Of all the arcana of Jewish life, that most universal instrument, the Jewish calendar, is one of the more enigmatic. Solar? Lunar? Length of month? Two days of a holiday, or one? What about the “leap month”? And whence derives our calendar? Ancient Judaea/Palestine? Babylonia? The Tanakh? The Talmud?
Can the zodiac be integrated into the Jewish tradition?
When my great-nephew Owen arrived in the world in January, there was a collective spate of “Your constellation is good!” OK, we shortened the sentiment to “mazal tov!” but the meaning was the same. We were congratulating the new parents on their mazal (from Akkadian, “location of a star”), luck that’s credited to the stars and has nothing to do with merit. Which begs the question: Is there mazal for Jews?
In his usually precise and incisive way, critic Adam Kirsch tackles a thorny issue: should Christians read their Bible like Jews read theirs? The occasion is a new book--"The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book"--by Case Western religion professor Timothy Beal, who is also the child of evangelical parents.
Q - With baseball’s spring training underway, I’m reminded of an incident from last season. Derek Jeter, one of the few superstars from the past decade not implicated in baseball’s steroid sample, was caught on videopretending to be hit by a pitch.
This week I wrote an essay about how Jewish culture will change in light of the coming e-book revoluion. I talked to at least a dozen Jewish book experts, from scholars and publishers, to readers and rabbis, and there was clearly no consensus about what might happen--only unanimous agreement that something important will.
I apologize for being such a delinquent blogger this past week. Part of it was being distracted by my reporting responsibilities (see my recent article on new Hebrew charter schools if you don’t believe me!)
But also I’ve been struck with something of a blogger’s block trying to decide whether and how to respond to my colleague Jonathan Mark’s “No, Not Everyone is Jewish Enough” post.
There is an expression still used in modern Hebrew that is actually obsolete. I suspect that people still use it because it’s so wonderfully expressive. It is what Israelis say when someone finally “gets it,” when he/she actually understands what’s going on, and gets the point. The expression is “nafal ha’asimon:” the phone token has fallen.
The National Yiddish Theater/Folksbiene has come a long way in its 96th season. In fact, the highlight of its annual cabaret dinner on Dec. 8 at the Bohemian National Hall on the Upper East Side, were two African American actors who brought the house down with their versions of classical Yiddish medleys.
Elmore James, a veteran of five Broadway shows and the Metropolitan Opera, dazzled with “Es Brent” and “Ot Azoy.” Tony Perry, featured in the film “Mickey,” thrilled the audience with his rendition of “Vos Iz Gevorn.”
Coventry, England -- If you want to know why Limmud -- the grassroots, all-volunteer, non-denominational organization that fosters Jewish religious study, culture, history and more -- is now active in 55 communities around the world, come to LimmudUK, the granddaddy of them all.
The whole movement started here in England 30 years ago this week as an antidote for Jews who had little to do during Christmas week, when much of the country shuts down. Why not do Jewish together?
Much has already been written about the letter signed by dozens of communal rabbis in Israel proscribing Jewish residents from renting or selling property to gentiles on halachic grounds. It is clear from the context of the controversy that the motivation behind this provocative step is the concern for the demographic makeup of neighborhoods in the north of Israel, fueled by the fear of a concerted effort to undermine Jewish majorities in those locales.