One of the most curious phenomena associated with the rituals of the Second Temple Judaism is the water libation offered at the Temple on Sukkot. The Torah prescribes a very strict and detailed regime of sacrifices: these include offerings of incense and livestock; grain in various forms, sometimes mixed with oil and frankincense; and libations of wine upon the altar. The exact composition of the offering appropriate for each occasion is strictly regulated; violation of these strictures, and the unauthorized offering of sacrifices on the Temple altar, are considered serious offenses.
According to Jewish tradition, five events took place on the 17th of Tammuz: Moses smashed the tablets of the Law, the daily offering was abolished at the time of the Second Temple, the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Roman general Titus, and the Torah scroll was burnt by Apostamos, who also erected an idol in the Temple (time unknown).
When recalling my Jewish childhood, the first memory that comes to mind is from Seder night – the immaculate house, the set table covered with a white tablecloth, the taste of the holiday foods, and primarily the feeling of contentment after long days of hard work and preparation. The stars of the evening were the children, for whom the Seder was fashioned as a unique and fascinating experience, engaging all of the senses in order to allow us to absorb both the explicit and hidden messages of the Haggadah. The telling of the story was led by my grandfather, who would stand and hold the full Seder plate over the heads of the participants, as a symbol of abundance, blessings and success, while those seated would sing with great fervor, “This is the bread of our affliction… all who are hungry may come and eat…next year we shall be free.”
May an uncircumcised Jew have an aliyah, serve as a sheliah tzibbur, have a Bar Mitzvah, a Jewish wedding or burial? Does it make a difference if he or his parents refused to circumcise him for ideological reasons or if he was prevented from having a brit milah [circumcision] by outside forces, such as the Soviet regime?
How should a young Jewish Israeli girl celebrate her bat mitzvah? The answer to this question is clear to members of the Conservative and Reform movements. The young girl will celebrate the same way her brother does his bar mitzvah. She will learn the blessings for being called up to the Torah, and may also learn the cantillation marks for reading the haftarah and perhaps the Torah portion. She may write a bat mitzvah address to be given on the Shabbat morning when she is called up to the Torah, or at the party. The aliyah can be seen as a recapitulation of being present at the revelation at Mount Sinai, and by being called up to the Torah, the bat mitzvah, like the bar mitzvah, expresses her commitment to Jewish tradition and to the Jewish people.
From the story of a life on its last journey, from words of family members gathered around the grave, rises terrible pain but also a great light. Notes from Mt. Herzl
It is customary to study Torah all night at a Tikkun Leil Shavuot. What are the sources and the customs related to this practice?
It is common practice today for a child to recite kaddish in memory of a parent for 11 months, even though the normal period of mourning is 12 months. How long should a child recite kaddish for a parent and why?
Within the plethora of discussion in Rabbinic literature about rain and the water supply, two main approaches are discernible: rain as a divine omen to be understood in a spiritual sense, and as a vital resource to be managed using worldly tools. Did the Rabbis sense a tension between these two?
Separating the study of the seder into two separate fields – one that examines the history of the seder, and one that examines the meaning of the seder and how we observe it today – is an unnecessary and fruitless separation. By understanding how our ancestors celebrated this night, and allowing this understanding to inform our modern customs, we emerge with a richer perspective on our history and observance of the evening’s rituals.