7/18/18

Times: Bruce Lincoln et. al. say NIMBY to University of Chicago Center for Milton Friedman Economics

10 years ago 7/12/2008 - this is what was on my mind... a blast from the past.... It looks like the opposition of a decade ago failed to stop the project - see the link here to the Becker Friedman Institute about page and activities summary.

Repost from 2008 follows:

Apparently, my old colleague Bruce Lincoln is leading the opposition at the University of Chicago to a newly established Center for Milton Friedman Style Economics.

The Chi Trib quoted Lincoln last month, '"It is a right-wing think tank being put in place," said Bruce Lincoln, a professor of the history of religions and one of the faculty members who met with the administration Tuesday. "The long-term consequences will be very severe. This will be a flagship entity and it will attract a lot of money and a lot of attention, and I think work at the university and the university's reputation will take a serious rightward turn to the detriment of all."'

Now the Times
(in a notably weak and poorly researched article) has him saying less, that is, "As an opponent of the entire institute, rather than simply its name, Mr. Lincoln characterized himself on the extreme end of the opposition. He said he would like to see a research center “much more committed to free inquiry and a larger debate, and not just grinding the same ax sharper and sharper.”"

7/7/18

Bikinis and Rabbis: My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Column for August 2015

Rerun of my previous popular summer advice. 

Dear Rabbi,

I’m a young modern Orthodox woman. I like to go to the beach in the summer. Recently some of my friends criticized me for wearing a bikini at the beach. They say their rabbis taught them that it is not in keeping with our religion to wear a bikini because it is clothing that is not modest. I see that the prevalent fashion for young and fit women at the beach or pool is mostly a bikini. What makes your fellow rabbis think that they have the authority to dictate to me and other women what fashions to follow on the beach —or off it?

Two Piece in Teaneck


Dear Two Piece,

I’m one rabbi who does not claim to have women’s fashion expertise. I am relieved that you ask me about rabbinic authority, rather than what is the right fashion for you.

I do know that in the world of fashion you hear often about trends, not standards. I recognize that there is a lot of variety in the choices that women have, on and off the beach.

One day this summer I had the occasion to walk the length of the boardwalk in a Long Island South Shore beach community and could not help but observe that bikinis are a quite common choice for women, young and middle aged, at the beach clubs along the way. And I did notice in the Target ad flyer in the Sunday newspaper that most of the women’s swim suits on sale are bikinis.

Before anyone criticizes me for gazing upon women, let me refer to a story about one of our greatest talmudic rabbis, Rabban Gamaliel. According to the Talmud, when he saw a beautiful woman, Gamaliel recited a blessing, Blessed be He who made beautiful creatures in this world.

I agree with Gamaliel. Beauty is something that God bestowed upon our world. When the appropriate fashion allows for us to admire beauty in a tactful and respectful way, we may do so, and perhaps we should thank God with a blessing.

Now you may wonder, why don’t other Orthodox rabbis agree with Rabban Gamaliel and with me? Why do many religious authorities who happily admit that they have no knowledge or understanding of fashion go ahead and teach and preach that it’s a religious obligation that women must cover up their arms and legs and midriffs?

I don’t know why other rabbis have taken upon themselves the authority to dictate fashion requirements to women. And I find it hard to approve of that.

It seems to me wrong for any man to require women to cover up. Even though there is a long-standing theme in Jewish customs for married women to cover their hair and there are other customs for all women to cover much of their skin, the requirement of long sleeves and long skirts using the category of “modesty” is at best capricious. In the preponderance of contexts it also is out of step with the normal and customary notions of fashion in our general communities.

And one more thing. It is not a stretch for some folk to criticize the cover-up rules in Orthodox circles as yet another means of segregating women and as a way of denying them the freedom to choose and the rights to decide their own fashion options.

The notion that covering up all of your skin on the hot summer beach or at the pool or in the marketplace around town is connected to virtue is patently unfounded. Hence the rules that mandate overdressing are arbitrary annoyances at best.

Yet I’ve been told that there is a new women’s clothing store on Cedar Lane in Teaneck that sells kosher swimsuits made of nylon and polyester, comprising pants under a skirt and elbow length sleeves. I would not be surprised if these bathing costumes have tags on them certifying rabbinical approval.

Truly, I have no idea where my colleagues got the notion that wearing a bikini at the beach is a bad thing. I can’t explain or justify this rabbinic attitude to you. My advice to you is to follow your own notions of comfort and the prevailing styles and fashions of your immediate community.

And if anyone criticizes you, you may answer with a confident and polite reply, Thank you for your opinion. I will wear whatever I deem appropriate.

Tzvee Zahavy earned his Ph.D. from Brown University and rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University. He is the author of many books, including these Kindle Edition ebooks available at Amazon.com: “The Book of Jewish Prayers in English,” “Rashi: The Greatest Exegete,” “God’s Favorite Prayers” and “Dear Rabbi” — which includes his past columns from the Jewish Standard and other essays.

7/5/18

My Jewish Standard - Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Talmudic Advice Column for July 2018 - Let's Fix The Ninth of Av

My Jewish Standard - Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Talmudic Advice Column for July 2018 - Let's Fix The Ninth of Av

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

Our U.S. government recognized Jerusalem as capital of Israel on May 14, 2018, and dedicated its embassy there, moving it from Tel Aviv. I don’t understand how we can continue to commemorate the 9th day of Av as a sad fast day that memorializes Jerusalem as a destroyed desolate city, when the facts of today totally contradict that. Doesn’t the reality of today’s circumstances make it time to abolish the fasting and mourning of that day?

Puzzled in Paramus

Dear Puzzled,

We need to ask in general — why should we cede to religion the ability to legislate our emotions? What is the benefit of making people sad and mournful through rituals? Religion can do this, to a degree. By requiring fasting, by forbidding weddings from taking place, banning music for three weeks, by prohibiting haircuts and shaving, religion can try to manipulate moods and motivations. But why?

7/4/18

The Star Spangled Banner in Yiddish - Video



It's the 4th of July this week and time for us to sing again the Star Spangled Banner in Yiddish. This version's Yiddish translation by Berl Lapin.

Here is an earlier version courtesy of Jack Balkin1943 translation of the Star Spangled Banner into Yiddish by Dr. Abraham Asen, described as "the foremost Yiddish adapter of English poetry," and proudly presented in commemoration of the anniversary of the death of Francis Scott Key.

O'zog, kenstu sehn, wen bagin licht dervacht,
Vos mir hoben bagrist in farnachtigen glihen?
Die shtreifen un shtern, durch shreklicher nacht,
Oif festung zich hoiben galant un zich tsein?
Yeder blitz fun rocket, yeder knal fun kanon,
Hot bawizen durch nacht: az mir halten die Fohn!
O, zog, tzi der "Star Spangled Banner" flatert in roim,
Ueber land fun die freie, fun brave die heim!


I repost this every few years. Enjoy!

6/18/18

The Oxymoron of Modern Open Inclusive Orthodoxy: My Column for June 2016 for the Jewish Standard

Update: My column was the subject of discussion by Rabbi Steven Riskin and Rabbi Kenneth Brander at a Ohr Torah Stone forum at the Rinat Israel Synagogue on June 13, 2018, moderated by Jerry Silverman, President & CEO, Jewish Federations of North America.

See the video here.

My Column for June 2016 for the Jewish Standard

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

In the past few years I’ve seen that people use the term “modern Orthodox” in news and opinion articles to describe a current form of Judaism. More recently, I read about a new group that sounds attractive to me, that wants to promote a more “inclusive” Orthodoxy. But I always have understood that Orthodox Judaism clearly says that it is the oldest and the original form of Judaism, that all of its practices are crucial to the survival of Judaism, and that they conform perfectly to God’s will as interpreted by the Orthodox rabbis. Why do people apply these fancy new labels for their faith? And is it hypocritical for me, if I embrace modern values, to continue to stay plain old Orthodox? Or should I join up with the new guys?

Confounded in Clifton

Dear Confounded,

If there was a supermarket where you could buy a religion in a box, you would not find many products with the label description “New and Improved.” But you would find most with the description, “Same Classic Ingredients for Centuries (or Millennia).”

So you are correct to be confused about the term “modern Orthodox.” Orthodox Jewish authorities’ main claim to legitimacy is that the content of their system is not modern. They insist that it is ancient, dating back thousands of years, to God’s covenants with our patriarchs, and to God’s revelation of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. And you legitimately can scratch your head in disbelief when someone comes up with an incongruous title that implies that a religion can be ancient and modern at the same time.

So, you may ask, what then is all this talk about “modern Orthodoxy”? On the surface, I might dismiss that new label, or the similar tags “open Orthodoxy,” and “pluralistic Orthodoxy,” as marketing names without any deep meaning. I might say that they are meant to make the brand of religion that its leaders are selling more attractive to consumers.

6/17/18

Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy

We are observing the 18th 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 little 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 memorial photo site is here.

6/8/18

Was Charles Krauthammer Jewish?

Was columnist and Fox TV commentator Charles Krauthammer Jewish? Yes he was a Jew.

In JPost interview Krauthammer reflected on his Talmudic upbringing. He described himself in the interview we cite here as not very religious:
As for my own practice, it's fairly minimal, but I go on the required days. I go to Yizkor, those kinds of things. I once described to a friend my Jewishness - I said, I'm a Jewish Shinto. I believe in ancestor worship. That's the heart of my Judaism.
We disagreed with most of what neoconservative Charles Krauthammer said about foreign policy. But from the excellent interview he gave to the Jerusalem Post, "The unfashionable Charles Krauthammer," we learned that his eloquent argumentation skills derive in part from his Orthodox Talmudic education.
Can you talk a little bit about your own Jewish upbringing and sense of Jewishness, and how that influences you? ...
I grew up in a Modern Orthodox home. I went to Jewish day school right through high school, so half of my day was spent speaking Hebrew from age six to 16. I studied thousands of hours of Talmud. My father thought I didn't get enough Talmud at school, so I took the extra Talmud class at school and he had a rabbi come to the house three nights a week. One of those nights was Saturday night, so in synagogue Saturday morning my brother and I would pray very hard for snow so he wouldn't be able to come on Saturday night and we could watch hockey night in Canada. That's where I learned about prayer...
He suffered a tragic swimming accident when in medical school which left him paralyzed.

He was the subject of a Fox News program and was on Jon Stewart's show to promote his book, Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics.



Here is the entire article. It is no longer available at jPost.

"The unfashionable Charles Krauthammer"

5/31/18

My Jewish Standard - Dear Rabbi Zahavy - Talmudic Advice Column for June 2018 - The Milk and Meat Kosher Taboo Explained

Why Not Milk and Meat? 
Because we must Segregate Men from Women to be a Sacred People
My Dear Rabbi Zahavy Talmudic Advice Column for June 2018

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

Though I was raised observant of the commandments in the Orthodox Jewish tradition, I woke up one day recently and realized that I don’t understand the ban on cooking or eating dishes that combine dairy and meat ingredients. The logic of those laws suddenly puzzles me. If the milk and meat foods are kosher separately, why are they forbidden when they are mixed together?

Flustered in Fair Lawn

Dear Flustered,

You do understand that most of the time, each religion is based on its own brand of logic. You don’t apply the general laws of deduction and inference to a religion. You accept how the system works internally, and you build on it. That buy-in and acceptance of the reasoning of your own religion is a big part of what we call faith.

Apparently, you do accept that God decreed that his chosen people avoid mixing milk and meat. Unique beliefs and practices like this one can be found in Judaism — and in all the major world religions.

You would like to apprehend the deeper meanings in this set of Jewish rules.

Jews have been questioning the relevance of these laws for some time. In 1885, classical Reform Judaism officially scuttled the laws of kashrut, calling them “foreign to our present mental and spiritual state. They fail to impress the modern Jew with a spirit of priestly holiness; their observance in our days is apt rather to obstruct than to further modern spiritual elevation.”

But in 1979, backtracking speedily (that is, speedily for religious leaders), the Reform rabbinical association proclaimed that “It is reasonable to ask the Reform Jew to study and consider kashrut so as to develop a valid personal position.” In 2011, the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis published “The Sacred Table,” which encourages an “ethical, health-based, spiritual approach to culinary culture in the Progressive Jewish community.”

5/27/18

New Yorker: At His 80th Birthday Party Philip Roth talked of Death

New Yorker has been churning out amazing content in the past few issues. David Remnick continues that flow with his account of Philip Roth's eightieth birthday celebration in Newark.

Remnick explains that death was Roth's main topic in his birthday remarks. An odd choice for a birthday festival for most folks but not for Roth.

Now, we usually don't dwell on the subject of death in our thoughts. But today we conclude our recitation of Kaddish for our dad. And that put us face-to-face with the subject. As we said in another post, we feel that through the public synagogue Kaddish ritual we firmly rooted our dad's soul into the community of Jews that he so loved and served with such dedication. As the community of Israel lives and flourishes, so does the energy of our dad live on. One form of immortality.

Dad's body rests in a cemetery in Israel on Har Hamenuchot overlooking the hills of Jerusalem. His presence there roots his soul in the Zionist dimension of our collective reality as a people. As the State of Israel lives and flourishes, so does the vitality of our dad live on. Another form of immortality.

Roth eloquently writes of the stones in a cemetery in New Jersey and the memory of his family. Roth has certainly rooted his soul in a public vital body of writing that will live on for a long time. A Rothian form of immortality.

Here is Remnick's teasing conclusion to his essay:
...Roth is the author of thirty-one books. His favorite, he has said, the one in which he felt the most free as he wrote it, is “Sabbath’s Theater.” Laughing a little to himself, Roth said that the novel, which was published in 1995, could easily have been titled “Death and the Art of Dying.” Its epigraph is Prospero’s line in Act V, Scene 1 in “The Tempest”: “Every third thought shall be my grave.” And within is the line from Kafka: “The meaning of life is that it stops.”

“The book is death-haunted,” Roth said. Mickey Sabbath, the turbulent, profane, and libidinous hero, is a man who is beyond discretion and taste, whose outrageous adulterous behavior is, Roth said, “his response to a place where nothing keeps its promise and everything is perishable.” As a boy, Sabbath lost the person closest to him in the world—his older brother, Morty, whose plane was shot down, in 1944, over the Japanese-occupied Philippines.

With that introduction, Roth read pages three hundred and sixty-three to three hundred and seventy of “Sabbath’s Theater,” one of the most stunning passages in all his work. He was not about to let us forget what eighty means. In the novel, Sabbath has gone south (“Tunnel, turnpike, parkway—the shore!”) to visit the Jewish cemetery where his grandparents, parents, and brother are all buried. I will not ruin it for you. To get the feel of the night, you must read the passage in full—or, better, read the novel entire. And imagine that this passage—with its great elegy of gravestones, with its memories of life lived, of a life cut short, and all of it in particular—imagine that this is what Philip Roth chose, very deliberately, as his birthday message, his greeting, his farewell. These were not his last words—please, not that!—but they were what he chose. Death-haunted but assertive of life. The passage ends with his hero putting stones on the graves of the dead. Stones that honor the dead. Stones that are also meant to speak to the dead, to mark the presence of life, as well, if only for a while. The passage ends simply. It ends with the line, “Here I am.”

Philip Roth was Attacked and Excommunicated at Yeshiva University in 1962


VI. The Holocaust in the Discourse of Popular American Jewish Culture

The role of the Holocaust in the civil discourse of American Jews comes more sharply into focus through critiques in contemporary imaginative fiction. It plays an important role in popular Judaic non-systemic (counterculture) folk representations. Consider the blunt example of the writings and experiences of Philip Roth. (Cf. Young, pp. 109-112, for further discussion of Roth.)
Roth in The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography (New York, 1988, pp. 127-130) recounts an anecdote that he calls his "excommunication" at a Yeshiva University symposium on fiction he participated in New York in 1962. At this "trial" he tells us he was grilled mercilessly by a moderator and audience who began after him with the question: "Mr. Roth, would you write the same stories you've written if you were living in Nazi Germany?" As framed, the query was merely a cloak for a dagger aimed at the heart of Roth's literary expressions. The questioner transparently meant, "Are you not a self-hating Jew?" Roth was so shaken by the attack, he could not respond at the time. Instead, he says, he has given his answer many times over in the fiction he has published, in his discourse, since that incident.

Of course, Roth could have answered easily and obviously. He was a product of Jewish cultural processes over several generations in an American democracy. He wrote for an American non-racist audience. He was nurtured on the great achievements of English literature. Jews within German society had no such nurture and faced an openly hostile racist culture. Roth could only have written his oeuvre for us. We read him, understand him, despise him or laugh with him and respond to his characters and caricatures.

Through his fiction he challenges the basic discursive truths of Judaic life and, in my view, allows us to better judge their cultural value and purpose. Roth's recent parody of Holocaust memory within American Judaism and the Zionist setting was also one of his most radical. In The Counterlife he developed the following.

The book's protagonist Nathan Zuckerman finds himself on a jet flight from Israel sitting next to Jimmy Lustig, of the West Orange Lustigs. Jimmy is a psychotic reversioner returning from study in the Diaspora Yeshiva. He plans to hijack the plane to Germany and issue a press release aimed at "regeneration for the Jews," (Philip Roth, The Counterlife, New York, 1988, pp. 188-9)

FORGET REMEMBERING
I demand of the Israeli Government the immediate closing and dismantling of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's Museum and Remembrance Hall of the Holocaust. I demand this in the name of the Jewish future. THE JEWISH FUTURE IS NOW. We must put persecution behind us forever. Never must we utter the name "Nazi" again, but instead strike it from our memory forever. No longer are we a people with an agonizing wound and a hideous scar. We have wandered nearly forty years in the wilderness of our great grief. Now is the time to stop paying tribute to that monster's memory with our Halls of Remembrance! Henceforth and forever his name shall cease to be associated with the unscarred and unscarable Land of Israel!
ISRAEL NEEDS NO HITLERS FOR THE RIGHT TO
BE ISRAEL!
JEWS NEED NO NAZIS TO BE THE REMARKABLE
JEWISH PEOPLE!
ZIONISM WITHOUT AUSCHWITZ!
JUDAISM WITHOUT VICTIMS!
THE PAST IS PAST! WE LIVE!
In the novel, but a few pages later, Jimmy backs off. The press-release was just an irrepressible, offensive Jewish joke. As Jimmy says, "Come on, you think I'd be crazy enough to f--k around with the Holocaust? I was just curious, that was all. See what you'd do. How it developed. You know. The novelist in me." (Ibid., p. 193)

Roth's artifice is an inversion of remembrance. He casts the scene in terms of the most visible contemporary context of political violence - airline hijacking. Roth pits recent reversionary forms of Judaism against accepted American communal forms, and against State-sponsored monumental discourse. These fictive memories have undoubtedly been shaped and cultivated under the repression of the corporate personality of the system of civic American Judaism. Roth's characters express as their response a fierce struggle over the acceptance or rejection of the central belief system.

Cited from my,
Judaisms and Memories: Systemic Representations of the Holocaust -- keynote address, Conference on the Effects of the Holocaust on the Humanities, University of Minnesota, March, 1989.

- repost from 4/25/06

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?”

4/12/18

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//

3/4/18

Was Roger Bannister Jewish?

No, the first athlete to run a mile in under 4 minutes, Roger Bannister was not a Jew.

He died 3/3/2018 at age 88. British Prime Minister Theresa May remembered Bannister as a "British sporting icon whose achievements were an inspiration to us all. He will be greatly missed."

Note that Harold Abrahams, the timekeeper who recorded Bannister's first, was a Jew. Wikipedia reports. "Abrahams's father, Isaac, was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, then Congress Poland as part of the Russian Empire. He worked as a financier, and settled in Bedford with his Welsh Jewish wife, Esther Isaacs."

May 6, 1954: "Bannister crossed the line and slumped into the arms of a friend, barely conscious. The chief timekeeper was Harold Abrahams, the 100-meter champion at the 1924 Paris Olympics whose story inspired the film 'Chariots of Fire.' He handed a piece of paper to Norris McWhirter, who announced the time."

In 2011 there was some controversy over Abraham's role as timekeeper at the event.

3/1/18

My Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column for March 2018: Fighter for Gun Controls and Haggadah Hunters

My Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column for March 2018:
Fighter for Gun Controls and Haggadah Hunter


Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I’m a high school student who was devastated by the recent deadly shootings in a Florida school and by so many other recent awful acts of gun violence in our country.

My friends and I are organizing activities to counter this terrible trend, but I’m afraid we will not succeed against the fierce tide of gun proponents.

What should we do to get some real traction and lasting results?

Fighter for firearms controls in Fair Lawn


Dear Fighter,

I am awed by the response of students after the latest tragic gun carnage in Florida. I especially was floored by the young speaker who made her displeasure with politicians clear, saying on TV, among other strong sentiments, “We call B.S.! Shame on you!”

How awful that our innocent schools and holy houses of worship have suffered violent attacks that resulted in multiple deaths. How utterly sad that venues of merry entertainment were attacked by perverse maniacs. What a dreadful day and age we live in.

I think about this contrast. Back in the 1950s my dad sat working during the day in his quiet rabbi’s study in the Park East Synagogue in New York City on East 67th Street, right next door to the local police precinct. The shul entrance was always unlocked as he worked alone in the big empty shul building.

2/27/18

Is Rush Limbaugh Jewish?

Yes, Rush Limbaugh is a Jew. Rush's Conservative Gentile persona is a successful act that has earned him record multi-million dollar contracts in the radio business.

Rush's real name is Ronald Levy. He was born on the upper West Side of Manhattan. His father was a dermatologist and his mother a junior high school librarian. He attended the Ramaz School where he excelled at floor hockey and then Amherst College where he double-majored in art history and chemistry.

Rush was accepted to Albert Einstein Medical School of Yeshiva University. He had to withdraw during his first semester because he could not control his mocking derisive laughter when confronted with the illnesses and infirmities of the hospital patients.

Happy Purim everybody. א פריילעכן פורים
Rush! Rush! Rush! !רָשׁ! רָשׁ! רָשׁ
חַג פּוּרִים, חַג פּוּרִים,
חַג גָּדוֹל לַיְּהוּדִים!
מַסֵּכוֹת, רַעֲשָׁנִים,
שִׁירִים וְרִקּוּדִים!

הָבָה נַרְעִישֶׁהָ:
רָשׁ רָשׁ רָשׁ!
הָבָה נַרְעִישֶׁהָ:
רָשׁ רָשׁ רָשׁ!
הָבָה נַרְעִישֶׁהָ:
רָשׁ רָשׁ רָשׁ!
בָּרַעֲשָׁנִים
//repost from 5769//

2/18/18

On the Awfulness of Our Post-Truth Society - reflecting on a New York Times Op-Ed

Molly Worthen discussed post-truth Christian society recently in the Times.

She vividly described living in and with a social world governed by a "Christian Worldview". I am not sure why she was so accepting of this cultural phenomenon that is so widespread. Sure there are good aspects of that preaching. Teaching people to be moral and ethical and loyal and faithful - who can argue with that side of the equation?

But many aspects of the thought systems that she described are now, and have been in the past, racist, anti-Semitic, anti-intellectual, gender biased, anti-gay, triumphalist, tribal to the extreme and generally obnoxious and awful.

Worthen concluded with a summary of a professor's ruminations on the contrast between a person who teaches academic thinking, whom she calls the skeptic, versus on who preaches fundamentalist religious thinking, whom she calls the cynic. Citing a professor of journalism at a Christian college she presented this pithy summary:
"The skeptic looks at something and says, 'I wonder,' " he said. "The cynic says, 'I know,' and then stops thinking."
He pointed out that "cynicism and tribalism are very closely related. You protect your tribe, your way of life and thinking, and you try to annihilate anything that might call that into question." Cynicism and tribalism are among the gravest human temptations. They are all the more dangerous when they pose as wisdom and righteousness.
Yes, I agree with the professor's words and conclusions. In the worldview of some of my Orthodox Jewish neighbors, the best rabbi is the one who is the most cynical and tribal - and who poses most vociferously as the wisest and most righteous.

That posing doesn't fool me. The danger of that person is real and awful. 

2/8/18

Is Janet Yellen Jewish?

Yes, my favorite person of the past four years, Brown graduate (Pembroke), and the now-newly-retired Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System of the United States, Janet Yellin is a Jew.

Wikipedia reports, "Yellen was born to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Anna (née Blumenthal) and Julius Yellen, a physician. She graduated from Fort Hamilton High School in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. She graduated summa cum laude from Pembroke College (Brown University) with a degree in economics in 1967, and received her Ph.D. in economics from Yale University in 1971 for a thesis titled Employment, output and capital accumulation in an open economy: a disequilibrium approach under the supervision of James Tobin and Joseph Stiglitz."

Yellin presided over the bull market of 2014-2018 during which the DJIA rose from 15,372 to 26,616, a gain of 74% in 4 years.

That's why she is my favorite person of the past four years.

2/2/18

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Talmudic Advice Column for February 2018: Is Bitcoin Kosher? Should I post my medical status on Facebook?

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Talmudic Advice Column for February 2018
Is Bitcoin Kosher? Should I post my medical status on Facebook?


Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

My friend says I should buy bitcoin. He predicts I’ll make a big profit. He says that even though the value of the cryptocurrency recently has risen dramatically relative to the dollar, it’s not too late to buy. Should I trust his advice? And honestly, I do not understand how the currency works. Can you give me some insights? Should I trust bitcoin?

Taking Risks to Get Rich in Ridgewood

Dear Taking Risks,

I checked thoroughly and want to let you know that my research shows that the Talmud has no teachings about bitcoin. The Talmud is an ancient literature. Bitcoin was invented quite recently. Never the twain shall meet.

And although I worked for years in the financial services industry, at big banks and at hedge funds, I did so as a technology expert, not an investment adviser. I have no credentials to give financial or investing advice. And if the truth be told, I am not very good at following the sage advice I received over the years from the real money experts. Accordingly, please do not construe anything I say here as guidance for your investing. I will not and cannot tell you what to buy or sell or when to do so.

But while I researched and pondered what the Talmud might say about your inquiry — as if prophetically the Talmud could know about bitcoin — I did realize there are some striking similarities between the two systems — between traditional religion and the blockchain technology that underpins all cryptocurrency.

1/10/18

My Plea - In Mommy Edith's Memory on her Birthday - Quit Smoking Cigarettes Today

My mother was a strong athletic woman. I believe that she would be alive and 97 years old today, if not for cigarettes.

In 2000 my mother Edith Zahavy passed away on the 4th day of Tammuz after six months of hospitalization at Mt. Sinai in NYC. She was 79.

For 63 years she smoked, mostly menthol cigarettes. The corporate tobacco pushers hooked her into addiction by giving her free samples outside her school, Hunter College, when she was a teenager. They supplied her habit for six decades.

For several years prior to her death she could hardly walk because of her profound vascular disease, heart disease and emphysema. Her last months in the hospital on a respirator were awful as all of the organs of her systems weakened and failed.

My mother was a beautiful, selfless, generous, creative, religious person who dedicated her whole life to her family, to her friends and to her students. She first brought us up (myself and my brother and sister) and then went on to teach in the NYC public schools. She also founded the Park East Day School.

She stood behind my father, me and my siblings through thick and thin. But through the years she always smoked, mostly Newports and Salems. When I was in high school she would send me down on Fridays to buy her Challahs for Shabbat and a pack of cigarettes for Friday.

As I remember her -- an active vibrant woman -- I plead with you -- if you smoke cigarettes -- QUIT TODAY. Please for the sake of the memory of my mother -- for your own sake -- for the sake of your spouse, your parents, your children, your friends -- please stop.

(Repost annually from 2006)

1/4/18

Your Employer's Dirty Tricks - Dear Rabbi Zahavy - My Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column - January 2018

Your Employer's Dirty Tricks
Dear Rabbi Zahavy - My Jewish Standard Talmudic Advice Column 
January 2018

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

After I worked at my job for three months, my manager suddenly, without warning or discussion, tried to change the terms of my employment, to give me additional responsibilities, and to take away from me my vacation. This was directly contrary to the terms we had agreed upon when I accepted the job.
What can, or should, I do about this?
Blindsided in Bergenfield
Dear Blindsided,
Our Torah clearly defends the basic rights of the worker, “You shall neither steal nor deal deceitfully or falsely with one another… You shall not defraud your fellow; you shall not commit robbery. The wages of a laborer shall not remain with you until morning” (Leviticus 19:11-13). And more recently, many of our grandparents, in the spirit of our traditions of justice and fairness, in the United States and in Europe, led the global movements for unionization and for social justice to protect the rights of workers worldwide.
But today, though, I assume that you do not have a union to represent you. Given the power differential in your case, there is not much effective unilateral action that you can take. If you stand your ground against your boss, chances are that you will find no compromise and be forced to resign and walk away. If you seek compromise, likely you will be met with blank stares or glares from your bullying manager.
And if you give in, you may be able to remain in your job, but at significant personal costs to your dignity, and potentially to your happiness and health.

1/1/18

Is Pink Jewish?

Yes, Pink is a Jew. The star performer dazzled everyone at the Grammy's with her singing, acrobatics and revealing performance in 2010 and again in 2014. Her mother is Jewish.

A 2006 interview with Pink said about her plans for tattoos (which I do not think were carried out),
Her Jewish mom will be honoured on her right arm, “with Hebrew writing and a cat ’cause she’s a snob and she’s a nurse and all that stuff,” she says cryptically. “And my dad is this country boy and he’s a wolf, or a tiger – I’m not sure which animal yet. And my mom grew up in Atlantic City so I’m gonna have all sort of casinos. And Carey has tattoos of Las Vegas casinos… Then for the country I want a spider’s web, Charlotte’s Web, all that stuff.”
Wikipedia says, "Pink was born (1979) Alecia Moore in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Judith Moore, a nurse, and James Moore, Jr., a Vietnam veteran. Her father is Catholic and her mother Jewish, and her ancestors immigrated from Ireland, Germany, and Lithuania."

I don't think she got the Hebrew tattoo.

Pink's "Raise Your Glass" video below gets seriously into religion at about 2:00.



[repost from 3/2011]