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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Danae King|The Columbus Dispatch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johnson believes that comparing different belief systems is important.

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

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

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

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

He hopes the course gives people hope.

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



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

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

By Rabbi Dr. Tvzi Hersh Weinreb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prince of the Torah – Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

"God forbid!" the rabbi replied.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prince of the Torah - Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Torah scroll. Photo: RabbiSacks.org.

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

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

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

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

February 5, 2021 12:13 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


Common sense goes further than a lot of learning.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Parashat Yitro: On Leadership and Family – My Jewish Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Parashat Yitro: On Leadership and Family - My Jewish Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commentary: Hanukkah celebrates a Jewish victory, but this year the rebuilding matters more – Bend Bulletin

What is (the miracle of) Hanukkah? the rabbis of the Talmud ask, then answer: First, the Hasmonean Jews won a battle they were slated to lose. And then, while the besieged Jews had only enough oil to keep the Temple Menorah lit for one day, the oil nevertheless lasted for eight. We celebrate those days with praise and thanksgiving, the Talmud teaches, with joyous singing and festive parties. Its the archetype for most Jewish holidays, as the old saw goes: They tried to kill us. We won. Lets eat.

Most years, Im all in for merriment and oily foods. But this year, a different part of the Hanukkah story resonates most deeply, one Id never paid much heed to. Its not the military victory of the few over the many (though for that I am grateful) or the oil (which must have been a comfort to a battle-weary people). Its about that moment immediately after the Jews won when, surveying the damage in their country and among their people, they realized how much work there was still to be done, and then chose to get up and start doing it. It is, in other words, the perfect allegory for America 2020.

After the Jews finally vanquished King Antiochus and his Seleucid armies some 2,200 years ago, they didnt immediately experience euphoria and jubilation, according to I Maccabees. They walked into the Jerusalem Temple, dispirited from all the losses over the previous few years. They found the sanctuary desolate, the altar desecrated, the gates burnt, the priests chambers demolished, scripture says. They mourned the loss of their holiest places, donning sackcloth and ashes, tearing their clothes. Some parts of the Temple, such as the altar, were so violated that they had to be discarded and rebuilt entirely. Meanwhile, the Jews themselves were deeply divided to the point of civil war, assimilationists battling with self-proclaimed zealots who wanted nothing to do with secular culture.

America, too, has come through hell. In the past year alone, we have lost hundreds of thousands to COVID-19, not to mention the deaths of civil rights icons Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Lewis. Fires have decimated parts of the West, with 2020 on track to become the hottest year on record. The slayings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many others again reveal brutality in our policing system. Weve seen hate-filled Twitter rants and a rise in hate crimes. An impeachment. A bruising electoral battle for the soul of our nation . It is too much, sometimes, to absorb.

The Hasmoneans found their answer to national trauma: They got to work, and they started again. First they appointed leaders devoted to the law to help restore the sanctuarys holiness. Sacred tools were refurbished. Only after community members had faced their ordeal its causes and its consequences did they celebrate.

We, too, can choose to face our own reckoning. What is the story we want history to tell about us? These last years have revealed competing visions: Should we be a country that grapples with its past or one that buries its original sins? Are we a nation of immigrants or a nation of isolationists? Are we individualists or can we recognize that we are all connected that even our bodily health depends on the precautions of people in our community? We have the choice.

What is the miracle of 2020? our descendants may ask. And hopefully they will answer: Americans were being decimated by a virus, but then decided to take responsibility for each other and defeat it by wearing masks, staying home when necessary and listening to science. Or: Our own leaders tried to suppress our right to vote, but we responded with organizing, legislation and court decisions that ensured every Americans voice. Or: Our seas were rising and ice caps melting, but businesses and individuals committed to changing their practices to conserve our precious Earth.

Alternately, of course, our descendants could tell another story. A few hundred years after the Jewish victory basically a minute in Jewish time the corrupt Hasmonean dynasty fell to Rome, and the Jews were sent into exile. Its a tale of victory and of caution at the same time. Some of the most hateful forces in the United States have suffered a setback, but the danger is not, and will not soon be, gone.

The miracle of Hanukkah this year is not in the war but in its aftermath, not in the cruse of oil itself but in the Jews decision to light the menorah at all, to rededicate our religious and political center and to make it holy, to choose to rebuild a nation even after recognizing how much work there was still to be done. They cleared out the trash, cleaned the Temple, and Hanukkah they tried again. Bayamim Hahem Bazman hazeh, we say in the Hanukkah blessings: In those days and in this time, as well. So may it be.

Shira Stutman is the senior rabbi at Sixth & I, a synagogue and community center in Washington, D.C.

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Commentary: Hanukkah celebrates a Jewish victory, but this year the rebuilding matters more - Bend Bulletin

Why it’s kosher to go a little wild with the Hanukkah swag – Los Angeles Times

In October 2018 I received a letter from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, of blessed memory. My dear Rabbi: she wrote, Thank you for todays surprise, a scrunchie I will wear not only at Hanukkah, but year round.

In addition to being an ordained rabbi, I design fashionable, Hanukkah-themed accessories. I had created a Hanukkah scrunchie to honor Justice Ginsburg, a known fan of the hair tie. Of course, I sent her one.

Early on during my forays in Hanukkah retail, I wondered if it was kosher to contribute to the commercialization of the holiday. When I first saw one of my creations (the Hanukkah nail decals) on display at Bloomingdales, it was definitely a moment for shehecheyanu, the Jewish blessing of thanks for new experiences. But was it the right track for a rabbi? More importantly, was it the right direction for this holiday?

I did a bit of digging and discovered that Hanukkah has always needed a marketing boost, for lack of a better term. The Talmud tells us the story of when the ancient Temple in Jerusalem was rededicated, after being desecrated by the Greeks, and only one flask of proper oil remained. This tiny amount of oil miraculously powered the Temples menorah for eight days.

Now, on each night of Hanukkah, Jews light the menorah to recall that miracle. And it is considered a mitzvah a religious duty to place the menorah where it can be seen by others, whether outside or in a prominent window. This embodies the idea of the Aramaic phrase pirsumei nisa, often used in the Talmud, which means publicizing the miracle.

Finding creative ways to showcase Hanukkah felt like a modern extension of this Talmudic principle and my rabbinic work. I soon discovered I was part of a long line of Jewish entrepreneurs who were boosters of Hanukkah, which is considered a minor Jewish holiday.

A century ago, Jewish immigrants arriving in America could never have fathomed the multitude of Hanukkah products now for sale. In The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture, 1880-1950, Jenna Weissman Joselit explains that during the early 1900s there was little demand for Jewish products here, as most families brought the ritual objects they needed including menorahs from the Old Country.

Still, by the time these Jewish immigrants arrived in this country, Christmas already outstripped all other events as a time for merchandising, according to Leigh Eric Schmidt, author of Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays. If Hanukkah were to thrive and catch up with Christmas it needed to reinvent itself in the U.S.

In the 1920s, under the guidance of Jewish advertisers, ads were placed in Yiddish newspapers urging Jews to buy gifts and toys for Hanukkah. Yiddish ads also promoted the use of American ingredients to prepare Hanukkah meals to create authentic American Hanukkah experiences. Hanukkah-themed chocolate coins, known as gelt, were first produced in the 1920s. A 1932 Jack Frost Sugar ad exclaimed in Yiddish: Its the sugar on the latke that gives it the Hanukkah spirit.

By the 1940s, new Hanukkah-branded products were arriving on the scene, including the first Hallmark Hanukkah greeting cards. The next 50 years saw significant growth in the market including the popularity of musical menorahs of the 1950s which played fragments of Hatikvah (Israels national anthem) or Rock of Ages and electric menorahs in the 1960s.

The next few decades also saw a sharp rise in Hanukkah toys, including sticker books and gelt-filled dreidels. By the 90s, Hanukkah products had gone national, appearing on the shelves of many mainstream department stores.

Online shopping spurred the Hanukkah apparel category including ugly-chic Hanukkah sweaters, echoing the Christmas sweater trend. The Hanukkah market now features gifts for pets (apparently, even dogs and cats have Christmas envy).

Have there been excesses along the way? Absolutely (see Hanukkah for pets, above). And yet I think that the overindulgence has heightened the public celebration of Hanukkah.

This year we could use a little extra Hanukkah spirit. The holiday has always been home-centric, focused on menorah lighting, latke making, and gift giving. When in-person communal gatherings are limited in size or supplanted by virtual ones Hanukkah swag can enhance our enjoyment of the holiday. Wearing dreidel leggings may not exactly fulfill the Talmudic principle of publicizing the miracle. But they can add some zing to a Hanukkah Zoom party.

Rabbi Yael Buechler is the Lower School Rabbi at The Leffell School in Westchester, N.Y., and founder of MidrashManicures.com.

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Why it's kosher to go a little wild with the Hanukkah swag - Los Angeles Times

Men have dominated Jewish texts for most of history. These women are trying to change that. – JTA News – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

(JTA) When Danielle Kranjec committed to using only Jewish texts written by women and queer people in the classes she taught for Hillel Internationals Springboard Fellowship, a program that places recent college graduates in positions at college campus Hillels across the country, she knew she was taking on a challenging task.

After all, for most of Jewish history, women werent encouraged to take on religious leadership roles or write commentaries on the Torah or Talmud.

But Kranjec knew that elevating the work of women would be worth the effort, both because doing so would communicate the value of womens insights to her students and she believes the mismatch between the diversity of the people teaching Torah today and the sources they teach had grown too great. Also, as a Jewish educator and trained historian, she knew there were a plethora of texts that might not be considered Torah in the traditional sense but could serve as rich source material.

Much of the time, those who assemble materials for Jewish study sessions commonly known as source sheets start with the Torah text, working their way to the rabbinic texts, the Mishna and Talmud, followed by commentaries on texts written over a span of more than a thousand years. Men wrote the vast majority of those texts.

Im trying to do something different, to start in the lives of women and then follow the Torah that emerges from that, Kranjec said, noting her love for the memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln, a 17th century Jewish woman whose autobiography is an important primary text for Jewish historians.

Two years later, Kranjecs name is now synonymous with a growing movement to advance womens voices in Jewish text study. The Kranjec Test, coined by her colleagues at Hillel International, calls on educators to include a text written by someone who is not male on any source sheet including at least two Jewish texts.

Along with other initiatives to encourage more women to publish Jewish religious writing, the test is shaking up the world of Jewish study and calling attention to the ways in which women are still not equally represented in positions of authority in the world of Jewish text study.

The Kranjec Test is inspired by the Bechdel test, in which a work of fiction or film passes if it includes a conversation between two female characters about something other than a man. That test has become well known after being invented by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985, though according to The Hollywood Reporter, approximately half of the top-grossing 25 movies that came out in 2016 did not pass the test.

But the Kranjec Test is perhaps more challenging because unlike fiction and film, Jewish study largely revolves around texts written long before the modern feminist movement.

Still, in recent years, traditional text study has ceased to be the exclusive domain of men. Women have taken their place among the most well known and respected Torah teachers today, teachers and activists for feminist causes in the Jewish world say, leaving the texts themselves as the next frontier. So in addition to focusing on the people who are visible in positions of authority today, Jewish educators are going to the source material, trying to right the balance between representation of men and women in the texts they are teaching.

If the leadership and the no more manels is top down, this is more grassroots, Kranjec said.

The test has adherents among Hillel educators and is spreading among educators at pluralistic institutions of Jewish learning. Its recently been the subject of debate among Jewish educators on listservs and in heated social media discussions.

Holding oneself accountable for including womens work even in traditionally male domains such as halacha, or Jewish law, carries a benefit, according to Elana Stein Hain, scholar in residence and director of faculty at the Shalom Hartman Institute, where she leads a research group that focuses on issues of gender and leadership in the Jewish community. By bringing in sources written by women that are less directly related to the subject being taught, what youve done is actually elucidated and expanded the way we understand these earlier ideas, she said.

But not everyone who wants to see more womens voices in Jewish text study believes the test is a good idea.

Itll create a sort of impression that a woman who finds her way onto a source sheet hasnt done so because she is brilliant and erudite and profound but because of this positive discrimination, said Gila Fine, editor in chief of Maggid Books, an imprint of Koren Publishers in Jerusalem.

The Kranjec Test was named for Danielle Kranjec who took upon herself to teach only sources written by women and queer people. (Courtesy of Danielle Kranjec)

Fine said she almost always includes women on her source sheets in teaching at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem but thats because doing so is relatively easy in the subject she teaches, aggadah, which includes stories from the Talmud.

Women have earned their place fair and square in the world of aggadah, Fine said. Theyre two steps behind in the world of halacha, and theyll get there, but creating that shortcut will hurt them in the long run.

In a blog post from September, Rabbi Michael Rosenberg, a professor of rabbinics at Hebrew College, wrote about his own difficulty in finding a suitable woman-authored text to use in a class centered on a rabbinic text. Rosenberg eventually included a piece by the modern poet Mary Oliver and wrote that it brought new meaning and depth to the source that he would not have found had he limited his sources to premodern ones.

The historical exclusion of women from Torah study was not only hurtful to women (though that would be enough reason to want to remedy it); it also hurt Torah, he wrote. Because of the loss of people with different experiences and perspectives, the Torah is haseirah, its lacking, its not its full self.

To Fine, whats needed are more and more diverse religious texts written by women. Maggid has made publishing books by women teachers a priority, she said, and in recent years has brought to print books by Erica Brown, a popular lecturer and a professor at George Washington University; Rachel Berkovits, a lecturer at the Pardes Institute; and Nechama Price, the director of Yeshiva Universitys graduate program in Talmud for women. In the past few years, three books of traditional halachic responsa, answers to Jewish legal questions, written by women have been published, including one by Maggid, constituting what Fine calls a huge step in the right direction for women.

But Fine said she often finds herself having to convince women teachers that their work is good enough to publish or that they are ready.

I will get many, many manuscripts by a man in his 20s who has written a book about Genesis or Maimonides, something as grandiose as that, Fine said. Conversely when I have actively approached women who are established and brilliant and profound and nuanced in the Torah that they do and I say I think youre great and should be writing a book, more often than not the response I get is I dont think Im quite ready.

Users of Sefaria, an online database of Jewish texts that allows one to see hyperlinks between texts in a side-by-side format, also want to see more texts by women. Sara Wolkenfeld, Sefarias director of learning, said its not uncommon for users to complain that there arent enough texts written by women in the sites database.

Thats not a Sefaria problem, Wolkenfeld said. Thats an issue with the history of Jewish texts.

The site is taking steps to change that history. Along with Yeshivat Maharat, a Modern Orthodox yeshiva in New York City that ordains women, Sefaria is launching a fellowship to encourage Jewish women to put their ideas onto the page. The program will provide training and stipends to 12 women who will each write an article, book chapter, legal opinion or other form of Torah text.

We want to create a space for women to say, no, I do have something to contribute and I can do that work and I can put it out there, Wolkenfeld said.

Fine said the initiative is a welcome addition to a space that is slowly but surely beginning to change in ways that could reshape the idea of who gets to create Torah.

Its still individual attempts, Fine said, adding that with time, these trickles will become a current.

Several women advocating for increasing representation of women in Jewish text study have struggled with the idea that Torah texts written by women would be inherently different from those written by men. Even so, Stein Hain argued, it would be worth including them to expand the quantity of texts available to learn from.

Im not sold on the idea that a womans take is going to be different but I am sold on the idea that we shouldnt be limiting the voices to male voices, said Stein Hain. Youre missing out on more people having good ideas about Torah.

Efforts to increase the volume of texts by women that are part of the Jewish library may never lead to actual parity theres only so much that can be accomplished by modern women adding their own scholarship to the collected works of thousands of years of male scholars.

On the mikraot gedolot page, were always going to have the same people, Kranjec said of the classic medieval rabbinic commentaries traditionally printed alongside the text of the Torah. Thats not really going to change because of our extensive, beautiful, wonderful long, complicated, patriarchal textual tradition.

But if they cant catch up, Kranjec argued, modern teachers have to make space for them on the pages of their source sheets, both through newly published scholarship and by mining the tradition for places where womens voices have shone through.

I need us to learn Gluckel in conversation with 17th century Jewish thought, I need us to read other early modern poets I need all of that to be a part of the conversation and modern writers, too, she said.

In summary, she added, I want all of it.

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Men have dominated Jewish texts for most of history. These women are trying to change that. - JTA News - Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Is the Menorah Hidden in the Vatican? – Chabad.org

There is much controversy and misinformationsurrounding this question, so lets begin by clarifying the facts of the story.

After laying siege to Jerusalem, the Romans, led byTitus, finally breached the walls of Jerusalem, and on the 9th of the Jewishmonth of Av, in the year 69 CE, destroyed theHoly Temple and plundered it.

In the year 81 CE, shortly after the death of his olderbrother Titus, the emperor Domitian had an archbuilt depicting the triumphal procession after Tituss victory over Jerusalem. The Arch of Titus, which stands in Rometo this very day, depicts the procession carrying a number of items plunderedfrom the Jewish Temple, including the silver trumpets, the Table of theShowbread, and most prominently the golden Menorah.

Thetreasures plundered from Jerusalem were housed and displayed in the so-calledPeace Gardens of Rome, which were built using the booty acquired through thesacking of Jerusalem.

Thestory is told in the Talmud of how Rabbi Eliezer, son of Rabbi Yossi, together with Rabbi Shimonbar Yochai and other sages, went to Rome to try to rescind some of the harshdecrees against the Jews. While in Rome, they were miraculously given theopportunity to heal the caesar's daughter, who had fallen ill. Aftersuccessfully healing her, they were given the opportunity to see some of Rome'streasures. These sageslater testified to seeing various items looted from the Holy Temple, including the goldentzitz (golden band worn by the high priest), Parochet (Curtain)and the Menorah.

Basedon these stories, one can understand why many claim that the Menorah, as wellas other items plundered from the Temple, was taken to Rome and may be foundthere to this very day.

However,as we examine this theory, things get a bit murkier.

Theso-called Peace Gardens of Rome were damaged or destroyed a number of times,including in a fire in the year 191 CE. While the garden was subsequentlyrestored, it is not clear if the vessels remained there or perhaps were takento some other place in Rome.

Additionally,Rome itself was sacked and plundered many times, including in 410 CE, by the Visigoths under Alaric I, andmore significantly in 455 CE by the Vandals and Moors under King Genseric, whospent 14 days looting Rome of its treasures.

Sowhat happened to the Menorah?

Someclaim that the Menorah may have been hidden or lost in the Tiber River in Romeduring one of the sackings. Some claim that the Menorah may have eventuallybeen melted down for the gold. Others say that, according to legend, when King Alaric of the Visigoths died shortlyafter the sacking of Rome in 410 CE, the Visigoths buried him togetherwith the Menorah they looted.

Yet others opine that the Menorah was taken from Rome by the Vandals inthe more significant sacking of 455 CE and taken to Carthage (modern-dayTunisia). When Carthage itself was sacked, it ended up in the hands of theByzantine Empire. However, Emperor Justinian, due to the superstition that theMenorah was cursed, sent it off to Jerusalem, where it disappeared (destroyedor stolen) when the Persians captured Jerusalem in the 7th century CE.

And then, of course, there is the claim, mentioned at the beginning ofthis article, that the Menorah has remained in Rome and is currently hiddenaway somewhere deep in the Vatican. Indeed, over the years, various people haveclaimed to have seen various Temple vessels in the Vatican.

Allof the above theories, however, are based on the claim that the Temple Menorahwas brought to Rome in the first place.

Althoughwe have cited the depiction of the Menorah in the Arch of Titus as well asRabbi Shimon Bar Yochais testimony as evidence of the Menorah having beentaken to Rome, these proofs in and of themselves are questionable.

Onthe Arch of Titus, although the upper half of the Menorah can arguably be adepiction of the actual Temple Menorah,the bottom half is not. It depicts the Menorahs base as being similar to a two-tiered cake, while the TempleMenorah had a tripod base. Andthe Menorah on the Arch is decorated with images of eagles, a sea lion andmythological creatures, including a dragon, while the Temple Menorah didnthave any of these images (some argue that the base itself may have been damagedand replaced).

Based on this, some explain that either the Menorah brought to Rome was,in fact, one of the other lamps in the Temple, or the depiction was based off aMenorah that was made to resemble the Temple Menorah.

Similarly, the sages disagree with Rabbi Eliezers description of thedesign of the tzitz, implying that hedid not see the actual tzitz, or atleast it was a tzitz that wasnt madein the usual manner. Thus,the testimony of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai regarding the Menorah may bequestionable as well.

Although there is much ado about the Menorah possibly having beenbrought to Rome, it is important to keep things in perspective.

The Midrash lists the Temple Menorahwhich was originally made by Mosesfor the Mishkanas oneof a handful of vessels of the Holy Temple that were hidden by the Jews beforethe destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians.

Later, during the Second Temple, the Menorah went through a number ofdifferent iterations. In the words of the Talmud:

[In the time of the Hasmoneans, theMenorah was fashioned from] spits [shappudim]of iron, and they covered them with tin. Later, when they grew richer, theyfashioned a Menorah out of silver. And when they again grew richer, theyfashioned the Menorah from gold.

Thus, even if the Menorah was indeed taken to Rome, ultimately thatMenorah isnt the one we need for the Third Holy Temple. As the Midrashregarding the hiding of the Menorah concludes, ultimately, when Gd will turnHis mercy to build His Temple, He will also restore the vessels that werehidden (including the Menorah) to their place and cause Jerusalem to rejoice.May it be speedily in our days!

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Is the Menorah Hidden in the Vatican? - Chabad.org

/ What do we do with Hanukah? Jewschool – Jewschool

What to do with Hanukah? (Spoiler alertits actually about Diaspora.)

Hanukah lives in the sweet spot where there is one story which claims that it is historically true and yet there is very little contemporary evidence to back this upthe earliest account being written generations after the eventsand there is another story, a miracle story whose earliest recording is centuries after its supposed occurrence. Yet, we go with the miracle story.

There was no love lost between the Rabbis and the Hasmoneans. There are several legends about Rabbis (i.e. Shimon ben Shatah) confronting the Hasmonean king Yannai. (e.g. Sanhedrin 19a-b), and Yannai killing Sages (Kidushin 66a). So it is not surprising that the Rabbis did not glorify the Hasmonean victory, and chose to center a different legend which seems to have arisen in the first centuries of the common era. The additional prayer (called al hanisim) that is added to the central prayer does not mention the miracle of the oil. The earliest mention of the miracle of the oil is in the commentary (the scholion) to a first century list of holidays called Megillat Taanit. This commentary is not mentioned in the Palestinian Talmud. Its first appearance is in the Babylonian Talmud many centuries later.

While this may point to a choice for the miracle story over the martial story, the martial story did not fade away. It arose from time to time, gaining full rehabilitation with the birth of the Zionist movement whose adherents looked to the Maccabees for ancestral precedent.

However, this is not my point.

The earliest rabbinic legal discussion of the obligations of Hanukkah (as opposed to mentioning Hanukkah in passing) is not in the Palestinian Mishnah. It is in a supposed Palestinian baraitta quoted in the Babylonian Talmud and not in the Palestinian Talmud. This is the famous debate between the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai as to whether one lights one candle on the first night and then adds a candle each night (Hillel); or conversely one lights eight candles on the first night and then subtracts a candle each night (Shammai). This is followed by the obligation to light the candelabrum in the doorway, outside, or if one lived on an upper floor, in the window.

These are the earliest legal discussions of Hanukkah. There are others. The salient point is that many of the laws have to do with the placement of the candelabrum in order to publicize the miracle (pirsumei nisa). One might have thought that a holiday whose legend included the purification of the Temple would have had a Temple-like ritual at its center (compare the (not) eating of the Passover on Pesach). Instead, even the candelabrum does not replicate the seven branched Temple candelabrum. The focus of the holiday obligations are marking Jewish space. Facing outward at the exact moment that people return from the market. If one has two entrances, the Talmud asks, does one have to light in both places?

Hanukah is a diasporic holiday which celebrates place. This place where we are now is the place in which we announce the miracle. This is not a second rate reminder of a ritual whose better form would have been and will be ensconced in the Temple. It is a diasporic ritual which lays claim to diasporic Jewish space.

This places Hanukkah on the same axis as Purim, again a holiday which is about and in diaspora, and would not make sense in the Land of Israel. However, the difference is that Purim posits that redemption is impossible, and that as long as the King is maliciously or foolishly evil there will be a never-ending drama in which first Haman succeeds and then Mordecai succeeds. Hanukkah celebrates the fact of being here. Light in whatever many religious or secular metaphors it is clothed is brought into these Jewish spaces. The reason that is ascribed to the House of Hillel for the custom that we follow in lighting the candles is just that we go upwards in holiness and not the opposite. We light the candles and increase the holiness. Here.

Hanukkah is a diasporic holiday in that is portable. The celebration of Hanukah defines the space that is celebrated as a Jewish spacelike a mezuzah on a door post, or an eruv boundary in a city. Like these other markers it creates Jewish space which is non-exclusive. Jewish space which has permeable boundaries. Jewish space which lives in proximity to others, despite the fact that this proximity is risky. From the start, the halakhah of Hanukah decided that in a time of danger one need not light the candelabrum on the outside or facing out, rather one may light inside on a table.

When we light candles today, we again announce that we live in Jewish spaces which are proximate to other spaces, and while we embrace this proximity we are aware that it is risky, and yet still we increase the holiness, the light, from day to day. Here, in this time, and in this place.

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/ What do we do with Hanukah? Jewschool - Jewschool

I knew Hanukkah celebrated defeating the Greeks. Then I moved to Athens and the story got complicated. – JTA News – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

ATHENS, Greece (JTA) When my wife and I arrived in this capital city on Sept. 1 to serve as rabbinical emissaries to the Jewish community, I have to admit I was very excited about what the prospect of spending Hanukkah in Greece might be like. With nearly 90% of the Jewish Greek population wiped out during the Holocaust, the majority of survivors returned to settle in Athens, which now boasts close to 3,000 members in a warm and special community.

My experiences here so far, while smaller and more limited due to coronavirus restrictions, have provided me with a remarkable new understanding of the history of that period one that is very different from what many of us are familiar with.

Growing up as a child in Israel, the narrative of the Jewish victory over the mighty and wicked Greeks is one that we learned from the youngest ages. That story, of course, created a certain sense of mystery and perhaps even anger toward the Greek nation.

But upon arrival in Greece, I quickly came to appreciate that the history is far more complex and that Hanukkah is commemorated very differently here as a result.

The Jewish community of modern-day Greece largely belongs to the Romaniote heritage, known to be one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. Historians debate whether the community dates back to the fourth-century BCE or only the second century. Either way, these are a people with an ancient history and deep-rooted traditions. Part of that tradition is their identity as Greeks, which is at least as strong as their identity as Jews. For obvious reasons, the Jews of Greece feel no small degree of discomfort at their people being labeled as the evildoers in the Hanukkah story.

But the Greeks of the story are not the same as the Greeks of today. The regime that ruled over the Land of Israel and terrorized the Jewish people until the Maccabean revolt was the Seleucid Empire. Their territory stretched from the Mediterranean region (including Greece) and well eastward into Persia. Most of the empires soldiers were mercenaries or slaves from the countries they occupied.

The major cities of the empire were not centered in Greece but in Syria and Iraq. Its capital was the city of Antioch, located in modern-day Turkey. The Antiochus we know from the Hanukkah story, Antiochus IV, only received his Greek citizenship in his 30s. The early high commander sent to quash the Maccabean revolt was of Syrian origin, not Greek.

Greek Jews are deeply committed to embracing the more historically accurate version of the story. There are very practical implications of this shift. In many local prayer books, the term Yavan (Greece) is omitted from Al Hanisim, part of the Hanukkah prayers. Similarly, the local version of the song Maoz Tzur, which is recited alongside the lighting of the menorah, replaces Greeks with Syrians as the force that ganged up against the Maccabees.

I have yet to determine exactly when these traditions began, but they are certainly ancient. The Talmud references several locations in the Syrian state (Aram Tzuba) that places them within the Seleucid Empire. These discoveries reflect how Jewish traditions can differ greatly from place to place particularly in relation to how the Jewish community perceives the nation in which it is located.

Being part of a network of Orthodox emissaries spread out around the Jewish Diaspora, my wife and I have gained incredible insight into local cultures and traditions, bringing richness, understanding and new meaning into our holiday celebrations. This year, in addition to our traditional potato latkes, we will be making the special Greek Hanukkah doughnuts with honey, loukoumades.

As I look forward to this Hanukkah, which I know will be unique in so many ways, I welcome the chance to embrace a new perspective on a story that I thought I had always known. This year, Ill be rejoicing not about a victory over the Greeks, but about the enduring and resilient triumphs of the Jews over darkness no matter our adversaries.

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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I knew Hanukkah celebrated defeating the Greeks. Then I moved to Athens and the story got complicated. - JTA News - Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Bursting the bubble: Even the Rabbis perpetuated a "hoax!" – jewishpresspinellas

Authors caution: if you are of the absolute belief that the teachings of the rabbis as recorded in the Talmud have the imprimatur of divine authority and cannot be questioned, please be advised that you may find what follows to be somewhat heretical!

It is almost the 25th of Kislev. We anxiously await the arrival of the years shortest days and longest nights, when we shall illumine our homes and (for some of us, our Zoom) windows with the display of hanukkiot (Hanukkah menorahs) advertising the great miracle(s) of ages past. Our children and grandchildren know the brachot and the songs. The aromas of latkes and sufganiot will soon fill the air. The dreidel will spin, and the letters on its four sides will proclaim: Nes gadol hayah sham a great miracle happened there. And when asked what was the miracle, we answer: It was the miracle of the oil. There was only enough oil for one days celebration of the rededication of the Temple, but God miraculously ensured that the menorah could burn for all eight days.

What is the source of this account? Where do we read about this miracle? Do we know if it is true? The story of Hanukkah comes to us from the Books of the Maccabees. They are part of the post-canonical biblical literature called the Apocrypha. Maccabees tells the historical account of ancient Israel governed by oppressive rulers from Syria whose policies of Hellenization threatened the survival of our unique identity as Jews. In these accounts we read of how Jew struggled with Jew because different parts of the community had different attitudes toward the assimilationist tendencies of the ruling foreign influences. The High Priesthood had been corrupted, and the High Priest was little more than a pawn in the grander political machinations between ruler and subject. But nowhere in the tale of Judah Maccabees heroic military victory over the much stronger Syrian army is there any mention of this miracle of the oil.

That miracle story appears for the first time in the Talmud in the rabbinic texts that are written between 200 and 600 years after the events of 165 BCE. The miracle of the oil is the way that the rabbis uncovered Gods role in this miraculous slice of history, emphasizing a theological lesson instead of the nationalist celebration of courage, strength and revolutionary action. Even in Zachariah, the text chosen by the rabbis for the Haftarah on the Shabbat in Hanukkah, the message resounds: Not by might, not by power, but My Spirit alone, shall we all live in peace.

The rabbis may have been motivated by any number of concerns as they dealt with interpreting the events of ages past and developing the rituals to commemorate them. Certainly, they were aware of the danger of celebrating a national uprising against a foreign ruler whilst they lived under the control of the Roman Empire. Surely, they understood the value of emphasizing the theological message rather than the military victory. There is no doubt that, for the rabbis, it must have been comforting to discover Gods true presence in the midst of these events which are so inspiring and motivational.

Notwithstanding such source-critical analyses, we all know that our children (sooner rather than later) start to ask if these things really happened. They use the power of their intellect, and the critical thinking skills we demand our schools teach them. They apply the powerful forces of rational analysis and post-modern intellectual inquiry. And they start to doubt the veracity of the legend that attributes a miracle to God as the core component of our Hanukkah celebration. How can we respond?

Here is what we ought not do.

Do not

1. Stick your head in the sand and pretend they are not asking;

2. Offer them facile explanations that ask them to put aside their questions.

What can we do? We help them grow in faith and deepen their sense of purpose by offering more adequate ways to own the Hanukkah stories and celebrations.

The Number Nine

1. The Kabbalists suggest that the words Nes Gadol (A Great Miracle), through gematria, add up to 9 (the total sum of the letters is 153, then the sum of those digits is 9).

2. Nine is also truth (emet), whose numerical equivalent is 441, the sum of the digits again being 9.

3. So where is the truth of the great miracle if it is possible that it didnt exactly happen the way the rabbis suggest in the Talmud?

We need to help our communities and our children understand that there are different kinds of truth. Historicity, verifiable fact, reality as it is lived, experienced and reported upon is only one kind of truth. There are also eternal truths, truths the heart knows best, ways of understanding our relationship to each other, our world and God that go beyond the simplistic question of Did it really happen that way?

One approach understands that the miracle of seeing the oil burning was not in itself, on any individual day, a miracle. Only the knowledge that the oil had burned the day before and the day before that makes the miracle of today become evident. It can be said that miracles happen as they continue each day to be renewed and reaffirmed.

There is truth in the miracle of the oil when we open our eyes, we can see the constant unfolding of Gods miraculous presence in our lives and in our world. We encounter the Holy in the everyday when we affirm the blessing of waking up to a new day, of seeing the sun rise again, of watching the gardens bloom, of hearing the laughter of children, of watching justice be affirmed for those who need it most, of knowing that the hungry can be fed and the naked can be clothed. The miracles of Gods presence are all around us if we but open our eyes and become Gods partner. This is the only Truth that I really know!

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. Columns are assigned on a rotating basis by the board. The views expressed in the column are those of the rabbi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jewish Press or the Board of Rabbis.

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Bursting the bubble: Even the Rabbis perpetuated a "hoax!" - jewishpresspinellas

Five Brave Men and One Brave Woman – Judah the Maccabee and his siblings – Chabad.org

If youve been through Hebrew school, you most likely learned about Judah the Maccabee, son of Matityahu, the courageous warrior who routed out the Seleucid Greeks from the Holy Land in the miraculous chain of events that we celebrate every year on Chanukah.

But what do we really know about Judah, or his four brothers? The Talmud gives us no information, leaving us to comb through various texts dating back to the Second Temple era, when the Maccabean revolt took place.

This account is mainly based on Megillat Antiochus, a text that was preserved within the Jewish community and which some even read every year on Chanukah. At times it has been supplemented with information found in the books of Maccabees, Josephus and other sources, as indicated in the footnotes.

However, it should be noted that many of these events have been obscured by the sands of time, and that no texts known to us can be believed to be entirely accurate portrayals of what took place.

Section from handwritten Aramaic Megillat Antiochus, from an old Yemenite siddur (Credits: Davidbena at en.wikipedia.org)

Yehudah was the eldest of the band of brothers, known for being the leader of the Jewish revolt and the mightiest of them all. His father compared him to the original Yehudah, the mighty son of Jacob, who was himself compared to a fierce lion. While he is commonly described as the triumphant warrior who liberated Jerusalem and restored Jewish rule, according to Megillat Antiochus he was actually killed quite early in the war, even before his father passed away.

The Megillah recounts that the brothers came home to Matityahu, declaring that they could not continue to fight because Yehudah was killedthat since he was as strong as all of them combined, they would not be able to succeed without their older brother and leader. With no alternative, old Matityahu took his sons place and led his sons into battle.

However, according to the books of Maccabees and Josephus, Yehudah carried on, leading his brothers in battle, rededicating the Holy Temple, and leading the Jewish people both militarily and spiritually as the high priest. This continued for about three years, until his untimely death in the battle of Elasah.

He was succeeded by his younger brother Yonatan, who took over his positions and led the Jewish people in his stead.

It is quite interesting that even while being so celebrated in secular texts, he is not mentioned even once in the Mishnah or the Talmud, or even in the special Chanukah additions to the prayers. The only rabbinical mention of him is in the brief passages about him in Megillat Antiochus.

That being said, Yehudah HaMakabi is known, and rightfully so, as an outstanding Jewish hero, a champion who fought for Judaism, Jews, and the right to serve Gd without any intrusions from our oppressors. He is believed to have been the one to initially led his brothers in battle until his untimely death, and will forever have our admiration as Judah the Maccabee.

Yehuda leading the Maccabees in battle (Gustave Dore)

Shimon was the second of the band of brothers; he is known for outliving all his brothers, eventually assuming leadership of the Jewish people and becoming the progenitor of the Hasmonean royal dynasty.

His father compared him to the original Shimon, the son of Jacob, who avenged his sisters honor and destroyed the city of Shechem.

The book of Maccabees relates that Shimon was chosen by his father before his death to take his place as the social and ethical leader of the people, leaving the military and political control to Yehudah. As Matityahu said, "Listen to Shimon, your brother, for he is wise and sensible, and he will be to you as a father."

Shimon stood by his brother Yehudah in battle, and after Yehudahs death, he stood by his brother Yonatan as well. After both were ultimately killed, Shimon took control of the military leadership of the Jewish people.

Shimon handled the political upheavals that were happening in and around the land of Judea, striking deals, taking sides and maneuvering the stormy seas of diplomacy efficiently. Shimons reign lasted about nine years.

Shimons demise is a sad story. Shimons son-in-law Ptolemy (Talmai) plotted to overthrow Shimon and his sons, giving himself free rein in Judea. Ptolemy invited his father-in-law, together with the whole family, to the Duk fortress for a holiday celebration; amid the festivities, he had Shimon and two of his sons killed, and other family members were taken hostage. Messengers were sent to kill another son, Yochanan Hyrcanus, who was not at the party.

Yochanan Hyrcanus gathered his troops and fought back, laying siege to Ptolemy and his forces. Ptolemy, trying to fend him off, threatened and then killed his mother-in-law and another remaining brother, until he ultimately escaped, leaving the control of Judea in Yochanan Hyrcanuss hands. Yochanan Hyrcanus followed in his fathers ways and successfully led the Jewish people for about 30 years.

It should be noted that many of the subsequent members of the Hasmonean dynasty were far from righteous. They were often antagonistic to the Torah sages, at times going so far as to ruthlessly persecute and murder them.

Yochanan was the third of the band of brothers; he is often seen as the least prominent of his brothers, since he was neither the official leader of the Jewish people nor died a spectacular, heroic death (see Elazar).

Yet in Megillat Antiochus he is hailed as the hero of the story. He is the only one of the brothers who has any identifying details told about him: he is referred to as a kohen gadol (high priest), and the whole Chanukah story begins in the Megillah with Yochanan:

General Nikanor, sent by Antiochus to tyrannize the Jewish people, arrived at the Holy Temple. After murdering a great many Jews, he set up an idolatrous altar there and then slaughtered a swine on it, bringing its blood into the holy site. Yochanan heard about what had happened, and he set out to avenge the Temples defilement and the persecution of his brethren. He fashioned himself a long thin sword and hid it under his garments. He came to the Temples gates, demanding an audience with Nikanor, who granted his request.

Nikanor greeted him fiercely: You must be one of those who rebelled against the king and are opposed to him.

Yochanan replied, Sir, that is me, but I have come here now before you, and I will do whatever you command me.

Nikanor was satisfied with this reply, and offered Yochanan the kings protection if he were just to offer a swine on the altar.

Yochanan responded: I would do so, but I worry that if my fellow Jews find out, they will surely kill me. If you send everyone out, and leave me here on my own, then I will not hesitate to do as you command. Nikanor obliged, and the two were left alone.

Yochanan whispered a silent prayer, took three steps, and stabbed Nikanor in the heart with the weapon he had hidden.

Yochanan then arose, rallied his people, and fought back against Nikanors legion triumphantly, winning them a great, but only temporary, victory.

He returned and built a pillar, naming it after himself, Maccabee, slayer of the mighty.

This, of course, angered Antiochus terribly, and one thing led to the next, resulting in the Chanukah story.

Yochanan was compared by his father to Avner ben Ner, a great and mighty warrior, the general of the Jewish army during King Sauls reign.

In the Book of Maccabees he is mentioned a few times as leading different legions in battle. His life ended when he attempted to entrust a large fortune that he was carrying to the Nabataean tribe, and was captured and killed by the sons of Jambri. His surviving brothers Yonatan and Shimon avenged his death by attacking the Jambris during a wedding celebration, killing hundreds and reclaiming the fortune.

An illustration of Hashmonen martyrdom (Woodcut, Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860).

Yonatan was the fourth of the band of brothers; he is known for assuming Yehudahs position after his death and leading the Jewish people for nearly two decades, transforming the Jews from a band of rebels into a power to be reckoned with.

Yonatan was compared by his father to the original Yonatan, the son of King Saul, who successfully fought against the Philistines, protecting the Jewish people.

The book of Maccabees relates that Yonatan and Shimon often worked as a team throughout the ongoing battles. After Yehudahs death, when the mantle of leadership was passed to Yonatan, Shimon stayed by his side.

Yonatan was a brave and skilled leader. He successfully pulled through the many battles and political turbulence, while uprooting all pagan and Hellenistic influences in Judea.

Ultimately the Seleucids opted to make peace with him, granting him control of the region, at first unofficially, and eventually with open and official peace. At this point Yonatan reclaimed the position of high priest as well.

Unfortunately, this blissful situation did not last long. After a military uprising in the Seleucid Empire, Yonatan was once again at war. Things did not play out in his favor, and he was taken hostage by the Seleucid general Tryphon (the leader of the revolt). Tryphon demanded ransom money and family members as collateral, and although Shimon complied, Tryphon did not hold back his attack on Judea, and he had Yonatan killed.

Yonatan and his army destroying a pagan temple (Gustave Dore, 1866)

Elazar was the fifth and youngest of the band of brothers; he is known primarily for the heroic feat of killing a war elephant and the high-ranking general mounted upon it.

Elazar was compared by his father to the famed zealot and priest Pinchas, the son of Elazar, who stood up against the desecration of Judaism and morality brought on by the Moabite women, slaying the primary sinners, avenging Gds honor, and thereby saving the Jewish people from a plague.

Elazars valiant death has been glamorized throughout history as the epitome of a heroic death and self-sacrifice. His death has been portrayed in many famous secular and Christian paintings throughout the Middle Ages.

The story of his death is commonly told as follows: At the battle of Beit Zechariah, Elazar saw a high-ranking military leader atop a mighty war elephant; he courageously approached and stabbed the elephant, causing it to fall and die, crushing him under its weight. However, in Megillat Antiochus the story is recounted in a more harrowing fashion with a little less background; it relates that Elazar sank in the elephants excrement while attempting to kill the ferocious beast. Also, according to the Megillah, this incident happened before the miracle of the oil and the rededication of the Temple, while Maccabees places this battle later.

Artist's impression of the heroic death of Elazar (Gustave Dore, 1866)

Behind every great man stands a great woman. In the case of these five men, it was their sister Chanah, who, after being expected to go through an offensive and inappropriate experience, put her foot down, urging and encouraging her brothers to protect her honor and the honor of all Jewish women.

The law at the time required every Jewish woman to spend her first night as a married woman with the Greek governor. This decree went on for a while, causing many women to either not marry or to endure this horrible violation. On Chanahs wedding night, she spiritedly persuaded her brothers to stand up for justice and to rid themselves of the depraved governor.

The Maccabees resolved to take on the Greeks, stormed the governors palace, killed him and wreaked havoc in his camp. This incident served as another spark that catapulted the already unsteady military situation into a full-on war.

In addition to Yehudit (who may or may not have been a relative as well), Chanah is referred to as one of the heroines of Chanukah story, with some rabbinical sources even attributing the entire miracle to her.

For more on this story, read: Chabad.org: Woman at War

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Five Brave Men and One Brave Woman - Judah the Maccabee and his siblings - Chabad.org