The Talmud (Ta’anit 5b) teaches us that the Biblical Jacob never died, despite the eulogies that were delivered in the presence of his mortally deceased body. His impact continues so long as his children, the Jewish people, endure.
Listening to Ruth Calderon speak at my synagogue last week, I felt sad, once again, about something that has been lacking for a long time in the Jewish community in Israel and the United States: an easy familiarity with the texts of our tradition. The good news is that Calderon, a Knesset member, has made it a mission of her life to reacquaint Jews with those texts. Given her charm and erudition, she seems to be well on her way.
In 1982 when I was in first grade at Hillel Day School, a Jewish day school in Metropolitan Detroit, my father brought in our family’s Apple II computer for show-and-tell. There were no computers in the school at that time so it was a seminal technological moment for the school. I’m sure my father figured he would blow my classmates minds by showing them how to type a few lines of the LOGO programming language and get the turtle cursor to turn and move across the screen. However, my peers didn’t have any mind-blowing experiences that day -- it was only the beginning of what our generation would come to expect from computers and technology.
Ani Maamin – I believe with perfect faith in the coming of a messianic era. In Reform ideology, we don’t necessarily wait for an individual Messiah, but we do encourage people to do all they can to create a better world, and to work towards a time when all will be peaceful, loving, and safe. Among Jews of various denominations, we have differing opinions about what will bring the Messiah. Some believe that, once every eligible Jew has observed certain mitzvot (like laying tefillin or lighting Shabbat candles), the Messiah will finally arrive. Others believe that, once things get particularly bad, the Messiah will surely come. I have a bit of a different idea.
In Berachot (34b), the Talmud teaches that a synagogue must be built with windows in the sanctuary. I believe this is so we can see who is outside and unable to join us. As Jews, we have to maintain “mental windows” everywhere so that we understand that those whom we refer to as “shut-ins” are not shut-in. They are cruelly shut out of the life many of us take for granted.
Even the most casual observer of the Jewish community over recent years will have noticed that we Jews seem to have a problem talking nicely to each other. Because this problem usually manifests itself publicly around thorny and contentious issues, it’s easy to read it as the inevitable result of the passions generated by the issues themselves, and not necessarily the people involved.
The Talmud has been compared to the seas, for it is vast and deep and, like the oceans, there is no real beginning or end to the study of Shas (an acronym for the Talmud). Few among us have circumnavigated its 63 tractates and 2,711 double-sided and oversized pages. It can take days to fathom even a few lines, and so familiarity with the entirety of Shas had become rare over time, and several of the less popular tractates fell into obscurity.
The Advanced Talmudic Institute at MATAN, one of the few programs for women in Israel that focuses on high-level Talmud study, is closing.
MATAN, the Sadie Rennert Women’s Institute for Torah Studies, was established in 1988, and the Advanced Talmudic Institute, a leading program in advanced study for women, began its first cohort in 1999. The institute was started with funds from the Avi Chai Foundation and other funders.
Fellows learn in the institute for three years, using traditional and modern methods to understand the Talmud, in exchange for a living stipend.
The complex ‘Footnote,’ about Torah scholars, takes Joseph Cedar to another kind of battlefield: that of academic infighting and father-son resentment.
Special to Jewish Week
Judaism is unique among the Abrahamic faith traditions in giving pride of place to the study of sacred texts, even within the liturgy. The traditional morning service includes both the blessing for study of Torah and passages from the Talmud relating to the sacrifices offered in the Temple a couple of millennia ago.
Q - I was shocked to read recently that corporal punishment is still legal in 20 states. I also know the famous quote from Proverbs, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” But on Passover we are taught to answer a child’s questions with patience. Is it ever acceptable for a parent or teacher to hit a child?
A - It is never appropriate to hit a child, at school or at home. Period.