When most people think of natural light, they think of the sun. Strangely enough, the sun (along with the moon and stars) was not created until the fourth day. So what was the “light” that God placed in the world on the first day?
In addition to the unique prayer services of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the High Holidays are known for one other service: selichot. A collection of religious poems and verses, selichot are penitential prayers that help one focus on the mood of the season.
While one of the founding principles of the United States of America is freedom of religion, any historian would agree that in the early days this was often more principle than practice. Mordecai Manuel Noah, a lawyer, politician, journalist, diplomat and playwright (and a few other things) who was born shortly before the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, firmly believed that his government would uphold this principle.
“The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge…” (Proverbs 1:7)
The idea of “fearing God” carries with it overtones of fire and brimstone, a puritanical flavor that seems foreign to our 21st century mentality. With humanity (especially Western society) feeling secure in its understanding of the universe, most people no longer fear the so-called “wrath of God.”
September looms and children all over have either just begun school or will be starting shortly. Judaism has always been a culture focused on learning. The Torah commands parents to teach their children, but since many parents are not capable of fulfilling the role of teacher, schools have become a necessity. Baba Batra 21a discuss extensively our Sages’ views on education.
To the Jewish community and general population at large, the Maharal of Prague is the revered, mystical medieval rabbi who created the Golem to protect the Jews in the Prague ghetto. But the Maharal’s true contribution to Jewish life has little to do with the legend of the Golem.
“Children of Israel,” an often used title for the Jewish people, is a name defined by the familial relationship of the descendants of Abraham and Sarah. This familial relationship (which even DNA studies have confirmed) plays a strong role in both Jewish identity and Jewish life in general. For instance, one of the common forms of addressing God in Jewish prayer is “Eh’loh’haynu vay’lo’hay avotaynu,” our God and God of our ancestors.
The story of the Golem of Prague is one of the best-known, fantastic and romantic Eastern European tales. It has been retold in both prose and play-form and is perpetuated in the oral tradition that one generation passes to the next.
The standard pre-Rosh Hashana greeting of “K’tiva v’chatima tova” (“May you be written and sealed for good”) is deduced from a Talmudic discussion concerning the three heavenly books that are opened during the High Holidays.
The Hebrew word yichud translates seclusion in English. Traditionally, unmarried men and women should never be secluded together, so, in theory, the wedding day is the first time this ever happens between the bride and groom. This law came about after the rape of King David’s daughter when she was left alone with her half brother. It was then that David and his high court extended this prohibition to all unmarried girls. Typically, the laws of yichud are followed by Orthodox Jews, but all Jews may interpret the laws to fit their ceremony or beliefs.