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December 10, 2016 / 10 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘High Priest’

Thousands of Kohanim Gather at Western Wall to Bless the People of Israel

Monday, April 25th, 2016

On the second morning on the intermediate days of Passover, tens of thousands of descendants of the Biblical Aharon, the High Priest, gathered at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem to bless the Nation of Israel.

Thousands more came to be blessed, and millions around the world viewed the events via the “Kotel Kam” that was set up to allow yearning Jewish worshipers at least virtual access to the site.

As in the days of old, so too in present times, the descendants of the Tribe of Levi gather during each of the Biblical holy days and festivals at the material remnant of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to bless the Jewish People.

The event is called ‘Birkat HaKohanim’ – the Blessing of the Priests – and it takes place several times a year.

A live feed of the events taking place throughout the day at the Western Wall may be viewed by clicking here.

This year more than 3,000 police and other security officers have been deployed in and around the area to ensure the safety of those who came to be blessed, and later on, to pray.

“Security forces and the Police and Border Guard officers around the city, including the Temple Mount (ed. note.: adjacent to the Western Wall) are there to manage with professionalism and sensitivity [the protection] that characterizes the uniqueness of the place and the need to serve the public in a fair and equal basis,” explained the police.

“We will continue to guard the status quo on the Temple Mount to benefit all and to act decisively against anyone who tries to disturb the public peace and safety.”

On the second day of Passover — in Israel, the first intermediate day — 12 Jews were ejected from visitation to the Temple Mount grounds after being accused of violating the rules at the site.

One Jewish boy was questioned by police on suspicion of having prayed within the Temple Mount compound, which is forbidden for Jews under the rules of the status quo guidelines agreed upon by Israel with the Jordanian Islamic Waqf after Israel won the 1967 Six Day War and restored the site to the rest of Jerusalem.

The Temple Mount — upon which both ancient Jewish Holy Temples were built — is the holiest site in Judaism. It is also the third holiest site in Islam. Several hundred years ago, Muslims build two mosques there to mark the sacred events in their tradition that took place on the site.

Hana Levi Julian

PA Charges Jews with Wearing ‘Priestly Garments’ on Temple Mount [video]

Friday, September 25th, 2015

The official Palestinian Authority website WAFA has accused “extremist Jewish settlers” with “wearing priestly garments” on the Temple Mount on Yom Kippur.

WAFA as well as all Arab media inside and outside Israel routinely incite Muslims into a frenzy over Jews “storming” the Temple Mount.

WAFA added that the “settlers,” a term referring to any Jew who ascends the Temple Mount, “attempted to perform Talmudic (Jewish) prayers, however their attempts were foiled by the Mosque guards.”

That statement is probably not true because Jerusalem police stay within inches of all Jews on the Temple Mount and haul them away if they even dare to whisper a prayer.

WAFA also told its faithful that Israeli police were deployed in such large numbers that it made Jerusalem a “military barrack.”

The Palestinian Authority’s official website’s reference to the “priestly garments” could have been part of its strategy of incitement against Jews or could have been plain ignorance and paranoia.

The spokesman for the Jerusalem police did not respond to The JewishPress.com’s request for a response to the accusations by WAFA, but Temple Mount activist Rabbi Yehuda Glick explained that the “priestly garments” were nothing more than the white “kittel.”

The “Kittel” is not a priestly garment. The High Priest indeed were a white robe and trousers during part of the Yom Kippur rituals on the Temple Mount.

However, the “kittel,” which symbolizes purity and is used as a burial shroud for men, is commonly worn in synagogues on Yom Kippur, the Day of Judgment, to symbolize the penalty of death by God for committing sins.

The Orthodox Union explains the ritual on Yom Kippur:

Twice during this exalted day, the Kohen Gadol [High Priest] would remove the eight priestly garments he wore during his service in the Beit HaMikdash [Holy Temple] all year long, immerse in a mikvah and don the four special white linen garments that were used only on Yom Kippur to enter the Kodesh Hakodashim [Holy of Holies].

The only connection between the Kittel and the High Priest’s white robes is that both are white.

The second verse in Chapter of Isaiah states:

Our sins shall be made as white as snow.

Below is video posted on Arab media of Jews, one of them with a ‘Kittel,” on the Temple Mount on Yom Kippur.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

WoW Miss their Chance for Equality at Kotel Priestly Blessing

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Tens of thousands of Jews prayed at the Western Wall Sunday, the fourth day of Sukkot, and received the traditional priestly blessing of dozens of Kohenim, but no Women of the Wall tried to join.

Kohenim are of the priestly tribe traced to the Biblical High Priest Aaron.

The Women of the Wall have campaigned vigorously the past year to pressure for the same religious standing of men to read from a Torah scroll and wear tefillin at the Western Wall. They have succeeded in winning the right to pray as they wish at the southern section of the Western Wall, known as Robinson’s Arch and not adjacent to the more widely-known section of the Wall.

So why didn’t they try to prove again that “equal” mean the “same” and presume they are Kohenim. Don’t Reform Jews deserve their blessing?

The Reform movement generally maintains a policy of “equality” and rejects the distinctions between Kohenim and other Israeli tribes, but some Reform and Conservative prayer groups allow the daughter of a Kohen to perform the Priestly Blessing.

The same prayer groups also call a daughter of a Kohen to the reading of the Torah, in place of the traditional recognition of a Kohen for the Torah portion that is chanted in Israel on the Sabbath, holidays, Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the month and on Mondays and Thursdays.

The Kohenim were active in sacrifices in the Holy Temples, and Reform and Conservative thought concludes that since the Temples have been destroyed and there are no sacrifices today, the designation of a Kohen is either out of date or is not restricted to men. The Conservative movement is split with two opposing opinions on whether a daughter of a Kohen can perform the Priestly Blessing.

Most Reform and Conservative congregations omit the Priestly Blessing, which in Orthodox congregations in the Diaspora are performed only on the three festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. The blessing is recited toward the end of the additional Musaf prayers. Reform Jews usually don’t bother themselves with praying too much, and they delete Musaf.

Reform Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser posted on a website “More liberal communities, those that insist on thorough gender equality, do not observe the distinction of Kohanim and Levi’im at all.”

Reform Jews, with their 11th Commandment of equality, declare that all Jews are equal in their functions as Jews. All of us are the same. Everyone is a priest, everyone can wear tefillin, everyone can read from the Torah, and everyone can do pretty much as he or she pleases.

That begs one question: If all are equal, if Jewish law rejects the Torah as the living law of today, and if every Jew can understand the Torah as he wants, why is there such a thing as a Reform “rabbi”?

So much for equality.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

The Real Occupiers: Judea, Circa 50 CE

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations show no sign of abating and the voice of collective dissent now echoes well beyond lower Manhattan. During the past few weeks, the movement has spread nationally, as protesters across the country came together in a leaderless association that rails against corporate greed and social inequality.

These American protestors were joined recently by tens of thousands of others worldwide, in hundreds of cities throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. Organizers of the global demonstration said on their website they were demanding a “true democracy” for the international community. The global demonstrations came on the same day that finance ministers and central bankers from the G20 met in Paris to discuss solutions to the debt crises engulfing Europe.

Demonstrators in Rome turned violent, but crowds elsewhere were largely peaceful. In London, the atmosphere was energetic, with activists chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “We are the 99 percent” in different languages. In New York, protesters marched through the financial district to a rally in Times Square, banging drums and chanting, “We got sold out, banks got bailed out,” and “All day, all week, occupy Wall Street.”

Sadly, the word “occupy” conveys a very different connotation for the Jewish people today. Since the inception of the state of Israel, the term has largely been used to portray our nation’s return to its ancient homeland as a merciless imposition on the lives of millions of Arabs.

In the more distant past, however, the term referred to a foreign, non-Jewish presence in our Holy Land, usually accompanied by some degree of religious and/or economic persecution. In some instances, the occupation was so intense and oppressive that it forced our forebears to take a strong public stance in hopes of improving the political landscape.

Such was the case nearly two thousand years ago, in the century preceding the destruction of the Second Temple. At that time, Judean residents expressed displeasure with sustained economic and governmental heavy-handedness, perpetrated first by the Herodian rulers and then by Roman procurators. They gathered en masse to “occupy” their capital and their country, and attempt to force the hands of their tormentors.

Shortly before his death in 4 BCE, King Herod had bequeathed his kingdom to his three surviving sons: Archelaus, Antipas, and Philipus. Archelaus received the largest territory, which included Judah, Idumea and Samaria.

Herod’s death allowed the people to breathe a long-awaited sigh of relief. Surely nothing could match his extended reign of terror (Herod had ruled for nearly forty years). Upon ascending to the throne, Archelaus reinforced that impression. He received the people warmly, assuring them of future cooperation. Confident of his friendship, the Jews asked for the release of their political prisoners, and sought relief from the heavy taxation imposed by Herod. Archelaus indicated that he would satisfy their requests.

After a period of intense communal mourning for a number of sages who had been executed by Herod, the people asked for more. They wanted retribution against Herod’s advisers who had been responsible for the death of those scholars, the removal of his recent High Priest appointee, and the expulsion of Greek officials from the royal court.

This time, Archelaus made no commitments. He was tiring of their continuous requests, and was readying to set sail for Rome to secure Augustus’s consent to his appointment. Archelaus sent word in response with his officers for the people to wait until after his return. This, in turn, angered the people.

Soon after, on the eve of Pesach, the growing resentment burst forth. At the Temple, the Jewish masses again expressed their deep sense of loss for the murdered sages. Fearing an uprising, Archelaus positioned one thousand mercenary soldiers there, with orders to remove any unruly worshipers.

Jewish Press Staff

Family Conflicts Are More Prevalent Than You Think

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Special Note: It appears that my articles on the pain of a family torn apart touched sensitive nerves. Sadly, too many of our families have become fragmented; too many are suffering from a lack of shalom bayis. The e-mails and letters that I received are all painful testimony to this breakdown of traditional family life. The following is just one of these letters.

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

Thank you! Thank you for last week’s article and thank you to the young woman who brought the subject to the fore. When I read her letter, I couldn’t believe it, because, for all that, it could have been my family that she was describing – it sounded all too familiar. My mother is also widowed; she is also suffering terribly from family infighting, the only difference being that, in my family, it’s my two sisters-in-law rather than my sisters who are creating the tensions.

We do have one bright side – Baruch Hashem, all the siblings are married so no one has to worry about how this ugly circus will affect his or her shidduch, although I realize that if it isn’t resolved soon, it may spell terrible consequences for the next generation. My oldest niece is 16 – the years go by very quickly, and before you know it, she will be in the shidduch parshah.

Our family situation has deteriorated to the point where my brothers (the husbands of my sisters- in-law) who had been very close are now barely communicating and limit their exchanges to business transactions.

Why are my sisters-in-law at each other’s throats? To be honest, I cannot tell you. Should you ask them, they give you some ridiculous reasons like, “She said this,” “She said that,” and when you hear them speak you wonder: Can these be mature women?

I have come to the conclusion that when jealousy enters a person’s heart, his or her entire demeanor and attitude changes. They pick fights over non-issues and are capable of the most despicable behavior. I guess the converse is also true. People, who are committed to chesed, will be patient and compassionate, and there is no amount of provocation that can reduce them to hatred and family infighting. They always bear in mind those beautiful and powerful words that you emphasized in your article: “She is your sister! How can you not talk to your sister? She is your mother! How can you hurt your mother?”

For the past three years, I tried to mediate between my sisters-in-law. I cajoled, I urged, I actually begged them to make shalom, but it was all to no avail.

Six years ago, our father, of blessed memory, passed away. During this period, my mother never considered remarriage, although there have been some very good prospects. My mother is an attractive, engaging, warm, loving woman, who is still vital and active. Her whole life however, focuses on the family – her children and grandchildren.

When shidduch suggestions were made, she immediately dismissed them telling us that she didn’t want to be put in a position where if she wanted to baby-sit for one of her grandchildren or visit them for Shabbos, she would have to ask a husband for permission. She didn’t want to have a husband who would object or be resentful of the time she spent with her family, which, she felt, was a real possibility in a second marriage. As much as we tried to convince her to build a life for herself, she wouldn’t hear of it. “I have a life, and it is with my children,” she would say with finality.

So you can see, family cohesiveness has always been intrinsic to our mishpachah. Our get-togethers have not been limited to special occasions, like a bar- mitzvah, wedding, or G-d forbid, funeral. We would make a concerted effort to see each other on a regular basis. I share all this with you so that you may better understand how devastated our family has been by this unexpected, shocking situation.

The dynamics of our family life changed radically. Our family gatherings were no longer happening, and if they did take place, they were certainly not the same. If one sister-in-law attended, the other refused to come and this placed a shadow over everything.

Our mother didn’t stop crying, but she was by no means passive. “This is not the nachas that I anticipated in my old age,” she told us. She tried to reason with each of my sisters-in-law separately, but on every occasion she came up against a brick wall. When she pressed hard, she was told that as “a mother-in-law,” she should stay out of it.

But that really made my mother furious. While she is normally a calm, controlled person, she was outraged, “I should stay out of it! Who should be involved if not me! A stranger? Who is affected more, if not me! I’m only the mother and the grandmother! The therapist, neighbors, and friends…they can all be involved, but I must stay out of it? Do any of these people stay up at night worrying, agonizing? Does this painful situation disturb their daily lives, their sleep? Who feels this pain, if not me? And I should stay out of it!”

My mother actually committed these words to writing and sent each of us a copy. “I’m putting you on notice,” she wrote. “I will never stay out of it! I am your mother, your grandmother, and you are my children. As long as I live, I will fight to keep my family united!” My mother meant it, and she has not budged from that position.

Despite my mother’s determination, the family situation deteriorated. Often, my sisters-in-law didn’t even call to wish her a good Shabbos, but that didn’t inhibit my mom. She called them and was relentless. You can imagine that when the story of the two sisters appeared in your column, it hit hard. My mother cut it out, made photocopies and sent it to my sisters-in-law as well as to all my other siblings…. My sisters-in-law did not react, so my mother asked them if they got the article.

“Yes,” they said, but instead of showing shame and contrition, they nonchalantly remarked that such is the reality of family life nowadays, and it would be best for my mother to get used to it. Needless to say, my mother was outraged by their chutzpah and was more determined than ever to do everything possible to unite the family.

So the following week, when your reply appeared in The Jewish Press and you wrote about the terrible horrific ramifications that can result when hatred goes unchecked in a family, my mom once again cut out your article and highlighted the powerful list enumerating the “Dayenu” that you wrote demonstrating how each contemptuous hostile act was, in and of itself, a horrible blight on the neshamah, a terrible sin.

After she sent your column out to the family, she let two days pass, and then she called my sisters-in-law with the daring suggestion that we all go to see you as a family. Initially, they refused, but my mom wouldn’t give up until finally, she wore them down and they agreed to give it a try.

By this time, Rebbetzin, I’m sure you recognize who I am. We visited your office just last night. I felt that I must write to you in the name of our entire family to thank you for your patience, even when we taxed it mightily. Baruch Hashem, the miracle did occur. We came to your office fragmented, and we left as a mishpachah.

I’m not saying that everything is perfect. It is by no means as simple as that, but the walls of hatred have been breached, and we are interacting – communicating – and that’s huge.

So, if we are on the way to mending, your readers may wonder, why am I writing? For two simple reasons: 1) People always write about bad news – seldom do they share good news and say thank you. 2) Additionally, I believe that we can all borrow a page from my mom. She never gave up. She refused to resign herself to the situation. She fought and fought until we all saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

Even as I write these words, she is planning a family Chanukah party and has given notice to everyone in the family that they all better show up. My maternal grandfather was a Kohen and it occurred to me that my mother must have inherited her determination to make peace from Aaron, the High Priest…about whom it is written, “He loved peace and he pursued peace.”

Please feel free to publish my letter but may I ask you to omit our names. Wishing you a Simchas Chanukah on behalf of our entire family. We thank you!

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Q & A: The Gabbai’s Dilemma (Conclusion)

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004
QUESTION: If a shul’s (or a minyan’s) rabbi does not indicate to the sheliach tzibbur to go ahead at the end of the Shema or at the beginning of Chazarat HaShatz, should the gabbai tell him to go ahead, or does he wait until the rabbi finishes? To which should greater consideration be given by the gabbai: kibbud HaRav or tircha detzibbura?
Steven Littwin
Riverdale, N.Y.
ANSWER: We previously discussed the extent to which tircha detzibbura is to be avoided, and we present the conclusion of our discussion of kibbud HaRav vs. tircha detzibbura by quoting from R. Sternbuch’s careful reminders about the significance of according honor to a rabbi, which is comparable to according honor to the Torah itself.The Gaon R. Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvot VeHanhagot Vol. I:116) clearly considers waiting for the rabbi before starting Chazarat HaShatz, the Reader’s Repetition, to be an honor that is due to him.

The issue in the case he discusses involved a synagogue where they do not regularly wait for the rabbi before starting Chazarat HaShatz. In his answer R. Sternbuch cites the Rema (O.C. 124:3), who notes that we are not to wait for individuals who pray at length, even if they happen to be people of importance in that city. Nor should we wait for a great scholar who has not yet arrived before starting the service. He adds, however, that the Mishna Berura (124:13) as well as the Magen Avraham (124:7) advise that today we wait for the rabbi before starting Chazarat HaShatz.

R. Sternbuch cites the Gaon R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinski’s Teshuvot (siman 5) that were published in 5742 (1982), where it is stated: “We cannot change the custom of waiting for the Rav (or Av Beit Din) during the tefilla; all these [honors] are based on our holy Torah and from them we may not budge … and if, Heaven forbid, we depart from their ways even by as little as an iota, the entire Torah will fall, Heaven forbid.”

R. Grodzinski also remarks: “It is enough that in our generation we do not add practices of our own if there is no need to do so. However, we may not negate, or move away from, any of the words of our holy sages, the great men with vision who provide us with all our needs.” It seems, according to R. Grodzinski, that a congregation where it has become the custom not to wait for the rabbi strikes at the very foundation of the Torah by denying their rabbi the honor due to him, and this might negatively affect how their prayer ascends to heaven.”

R. Grodzinski continues: “It is only permitted [to do so] on such occasions when the Rav prays at great length and he himself requests [by motioning] that they [are allowed to] not wait [for him to conclude his Shemoneh Esreh].”

R. Sternbuch explains that this is in accord with Aruch HaShulchan’s ruling (Orach Chayyim 124:8) that in such an instance the rabbi should request that they not wait for him. He notes that we find likewise (Ri Migash 180) that we may not impose on the congregation an excessive wait, and that is why, when R. Akiva prayed with the congregation (Berachot 31a, as noted previously), he would cut short his usually lengthy prayers so as “not to inconvenience the congregation (torach hatzibbur).”

But in truth it seems that the rabbi should not make light of the honor of the Torah and consistently request that the congregation not wait for him. Therefore, at least on Shabbat [when there is more time available], he should not be lenient with his kavod, but should require the congregation to wait for him, and thus kevod haTorah will be upheld.

R. Sternbuch cites the Chazon Ish (Even HaEzer 148), who posits that a scholar should not constantly forgo the honor due to him because, if he does so, all the other scholars will constantly be compelled to forgo their honor. He also cites Tractate Kiddushin (33a), where we find that R. Shimon beRebbi (a disciple of R. Yehuda HaNassi) as well as Abaye were particular about the honor due to them as sages.

R. Sternbuch then cites Keter Rosh, where we find that the Vilna Gaon was very scrupulous in this regard because he saw it as a matter of honor due to the Torah, and that was in spite of his personal difficulty in concentrating on his prayer when he knew that the congregation was waiting for him to conclude. He notes that, as a general rule, we can therefore conclude that on Shabbat the rabbi should not forgo the honor due to him. The congregation should wait for him to conclude his prayer, for then they will know that they must honor the rabbi and the Torah.

R. Sternbuch then asks a related question, “I find a difficulty. Is not the honor due to the rabbi, a Torah scholar, a requirement and a positive command, as stated (Leviticus 19:32), “Mipnei seiva takum ve’hadarta penei zaken, ve’yareita meElokeicha, ani Hashem … – You shall rise in the presence of an old person and honor the countenance of an elder, and revere your G-d, I am Hashem”? The term elder (zaken) refers to one who has acquired wisdom (zeh kanah chochma, see Rashi ad loc.), and Rambam lists this as mitzva #209 of mitzvot aseh, the positive precepts. This mitzva is possibly greater than some other positive commands (due to its comparison at the conclusion of the verse to the honor one gives Hashem) or as great as the positive command to sanctify the kohanim (Leviticus 21:8), “Vekiddashto ki et lechem elokecha hu makriv, kadosh yihyeh lach ki kadosh ani Hashem mekadish’chem … – You shall sanctify him, for he offers the food of your G-d; he shall remain holy to you, for holy am I, Hashem, who sanctifies you.” Rambam lists it as mitzva #31 of the positive precepts. R. Sternbuch obviously bases this on the Mishna in Tractate Horayot (13a), which states the order of precedence among people based on holiness and lineage: A priest has precedence over a Levite; a Levite over an Israelite; an Israelite over a mamzer (one born of a prohibited relationship), and so on. The Mishna notes the following exception: “If, however, the mamzer is a scholar and the High Priest is an am ha’aretz (ignorant), the mamzer ersed in the law has precedence over the ignorant High Priest.”

R. Sternbuch now asks, “Why, according to the mitzva of ‘Vekiddashto’, does the Kohen take precedence over the scholar (the exception being where the scholar is so great that all the Kohanim show deference to him, as we see in Tractate Gittin 59b)? This is difficult to understand, as the honor due to the scholar is not always less than that due to the Kohen, and sometimes actually greater, as we noted in the Mishna in Horayot.

R. Sternbuch offers the following explanation: “The honor that we offer the scholar is singularly different from the honor accorded to the Kohen, and is demonstrated by details such as rising in his presence.”

In the reading of the Torah, calling the Kohen first is not a specific honor, but rather it follows the order of precedence of the Mishna in Horayot. Since this is not one of the specific honors due to a scholar, we do not have to honor the rabbi in that situation, except that it would be a lack of respect to call another Yisrael before the rabbi for shelishi, the third aliyah (the first available after Kohen and Levi.)

There is no requirement to stand before Kohanim or to accord them the other honors given to a scholar, as “VeKiddashto” only emphasizes their precedence when it comes to mitzvot. The same would apply to Levites, whose honor also precedes that of others, concludes R. Sternbuch.

The Gaon R. Moshe Feinstein, zt”l (Responsa Iggrot Moshe, Yoreh De’ah Vol. 2:99), is equally strict concerning the honor accorded to the rabbi. Even in cases where the honor is not one mandated by the Torah or by our sages, but was instituted by the congregation itself, such as walking around the bimah upon the conclusion of one’s aliyah to the Torah in order to shake the rabbi’s hand, a custom which the congregation now wanted to rescind, R. Feinstein did not allow its discontinuation. He emphasizes that even in such a case this custom of kavod accorded to the rabbi must continue, as rescinding it will cause diminution of the honor given to the rabbi.

Regarding Keriat Shema, even though we do not find any source that specifically requires us to wait for the rabbi, we deduce that we should do so from the following:

R. Yosef Caro (Orach Chayyim 61:3) states as follows, “Keriat Shema contains 245 words (tevot) and in order to achieve [the number] 248, which corresponds to the number of limbs in the body [and is also the number of the positive precepts], the chazzan concludes the Shema recital with ‘Hashem Elokeichem Emet’ – and then he repeats this verse.” The Rema adds, “And with this, when they hear these three words said by the chazzan, the congregation’s requirement is fulfilled …”

We can see that if there are individuals who do not say the words of Keriat Shema as fast as the chazzan, they will unfortunately not have fulfilled the requirement of 248 words. Therefore, just as in the Shemoneh Esreh, we should wait for those who say the Shema “word by word”; thus waiting for the rabbi is the logical solution.

To summarize, we see that there are two rules related to waiting for the rabbi: first, it is an honor due to the rabbi; second, it is of important halachic benefit for the members of the congregation.

We also note that this honor accorded to the rabbi specifically at the prayer service is rooted, as we noted earlier, in the Gemara (Berachot 31a) describing the custom of R. Akiva who, cognizant of any inconvenience caused to the congregation, would cut his prayers short when praying with them. It is obvious that concern for their possible inconvenience must have been the result of an existing practice – to wait for R. Akiva, as well as for other scholars, before starting the Reader’s Repetition of the Shemoneh Esreh.

In fact, to wait for the rabbi to finish before starting the Reader’s Repetition, or proceeding with the recital of the Shema, is not the gabbai’s dilemma, but rather the rabbi’s prerogative. And we would be well advised to emulate the age-old way in which a rabbi has to be honored.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Jewish Jewelry

Friday, October 3rd, 2003

Eitan Erell, Jewelry Design 


Telephone; 972 3681 3584.


That which sparkles and shines as it calls attention to a graceful neck or a shapely face possesses a timeless allure for all humanity. The use of jewelry as a joyful ornamentation to the human body is as old as mankind itself, and is found in practically every civilization of note. From antiquity, jewelry has been utilized as decoration, to define social rank, and not infrequently as a talisman to work magic or ward off evil.

In third century Indian sculptures, one sees elaborate necklaces, armlets and bangle bracelets on dancing figures. The Egyptians specialized in gold jewelry featuring symbolic motifs linked to their many religious cults. Our own origins in the ancient Middle East are reflected in the beautiful diadems of gold poplar and willow leaves that graced the forehead of Sumerian royalty in Queen Pu-abi’s tomb from Ur, Abraham’s hometown. A somewhat more recent incarnation of this art form is seen in nineteenth century Moroccan wedding headdresses that covers the woman’s natural hair with a crown of velvet, silver filigree, glass stones and precious jewels. The Jewish desire to ornament the body flows directly from our common joy and appreciation of the God-given gift of material being.

Jewish sensibilities, though, are naturally more complex because our consciousness of jewelry is rooted in the Torah itself. The Choshen Mishpat worn by the Kohen Gadol is an arrangement of twelve precious stones representing the twelve tribes and was used to seek guidance from G-d Himself concerning the proper course for the nation of Israel. This “jewelry” can be seen as an adornment to the majesty and power of the High Priest, acting as a visual confirmation of his ability to interpret Divine instructions. Bezalel was Israel’s first jeweler who stood “in the shadow of God” as he designed the stone studded breastplate.

One of the best-known examples of Jewish jewelry is the City of Gold, wedding bands that date from the late Middle Ages. The distinctive shape of the small shrine perched atop a heavily ornamented ring encrusted with jewels and precious stones symbolize simultaneously the holy city of Jerusalem and the home the new couple hopes to establish.

This tradition of using jewelry as a metaphor for religious and social meaning is continued in the work of Eitan Erell, master goldsmith and jewelry designer. His work has been exhibited internationally and in Israel, and consists of a number of motifs that he has explored over the years. The grape vine motif is taken from Psalms 128:3 “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine in the heart of thy house.” In a bracelet Erell designed, this image is expressed by grape leaves, vines and clusters of grapes that take the form of subtly colored stones. The dominance of the grape leaves, alluding to an understated modesty, contrasts with the supple vine, representing a resourcefulness that is a treasured quality in every wife.

Erell uses many traditional Jewish motifs in his works building on images from illuminated manuscripts and ancient Jewish mosaic decorations. The pomegranate is one of the most meaning laden symbols in the Jewish consciousness that he frequently utilizes in his jewelry. It is one of the seven choice fruits associated with the Land of Israel and expresses the Land’s inherent fertility. The pomegranate occupies a unique position transcending both the spiritual and the physical. While Shlomo Hamelech uses its color and qualities to describe the physical attributes of the beloved in the Song of Songs, the pomegranate is simultaneously utilized on the hem of the High Priest’s robe, joyfully announcing his every movement. Erell’s pendant of an inverted pomegranate filled with a ruby red carnelian stone seems to be pregnant with potential, threatening to spill its delicious red juice at any moment. The graceful curves of hammered silver echo the simplicity of the fruit’s shape.

Torah finials have been known throughout the ages as Rimmonim (pomegranates), and Erell’s simple silver design carries the tradition elegantly into the 21st century. The very practice of embellishing the Torah with elaborate crowns, shields and finials made of silver, gold and precious stones makes such adornments into a kind of jewelry for the holy scroll that we honor as if it were an actual human being. In Erell’s design, the six silver rods gracefully ascend to meet in celebration as a crown of abstract hands representing the three kinds of Jews (Kohen, Levi and Israel) that honor the Torah. The Torah itself is metaphorically suspended in the middle as a three-sided orb, a red juicy core of seeds that promise the continuation of learning and fecundity.

Jewelry’s modern function is to adorn the wearer, and Erell’s necklace of silver and enamel inlay utilizes an ancient mosaic pattern to create a broad collar of unusual light and color. It simultaneously attracts the viewer while honoring the wearer and reminds us of its deeply Jewish roots in synagogue mosaic decoration and the repeating image of the lily. By studying modern jewelry design in Denmark, Sweden and in Israel and incorporating multiple ancient Jewish themes taken from the vast repository of Jewish art and artifacts, Erell has crafted jewelry and ceremonial objects that exist comfortably in the present even as they summon our timeless links to the Land of Israel. He carries the tradition of Jewish jewelry forward because he refuses to forget our spectacular past.

Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at www.richardmcbee.com.

Richard McBee

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewish-jewelry/2003/10/03/

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