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Sabbath & Holidays

Of Calendars and Controversy Of Calendars and Controversy
Thursday, February 10, 2011 by Michael Carasik | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

It's the month of Adar, and in Jewish tradition, the beginning of Adar always means an "increase in joy."  After all, the festive holiday of Purim, on Adar 15, is just two weeks away—or would be in a normal year.
T’rumah: Wood in the Wilderness
Friday, February 4, 2011 by Moshe Sokolow | Jewish Ideas Daily » Weekly Portions

By Moshe Sokolow  This week's portion summons the Israelites to make free-will offerings (t'rumah) to the tabernacle (mishkan) being built in the desert. Rather than donating money, however, they are called upon to contribute goods that will be used in the construction of the edifice, in its furnishings, and in the manufacture of priestly vestments. Of the dozen or so specific materials requisitioned, one is outstanding in the perplexity it would induce in medieval commentators: acacia trees.
Cyrus, Ahmadinejad, and the Politics of Purim Cyrus, Ahmadinejad, and the Politics of Purim
Tuesday, February 1, 2011 by Alex Joffe | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Anyone who deplores the politicization of the past should have been apoplectic in September 2010 at the sight of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad receiving the loan of the "Cyrus Cylinder" from officials of the British Museum.
Mishpatim: Hebrew Slaves and their Masters
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 by Moshe Sokolow | Jewish Ideas Daily » Weekly Portions

"Should you purchase a Hebrew slave [eved ivri], he shall labor for six years and go free, gratis, in the seventh." This week's portion commences with a topic that is of poignant and almost eerie pertinence in this period of upheaval caused by economic straits, when many Jews have increasingly been compelled to depend on communal and philanthropic welfare. How does a Jew become a slave? And can another Jew become a slave master?
From New Year to Arbor  Day From New Year to Arbor Day
Wednesday, January 19, 2011 by Moshe Sokolow | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The holiday of Tu Bishvat ("the fifteenth of Shvat") falls this year on Thursday, January 20. What are its origins, and when and why did it become incorporated into the calendar as the Jewish "Arbor Day"?
Yitro: The Commandments and the Man
Wednesday, January 19, 2011 by David Hazony | Jewish Ideas Daily » Weekly Portions

There's something confounding about the way the Torah presents the delivery of the Ten Commandments in this week's reading. The revelation at Sinai, the centerpiece of God's message and perhaps the most influential single text ever given to mankind, appears against the backdrop of two poignantly human stories that consistently undercut the mythic stature of Moses.
B’shallah: Earning Eternal Enmity
Friday, January 14, 2011 by Moshe Sokolow | Jewish Ideas Daily » Weekly Portions

At the very end of this week's portion, the newly freed Israelites are attacked by Amalek. After the attack is rebuffed, and after Joshua, the Israelites' commanding officer, inflicts casualties on the aggressors, Moses declares (Exodus 17:16): "God will wage war against Amalek from generation to generation." Who were the Amalekites, and how did they earn God's eternal enmity?
Bo: The Point of the Exodus
Thursday, January 6, 2011 by David Hazony | Jewish Ideas Daily » Weekly Portions

Nothing God does in the Bible is as self-consciously over-the-top as the Exodus. This week's reading shares the most intense moment thus far in the lives of the already harried Israelite slaves.
Va’era: Rhyme and Reason in the Ten Plagues
Wednesday, December 29, 2010 by Moshe Sokolow | Jewish Ideas Daily » Weekly Portions

By Moshe Sokolow This week’s Torah portion features seven of the ten plagues that are to strike Pharaoh, the Egyptians, and the land of Egypt itself.  Their variety invites the question of whether they in general, and their sequence in particular, are random or reasoned.
Sh’mot: Six Women and Moses
Wednesday, December 22, 2010 by David Hazony | Jewish Ideas Daily » Weekly Portions

In a series of crucial moments in the Torah, the deepest instincts of salvation come to the fore and powerful, unthinking truths prove to be the path not only to righteousness but to redemption. These are moments that often appear to contradict ideas of universal right and wrong; in them, the affirmation of self obliterates fairness and equanimity, love trumps law, and saving your child or your future is the only right worth knowing. They involve the intervention of women.
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Editors' Picks
Not Your Grandfather's Sukkah Shari Saiman, Jewish Review of Books. From the Fall issue: an architectural competition produces a number of visually impressive entries better at capturing the sukkah's impermanence than its capacity to embrace and ennoble.
Why Joshua? Meir Soloveichik, Jewish Ideas Daily. For Simhat Torah, 5771: "And Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there." This one-line description of a death in the desert (Deuteronomy 34:5) succinctly summarizes the tragedy of a dream denied, the end of the life of a leader whose hopes of entering the Holy Land would never be fulfilled. It is a terribly sad verse—which happens to be read on one of Judaism's happiest days of the year, Simhat Torah: the day the annual reading of the Torah is completed. But at least the haftarah, the reading from the Prophets recited immediately following the Torah portion, appears to be on...
Jonah's Paradox, and Ours William Kristol, Weekly Standard. Ambassador Michael Oren delivered a powerful Yom Kippur homily (here reprinted) exhorting American Jews to respect Israel's terrible dilemmas and support its decisions.
Wonder Sukkahs Tamar Rotem, Haaretz. Religious artists in Israel have been inspired to decorate their sukkahs with matchstick architectural models, flashing lights, stuffed animal heads, and other intricate treasures.
Sukkahs Open to American Skies Grace Goldin, Commentary. From Tulsa and Iowa City to New York, a lyrical memoir of Jewish identity and observance. (1954, PDF)
Ode to Cholent Fred MacDowell, On the Main Line. The 19th-century German poet Heinrich Heine sings of the "food of heaven."
The Master of Species Yair Ettinger, Haaretz. In Jerusalem, an expert in both halakhah and botany pronounces judgment on purchases of the plants involved in the observance of Sukkot.
Yom Kippur at Sea Sam Kestenbaum, New York Times. A young Maine lobsterman takes time off on Yom Kippur to mend spiritual knots and refuel for the coming year.
Frail Home? Jonathan Wittenberg, The Eternal Journey. As a physical manifestation of the bonds of community and tradition, the sukkah is at once the weakest and the strongest thing that Jews build. (PDF.) 
Lay Lady Preacher Leah Berkenwald, Jewish Women’s Archive. Ray Frank, a self-described "stout opponent" of women's rights, became the first woman in memory to speak from a synagogue pulpit, delivering an 1890 Rosh Hashanah sermon.