1/11/22

A few codes left for you for a free evaluation copy of the audio book of "Jewish Dreams"

Blog friends: I have a few free promo codes left - send me an email (zahavy@gmail.com) and I will send you a code for a free copy of this new amazing audio book.

Here is the blurb flor the book: Dreams are the interior sleeping experiences of individual people, sometimes remembered by a person when he awakens, often not, sometimes narrative, other times disjointed and symbolic in flashes or episodes. Whether stories or scenes, we sometimes want more from our dreams than just entertainment.

Before Freud, many literate interpreters of dreams assumed that these internal episodes were portents of the future revealed to individuals by some external angel or God. A person’s dreams were personal portals through which he or she could glimpse outside and see his fortune-to-come.

That is how the Bible, the Talmud, and later rabbinic texts present the subjects of dreams and the acts of dream interpretation.

After Freud’s radical paradigm shift, the norm was to see dreams as windows into the personal fears and wishes that stemmed from an individual’s life experiences. Freud observably disavowed the notion that an independent ontological realm was sending messages to people via their dreams. He saw them as another means by which to delve into people’s inner psyches, as messages from the interior and from the near or distant past.

Nothing can be said about reports of dreams in the Hebrew Bible or the Talmud or for that matter in any human subculture without first recognizing the revolutionary works on the topic by the psychologists of the 19th and 20th centuries, especially Sigmund Freud. It is well known that Freud was a Jew and probably knew some of the Jewish traditions about dreams. Surely he knew of the biblical narratives about Joseph’s dreams and other ancient texts and references to dreaming.

The chapters of this audiobook cover diverse aspects of Jewish dreams through the varied prisms of several scholars and classical Jewish texts.



12/28/21

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

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

Purchase the new hardcover edition now at Amazon.

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.

Rav Soloveitchik's Dissertation at the University of Berlin 1930: "Das Reine Denken Und Die Seinskonstituierung Bei Hermann Cohen"

Several years ago in honor of the yahrzeit of the Rav's passing (on Hol HaMoed Pesach, the 18th of Nisan, in 1993) and of the anniversary of his birthday (Feb. 27, 1903) I offered to my readers a link to a scan of my teacher Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik's doctoral dissertation in the field of philosophy written at the University of Berlin, 1930.

The thesis is in German and the scan is a PDF file: "Das Reine Denken Und Die Seinskonstituierung Bei Hermann Cohen" by Josef Solowiejczyk. ("Pure Thought as the Constitution of Being in Hermann Cohen's Philosophy") 

Josef Solowiejczyk, Das reine Denken und die Seinskonstituierung bei Hermann Cohen [The Epistemology of Pure Thought and the Construction of Being according to Herman Cohen], (Berlin: Reuther and Reichard, 1932).

Subsequently I have uploaded the text to the Internet Archive (12/28/2021).



Manfred Lehmann wrote briefly about this dissertation and the Rav's biography:
...It is reported that the Rav would have liked to write his dissertation on Maimonides and Plato, but since no experts in these subjects were available in Berlin, he chose a field of pure philosophy, tempered with mathematics.

12/23/21

Talmudic Advice from a Swim Addict: Swim 100 laps every day

The Tosefta quotes Rabbi Meir (2nd century CE) saying that everyone should strive to recite 100 blessings each day. It then goes on to explain how one can do this.

Blessings are berakhot ברכות in Hebrew. In modern Hebrew the laps that one swims in a pool are called berechot בריכות.

I playfully and read the Talmud this way: Don't say 100 berakhot, say 100 berechot.
More about Meir from Wikipedia: Meir was buried in a standing position near the Kinneret. Pictured here. 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 my Talmudic encouragement to swim 100 laps a day. On many days each year, I get to that goal.

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

12/11/21

God's purposes in the universe explained by Rabbi Zev Zahavy

Trying to understand the role of God in the universe these sad days of COVID can be difficult.

My dad wrote a philosophical theological treatise called "Whence and Wherefore" to help people do this and I turned to it last week - and then I decided to republish it as a hard cover book.

I formatted and uploaded it yesterday at Amazon KDP and today it is available around the world for orders.

He found meaning in cosmology and philosophy and also in Kabbalah. I do hope people can learn from this new edition. Here are some of the links to it.







11/28/21

Happy Hanukkah. But what is Hanukkah?

As so many people ask, What is Hanukkah?

If you are wondering what is the official meaning of Hanukkah as presented in Jewish liturgy, here is the text we insert for the holiday, no spin added,
And [we thank You] for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time.

In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the wicked Hellenic government rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will.
But You, in Your abounding mercies, stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, defended their rights, and avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah.

You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and effected a great deliverance and redemption for Your people Israel to this very day. Then Your children entered the shrine of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courtyards, and instituted these eight days of Hanukkah to give thanks and praise to Your great Name.

And then of course the Talmud explains Hanukkah. Sorta.

There is no Mishnah or Talmud tractate for the festival of lights. Why is that? It is an incredible question. Not going to speculate. All we have in rabbinic literature is this.

The Talmud (Bavli Shabbat 21b) explains what is Hanukkah:

What is Hanukkah? For our Rabbis taught: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev commence the days of Hanukkah, which are eight on which a lamentation for the dead and fasting are forbidden.

For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Hasmonean dynasty prevailed against and defeated them, they made search and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the High Priest, but which contained sufficient for one day's lighting only; yet a miracle was wrought therein and they lit the lamp therewith for eight days. 

The following year these days were appointed a Festival with the recital of Hallel and thanksgiving.

What else is there to say? 

Dreidls, gelt, and latkes come later.

Our Amazing Incredible Hanukkah Avatar

Hanukkah has its own avatar. I wrote about how this works in my truly amazing favorite book, "God's Favorite Prayers."

...The concept of avatar has several meanings. First an avatar can be an embodiment or a personification of a substantial idea, for instance, "the embodiment of hope"; "the incarnation of evil"; "the very avatar of cunning." In some respects I describe in this book how the prayers serve as avatars of several diverse personalities. In this sense I can say that the Amidah is an avatar of the priest.

An avatar in the context of religions can have another meaning. In specific it is a manifestation of a Hindu deity, particularly Vishnu, in a human, superhuman or animal form. As an example of how the term is used is, “The Buddha is regarded as an avatar of the god Vishnu.” In this sense of the term, I created my archetypal avatars, such as my “priest,” as representatives of the core values that inhere in the prayers...

... The most recent technological application of the word avatar denotes a computer user's self-representation or alter ego, in the form of a three-dimensional model within a computer game, or as a two-dimensional icon picture on a screen, or as a single-dimensional username within an Internet community.

... On two special occasions, Hanukkah and Purim, we add paragraphs to the Amidah to describe the victories of heroic Jews of the past. I see these hero figures as avatars of the priest.

11/22/21

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.

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.

10/17/21

Is the Film "The Endless Summer" Jewish?

My favorite movie is Bruce Brown's, The Endless Summer. No, it wasn't Jewish at all that is, until I made it into a metaphor for my quest for perfect Jewish spirituality and the inspiration for my book cover (see below). I haven't found any other Jewish connections to the film or the poster.

Vanity Fair has a story about the famous iconic Endless Summer movie poster. "One Summer, Forever: The Endless Summer poster is 50 years old, and it hasn't aged a minute. Kitchen-table project turned pop-culture phenomenon, the Day-Glo movie promo created by John Van Hamersveld for his friend Bruce Brown’s 1964 documentary is still selling the dream—on T-shirts, TV shows, beer bottles, and dorm walls. Lili Anolik looks back at the moment an iconic image was born, the social upheaval it presaged, and the surfer-dude-slash-designer whose life it changed."

In 1966 I saw a film that documented two boys seeking simple perfection in a quasi-mystical sport. IMDB sums up, "Brown follows two young surfers around the world in search of the perfect wave, and ends up finding quite a few in addition to some colorful local characters."

The film spoke to me, as it did to many others of a more idealistic age. The essence of surfing of course is the wave. And the lover of surfing no doubt wants to embark on the quest for the best wave. To experience the performance of the essence is to find the perfect wave.

Brown's two surfer dudes found one in South Africa, see the video clip below.