Table of Contents
Tekhelet -- Found! Hevenu Shalom Alechem
The Origins of Rosh Ha'Shannah?  Israel is rogue
Oldest known Hebrew text Photos from Amalek
Make up in ancient times Ancient pagan vessels
The night of the Partition Vote The Bad Arolsen archives
40 Yiddish words you should know Support you local Prophet
Are You There God? Jews Submit Resignation
Diving Into the Gene Pool Jewish DNA and the Ashkenazi "Eve"
Wyatt Earp's Jewish Connection Survivor's view of radical Islam
Adon Olam (Happy) Aleph-bet = Magen David
Jewish Pirates of the Carribean The Jews of Zakynoths
Universalism and Nationalism Announcing the Sky
The Jews of Alaska The Torah in Our Church
We Jews Hilter's Children
A Pilgrammage to Belarus Jerusalem from the sky
The Etymology of "daven" Orin Hatch's Hannukah song
Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust The Jew from Kuwait
Shakespeare was Jewish (and female) Tekhelet (the blue for tzitzit)
Spain wants us back Berlin Synogogue
It Seems Impossible Calendars
The Myth of Linkage What is "Bar Mitzvah?"
Tekhelet at Qumran On-line Chumash
Torah on USS Harry S Truman "Who Knew?" -- Fact and Fiction
Masada is also a rifle Yom ha'Shoa observance
Louis Armstrong and Danny Kaye Chanukah at Nuremberg
Germany Today The Dachau Death March
The Wedding Dress that Made History Kirk Douglas interview in The Forward 
Risk Aversion in the Talmud The Tallit
How to blow the Shofar Adom Olam x 40
A Parable The Leica Freedom Train
The Origin of Spock's Greeting Moscow's Yiddish Musical Theater
The Jewish Mystique The Irony of Masada
The Borsht Belt Shma -- R. Yosef Kahaneman
The Art in Torah The Big Lie: Moslems and Jerusalem
Kosher Gas Station Perceptions
Jennifer Grey does Kletzmer IDF Marching Band in Red Square
Israel's security needs Facebook and Genesis
Jewish Berlin Three Cantors
Adon Olam Prince Charles' address to Board of Deputies of British Jews
Talmud in Korea The Bad Kissingen Parochet
Tibor Rubin Black Light theater Pesach Silhouettes
Tzniyut - Modesty Taxes in Ancient Israel
Hava Nagilla Fly Like A Jailbird
Rescue at Entebbe Hagbah
Did Israel's God have a consort? The Uganda Project
Making sense of kosher laws How to Recognize a Marrano
Aaron Modern Israeli Priest

Notes from a modern Israel priest

Steve, the Israeli online press is full of reader feedback which I enjoy reading. This person provided a link to his private website
where expounds on his credentials as a
bona fide Cohen (from Casablanca, Morocco!), and on his religious philosophy.

I thought that would be of interest to you, so I’m pasting a section from this website, and providing you with a line-by-line translation.

Are we witnessing the emergence of a jewish Martin Luther? 


The Rise and Fall of the Borsht Belt

Sunday Morning 17 Feb 2013

They want us back!

A law pending in Spain would grant citizenship to Jews of Spanish decent.

Aaron In The Bible

"I have a problem with Aaron" writes Elie Wiesel. He's right, there is a problem.

How to recognize a secret Spanish Jew

Just by his accent....

Making Sense of Kosher Laws

It is well known that the dietary laws are truly ancient. They precede the sojourn in Egypt and, therefore, the institution of Mosaic law. Kaufman (The Religion of Ancient Israel) demonstrated, solely from the texts, that the dietary laws go back as far as the patriarchs.

Archaeological evidence demonstrates that the very first Israelite settlements in Judea/Samaria (14th century - predating the traditional, Rabbinic, date of the exodus in the 13th century) are completely devoid of pig bones. Pork was a staple of the Canaanite diet but the proto-Israelites did not indulge....

Did the dietary laws serve a social purpose, barring Israelites from eating with, and therefore interacting with, non-Israelite Canaanites?

Did Israel's God have a consort?

Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) examines " the archaeological evidence for ancient Israelite religion, especially ritual objects associated with the worship of the Israelite god Yahweh. As we'll see, some Israelites believed that Yahweh had a female consort, Asherah, while many sought the aid of Yahweh through idolatrous figurines, cult stands and standing stones."

We are taught that Israel has -- at least since Moses -- been strictly monotheistic and free of icons and statuary. Yehezkel Kaufman argued this strongly, in opposition to the post-Wellhausen movement. But there is just too much contradictory evidence, evidence that strictly monotheistic religion is an evolutionary development, ably assisted by the Assyrian and Babylonian invastions.

Ephraim Stern Pagan Yahwism: The Folk Religion of Ancient Israel

Sites the archaeological evidence found in Judah from the Assyrian and Babylonian periods (721-586 BCE), noting that there are many temples. These temples operated through 6-7 century (Hezekiah and Josiah's reforms) and share basic layout with Jerusalem temple. Stern thinks the Jerusalem priesthood may have been strictly monotheistic but many in the general population were not.

For example, "At the cult site of Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, in the Sinai, inscriptions were found that mention 'Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah' and “Yahweh of Teman” and his Asherah."

Judahite sites are replete with images and figurines. Most of these figurines are female. And " (405 out of 822, to be exact) were found in Jerusalem."

William Dever A Temple Built for Two: Did Yahweh Share a Throne with His Consort Asherah?

Dever, one of the preeminent scholars of the 20th century states: "A long, sometimes bitter debate has been going on in BAR as to whether Yahweh, the God of ancient Israel, had a consort. One of America’s most prominent Biblical archaeologists, William G. Dever, says that in popular religion he sometimes did. Others question Dever’s evidence, even doubting his concept of 'popular religion.'"

Dever cites the Bible's own extensive discussions of pagan practices particularly Asherah cults.

J. Glen Taylor Was Yahweh Worshiped as the Sun?

Taylor argues that this quasi-pagan stage presages the direction Israel will take: "I believe that many of these same Israelites considered the sun a symbol or icon of Israel’s God, Yahweh. Yet early Israel was far more developed than we might guess from this; the same evidence that points to Yahweh as having a consort (or wife) and being symbolized by the sun, also points to an understanding of Yahweh as an abstract, non-anthropomorphic deity."

Hagbah (From Rich Newman)

From the Wall Street Journal: ceremonial lifting of a Torah Scroll

The Uganda Project (Jeffrey Parker)

Video compilation of the delivery of a sefer Torah to the Jewish community in the Putti village of Uganda

Rescue at Entebbe (Jeffery Parker)

    An interview with the Chief Pilot of the Operation.

Fly Like a Jailbird

Among all the penalties in the Bible, incarceration is not to be found. Why is that?

Why bad things in your life can be for the good.

Hava Nagillah (received via Mort Homer)

What is it?  How did it go from a wordless Chassidic melody to one of the best known songs in the world?

Hava Nagillah, What is it?

How Ancient Taxes Were Collected Under King Manasseh

Taxes, hardly new on the world scene. Here's how Manasseh did it.

Tzniyut -- Modesty

In one of the local kosher markets, I often see women, not all of them young, clearly frum, wearing clothing that leave little to the imagination.

Yes, their skirts are full length and their sweaters or blouses are long shelved and high-necked. But they are so tight ... well, you get the picture.

I see modern orthodox men in jeans similarly tight and with multiple shirt buttons open.

Apparently I am not alone in wondering about this. Rabbi Jack Abramowitz presents us with two thought provoking articles:

Dressed to Thrill -- Why do we let them dress like that?

The Jewish concept of modesty applies to men as much as it does to women (reprinted from Middle East Magazine)

USMHH National Days of Remembrance, 11-18 April 2010; General David Petraeus

  "You don't Look Jewish"

The Bad Kissingen Parochet

The synagogue I attend has a parochet (ark cover) from the mid-18th century, the town I lived in as a toddler. The story of that parochet.

The Korean-Talmud Love Affair (received from R. Simche Sherer)

Korean News (R. Simche Sherer)

Korea loves the Talmud (The Korean-Talmud Love Affair). Now, Korean students visit Yeshiva.

 Three cantors in the Sephardic Synagogue of Amsterdam (received from Mort Homer)

Turn on your speakers and enjoy this 3 min. 40 sec. video of Naftali Herstik, Alberto Mizrachi and Benzion Miller. 

They are in the Sephardic Synagogue of Amsterdam. It is entirely lit by candles.

Built several hundred years ago, it was never electrified. The ark, seats, bimah are all hand made by ship builders. During WW II the nazi's somehow missed it and never entered. So, it is entirely intact and original.

The concert is performed in the sanctuary (btw, Sephardic Synagogue but an Ashkenazi tune!)

Adon Olam

Six hazzanim, Uncle Moishie style

Faster, faster (Three Tenors)


Follow the lyrics ... (eat your heart out, Mitch Miller!)

Berlin -- A Jewish Journey (received courtesy of Morton Homer)

Beautiful PowerPoint slide show on modern (2008-9) Jewish Berlin.

Hevenu Shalom Alechem in Chinese (received from Mort Homer)

And, Spanish

Masada Find Reveals Traces of Biblical Blue

Biblical Archaeology Review: March 02, 2011

"A scholar studying preserved textiles from first-century C.E. Masada has identified the precise shade of the mysterious and long-debated Biblical color tekhelet. The Bible often mentions tekhelet as the color of royal garments and priestly robes, and in later times, it colored the tasseled fringes, or tsitsit, of Jewish prayer shawls.


"While Jewish tradition generally associated the color with the bluish dye produced from the secretions of Murex snails, no clear examples of tekhelet from Biblical antiquity had been found...until now. In studying a piece of 2,000-year-old embroidery from Masada, Israeli scientist Zvi Koren analyzed a distinct bluish-purple, almost indigo patch of dye and found that it had clearly been produced from the ancient Murex snail."

Learn more about the discovery and the longstanding debate over tekhelet.

Tekhelet fabrics found near Qumran

Fabrics identified by Dr. Na‘ama Sukenik of the Israel Antiquities Authority represent the most prestigious colors in antiquity: indigo, purple and crimson, which are mentioned in Jewish sources

An alternate take on Rosh Ha'Shannah

Nehemia Gordon provides an explanation of how Yom Teruah, which is how the 1st of Tishrei is known in Torah, became Rosh Ha'Shannah, a holy day not known in Torah. The article also gives interesting insights into the mean of the term "Yom Teruah," not what one might expect ....

Yom Teruah; How the Day of Shouting Became Rosh Hashanah

Facebook has its roots in Genesis

Rabbi Benjamin Blech argues that the notion of a "social network" comes straight from Bereishit. In fact, the necessity of establishing a social network, he argues, is mandated in the Talmud, without which, the Rabbis claim, Torah is impossible.

 Jennifer Grey does Kletzmer (from Edyth Parker)

This is so great! Jennifer Grey, granddaughter of the late Mickey
Katz who sang pop songs with a Yiddishe accent to Klezmer music, sang
this on Conan's show. 

I knew she was a great dancer (won
 Dancing with the Stars
) and a great 
actress (Dirty Dancing), but who knew she could sing like her grandfather?

If you like KLEZMER MUSIC,you will just
love this!  Happy New Year to all 
our family & friends.


Israel's security needs visually displayed (received from Mort Homer)

This video clip should be watched by everybody, even those who think they understand everything about Israel 's security needs.

It is an excellent and clear graphical presentation compiled by six ex-IDF generals for the Jerusalem Institute.

This clip does not indicate what Israel can give away, rather it shows what Israel cannot relinquish under any circumstances. 

Oldest Hebrew Text

What may be the oldest known Hebrew text, found on a hilltop above the valley where David is said to have battled Goliath, could lend historical support to some Bible stories, archaeologists say.

"This means that historical knowledge of King David could pass from generation to generation in writing—and not just as oral tradition." (There is no known Hebrew writing earlier than David and this shard is written in what is believed to be Hebrew written in Proto-Canaanite script.

3rd Reich 1939-1940; Life Magazine, lost photos (received from Robert Klein via Mort Homer)

These pictures were taken by a Life photographer between 1939 and 1940 in Berlin and were lost for over 50 years because the American photographer disappeared at the beginning of the war along with his Rolliflex camera.

"Know your enemy...."


Large cache of 3500 year old pagan vessels

3500 years places the storage of this large number of items (100) at one of the possible periods for the exodus and entry into aretz. The IAA notes "one of the theories is that the vessels were buried in order to protect them from the impending destruction."

Equally interesting is the evidence that some "vessels that were found had been brought from Mycenae in Greece."

Face Care and Makeup in Antiquity

Making up one's face traces back to pagan magical and cultic practices....

Egyptians used red (rouge). Babylonians, yellow.

But, some makeup did have a medicinal effect.

Delirium in Jerusalem, 1947 (received through Mort Homer)

An eyewitness account of Jerusalem on the night of the U.N. partition vote

Ancient Medicine: Contact Your Local Prophet

"When an ancient Israelite got a raging bellyache, what did she do? Where could she—or he—go for help?" Well, in addition to herbal remedies, there was the local prophet ....

The more common remedies, however, involved the cult. According to the Hebrew Bible, health (in Hebrew, shalom) encompasses a physical state associated with the fulfillment of covenant stipulations; illness results from the violation of those stipulations. Therapy requires reviewing one’s actions in light of this covenant.

Yet archaeology also reveals quite sophisticated healing techniques.

The Yiddish Handbook: 40 Words You Should Know

Jews submit resignation to God (received from Jeffrey Parker)

A golden oldie. And still provocative.

Are you there God?

Mushka Greenberg wonders if God is our BFF (best friend forever) who also happens to be master of the universe. Mushka provides a very interesting insight into the role of prayer.

Picture the opening scenes of the movie Fiddler on the Roof. There is Chaim Topol as Tevieh walking along that dirt road, alongside his horse and wagon. Time is of the essence; it is just before Shabbat and he still has deliveries to make. But his horse has gone lame. That's why he's not riding.

Tevieh is talking with God -- truth to tell, Tevieh does not so much talk as kvetch -- not as if God is some transcendent entity. God is not distant to Tevieh. Tevieh talks with God as if God is walking right there next to him, as if God is right there with him, close. A long time personal friend, partner, intimate. God is Tevieh's BFF.

I've always pictured this as a state of mind and heart that we should be striving for. God is in and of Tevieh's world.

For Tevieh, there is no issue of the efficacy of prayer. Yes, Tevieh asks for things, sort of. But he doesn't seriously expect to get what he asks for. Of course, Tevieh asks in the course of his conversations with God, not in his prayers.

But, for many the efficacy of prayer, the ability to ask God for things and to get them, is a major issue. "If there is an all powerful God who listens to man, how can a believer make a request and not have it granted?" This line of reasoning provides grist for atheistic arguments and problems for the faithful.

Of course, this line of thought assumes that prayer is petitionary, that prayer asks -- more, is designed to ask -- for something. Specifically that prayer is a person asking for personal favors from God (or from demi-gods like "saints" or "angels"). Petitionary prayer is demonstrably not efficacious. Were petitionary prayer efficacious, the Shoah would not have come to pass.

This line of argument, that petitionary prayer is not efficacious, is actually aimed at Christian theology. It has nothing to do with Jewish prayer, as a simple examination of any siddur demonstrates.

The difference turns on the interpretation of the phrase "living God." In Judaic thinking, "living God" simply means a God who talks with man. By extension, then, a "living God" cares about man. Christian theology construes this more as "talks and answers." Remember, in our tradition, it is only Moshe Rabbenu and Bilaam who have two way conversations with God. Only. All the rest of the prophets received the רוּחַ spirit. But, they did not enter into two-way conversation. And, when Moshe asks for something (specifically to be allowed to enter the land), he is explicitly denied.

Jewish prayer is non-petitionary. Except for the broadest of requests, "bring health to your people," "bring your Messiah soon" and the like, Jews don't make petitions, don't ask for anything in prayer. 

"Baruch" ("blessed"), the beginning of a blessing, comes from the shoresh, barech. As my teachers taught me, this means to bend the knee. In the ancient world, when you entered the presence of the king, you "bent the knee," you dropped to your knees and lowered your head to the ground (actually, you are offering your neck). We no longer get on our knees during prayer. But we still "bend the knee" when uttering "baruch atah" ("blessed are you" or "blessed be you"), don't we?

As Greenberg charmingly shows us in this article, prayer is, essentially, about us, about us changing how we think about the world we find around us. Therefore, prayer is about "putting our heads and hearts right" and changing how we behave in the world.

Diving into the Gene Pool (courtesy of R. Jonathan Ginsberg)

A recent remark that Jew's "homes" are in various parts of Europe and the Americas, just isn't true.

Arthur Koestler (The Thirteenth Tribe, 1976) was wrong, dead wrong. The truth is that Jews are not descended from the Khazars. In fact, it has long been known that there are two, quite distinct, genetic strains that identify Jews (I first saw reference to this fact in a monograph by Halpern dated some 20 years ago).

In fact, Jews are genetically identifiable. And those genes (in mitochondrial -- maternal -- DNA) have been identified. You've heard about the "kohen" gene so this shouldn't really come as any kind of surprise. Those genes are traceable to the ancient middle east. "Journalists" may well lie but DNA doesn't (so, yes, I'm trying to change minds with facts).

It unfortunately means that the nazis were correct to identify us as a "race," though that term is no longer "PC," as were the Spaniards in their limpieza del sangre claims (does this make us, through the Marranos, the original "mudbloods?"). It also means that those who would test "Jewishness" by beliefs and practices are wrong (but I think most of us ... suspected as much). It also demonstrates that Jews proselytized actively for at least two millennia -- the relation of Ashkenzai DNA to Italy, i.e., Rome, makes that clear (Sephardim are likely descended from the exiles who remained in Babylonia) -- and did so successfully (I have elsewhere cited the Torah's notice of "the souls he [Abram] had made in Haran" and the Talmud's expectation that the Rabbis make proselytes).

The simple fact is that Gunther Rothenberg was right, "being Jewish is essentially a political act." Jews are not a religion but a people (I am willing to argue that "Judaism" didn't become a "religion" until the Sanhedrin of Notables, 1806). And the siddur, too, is right when it proclaims: All Israel are brothers. Literally.

Wyatt Earp's Jewish Connection

Wyatt Earp died on 13 January 1929, aged 80, at 4004 W. 17 Street, Los Angeles. At the time of his death, he had been in common law marriage for 47 years. His common law wife was Josie Marcus (Josephine Sarah Marcus), a Jewess. Earp is buried in the Marcus family plot in the Hills of Eternity, a Jewish cemetery in Colma, California (note the memorial stones). 

Josie died in 1944 and buried alongside Earp. Earp had never been wounded by a gunshot.

Mogan David aleph-bet

Every letter in the Hebrew alphabet can be traced in the Magen David

Jewish DNA

An easy to read explanation of how DNA can tell who is a Jew. And, the Ashkenazi "Eve."

Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean -- Putting the Oy Back into 'Ahoy' (received courtesy of Jeffrey Parker)

Jewish pirates! Flying the magen David ("shield of Solomon" [sic]) along with the skull and cross bones?

"Swashbuckling buccaneers who took time to put on tefillin each morning? ... Jewish pirates once operated there [Jamaica and Barbados], raiding the Spanish Main wearing tallis shawls." These pirates included Rabbis; one became a student of the Ari on retirement.

"The local Curacao [off the Venezuelan coast] rabbi once berated his community's pirates when they thoughtlessly attacked a ship owned by a fellow Jew." At least the attack was not on shabbat.

Steven Plaut's article from The Jewish Press, "Putting the Oy Back into 'Ahoy'." 

The United Congregations of Israelites in Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica

Ahoy, mateys ! Thar be Jewish pirates! -- The JewishJournal

Jean Laffite (in The Buccaneer, played by Yul Brynner a/k/a Pharoah Ramses), the Sephardi pirate

A fuller account...

Jewish pirate save Louisiana (and tries to introduce Abraham Lincoln to Karl Marx)


What some prestigious gentiles think of us....

We Jews

From Aish's "Jewlarious," the unsung, unusual and odd members of the tribe. That is: "we got our screwballs too."

Part 1: A new series that will make you kvell.

Part 2: Tales of Jews who are both unsung and fascinating

Part 3: Unsung, unusual and odd members of the tribe.

Jewish DNA

It is a well known fact that kohanim (priests) have a series of genetic markers (i.e., not just one or two, but several). The markers are unique in the world and, in fact, can be shown to trace back over three millenia (i.e., to a time consistent with Moshe and Aharon). And, those markers occur in a precise proportion of the population. This, amongst other things, is significant evidence that the Lemba really are Jews (despite claims from the lunatic right).

Ashkenazim (European Jews), on the other hand, have recently been thought to be descendents of converts (specifically, the Khazar's, as popularized by Arthur Koestler's 1976 volume, Thirteenth Tribe : The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage). Part of the evidence for this claim is genetic discrepancies between Ashkenazim and Sepharim/Mitzrachim.

Well, it turns out that this may not be so. Not at all. Jon Entine shows that mitochondrial DNA is remarkably stable for both western and eastern Jewry. And, furthermore, sets of distinctive markers go back as far as the kohanic markers. Also evident seems to be the fact that we didn't keep our agreement with Ezra (Ezra 10:17 ff) "to put away all the wives."

Watch a short presentation by Mr. Entine: Abraham's Children.

The Greek Islands

Zakynthos is one of those little picturesque Greek islands. But, this one was home to a Jewish community, a community saved from the Nazis by its mayor and Greek Orthodox Bishop with, like the Danes, it seems the full support of the non-Jewish community. The Jewish community was finally done in by mother nature -- an earthquake destroyed the synagogue when the community numbered less than 30. 

Another gem from Aish.

Universalism and Nationalism

Torah presents numerous dichotomies in its major themes. There is the tension between sacrifice and works, between communicating with God only through the priests and direct communication, forgiveness of sin through sacrifice and forgiveness by direct restitution/making whole, etc.

One of the most important tensions, at least the last one left, in the post-Grand Sanhedrin era ("we are Frenchmen, of Jewish persuasion") is that between universalism and nationalism found so many places in Torah

The particularism of Torah is the "chosen-ness" of Israel, that Israel is chosen to receive Torah. Thus, Israel's relation to God is "special" (that is, different) compared to other nations.

The Rabbis have always understood Israel's chosen-ness, not as conferring special privilege or special status on Israel. All, at least that I am aware of, note that the root of "holy" (קָדוֹשׁ) is "separated" or "different." Israel is not accorded any special privileges, rather it accepted additional obligations, with the consequent restrictions.

The universalism of Torah starts with the story of Noah. The Rabbis learn that all people are responsible to keep the "Seven Commandments of Noah," that there are certain standards of behavior utterly independent of nationality:

Seven commandments were the sons of Noah commanded: (1) concerning adjudication and (2) concerning idolatry and (3) concerning blasphemy and (4) concerning sexual immorality and (5) concerning bloodshed and (6) concerning robbery and (7) concerning a limb torn from a living animal.
-- Sanhedrin 56a (italics added) 

Apparently, the United States Congress ratified the Commands of Noah in its 1991 Education Day act (see the side-bar).

Righteousness, not being an Israelite or professing any beliefs, is the primary expectation of man: "The righteous of all nations have a place in the Kingdom to come." The commandment

  לֹא-תִקֹּם וְלֹא-תִטֹּר אֶת-בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ, וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ:  אֲנִי, יְהוָה. Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

Va'yikra 19:18

has always been understood as the prototypical expectation of any person, Israelite or not.

The tension, of course, is: how can one simultaneously maintain the particularism of Israel's chosen-ness and the universalism of Torah's moral message? If you are righteous, if you love your neighbor as yourself, etc., why be a Jew? If you are a Jew, and there is special-ness in that, what is the point of the message to the nations?

Nathan Sharansky, chess prodigy, Refusnik, MK, having held various posts within the Israeli cabinet, now Chairman of the Jewish Agency, shares his views on the subject. In his address to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, he argues that the particularism of nationalism is demonstrably the proper foundation for universal principles.

Announcing the Sky: Calendars Through the Ages

Chinese, Christian, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, ancient, French, Mayan, Roman calendars. Special essays:

Origin of the seven day week

Years and Months

The Torah in our Church

The fascinating story of a church in Houston (branch of one in Honduras) that almost en masse decided to convert to Judaism. (My teacher, Rabbi Joseph Radinsky, figures prominently in this story.)

The Jews of Alaska

Not just the physician in "Northern Lights," there are real, vital and interesting communities "way up" there.

Hitler's Children (received courtesy of Stanley Parker)

"...few Nazis disassociated from their crimes publicly. My historical research and personal family experience confirms that most perpetrators remained caught in denial and self-deception and could not abjure the ideologies that justified their crimes. Instead, they delegated such 'coming to terms' to the next generation" says the niece of the Nazi deputy commander of Pinsk, Belarus -- A Pilgrimage to Belarus.

The Bad Arolsen Shoa archive

The "60 Minutes" article on the Bad Arolsen archive of over 17,000,000 victim's records. Three survivors find their own Nazi records; Anne Frank's original records. Yeah, this is all a myth, created by ....

Jerusalem from the sky (received courtesy of R. Simche Sherer)

Our capital as seen on 19 November 2009, aerial view. Yerushalaim shel zhav. Yet, one cannot help but wonder whether there wasn't more zhav when buildings could only be three stories above ground. In those days, the tower of the Y was visible from everywhere and navigation was so easy.

The Etymology of "daven"

A rabbi of my acquaintance claimed he didn't know where this term came from. Well, neither did I. A little digging gives some interesting results ....

Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust

I have long argued that the root of anti-semitism is two characteristically Jewish ideas, ideas introduced by the Jews:

The first written anti-semitism, found in Cicero, ridicules Jews for worshipping a god they cannot see. "God," of course, is the author of history and both the teacher and the judge of good and bad. Greco-Roman "ethics" were based on making the right appearances and not getting caught, see The Third Generation).

Christianity resurrected, modernized and refined anti-semitism (see, for example, James Carroll's Constantine's Cross). At first, it may have been to help in their proselytizing but, as Carroll demonstrates, such beliefs take on a life of their own (the Romans thought you could kill an idea by chopping off the head in which it resided, never realizing that a good idea lives independently of the head -- maybe that's why we're still here and they're not -- you'd think the world would learn, wouldn't you?). Hitler was explicit, the Jews represented morality (Aldus Huxley preceding him in annunciating this).

Rabbi Shraga Simmons traces this history, adding new insights for us to consider.

The Jew From Kuwait

"My Muslim background left me unprepared for this shocking discovery.... Growing up, I was taught that Jews were the source of all evil, descended from monkeys and pigs."

But, it turns out that this young man is Jewish! Now he works for reconciliation.


Kosher gas station, Borough Park, Brooklyn (that's where I was born! -- received courtesy of R. Simche Sherer)

Senator Orrin G. Hatch, (R) Utah, devout Mormon and writer of Christian hymns, writes a Hanukkah song.

In Germany, they first came for the communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. 

Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Catholic.

Then they came for me -- and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.

                       -- Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945


The Big Lie: Moslems, Jerusalem and Archaeology

The Arab onslaught to erase the Jewish people's historical connection with the Temple Mount.


The Art in Torah

Rabbi Yonah Weinrib expresses Torah through art.


Shma: A very beautiful and moving video (received courtesy of Ellie Weingardt via Mort Homer)

Legend tells that after the Holocaust, R. Yosef Kahaneman zt'l began looking for Jewish children who had survived the war. It was known that some of the children had ended up in churches and were being raised as Christians. He encountered one church that denied the existence and presence of Jewish children within their midst. He was granted permission to enter the children's quarters to inspect for himself -- when he entered he began calling out "Shema Yisroel" and instinctively many of the children raised their hands to cover their eyes and started calling out "mama! mama!"


  "The Irony of Masada"  

Is Josephus' Masada narrative actual history or is it a subtle ode to Judea (and, therefore, contra-Roman)?

Close analysis of his telling of Masada's fall indicates that Josephus is actually trying to remove any glory from Rome's victory at Masada and over Judea. Indeed, he appears to be saying that Rome did not win the battle. Josephus, in entirely Propehetic fashion, appears to be saying that the Sicarri defeat at Masada was entirely due to their sins against their fellow Judeans, punishment from God .... In this case, it would seem to me, that the historicity of the defenders' suicide comes into question. However, how the battle progressed is not, in fact, Josephus' point, according to Prof. Brighton.

Something to read and think about.


The Jewish Mystique (received courtesy of Morton Homer) 

What is the meaning of being Jewish? A moving compilation of what we've all been thinking for years.


The Leica Freedom Train

As the owner of a Leica M4-P rangefinder, I know that E. Leitz's attitude has been "design the best that can be designed, we'll worry about the price later." It seems that the Leitz family's ethics operated the same way: "do what is right, don't worry about what others think." How a German company quietly saved their Jewish employees, friends and acquaintances.


Moscow Yiddish musical theater (received courtesy of Charlene Lichtenstein)

Remember when Jews could barely practice their religion in the USSR, it was all but unlawful to be Jewish? Now there is a thriving Yiddish Theater in Moscow.

And, while we're on the subject, Julie Andrews in Yiddish.

And, the tango in Yiddish.

Even the Beatles! (Okay, maybe lip-synced.)


Leonard Nimoy: Is There Judaism in Star Trek?-The Origin of Spock's Greeting (received courtesy of Jeffrey Parker)

Is There Judaism in Star Trek? What are the origins of Spock's Greeting? How Spock grow out of Nimoy's experiences as Jew in Catholic Boston.

Very entertaining retelling of his first memory of duchaning. Oh, yes, the Torah values espoused in Star Trek are also covered.


A Parable  (received courtesy of Jeffrey Parker)

The writer of this brilliant piece is unknown. It was posted to a blog on the internet, 18 June 2009. 

Tallit (prayer shawl y'all)

The Mishna is keenly aware of the tehkelet, the blue required for the thread that binds the tzitzit. But it seems to know nothing at all of the tallit, much less the tallit as we know that garment today. No discussion you are likely to read on the tzitzit or the tallit cites the Talmud. Indeed, the Torah texts adduced are only for tzitzit (but not for the way we tie them today), not for tallit. The p'shat is clearly that one's outer garment -- any outer garment -- must bear the tzitzit. In short, the fact that neither Mishna nor Gemarrah is cited vis-à-vis the tallit indicates that the tallit was not customary by the time the Talmud was closed (late 5th - early 6th century C.E.).

I recall reading (but do not remember where -- Potok's Wanderings maybe? Milgrom?-in any case, Wanderings is an excellent read) that the current tallit is from the 12th-13th century. It was argued that Jews, wearing the fringes on their overcoats became too easily identified targets (remember, this would be towards the end of the crusades which devastated the communities along the road to Jerusalem). So the Rabbis moved the mitzvah to the tallit and the tallit indoors.

Please note that the mitzvah of the tzitzit requires they be fastened to the corners of the garment, not "four corners," just "corners". Torah does not count corners (except in Devarim 22:12 where "four" is used; but the word "tzitzit" ("ציצת") is not used here, instead it is "גדלים," twisted cords, as the Karaite do to this day, that is used and this passage does explicitly refer to a "covering" garment). Is it possible that "corners" is not a correct translation of כנפי? Indeed the term refers to, simply, the edges, the hem of the outer garment; it was the style in the ancient near- and middle east that the hem was often scalloped, so these points would be כנפת (there are, in fact, ancient frescos showing exactly that). Also, contrast the use of כנפת in context of the tzitzit with "peah," corner (as in Va'yikra 23:22: לא תכלּה פאת שׂדך), in the context of the corner of a field; in the later case, there is a (presumed) squared off corner.  

There is an excellent essay by R. Jacob Milgrom on this at the back of the Etz Chaim chumash. This essay elucidates just how serious an act was David's cutting part of Saul's hem in the cave at Ein Gedi (and gives greater meaning to the custom of using the tzitzit to touch the Torah -- you are "signing" the document by so doing. Also see Milgrom's more detailed, "Of Hems and Tassels: Rank, Authority and Holiness Were Expressed in Antiquity by Fringes on Garments," Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1983.)

So, it may well be that tzitzit and tallitot as we know them now are but 1000 - 1500 years old (new fangled, a recent custom for us). In fact, I remember seeing 2000 year old tzitzit in Israel (at Masada? Shrine of the Book? -- "old timers" moment here). Those tzitzit were much as I would expect from the p'shat of the text: a simple, small bundle of threads ....

What Did It Mean To wear Fringes in Ancient Cultures?

Rosemarie E. Falanga and Cy H. Silver, similar to the essay in Etz Chaim, trace the use of fringes to Assyria and Babylonia (you know, the place Abraham came from). They show the use of fringes relationship to royalty (thus would Israel be reminded they were special). Fringes were worn by important people and by the priesthood ("you shall be a holy nation ... a nation of priests" important enough?). And they cite the use of fringes to "sign" things (thus, when David cut Saul's hem, in the cave, he was destroying Saul's signet; in turn, this explains David's extreme reaction).

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs: "The corner fringes on this ritual garment remind the wearer of all the commandments in the Torah."

Rabbi Jacobs notes, among other things in this interesting read, why unmarried men do not wear a tallit in certain congregations (this is an Ashkenazic custom, following the Maharil; this is not the tradition in Sephardic congregations): "It has been remarked that the real reason is to enable the young ladies in the women's section of the synagogue to observe which young men are eligible for marriage." Coincidence? I wonder....

"The original tallit probably resembled the "'abayah," or blanket, worn by the Bedouins for protection from sun and rain, and which has black stripes at the ends."

Rabbi Meir von Rothenburg is the one who "banned" women from wearing tallitot. A long list of Rabbi, going back 1000 years, approving women wearing the tallit is given -- you'll recognize all the great names of medieval European Rabbinic thinking on this list.

Tallis 101 by Rabbi Jonathan Ginsberg (my guy, so enjoy this one).

How to blow the Shofar 

My own Rabbi G. explains customs and traditions of the shofar  

And our Hazan Benjamin Warschawski's Shofar service (can you say "beautiful?")

How to blow the Shofar:

Rule for construction of a shofar

Technique(s) for blowing

Shofar blow by the Masai for Rosh ha'Shana

Size does matter: How Shofar Size Affects Tone

40 youTube videos featuring Adon Olam (thanks to Fred Fenig).

Adon Olam -- "faster, faster" (but still too slow) requires RealPlayer

Adon Olam -- six cantors, Uncle Moishe style - requires RealPlayer


Kirk Douglas reconnects and reflects (received courtesy of Stanley Parker)

Note his big regret and the reason for it.


Risk aversion in the Talmud

Evidence is adduced that the sages of the ancient Babylonian Talmud, as well as some of the medieval commentators thereon, were well aware of sophisticated [economic] concepts of modern theories of risk-bearing.


Lighting the First Candle: Holocaust Film and Chanukah at Nuremberg, 1945

On 21 November 1945, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, seconded to the Nuremberg Tribunal, delivered his opening statement in the Nuremberg Trials. On 29 November, the films ordered by Eisenhower were shown for the first time:

"A coincidence to consider, for today and for history, is that in 1945, November 29th on the Gregorian calendar was also, on the Jewish calendar, the 25th day of Kislev, the third month. It thus marked the first night of Chanukah, a holiday celebrating Jewish survival."


Germany Today (received courtesy of Jeffrey Parker)

A writer, living and working in Germany, a native of Columbus, Ohio, reflects on the society he sees around him in "modern" German. He argues that not only is overt anti-Semitism resurgent in German, it is essential to understanding German culture.


The Dachau Death March (received courtesy of Morton Homer) 

Tisha b'Av 1944, "Facing defeat, the Nazis marched 6,000 Jews. A survivor's account."


The Wedding Dress that Made History 

IWD (Improvised Wedding Device) makes its way back through Belsen on its way to its final home at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. A great story. (Received courtesy of Cindy Murphy.)


Yom ha'Shoa in Israel

Yom ha'Shoa as observed in Israel. The entire country comes to a stop. Literally.

 "Who Knew?"

The story of a Romanian Jew and erstwhile hero of the French Resistance. In May '09, the story is making its way around through email. Urban legend but leads us somewhere just as interesting.

 Shakespeare was a Jewess 

Move over Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe and all you other Shakespeare wanna-be’s! Amelia Bassano, a dark-skinned Jewish woman (converso or marrano, actually), is the latest candidate as the “actual” Shakespeare. John Hudson, a British cognitive scientist, thinks there is a case to be made for her. Read about The Dark Lady. (Should this be with the funnies?)


Tekhelet (the blue required in tzitzit, recently rediscovered after centuries)

How tekhelet was (re)discovered and made from the Murex Trunculus.
        Article describing how they found “the blue”
                (note that the royal purple is a stage before our blue -- kewl)
        Video of the “discovery” (Part 1)
                Part 2
                Part 3

Note: the Orthodox Union has an article on the Chilazon. While the murex snail is favorably mentioned as a candidate for the "chilazon," the Union neither affirms nor denies that this is the source of the tekhelet. Indeed, there are authorities not willing to assert that the Murex Trunculus dye is the tekhelet (more precisely, asserting that we cannot know that it is).

Karaites on tekhelet
       I'm not a Karaite. But they make many interesting and important points. 
        The monumental Faith Strengthened was written by a Karaite, Isadore Twersky (IIRC), 
        based on his arguments during disputations. See their website

        More on the tehkelet

Understanding the Criteria for the Chilazon, Mendel E. Singer, Ph.D. argues that the identification of the murex trunculus snail is seriously flawed. Dr. Singer offers a nice history of the scholarship, the search for the chilazon and an analysis of the mishna on the subject to make his case.

Treasures Hidden in the Sand, Rabbi Gershon Henoch Leiner (the Radzyner Rebbe zt"l) argued, in 1887, that the chilazon was the cuttlefish, type of squid.
(It's nice to know I'm not the only one who finds this subject so interesting.)

“It Seems Impossible” 

Shoa PowerPoint: “It Seems Impossible (You will need PowerPoint or a PowerPoint viewer.)

Very important and well done document. It starts with Eisenhower’s orders to document, document, document because “some day, some ‘son of a bitch’ is going to say it didn’t happen." He got that right (who would have thought he used such language!).



Claus Tøndering's excellent and highly detailed essay on calendars (European, Jewish, Muslim, Chinese, etc.) and how they came to be as they are (PDF format). Note: this is not an easy read (there is some math involved) but it is a very worthwhile read if you want to understand our calendars.

Need to compute your Hebrew birthday?-A yahrtzeit date? Check out the Hebrew Calendar Converter. Or, check Hebrew Calendar's web site for lots more information.


The Myth of Linkage in the Middle East

Martin Kramer's intriguing analysis of the relationship (or lack thereof) of Palestinians to the middle east conflict.


What is "Bar Mitzvah?"

The Bar Mitzvah celebration and attendant ceremony is actually a very recent tradition, perhaps not more than two centuries. Adapted from the program I wrote for the Bar Mitzvah of my eldest (twins Jonathan and Benjamin), this short essay discusses the meaning of "Bar Mitzvah" (PDF document). 


Don't have your chumash handy?

Hebrew - English Bible - Mechon-Mamre 



Grand reopening of the Berlin Synagogue, who'd'a thunk!


Torah aboard aircraft carrier Harry S Truman


Masada is also a rifle

"Without government funding or outside influence of any kind, the Masada concept was developed from scratch in Boulder, Colorado by Magpul’s Design Group. The initial Masada concept was first shown publicly at the 2007 Shot Show and its success prompted Magpul to spend a year redesigning the system for production."

The Masada Rifle (a/k/a Bushmaster ACR)
Video of test on full auto (not a lot of recoil)
Magpul Industries promo (creators of the Masada)


Louis Armstrong and Danny Kaye (okay, so not so "Jewish") but for those of us who remember .... The Saints (received courtesy of Jeffrey Parker)

© shparker 2009