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It’s The Interpretation
It’s The Interpretation

From a distance, halacha, Jewish law, appears to be black and white. In reality, however, much of Jewish law is left to the subjective interpretation of experts. A person with a legal question (such as how to attend a business lunch in a non-kosher establishment) asks his/her rabbi who either paskens (renders a legal decision) or refers the question to someone of greater learning and authority.

Benjamin, The Son of Jacob
Benjamin, The Son of Jacob

The youngest of twelve brothers and one sister, Benjamin, the son of Jacob, appears in the Biblical narrative to be a passive personality whose life is seemingly dictated by the fate of those around him. His mother, Rachel, died while giving birth to him. Knowing that she would not survive, with her last breath she called him Ben-Onee, the son of my mourning. His father, however, called him Binyamin (Benjamin), which means son of my right hand.

Eight years younger than his charismatic brother Joseph, Benjamin was only nine when their father was informed that Joseph had been killed. The sole surviving son of Rachel, Benjamin took Joseph’s place as his father’s beloved child.

After their first trip to Egypt to buy grain because of the famine in Canaan, Jacob’s 10 eldest sons were afraid to return to Egypt for more food, since the Viceroy (really Joseph incognito) had commanded that they not appear before him again without their brother Benjamin. But when the grain ran out, and with great reluctance–only after Judah vowed to protect Benjamin–Jacob allowed his youngest to leave.

When the brothers arrived in Egypt with Benjamin, they were greeted with a feast at which “Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of them” (Genesis 43:34). Afterward, however, Joseph planted a cup in Benjamin’s sack and had Benjamin arrested for theft. Horrified, the brothers returned to Joseph, pleading Benjamin’s innocence. Judah even offered serve as a slave for life in Benjamin’s stead. Seeing the brothers’ strong commitment to protect Benjamin spurred Joseph to reveal himself.

Oddly, throughout all this action, nothing is actually heard from Benjamin himself. Benjamin is an enigmatic character. According to one Midrash, he knew all along that Joseph was alive but did not tell Jacob. Passive as he may seem, the Midrash reveals that Benjamin was one of the few completely righteous individuals to ever live.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

The Mother Bird
The Mother Bird

There are many mitzvot in the Torah for which there are no given explanations. These mitzvot are known as chukim. For instance, there is a prohibition against wearing wool and linen together in the same garment. Among these chukim is one known as shiluach ha’kayn, sending away the mother bird: If one comes upon a roosting mother bird, one must send the mother bird away before gathering the eggs or the young chicks.

The Jews of Brazil The Jews of Brazil

The Jewish community of 21st century Brazil is much like that of other South American Jewish communities. The Brazilian Jewish community is diverse, consisting of Ashkenazim and Sephardim, traditional and assimilated Jews, the wealthy and the poor. Jews are generally accepted within the larger Brazilian population.

Golda
Golda

Stories of the Zionist leaders of the early twentieth century usually begin: “He came from Poland (or Russia) and…” Golda Meir’s account, however, begins quite differently: She came from Milwaukee, Wisconsin (although she was born in Kiev).

Golda Malovitch Meyerson (1898-1978), who would, in 1956, change her name to Meir, began life in Palestine together with her husband, Morris, at Kibbutz Merchavya in 1921. Three years later, they left the Kibbutz and moved first to Tel Aviv and then to Jerusalem. Golda and Morris had two children, Menachem and Sarah.

With each move that they made, Golda was recognized for her natural leadership skills and fiery passion for the labor Zionist movement. In 1932, she returned to the United States for two years with her children (Morris remained in Palestine) to work as an emissary of the Hechalutz women’s organization.

Golda was appointed to head the Jewish Agency’s Political Department in 1946, after the British arrested the department’s senior leadership. Early in 1948, as politicians prepared for the end of the mandate, Golda returned to the U.S. to raise funds. She was expected to raise no more than $10 million, but she returned with $50 million. That May, Golda was one of 24 signatories on Israel’s Declaration of Independence and was brought into the government by David Ben-Gurion.

Ambassador (to the Soviet Union), Member of Knesset, Minister of Labor, Minister of Foreign Affairs…Golda Meir assumed the office of Prime Minister in 1969 upon the death of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol.

Golda’s time in office was tumultuous. She had to contend with constant fighting along the Suez (1969-1970), the murder of Israel’s athletes at the Munich Olympics (1972), and the Yom Kippur War (1973). Golda resigned and retired after that war. She passed away, at age 80, in 1978.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Workers’ Rights
Workers’ Rights

Are workers’ rights a modern invention born out of the trials and tribulations of the industrial revolution? Everyone’s heard of the horrors of the sweatshops, child labor abuses and other workplace issues that, sadly, sometimes still take place today.

Rav Kook
Rav Kook

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) was appointed as the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine in 1921. A few years later, he founded the World Central Yeshiva, now known as Merkaz HaRav, in Jerusalem. As a prominent communal leader during the British Mandate, Rav Kook excelled at creating relationships and alliances with the secular Zionists, the religious Zionists and the religious anti-Zionists (who opposed the formation of a secular state). With the exception of those who evinced outright disrespect for Torah, Rav Kook’s ability to relate to different approaches to Jewish life and his belief that the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel was the beginning of the final redemption, were at the heart of his success.

Leah’s Story
Leah’s Story

On the morning after Jacob was to marry Rachel, he woke to find that his new bride was actually Rachel’s older sister Leah. “‘Deceiver, daughter of a deceiver!’ he said to Leah…She said to him, ‘Is there a teacher without disciples? Did your father not address you as Esau, and did you not respond?’” (Genesis Rabbah 70:19).

Live from New York, It’s Saturday Night’s Jews! Live from New York, It’s Saturday Night’s Jews!

From the very start, Jews and Jewish humor figured prominently. “Saturday Night Live waved the wand and said ‘Let there be Jews,’ and there were Jews, on the network, on the show, openly discussing their lives in sketches, as writers and actors,” says Marilyn Suzanne Miller, one of the show’s original writers.

What’s in the Book: the Twelve Prophets – Amos
What’s in the Book: the Twelve Prophets – Amos

Amos was a herdsman of Tekoa, who prophesied during the reign of Kings Jeroboam II of Israel and Uzziah of Judea.

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