Tag: Judaism

The Last Jew in Pakistan


Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 11.38.50 PMMeet Fishel Benkhald. My wife and I met him over Twitter late last year, and, because I am also a Jew, I was very interested in his story. We have become “friends” through social media.

Fishel lives in Karachi, Pakistan, and is considered to be the last Jewish citizen in Pakistan, a country of 187 million people. He has made it his mission to be a voice for Pakistani minorities. Over Twitter direct message, he told me (all quotes unedited, to preserve his spelling and grammar):

Yes I tweet&speak with people in support of Christians,Hindus,and muslim minority of Ahmadia&Shia muslims.

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A Jewish comedian once tried to explain the difference between the Yiddish words shlemiel and shlimazel.  “A waiter who spills a bowl of soup is a shlemiel,” he said. “The guy it lands on is the shlimazel.” If you look at the word for the unlucky sap, you will see it contains the word “mazel”. […]

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A Random Day In A Random Life


It’s Friday morning. I wake up early to shower and dress, so I’ll have time to attend random religious services at a random house of worship before work. I take special care to put on my random fringed vest and a random head covering. Then breakfast — a random round bread with a hole in the center.

That morning, I receive a call from a random place in the Middle East. It’s my older daughter, who is spending a year studying random religious texts in a random seminary. I ask about her plans for the upcoming random day of rest. We wish each other a peaceful day of rest in a random language.

I Have A Dream


And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established at the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all of the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come. And let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. And he will teach us of his ways, and we shall walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of God from Jerusalem — Isaiah 2:2:3

Something shifted in me this past October, after learning about the assassination-attempt on Rabbi Yehuda Glick. The Temple Mount — where Jewish access is restricted — had represented an ache in my heart, but stayed there, as elusive as a dream. Every time I visited the The Western Wall, I would feel sadness and loss, knowing that I was so close, yet so far away, but somehow I had accepted the status quo and settled for this state of silent complacency.

What Is Hanukkah?


From the standpoint of Jewish law, Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday. The book of Maccabees did not make it into the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Talmud devotes entire tractates to the Sabbath, Passover, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkoth, even Purim — but Hanukkah is discussed over only a few pages. Of that, only a few lines are devoted to the festival’s origins. They begin with the uncharacteristic question (BT Shabbat 21b), “What is Hanukkah?”

The holiday’s history begins in the wake of Alexander the Great’s death. Alexander’s empire was carved up by his generals. Seleucus presided over Babylonia initially, but quickly expanded his territory through conquest. His son Antiochus I inherited a vast Seleucid empire that stretched from Turkey to India.

Yom Kippur: A Torah Explanation


I like to explain everything using only the words in the Torah. The following is a modified excerpt from my upcoming book. It is, oddly enough, libertarian in the sense of taking responsibility for one’s own actions. But otherwise, this is pure biblical exegesis, which obviously will not appeal to many. But it might interest a few of you.. so enjoy!

Consider the Yom Kippur offering, the famous “two goats.” One is consigned to Azazel and thrown down a cliff, and the other one meets a holy end as a sacrifice to G-d. Like many other commandments in the Torah, the twin goats of Yom Kippur can be very difficult to understand.

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The following New York Times article was written by Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/08/20/opinion/ronald-lauder-who-will-stand-up-for-the-christians.html?_r=0&post_id=100000568613762_890414684320810#_=_ The question is, why haven’t Christian ministers and priests spoken out about this tragic slaughter? Preview Open

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A Night of Weeping, for the Generations


Tisha BAvThe book of Numbers describes how after the Israelites left Egypt, received the Torah, and built the Tabernacle, they were set to enter the Promised Land. As a precaution, Moses sent 12 princes “to spy out the Land of Canaan.” But when the spies returned, ten of them “spread an evil report of the land.” The people despaired and wept. As a consequence, God made the Children of Israel wander in the wilderness for 40 years, so that they would enter the Land of Israel only after the generation of slaves had died out.

According to Jewish tradition, the Israelites received a second punishment that night as well. “You weep for no reason,” the Talmud (BT Sanhedrin 104b) relates God saying, “so I will fix this as a night of weeping for you, for the generations.” The night in question is the ninth of the Hebrew month of Ab, or in Hebrew, Tish’a B’Av. It begins tonight.

The early Rabbis of the Talmud, who lived in the first few centuries CE, explain in tractate Taanit (M 4:6) that Tish’a B’Av is the date of five separate tragedies: “On the Ninth of Ab, it was decreed upon our ancestors that they would not be allowed to enter the Land of Israel; the First and Second Temples were destroyed; Beitar was captured; the city of Jerusalem was plowed over. From when the month of Ab starts, we reduce joy.”

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Martyrdom is not a central theological concept in Judaism. But given the span and scope of post-exilic Jewish history, the fact of Jewish martyrdom is inescapable. So the Sabbath prayer service includes a brief appeal on behalf of martyrs’ memory: Compassionate Father, who dwells on high, in His deep compassion may He remember the pious, […]

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America Needs Its Own Passover Seder — Son of Spengler


One of my daughter’s teachers posed the question: Is Passover a liberal holiday, or a conservative one?

By “conservative” and “liberal”, he was referring not to contemporary American political movements, but the terms’ classical meanings. Is Passover a holiday of continuity, or reform? Does the “Festival of Freedom” celebrate national liberation, or individual liberty?

Passover: The Essence of Judaism —iWc


Passover starts tomorrow night. Torah-observant Ricocheteers have been building up to this moment for months now – cleaning, and preparing and learning and planning… whew! The iWc home has an average of 15 people for 8 separate formal meals (we are eating out for 2 of them) over the course of 8 days.

I wanted to share a thought that will be new to all readers. Here goes!

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It’s Friday night. My family is gathered around our dining room table. The china and silverware gleam, offset by a white tablecloth. There is a nice bottle of wine — the adults aren’t driving tonight, no one has anywhere else to be — and the wineglasses capture the light of the candles on the sideboard. […]

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