Do You Grab Hold of the Torah on Shavuot?

Artistic Styalization of Two Hands Giving and Receiving

Hands Giving and Receiving

At Shavuot, how we receive the gift of Torah is one of the great questions posed. I found a path towards understanding in a passage of the Talmud.

One is really two and two is really four. This is not a set of alternative facts but an insight from the Talmud (BT Shabbat 2a) about the nature of things. Shavuot is the time of the giving of Torah. But in any transaction there are two components, giving and receiving; one is really two. But it doesn’t stop there.

Both giving and receiving are either active or passive. In giving, we can thrust it towards another actively, or we can be passive and open our hands for the other to take it. Similarly, in receiving, we can actively take the gift with eagerness and enthusiasm, or we can open our hands to passively receive the gift that is to be bestowed upon us. Two is really four. [Read more…]

Combating Hunger With Jewish Values

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger is an organization that has been fighting hunger for over three decades. Originally, Mazon operated by providing funds to local food relief agencies, but now, it is solely an advocacy organization. Mazon advocates on hunger issues at all levels of government and provides grants to support the advocacy capacity of food distribution organizations and other anti-hunger groups throughout the United States and Israel. The grants — 179 of them this past year — fund advocacy efforts that benefit people of all faiths and backgrounds.

Rabbi Erin Glazer. Photo credit to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

Rabbi Erin Glazer
Photo credit to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

In between busily preparing for Passover and responding to fast-paced government developments, Rabbi Erin Glazer, senior engagement officer of MAZON in Washington, D.C., took the time to answer a number of questions about the organization during a phone interview. Glazer served as rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, New Jersey, and gained her legislative experience at the National Council of Jewish Women and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. [Read more…]

Dayenu – A Call to Action

Dayenu!

Nachshon

Waves symbolizing the waters of the Red Sea.

“It would have been enough for us.”

This is our response to each of the many miracles we enumerate at the Seder table. Thank you, God, for doing each of these great things; if you stopped at any point along the way, that should have been enough to satisfy us.

But our response is incomplete.

[Read more…]

Immigration Hagaddah Supplement From HIAS

Photos from the HIAS Haggadah

Photos from the HIAS Haggadah.

This year, above all others, we should turn our thoughts and deeds to the millions of refugees fleeing from war and violence, a reincarnation of our great-grandparents fleeing from pogroms, conscription into the army of the czar and abject poverty. HIAS, our agency for resettlement of refugees in the United States, has prepared a Hagaddah supplement with striking photos and drawings of what it means to be a refugee today.

The full 10-page booklet is available for free use. Here is just an excerpt: [Read more…]

StandWithUs Passover Haggadah

unnamed-1A new Passover Haggadah is being distributed by StandWithUs, an international Israel education organization, that emphasizes not only the themes of slavery and freedom but also underscores Jews’ 3,000-year-long connection to their ancestral homeland, Israel. The Haggadah, From Ancient Egypt to Modern Israel, is the brainchild of StandWithUs co-founder and COO, Jerry Rothstein.

“According to a Pew research survey, 70% of Jews in America from all denominations will likely participate in a Passover Seder,” states Rothstein. “This statistic is greater than participation on Yom Kippur, on Rosh Hashanah, or during the lighting of Shabbat candles. What better time to reach high numbers of Jews of all ages as well as their non-Jewish friends who will be attending their Seders?”

The new StandWithUs Haggadah contains the traditional service and adds beautiful original artwork, Hebrew text with English translation, and updates the language to modify the text from “you should tell your sons” to “you should tell your children.” StandWithUs is also preparing to distribute this Haggadah published in other languages.

“While all Haggadahs do a great job focusing on the Jewish suffering during slavery and the miracle of the escape from Egypt, the subsequent arrival in the ancestral land of Israel (immediately following the Exodus) should also be taught at the Passover table,” adds Rothstein.

Malice at the Palace

It is traditional during the Jewish political holiday of Purim (March 11-12) to present a playful Purim shpiel. Last year in the midst of the very contentious election season, I penned A Presidential Purim Parody, with the brave Queen Esther/Hillary, the righteous Mordecai/Bernie and their divisive opponent, Haman/Donald.

Things didn’t quite work out the way many had hoped. So allow me to present an epilogue in the spirit of Purim, featuring The “Not Ready for the Presidency” Players.

King Donald roams the palace halls,
Dressed in his royal robe,
Displaying “tremendous” touchiness,
Despite being a germaphobe.
[Read more…]