Upon the recent death of North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il, the press rehashed what is known about the repressive regime, certainly causing many to wonder how any leader could cause such harm to his own people without even a pang of conscience. Reading about modern tyrants, those who cause some or all of their nation’s people to suffer, provides a unique perspective on the actions of Pharaoh of Exodus.
The collected, and posthumously published, works of renowned rabbis often provide deep insights into the rabbis personal philosophies. An excellent example of one such work is Michtav May’Eliyahu,* (A Letter from Eliyahu), one of the most popular “Mussar” volumes today, expounding on Jewish thought and ethical conduct.
“Rabbi Gamaliel sat and expounded, ‘The Land of Israel is destined to bring forth [whole] cakes and wool robes [straight from the ground]… But a certain disciple scoffed at him, quoting, ‘there is no new thing under the sun!’ ‘Come, and I will show you their equal in this world,’ replied he. He went and showed him morels and truffles [mushrooms which appear complete overnight]; and for silk robes [he showed him] the bark of a young palm-shoot [which has a downy, silk-like texture inside]” (Shabbat 30b).
Those familiar with Jewish history are well aware of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain that occurred concurrently with Columbus’ sailing for the new world. A great number of these exiles fled to Portugal, where the already sad tale only grew sadder.
Can you name the speaker who preceded Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington? It was Rabbi (Dr.) Joachim Prinz, a German Jew who had been expelled by the Nazis in 1937. A passionate player in the fight for civil rights, Rabbi Prinz consistently spoke out against the great crime of silence.
Challah, known to some as “Jewish bread,” is one of the essential elements of the Shabbat table. Each of the three Shabbat meals begins with the blessing over two loaves of Challah, which are then cut and shared with all present.
An often stated comment by parents of newly married children is that they have “gained a son or a daughter.” And while much has been written about the commandment to honor one’s mother and father, a newly married individual might wonder exactly how they are supposed to treat their new in-laws.
Say the word slave and the immediate image that comes to mind is a man or woman bound in shackles, possibly cowering under a whip. Modern day slavery is often far more subtle–the chains are perhaps death threats (to the enslaved or their family) or withheld documentation in a foreign country. Jewish Treats presents some Jewish thoughts on this issue that are appropriate for Human Trafficking Awareness Day 2012.
One might not think that Jewish Treats would have much to say about “Peculiar People Day,” as January 10th has been dubbed by those who create new holidays. However, the sages were so aware of a person’s natural reaction to those who are different, that special blessings were designated for just such occasions: Blessed is He who makes strange creatures (for those who are so from birth) and Blessed be the true Judge (for those whose appearance was altered after birth). These blessings remind us that all creatures are God’s handiwork and deserve honor and respect.
Jewish Treats presents to you another local Purim, a day on which one small community commemorates a particularly life-saving event. Purim Hebron, also known as “Window Purim.” Sadly, the community that initially experienced the events of Hebron Purim no longer exists, as the Jews of Hebron suffered so greatly from a pogrom in 1929 that the city was, for many years, virtually bereft of any Jewish population.