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December 27, 2014 / 5 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘High Holidays’

Does Israel Recognize Itself as a Jewish State?

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

A government press release, referring to Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot as the “autumn holiday” raises a question whether the Netanyahu administration recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, a demand it has made of the Palestinian Authority.

The Government Press Office sent a letter to “press attaches at foreign embassies” with an invitation to attend a “Spirituality and History Tour of Jerusalem” next month.

The “spirituality” part is a bit hard to understand unless it is limited to Christianity.

“We will watch the Armenians march from their theological seminary to prayers in the St. James Cathedral, in the Armenian Quarter,” the letter stated.

“We will then proceed to the Jewish Quarter where will hear about the autumn holidays, visit the Old Yishuv Court Museum and ascend to amazing view from the roof of Aish HaTorah Yeshiva,” it continued.

“We will end our tour at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where will hear about Jerusalem’s multi-faceted Christian communities while observing ceremonies of the various sects.”

There are two glaring absences. One, there is no reference to Islam, which like it or not, is part of the history of the Old City.

The other and more blatant gaffe is the mention of “the autumn holidays.”

Autumn holidays?

A case could be made by a secular Jew that Sukkot really is all about the harvest and is one of the three Festivals in which agriculture is a major part.

But Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur?

Would the GPO dare refer to refer Christmas as “the winter holiday?”

The Jewish Press asked a couple of questions from people involved in the tour, and everyone emphasized there was no slight intended and that, in fact, the holidays do fall in the autumn.

One person indeed was taken aback and said that the question would be looked into.

It would be too complicated to explain non-Jews that they are “High Holidays” – then you have to explain what is a “low” holiday.

To explain “Tishrei,” the month in which the holidays occur, requires a long span of listening attention, although Ramadan is accepted.

But Jewish? Can’t they even say the word “Jewish?”

Before the High Holidays, the GPO will send out its annual multi-page explanations of the Jewish holidays, allowing all of the foreign journalists to study the spirituality, if they want to wade through it all.

Maybe on the actual “Spirituality and History Tour of Jerusalem,” the autumn holidays will become Jewish.

One person told The Jewish Press,” Don’t make a mountain of a mole hill.”

Well, we are, because those when those little mole hills pile up on each other, they become a big, big mountain.

Holidays In Israel, The Fleisher Perspective

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

The Yishai Fleisher Show returns after a short holiday vacation with Yishai and Malkah discussing the importance of the recently ended holidays on the Jewish life cycle and the difference between observing the holidays in communities around the world and in Israel. They move on to talk about news items that happened in Israel in the past weeks and end by discussing Don’t miss this segment!

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
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Baltimore Sun Features Sports Fans’ High Holidays Dilemma

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

An article in the Baltimore Sun featured the conflict fans of the Baltimore Orioles have with the yearly Yom Kippur observance, showcasing how lovers of baseball keep their finger on the pulse of sports as the Day of Atonement takes place.

Some observant Jews leave their iPhones on at home during the service, according to the Sun article, with app alerts posting to their screens without causing them to break the Jewish law against operating electronic equipment on holidays.

The Sun sited a frequent problem of postseason or important late-season games falling out on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, and sites the head Rabbi of the Beth Am Synagogue of Baltimore, who recommends congregants record games they want to follow, so they can enjoy them after important Jewish holidays.

The article also included an anecdote about a Conservative rabbi who would update congregants on the scores during the service, so they would be attentive and their curiosity alleviated, and discussed which games the rabbi would announce during services, and which he would not.

One man, an avid sports fanatic, said he would not be checking on the game at all, because of his concern for maintaining the sanctity of the day.

Today in 1972 – Democratic Hopeful George McGovern Sends New Year’s Wish to US Jews

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Sen. George McGovern, the Democratic Presidential candidate, greeted American Jews today on the occasion of the High Holy Days. “Mrs. McGovern joins me in wishing our Jewish friends and Jews around the world a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year,” the South Dakotan said.

“Traditionally,” McGovern’s message continued. “the High Holy Days has been a period for reflection and rededication. Jews have chosen the Days of Awe as a time for the individual to look at himself to examine how he can better fulfill his responsibilities to his Maker and his fellow man.

“Rosh Hashana symbolizes a reaffirmation of the values that have shaped the Jewish role within the world community. It marks a renewed commitment to the task of improving the world unto the Almighty. I join the Jewish community in the prayer that the New Year 5733 will bring a time of peace, Justice and brotherhood for all men.” McGovern’s message concluded.

Through The Ages In Jewish Song: Itzhak Perlman on His New CD Collaboration with Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Internationally renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman and acclaimed Chazzan Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, chief cantor at Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue, have collaborated on a forthcoming CD titled “Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul.”

The Jewish Press recently interviewed Perlman at his summer home in the Hamptons.

The Jewish Press: The combination of you on violin and Cantor Helfgot singing will be a unique treat to listeners. How did this collaboration come about?

Perlman: Someone close to my family kept telling my wife and me that we must go hear Cantor Helfgot. Last year we were in Israel and we found out he was performing, so we went to hear him. It was extraordinary. A voice like that comes around once in a generation. After hearing him sing I knew I wanted to do something with him. We contacted him and he was equally excited at the prospect of collaborating on a CD.

Is the music on the CD related to the upcoming High Holidays? And have you done any High Holiday instrumentals in the past?

I have never done High Holiday instrumentals. There are three selections for the High Holidays on this CD. We do Kol Nidre. As you know, there are many different tunes for Kol Nidre. Helfgot is a devotee of the late Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt and he models his tunes after his.

But these are not just compositions for the High Holidays. “Eternal Echoes” takes one through the ages in Jewish song, and people will relate to all ten pieces.

Who chose the pieces?

I did. We discussed them, and Helfgot would tell me if he wasn’t comfortable with something, but for the most part he appreciated everything I suggested.

Do you play your Stradivarius on this CD?

Yes, of course.

You were born in Israel. Is that where you first started violin lessons? How supportive were your parents?

I started playing violin at the age of four. When my parents saw how much I wanted to play, they helped me accomplish it. By the time I came to America I had been studying in Israel for quite a few years.

There is more consideration and public accommodation today for people with physical disabilities than was the case years ago. Was it very hard to manage then?

It isn’t as easy today as people imagine. With all the laws that have been enacted, there still are many places I cannot enter, even in Manhattan. But when I was growing up in Israel I didn’t think I needed any special accommodation. My music lessons were up a flight of stairs and my father carried me up. I did whatever I had to do and didn’t think about it.

Itzhak Perlman performing at a White House state dinner in 2007.

Today when I travel all over the world it can still be hard to find a hotel with wheelchair-accessible rooms. Let me tell you a story about the time I was performing in Santiago, Chile. The hotel was supposed to have rooms that were suitable. When I got to my room, it was indeed all right, but the bathroom had a big step up to enter. I called the manager and he told me he would take care of it. When I returned to my room many hours later, workers had chiseled the step away and in its place was a smooth surface. Of course, that doesn’t always happen.

Did your children inherit your talent?

My three daughters all play musical instruments and are very talented, as is my wife, who also is a violinist. My two sons have talent but are not at the present time doing anything in the music field.

Do you spend the summer in the Hamptons?

My wife started the Perlman Summer Music School out here. We take about forty students each summer and I teach them and they have the chance to devote themselves to their music during this time. In fact, on the new CD there are some pieces with orchestra backing, and it is these students who are performing.

I have granddaughters in Israel who have been playing violin since they were very young, and a few years ago when you were in Israel you had an evening in Tel Aviv for students of violin to come onstage and play with you. These two granddaughters were among them. And it was a wonderful experience for them.

Eternal Life

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Psychologists are always quoted in holiday-themed articles about the seasonal blues. We are stressed from our holiday preparations and we remember our loved ones who are no longer with us. At the High Holidays, we may or may not be suffering from seasonal depression, but there is no doubt we are remembering those we’ve lost as we shop, cook, clean, daven, and take stock of our blessings at the Yontif table.

I lost my father so many years ago that the thought of this loss no longer generates pain. But that is not to say that I don’t think of him often. His presence is still palpable, still keen much of the time. Even so, 37 years is a long time. I am way past the pain of mourning him.

I was just 13 when my father passed away. It was a sudden tragedy. In spite of my youth at the time, and how I missed having a father at such a critical juncture in my development, I can look back and say that I had a good father for 13 years. I can see this as a rich blessing.

Today, at 50, I still rely on my father’s teachings. Though the body of those accumulated lessons may be smaller than for those of most people, the lessons remain eloquent and profound. I take great pleasure in sharing those lessons with my children.

I also like to imagine that Daddy somehow sees my large family and me and has nachas from the fact that I am raising a Jewish family in Israel. I credit him for raising me in such a way that I ended up making aliyah – that my life has taken the wonderful twists and turns that earn me a mitzvah for every four cubits I walk in Eretz HaKodesh. It is due to my father’s influence – abbreviated by time but never by impact – that I gave birth to children in the holy city of Jerusalem 12 times. There are now grandchildren, and all of these too are the fruit of my father’s teachings.

I don’t know what the Torah says about my wild writer’s imagination that likes to think of my father looking down and watching over me from the Heavens. But I do believe that Hashem is kind enough to grant us a certain power regarding those we love who pass away. We can give them nitzchiyus, eternal life, through remembering the special brand of goodness they brought to this world and left behind as their permanent gifts to the living.

It’s a kind of unwitting partnership: that unbreakable link between those lost and those who remain. One never knows when a virtual tap on the shoulder will be received from that long gone person who remains a part of you forever. Just this morning, as I washed the breakfast dishes, a memory popped into my mind, unbidden, like a visitation.

I remembered that my father and I were in the car (I think I was 11) and we passed some girls, teenagers, who were trying to hitch a ride. My father stopped the car for them. After ascertaining their destination, he gave them a lecture: “You look like nice girls from good families. You shouldn’t be hitchhiking. Not everyone is a nice man like me. Your parents would be very worried if they knew you were hitchhiking.”

How many people would have taken the time and cared enough to give those complete strangers, who after all were someone’s children, a talking to about the dangers of hitchhiking? How many people would have taken the time to drive those girls to their destination, way out of the way, just to ensure their safety? And, of course, I was there too. The lesson was also meant for me. My father was ensuring my safety too, by teaching me a lesson about the dangers of hitchhiking. That was a very specific lesson for a specific situation – and it remained with me long after my father’s demise.

Jewish Depictions Of Hell

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Although it’s the Hebrew month of MarCheshvan—known as “mar” or bitter, because it’s devoid of holidays, unlike the preceding month which has the High Holidays and Sukkot, and the next month which ushers in Chanukah—that’s not why I’ve been thinking about hell (gehinnom in Hebrew) a lot lately. In fact, I co-wrote an e-book recently with New York-based lawyer and author Joel Cohen called Gehinnom: A Conversation in Hell. (The book, which is available for free download at www.joelcohengehinnom.com, is a work of fiction, or creative non-fiction. The characters come from the Bible: Cain, Korah, Saul, Balaam, Miriam. But the dialogue is imagined.)

The characters in the book cling in death to the same philosophies and self-awareness (or lack thereof) that they embodied in life. One by one, the characters enter a conversation in “a dark, dank, forgotten cave,” where they have to trust each other’s disembodied voices, since they cannot see each other. The characters (with the exception of Miriam and a young man who later surfaces) team up on one another and expose jealousies, hatred, self-righteousness, and a confusing—and thus, distinctly human!—blend of emotions. Of course, the lines the characters deliver have little to do with what the figures might actually have believed and felt, and everything to do with what Cohen and I believe they might have believed. For such is the stuff of art, and the majority of the artistic canon is fictive—even the works that purport to be “realistic.”

Haggadah shel Pesach (with interpretation of Abrabanel). Hayim ben Tsevi Hirsh. Fürth: 1755.

Surely, one can imagine countless works of Christian art that depict demons torturing lost souls, grim reapers with scythes, and flaming depictions of hell. It’d be foolish to suggest that Jewish art has anywhere near such a prominent tradition of depicting gehinnom, and it’s not my intention to do so here. But many readers of this column probably have a pretty good sense that the Christian apocalyptic traditions of representing demons and eternal punishment for sinners have their origins in Jewish texts.

Some of the Jewish sources include the Mishnah in Gemara Sanhedrin (10:1), which addresses the statement that “everyone in Israel” has a portion in the World to Come. If the Mishnah goes out of its way to specify that everyone “in Israel” has a portion in heaven, surely there must be some who have no portion, the rabbis argue, so they compile a list: those who deny the resurrection of the dead, those who say the Torah isn’t divinely delivered, and those who are apikorsim, or heretics. Rabi Akiva adds that those who read “sfarim chitzonim”—“outside” books—also have no heavenly portion, nor do those who whisper (incantations) over a wound. Finally, Abba Shaul adds that those who recite God’s name as written also will not merit eternal reward. The Mishnah also adds a list of particular individuals and groups who have no heavenly portion, including the kings Jeroboam, Ahab, and Menashe (though Rabi Judah says Menashe was forgiven and did merit reward), Balaam, Doeg (who killed 85 priests), Ahithophel (who led Absalom astray, to say the least), and Gehazi, who disobeyed Elisha.

There are also chassidic traditions surrounding gehinnom. The Apta Rebbe (Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apt, 1748-1825) famously said that as a sinner he’d be sent to gehinnom, but being unable to endure the sinners, God would have to send them out. His idea was to ensure that he’d be the only one there, a strategy that the Ropshitzer Rebbe—Rav Naftali Zvi of Ropshitz, 1760-1827—also embraced. The latter figured that gehinnom empties out during the Shabbat, and that any sinner who had visited the Rebbe’s house on Shabbat while alive, ought to be able to visit his table in heaven. And what a foolish man the Rebbe would be to let the sinner be returned to gehinnom at nightfall, the Ropshitzer Rebbe said.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/jewish-depictions-of-hell/2011/11/16/

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