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Appreciate The Teacher
May 5, 2011 – 6:38 am | One Comment
Appreciate The Teacher

“No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks…”

It’s an old childhood rhyme that reflects every child’s longing for the freedom of summer. It is also an excellent example of the negative attitude of children in our modern western civilization to education, and, more importantly, to teachers. School is often presented as a “bother” that children have to bear, making teachers the “bad-guy.”

The Jewish attitude toward education and teachers, however, is the exact opposite. Judaism places great importance on showing absolute respect to one’s teachers. As with parents, it is considered a mitzvah to stand when a teacher enters a room. In fact, the sages question whether one should recline at the Passover seder in the presence of one’s teacher, lest it show disrespect for the teacher (Pesachim 108a).

“Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba stated in the name of Rabbi Yochanan. ‘A man who prevents his student from serving him [showing him proper honor] it is as if he deprives him of [an act of] kindness…’ Rabbi Nachman ben Isaac said: ‘He also deprives him of the fear of Heaven’” (Ketuvot 96a). Many modern teachers struggle to find a balance between gaining the children’s respect and being liked by their students. The sages of the Talmud, however, were quite clear that a teacher who relinquishes his/her honor is actually doing a disservice to the students.

In the United States, the first full week of May is recognized as “National Teacher Appreciation Week.” Teaching the children in our lives to appreciate their teachers (year round) is the first step in helping our children understand the important Jewish value of honoring one’s teacher.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Questions With a Rabbi
May 4, 2011 – 10:04 am | 3 Comments
Questions With a Rabbi

When getting to know someone new, whether on a date, at a party or at a social gathering, one can expect to hear their fair share of questions.  But what happens when the line is crossed and basics such as, “what do you do?” and “what’s your favorite movie?” devolve into the prying, personal inquiries of bad date folklore?  Moment asks a spectrum of rabbis whether there is such a thing as asking too many questions, and here’s what they said.

May His Name Be Erased
May 4, 2011 – 7:32 am
May His Name Be Erased

When a righteous person passes away, it is customary to add the following laudatory phrase after mentioning the deceased’s name: “zecher tzaddik liv’racha” (May the memory of this righteous person be a blessing). So too, when referring to an indisputably evil person, it is customary to say “yimach sh’mo” (May his name be erased) after his/her name. In some cases, the term “yimach sh’mo v’zichro” (May his name and memory be erased) is added.

Jewish tradition places great importance on a person being remembered after death. Parents name their children after their own parents and/or grandparents (in Sephardi tradition this occurs while they are still alive, in Ashkenazi tradition a child is named only after deceased relatives). The anniversary of a person’s death (yahrtzeit) is observed by the deceased’s children for the rest of the latter’s lives. According to tradition, positive actions done in the name of the deceased bring them honor in the afterlife.

Most often, the memory of a person is kept alive from parent to child (or by a young person upon whom the deceased had a meaningful influence, like a teacher-student or uncle-nephew). In fact, the word “toldot,” which appears frequently in the text of the Torah, is often translated both as generations and actions. A person is remembered in this world both by the generations that he/she produces and/or by the impact of his/her actions upon others.

In the history of humankind, there have been a number of people who could be considered utterly evil. On May 1st, the world learned of the death of one such thoroughly evil person, Osama bin Laden, “yimach sh’mo v’zichro,” who was killed by the U.S. armed forces. (Coincidentally, it was also on May 1st, in 1945, that it was confirmed that Hitler, “yimach sh’mo v’zichro,” had died.)

May we never see such evil again.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Sandra and Kevin
May 3, 2011 – 4:14 pm
Sandra and Kevin

We are grateful that JDate was the vehicle to bring us together and, most of all, we are excited for the future ahead.”

How to Keep Hope Alive
May 3, 2011 – 8:31 am
How to Keep Hope Alive

Staying positive as far as finances, career, love and relationships are concerned is a skill even for the eternal optimist. But it is something you can learn to incorporate into your life by practicing these tips:

Off With His Head
May 3, 2011 – 3:05 am
Off With His Head

Capital punishment is one of the modern era’s great controversies. Does a judicial system have the right to sentence a person to death? Like most such controversial topics, similar questions and discussions may be found in the Talmud.

The best known Talmudic reference to capital punishment is found in Makot 7a: “A sanhedrin that effects an execution once in seven years is branded a ‘destructive tribunal.’ Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah says once in seventy years. Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva say, ‘Were we members of the sanhedrin, no person would ever be put to death.’”

The Mishnah cited is an excellent reflection of the Jewish attitude to the death penalty. Even though the written Torah calls for execution (“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man will his blood be shed – Genesis 9:6), the oral Torah regulated the process to the point where it becomes almost impossible to convict someone of murder.

Capital crimes, such as murder, incest or idolatry, were usually tried by a beit din (tribunal) of 23. Conviction required a majority of at least 13. If all 23 judges voted to convict, however, the accused was acquitted because of the implausibility that not a single judge doubted the witnesses (implying that there was a conspiracy). In capital cases, the witnesses were critical since no circumstantial evidence was accepted. Therefore, not only did the witnesses need to be upright, law (Torah) abiding citizens, but they must have definitively warned the accused that the intended act was a capital offense. The testimonies of both witnesses had to match, flawlessly, and lying was, itself, a capital offense.

If conviction was virtually impossible, why bother? The reverberations of the rare cases in which an execution did actually occur were enough to dissuade others from committing the same crime. Thus, said Rabbi Simon ben Gamliel, “If we never condemned anyone to death, we might be considered guilty of promoting violence and bloodshed…[and] multiply murderers in Israel” (Maakot 7a).

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Is Dating Only Jews Prejudiced?
May 2, 2011 – 1:34 pm | 16 Comments
Is Dating Only Jews Prejudiced?

When Jewish parents want their son to marry the daughter of other Jewish parents, how is that different than an Indian family doing the same? Two white parents upset that their daughter is marrying a black guy? Two Texas parents who have forbid their daughter from marrying anyone from Oklahoma?

Remember
May 2, 2011 – 3:05 am
Remember

The Jewish nation has a long historical memory. Jewish history is replete with accounts of those who attacked Jews and Jewish communities, and the records of countless victims. On the other hand, the Jewish calendar also records dates commemorating the defeat of those who sought to destroy the Jewish nation. There is even a Biblical commandment to remember how the nation of Amalek tried to destroy the Jews by attacking the weak and the stragglers as they marched in the wilderness. The mitzvah is known as Zachor, which means remember.

A generation of Jews is now coming of age that is, in truth, the first generation who will need to be educated and, in effect, commanded, to remember the Holocaust. Those who survived the Nazi horrors are all too quickly becoming part of history themselves…and those who wish to distort history have gained strength as the number of eyewitnesses rapidly diminishes.

Holocaust Memorial Day, known in Hebrew as Yom Hashoah, literally “The Day of the Conflagration” is observed on the 27th of Nisan. Yesterday, people around the world recalled those who perished and the world that was lost. It is vitally important that time be set aside for each and every Jew (indeed, each and every person) to stop and ponder…What if I had been there? What if it had been me?

Just two weeks ago, at the Passover seder, Jews read the following statement from the Haggadah: “In every generation, they rise up against us to destroy us. But, the Holy One, blessed be He, rescues us from their hands.”

Zachor, Remember! Each and every Jew must remember the uniqueness of the Jewish nation. Our remembrance of Jewish tragedies affirms our survival and victory. Hitler may have wanted to eradicate the Jews, but instead, the Jews stand tall and continue to REMEMBER.

This Treat was originally posted on April 21, 2009.

There’s A Key In My Challah!
April 29, 2011 – 3:05 am
There’s A Key In My Challah!

It’s a fact that many people spend much time thinking and even worrying about par’nassah (livelihood).

Jewish tradition teaches that different seasons have different spiritual strengths. Certain times are regarded as propitious to pray for rain, while other times are considered appropriate to petition for forgiveness. (Of course, these things may also be prayed for at other times of the year!) So too, our spiritual leaders have noted that there are certain times on the Jewish calendar when it is propitious to focus on praying for par’nassah. One such time is the Shabbat that immediately follows Passover, when it is a custom in some Jewish communities to make what is known as shlissel (Yiddish for key) challah.

There are a number of reasons suggested for this custom. Due to space limitations, Jewish Treats will present only a few:

1) The Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 2:2) states that on Passover the world is allocated its grain harvest for the coming year.

2) The Jews celebrated Passover just before entering the land of Canaan, at which point there was no more manna (the heavenly food of the wilderness). Henceforth, the Jewish nation needed to generate its own par’nassah.

3) A “key” serves as a symbol to remind us that our prayers have the power to open the Gates of Heaven.

There are different ways to perform this custom. Some people bake an actual key (scrubbed clean or wrapped in foil/parchment paper) into the challah, while others mold their challah into the shape of a key. One custom mentions using a key to knead the dough, and there are still other customs as well.

Whatever one’s custom, it is hoped that the symbolic message will reach its proper destination and have the desired beneficial effect on one’s livelihood.

*This Treat was originally published on April 17, 2009. It is being re-Treated as an interesting fact for this time of year.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Pasta Carbonara-esque
April 28, 2011 – 2:21 pm
Pasta Carbonara-esque

Passover is over and I am craving pasta…and lots of it! This comforting dish is a snap to put together and most ingredients are a staple, which means that you probably already have them.

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