It\'s one of the great mysteries of the Jewish tradition. Every year, Jews around the world gather around a seder table to retell the story of our people\'s liberation from slavery. You can read a thousand articles, talk to a thousand rabbis, and they\'ll all say the same thing: At the Passover seder, we retell the story of the Exodus.\n\nThere\'s only one problem with this statement: It\'s not really true.
This season, several new haggadahs raise new questions. New interpretations bring new approaches to the seder, enabling readers and participants to bring new layers of meaning to their own celebrations of the holiday.
Parshat Tazria (Leviticus 12:1-13:59) There comes a time, for each of us, when we stand face to face with our demons; it is in our response to this challenge that we often see some of the more beautiful moments in human life. In this week\'s parsha, Tazria, we find one of those opportunities.
The reasons why milifers and seniors have gravitated to adult b\'nai mitzvah programs since the trend first took off in the 1970s are numerous, including the fact that most women didn\'t have such ceremonies until the 1980s (the first bat mitzvah was held in 1922). One perennial influence is a child or grandchild reaching b\'nai mitzvah age, and the divergent issues brought about by intermarriage can sometimes compel one or more adults in a family to take on b\'nai mitzvah study to serve as a role model.
Given the condition of Judaism in 2008, a bar mitzvah is an ecumenical stew. It\'s not only the non-Jews who wonder about the significance and meaning of the ceremony, but even some of our fellow Israelites stare with wonder and, sometimes, awe.That\'s why a booklet of origins, explanations and exegesis is useful.
Now, following the latest publishing craze of themed Jewish anthologies comes \"Bread and Fire: Jewish Women Find God in the Everyday\" (Urim Publications, 2008), edited by Rivkah Slonim (with consulting editor Liz Rosenberg). The 400-page compilation features writings from 60 women on topics including modesty, faith, childbirth, prayer, family, community, feminism and, in one way or another, Orthodox Judaism.
I saw the blinking light on my answering machine and listened to the frantic voice of my girlfriend, Debbie, as I put the groceries away. \"Heeeeeelp! Jason says he doesn\'t want to do his bar mitzvah anymore. We\'ve got the date and the place, I\'ve hired the DJ and he\'s already begun to prepare. He\'s making me crazy. What should I do? Call me.\"
Wow, what a bummer, I thought to myself.
Wow, what a bummer, I thought to myself.
If Arash Saghian\'s recent marriage had taken place in the late 1980s or early 1990s, he would likely have faced ostracism from Los Angeles\' Iranian Jewish community. The family of the 25-year-old businessman might have also frowned upon the match, all because his spouse Maya was Ashkenazi.
There is a modern-day term for the inability to admit wrongdoing: sociopathy. A conscience that cannot feel guilt is capable of untold evil. An ability to look critically at ourselves, to see where we are wrong, is the beginning of making things right. Being right -- in the narrow sense of \"correct\" -- amounts to very little, if a correct position isn\'t also righteous. Joseph is correct in interpreting his dreams of domination and superiority to his family, but he is also insensitive and inflammatory. He is right again, according to midrash, in what he tells his father about his brothers\' bad behavior. But in Jewish law, unlike American, truth is not a defense against defamation. Accuracy is not piety.
There are three levels of wisdom through which Chanukah invites us to address the planetary dangers of the global climate crisis -- what some of us call \"global scorching,\" because \"warming\" seems so pleasant, so comforting. We can encode these three teachings into actions we take to heal the earth each of the eight days.
The opening line from the documentary \"The Last Jews of Libya\" begins a nostalgic visit to an ill-fated community of 25,000 people living between the Mediterranean Sea and North African desert at the dawn of World War II. It\'s a story we know too well -- pious, successful and family-oriented Jews living in coexistence with their neighbors suddenly become targets of racial hatred and are ultimately expelled or destroyed. Once in the United States, the immigrants struggle to find their place within an American Jewish life rooted firmly in Eastern European culture.
But what is the real origin of gelt? Is it, as my father claimed, really a long-held Jewish custom? And how did gelt evolve from money to chocolate? And why does the chocolate taste so waxy? If gelt is here to stay -- if it\'s going to really represent the Jews like mistletoe and holly do the Christians -- are there any better options than the molten coins of our childhood? These are some of the questions I had as I set out on my journey in search of gelt.
The principal authority for contemporary American Jews, in the absence of compelling religious norms and communal loyalties, has become the sovereign self. Each person now performs the labor of fashioning his or her own self, pulling together elements from the various Jewish and non-Jewish repertoires available rather than stepping into an \"inescapable framework\" of identity -- familial, communal, traditional -- given at birth. Decisions about ritual observance and involvement in Jewish institutions are made and made again, considered and reconsidered, year by year, and even week by week. American Jews speak of their lives, and of their Jewish beliefs and commitments, as a journey of ongoing questioning and development. They avoid the language of arrival. There are no final answers, no irrevocable commitments.
The Jewish Journal invited writers who will be featured at Sunday\'s Festival of Books to answer the simple, essential question that every Jewish writer is often asked: \"What Jewish sources -- ideas, writings, traditions -- inspire you, and how do they show up in your work?\" The following show that there is no easy answer to what defines a Jewish author, but there is no question that there\'s much to draw upon within the faith.
f you want to be popular in the Jewish world today, just say tikkun olam. Everywhere you go it seems that Jews of all stripes are jumping on this universal bandwagon. Recently, in one day, I got to experience three different views of tikkun olam. The last view was so politically incorrect, it was almost embarrassing.\n
As Cantor Sarah J. Sager began her research, she found there were many people -- both women and men -- who were thinking about the silence of women in the Jewish tradition, and working to create \"a sense of women\'s presence at the most important moments of our history and in our most sacred text,\" Sager later wrote. But there was no one place to find all that commentary. Fifteen years later, the WRJ is publishing \"The Torah: A Women\'s Commentary,\" edited by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, a professor at the Los Angeles branch of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
From secular beachgoers in Tel Aviv to right-wing Orthodox settlers in Hebron, Crocs -- the bulbous-toed, open-back, rubber summer shoe -- already were ubiquitous in Israel. Now, reports from several synagogues across America suggest, Crocs have surpassed Chuck Taylors, Keds, flip-flops and a host of other options to become the Yom Kippur shoe in the United States.
The Master of the Universe has given us a gift that can connect us to the spiritual world, the one that exists beyond our physical reality. That gift is music, yet, sadly, most synagogues ignore the spiritual power of highly organized art music, the form many refer to as \"classical music.\"
I am not sure how your rabbi would react if you sat in the pews reading T.S. Eliot or William Faulkner, but if you were found poring over the pages of 1966 Nobel Laureate S.Y. Agnon\'s \"Days of Awe,\" originally published in Hebrew as \"Yamim Noraim,\" I trust most rabbis would happily approve. So would Agnon. In his introduction, Agnon states that he created this book so that one may read it \"between prayers,\" as a way of intensifying one\'s spiritual experience during the High Holy Days.
The High Holy Days can be a confusing time for children. It\'s not easy for them to understand the sense behind the story of a father who almost sacrifices his son or how a chicken can help take away sins. Luckily, the answers to these mysteries and many more can be found in a book -- and thanks to the Harold Grinspoon Foundation\'s PJ Library (as in pajamas), parents around the country are getting those books for free.
As we think about rewriting our personal narratives in the New Year, adding new pages and chapters, several new books inspire new visions, renewed creativity and new relationships between the calendar and a sense of holiness.
\"Now, once again, a group of gifted scholars gather to reinterpret the Jewish project, to reassert its meaning, re-envision its institutions and reimagine its future,\" asserts the introduction of the new book: \"Jews and Judaism in the 21st Century: Human Responsibility, the Presence of God and the Future of the Covenant,\" edited by Valley Beth Shalom\'s (VBS) Rabbi Edward Feinstein (Jewish Lights Publishing, $24.99).
As I reflected later on my Yemenite moment in time, I couldn\'t help but think of all the traditions that so many Jewish communities throughout the world are fighting to maintain. There are countless variations of Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions that have their own melodies, their own chants, their own ways. We all read the same words, but after that, we\'re allowed to tweak. It\'s as if God gave us the consonants, and then said: \"Have fun with the vowels.\"
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