As a modern-day researcher of Jewish thought, I especially love the personal descriptions that Jewish philosophers insert parenthetically into their Jewish philosophical text. These descriptions allow us to learn about central customs in Jewish community life, as well as the educational values and philosophical insights that were etched into the Jewish consciousness of the philosopher in question.
This Friday begins the Jewish month of Av and the nine days leading up to Tisha B’Av, the Ninth of Av, a day that commemorates the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem and other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people. Rabbi Avi Novis-Deutsch, Dean of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, suggests that the day is an opportunity to listen to unheard voices and to make room for diverse approaches to Judaism.
Memory or heroism? Victims or heroes? What should a museum commemorate? Professor Doron Bar, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, shares insights into how Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and museum, was established. He focuses on the Hall of Remembrance, a less frequented site in the Yad Vashem complex, and its meaning to him and to his students.
Are we aware of the miracles surrounding us? Rabbi Professor David Golinkin, President of The Schechter Institutes, shares excerpts of a letter written 70 years ago by the late Binyamin Brenzel. It describes the excitement in Israel following the UN partition vote. Brenzel, who later worked at Schechter until age 100, gives a window into the miraculous nature of the creation of the State of Israel.
Question from a rabbi in Jerusalem: I am taking care of “Reuven”’s apartment in Jerusalem, but “Reuven” lives in New York. Reuven asked me to sell his hametz to a non-Jew. But Pesah in Israel ends 31 hours before it ends in New York – a seven-hour time difference plus an additional day of Yom Tov Sheni (the additional day of the Festival in the Diaspora). In other words, the hametz will revert to his possession in Jerusalem when it is still Pesah in New York. How, then, can I sell his hametz?
Lights Camera Action! Drama doesn’t just take place in the movies, on Passover we remember that we too were brought out of Egypt. In preparation for your own seder Rabbi Professor David Golinkin, President of The Schechter Institutes, tells of the custom of reenacting the story of the Exodus and offers a way of bringing the drama to your own seder.
Midrash Sifre teaches that the Israelites left Egypt with Miriam at their lead: “when you left Egypt”: the time of your redemption, the tribes traveled only when Miriam preceded them (Sifre Deut. 275). She is one of the important women in the Passover story. In her essay, Rabbi Sara Cohen, ordained in 2017 by the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary discussed the different titles Israeli women take on when they become rabbis.
Who is the true hero of the Purim story? Dr. Ari Ackerman, Dean of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies and Senior Lecturer in Jewish Thought, discusses the concept of Nes Nistar (a hidden miracle). How do the power of Esther and the foibles of Haman and Achashveros manifest in the drama of saving the Jews? Watch the video below:
Professor Doron Bar, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, describes how during times when Jews did not have access to particular holy sites, they created and ‘discovered’ new ones based in history and in Biblical stories.
The Jewish community in Ukraine also lights Hanukkah candles in public locations. For the second year in a row, the Conservative/Masorti community has been celebrating the Holiday of Light by lighting candles on a large Hanukkiya placed in one of the main squares of Ukraine’s capital, Kontraktova Square in the historic district of Podyl. This year, the Hanukkiya was attacked by vandals who drew a swastika on it on the very first night of the holiday, splattered a red liquid resembling blood on the 6th night and took down the leaflets explaining the meaning and traditions of the holiday in the meantime.