The last King of Israel, Hoshea, the son of Elah, did not send his annual tribute to Assyria and, instead, sent envoys to Shalmaneser, the king of Egypt, resulting in Sargon II of Assyria besieging the capital of Israel. Following Assyrian custom, the population of the conquered land was relocated to a different part of the empire. The Ten Tribes of Israel were exiled and lost.
The late 18th century was a time of great turmoil the world over. The founding of the United States was the first full expression of the desire for liberty and human rights that became an ever-stronger under-current around the world. And, while this popular movement exploded into the chaos of the French Revolution, different European rulers did implement reforms–often affecting the Jewish community.
The birth of a baby boy is exciting and, at the same time, nerve-racking. In addition to adjusting to the baby, dad and mom must prepare for the brit milah, the circumcision ceremony, that takes place, if all is well with the baby, eight days after birth. Once the doctor announces “It’s a boy!” the calling priority becomes grandparents/close family and the mohel (the circumciser), before someone else hires him.
From 1290 until the 1650s, Jews were not permitted to settle in England. However, marranos/anusim–Jews from Spain and Portugal who had converted to Christianity in name only in order to avoid death–were welcomed. Scholars have therefore speculated that William Shakespeare’s model for The Merchant of Venice’s Shylock was Dr. Roderigo Lopez, a marrano accused of the ultimate treachery…
That the Hebrew word “minyan” derives from the infinitive “lim’not,” to count or number, is not at all surprising. A minyan is a quorum of 10, the smallest number necessary to create a formal “congregation.” It is customary to have a minyan for certain life cycle events (such as a brit milah – circumcision).
The Second Book of Kings continues the history of a divided nation: the Kingdom of Israel in the north (10 tribes) and the Kingdom of Judea (Judah and Benjamin) in the south.
Did you know that it is a custom among some Jewish households to display their “prenuptial” agreements on the wall? It’s called a ketubah (marriage contract), presented by the husband to his spouse. The ketubah attests to his promise to support her–even if he dies or divorces her.
Pogroms, the most violent expression of anti-Semitism, are often fueled by the political events of the day. Such was the case of the Farhud, a violent pogrom that took place on June 1-2, 1941, in Baghdad.
When Judah, the fourth son of Leah and Jacob, was born, Leah said, “This time let me gratefully praise God” (based on the Hebrew infinitive, l’hodot, “to praise”).
Jews, called by many the “People of the Book,” have left a distinguished mark on the literary world. In the field of American literature, few Jewish authors have been as prolific, and successful, as Herman Wouk (b. May 27, 1915)–who released his latest book last month (The Language God Talks: On Science and Religion).