7/10/24

Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy

We are observing today the 24th Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy (aleha hashalom).

We miss her so very much. She would have loved to see the progress of her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and take pride in all of their accomplishments. She would have loved to read books to her great-grandchildren and to watch them play and grow.

She was born in NYC and attended the public schools in Washington Heights. She watched from her classroom window as they built the George Washington Bridge.

She graduated from Hunter High School, Hunter College and went on to a career in public service at the OPA and then into the field education. 

Together with my dad, she founded the Park East Day School when my father was rabbi at the Park East Synagogue, then called Congregation Zichron Ephraim. She subsequently taught in NYC public schools for many years.

She is interred on Har Hamenuchot in Jerusalem. Her beautiful memorial photo site is here.

4/14/24

Understanding the Extensive Connections Between Religions and Terrorism?

In light of the awful terrorist attacks that have been launched once again in Israel I thought it urgent to repost this item.

What are the connections between religions and terrorism? 

That's a big question. I tried to answer, explain and understand it in the past through my extensive scholarly research and my academic teaching.

Here is a selected list of my blog posts of study resources in the analysis of the connections between terrorism and religion (compiled when I taught a course on religion and terrorism at FDU a few years ago). Click on each one to read it.
  1. Questions about American Christian Terrorism
  2. Religion and Jewish Terrorists (and see the JTA report)
  3. What is a Religious Culture of Violence and Terror? 
  4. Who were Shoko Asahara and the Buddhist Aum Shinrikyo Religious Terrorists? 
  5. How did Religion Motivate Sikh Terrorists? 
  6. What is the Logic of the Theater of Religious Terror? 
  7. Why Do Religious Terrorist Martyrs say that they aim to kill the demons? 
  8. What do Sexuality and Humiliation have to do with Terrorism? 
  9. Will the War Against Religious Terrorism Ever End? 
  10. From Kahane to Osama: How Do Men Make Religious Terrorism Into Cosmic War? 
  11. How can we end religious terrorism and achieve the peace of God? 
  12. Concluding Questions on Religion and Terrorism

I have studied this subject at great length and taught courses in the area because I believe that understanding can help us resolve tragic conflicts. 
I also believe in the power of prayer to help us bring peace to the world.
I recommend to you all of my books: My Home Page

3/2/24

Best Seller: Elegant new 750 page edition of "The Zohar in English"

Often the Best Seller #1 in Zohar 

The Zohar in English Paperback!


The Zohar is called the greatest work of Jewish Mysticism. From the Middle Ages to today people of all faiths have studied and pored over the Zohar to explore the mysteries of God and the universe and to seek knowledge of when the redemption of the world will arrive.

The Zohar is a mystical novel whose hero is Rabbi Simeon son of Yohai, a rabbi and disciple of Rabbi Akiva from second century Israel. The original Aramaic work describes how Rabbi Simeon and his companions wander through the hills of Galilee, discovering and sharing mystical secrets of the Torah.

This large format 750 page edition presents the entire work in one volume in eloquent English as translated by several great scholars of the 20th century.


  • Amazon Best Seller

11/28/23

The United Nations Resolution 181 (II). Future government of Palestine on 29 November 1947. Created a Palestinian State. Arabs rejected it.

UNITED
NATIONS
A

    General Assembly
A/RES/181(II)
29 November 1947

Resolution 181 (II). Future government of Palestine

A

The General Assembly,

Having met in special session at the request of the mandatory Power to constitute and instruct a special committee to prepare for the consideration of the question of the future government of Palestine at the second regular session;

Having constituted a Special Committee and instructed it to investigate all questions and issues relevant to the problem of Palestine, and to prepare proposals for the solution of the problem, and

Having received and examined the report of the Special Committee (document A/3641/ including a number of unanimous recommendations and a plan of partition with economic union approved by the majority of the Special Committee,

Considers that the present situation in Palestine is one which is likely to impair the general welfare and friendly relations among nations;

Takes note of the declaration by the mandatory Power that it plans to complete its evacuation of Palestine by 1 August 1948;

Recommends to the United Kingdom, as the mandatory Power for Palestine, and to all other Members of the United Nations the adoption and implementation, with regard to the future government of Palestine, of the Plan of Partition with Economic Union set out below;

Requests that

(a) The Security Council take the necessary measures as provided for in the plan for its implementation;

(b) The Security Council consider, if circumstances during the transitional period require such consideration, whether the situation in Palestine constitutes a threat to the peace. If it decides that such a threat exists, and in order to maintain international peace and security, the Security Council should supplement the authorization of the General Assembly by taking measures, under Articles 39 and 41 of the Charter, to empower the United Nations Commission, as provided in this resolution, to exercise in Palestine the functions which are assigned to it by this resolution;

(c) The Security Council determine as a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression, in accordance with Article 39 of the Charter, any attempt to alter by force the settlement envisaged by this resolution;

(d) The Trusteeship Council be informed of the responsibilities envisaged for it in this plan;

Calls upon the inhabitants of Palestine to take such steps as may be necessary on their part to put this plan into effect;

Appeals to all Governments and all peoples to refrain from taking action which might hamper or delay the carrying out of these recommendations, and

Authorizes the Secretary-General to reimburse travel and subsistence expenses of the members of the Commission referred to in Part I, Section B, paragraph 1 below, on such basis and in such form as he may determine most appropriate in the circumstances, and to provide the Commission with the necessary staff to assist in carrying out the functions assigned to the Commission by the General Assembly.

11/27/23

Thanksgiving Sermon of Rabbi Zev Zahavy from 1943

Here is my dad's incredible inspiring and uplifting sermon from 1943 for the holiday of Thanksgiving. It was a dark year in the history of humankind. Yet Rabbi Zahavy found ways to weave together precepts from our classical Jewish tradition to give hope and optimism to those who faced the bewildering frightening world of 1943.

I read this sermon every year and it inspires me more each time. My father was an impresario of the rabbinic pulpit.

Click here for Rabbi Zev Zahavy's 1943 Thanksgiving Sermon, published by the RCA, Rabbinical Council of America.





A big hat tip to Zechariah for finding this and sending it to us.

10/31/23

Thanksgiving Turkey Drumstick Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin Pie Table Song - A Lone Pumpkin Grew

Thanksgiving is upon us soon and we sing traditional holiday songs at our Thanksgiving dinner.

Here are the words to one of our classic favorites...

Oh a lone pumpkin grew on a green pumpkin vine.
He was round
he was fat
he was yellow.
"No silly jack-o-lantern shall I make," he said.
"I'm determined to become a useful fellow."

So he raised up his head
when the cook came around
and at once he was chosen the winner.
His fondest wish came true
he was proud pumpkin pie
and the glory of the great thanksgiving dinner...

For the glory of the jack is in the lantern
as he sits up on the gatepost oh so high;
and the glory of the turkey is the drumstick
but the glory of the pumpkin is the pie.

Here we are singing the song in 2006:



Here's a YouTube 2009 home video of the song -- we don't know the folks -- it sounds like our familiar melody and we endorse it.

10/30/23

Life Advice from a Long-time Swimmer: Swim 100 laps every day

The Tosefta quotes Rabbi Meir (2nd century CE Talmudic scholar) saying that everyone should strive to recite 100 blessings each day. It then goes on to enumerate them - mostly in daily prayers.

Let's play with the word for blessings. They are berakhot ברכות in ancient Hebrew. Okay then. In modern Hebrew the laps that one swims in a pool are called berechot בריכות. A blessing is a berachah and a pool - and a lap in a pool - is a berechah.

I playfully read the ancient Talmud this way: Don't say 100 berakhot (blessings), say 100 berechot (laps).
Footnote about Meir from Wikipedia: Meir was buried in a standing position near the Kinneret. It is said that he asked to be buried this way so when the Final Redemption occurs, Rabbi Meir would be spared the trouble of arising from his grave and could just walk out to greet the Jewish Messiah. He requested that he be buried in Israel by the seashore so that the water that washes the shores should also lap his grave (Jerusalem Talmud, Kelaim 9:4).
And so I have crafted some Talmudic encouragement for myself to swim 100 laps a day. On many days each year, I do get to that goal.

Here are a few of my past reflections on swimming...

9/15/23

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for October 2016: Binging at Weddings and Not Believing in Sin

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for October 2016: 
Binging at Weddings and Not Believing in Sin

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I went to a big Orthodox Jewish family wedding recently in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The music was so loud that some of my relatives, who had expected it, brought along earplugs. There was so much food at the smorgasbord and the main meal that the next day I weighed myself and saw I had gained more than three pounds in one night.

I’m tempted to turn down invitations to future frum family simchas just to keep my hearing intact and my waistline under control. Is that a reasonable course of action?

Binging in Bergenfield

Dear Binging,

Sure you can skip family weddings to preserve your health and well-being, and you should do that if you have no other solution. But some of your kin seem to have found modalities that allow them to participate and preserve their hearing. Surely ear plugs are an option for you too. Why not avail yourself of them?

And regarding the food, you know that you do not have to eat all of it! One possible alternative is to attend the smorg and the chuppah and gracefully decline the elaborate dinner that follows. Who needs to drive home at midnight from Brooklyn anyway? Of course, doing that you will miss the chance to bond and share at greater length with your family. But with such loud bands, how much schmoozing could you do with the relatives anyway?

9/10/23

My Puffin Foundation Lecture on Religion and Terrorism

2023 update: I will never forget it. It changed our world. 9/11 is a terrible day for us all. Every year. I saw the second plane hit while I was driving in to work from the hill across the river. I saw the towers fall a short time later from my office window in Jersey City. Just know well that the terrorists acted in the name of Islam. Do not ever minimize or forget this. See the last five pages of my PPT for salient details: MAKING AN ACT OF TERROR INTO A SACRED COSMIC RITUAL. Awful horrible unforgivable.