Rabbi Simeon J. Maslin reveals why, of all our biblical luminaries, it is Elijah who visits our homes on Passover, and why we welcome the prophet to our seder table with his own dedicated cup of wine.
At age 62, Fred Zaidman spends his days helping others. Among them is my mother, a Holocaust survivor, who has described him as a lamed vavnik – one of the 36 tzaddikim (righteous individuals) in every generation whose merit, according to Jewish legend, has kept God from destroying our wicked world. After hearing Fred's story, I think my mother might be right.
Recently, we attended still another wedding not conducted by a rabbi, but by a friend of the couple, or by a freelance “ceremony facilitator.” Although such ceremonies are not recognized by the population registry, and thus have no legal standing, the ways around this obstacle have gotten easier in recent years.
The bimah is the heart of a temple's sanctuary – a gathering place for life cycle events, the focus of our High Holiday worship rituals, and the site that draws us together when we seek comfort from pain.
In 2007, I was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. In my case, it has lived up to its name, and has progressively weakened my body from the waist down, leaving me wheelchair bound. With the loss of my mobility, I also lost the ability to be called for an aliyah, to see the open Torah scroll, to participate in Selichot services, and to join with family and friends for birthday and anniversary blessings. For those of us unable to be on the bimah because of a physical disability, it is easy to feel left out of the Jewish community.
As a teenager, I would sit on my bedroom floor listening to old records of Belgian singer-songwriter, poet, and performer Jacques Brel. I didn’t need to keep a journal, because his lyrics wove together everything I felt at the time. Brel had a fire within, and his anger, longing, passion, and truth blazed through every word he sang. His music, raw and real, transformed and fed my soul; it informed and shaped who I am today.
If not for one Jewish mother’s complaining and prodding to do better, Kibbutz Lotan may not have ventured into environmental education – and the more than 500 graduates of the Green Apprenticeship program, along with the thousands of others who have participated in Lotan workshops, would not have gained the life-altering experience this geographically remote Negev outpost inspires.
What about the young man who wants to learn the basics of Judaism because his fiancée is Jewish? Or the longtime seeker who’s curious to explore what draws her to our ancient faith? Or the grandparents whose daughter and son-in-law are raising Jewish kids? A Taste of Judaism® class may fit the bill perfectly – for them and for your congregation.
While the current media climate seems to have no limits as to what’s deemed acceptable, Broad City is proof that it’s still possible to provoke and challenge. The show's creators, as comfortable with their Jewishness as they are with their sexuality, are part of a new wave of Jewish women who continue to test the limits of what’s permissible in popular American comedy.
For more than 3,000 years, Jews have gathered to retell the story of Passover and celebrate our deliverance from slavery in Egypt. In the Book of Exodus, we are not only told to observe Passover (Exodus 12: 17); we also are taught that, “In every generation all of us are obliged to regard ourselves as if we ourselves went forth from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 13:8). We must not only gather for seder and replace chametz with matzah, but we also must take ownership of the Passover narrative and experience it anew each year.
The media called it the “Angelina Jolie Effect.” When the superstar actress-director went public three years ago with her decision to undergo a double prophylactic mastectomy, after discovering she carried a genetic mutation that dramatically increased her risk for breast cancer, women flooded physicians’ offices and internet sites seeking information and support.