In the early 1950s, the cold war brought to the limelight what appeared to be the vilest case of national espionage. At the center of this whirlwind was a middle-age Jewish couple, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.
Judith, the wife of Rabbi Chiya, having suffered in consequence [of pregnancy] agonizing pains of childbirth, changed her clothes [in disguise, in order to get an unbiased answer] and appeared before [her husband] Rabbi Chiya. ‘Is a woman,’ she asked, ‘commanded to propagate the race [fulfill the mitzvah of ‘Be fruitful and multiply’]?’–‘No’, he replied. Relying on this decision, she drank a sterilizing potion (Yevamot 65b).
The Suffragist Movement of the early twentieth century was a political cause about which many people felt strongly, either one way or the other. Maud Nathan and her sister Annie Nathan Meyer are excellent examples of this divide. Both exemplary women and activists, Maud was a leading suffragette, while Annie was known as an outspoken opponent.
The intensive physical and emotional preparations for Passover come from one seemingly simple commandment: “Seven days you will eat only matzah, but on the first day you shall have put away chametz from your houses…” (Exodus 12:15). Therefore, by the beginning of the holiday of Passover, no chametz whatsoever may be in one’s possession.
This Shabbat is Shabbat Parashat HaChodesh, the Sabbath of “The Month.”
Among the discussions of the many details of Jewish life recorded in the Mishna, the first written compilation of the oral law, is the following: “If a Jewish laborer is hired by a heathen to work with wine for [idolatrous] libation, the wages are prohibited…” (Avodah Zarah 5:1).
Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty King of Babylon, reigned for forty years. He was so commanding a figure that, according to the Midrash, his own son, Evil-Merodach, was afraid to assume his father’s throne:
Raise your hand if you attended Hebrew school, whether after school or on Sunday mornings. Did you know that you have a Jewish Pennsylvania native, Rebecca Gratz (1781-1869) to thank for that education.
Of all the unfounded accusations leveled at the Jewish people by anti-Semites throughout the ages, the most ludicrous is that of Jews murdering non-Jewish children in order to drink their blood or bake matzot with the blood (blood-libel). Anyone with even a modest knowledge of Judaism would be familiar with the Torah’s prohibition against consuming blood. In fact, this prohibition is included in a caveat to the initial permission to eat meat that God gave to humankind in the days of Noah: “Every moving thing that lives will be food for you; just as I have given you the green herb. Only flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, you shall not eat” (Genesis 9:3-4).
Every year, on the first or second Shabbat following Purim, a special reading from Numbers 19, is added to the regular Shabbat Torah reading. Known as Parashat Parah, the Torah reading concerns the special purification ceremony of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) one of the most intricate and mysterious laws found in the Torah.