Laws and Customs of Purim

Laws and Customs of Purim (From Gateway to Judaism, Mordechai Becher, Mesorah-Artscroll) Purim is preceded by the Fast of Esther on the 13th of the Hebrew month of Adar (usually corresponding to late February or early March).  The fast begins at dawn and ends at night.  It commemorates the fact that Queen Esther and the Jews of her city fasted before she entered the king’s chambers to ask him for ...

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Very soon Jews all over the world will celebrate the festival of Purim. Our Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, and we were exiled to Babylon and Persia (modern day Iraq and Iran). Haman ascended to power under the Persian Empire and was at the peak of his political influence and wealth.  As we know, Haman hatched a plot to destroy all the Jewish people, something with ...

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Eat, Drink and Be Merry – We Almost Died

As we approach Purim, I cannot resist talking about this beautiful festival.  It is one of two festivals of the winter, Chanukah and Purim.  While the events of Chanukah were principally a threat to our spiritual survival, Purim recalls a threat to the physical existence of the Jewish people.  Haman attempted to physically destroy every Jewish man, woman and child.  We celebrate our deliverance from this threat with mitzvot that ...

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Chapped Hands and the Temple

We are approaching spring, hopefully, but as winter continues one of the things that I have been thinking about is chapped skin. Yes, my hands get very rough and chapped.  I use a hand cream on them, but, when I put on my tie I can actually feel the fabric catching on my skin.  I cannot help thinking that one of the reasons my hands are chapped is because as ...

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The Month of Miraculous Jewish Survival

We are currently in the month of Adar I, and will celebrate Purim in about a month, during Adar II.  Rashi tells us that the season of miracles and redemption culminating in Passover begins at the beginning of the month of Adar.  This is why the Talmud tells us that “When Adar begins one should increase their happiness.”  I believe that the miracle of Purim is really the ongoing miracle ...

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The Sun, the Moon and the Seasons

This week we mark the beginning of Adar Rishon, or Adar 1, the additional month of a Jewish leap year.  Measuring and marking the passage of time is a universal human preoccupation. At least forty different calendars are in use around the world today.  The most widely used systems are the solar calendar, based on the cycle of the sun, and the lunar calendar, based on the cycle of the ...

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Petty Theft

People often accuse Judaism of being too focused on details. This week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, is cited as an example of this focus.  It is full of detailed laws regarding torts, damages, theft, contract law, marriage law, property law etc. etc. It is not a very “spiritual” section of the Torah.  However, I gained some insight into the Parsha during some recent travels.  I witnessed a few cases of theft ...

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God Bless America

Abraham’s relationship with God was rooted in a covenant, an agreement between two parties, each having obligations toward the other.  Abraham and his descendants were obligated to practice circumcision, kindness and justice and to have faith in God.  God in turn promised that Abraham’s descendants would maintain a special relationship with Him.  They would be given the Land of Israel and would be a “blessing to all nations of the ...

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Shevat and the Land of Israel 5779

Now that we are in the month of Shevat I would like to continue my theme of the laws of the land of Israel.  The seventh year of the agricultural cycle, is known as Shmittah, the Sabbatical year. In Israel, no new crops are planted and only maintenance work is done on crops and trees that already exist. Farmers may not sell their produce or prevent people (or animals) from ...

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