BY MJL STAFF
Questions and answers about the circumcision ceremony for Jewish baby boys.
What is a brit milah, and what are the reasons for it?
A brit milah, also known as a bris, is the Jewish ceremony in which a baby boy is circumcised. Circumcision dates back to the Book of Genesis, when God commands Abraham to circumcise himself and his offspring as a sign of the covenant between Jews and God. Throughout history, rabbis and thinkers have offered additional arguments in favor of circumcision, and many modern Jews see it as an important tradition that connects the generations.
When does a brit milah occur?
BY TEMIM FRUCHTER for Jewniverse
You might not know it, but you have a philtrum and everyone who looks at you can see it. The philtrum—that groove we all have above our upper lips—may not be a commonly-referenced body part, but in Jewish mystical tradition, it’s quite significant. And it’s said to be the result of a tap from Lailah, the angel of conception, administered the moment a baby is born.
BY RABBI PERETZ RODMAN for myjewishlearning.com
The Book of Psalms (Tehillim)
These 150 poems feature prominently in Jewish liturgy and are among the Bible's most widely read verses.
“The LORD is my shepherd” “Out of the mouths of babes ….” “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, as we remembered Zion.”
Some of the most widely recognized phrases and sentences from the Bible come to us from the Book of Psalms, referred to in Hebrew as Tehillim. (The above are Psalm 23:1, Psalm 8:2 and Psalm 137:1 as translated in the King James Version.) And it’s no wonder. While the Torah presents itself as the divine word imparted to the people Israel, the 150 poems in the Book of Psalms represent a range of human voices: the sounds of lament and of thanksgiving to God, individuals extolling God’s beneficence or imploring God to bring rescue and redemption.
BY MJL STAFF
Tisha B'Av (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av) begins at sunset on Monday, July 31, and continues until the evening of August 1.
What is Tisha B’Av?
Tisha B’Av is the major day of communal mourning. First and foremost Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of both the first and second temples in Jerusalem (586 B.C.E, and 70 C.E respectively), but many other travesties have occured on the same date.
How is Tisha B’Av observed?
On Tisha B’Av Eicha (the book of Lamentations) is read with a unique nusah, a special melody.
As a sign of mourning it is customary to fast, refrain from bathing, wearing leather shoes, and having sexual relations.
To read more about Tisha B’Av rituals and practices click here.
BY MATTHUE ROTH for myjewishlearning.com
The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem is commemorated with a period of mourning.
The three-week period in summer that begins with the fast of the 17th of Tammuz and climaxes with Tisha B’Av is known simply as “The Three Weeks.” It is a time of grieving for the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. This mourning period was first mentioned in the biblical Book of Zechariah in the Prophets — and, since then, it has been observed as a period of sadness.
The Multiple Tragedies
The 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz is a date in which many tragedies and pitfalls happened, according to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:6). It is traditionally believed to be the date that Moses broke the original Ten Commandments tablets after coming upon the Israelites as they worshiped the Golden Calf.
BY MJL STAFF
A minor fast day with major history.
The 17th of the month of Tammuz is observed as a minor fast day, with eating and drinking forbidden from dawn until sundown. Like Tisha B’Av, which comes just three weeks later, the 17th of Tammuz (often called by its Hebrew name, Shiva Asar b’Tammuz) is said to commemorate not to just one calamitous event in Jewish history, but several tragedies of the Jewish people.
From The Jewish News of Northern California
July 4th is almost upon us. Israel is celebrating its 69th year of existence.
All American Jews and Americans, should recognize this shining moment of historical success of our mutually beneficial survival. The world is convulsing with terrorist warfare, lives are shattered, blood and tears fill so many streets … and yet in the quiet corners of our minds, we should be so thankful that our brave fathers and mothers struggled to land on these blessed shores for as long as this nation has existed.
Jewish history and world history (our Western civilization) have enjoyed such an interesting dancing partnership together! There were times we refused to accept the dance with our partner, and there were more times when we were rejected for the dance. But this is the strange path of Jewish growing-up in the Western world.
BY MJL STAFF
And what does chosenness mean anyway?
The idea that the Jews are the “chosen people” and have a special relationship with God is ubiquitous in Jewish sources. However, the nature of this relationship is not without complication and ambiguity.
Origins of the Chosen Concept
The notion of Jews being chosen has its root in several biblical verses. One of the most prominent, Deuteronomy 7:6, says, “For you are a people consecrated to Adonai your God: of all the peoples on earth Adonai your God chose you to be God’s treasured people.” The next two verses provide the reason for this choice. God did not choose the Israelites because of their numbers; rather, God chose the Israelites and freed them from slavery because God loved them and because God had made promises to their ancestors, the biblical patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
BY MJL STAFF
What is niddah, or taharat ha mishpacha, and who observes it?
For thousands of years, Jewish couples have observed the laws of niddah (literally, separation) to sanctify their sexual relationship.
Traditionally, a married couple refrains from intimacy during a woman’s menstrual period and for seven days afterward. Immersion in the mikveh , a Jewish ritual bath, marks the point at which the couple may reunite physically.
BY MJL STAFF
Great traditional Jewish jokes.
From Groucho Marx to the Borscht Belt to Sarah Silverman, many of America’s best-known comedians have been Jewish. And so important is humor to Jewish culture that a landmark study on American Jewish identity in 2013 found that 42 percent of American Jews consider “having a good sense of humor” to be “an essential part of what being Jewish means.” (In contrast, only 19 percent said observing Jewish law was essential.)
But Jewish humor can be difficult to define. As William Novak and Moshe Waldoks write in “The Big Book of Jewish Humor,” it is easier to describe Jewish humor in terms of what it is not, than what it is.
It is not, for example, escapist. It is not slapstick. It is not physical. It is generally not cruel and does not attack the weak or the infirm. At the same time, it is also not polite or gentle.
By Abigail Klein Leichman for Israel21c
From the Jerusalem Festival to the Maccabiah Games, the summer of 2017 in Israel is chockful of activities and festivals for all ages and interests.
Opera, jazz, puppetry, sports, crafts, books, avant-garde theater: All that and much more is planned as spring slides into summer in Israel. If you’re planning a visit between June and August, consider putting some of these 17 events on your itinerary. Always confirm dates ahead of time in case of changes.
Jane Eisner for The Forward
Sheryl Sandberg may be the most famous widow in America right now. Before her husband, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly two years ago, she was already famous as the second-in-command of Facebook, the best-selling author of “Lean In” and a globe-trotting speaker and influencer — who did all this while raising two children in an equitable and loving marriage. (Extreme wealth, prestige and privilege helped.)
Goldberg’s sudden death at age 47 on May 1, 2015, made Sandberg seem mortal. Grief nearly crushed her, and she wasn’t afraid to say that out loud. But because she is Sheryl Sandberg — brainy, driven and connected — she didn’t stop there and called upon the top grief experts to analyze what was happening to her and her children, and to guide their recovery.
From Coffee Shop Rabbi
Shavuot [sha-voo-OHT or sh-VOO-us] is coming. Even though it is a major Jewish holiday, only the more observant Jews will even be aware of it.
That’s a shame. It’s a beautiful holiday – and in real ways, it is the completion of the journey we began at the Passover seder. The trouble is that unlike Passover, it didn’t see as successful a transition to the new realities Jews faced after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.
HISTORY Shavuot combines two ancient observances: a festival for the first grain harvest of the summer and the chag, or pilgrimage holiday, celebrated in Temple times. All Jews who were able traveled to Jerusalem to observe the sacrifices and bring the first fruits of their harvests, remembering and celebrating our acceptance of the covenant at Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments. The drama and pageantry of the holiday made Shavuot a major event in the Jewish year.
Memorial Day for Ethiopian Jews who Perished on their Way to Israel
The 28th of Iyar is marked by the Israeli Ethiopian community as the memorial day for those who perished on their way to Israel.
A mass immigration of Ethiopian Jews ("Beta Israel") took place in the years 1980 – 1984, from their villages in the area of Gundar and through Sudan. Many of them, who dreamt for many years of making Aliyah to Israel, managed to flee Ethiopia and arrive at the Ethiopian-Sudanese border, where they waited in provisional camps to make Aliyah. The passage through Sudan was made possible by an unspoken agreement, only known to a few senior officials in Sudan. Agents of the Mossad awaited the immigrants at the Sudanese border and instructed them to hide their Jewish identity.
Jerusalem Day - A Historical Introduction
Jerusalem was divided during the War of Independence and nineteen years later was reunited as a result of the 6-Day War.
The battle of Jerusalem began on the morning of June 5, 1967 when the Jordanians opened fire along the entire cease-fire line. By that afternoon the Jordanians occupied the Governor's Palace.
The Central Command of the Israeli Army, under the command of General Uzi Narkiss, moved the "Har'el" brigade to the Jerusalem front. This force tore through the enemy positions of "Har Adar" and "Abdul Aziz" and conquered "Nebi Samuel".
Questions and answers about traditions for the seven-day Jewish mourning period.
What is shiva?
Shiva is a period of mourning that generally lasts seven days, starting when the mourners return home from the funeral. During shiva, a mourner traditionally stays at home or at the home of the deceased or the deceased’s other mourners, wears torn clothing or a torn black ribbon pinned to one’s clothes (a practice known as kriah) and doesn’t go to work or school. More details about kriah and other mourning practices can be found here.
A Non-Animal Sacrifice
Most people know that in the Holy Temple we brought animal sacrifices. What many people do not know is that many of the sacrifices were not from animals at all! A great many of them were from agricultural produce. The Omer Sacrifice was one such offering.
The Omer Sacrifice was brought not from animals, but from barley.
The Torah commands us to bring, on the second day of Passover, the Omer Offering. Let us first discuss some of the meanings behind the Commandment, and then, Gop willing, we will discuss how it was actually done.
The Meaning of the Omer
Since the establishment of the State of Israel, four new holidays have been added to the Jewish calendar - Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day), and Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). In Israel, these holidays are observed as national holidays.
The Israeli Knesset established the day before Yom HaAtzmaut as Yom HaZikaron, a Memorial Day for soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the War of Independence and in other subsequent battles.
Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, marks the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. It is observed on or near the 5th of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in April, sometimes May.
Read more about the history, customs, an Israeli perspective and how to make this holiday a sacred day.