By Peretz Goldstein for JPULSE in JewishBoston.com
Purim Begins the Evening of February 28, 2018
Have you ever wondered why Purim comes before Pesach?
Exactly 30 days after Purim, we celebrate the holiday of Pesach. Our Sages tell us that this is no coincidence. The juxtaposition of these two holidays is the theme of redemption; being saved. “Masmich geula le’geula” – connecting salvation to salvation.
The comparison of Pesach and Purim is clear. What we celebrate at Pesach time is another instance in Jewish history where the Jews were under extreme persecution, threatened to be wiped out, and were saved at the end of the day (that’s why we have a party and drink some le’chaims at the Seder night too!).
Want more information on Purim? Check out Jvillage Network's Purim Guide.
Learn the many chapters that make up the Tanach and find out where you can find more information about each.
Have you always wanted to read the Bible, but didn’t know how to get started?
In addition to the myriad editions of the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Tanach ) available in book form, the entire Bible can be read in Hebrew and English on Sefaria, an online resource that enables users to search by keyword and provides links to commentaries and other related materials. Below, we outline the contents of the Bible, with links to our articles about each section.
BY RACHEL MINKOWSKY for Kveller
My family joined a synagogue a few months ago, and overall it’s been wonderful for us. But after our first family Shabbat service, I realized I had a lot to learn. And I wanted to learn. I wanted to be a good example for both my children, but especially my 7-year-old, who was thriving in Hebrew school.
Somewhere during a frantic, late-night Google search for Jewish classes and seminars, I stumbled upon a group called JInspire. They were linked with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, a group that offers trips to Israel for Jewish mothers. The trip is a different concept than Birthright. Participants in JWRP trips are expected to regularly engage with the group that accepts them. There are challah bakes, workshops, even Mommy and Me events. It sounded amazing. My husband completely supported my desire to apply.
Though often widely practiced, customs are not considered mandatory by traditional Jews.
A Jewish custom — known in Hebrew as a minhag — is a religious practice that, though sometimes very widely practiced, does not carry the force of Jewish law and is thus not considered mandatory by traditional Jews.
Customs cover an extremely wide range of Jewish rituals, from variations in the order or language of particular prayers to swinging a chicken over one’s head prior to Yom Kippur to the nearly universal practice of smashing a glass at the conclusion of a wedding ceremony. Customs typically have folk origins, but there are instances in which they may have been imposed by religious authorities. Other customs were maintained for so long and adopted so widely that they have become enshrined as obligations in Jewish legal codes and are no longer, strictly speaking, customs at all. Still others may have been adapted from practices of the cultures in which Jews lived and were only later sanctioned by Jewish authorities.
In 2018, the "birthday of the trees" begins at sundown on Tuesday, Jan. 30 and ends at sundown on Wednesday, Jan. 31.
In 2018, the “birthday of the trees” begins at sundown on Tuesday, Jan. 30 and ends at sundown on Wednesday, Jan. 31.
Tu B’Shevat or the “birthday” of all fruit trees, is a minor festival. The name is Hebrew for the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat.
In ancient times, Tu B’Shevat was merely a date on the calendar that helped Jewish farmers establish exactly when they should bring their fourth-year produce of fruit from recently planted trees to the Temple as first-fruit offerings
Find some great ideas on JvillageNetwork's Pinterest page.
BY ILANA KURSHAN for myjewishlearning.com
How to participate in the longest-running Jewish book club (even if you can’t read Hebrew).
Are you interested in joining the world’s largest book club?
Daf yomi (pronounced dahf YOH-mee) is an international program to read the entire Babylonian Talmud — the main text of rabbinic Judaism — in seven and a half years at the rate of one page a day. Tens of thousands of Jews study daf yomi worldwide, and they are all quite literally on the same page — following a schedule fixed in 1923 in Poland by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the founder of daf yomi, who envisioned the whole world as a vast Talmudic classroom connected by a global network of conversational threads.
Philologos, for Mosaic
It’s not why you think.
Viktor Kappel, a reader of Mosaic, writes:
I am a Christian who happens to believe that the Jewish people are indeed God-chosen. Please explain to me, though, why it has become so important to a part of this people to replace AD and BC with CE and BCE. I believe that this is not helpful to the Jewish cause.
As a Jew, I must say that I sympathize with the Jew in the story who, while reciting the words “Thou has chosen us among all people” in the holiday kiddush, stops, raises his arms to heaven, and asks in exasperation, “Why don’t You pick on someone else for a change?” Still, I welcome Mr. Kappel’s question. Since, between this column and my next, 2017 CE or AD will become 2018 AD or CE, it couldn’t have been timelier.
From challah covers to yahrzeit candles, what they are used for, how they look and where you can find them.
Jewish practice involves a number of special objects, referred to as ritual objects or Judaica. Many people like to use, or even collect, beautifully crafted objects, honoring the concept of hiddur mitzvah, beautification of the mitzvah.
The objects below are listed in alphabetical order. All can be purchased from most Judaica stores and online. (Prefabricated sukkah s and sukkah-building kits are available for purchase, although many people prefer to build their own.) Most of the objects listed — with the exception of the yad, shofar and Torah scroll, which are generally reserved for synagogue use —are commonly found in Jewish homes.
In Judaism, who or what is God?
There is no single Jewish conception of God. God has been described, defined, and depicted in a variety of ways in different works of Jewish literature and at different historical moments.
God is beyond human comprehension, but that has not stopped Jewish thinkers from attempting to describe God. The Jewish God is referred to with many names and euphemisms, though God’s scriptural names are traditionally only pronounced during religious activities. Belief in one God is one of Judaism’s defining characteristics. Nonetheless, some parts of the Torah seem less monotheistic than others. In addition, there are minor currents of thought within Judaism that play down the importance of belief in God.
BY RABBI JILL JACOBS for myjewishlearning.com
The concept of Tza'ar Ba'alei Chayim demands that we take animal suffering seriously.
Beginning with the first chapters of the Torah , Judaism establishes a fundamental connection between human beings and animals. Animals, created on the fifth day of the biblical story of creation, can be understood as prototypes of the first human beings — Adam and Eve, created on the sixth day. One of Adam’s first responsibilities as a human being is to name the animals. As evidenced by the episode in which a serpent tempts Eve to eat a forbidden fruit, humans and animals originally speak one another’s language (Genesis 1-3).
The story of Noah’s ark represents a turning point in the relationship between human beings and animals. Furious about human misbehavior, God decides to destroy the world by flood, saving only the righteous Noah and his family and enough animals to sustain all of the species. When the waters recede, God gives Noah seven laws — now known as the Noahide laws — aimed at establishing a just society.
by Breaking Matzo
This project is highlighted in our Hanukkah Guide. Find more articles, crafts, and recipes in our Hanukkah Guide.
1. Hanukkah is a holiday of re-dedication, a festival celebrating the re-establishment of the holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees.
Is there something in your life that you want to improve or to which you want to rededicate yourself this season?
2. Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of a small jug of oil lasting for 8 days.
As you light your Menorah, ask this question: What “miraculous” events, large or small, do you wish to celebrate this year?
BY MJL STAFF
Lesser-known facts about the Festival of Lights.
Hanukkah , which in 2017 starts at sundown on Tuesday, December 12, is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays in the United States. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing new to learn about this eight-day festival. From the mysterious origins of gelt to an Apocryphal beheading to Marilyn Monroe, we’ve compiled an item for each candle (don’t forget the shammash!) on the Hanukkah menorah .
1. Gelt as we know it is a relatively new tradition — and no one knows who invented it.
From History.com. This video is highlighted in our Hanukkah Guide. Find more great videos, articles, crafts, and recipes in our Hanukkah Guide.
Hanukkah celebrates the triumph of Jewish people over religious persecution.
The eight-day Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah or Chanukah commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts.
BY RABBI SIMKHA Y. WEINTRAUB for myjewishlearning.com
A healing prayer for when a loved one is suffering.
One of the central Jewish prayers for those who are ill or recovering from illness or accidents is the Mi Sheberakh. The name is taken from its first two Hebrew words. With a holistic view of humankind, it prays for physical cure as well as spiritual healing, asking for blessing, compassion, restoration, and strength, within the community of others facing illness as well as all Jews, all human beings.
Traditionally, the Mi Sheberakh is said in synagogue when the Torah is read. If the patient herself/himself cannot be at services, a close relative or friend might be called up to the Torah for an honor, and the one leading services will offer this prayer, filling in the name of the one who is ill and her/his parents. Many congregations sing the version of the Mi Sheberakh written by Debbie Friedman, a popular Jewish folk musician who focused on liturgical music. (That version can heard in the video, and its lyrics read, at the top of this article.)
BY MJL STAFF
These supernatural beings appear widely throughout Jewish texts.
Angels are supernatural beings that appear widely throughout Jewish literature.
The Hebrew word for angel, mal’ach, means messenger, and the angels in early biblical sources deliver specific information or carry out some particular function. In the Torah, an angel prevents Abraham from slaughtering his son Isaac, appears to Moses in the burning bush and gives direction to the Israelites during the desert sojourn following the liberation from Egypt. In later biblical texts, angels are associated with visions and prophesies and are given proper names.
Later rabbinic and kabbalistic sources expand on the concept of angels even further, describing a broad universe of named angels with particular roles in the spiritual realm.
BY RABBI RACHEL M. SOLOMIN for myjewishlearning.com
The Jewish world is more ethnically and racially diverse than many people realize.
While the majority of American Jews are of Eastern European descent, that's not the case in Israel and France. From Ethiopian to Sephardic, learn about the many types of Jews.