Wherefore the Hanukkah scroll

Most Jews know only the legend about the miracle of the cruse of oil and very little about the actual military victories of the Maccabees.

TOMB OF the Maccabees near present-day Mevo Modi’im. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

TOMB OF the Maccabees near present-day Mevo Modi’im. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The festival of Hanukkah has many beautiful customs such as the dreidel, latkes and sufganiyot, but there is one custom we would expect to find on Hanukkah that seems to be missing – the reading of a scroll in public. After all, on Purim we read the Scroll of Esther every year in order to publicize the miracle. Why don’t we read a scroll on Hanukkah in order to publicize the miracles that God wrought for our ancestors in the days of Mattathias and his sons? The result is that most Jews know only the legend about the miracle of the cruse of oil (Shabbat 21b) and very little about the actual military victories of the Maccabees. (more…)

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500 drunken elephants: The untold Hanukkah story with no Maccabees

A different kind of redemption from Greek tyranny

By ZACK ROTHBART  – DECEMBER 10, 2020

 

Ptolemy IV Philopator's drunken elephants turn on their masters, by Jan Luyken, 1700. (photo credit: COURTESY THE RIJKSMUSEUM/NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL)

Ptolemy IV Philopator’s drunken elephants turn on their masters, by Jan Luyken, 1700.
(photo credit: COURTESY THE RIJKSMUSEUM/NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL)

Antiochus and his elephants left  Gaza in defeat.

One of the largest battles of the ancient world was over – apparently the first time Asian and African elephants had faced off against one another – though the victor’s herd had been of little help, famously fleeing the war zone in a crazed frenzy. (more…)

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Reinventing Israel’s History

‘Promised Land’ or revisionist history? A former Knesset member weighs in on Barack Obama’s telling of Israel’s story

By Dov Lipman – CT Jewish Ledger – December 11, 2020

(JNS) I have never criticized former U.S. President Barack Obama publicly – neither during my time in the Knesset nor anywhere else – despite my having disagreed with many of his policies. I am of the strong opinion that Israelis should not engage in or interfere with American politics, and I regularly offer a blanket thank you to all American presidents, including Obama, for their economic and military support for Israel.< (more…)

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Bechdel test for Jewish texts is shaking up the beit midrash

The test has adherents among Hillel educators and is spreading among educators at pluralistic institutions of Jewish learning.

By SHIRA HANAU/JTA DECEMBER 9, 2020

When Danielle Kranjec committed to using only Jewish texts written by women and queer people in the classes she taught for Hillel International’s Springboard Fellowship, a program that places recent college graduates in positions at college campus Hillels across the country, she knew she was taking on a challenging task.
After all, for most of Jewish history, women weren’t encouraged to take on religious leadership roles or write commentaries on the Torah or Talmud.
But Kranjec knew that elevating the work of women would be worth the effort, both because doing so would communicate the value of women’s insights to her students and she believes the mismatch between the diversity of the people teaching Torah today and the sources they teach had grown too great. Also, as a Jewish educator and trained historian, she knew there were a plethora of texts that might not be considered “Torah” in the traditional sense but could serve as rich source material.
Much of the time, those who assemble materials for Jewish study sessions — commonly known as “source sheets” — start with the Torah text, working their way to the rabbinic texts, the Mishna and Talmud, followed by commentaries on texts written over a span of more than a thousand years. Men wrote the vast majority of those texts. (more…)

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December 2020: President’s Message

As we all know, COVID-19 is on the upsurge again in our area. It’s a fact of our present lives. Therefore, we must continue to suspend in-house services, and maintain our current approach via Zoom. However, please know, if you have a Yahrzeit or a special occasion for you or a family member and you want to come into the shul for a Shabbat service, please call the office and let them know, so the Rabbi is aware you are coming in. (more…)

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Alexander Weiss – Shlomo Yoseph ben Chayyim Dov ve-Bracha – 2018

We’re here today, in the sanctuary that meant so much to him, to mourn the passing but also to honor and cherish the life of Alexander Weiss, beloved husband, father, brother, grandfather, great-grandfather, businessman, past president of this synagogue, and just a wonderful man.

He was born at home in Newark; the doctor said he weighed 16 pounds and while he was a big baby, this was a slight exaggeration. Still, they paid the doctor 2 dollars for the good job he did. He was raised with his siblings Jacob, Sidney Irving, whom we remember with respect today, and mourn with his sister Leona. (more…)

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Annette Greenhouse – Hannah bat Michael ve-Sonia – 2018

We’re here today to mourn the passing but also to honor the life of Annette Greenhouse, beloved wife, mother, grandmother and cherished friend. Annette has suffered and she was ready to go. It was enough, and she knew that this was her time. She laughed just before she died, bantering with a wonderful nurse. And yet, even though we are content that she always had the loyalty and attention of her family and the best of care, we are still very sad that she has passed on. Today, we are not going to focus on her death but on her life, because she had a wonderful life. (more…)

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Ayala Dworetzky – Ayala bat Israel ve-Yocheved – 2018

We’re here today to mourn the passing but also to honor the life of Ayala Dvoretzky, beloved wife, mother, sister, teacher, and cherished friend. With the constant, daily, selfless love and devotion of her husband Israel, and the loyalty of her beloved son Shay and his wife Jamie and Ayala’s cherished granddaughter Maya, and the amazing visits of her sister Leah from Israel, somehow, Ayala lived eight months to the day in the hospital, fighting and fighting for her very life. In the end, even all of the best efforts of her family and the medical staff of the hospital could not save her. She knew before anyone else that it was her time, and she let finally let go. But what an inspired fight she fought! And what superhuman strength she mustered to keep living all that time. And Israel was there by her side, every single day, her angel, her white knight who fought for the treatment that would keep her going. And during that time, she saw Shay and Leah and her family and friends countless times, and they helped to sustain her. Israel talks about how as a parallel to the miracle of the 8 days of Chanukah that he prayed for, he and Ayala were given the last exact 8 months together. (more…)

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Elliot Alderman – Eliyahu ben Avraham ve-Esther – 2018

Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground. Elliot liked it when I gave sermons that included song lyrics. But I never thought about using a song lyric at his funeral. Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground. I keep thinking about this line from the James Taylor song where he mourns: But I always thought that I’d see you again. Elliot and Diane had been living a wonderful time in their lives, with travel and real enjoyment, and then came these last few years, which have been difficult at best and often terrifying and painful and brutal. Sweet dreams came crashing down. And now we’re here. And it’s just horrible. These last weeks, which have been the worst of all, have coincided with the season when Jewish people say a certain psalm, Ps. 27. It’s a prayer about our fears and our hopes for…

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Florence Seltzer Morgenstein – Tzipporah bat Ya’akov ve-Yocheved – 2018

We’re here today to mourn the passing but also to honor the life of Florence Wolff Seltzer Morgenstein. We have known today was coming for a long time, and in a way it is a blessing, but it is also difficult to understand that Flo is really gone.
She was born in New York on July 28, 1928, the daughter of Jack & Jennie. She was raised with her beloved younger brother Harold, who we remember with affection today.
She went to high school and then secretarial school. She would always use her shorthand for grocery lists. Later, she worked at Macy’s. (more…)

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