“The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge…” (Proverbs 1:7)
The idea of “fearing God” carries with it overtones of fire and brimstone, a puritanical flavor that seems foreign to our 21st century mentality. With humanity (especially Western society) feeling secure in its understanding of the universe, most people no longer fear the so-called “wrath of God.”
September looms and children all over have either just begun school or will be starting shortly. Judaism has always been a culture focused on learning. The Torah commands parents to teach their children, but since many parents are not capable of fulfilling the role of teacher, schools have become a necessity. Baba Batra 21a discuss extensively our Sages’ views on education.
To the Jewish community and general population at large, the Maharal of Prague is the revered, mystical medieval rabbi who created the Golem to protect the Jews in the Prague ghetto. But the Maharal’s true contribution to Jewish life has little to do with the legend of the Golem.
“Children of Israel,” an often used title for the Jewish people, is a name defined by the familial relationship of the descendants of Abraham and Sarah. This familial relationship (which even DNA studies have confirmed) plays a strong role in both Jewish identity and Jewish life in general. For instance, one of the common forms of addressing God in Jewish prayer is “Eh’loh’haynu vay’lo’hay avotaynu,” our God and God of our ancestors.
The story of the Golem of Prague is one of the best-known, fantastic and romantic Eastern European tales. It has been retold in both prose and play-form and is perpetuated in the oral tradition that one generation passes to the next.
The standard pre-Rosh Hashana greeting of “K’tiva v’chatima tova” (“May you be written and sealed for good”) is deduced from a Talmudic discussion concerning the three heavenly books that are opened during the High Holidays.
The Hebrew word yichud translates seclusion in English. Traditionally, unmarried men and women should never be secluded together, so, in theory, the wedding day is the first time this ever happens between the bride and groom. This law came about after the rape of King David’s daughter when she was left alone with her half brother. It was then that David and his high court extended this prohibition to all unmarried girls. Typically, the laws of yichud are followed by Orthodox Jews, but all Jews may interpret the laws to fit their ceremony or beliefs.
Senior Citizen Day, an annual event observed on August 21st, is a day meant to both honor older citizens and to remind the government that seniors are a large and powerful constituency.
In Judaism, honoring senior citizens is both a natural part of the cultural philosophy and, in truth, part of Jewish law. “You shall rise up before the hoary [aged] head, and honor the face of the old man…”(Leviticus 19:32).
The Hebrew term for “old man” is zakein, which, according to the Talmud, refers to a sage, someone of great wisdom (as the 70 elders of Israel were called). The honor due a zakein is understandable, but what does the Torah mean by “You shall rise up before the hoary head”?
To stand up for someone is one of the primary ways to demonstrate respect for another. When a parent, teacher or political ruler enters the room, one is expected to stand up in his/her honor. In trying to understand this commandment, the sages discussed the different ways in which they had seen other great leaders act:
Issi ben Judah said: [The verse] implies any hoary head. Rabbi Jochanan said: The halacha is according to Issi ben Judah. Rabbi Jochanan used to rise [even] before aged heathens, saying: How many troubles have passed over these! Raba would not rise up, yet he showed them respect. Abaye used to give his hand to the aged. Raba sent his messengers. Rabbi Nahman sent his guardsmen…(Kiddushin 33a).
In the twenty-first century, with people leading extraordinarily active lives well into their golden years, it may be difficult to determine who deserves respect. It is best, therefore, to maintain the tradition that one is considered to be of “the age of wisdom” at 70.
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Reincarnation is a word that to most Jews screams of foreign cultures. What is not common knowledge, however, is that the reincarnation of souls is a concept found in Judaism (although not mainstream) known as gilgul.
Rachel had Jacob’s heart, Leah had his children.
For four long years, Rachel watched her sister give birth to son after son until she could bear it no longer. Frustrated but determined, Rachel recalled the actions of her husband’s grandmother, Sarah, and gave her handmaid, Bilhah, to be Jacob’s wife.