In many, if not most, Jewish parables, the righteous and scholarly are often presented as living in a state of poverty. Indeed, it might often seem as if poverty is an attribute of righteousness. As Tevye the Milkman (Fiddler on the Roof) says: “It’s no shame to be poor… but it’s no great honor either!”
Imagine traveling forward 500 years in time and discovering multitudes of people studying something you had written for your child. Imagine walking into a bookstore and finding multiple editions of that work, many of them with commentaries. In the world of Jewish scholarship, there are two such works that have gained this status.
Menashe ben Israel (Manoel Dias Soeiro, 1604 -1657), whose family fled Portugal after the Lisbon auto-de-fe of 1603, was raised in Amsterdam where he received a full Jewish education and was recognized for his great abilities early in his life. (He accepted a rabbinic post before he was 20.) In addition to his rabbinic duties, Menashe ben Israel established the first Hebrew press in Amsterdam, which served the needs of a community that continued to grow as more conversos sought to escape the Inquisition.
The fourth of the Ten Commandments is the observance of Shabbat. In Exodus, the Jews are commanded: “Remember (zachor) the Sabbath day” because “in six days God created the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day He rested.” In Deuteronomy, on the other hand, Jews are instructed to “Guard (shamor) the Sabbath day” because “you were a slave in Egypt, and God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.”
In Rio this week, politicians and activists from around the world are meeting at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The Torah has always been concerned with the environment and with the care of the physical world. And while Jewish society was mostly agrarian at the time, Jewish law also set certain standards to make crowded (urban) living more comfortable and healthy. Take, for instance, the Torah’s regulations on waste.
Today is the longest day of the year – the summer solstice. Technically, the summer solstice is an astronomical event that occurs when the sun reaches its most northern point in the sky.
No respectable film-maker would record a Jewish wedding scene without including the dramatic moment of the breaking of the glass, followed by the joyous shouts of “Mazal Tov!” A moment of juxtaposition from sadness to joy, the breaking of the glass is most often explained as a means of remembering the destruction of the Temple.
On June 18, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte suffered his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. While it was the end of an era, it was an era that had already changed the entire course of history.
In honor of Father’s Day, Jewish Treats presents this classic Treat on the importance of a father.
The Book of Zephaniah dates from the reign of King Josiah of Judah. Zephaniah’s opening prophecy is dark and violent, describing God’s plans for the complete and total destruction of the Kingdom of Judah-condemning those who turned to idolatry and disparaging those who worship wealth. At the same time, Zephaniah made clear that all people would be punished, rich and poor, for the entire nation had been corrupted.