12/14/17

Happy Archetypal Hanukkah to all you Priests, Scribes, Performers, Mystics, Meditators and Triumphalists

Whose holiday is Hanukkah? In the mode of examination that I use in my book, "God's Favorite Prayers," I answered that it is the "priest's" festival. The holiday prayer, "And for the miracles..." recounts a narrative of historical figures who serve as "avatars of the priestly archetype". In fact, I explain there, "The Hanukkah narrative glorifies an actual priest, Matthias, and celebrates his victory of reclaiming and purifying the Temple."

But I admit with glee that there are more archetypes at work in this liturgy and in the festival. I see elements of the redemptive theme of the "celebrity" in the assertion in the prayer that the Hanukkah victory, "...brought about a great deliverance and redemption for your people Israel to this very day."

Is Chairman of Renaissance Technologies Jim Simons Jewish?

Yes. The retired Chairman of Renaissance Technologies Jim Simons is a Jew. A smart and rich Jew.

Wikipedia tells us: James Harris Simons was born in April 1938 to an American Jewish family the only child of Marcia (née Kantor) and Matthew Simons, and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts. His father owned a shoe factory.

The hedge fund guru, Simons is now worth $18 billion, give or take.

New Yorker has an amazing profile of him and his incredible Flatiron Institute. You must read this.

11/30/17

About Sexual Harassment: My Jewish Standard - Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Talmudic Advice Column - for December 2017

Dear Rabbi Zahavy
Your Talmudic Advice Column

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I have been subjected to sexual harassment by a person of authority. I cannot avoid this person. He is persistent and aggressive towards me. He has made it clear that he wants to have sex with me. I am not interested in his proposition. I find his unrelenting advances intimidating and awful.
Is there some advice that you can offer to me from the Jewish perspective that will help me deal with this terrible situation?

Harassed in Hackensack

Dear Harassed,

I’ll try to offer some guidance, but as you can tell from the daily barrage of recent news stories, this sort of problem is serious in our society at large, it is widespread in our world, and it is terribly hard to resolve.

First, I’ll remind you that this problem is not new.

Second, I’ll assure you that this problem is nearly intractable. The Talmud has a saying that there is no such entity as a guardian who can be appointed to protect us from wanton sexual aggressions.

Third, I’ll nevertheless suggest some steps that you may take to help you avoid harassment, and protect your personal integrity.

11/5/17

Maimonides Films from Israel - 2017: The Great Eagle - in three parts

A new set of professional documentaries about the great Sephardic rabbi Moses ben Maimon, Maimonides. Approximately three hours. A valuable course of study with scholars and interviews and travels.

בפרק הראשון חייו המוקדמים של הרמב"ם, מלידתו בקורדובה (ספרד של היום), הבריחה למרוקו התאסלמותו בכפייה והגעתו לארץ ישראל.

הפרק השני מלווה את חייו של הרמב"ם במצרים בה חיבר את ספר ההלכה המונומנטלי "משנה תורה" אשר ממשיך להשפיע על חיינו עד עצם היום הזה.

הפרק השלישי עוסק ב"מורה נבוכים" ספר הפילוסופיה אותו כתב הרמב"ם אשר נותר שנוי במחלוקת ומציב שאלות קשות ליהדות בת ימינו אנו.

Chapter One


Chapter Two


Chapter Three



11/2/17

Is Kevin Spacey Jewish?

No, Kevin Spacey is not a Jew.

Spacey plays the disgraced lobbyist and Orthodox Jew, Jack Abramoff in the 2010 film, Casino Jack. At the original web site for that film you could take a "Test" to find out how corrupt you are.

Spacey has already been nominated for this role, a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

Previously Spacey played the Jewish attorney Ron Klain in the HBO film, Recount. Klain was Al Gore's chief of staff in the White House and General Counsel to Al Gore's recount committee after the 2000 election.

Spacey was born in South Orange, New Jersey, the son of Kathleen Ann, a secretary, and Thomas Geoffrey Fowler, a technical writer and data consultant. According to rumor, Spacey's father was an antiSemite.

Spacey has been accused in 2017 of the sexual harassment of a 14 year old boy in 1986.

My Dear Rabbi Zahavy Talmudic Advice Column for November 2017: How can I find Jewish ways to be meaningfully and mindfully meditative?

Dear Rabbi Zahavy
Your Talmudic Advice Column
The Times of Israel - Jewish Standard

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

At my health club I have joined a class in meditation. We practice techniques of breathing and mindfulness and achieve tangible positive physical and mental results. In the past, I have associated meditation with spiritual movements. So why can’t I find more of it in my Jewish contexts? What can I do to become a more meditative Jew?

Distractedly Seeking Spirituality in Demarest


Dear Seeking,

If you seek properly, you can find many meditative opportunities in our Jewish practices. Our traditions are rich in interior modes of spiritual expression. I practice Jewish meditations throughout the day, and not just at times of prayer.

There are many resources available. Teaneck’s Len Moskowitz offers meditation training at nearby Yeshiva University. Books by Aryeh Kaplan and others have been popular for years. In Brooklyn, Jerusalem, and elsewhere you can find many Jewish meditation teachers and groups.

The main shortcomings of such options is that they assume that to practice Jewish meditation, you must learn peripheral kabbalistic texts or seek practices outside of the regular cycle of Jewish rituals.

I believe that need not be the case. A person can become an adept meditation practitioner within the regular daily practices of our religious communities.

Let me give you some background, and then tell you how I have developed and integrated my mindful Jewish practices.

10/5/17

My Dear Rabbi Zahavy Talmudic Advice Column for October 2017: Is Israel Anti-Semitic and Is there an Afterlife?

Dear Rabbi Zahavy
Your Talmudic Advice Column
The Times of Israel - Jewish Standard

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

My neighbor is Jewish, but from many of the things he says about Jews and Israel, I think he is an anti-Semite, who expresses antagonism towards anyone who is not an Orthodox Jew. Lately he has invoked the policies of the State of Israel towards the non-Orthodox to support his attitudes.

First, how is that possible – that a Jew can be such an open anti-Semite? And more important, what can I say or do to bring this person back in line?

Buffering the Bigot in Bergenfield

Dear Buffering,

Yes, it is a terrible fact that a Jew can be an anti-Semite.

9/29/17

Are Crocs shoes permitted on Yom Kippur?

I recall posting this in 2009 - and now I have Croc-like shoes that I plan to wear in a few hours to shul for Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur. My shoes are quite comfortable.

It's my impression that the brouhaha of 2009 over this issue has faded away and now it is permitted to wear these shoes on Yom Kipur.

Here is my post from 2009.............. Enjoy! ... Gmar Hatimah Tovah to all!

The Internet is buzzing with the late breaking news that a prominent Orthodox rabbi has banned croc-wearing on Yom Kippur because the shoes made from lightweight, antimicrobial foam are too comfortable, even though they contain no leather.

Crocs have sold 100 million pairs in seven years. Of late, the company that makes them is rumored to be in bad financial straights.

We have never owned or worn crocs. We checked with a relative of ours, who prefers to remain anonymous, who informs us that he has worn crocs on several occasions and that they gave him blisters each time. Apparently, the rabbi has been misinformed as to the comfort of the crocs brand of shoes.

We do not issue on this blog religious rulings for others to follow. But we can tell you that it is our informed opinion that if we were to wear crocs on Yom Kippur we could rest assured that we had not violated any prohibition in the Torah.

Rav Elyashiv: Crocs Should Not Be Worn On Yom Kippur

rav-elyashiv1crocsThe posek hador, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, has ruled that Crocs should not be worn on Yom Kippur. Matzav.com had actually reported this ruling of Rav Elyashiv before Tisha B’Av (see here), but now the p’sak has been reported in Bakehillah and various news outlets. The p’sak is based on the fact that the issur to wear leather shoes on Yom Kippur is because they are considered the most comfortable footwear and are therefore included as one of the five prohibitions, or inuyim, of Yom Kippur. Thus, Crocs which are especially comfortable, ruled Rav Elyashiv, should similarly not be worn.

Israeli Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger and others had previous ruled that Crocs are allowed on Yom Kippur, even though they are comfortable, because they are not made of leather. They say that in the past, as mentioned, the prohibition on wearing leather shoes was because they were considered the most comfortable, and therefore, they claim that just because nowadays rubber shoes are no less comfortable, they, and similar sport shoes, are permitted.

The posek hador has disagreed, however, and has ruled that comfort must be considered, and therefore, Crocs, which are worn for their extreme comfort, should preferably not be worn on Yom Kippur.

See Matzav.com’s earlier report here which contains the views of Rav Moshe Shternbuch and others.

9/17/17

Online Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Kol Nidre services, on Video, on a Live Webcast for 5778

Our sincere and heartfelt best wishes to all our readers for a Year of Blessing and Health, Prosperity and Good Cheer.

Rosh Hashanah 5778 - 2017 falls on Thursday, the 21st of September and will continue for 2 days.

Yom Kippur 5778 - 2017 falls on Saturday, the 30th of September.

From Central Synagogue in NYC come Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur online services and videos. Scroll down to find the feed and schedule. See the LIVE webcast of Kol Nidre service this year.

The 92nd Street Y also plans a webcast of services.

Rabbis on videos at various places discuss atonement and repentance. There also are holiday video recipes for tzimmes, honey cake and tagelach that you can find online.

And see Video-streamed Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Services.

In these coming Days of Awe all of this is good nourishment for the soul.



Purchase some of these wonderful books for the holidays.