12/1/16

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Talmudic Advice Column for December 2016 - Gay Mazal Tov, No No Nobel, Trump Tzurris

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Talmudic Advice Column for December 2016

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

My friend’s son got married recently to another man. I never knew that her son was gay. I was surprised when I heard about this from a mutual friend. When I met my friend shortly after learning about the wedding, I congratulated her, and then, after a bit of hesitation, I wished her a mazal tov.

A bit later I wondered if I did the right thing. What do you think?

Circumspect Congratulator in Old Tappan

Dear Congratulator,

Yes, you acted properly in extending your best wishes. I don’t think you are asking me if you were right to hesitate at first. If that would be your question, my answer would be that today by American values, there is no basis for hesitation. Gay marriage is sanctioned and legal and it is celebrated by the couple with their family and friends.

That said, on the other hand, in many Orthodox Jewish circles gay relations of any sort are not acceptable. If that is the source of your hesitation, I understand it, though I do not applaud it.

Based on the less-than-enthusiastic acceptance of gay marriage in traditional Jewish life, I’m guessing you wonder if a traditional Jewish formula of congratulations was in order. Let’s be clear. Mazal tov means good luck, or more specifically, “good sign” since the word mazal originally denoted an astrological sign.

11/29/16

My Collected Wisdom - Talmudic Advice - updated with my 2016 Jewish Standard columns

Hi - I think you should check out my book, 
"Talmudic Advice" by Tzvee Zahavy.
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11/27/16

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy column for November 2016: Deceased friends, Zipper traffic merges and Biased Jewish historians

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy column for November 2016: Deceased friends, Zipper traffic merges and Biased Jewish historians

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

Recently a friend and mentor of mine passed away after a long illness. We had been close for many years, but in recent times we were estranged after we had a falling out, precipitated several years ago by my friend’s unethical actions.

I had ample time to make plans to attend his funeral, but it would have meant that I would miss work for a full day. I decided not to go, and then I was not able to go to the shiva. I did send an email and left a voicemail and sent a card expressing my condolences to his wife and children.

Did I act properly?

Chilly Consoler in Cresskill


Dear Consoler,

The conduct in which a person engages related to mourners always is based on complex personal and social issues. It is made more complicated by the specific conditions that you describe. Rest assured that there cannot be absolute requirements about which relative or friend’s funeral you ought to attend, and under what circumstances you should do so. There always are extenuating factors that you have to respect when you make your decision to go or not to go. In this case there are additional items to mull over.

11/20/16

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

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

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

Replay: My China Jewish Studies Lecture Tour of 1991

Several years ago in 1991 I traveled to China and I prayed while touring at the Great Wall outside Beijing.

But that was a sidelight to my China trip. The real purpose of my travel to Beijing was to lecture at the Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and conduct other academic meetings throughout China. In Beijing I spoke to the group of fourteen Chinese academics for ninety minutes through a translator. Few of the scholars there spoke much English. I described in some detail my research on the development of Jewish prayer in the time of the Mishnah and Talmud.

Jews: on the Chinese Minds
Who would think that Chinese professors would be interested in Judaism? Professor Kong Fan, director of the Institute, my host, is a specialist in Confucianism. He is also a seventy-fourth generation descendant of that venerable teacher and happy to hear of my admiration for the teachings of Confucius. Professor Zhuo Xinping, deputy director of the Institute and specialist in Christian Studies and Dai Kangshang, specialist in Islamic Studies, and several other scholars and graduate students contributed to the discussion in this seminar.

11/3/16

My essay in honor of the memory of my friend Alan Segal has been published

"Antiquity's Children: History and Theology in Three Surveys" in "Crossing Boundaries in Early Judaism and Christianity: Essays in Honor of Alan F. Segal" by Tzvee Zahavy

Through his publications on ancient Judaism and early Christianity Alan Segal has contributed immensely to clarifying ambiguities, unraveling complexities and recalling half-forgotten adversaries. His writing shows the way to cross many boundaries of thought and methodology. This characteristic of his research reflects the openness and ingenuousness of Alan himself, a direct and honest scholar and a treasured friend.

I here analyze a few aspects of one of Segal’s early books, Rebecca’s Children: Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World.  The book surveys how Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity took shape primarily during the formative age of Late Antiquity. Segal treats the Hellenistic roots of these religions, the social world of first century Israel, Jesus who is called a Jewish Revolutionary and Paul who is described as a Convert and Apostle. Segal moves on in the book to summarize the origins of rabbinic Judaism and discusses how the twin offspring of ancient Israel, the rabbinic and Christian communities went separate ways, as the matriarch Rebecca’s twin children, Jacob and Esau parted ways in the biblical account in Genesis. In comparing the theologies of these twins, Segal insists we, “… must attend to the real social matrix in which the religious thought existed.”

I compare here Segal’s Rebecca’s Children with two comparable books and I ask a few perennial and fundamental questions about religious scholars who write about their own religions. The two other introductory surveys of the Second Temple and Early Rabbinic Judaism by Jewish scholars are Shaye J.D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, and Lawrence H. Schiffman, From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism.

10/30/16

My Dell Computer was really good


On 1/3/2008 I bought a Dell XPS 420 quad core PC. I believe it came with Windows Vista installed.

Last week, after eight years and nine months, it started crashing to the dreaded blue screens of death. I worked for many hours to rescue the machine from whatever it was that caused the crashes: corrupted device drivers or malware or hardware malfunction. I reverted updates, scrubbed registries, removed many old programs, ran defragmenters and virus defender software.

OK. I got the unit working now smooth and fast, It has not crashed for a day. I maybe even fixed it. But meanwhile I ordered a new Dell XPS 8900 i7 computer. I got a good deal direct from Dell with discounts and a good service plan included.

Nearly nine years is enough. All computers die eventually. Even the good ones.

10/14/16