The Tenth of Tevet

The fast day of the 10th of Tevet is approaching, so before I discuss its history, just a brief introduction to the idea of fasting in general. Six days a year we are forbidden to eat or drink.  About eighty days of the year we are commanded to feast — a 13 to 1 ratio of feasting to fasting.  Rather than being ascetic, Judaism clearly rejoices in life and seeks ...

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Chanukah Celebration!

Chanukah is a celebration of the miracle of Jewish spiritual survival.  After millennia of attempts to assimilate us, whether through force or persuasion, we are still here.   But, it is not mere physical survival that we celebrate.  After all, the genes of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Greeks have also physically survived.  The miracle of Jewish survival is that we have survived with our spiritual heritage intact.  When we ...

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Chanukah Background

Chanukah begins on Sunday night (Dec 2, 2018) so here is a little historical introduction to the Chanukah festival, to which we will hopefully add some spiritual insights in the coming weeks. Approximately 200 years before the events of Chanukah, hundreds of thousands of Jews returned from the Babylonian exile to the Land of Israel.  In time, they rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem and established an independent Jewish monarchy.  Meanwhile in ...

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Jacob's Ladder

Visions of G-d?

In this week’s parsha, VaYetzei, Jacob has a vision of a ladder connecting heaven and earth, on which angels ascend and descend.  At the top of the ladder, in his dream, he “sees” G-d standing over him.  Now, there are many, many prophetic visions in the Torah, and many expressions that seem to assign some type of form or even body to G-d.  We always understand these as allegory and ...

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