Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the legal compendium the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, relates the disturbing story of a man who became so emotional while reciting the third blessing of Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals), which asks God to restore Jerusalem (meaning the Holy Temple), that he stabbed himself in the gut with his own knife. The story is recorded as a way of explaining the custom of covering or removing all knives from the table before reciting Birkat Hamazon. Apparently this custom was common enough that it merited mention in the Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chaim 180:5).
Those familiar with synagogue ritual know that there is a weekly Torah reading cycle. In the Fall, there are the inspiring stories of creation and the history of the origins of the Jewish people (Genesis). With winter comes the enslavement, freedom, and the journey in the wilderness (Exodus). Winter thawing into spring brings the laws of the Temple (Leviticus), followed by additional Temple laws and more of the wilderness history (Numbers). Finally, as summer fades into fall, there is a summation of the entire history of Israel as seen through the eyes of our great leader Moses (Deuteronomy).
Much of Jewish life is built around community. Jews often live close to each other, often with a synagogue or synagogues at the center of their neighborhoods. As important as living in a community is, Judaism has always put a premium on maintaining individual privacy.
While Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak 1040-1105) is considered the premier commentator on the Torah and the Talmud, he is also noted as the grandfather of Rabbi Yaakov ben Meir (1100-1171). Also known as Rabbeinu Tam (our teacher, the complete*), Rabbi Yaakov ben Meir was one of the most important of the Talmudic scholars known as the Tosafists and a leader of his generation.
For 400 years prior to World War I, Palestine was controlled by the Ottoman Empire. Although the Turks generally allowed Jews to live in peace, by the late 19th century, the government of Palestine had grown inefficient and corrupt. And while they permitted the sale of land to Jews, these lands had been controlled by absentee landlords who had generally stripped their properties of their natural resources. Taxation was exorbitant. Local officials and Arab marauders often harassed Jewish settlers.
Historic references to David Salisbury Franks (c. 1740-1793) do not mention anti-Semitism. Franks had a far more serious cloud hanging over him–the unfortunate honor of serving as an Aide-de-Camp to General Benedict Arnold.
The first Jewish settlers in the area now known as Quebec (but which was referred to as “Lower Canada” by the British) arrived with the British soldiers during the “French and Indian War” (1754-1763). (Jews and other non-Catholics had not been permitted in New France.)
On June 30, 2008, the first Jewish Treat was posted to Jewishtreats.org. There were less than 50 people on the subscription list. Today, we are proud to say, over 2,500 people receive Jewish Treats in their inboxes every day, and hundreds more read Jewish Treats via links on Twitter and Facebook. The feedback that Jewish Treats has generated over the last three years is a source constant encouragement.
“Behind every great man…” So who were the women who gave their support to Moses and Aaron, the leaders of the Jewish people?
One of the most popular Psalms, number 135, praises God for killing mighty kings. It then lists Sichon, King of Amorites, and Og, King of Bashan. According to the Midrash, Sichon and Og were more than just belligerent kings, they were powerful giants. Little is said about Sichon other than that “Sichon and Og were the sons of Ahijah, the son of Shamhazai”(Niddah 61a). Og, however, is the subject of a great many legends.
According to tradition, Og survived the great flood by holding on to the Ark. Noah agreed to transport and feed him in return for the promise of Og’s service afterwards (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 23). Later, it is said, Og was the one who came to tell Abraham of Lot’s captivity (Genesis 11:13)–his motive, however, according to the Midrash, was not noble. He hoped that Abraham would be killed in war so that he might marry Sarah.
Midrash Rabbah Genesis 53:10 notes that the “great feast” that Abraham held in honor of Isaac’s weaning was actually “a feast for great people, Og and all the great men of the time were there….[Og said] ‘is he [Isaac] not puny? I can crush him by putting my finger on him.’ Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to him: ‘What do you mean by disparaging My gift! By your life, you will yet see countless thousands and myriads of his descendants, and your own fate will be to fall into their hands.’”
When the Israelite’s had to fight Og and his army (Numbers 21), Moses needed reassurance from God, which is explained thus in the Talmud:
He [Og] said: “How large is the camp of Israel? Three parsangs…” He went and uprooted a mountain of the size of three parsangs and carried it on his head [to throw onto the camp]. But the Holy One, blessed be He, sent ants that bored a hole in it, so that it sank around his neck….[Moses] then took an axe ten cubits long, leaped ten cubits into the air, and struck him on his ankle and killed him (Berachoht 54b).
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