3/26/15

Free: Go Online and a Hasidic Chabad Rabbi Will Sell Your Chametz to a Gentile before Passover

Nissan 5775
Chametz (Hametz) Sale Reminder from Chabad
 
With the imminent arrival of the Passover holiday we all are particularly mindful of the prohibition to own any leavened items during Passover -- and the concurrent Jewish practice to sell to a gentile before Pesach any leftover Chametz (leavened items) we may have in our possession.

I am a past user of the online Chametz sale service at Chabad.org, and I would like to remind you of this important Jewish practice and to tell you that in case you do not have a rabbi to make this sale for you, or if you don't want to use your local rabbi, I recommend that you use the free Chabad service at:

https://chabadorg.clhosting.org/holidays/passover/sell_chometz.htm


And visit Chabad.org for all your Passover holiday-information needs. They do a good job over there.

I wish you and yours a liberating and uplifting Passover -- a Happy and Kosher Pesach!

Advertisement: You can purchase the Talmud Tractate Pesahim Kindle edition at Amazon.


Download Online a Free Passover Seder Haggadah

Here are several of the best places you can go online to download a Passover Haggadah for your Seder.
We give Chabad credit for a great resource if you want a wide selection of Hebrew Haggadahs.  
Download Hebrew Haggadahs here.

Library Makes 1,000 Rare Haggadahs Available Online
An illustration of King David praising G-d in a rare Haggadah published in 1710 in Frankfurt am Maine, Germany
An illustration of King David praising G-d in a rare Haggadah published in 1710 in Frankfurt am Maine, Germany

The central Chabad-Lubavitch library in New York made 1,000 Passover Haggadahs, many of them rare, available on the Internet for browsing by the public. The Agudas Chasidei Chabad Library has one of the largest collections of the Passover orders of service in the world.

Housed at the Lubavitch World Headquarters, the library's Haggadah collection began years ago with a nucleus of some 400 volumes purchased on behalf of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, by renowned collector and bibliographer Shmuel Wiener in 1924.

The posting at ChabadLibraryBooks.com represents close to half of the library's total Haggadah collection and is part of chief librarian Rabbi Sholom Ber Levine's goal of making the library more accessible to the public. All told, the library possesses more than 2,200 editions of the Haggadah. Although the rarest of the books, all handwritten, are not yet available, Levine is looking for ways to post them next year. Hebrew Books, directed by Chaim Rosenberg, collaborated on the project.

Download the Complete Talmud in English Free

Download the complete Babylonian Talmud English translation, free.

The Talmud in English is free at http://www.halakhah.com/ - serving up 25,000+ downloads each month, 300,000+ each year.

TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH WITH NOTES, GLOSSARY AND INDICES UNDER THE EDITORSHIP OF RABBI DR. I. EPSTEIN B.A., Ph.D., D. Lit. FOREWORD BY THE VERY REV. THE LATE CHIEF RABBI DR. J. H. HERTZ. INTRODUCTION BY THE EDITOR.

Contains the Sedarim (orders, or major divisions) and tractates (books) of the Babylonian Talmud, as translated and organized for publication by the Soncino Press in 1935 - 1948.

The site has the entire Talmud edition in PDF format and  about 8050 pages in HTML format, comprising 1460 files — of the Talmud.

I recommend that on your web site or blog you add a link to this site http://www.halakhah.com.

Highlights include: A formatted 2-column PDF version of the Talmud at Halakhah.com.

Take note. A Kindle edition of the Talmud is available at Amazon.com: The Kindle Talmud in English



3/22/15

Awesome Book: The Book of Jewish Prayers in English by Tzvee Zahavy

This is an exceptionally great New Book by Tzvee Zahavy from Amazon Kindle. I recommend that you buy a copy today. This wonderful volume presents the Jewish prayers in English with accompanying essays about the basis of prayer, prayer as visualization and the piety and devotion of Jewish life.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
The Book of Jewish Prayers in English
The Book of Jewish Prayers in English
by Tzvee Zahavy
  Learn more  

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3/18/15

A Brilliant Account of Zionism - Arthur Hertzberg's, The Zionist Idea

Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg passed away in 2006 at age 84. One example of Hertzberg's intellectual legacy is his reader on Zionism -- is a brilliant statement of Jewish thought in its choices and its sensitive and sharply developed contextualizations.

In the introduction to The Zionist Idea, Hertzberg placed Zionism in its historical and cultural milieu:
Zionism exists, and it has had important consequences, but historical theory does not really know what to do with it. Though modern Zionism arose within the milieu of European nationalism in the nineteenth century, the historians of that era usually content themselves with briefly noticing the movement, for the sake of "completeness." The root cause of their difficulty (the relatively few members involved and the partial inaccessibility of the source material are quite secondary reasons) is that Zionism cannot be typed, and therefore easily explained, as a "normal" kind of national risorgimento. To mention only one important difference, all of the other nineteenth century nationalisms based their struggle for political sovereignty on an already existing national land or language (generally, there were both). Zionism alone proposed to acquire both of these usual preconditions of national identity by the ... of its nationalist will. It is, therefore, a maverick in the history of modern nationalism, and it simplifies the task of general historians to regard it, at least by implication, as belonging only on the more parochial stage of the inner history of the Jewish community.

The Geniuses of Zionism: Pinsker to Herzl

The great genius founders of modern Israel wrote astounding essays and books. From The Zionist Idea by Arthur Hertzberg - introductions by Hertzberg and primary texts by the Zionist writers, here is another installment.

Part 2: Outcry in Russia -- the 1870's and 1880's. Page 141.

PERETZ SMOLENSKIN 1842-1885. Page 142.
IT IS TIME TO PLANT (1875-1877). Page 145.
LET US SEARCH OUR WAYS (1881). Page 146.
THE HASKALAH OF BERLIN (1883). Page 154.
ELIEZER BEN-YEHUDAH 1858-1923. Page 158.
A LETTER OF BEN-YEHUDAH (1880). Page 160.
MOSHE LEIB LILIENBLUM 1843-1910. Page 166.
THE WAY OF RETURN (1881). Page 168.
LET US NOT CONFUSE THE ISSUES (1882). Page 170.
THE FUTURE OF OUR PEOPLE (1883). Page 173.
LEO PINSKER 1821-1891. Page 178.
AUTO-EMANCIPATION: AN APPEAL TO HIS PEOPLE BY A RUSSIAN JEW (1882). Page 181.
Summary. Page 198.

Part 3: Headlong into the World Arena -- Theodor Herzl Appears. Page 199.

THEODOR HERZL 1860-1904. Page 200.
FIRST ENTRY IN HIS DIARY (1895). Page 204.
THE JEWISH STATE (1896). Page 204.
Preface. Page 204.
Chapter 1: Introduction. Page 207.
Chapter 2: The Jewish Question. Page 215.
PREVIOUS ATTEMPTS AT A SOLUTION. Page 217.
CAUSES OF ANTI-SEMITISM. Page 218.
EFFECTS OF ANTI-SEMITISM. Page 219.
THE PLAN. Page 220.
PALESTINE OR ARGENTINA? Page 222.
Conclusion. Page 223.
FIRST CONGRESS ADDRESS (1897). Page 226.
AFTER A MASS MEETING IN THE EAST END (1896). Page 231.

MAX NORDAU 1849-1923. Page 232.
SPEECH TO THE FIRST ZIONIST CONGRESS (1897). Page 235.
ZIONISM (1902). Page 242.
Hertzberg provides this penetrating analysis of the work of Pinsker:
The most significant reaction to the events of 1881 was the pamphlet Auto-Emancipation by Leo Pinsker. Like Lilienblum, he could not avoid the knowledge that the persecution of the Jew in Russia "is...not a result of the low cultural status of the Russian people; we have found our bitterest opponents, indeed, in a large part of the press, which ought to be intelligent." Pinsker, therefore, did not pretend to himself that Jew-hatred was merely a hang-over from the medieval past. On the contrary, the historic importance of his essay is in its assertion that anti-Semitism is a thoroughly modern phenomenon, beyond the reach of any future triumphs of "humanity and enlightenment" in society as a whole. Pinsker defined three causes of anti-Semitism: the Jews are a "ghost people," unlike any other in the world, and therefore feared as a thing apart; they are everywhere foreigners and nowhere hosts in their own national right; and they are in economic competition with every majority within which they live. To hope for better days in Russia, or wherever else the Jews were under serious attack, was, therefore, a delusion, and piecemeal emigration to a variety of underdeveloped lands which might be hospitable for a moment meant merely to export and to exacerbate the problem. There was only one workable solution: the Jews must organize all their strength and, with whatever help they could muster from the world as a whole, they must find a country of their own (if possible, their ancestral home in the Holy Land) where the bulk of Jewry would at last come to rest.

Zionism's Earliest Writers - Brilliant and Controversial

One of the best books on the subject is -- The Zionist Idea by the late Arthur Hertzberg, a great scholar who passed away in 2006. He presents in this book excerpts from the greatest Zionist writers.
Part 1: Precursors
RABBI YEHUDAH ALKALAI 1798-1878
THE THIRD REDEMPTION (1843)

RABBI ZVI HIRSCH KALISCHER 1795-1874
SEEKING ZION (1862)
A Natural Beginning of the Redemption
The Holiness of Labor on the Land
MOSES HESS 1812-1875
ROME AND JERUSALEM (1862)
MY Way of Return
German Anti-Semitism and Jewish Assimilation
The Reawakening of the Nations
What is Judaism?
The Mission of Israel
The Nation as Part of Humanity
The Sabbath of History
Toward the Jewish Restoration
In the introduction, Hertzberg brilliantly placed Zionism in its historical and cultural context:
ZIONISM EXISTS, and it has had important consequences, but historical theory does not really know what to do with it. Though modern Zionism arose within the milieu of European nationalism in the nineteenth century, the historians of that era usually content themselves with briefly noticing the movement, for the sake of "completeness." The root cause of their difficulty (the relatively few members involved and the partial inaccessibility of the source material are quite secondary reasons) is that Zionism cannot be typed, and therefore easily explained, as a "normal" kind of national risorgimento. To mention only one important difference, all of the other nineteenth century nationalisms based their struggle for political sovereignty on an already existing national land or language (generally, there were both). Zionism alone proposed to acquire both of these usual preconditions of national identity by the elan of its nationalist will. It is, therefore, a maverick in the history of modern nationalism, and it simplifies the task of general historians to regard it, at least by implication, as belonging only on the more parochial stage of the inner history of the Jewish community.

It's a Good Time to Review the basics of Zionist Religious Nationalism, Zionist Mysticism and Zionist Philosophers

It's a good time (after an election) to recall some basics about Zionist Religious Nationalists, Zionist Mystics and Zionist Philosophers.

I recommend The Zionist Idea by Arthur Hertzberg.

-Part 7: Religious Nationalists, Old and New -397
-RABBI SAMUEL MOHILEVER 1824-1898 -398
-MESSAGE TO THE FIRST ZIONIST CONGRESS (1897) -401
-YEHIEL MICHAEL PINES 1842-1912 -406
-ON RELIGIOUS REFORMS (1868-1871) -409
-The Religious Idea -409
-Methods in Reforms -410
-JEWISH NATIONALISM CANNOT BE SECULAR (1895) -411
-RELIGION IS THE SOURCE OF JEWISH NATIONALISM (1895) -412
-JEWS WILL ACCEPT HARDSHIP ONLY IN THE HOLY LAND (1892) -414
-RABBI ABRAHAM ISAAC KOOK 1865-1935 -416
-THE LAND OF ISRAEL (1910-1930) -419
-THE WAR (1910-1930) -422
-THE REBIRTH OF ISRAEL (1910-1930) -424
-LIGHTS FOR REBIRTH (1910-1930) -427
-SAMUEL HAYYIM LANDAU 1892-1928 -432
-TOWARD AN EXPLANATION OF OUR IDEOLOGY (1924) -434
-JUDAH LEON MAGNES 1877-1948 -440
-"LIKE ALL THE NATIONS?" (1930) -443
-MARTIN BUBER 1887-1965 -450
-THE JEW IN THE WORLD (1934) -453
-HEBREW HUMANISM (1942) -457
-FROM AN OPEN LETTER TO MAHATMA GANDHI (1939) -463

The early forms of religious Zionism beginning with Mohilever and continuing with Pines, Kook, Buber and others -- which led to the organization called Mizrachi and other religious arms of the movement - were peripheral to the success of Zionism overall, but important for its ultimate inclusiveness and definition.

Hertzberg summarizes Mohilever as follows:

SO FAR the selections in this reader and the biographical sketches at the head of each selection have seemed to tell the story of the Zionist idea in a straight line: it began with certain stirrings in the minds of men of religion (e.g., Alkalai and Kalischer) and went on to express itself as a secular nationalism, though Zionism always more or less assumed, and was in tension with, emotions derived from religion. This impression needs to be qualified. Religious Zionism -- that is, not mere traditional piety about the Holy Land but a conscious blending of orthodoxy in religion with modern Jewish nationalism -- has been an important, albeit minority, trend throughout the history of the modern movement.

3/12/15

Ten Tips for Your Seder Extravaganza

It's a great performance. A dramatic Off-Broadway revue.

I have always had fun directing the reading of the Haggadah at the Seder. I learned this dramatic art as a child by watching my father (Zev Zahavy) masterfully conduct the performance of the communal synagogue Seders as the rabbi of the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan.

So in the spirit of the season of rebirth and freedom, let me offer you ten tips for your seder extravaganza.

1. Script! 
Spend an hour before Passover reading through your favorite version of the Haggadah. Sort out the rituals (like Kiddush), the liturgies (like the Hallel) and the learning (like the ma nishtanah and what follows). Make marginal notes or use a highlighter.

2. Actors!
Find out who is coming (yes, Seder directors need to know that). Think through what their skills are and what role they can play in the Seder. Remember some guests may be simple, some wise, some won't know how to ask a question. Try to meet the needs of everyone assembled.

3. Casting!
The Best Ever Seder will be a collaboration of all the guests. Those who can't read Hebrew can read a passage from the Haggadah in translation (English, Russian or otherwise) or perform another essential task.

4. Props!
The matzo, maror, haroseth, shank bone, egg all have familiar symbolic meanings worth mentioning. You can include other props of your choosing for added flavor to the event: use miniature pyramids, toy or paper or chocolate frogs, relevant family memorabilia or a special illustrated Haggadah (hold it up to show it off or pass it around).

5. Child actors! 
Give them something nice at the retrieval of the afikomen or distribute something small anytime they start to lose interest.

6. Improvise!
During the reading of the Haggadah tell about how your family matriarch or patriarch conducted the Seder or prepared the meal. Reminiscing in small doses adds great flavor to your production.

7. Really! Drama!
The Seder is a drama. The guests are the actors. Yemenite Jews have the custom to dress up and walk around the table to reenact the exodus. Even if you are not much of an actor, at the very least, you can talk about how other people are dramatic.

8. No melodrama!
You and your guests all are on stage. This is not the time to bring up old family arguments. If you do, your Seder might become the "last supper" that you eat together.

9. Charm the critic! 
The matriarchs (of the families) must greet Elijah at the door. Watch as the wine in Elijah's cup changes color as he sips from it. Talk about loss and the mystical redemption.

10. Bring down the curtain with with over-the-top gusto!
Sing the closing songs in all the ways you can remember. You can sing Chad Gadya in Yiddish, if someone knows how, or you can add the animal sounds. Have fun -- these are supposed to be rowdy songs that you sing after drinking four cups of wine.

As the seder thespians say, "Break a shankbone!" Good luck and have a happy and kosher Pesach.

[annual repost, with a rewrite]

3/6/15

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Column for March 2015: Seeking Saturday Weddings and Aghast at The Book of Mormon

Dear Rabbi: Your Talmudic Advice Column

Dear Rabbi,

My fiancée and I are both Jewish, but not at all religious. We are planning to get married this coming summer. We planned the wedding for a Saturday afternoon at a nice catering venue. And we want to have a Jewish wedding with a chuppah and with a rabbi to officiate at the wedding. Much to our surprise, we found out now that rabbis will not conduct the ceremony because Jewish weddings cannot take place on Shabbat. We don’t understand this. We don’t want to change the time and date. What should we do?

Engaged in Englewood


Dear Engaged,

I understand your consternation. For secular Jews and their non-Jewish friends, Saturday is a convenient and perhaps an ideal day for a wedding. But you found out that Jewish custom and law does not permit a Sabbath wedding. This holds true for nearly all the varieties of Jewish observance, from Orthodox through Reform. I’m going to guess that the history of the ritual is not of much concern for you.

You might have imagined that a wedding is a religious ritual and the Sabbath is a religious day, so why should there be a problem? Indeed! But that is not the case.

You may argue that weddings are symbolic moments in a rite of passage for a new bride and groom. You may even suggest that some of the symbolism in the marriage ritual is beautifully suited to be carried out on the Sabbath. The bride and groom are imagined to be like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. And no matter where the wedding takes place, we imagine the sounds of a wedding celebration and its song are taking place in the streets of Jerusalem and are like foretastes of the joy of the messianic age of the redemption of the world. And the chuppah canopy has been likened to a cosmic symbol of the heavens.

So why not have a wedding on Shabbat? Primarily this is because Jewish law and custom treat a wedding as a contractual transaction between husband and wife. The ketubbah is a marriage contract that has to be executed and signed and given over by the husband to the wife, all actions that cannot be allowed on Shabbat.

So I am sorry, but I have no ready solution to your problem. I assume you don’t want to change the time of your party. Of course, you could hold a smaller Jewish ceremony in a rabbi’s study during the previous week and then have your larger public wedding feast on Saturday. But I’ll bet you don’t want even to hear about any such workaround.

Since I suppose that your event will be in New Jersey, you may be able to find a liberal unaffiliated rabbi who will conduct a Jewish wedding on Shabbat. But I cannot advise you to do that.

Perhaps you can step back and consider that your wedding is a single event, not an ongoing lifestyle choice. As such, I do encourage you to honor the age-old Jewish customs, to be flexible, and to reconsider the day of the week you selected for your wedding.

Dear Rabbi,

I went to see a critically acclaimed musical comedy on Broadway called “The Book of Mormon.” I did not know before going that the play was so sacrilegious! It was way over the border of blasphemy toward Mormonism in particular, and toward all religions in general. The show mocks the teachings of the Mormon church and ridicules its ecclesiastical history and scriptures. It derides the church’s founders, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. It makes fun of Jesus and the Mormon angel named Moroni.

Using language that is vulgar, crude, and offensive, the play rips into all religious mythology and ritual and portrays them as absurd inventions derived by foolish leaders out of desperation, and presented to desperate consumers. To do all of this and get away with it, the play uses the cheerful entertainment style of the Broadway musical to relentlessly deride God, and all teachers and preachers of religion.

Please explain to me how such a play can be tolerated at all in our society, let alone lauded as a smash hit, running for years on Broadway and delighting sold-out audiences.

Aghast in Alpine


Dear Aghast,

At their core, our American ideals promote the freedom of expression, without any boundaries. In its social essences American society is secular, mainly a-religious, but in some ways anti-religious. Some say that our powerful value, promising the freedom of religion, is in effect a means of affording us the freedom from religion.

Many social critics extol all of our freedoms as great strengths in the fibers of our culture. They see religions as restrictive of creativity and divisive to our communal lives. They say that American life is strong, vibrant, and healthy precisely because religion is tangential to our guiding values. The best and the brightest minds in the world come to our shores exactly because we do not allow religion to stifle or imprison our thoughts or actions.

You clearly do not share that view of the benefit of limiting the roles of religions in society. And you are horrified at the antagonism that a Broadway play directs at Mormonism, which to you is an obvious metaphor for all religions.

Surely, if you suppose that religion is a means to prescribe an ethical and moral life, to lend meaning to our existence and a way to worship a divine entity who created our universe, then you ought to be insulted by that comedic musical take down of religion and of God.

Now, on the other hand, you would be equally correct to be horrified that violence can be committed in the name of God and religion. Reading the news about such violence in recent morning papers, even the simplest unreflective person will conclude there are more facets to religion than just positive preaching and teaching of a wholly moral life.

Your reaction to “The Book of Mormon” makes me stop to think about how we were all “aghast” at the Islamic religious terrorists who killed secular cartoonists. The terrorists targeted their victims, whom they accused of heresy, saying they insulted their religion. And we were further horrified during these recent events by the wanton Islamic terrorist killings of Jews and by other acts of barbarity against non-Muslims.

And it’s troubling that all religions at one time or another sustain terrorism and preach and practice that violence be directed to the enemy, who often is labeled by religious leaders as a “heretic” or “infidel.” It’s disturbing that all religions in some way are guilty of inciting heresy hunters and of fostering barbaric acts of violence against those whom they deem heretics.

It seems so wrong to me that evil is committed in the name of God against people whose only sin is to hold unapproved opinions about this or that. Yet in the world at large, nearly all religions have held or now hold the idea that heresy is a crime that must be countered by violence.

It’s further disconcerting that there’s enough evidence to conclude that war and violence are not accidental byproducts of religion. They appear to be essential activities that derive from the core of a faith community. And yes, perpetrators of religious violence justify their aims and means in the name of a great and mighty and jealous God.

Evolutionary social biologists have explanations for this. They say that religion’s aspects of preaching violence against heresy is a social strength or a form of fitness that evolved over time into an innate trait of the group dynamic. It promotes solidarity in conflict and battle and hence it bolsters the survival of the group.

A vibrant secular democracy, like ours in the United States, however, will foster patriotism and social solidarity without seeking out religious reasons to wreak violence on dissenters.

The play you saw, the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon,” is a perfect example of how a free and open society will tolerate dissent and criticism of religion at no cost to its essential societal strength.

It’s urgent that you think this over and even try to embrace the notion that criticism of religions is healthy. And finally, you do realize that the play you saw presented many of the positive aspects of Mormonism in particular and of religion in general?

And so, to conclude I offer you this simple unexpected suggestion. Go back and see the play again. And this time seek out and enjoy the constructive elements in the production. Have yourself a gleeful evening and a bunch of hearty laughs. It’s an uproariously rude and satirical show about the positive and negative functions and dynamics of religions on many levels.

And if you do go back, then afterward you can be confident that you can go home and continue to practice your piety and believe as you wish. That’s how we live in our great, free and democratic land, in America.

Rabbi Tzvee Zahavy earned his Ph.D. from Brown University and rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University. He is the author many books, including these Kindle Edition books available at Amazon.com: “The Book of Jewish Prayers in English,” “Rashi: The Greatest Exegete,” “God’s Favorite Prayers” and “Dear Rabbi” — which includes his past columns from the Jewish Standard and other essays.