6/16/17

Is Professor Stephen Jay Greenblatt Jewish?

Yes, Professor Stephen Jay Greenblatt is a Jew.

According to Wikipedia: "Greenblatt self-identifies as an Eastern European Jew, an Ashkenazi, and a Litvak. His observant Jewish grandparents were born in Lithuania; his paternal grandparents were from Kovno and his maternal grandparents were from Vilna. Greenblatt's grandparents immigrated to the United States during the early 1890s in order to escape a Czarist Russification plan to conscript young Jewish men into the Russian army."

Greenblatt's article in the New Yorker discusses "The Invention of Sex" from the perspective of the insights of the theologian Augustine of the 4th century AD - who was not Jewish, rather he was Manichean first and later, a rather well-known Christian. 

See:How St. Augustine Invented Sex - He rescued Adam and Eve from obscurity, devised the doctrine of original sin—and the rest is sexual history.

This I presume, is a selection from Greenblatt's new book which will deal with Adan and Eve narratives in Genesis and the ideas of original sin and so on.

From Amazon: The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve explores the enduring story of humanity’s first parents. Comprising only a few ancient verses, the story of Adam and Eve has served as a mirror in which we seem to glimpse the whole, long history of our fears and desires, as both a hymn to human responsibility and a dark fable about human wretchedness.

The biblical origin story, Greenblatt argues, is a model for what the humanities still have to offer: not the scientific nature of things, but rather a deep encounter with problems that have gripped our species for as long as we can recall and that continue to fascinate and trouble us today.
And my books from Amazon may be reached by clicking on the below image.

6/7/17

How did I celebrate 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem when I was stuck here in NYC?

Fifty years since the reunification of Jerusalem.

How did I celebrate today this momentous anniversary in NYC? In meaningful ways.

(1) Went to see the play Oslo at the Lincoln Center Theater. (Hint: enter the lottery and even  if you lose, you get offered $59 tickets.) 
Fantastic play - worthy of best play and six other Tony nominations.

(2) Went to hear author Dara Horn lecture about Jerusalem: Imagination and Historical Consciousness at the Yeshiva University Museum - and took in their exhibit on depictions of Jerusalem. Pictures here of some highlights from the Jerusalem exhibit and the Oxford rare manuscripts exhibit. Nice museum.

The talk was meticulously prepared and full of insight and originality.

The talk was inspired by City of Gold, Bronze and Light: Jerusalem between Word and Image, the timely and beautiful exhibition on view at Yeshiva University Museum.

Free download files of the Babylonian Talmud in English

I am proud to provide for you as a gift, a download of the complete Babylonian Talmud English translation..

The Talmud in English is online and free at my site, Halakhah.com, http://www.halakhah.com/
- serving up 60,000+ downloads each month.

In 2016 I gave away a record 662,568 free downloaded files of the Babylonian Talmud in English.

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.

My 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.

6/1/17

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for June 2017 - Mobile Media Mitzvah Man, Doubting the Dinner, Eschewing the Event, Asking about Ashes, Raring to Retire

My Jewish Standard Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column for June 2017 - Mobile Media Mitzvah Man, Doubting the Dinner, Eschewing the Event, Asking about Ashes, Raring to Retire

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

My friend is sick and in the hospital. I haven’t been able to visit him, but I did text him a get-well message. My wife told me that is not enough. She says I have to visit my friend in person to fulfill the mitzvah of visiting the sick.

Who is right?

Mobile Media Mitzvah Man

Dear Mobile,

Both of you are right — but your wife is righter.

Text messages and email are mechanical ways — in your view — to satisfy the minimum fulfillment of the mitzvah of bikur cholim — visiting the sick. You expressed your concern to your friend and you feel that may lift his spirits.

But your wife is right too. Social media and texts are impersonal one-way expressions of support.

You do not get to feel the vibe of your friend’s condition through the electronic media. It’s not a hands-on inquiry into your friend’s condition or well-being. The Hebrew word for visit, bikur, also implies direct examination and investigation.

I will admit that if you were to use Skype, Hangouts, or Facetime videos, that would give a greater sense of immediacy to your e-connection. I still conclude, however, that it would fall short of a real sense of visitation.

In short, your e-wishes lack the quality that most chaplains and clergy would advocate for in visitations of the sick. A phone call is better. An in-person visit would be the best quality fulfillment of the mitzvah, a better expression of concern and compassion for your friend who is ill.

5/29/17

Can you be both Secular and a Zaddiq?

You do not have to be a Hassidic Jew to be a Zaddiq.

You do not have to be traditionally religious to be pious.

Piety means that you live day-to-day and physically act with a connection to Judaism. It means that you maintain vivid moods and motivations in accord with a faith in the Torah.

Piety means that you transform everyday activities, decisions, and attitudes. It means that you give them special significance. And where does that come from? It can come from the historical, mystical, and redemptive beliefs of Judaism. When you live with piety, you create and perform new practices based on your faith.
  • Your motives and goals as a pious person are to enhance every day of your life.
  • To bring you sanctification, qedushah.
  • To bring you more awe, love, or fear of God.
  • To allow you to submit to a higher power and create a sense of creatureliness.
  • To guarantee you an entry to paradise in the "World to Come" (for those who believe in the afterlife or heaven).
  • To bring for all in your world some form of redemption.
  • And, on a most basic level, you may believe that piety also brings you some material gain.
We usually call piety mitzvah when it is an obligation and commandment within Judaism binding on an entire community of faith.

We call piety custom or minhag when it is more limited in time and place and less authoritative. Most often this distinction goes unrecognized in your life as a pious Jew.

The ultimate yardstick of piety is the Zaddiq -- the righteous saint. He or she adheres most closely to the norms of ultimate piety. The righteous saints are those who we would call purely ethical, those who flourish as proper humans, and those who achieve true virtue.

Not many of us reach the ultimate in any part of our lives. We play golf, never expecting to become a Tiger Woods. We paint, do business, make love, for the fulfillment of each element of our lives. Yet we sometimes forsake religion because we think piety is out of our reach.

Piety is there for all of us.

5/28/17

Summer at the Teaneck Swim Club, the Tenafly JCC Outdoor Swimming Pool + 10 more world class dramatic pools to think about

The start of summer swim season is nigh.

Today was cool at the TSC - about 70 in and out of the lap pool. A few of us braved the waters this weekend to inaugurate the outdoor lap season in Teaneck.

With nice weather ahead, I look forward to swimming outdoors every day in Tenafly or Teaneck at the JCC or the TSC.

And here are some of the other pools that I'd like to swim in...I've been to some of them...[reposted from 08].

Cool pools: 10 favorite hotel swimming spots By Gary Warner
The Orange County Register

Some like it hot. I do not. After a steamy day of going from museum to shop to cafe to hotel, I am in dire need of something big, cold and relaxing. No, not a beer. Well, OK, a beer would be nice, too.

I'm talking about a pool. A hotel swimming pool. A beckoning oasis of deep, crisp blue.

Over 10 years, I've dived and dipped into hundreds of Olympics, kidneys, minerals and infinities, from Bali to Baltimore. Most are fine but forgettable, so I cling to fond memories of laps gone by on my short list of classic dips. Come dive into the deep end of my list of favorite pools. You don't even have to shower before entering.

5/27/17

A Muslim man files a $100M lawsuit against a Dearborn Little Caesars over Pizza Labeled Halal - and his lawyer is not Jewish

From Detroit: A Muslim man files $100M lawsuit against Dearborn Little Caesars over pizza labeled 'halal' and here -

The complaint says Mohamad Bazzi ordered halal pizza twice from the Dearborn, Mich., shop. The boxes were labeled "halal," but the pies inside were topped with regular pepperoni.

Majed Moughni, Bazzi's attorney, said he rushed to file the lawsuit Thursday, the eve of Ramadan, so no other Muslims would accidentally eat pork from the pizza shop during the holiday.

"It's really upsetting," Moughni said. "My clients want the public to know. Especially during Ramadan, it would be a travesty if Muslims ... in Dearborn bought pizza from Little Caesars and discovered they were eating pork."

He added that for a Muslim, consuming pork is "one of the worst sins you can do."

Jill Proctor, a spokeswoman for Little Caesars said in a statement that the company believes the claim "is without merit."


5/20/17

Was Benoît Mandelbrot Jewish?

Yes, Benoît Mandelbrot was a Jew. The Times obituary says he, "was born on Nov. 20, 1924, to a Lithuanian Jewish family in Warsaw. In 1936 his family fled the Nazis, first to Paris and then to the south of France..."  Wikipedia says that in France, "He was helped by Rabbi David Feuerwerker, the Rabbi of Brive-la-Gaillarde, to continue his studies." Mandelbrot is the Yiddish word for almond bread, the Jewish biscotti.

The Times says, "Dr. Mandelbrot coined the term 'fractal' to refer to a new class of mathematical shapes whose uneven contours could mimic the irregularities found in nature." Mandelbrot's discoveries profoundly influenced mathematics and the sciences and numerous disciplines beyond.

5/11/17

Is Stephen Colbert Jewish?

No Stephen Colbert is not a Jew.

The Deseret News reported 4-10-2014:
Stephen Colbert, the political comedian made popular on "Comedy Central," will be taking over for David Letterman as the host of CBS’ "The Late Show" once Letterman retires.

But Colbert is no ordinary host.

The late night comedian built himself up as a satirical political opinion character who rarely shows a normal side. The New York Times published an article in January 2012 that looked at the many sides of Colbert, including his connection to God through what his mother taught him.

“She taught me to be grateful for my life regardless of what that entailed, and that’s directly related to the image of Christ on the cross and the example of sacrifice that he gave us,” Colbert said to The Times. “What she taught me is that the deliverance God offers you from pain is not no pain — it’s that the pain is actually a gift. What’s the option? God doesn’t really give you another choice.”

Later in 2012, Colbert’s faith was brought up again by Splitsider, a news blog. Writer Marisa Carroll said Colbert is a devout Catholic, and when he spoke to 3,000 Fordham University students, it wasn’t the political commentator. Instead, it was a more religiously connected man.

"Instead of his pompous 'Report' character, the man on stage Friday night was Colbert the Sunday school teacher, bringing to life a bit of personal history previously reserved for magazine profiles,” Carroll wrote.

In more recent years, Colbert has let his religious side show through his jokes, according to The Los Angeles Times. No matter how side-splitting the jokes may be, or how in-character Colbert remains, the comedy host is still devoted to his religion and continues to follow his faith.

“The man, in reality and character, is a devout and out Catholic, observer of Lent and teacher of Sunday school,” wrote Mary McNamara for The Los Angeles Times. “Unlike other comedians of his persuasion — liberal though disguised as conservative — Colbert does not hide, ignore, downplay or make light of his faith.”  //reposted//

5/10/17

Is the Hullin Scroll the Oldest Talmud Manuscript Ever Found?

What is the oldest known Talmud scroll?
Scroll of tractate Hullin, Babylonian Talmud (CUL T–S MISC. 26.53.17), acknowledgment to Dr. S.C. Reif, Director of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit at the Cambridge University Library, and the Syndics of the Library.

I was delighted in December, 2009 to hear Professor Shamma Friedman speak at a Talmud department seminar at JTS. He spoke about a controversial scholarly issue: whether Maimonides intended his Mishneh Torah to replace the Talmud.

This event reminded me of a Talmudic fact that Professor Friedman brought to light several years ago, i.e., that the Talmud was at an early time circulated in scroll form. He discussed this in his paper,  “An Ancient Scroll Fragment (Bavli Hullin 101a-105a) and the Rediscovery of the Babylonian Branch of Tannaitic Hebrew,” JQR 86:1 (1995), pp. 9–50.