream Judaism, was his greatest passion.

The Talmud details rabbinical discussions over the centuries pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history. But because of its complexity, obscurity and the fact that much of it is written in the ancient Aramaic language, the rarified text for centuries remained beyond the scope of comprehension of all but a select group of scholarly Jews. The text, compiled in Mesopotamia in the 5th century, is broken into 63 sections and stretches over 2,700 double-sided pages.

I do believe that this knowledge, it is not just knowledge of history, it is knowledge of ourselves, it is our own picture, Steinsaltz told The Associated Press in a 2010 interview at the end of his work. Talmud is a book that has no real parallel it is a constant search for truth, for absolute truth.

Over 4 1/2 decades, working for up to 16 hours a day, he labored over the ancient texts, translating them from the Aramaic into modern Hebrew along with editions in English, French and Russian. The 45-volume series added his own explanations of phrases, terms and concepts, as well as listing the rulings of Jewish law derived from the text.

Steinsaltz coined his quest to educate Jews Let my people know, a play on Moses passage from Exodus: Let my people go.

There have been other, partial translations into English and other languages, but none are as comprehensive or have as extensive a commentary.

In the AP interview, Steinsaltz explained that he took to the Talmud like a musician takes to an instrument and he compared comprehension of it to that of math and music. It is a different language and you have to think in that language. It is a language of thought and not a language of words, he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remembered Steinsaltz as a Torah genius and a man of exemplary spirit.

His important works will stand for generations at the foundation of Jewish heritage, as an eternal flame in his memory, Netanyahu said.

Steinsaltz, who also used the Hebraized surname Even-Israel, was born in what is now Israel in 1937 to secular parents but became observant in his teens, when he entered seminary schools and learned Aramaic.

After studying physics and chemistry at Hebrew University, he became a math teacher and at the age of 24, according to his website, the youngest school principal in Israels history. Three years later, in 1965, he began working on what he called his hobby the translation of the Talmud. He wrote numerous commentaries on religious texts as well as My Rebbe, a biography and memoir of his close relationship with the revered spiritual leader of the Chabad movement the late Lubavitcher Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.

His effort earned him the 1988 Israel Prize the nations highest civilian honor, the Presidents Medal and a number of honorary doctorates.

He is survived by his wife, Sara, three children and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren, according to the center. He was scheduled to be buried Friday on Jerusalems Mount of Olives.

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Adin Steinsaltz, Groundbreaking Talmud Translator, Dies - The New York Times