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.
Born to a Chassidic family in Romania, Solomon Schechter (1847-1915) grew up to be a great scholar whose work had a deep and profound impact on Jewish life. After following the traditional Jewish path of study, Schechter studied at universities in both Vienna and Berlin, before eventually taking an academic post in the Judaic Studies department of Cambridge University. Through his academic work, Schechter was introduced to the “Historical Judaism” movement, which asserts that Jewish law was not static, but rather has always developed in response to changing conditions.
In their natural habitats, every creature on earth helps create a balance that allows the environment to flourish. This biological fact is part of the mechanics of Planet Earth. But the animal world offers humankind another benefit, for animals can be powerful examples of behavior.
It is nearly time for Thanksgiving, and throughout the United States communities are putting up posters for holiday food drives.
Few rabbis have been honored with having a mountain named for them. But, tucked away in the Laurentian range of Quebec, Canada, stands Mont le Rabbi-Stern (Mount Rabbi Stern). This 2,250 foot (above sea level) topographical feature was named in 1985 in honor of Rabbi Joshua Stern (1897-1984), the late Rabbi Emeritus of Montreal’s Temple Emanu-El.