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January 18, 2017 / 20 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Jacob’

And Jacob Was Left Alone… Lessons from Parshat Vayishlach

Friday, December 16th, 2016

“And Jacob was left alone…”

Why was he alone?

The Gemara tells us (Chulin 91a) that after Yaakov moved his camp to the other side of the brook, he busied himself with some small stuff — earthenware jars, or jugs.

Lest we think less of Yaakov for caring about unimportant things, the Gemara comments that Tzaddikim care more about possessions than about themselves, as their possessions were not accrued via “gezel”, but are the result of honest business practice.

What a message!

Where is the hint in the pasuk that these jugs were the items involved?

The Ba’alei Tosfot offer 2 suggestions:

1) לבדו is similar to לכדו

2) בית הבד is an olive press This hints to small, jugs as that is what we put olive oil in, as opposed to big jugs for wine.

Maybe these small jugs פכין קטנים, hint to that well known small jug of oil that was found in the Temple by the Chashmonaim.

Perhaps the lesson to take is that if we want big miracles to happen we should concentrate on doing the right thing always, even when it seems like the details are trivial.

Rav Yitzchak Korn

Scholar Jacob Neusner Dead at 84

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Jacob Neusner, renowned scholar of rabbinic Judaism of the Mishnaic and Talmudic eras, passed away on Saturday, October 8, 2016, in Rhinebeck, NY. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Neusner studies at Harvard University, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the University of Oxford, and Yale University.

Neusner is known for developing a humanistic and academic reading of the Jewish classical works, treating the religion in its social setting, as something a group of people do together, rather than as a set of beliefs and opinions.

Neusner was a pioneer in the application of the “form criticism” approach to Rabbinic texts. Much of his work consisted of de-constructing the prevailing approach viewing Rabbinic Judaism as a single religious movement within which the various Rabbinic texts were produced. In contrast, Neusner viewed each rabbinic document as an individual piece of evidence that can only shed light on the more localized forms of Judaism of each specific document’s place of origin and the specific Judaism of the author. His work “Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishnah” (Chicago, 1981; translated into Hebrew and Italian) is the classic statement of his work and the first of many comparable volumes on the other documents of the rabbinic canon.

Neusner taught at Bard College since 1994. He also taught at Columbia University, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Brandeis University, Dartmouth College, Brown University, and the University of South Florida.

In addition to his scholarly activities, Neusner was involved in shaping Jewish Studies and Religious Studies in the American University. He sponsored a number of conferences and collaborative projects that drew different religions into conversation on the difference in religion, religion and society, religion and material culture, religion and economics, religion and altruism, and religion and tolerance.

JNi.Media

Harold (Heshy) Jacob, A”H

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

The Jewish Press  notes with sadness the passing of Heshy Jacob. A prominent member of the Jewish community of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, he served as general manager of several of the housing developments there, which for more than half a century have been home to countless Jewish residents.

He had strong views on many issues, including the pivotal importance of the housing developments and the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area to the future of the Lower East Side and its Jewish population.

Highly intelligent and possessed of a dynamic personality, he played leadership roles in key community assistance groups such as the United Jewish Council of the Lower East Side, where he served as chairman, and in the local and citywide efforts of Hatzaloh, of which he was a founding official and high ranking coordinator. He was also the longtime president of the iconic Bialystoker Synagogue. Early in his career he held a senior position in the New York City Controller’s office then led by Harrison Goldin.

A legendary and savvy networker, he enjoyed the confidence of many public officials over the years, working with them on many communal issues.

He was for decades a larger than life presence among us and will be sorely missed.

May his memory be a blessing.

Editorial Board

Life at Rachel’s Tomb

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Yes, it’s true, the Arabs are repeatedly attacking Rachel’s Tomb to destroy it like they do Joseph’s tomb and keep the Jews away, but that’s not stopping Jews from visiting Mother Rachel at Fortress Rachel in Bethlehem.

The 11th of MarCheshvan (yesterday) was the yahrzeit of Rachel’s passing and masses of Jews are visiting.

Rachel was the wife of Yaakov, and mother of two of the tribes of Israel: Joseph (Ephraim & Menashe) and Benjamin.

Photo of the Day

Netanyahu Pledges to Beef Up Security at Patriarchs’ Cave in Hebron

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

Israel will do its “utmost so that Jews will be able to go everywhere safely, especially to the Tomb of the Patriarchs,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet Sunday.

Tens of thousands of Jews visit the site, known, in Hebrew as Ma’arat HaMachpelah, for Slichot prayers between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

It is the burial site of the forefathers Avraham, Isaac (Yitzchak) and Jacob as well as Sarah, Rebecca (Rivkah) and Leah. Rachel, Yaakov’s second wife, is buried at Rachel’s Tomb (Kever Rachel), which also attracts tens of thousands of people between the two High Holidays.

The Patriarch’s Cave also is the traditional burial place of Adam and Eve.

Palestinian Authority terrorists have escalated attacks at the two sites in recent months.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Friday the Rabbi Read Isaiah 53

Friday, November 15th, 2013

In this morning’s video pick, a recording of the late Christopher Hitchens discussing the inherently immoral notion of someone dying for someone else’s sins, a kind of spiritual cannibalism, really, reader Alex Rivera entered the comment: “I take it the editor has never read Isaiah 53…”

Since Isaiah 53 is being used as one of the foundation strategies of missionary tricksters in seeking proof for their pagan ideas in our holy scriptures, I decided to respond immediately, lest this drivel have a chance to spread further.

Now, this article is directed at both Jewish and Christian readers, as an attempt to set the record straight. If you’re a Jew, I expect this should satisfy any doubt you may have had regarding the most remote possibility that the missionary claims bear any validity; if you’re Christian, I hope that this would serve as an opening to explore further the deep seated errors of your faith.

Isaiah 53 is an amazing piece of poetry, besides bearing a stirring prophetic message. I cannot understand how one would be able to get it without a thorough knowledge of Hebrew – even if he or she don’t have preconceived notions about the Christian message. This is precisely why the missionaries are able to fool our Jewish brothers and sisters who aren’t fluent in Hebrew – but now they can all come to the JewishPress.com and see the Jewish version of Isaiah 53.

To start, the original Hebrew texts had no chapters, and we read them based on their content, referring to each as a distinct episode, or a distinct poem, with their own cohesive content.

The segment in Isaiah 53 actually starts in Isaiah 52:13, flowing into Isaiah 53:1:

52:13 goes: “Behold, My slave has become wise, he has risen and become superior and very high.”

The nation of Israel, in the singular, is called God’s slave throughout the book of Isaiah. In one particular verse, Isaiah 41:8, the text refers to our nation using both names of our patriarch: “And you Israel, my slave Jacob whom I have chosen, seed of Abraham my lover.”

Both Isaiah and Jeremiah use the term “My slave Jacob” six times, four of them with the Divine’s call to “fear not.”

In both cases, the prophets are borrowing the names of our forefather Jacob-Israel, whom God addresses with that calming call on the eve of his journey down to Egypt, in the context of his becoming a great nation, the nation of Israel:

“He said, I am God, the God of your father, fear not going down to Egypt for I shall turn you into a great nation there.” (Gen. 46:3)

So that there’s no doubt in any Hebrew reader’s mind that the prophetic poem in Isaiah 52-53 is referring to us, the nation of Israel, children of Jacob. Nothing here about some guy telling folks he is the messiah.

The scene described by Isaiah is that of the nations of the world, kings and all, who are reviewing the progress of the nation of Israel—very much the way they do today, when 9 out of 9 UN resolutions are against Israel, when the president of the United States and his secretary of state cannot tear themselves away from discussing the extra bathroom the Berkowitzes wish to construct in their East Jerusalem apartment, when the faraway, impoverished nation of Iran is devoting $175 billion, at last count, to build a weapon that would finally annihilate all the Jews of Israel – this is precisely what the prophet describes, this obsession of the entire world with the children of God.

And so, God shares His own report with them:

52:13 “Behold, My slave has become wise, he has risen and become superior and very high.”

God proceeds to describe our history:

52:14-15 “Just as many were appalled by your appearance, saying: he is so disfigured, worse than any man, and his form worse than any human being, so he will humiliate many nations, kings will stand speechless over him, for that which had not been told them they’ll see and that which they had not heard they’ll ponder.”

The prophet continues:

53:1 “Who would believe what we have heard, and to whom has God’s arm been revealed?”

Yori Yanover

Permutations & Combinations

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Originally published at Chabad.org.

By Elisha Greenbaum

Some people just don’t appreciate gematria.

In our synagogue I try to find something to say during the pauses in the Torah reading every Shabbat. We’re fairly eclectic in our tastes, and you might find us flitting between an ethical teaching, a play on words, a chassidic interpretation, or a piece of numerology during the break between one reading to the next.

Many of our regulars question my occasional use of gematria or other types of numerology.

Every Hebrew letter has a numerical value. Aleph = 1, bet = 2, etc., and adding up the letters gives you the unique numerical value, or gematria, of each word and phrase. Comparing and contrasting the relative value of different words and phrases often affords surprising insight into the text and allows us to correlate seemingly unconnected Torah topics.

I admit it does sometimes seem somewhat random. One congregant of mine frequently observes, often after I’ve just introduced a particularly obscure piece of numerology, that you can read whatever you wish into numbers, and if you try hard enough you could probably find a tenuous connection between most topics.

He’s right, in a way. These methods are described as parparaot la-chochmah, the condiments of wisdom. They’re not the main meal of Judaism, just the seasoning that gives Judaism its taste. Torah is Godly and infinite, and all wisdom is contained within her words. You’d never decide a law on the basis of gematria; but, used properly, they can help give a new and deeper appreciation and understanding of the text.

Take one of the most famous examples of word and number play in the Torah. As Jacob leaves his father-in-law’s house on his journey back to Israel, he sends a message to his brother, Esau. Im Lavan garti, I have lived with Laban.

Rashi pointed out that the gematria of garti is 613, which is also the number of commandments in the Torah, and thus interprets Jacob’s message to be saying, “Throughout the years that I lived with the evil Laban, I kept the 613 commandments.”

But would my friend be convinced? So the word garti equals 613; it’s surely not the only word in the Torah with that value. Where do you get mitzvahs from “I have dwelled”? Why would Rashi assume that Jacob is doing more than just describing his living arrangements for the last 20 years, and is rather making a metaphysical point about his commitment to the commandments?

Gematria is more than random wordplay. Legitimate tools of Torah interpretation treat the text as a living document: an interplay of content and context, with each letter, word and phrase redolent with meaning. In our example, the correlation between garti and mitzvah observance is deeper than just adding up the letters; rather, the context leads to the conclusion.

The word garti, from the root ger, “stranger” or “convert,” is unusual. Had Jacob just wished to say “I lived with Laban,” there are other, seemingly more appropriate verbs that he could have used. Garti has connotations of “I was a stranger”; I was different, I never fit in with the wicked people because I lived and acted differently than they. Jacob was saying, “The whole time I was away from home, I stayed true to the lessons that I learned in my parents’ home.”

It was in this context that the rabbis observed that there is also numeric support for this supposition. “I was able to keep the 613 mitzvot, even in Lavan’s house, because I remained a stranger to their way of life.”

Wherever a Jew is, no matter how far from home he may have traveled, he can always maintain his connection to the words and letters of Torah by appreciating the value of each letter and word of Godliness and seeking out the underlying purpose of each phrase and phase of life.

Chabad.org

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