Rosh Hashana: Judgement Day or Day of Creation?


Jewish sources posit different dates and meaning to the Jewish New Year.

The verses of the Rosh Hashanah Torah reading force us to ask ourselves how to define the essence of this day. Leviticus 23 tells us, “… In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall be a solemn rest unto you, a memorial proclaimed with the blast of horns, a holy convocation. You shall do no manner of servile work; and you shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD.” In Numbers 29 it is written, “And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation: you shall do no manner of servile work; it is a day of blowing the horn unto you.” These two descriptions, referring to a memorial and a blast of horns, are a far cry from the holiday we know as Rosh Hashanah. How did a day of rest and blast of horns become the day to mark the new year, and why on the first day of the seventh month?

Thoughts for the New Year: “Man Was Created on Rosh Hashanah” and “Of Uman, Community and 21st Century ‘I'”


With the high holidays approaching, the Schechter Institutes wish you and your loved ones a most festive and meaningful holiday experience. Dr. Tomer Persico, a respected researcher and lecturer on contemporary spiritual culture and frequent contributor to Israeli media, joined the Schechter faculty last year with the launch of our newest M.A. specialization – Spiritual Education. He is also a popular lecturer in TALI’s spiritual education program – Neshama Yetiera.

Ruminations on Memory and its Transmission to the Next Generation


Every year, the days between Passover and Independence Day are a period of rumination for me regarding the purpose of personal, familial, and national memory. Twenty-four years have passed since my son Uriel Yitzchaq of blessed memory, an infantry officer in the IDF, passed away, and I wonder what elements of my family story, prototypical of the Jewish-Israeli narrative of this generation, shall be remembered in my family in the years to come? What part of the heroic account of the “Holocaust and Renewal” generation shall remain in the collective memory of later generations?

How to Foil a Revolution


A well-known theory about the Exodus posits that a slave revolt lay behind the biblical account. See the discussion in W.H. Propp, Exodus 1–18 (AB; New York: Doubleday, 1999), pp. 741-744. Basing itself on historical sources, the hypothesis proposes a connection between large population movements in the eastern Mediterranean during the 2nd millenium BCE and the Israelite departure from Egypt. Can we find any support in the Bible for the idea of a popular rebellion?

The Binding of Isaac in Art: Piety and Protest


The article The Binding of Isaac: Piety and Protest explores this week’s Torah Portion “Vayera” in a totally new light: through the eyes of the artist. The article is one of 27 found on the TALI website Visual Midrash. The site, the first on-line fine and folk-art index of the Bible and its commentaries, was created by Dr. Jo Milgrom, Israel’s primary lecturer in “art as midrash” at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies and biblical scholar, Dr. Joel Duman. The website is based on Dr. Milgrom’s archive of art images collected over a lifetime of teaching and pioneering the field of art as Biblical commentary. Over 950 catalogued images are now accessible on the Visual Midrash Web site, with essays in English and Hebrew on 28 biblical themes. Altogether, Milgrom has donated 3,000 slides from her personal collection to this project. To read more about the project, click here.

Yom Kippur: A Day for Moral and Cosmic Self-Examination


The Days of Awe, or High Holidays, constitute one of two beginnings in the Hebrew calendar. The second beginning of the year is marked in the spring at Passover, Holiday of Freedom.

All the Jewish festivals are tied up with one another as commemorating Creation, a cosmic event from which all life in the universe originated, and as commemorating the Exodus, an event of national significance to the Jewish people in particular. But it can be argued that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur represent more the cosmic aspect of traditional Jewish existence, while Passover, Shavuot and, to an extent, Sukkot represent more the national particular aspect.

Joy and Gladness on the Ninth of Av and Yom Ha’atzma’ut


As a Zionist and a religious Jew, I see God’s hand in the rebirth of the Jewish state, and the subsequent restoration of ancient Jerusalem and the Temple Mount to Jewish sovereignty. In fact, while most religious Zionists believe that the State of Israel marksthe beginning of the burgeoning of our redemption, my sense is that this rebirth and restoration are the totality of the promised redemption foretold by the prophets of yore, for which Jews have prayed for 2000 years.

The Musar Movement in the Lithuanian World of Torah – the Teachings of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter z”l


In mid-19th century Lithuania, a Torah-based movement arose that came to be known as the Musar (morality) Movement, which stressed human moral conduct founded on ethical discipline. The movement’s founder and central figure was Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin Salanter (1810–1883), named for his home town Salant. This article is dedicated to R. Yisrael and to the Musar Movement, whichhad a significant impact on the Jewish Torah world. Its central idea of perfecting one’s personal character is linked closely to the ideal of good faith and fairness that are at the basis of our legal system.

The Yetser Hatov in Rabbinic Thought


The rabbinic notion of two inclinations – good and evil – vying for domination in each human heart is first mentioned and best known from a homily on Deuteronomy 6:5, the second verse in theShema, which begins “ve’ahavta et hashem elokekha bekhol levavkha…”. Commenting on the use of the variant form levavkha, with double bet, for “your heart”, instead of libkha with one bet, thedarshan explains that you are expected to love God with both your inclinations, the good and the evil: “bishney yetsarekha, yetser hatov viyetser hara”. Versions of this homily are found in Mishnah Berakhot 9:5, Sifre Deuteronomy 32 and Tosefta Berakhot 6:7. In the Tosefta this darshan is identified as the second century tannaRabbi Meir, the primary teacher of RabbiJudah the Patriarch, editor of the Mishnah.