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Category Archives: Talmud

TAP Talks: I’m not always saving the world, and that’s okay – Jewish World Watch

Posted: August 30, 2021 at 2:34 am

To any activist that might need to hear this: if you have stopped advocating for a while or have been too busy helping yourself or your family to volunteer, and youre worried about being criticized for that if you come back, dont be. That was the position I was in with Jewish World Watch, and I couldnt have been more wrong about the reception I would receive when I returned. I might have sacrificed the chance to continue making an impact if I had listened to that misplaced fear.

There is a quote that hangs in the conference room at the JWW office, reading, You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it. It comes from Pirkei Avot, Ethics of our Fathers, a Talmudic text. The message is one of perseverance. JWW doesnt get to put number of genocides stopped this year in letters to donors, and there is no expectation of a time when the organization will have finished its mission and can shut its doors. However, not fixing the global issue does not mean that the lives of thousands of refugees cant be saved or that even preventing a hundred deaths out of millions isnt worth the fight.

The quote has also been a source of guilt for me. After participating in the Teen Ambassador Program throughout my senior year of high school and leading a team for the Walk to End Genocide, I was minimally involved with JWW until I returned for an internship this summer, just before my senior year of college.

I was nervous about the interview. I felt it wouldnt be unreasonable for my supervisors to ask me what Id done to support this cause during the last three years and to reject me based on the answer: not much. I have been trying to figure out so much in my life, and my commitments change each semester with a continued effort to balance school, career building, service, and just enjoying college. But what right did I have, in my position of privilege, not to stay fully committed to the work? Maybe I just shouldnt have reached out.

This was not the direction the interview took. The team was happy I wanted to come back, which made me happy to be back, and soon I was on board, fighting the good fight again. I gained so much from working with JWW, and I hope that in my time here, I paid some of that kindness, knowledge, and experience back to the organization and forward to the survivors we support.

At the end of this summer, Pirkei Avot is going to start ringing in my head again. I dont yet know how I will distribute my time in my final year of college, and it is going to gnaw at me that there is always more I could be doing to help those less fortunate than I am. I think that feeling is a good one to have, and I dont think it should ever go away, even for people who work full-time at organizations like JWW. It is a guiding compass. However, just as a real compass wont account for a gorge with no bridge to cross it, our moral compass cant predict the path of our lives.

There is another quote from the Talmud that I try to keep in mind at these times: Whoever destroys a single life is considered to have destroyed an entire world, and whoever saves a single life is considered to have saved an entire world. This echoes the imperative to keep advocating for a stranger on the other side of the world. Still, it also means that sometimes a situation with a family member or friend will demand more attention than a global crisis. It means sometimes the person you are in the best position to save is yourself. The Talmud teaches us that this is still fighting the good fight.

Research backs up this interpretation. In trying to figure out my next step after I graduate, Ive consulted the career advice arm of the Centre for Effective Altruism. This evidence-based organization evaluates charities and approaches to pressing world problems to help donors and volunteers maximize their positive impact. The Centres first recommendation for an altruistic career is to take care of your own mental and physical health because it will make you a more effective leader and helper in the long run.

So this is what I choose to commit to now, that I hope resonates with other activists my age. Ill stay on the mailing list, Ill contact my representatives with the scripts and forms provided, and Ill keep having conversations and telling the people in my life about these global issues. I believe in the power of small interventions, matchsticks that can keep a fire burning and sometimes ignite a new one. But I also know that it takes bigger, sustained actions to change the world. So Ill come back to JWW to give another large chunk of my time or money. If not in the next few months, then in August 2023. After all, postponing indefinitely can become postponing infinitely. But my worry about that donation not coming soon enough or being big enough isnt at all whats on the mind of the people receiving it. I have to let go of the guilt so that I dont shy away from future opportunities to give.

We will not desist from the work. And as long as we know that, no one gets to judge our pace, and no one is asking us to complete it.

Photo: Jonah Goldberg speaks at the 2018 Walk to End Genocide. Photo by Bill Sparks

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Religions of the World will be Theme for Fall Term of the Masters Series at Pasadena Senior Center – Pasadena Now

Posted: at 2:34 am

Dr. Phyllis Herman. Photo courtesy Pasadena Senior Center

The fall term of The Masters Series, with the theme Religions of the World, will be onsite at the Pasadena Senior Center Tuesdays, Sept. 14 to Oct. 19, from 2 to 4 p.m.

Religion has always played a role in human society, from nonverbal prehistory to the prominent place of religion in contemporary life. Living in a multicultural society, it is important to understand what is sacred in religions and the central myths, rituals, texts and scriptures that shape ancient and modern expressions of these traditions.

Dr. Phyllis Herman, professor of religious studies at California State University, Northridge, will introduce participants in The Masters Series to archaic and tribal religious practices, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The cost for the six-week series is only $75 for members of the Pasadena Senior Center and $90 for nonmembers.

Sept. 14 The religious life of archaic and tribal traditions: examples from the Ngaju Dayak and the Hopi.

Sept. 21 Hinduism: from prehistoric finds to modern traditions.

Sept. 28 Buddhism: from its founders life to the many schools and countries that practice this religion.

Oct. 5 Judaism: the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud and the many forms of modern Judaism.

Oct. 12 Christianity: the life of Jesus and developments into and within this religion.

Oct. 19 Islam: from Muhammad to the world.

To register or for more information, visit and click on Masters Series Lifelong Learning, call 626-795-4331 or email Everyone who registers will receive email instructions for joining each weeks Zoom class online.

Herman, who earned her PhD in the history of religion at UCLA, has been a professor of religious studies at CSUN for many years and served a term as chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

Her areas of concentration include world religions, Islam in India, South Asian religious traditions and women and religion. She has contributed chapters to several notable books and articles on nationalist and feminine theories, women and religion, and Hindu ideas of kingship. She also co-edited a book titled The Constant and Changing Face of the Goddess: Goddess Traditions in Asia that features essays written by established scholars.

Masks and social distancing are required for onsite activities. For more information about onsite as well as online activities and other programs and services of the Pasadena Senior Center, visit the website or call (626) 795-4331.

The center, at 85 E. Holly St., is an independent, donor-supported nonprofit organization that has been serving older adults for more than 60 years.

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Ben Shapiro, Real Time, and Public Jewishness – Yahoo News

Posted: at 2:34 am

This month, something happened in American culture that was on its surface rather ordinary but was, on closer inspection, quite extraordinary: A religious Jew appeared on one of the most popular television shows visibly wearing the marker of his religious identity. I am referring to Ben Shapiros appearance on HBOs Real Time with Bill Maher. Shapiro, a conservative political commentator and an Orthodox Jew, was wearing a black kippah (also called a yarmulke), a skullcap traditionally worn by religious Jewish men. Although it blended in almost seamlessly with his jet-black hair, the kippah was nonetheless clearly discernible to any viewer.

Shapiro was on a panel with the left-wing political commentator Malcolm Nance, with whom he engaged in some heated debate about some of the most contentious political issues of the moment, interrupted only by intermittent applause and by Mahers comedic relief especially welcome, here, given the prickly and at times personal nature of Nances and Shapiros exchanges. All of this would have been rather unremarkable pundits go after each other on TV all the time were it not for the fact that Shapiro was appearing proudly on camera as an Orthodox Jew.

For a society that has been so accepting of multiculturalism and in which Jews have played a prominent role in almost all spheres of culture, from Groucho Marx and George Gershwin to Steven Spielberg and Larry David, there have been remarkably few Jewish celebrities who identify as religiously observant. There has been such a plethora of religiously observant Protestants, Catholics, and Muslims who have made notable contributions to American culture that to list even a decent portion of them would require an article in and of itself. By glaring contrast, the number of prominent religious Jews is so small that Orthodox parents trying to point out some of our successes to our children have been forced to fall back on fictional characters, such as Krusty the Clowns father Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky on The Simpsons and the famous convert-by-marriage Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski, who wont go bowling on Saturday because, as he memorably exclaims, I dont roll on Shabbos!

Story continues

I was in high school when Vice President Al Gore selected Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman as his running mate in the 2000 presidential election. At the time, my friends and I at Yeshiva University High School for Boys in Washington Heights paid far more attention to Talmud than to politics, but when we learned that not only was there a U.S. senator who was an Orthodox Jew but that he stood a good chance of becoming vice president of the United States, we were seized with the kind of excitement typical of fans of long-suffering sports franchises that finally come within sniffing distance of winning it all.

When we saw, however, that Lieberman did not wear a kippah in the Senate or on the campaign trail, we were crushed. How, we wondered, could a Jewish man identify as Orthodox and not wear his kippah in public? The old doubts began to creep back again. Why was it, for example, that Christian and Muslim athletes such as Mariano Rivera and Hakeem Olajuwon could be openly devout adherents of their respective faiths, but Sandy Koufax (held up as a hero by Reform Jews and Conservative Jews but not by Orthodox Jews), outside of one token observance of Yom Kippur, was utterly unobservant? Why was it that Stephen Colbert could reference his Catholicism on air but Jon Stewart limited expressions of his Jewishness to the satiric old Jewish man voice hed bring out from time to time? As a religious Jew, could you only participate meaningfully in American culture by checking your religious identity at the door?

Shapiros appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher wont entirely quell these doubts, especially for those on the Left who are uncomfortable with his politics, but it may go a long way toward making religious Jews feel more comfortable about our place in American culture. Shapiros turn on Real Time feels particularly significant at a time when, through TV series such as Netflixs Unorthodox and My Unorthodox Life, the culture seems to be celebrating American Jews who abandon their religion. This is an extremely bizarre and disturbing trend in American TV and culture. Would Netflix also be so heavily promoting shows about black or Hispanic or Muslim Americans leaving their communities?

In an era in which, for better or worse, identity has become paramount, we religious Jews may at long last be seeing that someone who looks and lives like us really can make it here. It is now up to purveyors and creators of American culture to bring us more Shapiro on Real Time and less Unorthodox and My Unorthodox Life to ensure that the visibility of people like him is not a one-off but a harbinger of a broader, and long overdue, acceptance of religious Jews in mainstream culture. Maybe, though, this episode is a sign that 2021 might finally be our year.

Daniel Ross Goodman is a postdoctoral fellow and research scholar at the University of Salzburg. He is the author of Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Wonder and Religion in American Cinema and the novel A Single Life.

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Ben Shapiro, Real Time, and Public Jewishness - Yahoo News

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Earth Etude for Elul 15: Counting to the Next Shmita Year –

Posted: August 26, 2021 at 3:19 am

Among our more under-appreciated traits, we Jews are counters. We count for a prayer quorum, we count the omer, we count the days of the months to know when our holidays are. We might know the days of the week by their namesSunday, Mondaybut in Hebrew they are Yom Rishon, the First Day, and Yom Sheni, the second day. And before borrowing their current names from the Babylonian calendar, the Jewish months were numbered. What we now know as Elul was once the Sixth Month, leading to the Seventh Month that we now call Tishrei.

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Counting can (ideally) foster planning and patience. It is by counting that we know when to do what needs to be done. It is because we count that we know not to start Rosh Hashanah until the first day of the Seventh Monthor as it is described on first reference in the Talmud (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:3), 30 days after the start of Elul. So every day of Elul is a count toward Rosh Hashanah, a count we punctuate with a daily blowing of the shofar. To everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1), we learn, and Elul reminds us that we do not skip ahead.

A year ago, in Elul 5780 (there we go counting again), a climate denier was in the White House and his biggest climate-denying enablers were in charge of the Senate. We knew it was the season for organizing, for getting out the vote, for pushing for action so that new leadership could step in and take bold, substantial action on climate change. Now, in Elul 5781, we find ourselves still lacking that desperately needed action on climate change.

Perhaps we thought that we could let up our efforts after Election Day, but to everything there is a season, and now remains our season for civic engagement with our elected leadership. Contact them and remind them of the shofars call to action. Our sacred Earth is burning from excessive carbon emissions and we must take action.

A year ago was our first Elul of this coronavirus pandemic. This Elul we may feel we are done with the pandemic, yet the pandemic is not quite done with us. Viral infections, hospitalizations and deaths remain too high and vaccinations too low. To everything there is a season, and now remains our season of masking, social distancing and vaccination. (And if you have not yet gotten vaccinated and you have access to the vaccine, then now is your season for inoculation!)

A year ago we found ourselves in the middle of a crisis of structural racism against ethnic minorities along with nationwide violent acts of hatred. This Elul we unfortunately find that we are still in the season of the fight against these persistent banes.

But this Elul we also finish the count of six years of work before beginning a seventh year of rest, the shmita year. In the shmita year, we will have the opportunity to count a year of rest for the land, rest for our fellow animals, and rest for us humans. Yet we need more than that to truly retire. We need our fossil-fuel burning machines and our addiction to them to rest. We need the virus to rest by not giving it the opportunity to spread further. We need the irrational hatred of racism to rest.

Clearly, we still have much work to do this Elul if we are to be in a better place in Elul 5782. Of course, these tasks are more than any one of us can do alone; however, it may not be more than we can do together. On Rosh Hashanah we may fill our thoughts with personal reflection, but we must remember we are all counting on each other.

David Krantz is the president of Aytzim: Ecological Judaism.

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School refusing to teach kids about LGBT+ lives should not be allowed to expand, says Ofsted – Yahoo News UK

Posted: at 3:19 am

A primary school that refuses to teach children about LGBT+ lives should not be allowed to expand, Ofsted has said.

Talmud Torah London, a fee-paying boys primary school in North London that primarily serves the Orthodox Jewish community, applied to the Department for Education (DfE) for permission to expand its offering to years seven and eight.

Government guidance for relationships and sex education (RSE) states that secondary (which covers years seven to 11) pupils must learn about the LGBT+ community, with individual schools given discretion as to what age this is introduced.

The school told Ofsted inspectors it has no intention of ever referencing those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender as part of PSHE education or relationships education, The Telegraph reported.

It did plan on including the encouragement of respect for other people, particularly in regards to protected characteristics identified in the Equality Act 2010.

Despite noting other positives about the school, the proposed curriculum covering relationships and sex education did not meet inspectors standards.

Ofsted is often commissioned to inspect and assess whether schools are suitable to be granted expansion status, and inspectors who visited the school noted that its proposed secondary curriculum, apart from its lack of LGBT+ education, would be suitable.

In their report, inspectors stated: The planned curriculum covers all the required areas of learning, including religious education, English, mathematics, science, computing, physical education, music, geography and history.

Additionally, it was noted that the school had strong safeguarding principles for their pupils as well as credible and ambitious plans for its development in other areas.

Talmud Torah London has a good rating by Ofsted, as of June 2021, but in 2017 were issued with a notice by DfE regarding its curriculum not meeting the standards for independent schools.

The DfE will have final say as to whether the school is approved for expansion, regardless of Ofsteds recommendations.

Talmud Torah London have been contacted for comment.

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CNN’s ‘Fast Facts’ Minimizes Judaism’s Connection to Land of Israel –

Posted: at 3:19 am

The Land of Israel is where Jewish identity was forged. It is unquestionably the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.

But to read a Judaism Fast Facts page on the CNN website, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Jews connection to the Holy Land commenced only around a century ago.

CNNs fact sheets are typically split into three or four sections. Those about Christianity and Islam, for example, open with a section about Beliefs/Practices. Its page on Judaism does much the same, under a more general subheadline, About Judaism. The Judaism page then features sections about history and statistics. The Christianity page also includes these latter two parts. The Islam page is slightly different, and includes parts about Muslim denominations, Sharia law, other facts, and finally a brief timeline.

In the first section of the page about Judaism, CNN details the central texts of Judaism, religious practices, beliefs, the origins of Jewish faith, as well as the structure of Jewish life.

But absent is any mention of the Land of Israel.

Only in the following section, titled History, is any reference made to the Jewish homeland. There, it is written:

The creation of a Jewish state was discussed at the first Zionist Congress in Switzerland in 1897. In 1948, the state of Israelwas formed, afterWorld War IIand thegenocideof over six million Jews.

For this to be the first description of Jewish sovereignty is immensely misleading. By starting from modern Jewish attempts to achieve self-determination in the Holy Land, without any mention of the fact that Jews lived there consistently throughout the centuries, CNN makes it seem as if the State of Israel was only formed in response to WWII and the Holocaust, and thus erases the Jewish peoples millennia-long bond with the land.

According to Jewish tradition, all of creation began in Jerusalem. Abraham, Issac and Jacob all passed through the city. Kings David and Solomon built the Jewish temples there. The Land of Israel is subject to numerous biblical laws, observed by religious Jews to this day.

One of the best known is the Shmittah, which takes place every seven years. For an entire year, the lie must rest and lay fallow. Coincidentally, the current cycle is coming to an end now, meaning that Jews in Israel will observe the rules of this law starting from this Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) in early September.

The Land of Israel is deeply significant in Jewish religious practice. For example, it is a religious commandment to live in the land of Israel. Many of those not able or not willing to move, however, have sought to be buried in Israel after they pass away.

For those unable to, there is a custom to symbolically sprinkle some earth taken from Israel into ones coffin.

Perhaps most notably, for centuries Jews around the world have fasted on two days each year (the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av) to commemorate the destruction of the Jewish Temples in Jerusalem, as well as the various other calamities that occurred in the Land of Israel. And during the Passover and Yom Kippur holidays each year, as Jews around the world finish prayer services by singing the words LShana Habaah BYerushalayim, meaning next year in Jerusalem.

Jewish prayers speak of the Jewish yearning to return to Zion; the Talmud tells of stories that happened to Jews in the Holy Land; and for centuries Jews around the world have prayed facing Jerusalem.

Yet, CNN includes none of this in its summary of Judaism.

CNNs fast facts pages is a great idea in concept. People have a need for basic information on a broad range of topics and news outlets can provide a real public service with such background pieces. Unfortunately, HonestReporting has repeatedly found CNNs fast facts pages to be an unreliable source, with frequent omissions and distortions in those related to Israel and the Palestinians (see, for example, here and here).

This latest omission is even less excusable. Judaism is not a political issue. The basic tenets of Judaism are undisputed.

So why didnt CNN include the most basic facts?


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They aren’t listed, but make no mistake: The UN has sanctions on the Taliban – Atlantic Council

Posted: at 3:19 am

The United Nations Security Council meets regarding the situation in Afghanistan at the United Nations in New York City on August 16, 2021. Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters.

Obscured by the evacuation effort in Kabul and the searing critiques of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is an important question: What do United Nations sanctions actually mandate concerning the Talibans assets?

The answer lies in the archaic, nuanced language of the organizations resolutions. Unlike al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Pakistani Taliban, and many other similar groups, the Taliban is not specifically listed on any UN sanctions list, but it remains sanctioned nonetheless. Poring through Talmudic UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) text from more than twenty years ago may seem a job fit only for lawyers and bureaucrats (or especially bureaucratic lawyers), but the real-world implications are significant. As the militant group settles in to rule the country again, sanctions remain one of the only viable points of leverage for the international community.

The confusion stretches back to 1999, when UNSCR 1267 was adopted in response to the Talibans sheltering of Osama bin Laden, wanted at the time for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The resolution froze the Talibans funds and other financial resources, including money generated from property the group controlled directly or indirectly. Since then, the security council has not nullified the language of this resolution, which legally binds all member states, meaning that it remains in force. The Taliban was not added to any sanctions list because no such list existed at the time. In fact, that resolution formed the mechanism for the first UN sanctions list, to which al-Qaeda and other parties were later added.

In 2011 the sanctions regime established in UNSCR 1267 was split up to create separate tracks for the Taliban (UNSCR 1988) and al-Qaeda (UNSCR 1989) in part to provide momentum to the Afghan-led peace process by creating incentives for the Taliban to improve its behavior. This split, however, seems to have created some of the confusion. The original criteria for listing al-Qaeda were for supporting the Taliban and bin Laden, and it strains credulity to think that the security council had not intended to impose sanctions on the Taliban itself via UNSCR 1267, given that the asset freeze language is clear. Statements from the security council and key member states support the existence of the broader asset freeze on the group.

As the Taliban seeks international legitimacy, the lack of clarity over the groups sanctions status by the UN may have serious ramifications.

On one hand, China and Russiaboth eager to see the United States embarrassedmay seek to exploit confusion over their legally binding obligations as UN member states to strike deals with the Taliban and assist the group in consolidating power in Afghanistan. Both countries have been credibly accused in recent years of violating UN-mandated sanctions on North Korea. Striking deals with the Taliban in the absence of clear guidance from the security council would hardly be out of character for Beijing or Moscow. Once those deals are struck, it may be too late to argue over the nuances of relevant UNSCR language.

On the other hand, debate over the scope of sanctions may present tactical advantages. The UNSCchaired by Ireland in Septemberneeds to clarify and update a sanctions regime that has been largely dormant for fifteen years. The UNSC could and should use the threat of sanctions and the possibility of sanctions removal to push the Taliban to respect human rights and freedoms. Hibatullah Akhundzada, the de facto leader of the Talibans government, is not on the UN sanctions listbut the security council should warn him that this could change if the Taliban rules as brutally as it did in the 1990s.

Similarly, for those Taliban leaders who are on the list, the security council could dangle the possibility of delisting, or modifying the sanctions regime as a whole, as a reward for good behavior. Many of the Talibans leaders are on the sanctions list, and the measures clearly apply to them. The Taliban cares about the stigma of UN sanctions; for more than a decade, much of the Talibans leadership has clamored to be removed from the UNs blacklist.

Separate from the status of the Taliban, the security council also needs to issue clear guidance on humanitarian exemptions and work to ensure that they are viable paths to aid the Afghan people. The population must not be left dangling, especially with a possible economic disaster looming.

Despite pledges by the groups public relations personnel, early returns on the Talibans human-rights governance are disturbing. Reports of abuses and targeted killings are already prevalentas are accounts that the group is hunting people who supported US and coalition efforts. But whether the Taliban behaves or not, Russia or China could veto the UNs entire Taliban sanctions regime during a review scheduled for Decemberpresenting a new diplomatic crisis.

The looming threat of a resurgent Taliban repressing its own people and potentially serving as a training ground for terrorist groups lends great urgency to clarifying the obligations of all member UN states regarding the groups financing and assets.

A Taliban with tax revenues, access to official levers of power, and control of the countrys opium production is frightening enough. But one that is also striking mining deals with China and Russia, as well as securing access to International Monetary Fund reserves or loans from other major economies, would be a substantially larger threat. The United States and its partners must work with the United Nations to make one thing clear: Despite any dithering over the Taliban being listed or not, member states must adhere to the asset freeze already in place to refrain from financing this dangerous regime.

Brian OToole is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Councils GeoEconomics Center and a former senior US Treasury Department official.

Tue, Jun 29, 2021

The Global Sanctions Dashboard aims to inform economic statecraft policies by analyzing sanctions globally and identifying trends across lists in partnership with Castellum.AI.

EconoGraphicsbyJulia Friedlander, Michael Albanese and Castellum.AI

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When God Uses The Oppressor To Call Out Oppression – Patheos

Posted: at 3:19 am

In my daily studies, I ran across the Jude of the Old Testament- Obidiah. Obidiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. But like its New Testament predecessor- It is jammed full of theological treasure. But to understand that treasure one must look at the context of the writing. It is there we find an instance where God selects a prophet from the opposition to speak out against the opposition.

Obidiah is one of only three prophets (Nahum and Habakuk) that calls out Israels enemies and not Israel itself. In Obidiahs case it is the Edomites. This is very interesting because According to the Talmud, Obadiah is said to have been a convert to Judaism from Edom. He was a descendant of Eliphaz, the friend of Job. He is identified with the Obadiah who was the servant of Ahab. It is said that he was chosen to prophesy against Edom because he was himself an Edomite. Having lived with two such godless persons as Ahab and Jezebel without learning to act as they did, he seemed the most suitable person to prophesy against Esau (Edom).

Obadiah is supposed to have received the gift of prophecy for having hidden the hundred prophets (1 Kings 18:4) from the persecution of Jezebel.He hid the prophets in two caves, so that if those in one cave should be discovered those in the other might yet escape (1 Kings18:34).

Obadiah was very rich, but all his wealth was expended in feeding the poor prophets. Then, in order to be able to continue to support them, he had to borrow money at interest from Ahabs son Jehoram.

What the historical context teaches us is that God can and will use those from an oppressor class to preach the truth to the oppressor. God continues to use those who could take freedom to preach liberation. There is nothing more powerful than the someone in an oppressor class speaking truth to oppressors. Many examples exist in history where a person is called from the oppressor class to serve the oppressed. Not only to serve, but to speak out against injustice and call out untruthfulness.

He is the biggest example of one who turned from power and luxury for the sake of truth. Paul participated in the persecution of early disciples of Jesus. Likely the Hellenized diaspora Jews converted to Christianity,in the area ofJerusalem, prior tohis conversion. In Acts, Paul was traveling on a mission to arrest them and bring them back to Jerusalem. On this journey the ascended Jesus appeared to him in a great bright light. He was struck blind, but after three days his sight was restored by Ananias of Damascus. Paul began to preach that Jesus of Nazareth was the Jewish messiah and the Son of God.

Approximately half of the Book of Acts deals with Pauls life and works. Paul even refers to himself as a Pharasee of Pharasees. Paul, who once oppressed, liberated and fought for the oppressed. This turn of heart did not come without consequence as Paul was executed in Rome.

An English Anglican cleric, a captain of slave ships who later became an abolitionist, and an investor of trade. He served as a sailor in theRoyal Navyfor a period after forced recruitment.

Newton went to sea at a young age and worked on slave ships in theslave tradefor several years. In 1745, he himself became a slave of Princess Peye, a woman of theSherbro people. He was rescued, returned to sea and the trade, becoming Captain of several slave ships. After retiring from active sea-faring, he continued to invest in the slave trade. Some years after experiencing aconversion to Christianity, Newton later renounced his trade and became a prominent supporter ofabolitionism. Now an evangelical, he was ordained as aChurch of Englandcleric and served asparish priestatOlney, Buckinghamshire, for two decades. He also wrote hymns, including Amazing Grace and Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.

Newton lived to see the British Empiresabolition of the African slave trade in 1807, just months before his death.

This is a man who made his living as a slaver. Yet God eventually called him to be one of the United Kingdoms greatest abolitionists. The words of Amazing Grace speak of how God pulled him away from an oppressor and lead to his lifelong fight for the oppressed.

Born to an affluent IrishEpiscopalianslaveholderof the same name inDanville, Kentucky,He and his sister were raised by their widowed aunt, who had come over fromIreland at the request of his father to look after the two. He was influenced by his aunts opposition to slavery; she refused to own slaves. Growing up, he saw the issue of slavery from a variety of perspectives. Though his father fought to prevent their state of Kentucky from joining the Union as a slave state, when the effort failed, he decided that until the legislature abolished slavery from the state as a whole, a person could own slaves as long as he treated them humanely.

During the 1820s, Birney became increasingly troubled by the issue of slavery. He became a member of theAmerican Colonization Society, which advocated for the migration ofAfrican Americansto the continent ofAfrica. After serving in various roles for the organization, Birney began calling for the immediate abolition of slavery.

Constance Georgine Gore-Booth was born atBuckingham Gatein London in 1868, the elder daughter of the Arctic explorer and adventurerSir Henry Gore-Booth, 5th Baronet, anAnglo-Irishlandlord who administered a 100km2(39sqmi) estate, and Georgina, Lady Gore-Booth,neHill. During thefamine of 187980, Sir Henry provided free food for the tenants on his estate atLissadell Housein the north ofCounty Sligoin the north-west of Ireland. Their fathers example inspired in Gore-Booth and her younger sister,Eva Gore-Booth, a deep concern for working people and the poor.

Even though part of the ruling Anglo Irish class, she saw the horrors being foisted on the Irish Catholic people and would eventually fight for the Irish in both combat and politics. In 1908, Markievicz became actively involved in nationalist politics in Ireland. She joinedSinn FinandInghinidhe na hireann (Daughters of Ireland), a revolutionary womens movement.

As a member of the ICA, Markievicz took part in the 1916Easter Rising. She was deeply inspired by the founder of theICA,James Connolly. Markievicz designed the Citizen Army uniform and composed its anthem, based on the tune of a Polish song. The British sentenced her to death for her role in the rebellion but this was reduced on the grounds of her sex. She died in 1927, spending most of her life speaking out for the oppressed in Ireland.

In the final account, where will we stand? Will we be brave like Obidiah, Paul, Newton, Birney and Markievicz? Will those that come from oppressor classes still have the courage to rise up and speak the truth, even if it means there death? I pray that me and many others would be so bold. That we would reach into the unknown of forsaking oppression for liberation, even though it may well kill us is my sincere prayer today. If our gospel is not liberating, it is oppressing. What side will we choose to be on? Never forget, history is always watching.

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| Maidservants, Mother Birds and the Importance of Mesorah | Rabbi Dovid Abenson The Lakewood Scoop –

Posted: at 3:19 am

I received the following question from a teenage girl:

How could the Torah command a father to sell his daughter into slavery?

She was referring to the verse in Parshas Mishpatim (Shemos 21:7) which states:

Now if a man sells his daughter as a maidservant, she shall not go free as the slaves go free.

She asked: isnt this cruel? How could the Torah tell a man to sell his daughter with the purpose of the master to marry her. Its disgusting for a 9-year-old girl to get married. This is forced marriage.

I think it is important to address this question. There are many places where the Torah appears to conflict with our modern moral sensibilities. It is vital for all of us, especially parents and educators to understand how to address such questions head-on without dismissing them. When students feel their questions are brushed aside or given only perfunctory answers they feel that maybe the Torah doesnt have all the answers and will start to look elsewhere.

A second reason to address this question is that it shows the supreme importance of not taking the written Torah out of context. It can only be fully understood with the help of the Torah she bal peh, the oral Torah, as we shall demonstrate.

The first question we need to address is whether the pasuk is actually referring to a , a positive commandment to sell a daughter. This would seem to hang on how we are to interpret the word (ki). Sometimes when a pasuk begins with ki the Torah is meaning if this happens to you then you will have a mitzvah, suggesting a positive commandment.

For example in Parshas Ki Teitzei (Devarim 22:6-7) we read about the mitzvah of Shiluach Hakan, sending away the mother bird from the nest. The text reads:

| | :If a birds nest chances before you on the road, on any tree or on the ground, [it contains] fledglings or eggs and the mother is sitting upon the fledglings or the eggs, you shall not take the mother upon the young


You shall send away the mother bird, [and then] you may take the young for yourself, in order that it should be good for you, and you should lengthen your days.

The promise of the reward of longevity would seem to suggest that this is a positive commandment. In that case, ki does not mean just if you happen upon the nest, and the mother is there and you actually want the eggs or the chicks, you could do it, but rather that there is merit in seeking out opportunities for this mitzvah. ( Aruch Hashulchan 292:1, Birchei Yosef 292:8 quoting the Arizal. Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky (Am Hatorah Journal 5:7, pg 12) recommends trying to perform the mitzvah at least once. See, however, Responsa Chasam Sofer O.C. 100 and Responsa Torah Lishmah 27710. See Responsa Minchas)

Can we apply the same logic to the pasuk regarding selling a daughter as a slave? There is no explicit promise of reward, but the initial ki remains the same, potentially indicating a positive mitzvah.

To resolve this question it is necessary to examine our Oral tradition. We do not derive Torah law from logic alone, nor from looking only at the text of the written law. Unlike the ancient Sadducees, Karaites, or the reform Jews, we do not attempt to derive our religious practices solely from the Written Torah. We have Mesorah, an unbroken chain of tradition passed down together with the written law to Moshe at har Sinai and transmitted by sages from generation to generation until today. The Torah She bal peh comprises the Mishnah and the Talmud. The Mishnah was compiled between 200220 CE by Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi. The Gemara is a series of running commentaries and debates concerning the Mishnah. Together, the Mishnah with its relevant Gemaras forms the Talmud.

Even though the Oral Torah was ultimately written down, due to the existential threat of dispersion facing the Jewish civilization following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, it was written in such as way that it is virtually impossible to understand it without learning it together with a teacher himself steeped in the oral tradition. The belief that at least portions of the Oral Torah were transmitted orally from God to Moshe on Har Sinai during the Exodus from Egypt is a fundamental tenet of faith for religious Jews. Indeed it forms one of the Rambams Thirteen Principles of Faith, the Ani Maamin recited daily after Shacharis. Many passages of the Torah and the details of laws central to Jewish life are almost incomprehensible without the oral tradition that explains them. They were clearly never meant to be separated, but always learned together.

So let us examine how the oral law explains the pasuk about the father who sells his daughter as a slave. Both the Rambams Sefer HaMitzvos and the Sefer HaChinuch compilations of Jewish laws derived from the conclusions of the Talmud and the earlier Torah Law Codes show that there is no positive commandment at all for one to sell his so daughter even though it states . The positive mitzvah is only for the man who buys her as a (maidservant)

In the Rambams Sefer HaMitzvos, Mitzvah 233 is the mitzvah of (liyod ama ivriya) the designation of a Hebrew slave woman. If a Jewish man has acquired a slave woman, he has to marry her or give him as a wife to his son. This mitzvah is derived from the pasuk (Shemos 21:8) that if she is bad in the eyes of her master, who designated her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. Rashi shows, based on a Chazal (Bechoros 19a), that this verse hints at the fact of a commandment of designation (marrying her or marrying her off) that precedes the commandment of redemption.

The Rambam goes on to explain that this mitzvah actually shows Gods mercy on the poor girl who is sold, and on her father who needed to sell her. In Biblical times, as until very recently, there was no such thing as a girl who could be financially independent. Girls were supported by their fathers or older brothers until they could be married off and supported by a husband. If a father was so poor that he was unable to support his daughter any longer, it was considered a chesed for another family to buy her: that is, a man would give the father money and in exchange, take the girl in as a member of his household. She would receive work, food, and lodging. Better than redemption is for the master of the house to marry her himself or give her to his son to be married, for this would bring joy to the girl.

The Rambam (Mishneh Torah Chapter 4:2 about slaves) explains that a father may only sell his daughter into servitude if he has become so poor that he has nothing left: not land, movables, or even clothing. Even then, as soon as he is able financially, he should be compelled to buy her back to avoid further disgrace to the family. If the father has fled or died or had no means to buy her back, she must serve until she goes free.

Later the Rambam says he cannot force a marriage against the girls will. She has to be in agreement with the arrangement.

So we see there is no mitzvah to sell a daughter. Rather this is a provision made for a girl whose father was forced to sell her rather than starve to death. What may seem a barbaric practice from the written text alone turns out to be a remarkably compassionate approach when we look at the Mesorah.

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| Maidservants, Mother Birds and the Importance of Mesorah | Rabbi Dovid Abenson The Lakewood Scoop -

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Guest Column: Investing in the Future Detroit Jewish News – The Jewish News

Posted: at 3:19 am

In early August, the Biden administration announced a goal to make half of all new cars sold in the U.S. electric by 2030. In June, the congregation I serve, Temple Bnai Israel in Kalamazoo, installed an electric car charger with the assistance of Hope for Creation.

Through the congregations relationship with Michigan Interfaith Power & Light, as well as other groups, it has become clear that strong, clean car standards have the power to drive down vehicle pollution as well as spur innovation in the development of new clean car technologies.

Therefore, our congregation made the decision to invest knowing there are members who would benefit but also because our values teach us the importance of caring for the planet. Investing in electric vehicles is one way we can shift our dependency away from the fossil fuels that are causing our climate crisis.

As Reform Jews, we look to the Book of Deuteronomy for the basis of our belief in caring for the Earth. Verses 20:21-22 speak of actions during wartime that directly impact the Earth: When in your war against a city you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down.

From these verses arise the value of bal tashchit which is translated as do not destroy. Humanity is taught that they shall not destroy fruit trees during wartime. But Judaism does not only draw from the Torah, but also from the later commentaries of the rabbis, the sages, of the Mishnah and Talmud. These sages extrapolate from this idea to include all ecological destruction during times of war as well as peace. The expanded rulings include not feeding livestock polluted water, not diverting or destroying water and not throwing away food or wantonly breaking usable items. These interpretations have shaped how we, as a Jewish congregation, engage with the world we live in.

Another value guiding the Congregations decision to invest in an EV charger, along with other measures to make our building more energy efficient and less polluting, is the value of betzelem Elohim the understanding that all people are made in the image of God. This directly relates to how we view one another.

All people should have access to clean air and water, but we know this is not the case here in Michigan. Low-wealth and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities experience disproportionate harm from dirty vehicle pollution, leading to increased rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. We also know that low-wealth and BIPOC communities also are often closest to highways and bear the greatest burden from vehicle pollution.

We have a responsibility to act on our values, which teach us to care for the Earth and that all people are important and indeed, made in the image of God.

I am proud to lead a congregation who wants to put their values into action in any way that they can and know that there is still much to be done. The installation of an electric car charger is but one piece of a large puzzle that we must all work together on building.

As the EPA and Transportation Department now begin to work out the details of longer-term emissions standards, they have an opportunity to help create the conditions necessary for all life to thrive by supporting cleaner cars. We urge them to make these standards as strong as possible.

Simone Schicker is the rabbi of Temple Bnai Israel in Kalamazoo.

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