Tonight, at sunset, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar begins. Known as the Fast of the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av), the observances of the day are very similar to Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. In addition to fasting (no food or drink) for a 25 hour period from sundown Monday to nightfall on Tuesday, additional restrictions include refraining from washing, using lotions, wearing leather shoes and marital relations.
This Shabbat is Shabbat Chazon, the Sabbath of the Vision (prophecy), named after the opening word of the Book of Isaiah, the first 27 verses of which are read as the haftarah on the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av (the Ninth of Av).
Today is “Twins Day.” Twins have long been a source of great fascination for many, as demonstrated by the vast number of studies and stories that have used twins as their subject. Twins, however, do not seem to be a subject that fascinates the Torah, but more of a parenthetical note when they occur. In fact, only two sets of Biblical twins are mentioned by name.
Death is part of life, and Jewish law provides guidelines both for dealing with death and for avoiding the spiritual diminution associated with death. When a person mourns another’s death, that person’s soul is deeply affected. During the 22 years that Jacob mourned the death of Joseph (who was not actually dead), it is said that he had no ruach hakodesh, Divine inspiration.
The assumption that every Jewish adult has had a Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration is presumptuous. The assumption that every Jewish adult (other than a convert) has become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is logical. After all, becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah means only that a man or woman has passed the age of 13 or 12 (respectively), and is therefore recognized as having reached the age of personal religious responsibility.
The months of the Jewish year are called in the Torah by number only (the first month, second month, etc.) Over time, during the exile, the months assumed the names given to them by host cultures and thus “Jewish” months as we know them today are actually Babylonian in origin. These names were so common, that 8 out of 12 are mentioned in the later books of the prophets.
Shabbat meals, like many aspects of Jewish life, are a beautiful synthesis of our physical and spiritual selves. Physically, we enjoy delightful feasts at which our most beautiful tableware is used and delicious foods are presented. Spiritually, we elevate ourselves through the sanctification of the day (Kiddush) and the divrei Torah (words of Torah) shared at the Shabbat table.
When rabbinic authorities make halachic (Jewish legal) rulings, they generally consult the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law), a compendium of halacha written in 1563 by Rabbi Joseph Caro. When Jews who are not scholars wish to learn practicalhalacha, they often go to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Abridged Code of Jewish Law), written by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried.
Few women are mentioned by name in the Torah, and those who are, are generally the major players (i.e. Sarah, Rachel, Miriam). Yet twice in the Torah, Mach’lah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah–the five daughters of Zelophchad–are listed. In Numbers 27, they approach Moses and ask to inherit their father’s property in the Promised Land, since he died without sons. Because of their request, the law was established that “If a man dies with no sons, then his inheritance goes to his daughter(s)” (Numbers 27:8).
Medical mystery thrillers–novels in which the mystery is often solved through autopsy–are very popular these days. But most autopsies do not set off thrilling adventures of sleuthing. They do, however, allow doctors to understand the many mysteries of the body and the fascinating world of diseases.