Chanukah Background

Chanukah begins in a short time 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 Greece, after ...

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The Tragedy of Translation

As we enter the month of Kislev, and the weather turns colder, we start thinking about Chanukah, menorahs, latkes and donuts.  Some of us, of the more nerdy variety, start to think of Philo Judeaus, the Septuagint, Alexandria and Greek tragedies.  One aspect of the Greek opposition to Torah was their objection to the idea that any one people could be “chosen” or have a Divine revelation.  Their campaign against ...

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It’s Night and Day

With the long winter nights now starting so early, I have started to think about day and night and their significance in Jewish thought.  We know that in secular law, the calendar day starts and ends at midnight, however, in Jewish tradition the day starts the evening beforehand. So for example, Shabbat, starts Friday evening around sunset and it ends on Saturday night when the stars come out. So both ...

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The Honor of the Dead

The Jewish community and the entire world recently lost living Torahs, Rav Dovid Feinstein and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. This week’s Torah reading Chayei Sarah discusses the first ever Jewish burial and Avaraham’s care for his deceased wife, Sarah.  I believe that it is appropriate to discuss the mitzvah of burial and respect for the deceased.  The earliest mention of burial is found in Genesis, when G-d speaks to Adam: ...

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Jewish Beauty

Sarah is described by the Torah as being beautiful. (Bereshis 12:11) What is beauty?  According to the Getty Museum ancient sculptors used canons—sets of “perfect” mathematical ratios and proportions—to depict the human form. The earliest known canons were developed by the Egyptians, whose grid-based proportions influenced Greek sculptors in the archaic period (700–480 B.C.). Over time, sculptors and painters sought to create a canon that would allow them to depict ...

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