5/4/18

My Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column for May 2018: Is Lazy Jewish? Is Showrooming Kosher? Is Facebook Treif?

My Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column for May 2018
Is Lazy Jewish? Is Showrooming Kosher? Is Facebook Treif?

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

There are times that I feel like just doing nothing, taking it easy, and drinking in the moments of my life. For some reason, at those times I feel guilty about this interlude. I feel like I should be doing productive activities every day. But I want to enjoy this slow time. What can I do to ameliorate my sense of failure during my intervals of inactivity?

Lazy in Leonia


Dear Lazy,

Wow. This is a timely question at any season, but especially now as our kids get out of school for the summer. What will they do all day? Parents will scramble around to find ways to program every minute of the summer days for their kids.

It’s also a timely concern because so many of us are reaching the age of retirement. And our retirees are asking themselves how they will fill every day with pursuits and activities.

Pop culture has no fundamental problem with your question. Singer Bruno Mars’ hit, “The Lazy Song,” says it well. “Today I don’t feel like doing anything / I just wanna lay in my bed / Don’t feel like picking up my phone / So leave a message at the tone / Nothing at all…”

But the values of our Jewish teachings don’t buy that attitude at all. Going way back to the biblical book of Proverbs, King Solomon inveighs against the slothful person, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise… How long will you sleep, O sluggard? when will you arise out of your sleep?”

4/24/18

Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy - Yahrzeit Number 6

Photos

Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy
New York City 
September 8, 1918 - May 1, 2012

4/12/18

Mixed Up in Mea Sharim Wants to Join the IDF - Dear Rabbi Zahavy - My Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column - April 2018

Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Your Talmudic Advice Column

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I live in Israel and I learn Talmud at a black-hat yeshiva. I really want to go into the army, to serve in the IDF, because it is a universal requirement of the state and it provides a vibrant force to defend Jews against the array of Israel’s hostile enemies. Also, I have always felt that I was born to be a soldier. 


My rebbe teaches us that full-time Torah study is the best way to protect and preserve the Jewish people. And he also calls the IDF the shmad apostasy army. He forbids his students from joining. I won’t go unless I have approval to do so from my religious mentor.

What should I tell my rebbe to convince him to permit me to serve?

Mixed Up in Mea Shearim, Israel


Dear Mixed Up,

Your predicament is a tough one. I can see how this dilemma can tear at your soul. On the one hand, you live in the heart of a community that teaches that the values of the Torah are sacred. You study in a yeshiva that is based on the premise that the mitzvah of talmud Torah — study of the sacred books — is paramount. One known metaphor that motivates you is this: If all the commandments and activities are placed on one side of a scale, and the commandment to study Torah on the other side, Torah study outweighs them all. Your community believes strongly in that value.

And there are teachers in your community who embellish the value of keeping mitzvot and studying the sacred books with mystical claims. Some do say that God protects the Jewish people because of the virtue of the tzadikim — the saintly people who study the Torah and fulfill the 613 commandments.

Your charedi community insulates you tightly from the general culture of the state. You live in a carefully crafted bubble that fences you off from all other surrounding communities, cultures, and worlds.

I get it. I grew up in an Orthodox family and attended Yeshiva University from high school through rabbinical school — for 11 years. Okay, that environment is more porous. It is open to the study of general disciplines of knowledge. Still many of the rabbis who taught me strongly believed in insulating, segregating, and separating the sacred from the profane. Torah study was special and sacred. And secular subjects were to be tolerated, not venerated.

4/7/18

USATODAY: Still men only at Augusta National the Master's Golf Course?

Believe it or not - this story and my blog post about it was published in 2012. Tomorrow they will award another green jacket. The world is still not right...

The Masters is the annual reminder to us all of how the old boys love their men only country clubs as USA Today asked in 2012, "Will Augusta National have its first female member?"

The story speculated on whether the club already had its first female member.
Three of the members of this most exclusive club in U.S. sports, if not in all of American culture, have traditionally been the CEOs of Exxon, AT&T and IBM. They have been invited to be members of Augusta National because they run the three corporations that sponsor the Masters. They've also been invited because they are men.

Last fall, however, IBM made a historic decision. It announced that as of Jan. 1, Virginia "Ginni" Rometty would become its first female CEO. Then, this week, on the eve of Masters week, Bloomberg News Service became the first to ask the logical question: Will Rometty become the first woman to wear a green jacket?

It's possible that the question actually might be moot. It is within the realm of possibility, remote as it might seem, that she's already a member and we simply don't know it yet.
As a famous Orthodox rabbi once told me, "When the women write the checks, then they will get called to the Torah." IBM writes a big check to Augusta National. A woman can join the club.

Yet let us not rejoice that egalitarianism reigns at Augusta. As they say in French, "Un oiseau ne fait pas le printemps."

Jewish Standard Feature Article on my Polychrome Historical Haggadah, the beautiful Color-coded Haggadah that highlights the Seder's origins

Thanks to all of you who purchased my Haggadah this year on Amazon.

Happy Spring!

Jewish Standard Feature Article: 

Color-coded Haggadah highlights seder’s origins: The Polychrome Historical Haggadah

Teaneck rabbi reprints classic work of seven-hued scholarship

By Larry Yudelson

Who wrote the Haggadah?

We know who wrote the Hogwarts Haggadah. (Moshe Rosenberg.) We know who wrote the Rav Kook Haggadah. (Bezalel Naor.) We even know who wrote the ArtScroll Family Haggadah. (Nosson Scherman.)

But who wrote the original text?

Like all the siddur and other classic works of Judaism, the Haggadah dates back to before people started putting title pages and copyright notices on their books and listing them on Amazon. So we don’t really know.

We do know that most of the text we use today is found in the earliest Jewish liturgical manuscripts, which date from the ninth century. And the outline accords with the teachings of the Mishna from six centuries earlier.

But who put this together, and exactly when?

Truth be told, we don’t know.

Now, however, a Teaneck rabbi — and Jewish Standard columnist — has republished a classic work that highlights all the different pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.

“We are having a conversation with Jews across all periods of history,” Rabbi Tzvee Zahavy said. “This is not just something we’re doing with our family. We’re having a dialogue across the ages.”

This month, Rabbi Zahavy reissued the Polychrome Historical Haggadah. Originally published in 1974, it was the work of Rabbi Jacob Freedman of Springfield, Massachusetts. It highlights the different levels of the Haggadah by putting each stratum in a different color. Biblical verses are black. Mishna passages are red. And so on — until contemporary additions like the Hatikvah, appropriately in Israeli-flag blue.

It is a seven-hued rainbow.

3/30/18

The Most Expensive Haggadah is the Sarajevo Haggadah

What is the most expensive Haggadah in the world?

The answer is -- the rare illuminated Sarajevo Haggadah which also is said to be one of the most beautiful manuscripts and one of the most valuable books in existence.

My facsimile of The Sarajevo Haggadah that I bought a while back is awesome.

If you are at all interested in this Haggadah, you must read People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.

Wikipedia explains:
The Sarajevo Haggadah is an illuminated manuscript that contains the traditional text of the Passover Haggadah which accompanies the Passover Seder. It is the oldest Sephardic Haggadah in the world, originating in Barcelona around 1350. The Haggadah is presently owned by the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, where it is on permanent display.

The Sarajevo Haggadah is handwritten on bleached calfskin and illuminated in copper and gold. It opens with 34 pages of illustrations of key scenes in the Bible from creation through the death of Moses. Its pages are stained with wine, evidence that it was used at many Passover Seders. It is considered to be the most beautiful illuminated Jewish manuscript in existence and one of the most valuable books in the world. In 1991 it was appraised at US $700 million....more...
You can view quite a few pages from the Sarajevo Haggadah here.  

Or you can purchase a facsimile edition of your own here: The Sarajevo Haggadah.


More posts about the Haggadah...

Download 2018 Online a Free Passover Seder Haggadah

Here are several of the best places you can go online to download a free Passover Haggadah for your Seder.
I give Chabad credit for a great resource if you want a wide selection of free Hebrew Haggadahs.  
Download Hebrew Haggadahs here.

My new Haggadah is not free - but it is really fantastic!
I thought you might be interested in this new for 2017 reprint of a classic haggadah with a foreword that I added - available from Amazon. - Tzvee

The Polychrome Historical Haggadah                            
The Polychrome Historical Haggadah 
by Jacob Freedman et al.
  Learn more                      
Library Makes 1,000 Rare Haggadahs Available Free Online
An illustration of King David praising G-d in a rare Haggadah published in 1710 in Frankfurt am Maine, Germany
An illustration of King David praising G-d in a rare Haggadah published in 1710 in Frankfurt am Maine, Germany

The central Chabad-Lubavitch library in New York made 1,000 Passover Haggadahs, many of them rare, available on the Internet for browsing by the public. The Agudas Chasidei Chabad Library has one of the largest collections of the Passover orders of service in the world.

Housed at the Lubavitch World Headquarters, the library's Haggadah collection began years ago with a nucleus of some 400 volumes purchased on behalf of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, by renowned collector and bibliographer Shmuel Wiener in 1924.

The posting at ChabadLibraryBooks.com represents close to half of the library's total Haggadah collection and is part of chief librarian Rabbi Sholom Ber Levine's goal of making the library more accessible to the public. All told, the library possesses more than 2,200 editions of the Haggadah. Although the rarest of the books, all handwritten, are not yet available, Levine is looking for ways to post them next year. Hebrew Books, directed by Chaim Rosenberg, collaborated on the project.

3/8/18

What made Rav Soloveitchik a simply great Talmud teacher

It's now 25 years since my renowned teacher, Rav Soloveitchik, passed away.

When I published this short essay in 2005 in the Commentator, the YU undergraduate newspaper, I was proud to extol my rebbe in the most glowing terms I could imagine. After further review, as they say in the NFL, I still feel that way. I republished this in honor of the Yeshiva University Chag HaSemikhah Convocation that took place on Sunday, March 19, 2017. I received my rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva in 1973. My father received his rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva March 19, 1942.

Here again is my meager and utterly inadequate tribute to a truly great man.

R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik: Indelible Beginner

In the fall of 1969, as a college senior, I started four years of learning in Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik's Talmud shiur.  In my family we venerated the Rav above all other rabbis. We spoke of him with the utmost reverence that one would bestow only upon a truly saintly man.

I received in those four years so much from the Rav: a methodology of learning, a theology of Judaism and, above all, a secret of pedagogy.

Let me explain briefly this last point. The Rav would sometimes in an occasional moment of surprising self-reflection refer to himself as a "poshutte melamed," just a teacher of beginners. That statement puzzled me. Surely the Rav was the greatest sage of our generation. How could he represent himself in this ordinary way?

One day I accidentally discovered what he meant. We convened on the fourth floor classroom for our shiur - about to begin studying a famous sugya in Massechet Shabbat. That day I was using a Talmud volume from a small shas that my uncle had used when he studied in the Rav's shiur many years earlier, in the fifties. I found interleaved in this book a page of my uncle's notes (i.e., Rabbi Noah Goldstein, my dad's brother) from the Rav's discourse on this sugya fifteen or twenty years earlier.

As we started reading the text, the Rav began to perform the magic that he was so good at. He made it seem to us all as if he was looking at the text for the very first time. He made every question he raised appear as if he was discovering a problem afresh. He made every answer and explanation that he examined in Rashi or the Tosafot appear to us as if it was new to him - a complete surprise.

The Rav dramatically unfolded a complex and intricate exposition of the sugya - and each stage of the discourse seemed so new and alive. Yet as I followed along and I read in my uncle's notes, I saw that the Rav was repeating each and every element of the shiur exactly as he had given it years before, insight by insight, question by question and answer by answer. He had me convinced that he had just discovered every element of his learning. Yet I had proof in front of me to the contrary.

I saw that day how the Rav had the ability to make every act of learning a new, exciting and living revelation. I have striven to emulate him ever since to replicate this ability and to achieve as a learner and as a teacher some small element of this revelation.

Hanging over my desk as I write this I have a quotation from the great German Poet Rainer Maria Rilke, "If the angel deigns to come it will be because you have convinced her not by tears but by your humble resolve to be always beginning: to be a beginner."

I believe the Rav would agree.

//repost from 8/2009//