Most people can understand the layout and basic measurements of a building from its blueprint. But it takes an expert–an architect or an engineer–to use those blueprints to build a house.
Horoscopes are fun to read, especially when they tell you that you are about to get rich or find sudden fame. While telling the future through one’s horoscope is not part of Judaism, this does not mean that all aspects of astrology are false.
It is highly unlikely that Moses, Hillel even Maimonides (all experts on Jewish law) ever worried about what to write on a child’s birthday cake. But different societies have different norms, and, today, a birthday cake with a delightfully sugary “Happy Birthday” is standard for any birthday celebration.
Virtually all topics concerning life are covered in the vast and varied discourses of the Talmud. Life, afterlife, and even pre-life. In Talmud Niddah (30b), the sages discuss the experiences of a baby as it passes from life in the womb to life out of the womb:
“It [the fetus] is also taught all the Torah from beginning to end, for it is said, ‘And He taught me, and said to me: Let your heart hold fast My words, keep My commandments and live,’ (Proverbs 4:4) … As soon as it sees the light, an angel approaches, slaps it on its mouth and causes it to forget all the Torah completely, as it is said, ‘Sin crouches at the door’(Genesis 4:7)…”
While a child is still in the uterus, according to the Midrash, an angel teaches it all of the Torah. When the child passes into the world, the angel touches the child just above the lips, creating the vertical groove between the upper lip and the nose (philtrum), and the child forgets everything he/she had known.
Great, so once we knew everything, but now we don’t. What’s the point?
In this way, when a person is confronted with emet, with truth, emanating from the Torah, he/she will be more likely to recognize it and be drawn to it. An example: the mitzvah not to steal. Your average person will feel that this is just an obvious law. But it is obvious only because it is something that was learned years before in that “mysterious” time just before we entered the world.
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You and your groom got through the ceremony. The glass is broken. You spent time alone. The guests are enjoying cocktails. It’s time for your grand entrance. You’ll probably show off your first dance. And most likely, right after, you and all of your closest family and friends will gallop onto the dance floor and the Jewish instinct kicks in “Fiddler on the Roof”-style: you and your wedding guests grapevine your way into a festive hora dance.
The Talmud in Bava Metzia (102a) states: “Our Rabbis taught: If one rents a house to his neighbor, the tenant must provide a mezuzah. But when the tenant leaves the house, the tenant must not take the mezuzah, unless it was leased from a non-Jew, in which case, the mezuzah should be removed when the tenant leaves.”
Giving charity is one of the best known precepts of “religious” life. Making loans, however, is not. The Torah instructs (Deuteronomy 15:7-8) that if there is a needy person within your gates, “…you shall surely open your hands to him and shall surely lend (v’ha’a’vayt ta’a’vee’tenu–literally “lend, you shall lend him”) him sufficient for his need in that which he wants.”
This day in history: 501 C.E., the coastal city of Acco (Israel) was destroyed in an earthquake.
One of the blessings recited every morning is: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who spreads the earth above the waters.” This blessing expresses our gratitude to God for making the ground beneath our feet firm.
There are certain defining moments in every new relationship; the first time you spend the night, hang out with his/her friends or get introduced to a new partner’s parents are just some of those milestones. Perhaps the biggest turning point is when a new beau suggests a vacation, trip or weekend away, just the two of you.
“Making early Shabbat,” means beginning Shabbat well before sunset. This is an especially important accommodation for residents of cities where the summer sun may not set until 9 or 10 at night. (In Trondheim, Norway, where there is a small Jewish community, the sunset may be as late as 11:20 pm!) By bringing in Shabbat early, the meal that is eaten after synagogue services can be enjoyed at a more normal hour. Also, small children can participate.