When an important decision needs to be made, people often consider the consequences of their decisions taking into consideration, of course, the near future and the long term goals. Once the decision is made, however, it is almost always impossible to know the long term implications of even the simplest of choices.
Ever feel nervous just before the start of a trip? Ever have sleepless nights before boarding an airplane? Perhaps these hesitations connect back to a time when travel, whether by road or sea, was particularly perilous. Today, traveling is so common that we often think nothing of it, even if there are modern dangers.
There is an old joke among those who are familiar with the Mussar Movement: A new student comes to a Novardok yeshiva and during the first mussar session begins to cry, “I am a nothing! I am a nobody!” An older student whispers to a friend, “He’s here for one day and already he thinks he’s a nobody!” It’s a strange joke until one learns more about the Novardok brand of mussar.
Guarding Shabbat is a Biblical commandment that requires a fair bit of knowledge to perform correctly. The act of guarding Shabbat requires that a person refrain from all creative works (known as melachot) throughout the day of rest. To make it easier for Jews to preserve the sanctity of Shabbat, the rabbis enacted numerous laws, creating protective fences to prevent one from breaking a Torah law. The best known of these “fences” is muktzeh, the Talmudic term for an item that serves no purpose on Shabbat, and thus many not be used or moved on Shabbat.
The mitzvah of hachnassat orchim is so important that it is listed as one of only six mitzvot for which “a person eats the fruit in this world, while the principal remains for that person in the world to come” (Shabbat 127a).
Self-improvement trends come and go, but their continuing popularity underscores people’s general desire to better themselves. It is natural to want to be both liked and respected, and no insult is greater to most people than to be considered a boor.
Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides, Rambam) was a 12th century Jewish philosopher, codifier, commentator and physician. He is best known for his codification of Jewish law (Mishneh Torah), his philosophical writings (Moreh Nevuchim/Guide for the Perplexed) and his Thirteen Principles of Faith.
“When Av enters, we must lessen our rejoicing,” declare the Talmudic sages in Ta’anit 26b.
In truth, however, this period of “sadness” begins on the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz (observed yesterday) and lasts exactly three weeks – until Tisha B’Av (the Ninth of Av), the day on which we mourn the destruction of both the First and Second Temples.
The history of the conversos, those Spanish and Portuguese Jews who hid their identities by publicly behaving as observant Catholics, is tragic not only for the horrible auto-de-fes (mass executions at which those convicted of heresy were burned at the stake), but also for the fear and instability with which these hidden Jews lived. Conversos who managed to leave Spain or Portugal, often had to flee the next country of residence in fear of the Inquisition that often followed recent Spanish conquests. The same story was played out in Europe, India, South America and even in colonial Georgia.
Mordecai Sheftall (1737-1797), the son of Benjamin and Perla Sheftall, emigrants from England, was born in Savannah, Georgia. A successful self-made merchant-come-landholder, Mordecai was active in colonial politics. His position on the Parochial Committee (and one-time chairman) made him easily identifiable as an independent minded rebel to any British official. When the hostilities between the British and the colonists eventually turned to war, Sheftall was appointed commissary-general and eventually the “Deputy Commissary of Issues in South Carolina and Georgia.” He was commissioned as a colonel, the highest ranking Jewish officer in America.