JEWISH CULTURE AND CUSTOMS

Inside View Sep/Oct 2018

In the book of Deuteronomy, God told the Israelites to teach His Word diligently to their children—when they were in their homes, when they went out, when they were lying down, and when they rose up so that all may be well with them (6:1–7). The psalmist said the Word of God will guide us in truth…

Tikkun Olam

It is our duty to praise the Lord of all things, to ascribe greatness to Him who formed the world in the beginning, since He hath not made us like the nations of other lands…

Workmen’s Circle

The children of Israel provided an interesting name for the heavenly bread sent to them from the Lord. They called it manna, which means “What is it?” (Ex. 16:15). The same question is asked today…

Play Ball!

Sports radio, a relative newcomer in the arena known as talk radio, is a result of the mutual admiration between professional athletes and the fans who watch them. The last names of the people who produce…

Jewish Music: Capturing the Heart of a People Conclusion

In Old Testament days, Jewish worship revolved first around the Tabernacle and later the Temple. Crucial to that worship was music, particularly the skill and purpose of
its presentation. In accordance with 2 Chronicles…

Blessings on Your Head

At the beginning of the movie Fiddler on the Roof, Jewish people in the little Russian village of Anatevka ask their rabbi if there is a special blessing for the czar. The czar ruled…

Akiva: Ascension to Prominence

Joseph Akiva is known by Jewish people around the world as the famous Rabbi Akiva. Though he lived from A.D. 50 to 135, he is deeply revered among Jews today for his amazing insights…

Is the New Testament Anti-Semitic?

If I had been asked, “Is the New Testament anti-Semitic?” during my university years, I would not have hesitated a moment before answering, “Yes!” My formative years were spent surrounded by people whose perception…

A Day for Remembering Yom Hashoah

Some of the most disturbing words in all of Scripture are found in the book of Esther: There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom…

Pondering the Question of Evil

Why is there so much evil in the world? That question has challenged philosophers and scholars since time began. Spend just 30 minutes watching the national news—with its usual display of wars, man’s injustice…

When You’re Dead, You’re Dead!

A number of years ago, I attended the funeral of a dear Jewish friend named Max. I had met him through mutual friends shortly after his right side had become crippled by a stroke.

So, What Exactly is That?

Meeting new people is a regular part of my job. Usually it takes just a short time before I find myself asking the inevitable question, “What do you do?” Sometimes (not often, I hope)…

Chosen? for What?

Were you ever the first one onto the baseball diamond but the last to be chosen for a team? Or worse, maybe you were never chosen at all? Maybe, though, you were the best player…

Aliyah for the People of the Book

The People of the Book.” Whom do you think of when you hear that phrase, which so clearly distinguishes a specific people? Which people and what book? The people are the Chosen People, the Israelites…

Organized for Service

In 1843 twelve Jewish men, each one an immigrant, met on the Lower East Side of New York City. Their purpose was to form an organization to help their own people in need—a type of

People for a Land

You would think that such a want ad would yield few, if any, applicants. Yet just after the turn of the twentieth century, forty thousand Jewish people made aliya (immigration to Israel)…

Lost Hope Reclaimed

Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are cut off on our part…

The First Line of Defense

Once a year an Orthodox community in Israel assembles to honor the boys from fatherless families who are ready for bar mitzvah. The fathers of these boys all lost their lives in service to their…

From Badge to Banner

Vexillology. Most people have never heard the term; but according to World Book Encyclopedia, it is the study of the history and symbolism of flags. Its root can be traced to the Latin word for…

Jewish Humor

The obstetrician wanted to be sure. His patient had told him the date she expected her baby to be born. Taking into account her age, size, and weight gain…

Judaism vs Jewishness

He could have been a poster boy for a Jewish magazine. Reared in an observant home, he had celebrated bar mitzvah at age 13. He graduated from Hebrew school at the age of 18, and it was clear he had a firm grasp of Jewish history and culture as well as…

Giving and Receiving the Blessing

Do you remember the old TV program Star Trek? In that series, the expression “Live long and prosper” became a familiar utterance. It was used by First Officer Spock as a greeting and a farewell to special people visiting the starship…

Try It—You’ll Like!

For many of us, food is an emotional experience. The sights and aromas of various food items evoke wide-ranging passions, both positive and negative. It is not uncommon to observe grimaces and other contortions as people view…

Baptism or Mikveh

“Steve, I can’t do it, I just can’t do it. I know all about the plans we’ve made, but this is not going to happen. I’m Jewish; this would be too much for my family.” The voice on the other end of the phone was quivering with emotion. This was not…

Politics And Politicians

From the time of Israel’s inception as a modern state 51 years ago, the United States has been its consistent and loyal friend. In our country, many issues seem to be based on political affiliation. The treatment of Israel has not been one…

“I Was Born a Jew, and I Will Die a Jew.”

There are many religions in the world. While some seem to overlap and even share common beliefs and practices, most have distinctive characteristics that mark them out or set them apart. Many have unique, identifiable practices, including…

Who Killed Jesus?

Picture this: A Jewish family spending quality time decorating a Christmas tree. Does this sound odd to you? When I was 17, I was invited to a Christmas tree decorating party at the home of a Jewish acquaintance. Confusion would best describe my initial reaction…

The Call of the Shofar

Have you ever been driving along the highway when, seemingly out of nowhere, you hear the shrill sound of sirens? At first you are startled as the high-pitched sound seems to engulf you from almost every direction. Instinctively you try to…

What’s In a Name?

One of the wonderful things about becoming parents is the ongoing debate between husband and wife over what to name the child. What couple hasn’t purchased a book of names and then uttered the words, “Hey, what about…?”

The Tattoo Is Taboo

Our neighborhood boasted a penny candy store ingeniously located on my route to school. In addition to the tempting and inexpensive candy, one of the most popular items in the store was the individualized tattoo. The shopper had a choice of…

Wanting to Be a Somebody

Written in the flyleaf of one of my books are the words, “Great to be a somebody. I’m most grateful for everything. T. G. [Thank God].” A friend of mine wrote those words in 1960. When he wrote that note, Max was indeed a somebody. An immigrant child whose…

The Pioneering Spirit

The pioneering spirit has always captivated me. Remnants of wagon trails can still be seen in various Western states. The courage and tenacity displayed by those trailblazers are lessons for all of us. Yet, as much as I admire those brave Americans who…

Uncovering Our Roots: The Pale Of Settlement

An understanding of our family background—how our ancestors lived and how they came to the United States from their countries of origin—satisfies a curiosity in many of us. For myself and other Jewish people with Eastern European ancestry, tracing our roots can…

A Jew Lives Here

Jewish people who are serious about practicing their Judaism realize that living incognito is not an option for them. Judaism, by its very nature, teaches its people not to be ashamed of their identity.

Fermished and Ferblonjet

A guide is a person who shows the way by leading, directing, or advising. The Friends of Israel uses excellent guides when we host our tours to Israel. These individuals provide insightful information…

How to Be a Mensch

My mother gasped when she saw me walk through the door after a semester away at college. I had left home clean shaven with short hair, and now—well, let’s just say she had trouble finding…

A Jew, or Not a Jew?

A rabbi tells a story of his days in rabbinical school. As part of his curriculum, the professor asked his students to list the names of the ten greatest Jews of the 20th century.

The Question of Time

It is often joked about among Jewish people that whenever the time is set for an appointment or a date, the time specified will not be the actual time to begin.

Tzedaka: It Is More Blessed to Give

A story is told of the rabbi of Nemirov. His followers, all Hasidim, stated emphatically that every night their rabbi went up to heaven. Another Jewish group, Mitnaggedim (opponents), ridiculed the Hasidim about this belief.

The Dynamic Of Jewish Prayer

Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lᴏʀᴅ.

Siddur: The Book Of Prayer

Like so many other Jewish adults, I well remember the long and arduous process of learning the liturgy of Hebrew prayers involved in worship. It started with the simple rote learning of the Hebrew alphabet.

Prayer: The Service Of The Heart

Prayer is not unique to Judaism, yet Jewish prayer is unique. In synagogues around the world, congregants meet together to worship. But Jewish prayer is not confined to a synagogue.

Because It’s A Mitzvah

When people visit Mea Shearim, one of the most Orthodox communities in all of Israel, or observe the crowds gathered at the Western Wall of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem, questions often arise…

Kabbalah: Making a Mystery of God’s Word

An expert is defined as a person who displays a special knowledge derived from training or experience. Over two decades ago, as a junior in college, I was boarding with several other students—all Gentiles.

Rambam and Rashi: Bringing the Bottom Line

Separated by time (about 100 years) and distance (several hundred miles), two men provided the means for the Jewish people to study both the Talmud and the Bible. These “helps” are still used today…

Hillel: The Kind Pharisee

Jewish tradition states that the oral law was transmitted from Moses to Joshua, from Joshua to the elders, from the elders to the prophets, and from the prophets to the men of the great assembly.

The Talmud

“No! No! No!” the grandmother screamed as the six-year-old boy placed the clean spoon into the drawer of clean utensils. “That spoon goes with the milchig [dairy].” The youngster should have known;

Tenach, Torah, & Targum

The Torah is the foundation stone for the Jewish people. Inspired by God and written by Moses, it has been central to Jewish life since its inception.

Food For Thought

Food, with its various tastes, smells, textures, and visual appeal, is a powerful trigger in the process of remembering. Whether it is in the preparation, serving, or eating, certain foods seem to prompt many people…

Fussy Fressers

Food is an integral part of Jewish life. One man explained it this way: “For our people, food is more than a necessity of life; it is an emotional experience.”

A Special Diet

Food, glorious food! We need it to survive. We eat it to celebrate almost any occasion. We offer it in hospitality or comfort. Socially, food somehow helps to build bridges for easier and better communication…

Dressed for Worship Part Two

As Tevya, the milkman in Sholem Aleichem’s story Fiddler on the Roof, considered various practices unique to his Judaism, he turned to the audience and asked, “Why do we do the things we do?”…

Dressed for Worship Part One: The Tallit

Who hasn’t had it happen—a missed appointment, that lack of association between a name and a face, the forgotten anniversary or birthday? Forgetfulness is a plague that knows no prejudice.

Death and Mourning

Chai is the Hebrew word for life. Jewish people frequently wear gold charms depicting this Hebrew character on chains around their necks, emphasizing the fact that life is Judaism’s most precious and cherished commodity.

Shabbat

Holidays are commemorative days used by most people to participate in recreational activities, to travel, or just to relax. Conversely, holy days are special days set aside for worship.

A Little Sanctuary Ezekiel 11:16

As a youngster growing up, I can remember two synagogues in our neighborhood. Sitting high on a hill was an imposing, three-story brick building with beautiful white stone pillars in the front.

The Jewish Wedding

Marriage is regarded as one of the most important and significant decisions in the lives of Jewish people. The Torah (the five books of Moses) clearly states that God made “an help fit” for Adam…