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The Four Mitzvot of Purim
The Four Mitzvot of Purim

Purim is celebrated on Thursday, March 8th (beginning Wednesday evening, March 7th, after sunset). Four mitzvot are associated with the holiday:

Counting Shabbat
Counting Shabbat

“And the maiden [Esther] pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily provided her with her ointments, along with her appointed rations, and with the seven maids, which were designated to be given to her out of the king’s house…” (Esther 2:9).

The Sabbath of Remembering
The Sabbath of Remembering

This Shabbat is Shabbat Parashat Zachor, the Sabbath of Remembering.

Jewish Penicillin
Jewish Penicillin

There is an unusual statement in the Talmud (Berachot 44b) about the therapeutic value of particular foods: “Six things provide a permanent cure for illness: cabbage, beets, an extract of sisin, the stomach of an animal, the womb of an animal and the large lobe of the liver of an animal.”

Hester Panim
Hester Panim

One might think that the Book of Esther is a heroic tale about Mordechai and Esther saving the Jewish people through diplomatic skill, after all God is not mentioned once in the entire text. Looking deeper, however, one is struck by the overwhelming number of “coincidences” of the right people being in the right places at the right times. To follow one such line of “coincidences”:

Covered Eyes
Covered Eyes

It is customary that after the Shabbat candles are lit, both hands are waved towards the face (symbolically drawing in the light of the candles and the sanctity of Shabbat) and the eyes are covered. The blessing is recited with the eyes still covered. Why?

Taking Time Off
Taking Time Off

In the day-to-day hubbub of our 21st century world, we are wired and wireless. With free wi-fi at Starbucks we can transport our offices to the coffee shop and save on rental space. ($100 per month on coffee versus a few thousand dollars to rent office-space should be a no-brainer. How come it hasn’t caught on?) Through our cellphones and Blackberrys we are now available 24/7. Bluetooth wearers have one ear dedicated to their cellphone and the other to the rest of the world. Even on vacation, we are likely to be accessible. It seems like there is no break.

What’s in the Book – the Twelve Prophets – Nahum
What’s in the Book – the Twelve Prophets – Nahum

The prophet Nahum’s prophecy focuses on the fate of the great Assyrian city of Nineveh.

No Stumbling Blocks, Please
No Stumbling Blocks, Please

The prohibition “Do not put a stumbling block before the blind” (Leviticus 19:14) seems like an odd commandment. After all, who but a truly mischievous, mean-spirited prankster would put something in the way of the blind to cause them to trip and fall? Surely, common human decency requires that one not do this (and it certainly must be forbidden by the Americans with Disabilities Act).

Gluckel of Hamelin
Gluckel of Hamelin

Twenty years after Samuel Pepys stopped writing his famous diary of life in London, Gluckel of Hamelin (1646-1724), the widow of a Jewish gem and metal dealer in Hamburg, took up her pen. Her diary, written in Yiddish, was intended to be a chronicle of her life and a guide to proper living for her children. When it was formally published in 1892, based on heirloom copies, it was quickly recognized as a document of great value for its insights into Jewish-German life of that era. The fact that it was a literary work written by a woman is another extraordinary fact, considering its time.

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