While reading the Book of Exodus, one might wonder at the swift descent of the Jewish nation from being the privileged family of the Viceroy, Joseph, to becoming downtrodden and abused slaves. Xenophobia, the fear of foreigners, is a common historical phenomenon. But, one would think that transforming a nation into slaves would take generations or result in rebellion.
On Passover night we are commanded “v’hee’ga’d’ta” and you shall tell, the story of the Exodus. (Notice the shared root of hee’ga’d’ta and Haggadah.) The Passover Haggadah serves as a step-by-step guidebook for telling the story of Passover.
Illuminated manuscripts inlaid with gold or silver leaf and spectacularly illustrated, are most often associated with the Medieval church (the Gospels, Psalters, etc), where texts were generally hand-copied until Western Europeans discovered the printing press.
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: