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Sabbath & Holidays

Aharei Mot: When a Scapegoat is Not Enough
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 by Michael Carasik | Jewish Ideas Daily » Weekly Portions

This week's portion describes one of the most curious rituals found anywhere in the Bible, that of the "scapegoat." It would seem to be a reparative procedure, since the Lord commands it to Moses "after the death of Aaron's two sons": that is, Nadav and Avihu, who (as we learned earlier and are reminded here) were killed after bringing "strange fire" to the altar.
Freedom Tales Freedom Tales
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

An enslaved people, brutalized, voiceless except for groans and cries, comes into possession of a voice of their own: no wonder the tale itself sometimes seems to embody the whole meaning of the Exodus.
Telling Jewish Time Telling Jewish Time
Monday, April 11, 2011 by Allan Nadler | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The most acclaimed Jewish Bible commentary opens with a question. Why, asks Rashi (1040–1105), does the Torah begin with the account of creation, when it should properly have begun with God's revelation of His very first law to Moses on the eve of the Exodus from Egypt: "This month shall be for you the first of months"?
Sifting the Cairo Genizah Sifting the Cairo Genizah
Friday, April 1, 2011 by Lawrence Grossman | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Everyone knows about the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered over 60 years ago, and about the new light they shed on the sectarian Judaism of late antiquity, the beginnings of rabbinic Judaism, and possibly the prehistory of Christianity. Fifty years before that, the Cairo Genizah similarly revolutionized the picture of the Jewish Middle Ages.
Tazria: Purity is Only Skin-Deep
Wednesday, March 30, 2011 by David Hazony | Jewish Ideas Daily » Weekly Portions

At last, leprosy! Just when we've had our fill of tabernacle ornaments and animal sacrifices, the Torah shows us how arcane it's willing to get.
Three Blessings Three Blessings
Wednesday, March 23, 2011 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The Jewish prayer book (siddur) is thick with texts: blessings, thanksgivings, and petitions, instructions, theological claims, and historical memories. Some traditional texts bear especially outsized burdens. In this respect, few can rival three lines that begin "Blessed are you O God, King of the Universe, Who has not made me . . . " and conclude, respectively, "a goy [Gentile]," "a slave," and "a woman."
Tzav: Priests, Food, and God
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 by David Hazony | Jewish Ideas Daily » Weekly Portions

This week's reading, like last week's, delves into the details of the ritual sacrifices performed by the priests in the Tabernacle. These sacrifices can generally be divided into three types: olah, in which the sacrificed animal is burned entirely on the altar, reflecting a solemn commitment and deference to the divine; shlamim, which is mainly brought during personal celebrations and holidays, partly burned, and partly eaten by both the priests and the owner to express the joy of the occasion; and hatat, brought as an atonement for sin and partly burned and partly eaten by the priests but not by...
Manger’s M’gilah, and Ours Manger’s M’gilah, and Ours
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Part of the strangeness of the biblical book of Esther lies, oddly, in its very familiarity. It takes place in a world where God hardly figures, where prophecy is but a memory, where lust, vanity, and arrogance call the tunes, and where flat-out redemption is too much to hope for.
Purim Puzzles Purim Puzzles
Friday, March 11, 2011 by Lawrence Grossman | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Purim, Judaism's strangest holiday (which this year falls on March 20), is prescribed by what may be the strangest book in the Hebrew Bible, the scroll (m'gilah) of Esther. Two public readings of the book, one at night and the other in the morning, tell a story of Persian palace intrigue in the fifth century B.C.E., a recitation accompanied by the holiday's decidedly unspiritual noisemaking, tippling, and masquerade.
Vayikra: No “I” in Moses
Wednesday, March 9, 2011 by Moshe Sokolow | Jewish Ideas Daily » Weekly Portions

"God summoned Moses and He spoke with him from the Tent of Meeting, saying..." (Leviticus 1:1). The first Hebrew word of this week's portion, itself the first portion in the third book of the Torah, is VAYIKRa: "summoned." That's not a typographical error; the letter aleph at the end of the word is intentionally written in miniature in a Torah scroll (and usually in print as well). This is sufficiently unusual to raise the question: why?
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Editors' Picks
Happy Hungarian Hanukkah A.L.B., Economist. Budapest, the third largest Jewish community in mainland Europe—and hoping to grow—is celebrating the festival of lights as seldom before.
“In Those Days and at the Present Time” Moshe Benovitz, Schechter Institute. Why observance of Hanukkah fell into desuetude following the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.
Festival of Sites Howie Mischel, Ynet. One of the oldest synagogues ever found in Israel lies in what is thought to be the place where the Maccabee resistance began; but the site remains abandoned, unmarked, and unpreserved.
Why Dreidel? Why Gelt? Dan Rabinowitz, Seforim. What are the sources
Why Menorahs? Richard McBee, Jewish Press. From 40 B.C.E. to the Knesset, the long history of an artistic symbol.
A Megillah for Hanukkah? David Golinkin, Schechter Institute. The Scroll of Antiochus, relaying the military victories of the Maccabees, was read between the ninth and twentieth centuries; unlike the apocryphal Book of Maccabees, though, it is based on legend, not historical fact.
The Dreidel-Makers Ofer Aderet, Haaretz. China leads production of dreidels, and Japan has a flashy new metal entry in the field, but Israel's old-fashioned Vilplast factory
Half-Shabbos Elli Fischer, On the Contrary. Does "big-tent" Orthodoxy have a place for teens who send text messages on the Sabbath?
Keep the Sabbath, or Keep the Doors Open? Michael Klein, Philadelphia Inquirer. Should Philadelphia's new National Museum of American Jewish History remain open on Saturdays? An only-in-America debate.
Jews on Deck Barry Hertz, National Post. A new baseball documentary reminds us that before the era when public schools would shut down for Yom Kippur, there were Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax.