The Book of Ecclesiastes frequently repeats the theme of, “There is nothing new under the sun.” For King Solomon, the composer of Ecclesiastes, this focus was intended to inspire people to do good and to stop looking for new experiences. There is nothing new under the sun because God created the universe and nothing is new to Him.
Twenty-first century medical technology has a pill for nearly every illness and ache. Even those who prefer alternative medicines often purchase their cures in liquid or pill form. Most people today have no familiarity with the potential medicinal cures found in their local gardens.
Until recently, the repercussions of converting to Judaism meant more than just renouncing one’s previous religious beliefs. More often than not, a person who converted to Judaism also cut off ties with his/her family (and in many cases the family sought his/her arrest and punishment). Additionally, converts were often forced to forfeit any personal wealth that they might possess. This was a challenge for which the Torah was well prepared. Scripture, in Deuteronomy 10:18, states that God “loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.” Throughout the Torah, the Jewish people are reminded of the importance of being kind to converts (and widows and orphans). Throughout history, communities often took it upon themselves to help converts support themselves.
The case of Leo Frank is incredibly disturbing.
The Jewish view on healing is that while all healing is in God’s power, the Almighty works His will through human hands. This being the case, it is interesting to note the tone of rebuke in the case recorded in II Chronicles 16:12: “In the 39th year of his reign, Asa was diseased in his feet; his disease was exceeding great; yet in his disease he did not seek God, but [went] to the physicians.” Asa, the third monarch of the Kingdom of Judah, was a righteous king who waged war against idolatry. As a known righteous man, why did he not pray for healing?
Tu B’Av (The Fifteenth of Av) is no longer the well-known holiday on the Jewish calendar that it was in ancient times. In fact, in Talmudic times it was said: “There were no holidays so joyous for the Jewish People as the Fifteenth of Av…” (Ta’anit 26b).
Giving an appropriate gift to a host or hostess is the topic of many an etiquette column. But when one is invited to a Shabbat meal, not just any gift will do.
A land flowing with milk and honey–Eretz zavat chalav u’dvash–is one of the most famous descriptions of the Promised Land. While the rabbis expound that the milk is only that which flows from kosher animals (most prominently goats) and that honey refers not to the product of bees but to the sticky honey of figs and dates–it is a strange description. Has anyone ever seen a land literally flowing with either milk or honey?
Death is the great equalizer, and once people have passed away it is irrelevant how wealthy, popular or influential they were or were not. Jewish burial customs are particularly sensitive to this issue, as testified to by the burial custom of the modest shroud.
On Tisha B’Av, the ninth of Av, one of the ways that the Jewish people demonstrate their mourning over the loss of both Holy Temples is by refraining from Torah study that brings pleasure to those who study it. Therefore, it is considered appropriate to read only the more somber texts, specifically: 1) Talmudic sections dealing with the destruction of the Temples, and the laws of mourning and excommunication (such as those found in the Talmudic Tractate Moed Katan), 2) the Book of Job, 3) the admonitions and rebukes of the Book of Jeremiah, and 4) the Book of Lamentations.