The Book of Jonah is one of the best known stories in the Bible and is read on Yom Kippur because of its powerful message of repentance:
God instructs Jonah to go to the Assyrian city of Nineveh and warn them that Nineveh will be destroyed unless the people mend their ways.
There are many ways to thank God for saving your life. Many people donate extra tzedakah (charity) as a means of demonstrating their gratitude. In situations that were particularly harrowing, some people host a seudat ho’da’ah, a feast of gratitude. There is even a special prayer that is recited in synagogue for people who survive life-threatening events; it is known as birkat ha’gomel.
On the first six days of creation, God created (Day 1) the heavens and earth, light as separated from darkness; (Day 2) the firmament to separate the water (Day 3) dry land, a bringing together of the waters of the earth, plant life (Day 4) the sun and…
Born in 1859 in Vienna, Bertha Pappenheim was acutely aware of the advantages given to boys. She wished that she could receive the same education that her younger brother received. Instead, she spent her late teenage years at home doing needlepoint and waiting to be married. The waiting was cut short when she suffered a strange illness with symptoms such as paralysis of the extremities, disturbances of vision, hearing, and speech, and hallucinations. She was treated by Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud, who gave her “talk therapy” for what they termed to be hysteria.*
The concept of forgivable bankruptcy–declaring one’s self legally destitute and thereby being forgiven of one’s major debts, is a recent development in history. Until the mid-1800s (in the United States), those unable to repay their debts were sent to debtors’ prison.
For most European countries, the history of its Jewish presence begins some time in or before the Dark Ages and is accented by varying periods of exile or oppression. Since Jews were not legally permitted to settle in Finland until 1825, and even then, permission was limited to retired Cantonists (Jewish soldiers forcibly conscripted to the Russian Army for 25 years of service – Russia took Finland from Sweden in 1809), the history of Jewish life in Finland is therefore relatively recent.
The story of Jacob’s eleventh son is a tale of epic proportion. The firstborn of Rachel, Joseph was his father’s favorite child, and Jacob never hesitated to display his feelings of preference. Joseph is noted as having been an extremely handsome youth who was naive as to how his actions (and the favoritism of Jacob) affected his older brothers. Additionally, Joseph never hesitated to share with them his dreams, which his brothers interpreted as Joseph’s desire to rule over them.
Reward and punishment are complicated concepts. Suffice it to say that Divine intervention in the world is often through seemingly mundane acts. For instance, the Torah describes the death of the matriarch Rachel immediately following the difficult birth of her second son, Benjamin, but her death cannot be discussed without mentioning “the curse.”
The Talmud in Pesachim 54b lists the day of one’s death as the first of seven items that are hidden from humankind. As obvious a statement as this may seem, it is important to remember that, originally, humankind was not intended to die. Mortality was introduced only when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (which God warned them “for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die- Genesis 2:17), thus introducing death.
While we of the modern world scoff at the ancient alchemists who tried to turn lead into gold, many alchemical practices are at the root of today’s scientific experiments. Ironically, the fate and condition of alchemists in ancient and medieval society was often similar to that of the Jews–at the whim of the city rulers.