All I hear about these days is the “New Anti-Semitism.” The Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman had a book some years ago — a rather gevaltist book — with the Kahanist title “Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism.” Phyllis Chesler had a book on the “New Anti-Semitism.” Even Alexander Cockburn, of all people, weighed in.
Keitzad m’rakdim lifnei ha-kallah? “How does one dance before the bride?”
This question, seemingly simple, is in fact a classic formulation of the array of normative procedures, customs and traditions surrounding the marriage ceremony and its attendant activities. Journal Watcher, in a seemingly counterintuitive way, turns first to Yemen for a look at something old, something new.
The Talmud — and everybody else — ponders the puzzling discrepancy between the two formulations in the Chumash with respect to the Sabbath. One iteration of the Ten Commandments (or “Articles”) in the Chumash uses the word shamor (“keep, guard”), while another uses zachor (“remember”) to describe the broad Sabbath requirement. These two locutions have been midrashically interpreted in different ways, in the broad range of halachic details that the Torah places under rubric of Shabbat.
Hillel Halkin’s new biography of the poet-philosopher does him justice.
Jerome A. Chanes
Special To The Jewish Week
Who was Yehuda Halevi? Generations of Jewish schoolchildren here and in the Palestine Yishuv grew up with his classic poetic line, “Libi ba-mizrach, v’anochi b’sof ma’arav” — “My heart is in the East (the Land of Israel), but I, my body, is in the furthest reaches of the West.” Living and working in the 11th and 12th centuries in Spain, he was one of the giants of Hebrew poetry. That he was a significant figure in the history of Jewish thought is unquestioned.
Humor is an enigma. Philosophers and physicians and psychologists, historians and linguists have for centuries pondered why we laugh. Aristotle and Freud, Kant and Bergson have offered explanations of humor. But at bottom, there ain’t nothing like a good joke.
Are we bound together by common purposes and goals? (This approach is beloved by the community organizers.) Or is there something deeper, more intimate, in the idea of community, something that reaches down to family? In this construct, the community provides the individual much of what the family provides; it’s the idea of kinship.
Lifnei seiva takum, v’hadarta p’nei zaken — “You shall rise up before the elder, and you shall honor the old person.” Kabed et avicha v’et imecha — “Honor your father and your mother.” These two normative biblical principles, separate albeit related, inform much of Jewish life and by extension our larger society, often — and sadly — more in the breach than in the observance.
The announcement last month by the UJA-Federation of New York of a $300 million matching program to support Jewish education — and similar initiatives in Los Angeles and MetroWest, New Jersey — comes at a time when middle-class Jewish parents find themselves increasingly caught between the Scylla of rising day-school tuitions and the Charybdis of declining real-dollar income.
Maimonides scholarship is thriving. But there has always been a healthy interest in, and veneration of, the life and works of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon — in his Hebrew acronymic, “the Rambam.” Jewish philosopher, jurist and halachist nonpareil, physician, communal leader — Moses Maimonides looms larger than any other figure in Jewish intellectual, social, and religious history.