Remember Had Gadya? What satisfaction when, onto the scene of carnage, walks the Holy One of Blessing, and destroys the angel of death that slew the butcher that killed the ox that drank the water that quenched the fire that burned the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid.
The German Parliament passed a law protecting the right of Jewish and Muslim parents to choose a ritual circumcision for their sons, after months of heated debate over efforts to ban the practice.
The Conference of European Rabbis will lobby against recent circumcision bans by advocating legislation supporting the practice.
Germany’s Jews and Muslims will not be punished for breaking the law if they carry out circumcisions on young boys, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said.
Jewish religious leaders will hold an international meeting in Berlin on Tuesday to discuss how to respond to a German court ruling against performing circumcision on baby boys, which also sparked protests from Muslims and Christians in Germany.
The Dutch Senate has delayed its vote on banning ritual slaughter and will appoint a commission to study putting new standards for such slaughter into place.
Believe it or not, an American city, San Francisco, is voting to proscribe one of the central rituals of an entire religious community, the Jewish people, who have been circumcising male infants since the time of Abraham.
Animal rights or Jewish rites? That is the question this week before the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, as it considers a bill that effectively would prohibit shechitah, the Jewish ritual slaughter of animals.
The U'netaneh Tokef prayer says: On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed: Who shall live and who shall die, who shall perish by water and who by fire, who by famine and who by thirst . God's got it on His iPhone, of course.
Within the calendar that constitutes the Jewish cathedral in time, no days are more saturated with the experience of human nature, and with experiments in human change, than the Days of Awe. This is when we are asked, paradoxically, both to steep in our powerlessness to escape our species' fate, and yet also to try out behaviors that can rescue us from our destinies.
On paper, the Rosh Hashanah ritual of Tashlich is about doffing one's sins to start the new year with a clean slate. For Jason Mauro, 16, it's also about beach football
65 Jewish children from Columbia, S.C. learn how to make a shofar with Rabbi Levi Marrus. The Gipsy Kings, we think, only sing in the video's soundtrack,
If you are offended either by the idea of cremation or humor about the dead, you may want to stop reading. It's OK.
Tisha B'Av -- the ninth day of the month of Av -- is a day of fasting and mourning to commemorate some of the greatest tragedies to befall the Jewish people, among them the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem and the expulsion from Spain in 1492
Writing your own kinah, or dirge, could help forge a more intimate connection with Tisha B'Av, the fast day that commemorates a series of tragic events in Jewish history
Parshat Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36)
Where shall we leave our precious emotional and spiritual possessions that don't work anymore? Maimonides says this about the ashes of the sacrifice: "Even though removing the ashes is not formally worship, they should not be carried by a person who is ineligible to serve. They should be taken outside ...
Some things never change, or do they? Bar and bat mitzvah parties overwhelmingly follow a recipe that everyone assumes is written in stone, said Gail Greenberg, creator of mitzvahchic.com. The only room for creativity, people think, is to have a unique theme.
Lillie Hill knew that 16 marked a turning point in her son DJ's life. And while she had looked into several African rites of passage, she believed the Jewish bar mitzvah ceremony, with its emphasis on family heritage and good deeds, gave her the best blueprint to validate her son's dedication to family, school, community and church and to pass on her family's values of education, worship and social outreach.
Now, following the latest publishing craze of themed Jewish anthologies comes "Bread and Fire: Jewish Women Find God in the Everyday" (Urim Publications, 2008), edited by Rivkah Slonim (with consulting editor Liz Rosenberg). The 400-page compilation features writings from 60 women on topics including modesty, faith, childbirth, prayer, family, community, feminism and, in one way or another, Orthodox Judaism.
Either you know what it is to sit outdoors under a sukkah on a cool autumn night, surrounded by family and friends, feasting on traditional Sukkot foods, laughing and singing as if it were summer camp all over, or you don't.
Jennifer Tralins' wedding on a private beach near Miami was picture perfect, from the warm sand under her bare feet to the sweet sounds of the flute as she walked down the aisle in an elegant beaded gown. But for the bride, the most memorable aspect of the ceremony was her yichud, the private moment a couple shares together after the conclusion of the wedding ceremony.
Fifteen steps or ritual components make up the Passover seder. Knowing that in advance can empower your guests and everyone else gathered around the dinner table. Most haggadot list the 15 steps at the beginning of the text. Think of it as a key, or GPS, to help you navigate through this age-old tradition. In our home, we sing the 15 steps together, repeating them up to the ritual section being observed until we've completed all 15 parts.
You'll have to forgive me this week if I get all wistful and spiritual on you, but there's something about Passover I need to get off my chest. I have a question for my readers. How many of you have been so moved by a Passover experience that something inside of you changed?
Has the Passover seder become a glorified Jewish meal or rote obligatory ritual, and is there a message here? Even in the realm of traditional recipes, too many of our young have not been taught to create the Passover experience or replicate the foods of past generations. The next generation needs to accept the responsibility of passing on the lesson or it dies with us.
David Hosley thinks a scene in which a group of devious Jews slash the throat of a young boy in a ritual slaughter to cull his blood for Passover matzah is not the type of thing that should be shown on television. Yitzhak Santis thinks it's exactly what we should be seeing.
On her big day, Yael spoke with maturity and depth about the concepts of oz and hadar, strength and splendor, for which the Jewish woman is praised in Eishet Chayil. She explained that this is the kind of strength that springs from faith in God and from the courage of one's convictions.
The Alter Kayakers stand out for their awesome endurance and robust bearing, and they cram their days with endless bicycling, hiking, tennis, martial arts and river rafting. But no one has to quit when his abilities falter.
The received wisdom for Jewish parents is not to dilute, pollute or mix traditions. Christmas is such a joy bully, if you let any of it in the door, Chanukah will be blown out the window. But just as Republicans don't own family values, Christians haven't appropriated winter gladness and glitter.
David Mamet has written a book, "The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-Hatred and the Jews" (Shocken/Nextbook), that is by turns bold, courageous, and outrageous -- it is a book that calls Diaspora Jews to the table and asks: "In or Out?"
Say you're a few years out of college, living with friends and working in a low-paying job for some do-good organization. You don't go to synagogue, but you miss the camaraderie of your college Hillel, and you like to invite people over for Shabbat meals.
Imagine if someone was willing to pay you to keep doing it?
One of the great rituals of Jewish life: The sukkah.
Self-help books are essential tools.
A brief rundown of the national synagogue revitalization programs that have arisen since the early 1990s.
"Our images of Jewish camping are formed by people who are heavy Jewish campers, but there are lots of people who are light Jewish campers and campers at non-Jewish camps, and this study accessed their views on Jewish camping," Steven M. Cohen, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion sociologist who authored the study, told The Jewish Journal. "I think we learned that there are diverse incentives and obstacles to participation in Jewish camping."
It is the small things that merit the blessings. It is the "heel" commandments, the acts we forget about, that can change lives and bring holiness into our world.
When we think of bar and bat mitzvah gifts, many things come to mind: fountain pens, cuff links, picture frames, checks. But the true gifts of this religious rite of passage extend far beyond the envelopes and boxes piled up at the party door.
It's been two years this week since my mother, Betty Switkes, died, and we still haven't had the unveiling. Jewish custom dictates that you unveil the headstone a year after the person dies, but my father has not found the right stone or the right words to inscribe on that stone, so she rests in this unmarked grave. People who pass by this spot might suspect the person buried here is a forgotten soul, but nothing could be further from the truth. She is the focus of his obsession.
There is logic to honoring one's parents. There is a rationale for not stealing or murdering. But for purification in a ruddy, bovine shower, why would God ask such a thing of us?
I'll be honest with you. I don't know. But neither did King Solomon, the wisest of men. It seems that this is part of the definition of a chok, that its raison d'etre remains a mystery.
Not all seders are sit-down affairs. When "Dayenu" begins at the home of Simone Shenassa of West Orange, N.J., everyone takes bunches of scallions and hits everyone else, to imitate the whipping of the slaves.
Passover is a time for remembrance, but it is also a time for making memories relevant, and at many seders in Los Angeles, there is a practice of incorporating meaningful events of the day into the ritual dinner.
The title, "Madame Dread: A Tale of Love, Voodoo and Civil Strife in Haiti," comes from the nickname given to her by the kids in her Port-au-Prince neighborhood. In Haitian tradition, women take on the first names of their husbands; in her case she was named for the dreadlocks of her boyfriend (who later became her husband). She also refers to herself as a "Voodoo Jew."
Kosher wine has got a bad reputation, some of which is justly deserved. Along with rabbinical supervision of the winemaking process, strict rules about cleaning barrels, the prohibition of animal products and other laws regarding viniculture, wine was actually boiled (mevushal) as part of the traditional koshering process.
Geography of Romance: A course dealing with the best places to meet your romantic partner. Certain locales lend themselves to greater relationship success -- churches and temples, the homes of friends and relatives, bookstores, supermarkets, restaurants, parks and beaches. Other places tend to be riskier -- prison, tattoo parlors, methamphetamine labs, mosh pits, wife-swapping parties, Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, gatherings of arms dealers.
Weiss-Ishai is one of just a few female mohels in the United States. There are about 35 Reform female mohels and just four trained by the U.S. Conservative movement, as well as a handful who learned outside the United States.
Israel's Maariv newspaper reports that authorities have collected around 400 pairs of knickers and bras from the grilles of the tomb's window and on nearby trees.
When I light the first Chanukah candle this year on Dec. 25, the mid-winter moon will be waning. Every night, as I add candles to the menorah, the night sky will be darker until, on the last night when we put our chanukiah in the living room window with all nine candles burning, there will be the first small sliver of moon to meet us.
I was about to inquire how they could manage to consistently laugh like fiends each time they saw Stu dress up like Latke Man, but stopped short upon realizing that they could easily turn the question back on me. You see, I'm no stranger to repetition myself, having managed to spend Thanksgiving on Hilton Head Island every year since I was in first grade.
This year, traditional Christmas Day volunteering is being spread out across December. The shul's ATID young adult leadership group's annual Dec. 25 Mitzvah Day is being merged with templewide volunteering on Dec. 18, the formal start of Sinai's yearlong centennial anniversary.
If you were circumcised as an adult and have experienced sexual relations both before and afterward, then Emily Bazelon wants to know about it. Why that concerns me -- and may concern you -- takes a little explaining.
"Who We Are: On Being (and Not Being) a Jewish American Writer," edited by Derek Rubin (Schocken Books, 2005), an Israeli-born professor who teaches in the Netherlands, collects 29 essays by Jewish American writers, some of which were previously published, others reshaped or written for this collection.
Less than a 100 years ago, the average age of menarche for American girls was almost 16. Today, 12 is considered late. Theories for such early onset range from the amount of growth hormones injected into the food we eat to the amount of electrical light we absorb. Regardless, it creates a dangerous duality in girls which I often see when working with a bat mitzvah.
Stan is deeply attracted to the Lubavitch way of life: He longs for a wife and house full of children and is drawn by the prospect of fully expressing his Jewish identity as a member of a tight-knit community, steeped in Jewish tradition and insulated from the pressures of modern life.
Archaeologists believe the Essenes were highly concerned with maintaining their ritual purity and bathed at least twice a day. An aqueduct system caught water from the hills above and channeled it into an elaborate series of mikvahs, or ritual baths.
My resolution that High Holiday season? To find a congregational home by the following fall. I've lived in this cluster of small towns for almost a decade: people know me on the street, at the grocery store, at the community-supported organic farm. It felt wrong to be so rootless when it came to religion.
"Why are Rosh Hashanah and especially Yom Kippur so important to my Jewish partner? He almost never attends services the rest of the year, isn't observant and doesn't even know what he believes about God. Yet, at this time of year, he insists on attending services. What's the big deal with these holidays?"
There are both "official" and "unofficial" answers to these questions. Perhaps not surprisingly, the unofficial explanations are often the more significant ones. The official answers (to which I'll return shortly) speak in terms like judgment, sin, repentance, life and death. The unofficial answers have something to do with the complicated puzzle of American Jewish identity.
I've always had a difficult time assimilating tragedy, and although it hit much closer to home for me, Sept. 11 was not much different.
Even though it touched people all around me, and I was definitely affected, it still did not seem as intense or painful as it should have been.
I sought the solace of my friends, and gave it as much as possible, just like everyone else in New York City. And although I knew people who died in the Trade Center, and others who lost close relatives and friends, I still only understood the calamity in my mind. It didn't really hit my heart the way it hit others'.
Then I found a uniquely Jewish way to relate, and was able to come to personal terms with this tragedy.
California purists who like to shop local, travel local and eat local will have no problem reading local. Among the season's offerings of new books are several impressive works by Los Angeles-based writers.
On Saturday night Marci Malat will sit in silence and darkness pierced only by candlelight, listening to the chanting of Eicha, or Lamentations, in her synagogue to commemorate Tisha B'Av.