Two Women Who Clung to the Shechinah


Within ancient Hebrew manuscripts, scattered among libraries throughout the world, one can find some surprising treasures, like previously unknown and unpublished pieces of writing. The unusual midrash we will examine here is one of these. It appears in a manuscript that is part of the Firkovich collection, which resides in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg.

Woman and Ritual: Bat-Mitzvah in Israel Curricula


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.

Is it permissible to practice reading the Torah from a Torah Scroll?


Is it permissible for a child to practice reading the Torah from aSefer Torah [Torah scroll] in preparation for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony? A rabbi wrote to me that “there is a problem halakhically to take a Torah out when it’s not for the need of thetzibur [=congregation]”. Any thoughts on whether this is forbidden?

From Sinai to Ruth: Why We Read Megillat Ruth on Shavuot Israel Standing Before God Ruth Standing Before Naomi


How we wish we could go back in time and stand at Sinai – to experience those three days of excited preparation, the sounds and the lightening, the heavy cloud, the loud blow of the shofar, the smoking mountain, God in the descending fire, Moses and God speaking to one another. If we could only, even for a brief moment, hear the voice of God, Master of the Universe, our Father, speaking to us to say: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt from the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.”[note]Exodus 22.[/note] We yearn to merit the experience of receiving the Torah at Sinai directly from God: “Not through an angel, not through a seraph and not through a messenger. The Holy One, blessed be He, did it in His glory by Himself!”[note]Pesach Haggadah.[/note]

Why is keriah performed on the left side for parents but on the right side for other relatives? (Yoreh Deah 340:9 in the Shakh and the Taz)


For all these years I have conducted funerals and cut keriahaccording to Yoreh Deah, children on the left and spouses on the right. My mother blanched at this and we still did it for her on the right, but it has made me wonder: How far back can we trace this distinction? It feels like a statement that blood is thicker than contracts. Is this true? Or does the child need to have his/her heart exposed, in order to get in touch with their own feelings? Can you help me with this?