11/8/22

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

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

Here are the words to one of our classic 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 we are singing the song in 2006:



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

10/14/22

Post-Pandemic Kohelet: An Israelite Form of Meditation: Ecclesiastes is a cynical reflection on life’s futility that we can resonate to now more than ever.

I think you will like this article published on TheTorah.com! Kohelet: An Israelite Form of Meditation. Ecclesiastes is a cynical reflection on life’s futility. The constant sonorous repetition, visualizations, and references to breath serve as a sustained meditation to help free the reader’s soul from the agonizing struggle of life.

   

10/9/22

Electricity on Shabbat? My Dear Rabbi Zahavy Jewish Standard Column for March 2020

Electricity on Shabbat? My Dear Rabbi Zahavy Jewish Standard Column for March 2020

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

Members of my community of Orthodox Jews who are shomer Shabbos refrain from turning on and off all electrical devices to observe their Shabbat rest. So, on Friday nights and Saturdays our practice is not to use, for instance, our phones or TVs or computers. And we don’t turn on or off lights or fans or heaters.

Lately, I’ve become lax in keeping these rules, especially regarding my use of my smart phone, my computer and my Alexa Amazon Echo devices. I feel that using these devices enhances my rest and my leisure. And I have found that avoiding them makes me uneasy, not relaxed or restful.

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I don’t publicly advertise my actions. But it’s increasingly evident to me that my family knows what I am doing and that they quietly disapprove.

I am worried and need your advice. Am I sinning by my behavior? I feel strongly that what I am doing is not a violation of any rules and likely will continue my uses. But what can I do regarding my actions if this all blows up and causes social friction in my family and community?

Electrified in Englewood

Dear Electrified,

Establishing sacred time is a powerful part of all religions. The notion that we Jews spend one day a week in a special world of restful restrictions starting on sundown on Friday is an amazing claim to make. And at the same time, it is hard for the community to enforce the Sabbath taboos.

10/8/22

Atlantic: Can You Read on an Amazon Kindle on Shabbat?

I originally posted this 12/23/2010. 
The questions keep recurring so we are bringing this post back. And by the way, I published a lot of books on Kindle since then, 
Now back to the 2010 blog post...

Our Jewish calendars have always told us what time to Kindle for the Sabbath, when to "Kindle the Shabbat Candles."

Nowadays we have another kind of Kindle to know about, the Amazon book reader. And the question arises, can you Kindle on the Sabbath?

We think yes, without any qualifications, that you can Kindle on the Sabbath. The e-ink device does not create actual light. You cannot read it in the dark. And it obviously does not create any durable writing. When you turn it off it goes blank.

In halakhic terms we find no transgression, no prohibition to using the reader. In fact it's a feat of great imagination to extend Sabbath prohibitions to that invention. It involves believing there is a set of electrical apparatus that is prohibited, or defining a broad category of technology-things that all are outside the spirit of Sabbath rest.

9/28/22

Can a Jew Pray Directly to the Divine Attribute of Compassion?

Can a Jew pray directly to the Divine Attribute of Compassion? Yes, in just one prayer each year.


On Yom Kippur in Neilah, in the final series of the prayers of compassion that we call the selihot, we utter the catalogue of God’s thirteen mainly emotional attributes over and over again, the familiar:

“Lord, Lord, God, Compassionate, with loving kindness, patient, with kindness and truth; keeper of mercy for thousands, forgiver of iniquity, transgression and sin; clearing us. Forgive our iniquity and sin and accept us.” (cf. Exodus 34:6-7)


Within this sequence of repeated meditations, the tenth century Italian payetan Rabbi Amitai ben Shepatiah presents in his prayer a direct appeal to the divine attribute of compassion to intercede for us:
Attribute of compassion, pour upon us
In the presence of your creator, cast our supplications
For the sake of your people, request compassion
For every heart has pain and every mind is ill
(Goldschmidt, YK, p. 778)

9/23/22

Just published and now on sale: Elegant new 750 page edition of "The Zohar in English"


The Zohar is called the greatest work of Jewish Mysticism. From the Middle Ages to today people of all faiths have studied and pored over the Zohar to explore the mysteries of God and the universe and to seek knowledge of when the redemption of the world will arrive.

The Zohar is a mystical novel whose hero is Rabbi Simeon son of Yohai, a rabbi and disciple of Rabbi Akiva from second century Israel. The original Aramaic work describes how Rabbi Simeon and his companions wander through the hills of Galilee, discovering and sharing mystical secrets of the Torah.

This large format 750 page edition presents the entire work in one volume in eloquent English as translated by several great scholars of the 20th century.


  • ON SALE NOW

9/17/22

Does the Talmud say that Gay Sex Causes Earthquakes?


I'm quoted  in the Pacific Standard as an authority on the cause of earthquakes, "Gay Sex Caused the Earthquakes in Nepal."

On 8/23/2011 I wrote this post:

Does the Talmud say that Gay Sex Causes Earthquakes? In 2010 I covered this nonsensical topic after the Haiti earthquakes. (At that time Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic cited me on this subject.)

Here it is again.

Yes, the Talmud does say that gay sex causes earthquakes.

I mused, That must be some awesome gay sex.

But seriously, if one can get serious over this bizarre idea, some cockamamie rabbis were going around preaching that gay sex caused Haiti's earthquakes.

See here and here for the reports about Rabbi Yehuda Levin and the Rabbinical Alliance of America. (These materials are gone now.)

Now not only is this a strange teaching. I must chastise these rabbis for not doing their Talmud homework and for not paying closer attention to the text in Yerushalmi Berakhot (9:2), which several years back I translated and published through the University of Chicago Press.

According to the Talmud text, earthquakes are caused by any one of a number of acts: yes one of them is gay sex, but others are by disputes, and also by not taking heave offering and tithes from your produce, and also because God is just upset that the Temple is in ruins and there are theaters and circuses in Israel.

Rabbis ought to know better than to cherry pick among the Talmudic reasons for earthquakes.

9/11/22

Will the War Against Religious Terrorism Ever End?

Will the War Against Religious Terrorism Ever End? (Repost for 9-11-2022)

I always feel deep sadness as I recall - as if it was this morning - that awful day 21 years ago when I saw the planes fly into the towers from my vantage on a hill in across the river in Jersey City. 

Mark Juergensmeyer, in Terror in the Mind of God, lays out five ways that the reign of religious terror can come to an end. Let's consider each. First consider the end will come with the forceful eradication of the terrorists, what appears to have been the US response to the 9/11 attacks, continued with the more recent killing of OBL.

Juergensmeyer outlines,
The first scenario is one of a solution forged by force. It encompasses instances in which terrorists have literally been killed off or have been forcibly controlled. If Osama bin Laden had been in residence in his camp in Afghanistan on August 10, 1998, along with a large number of leaders of other militant groups when the United States launched one hundred Tomahawk cruise missiles into his quarters, for instance, this air strike might have removed some of the persons involved in planning future terrorist acts in various parts of the world.