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A Western Frontier
A Western Frontier

The pleasant temperatures of the short spring and summer of the fertile plains of the Canadian Midwest are a stark contrast to the winter, when temperatures can plummet to -40 degrees Fahrenheit and almost never rise above freezing. That the land is covered with snow for over half the year was probably not a daunting feature for the hundreds of Russian and Eastern European Jews who arrived there at the end of the 19th century.

Coming of Age
Coming of Age

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.

“Snakes, Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?”
“Snakes, Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?”

Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes. This is one of the most common phobias, and, in fact, it is so common and apparently instinctual that scientists have even taken to studying why this fear appears to be an almost natural part of human psychology.

It’s Not About The Status
It’s Not About The Status

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!”

Written For Their Sons
Written For Their Sons

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.

Opening England
Opening England

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.

Out Of The Narrows
Out Of The Narrows

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.”

Sustainable Living
Sustainable Living

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.

Well It’s Been A Long Day
Well It’s Been A Long Day

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.

Breaking The Glass
Breaking The Glass

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.

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