The Exorcist, one of the most famous horror films ever created, is based on the terrifying concept of someone being possessed by the devil. And while the deeply evil devil of Christian lore is certainly not a Jewish concept, the idea of spiritual possession is not unheard of in mystical Judaism.
Torah and civil law are the two legal codes that shape the lives of the Jewish people. While the Jews have often been accused of living “outside” civil law (of maintaining a separate communal legal system) this accusation directly contradicts the numerous ways in which Jewish law requires Jews to respect and obey civil law.
“Our sacred literature does not use obscure language, but describes most things in words clearly indicating their meaning. Therefore it is necessary at all times to delve into the literal meaning of words to achieve complete understanding of what is actually meant.”
–Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888)
Fiddler on the Roof made the Jewish drinking toast “L’Chaim” – To Life! – famous. Where does the phrase come from? Why do Jews say “To life!” when drinking?
“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?” This question is posed by the classic New Year’s Eve song Auld Lang Syne. The song originated in Scotland and is sung at times of farewell (to the old year, with an uncertain new year ahead).
There’s an old wives’ tale that a man’s hair pattern (i.e. baldness) can be predicted by the hair of his mother’s brother. The genetic veracity of this claim is debatable, but, according to the opinion of the Talmudic sage Raba, “most [male] children [do] resemble their mother’s brothers” (Baba Batra 110a).
When then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton was spotted toting the novel Devil in a Blue Dress on the campaign trail in 1992, he catapulted author Walter Mosley out of obscurity and into the spotlight. Clinton talked up the book, the first of the Easy Rawlins series of detective novels, to a Wall Street Journal reporter saying that it was important “for all Americans” to see “the way it was from a black person’s view…in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.” Mosley soon became a literary star, noted for his portrayal of black protagonists in largely white worlds.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, Rambam) and Nachmanides (Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, Ramban), two medieval scholars whose works are quoted frequently even today. You may not, however, have heard of Gersonides.
One does not often associate preachers with Judaism. There are, however, certain distinct personalities in Jewish history who are known for their ability to inspire through their oratory.
Recently @JewishTweets mentioned, in passing, a website created specifically to give cheers or jeers to those who would or would not say “Merry Christmas.” Many of the jeers were given to local municipalities–once again raising the issue of separation of church and state.