Archive for 'Holidays'

The Sins of Swiss Neutrality

During the week of Yom HaShoah, while Holocaust services were being observed all over the world, the United Nations reconvened its Durban Conference to discuss human rights issues and violations that are taking place throughout the world. Traditionally, the onus of blame has always been directed at Israel, as if all the other human rights issues of the world seem to pale, in comparison e.g., the genocide ...

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Why does the Bible tolerate slavery?

Q. I honestly would like to believe that the Bible is the untainted Word of God, but there are several passages that very clearly go against any sane standard of human decency. Two quick examples are Numbers 31, and the commandment that a Canaanite slave must be kept forever. I don’t understand how my God could demand such grotesque acts in the former tale, and condone eternal slavery in the latter bit. Since you are far more learned than I ...

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Significance of the Number Four

Question: The Passover Hagadah speaks of four cups of wine, four sons, the four questions, and so on. What is the number four so significant in the Passover Seder?  I would also like to know about the specific origin of the famous Four Questions during Seder.

Answer: Good ...

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The Inconspicuous Messiah

As Napoleon marched triumphantly through Europe, the Jews of the ghetto felt joyous by his arrival. Was Napoleon really the Messiah? Many of our ancestors thought so; but again, that was before Napoleon got defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. And then there was Franklin Delano Roosevelt better known to my parent’s generation as “FDR.” Many Jews living back in the gloomy days of WWII believed that FDR might have been the Messiah, but that was before we learned that ...

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Recognizing the Face of Haman

There is a peculiar law in the Talmud regarding the reading of the Megillah (the Book of Esther): “Anyone who reads the Megillah backwards has not fulfilled his obligation.” Why such a strange law? Why would anyone want to read the story of Esther backwards? Some rabbis have suggested over the ages that anyone who thinks the story about Haman’s murderous plot to destroy the Jewish people is passé would be wise to pay better attention to the events that ...

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