Monthly Archives: March 2009

I’ll Be Home For Passover…

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

Even the biggest fan of Passover has to admit that cleaning your house before the holiday can be a) a little daunting and b) a little annoying. As a kid, I hated the month or so before Passover because food would become and more scarce around the house, and my after school routine of eating a snack in front of the TV was halted when the living room became a “No Food Zone.”

Now that I’m adult (They let me vote!), I’m always worried about cleaning for Passover. I just remember how much effort was put into my house and I know that I just can’t match it.

So, like many others, I’m going home for the holiday. But if you’re like me, you should know something very important.

cleaning.jpg Just because you are closing down your house/apt., that does not mean you do not have to clean for Passover! Many people think they can just sell the contents in their house to a non-Jew for the 8 days and be over with it. Sadly, that’s not the case.

In Paul Steinberg’s Celebrating the Jewish Year, he gives instructions on what to do if you will not be home for Passover.

“If they plan to leave 30 days or less before the start of Passover and will not return until after Passover ends, they clean the house, arrange for the sale of hametz, and do the formal search. They do not say the nullifying blessing until Erev Passover (from wherever they are), and the burning of hametz is not done at all. No other acts are necessary, assuming no one will be eating in the house during Passover.”

I know. I’m crying to.

Posted on March 27, 2009

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Wise Fridays: There Is No Life

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Texts on by .

wise fridays: now with 25% more wisdom

There is no life without a task; no person without a talent; no place without a fragment of God’s light waiting to be discovered and redeemed; no situation without its possibility of sanctification; no moment without its call. It may take a lifetime to learn how to find these things, but once we learn, we realize in retrospect that all it ever took was the ability to listen. When God calls, He does not do so by way of universal imperatives. Instead, He whispers our name — and the greatest reply, the reply of Abraham, is simply hineni: “Here I am,” ready to head your call, to mend a fragment of your all-too-broken world.

– Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
To Heal a Fractured World

Go here for more Wise Fridays wisdom.

Posted on March 27, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Haftarah Worth a Thousand Words

This entry was posted in General on by .

Levi Welton is a jack of all trades — well, my kinds of trades, anyway: he writes, directs, performs and teaches the King David Show, a one-man performance that takes you back to the times where the rulers of Israel were less concerned about (allegedly) embezzling funds and more about building temples.

He’s also a cartoonist. And he’s just embarked on a new endeavor: to make a cartoon for each week’s haftarah. Here’s this week’s. And then you can check back each week on his parashah blog to catch the new one. (And, while you’re at it, check out our new weekly haftarah commentaries

vayikra: the haftarah in comics

Posted on March 27, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The Birthright Monologues: Win Free Tickets!

This entry was posted in Culture, Israel on by .

First of all: Birthright Israel is a trip that sends Jewish kids to check out Israel. Some go for 10 days. Some end up staying a lot longer. Some people know what they’re getting into, and some have no idea. Doesn’t matter. That’s kind of the nature of the thing.

Vanessa Hidary is a spoken-word poet who’s been on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam several times. She’s Jewish. She grew up on the Upper West Side of New York and hung out near the projects, where she honed her spoken-word skills.

What do you get when you cross the two? Either an airplane that talks or the Birthright Monologues. Here, Hidary steps behind the stage to direct a cast of Birthright alumni in doing performances based on their own experiences on Birthright (including Farrah Fidler, who was the surprise hit of last night’s Sacred Chow open mic). Check out the trailer below — there’s 15 people performing some spoken-word poetry, some dance, some hip-hop and some good old fashioned storytelling. The company’s first three runs have been solidly packed, solidly reviewed, and you can even check out some individual monologues on Youtube.

And best of all, they’ve offered up two pairs of tickets — one pair for March 31, one pair for April 1.

To win one, send us your full name and e-mail, which date you can attend (either March 31 or April 1) and why you think this show is cool. It doesn’t have to be long — just tell us you need a cheap date or you think the dude in the Run-DMC shirt is hot. Send it to mattmjl@gmail.com and we’ll take it from there. Or, to make sure you get tickets, show up to the Triad Theatre at 158 W. 72nd St., between Columbus and Broadway, March 31 and April 1. Doors at 7:30, show at 8. $10 advance, $15 at the door, or click here to get them for $5 — you can thank us later.

Posted on March 26, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Finding the Moshiach in Lost

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Culture, Texts on by .

SPOILER ALERT: If you watch Lost, and have not seen last night’s episode, “He’s Our You,” yet, go watch it, then come back and read this. Then again, if you don’t watch Lost, quit your job and start watching it now.

While much of the media’s attention on this season has been the subject of time travel, I have been much more interested in things much deeper, resurrection and the Messiah.

Much of this subject revolves around John Locke, the once wheelchair bound, Job-like character. He is a true believer in the uniqueness of the island, even when everyone and everything tells him not to. In return for his dedication, the island rewards him. He is able to walk, and more importantly, he is able to find his purpose.

What is that purpose? To be the leader of the island. This isn’t some democratic vote though. John Locke is chosen by destiny to the redeemer of the people, the Messiah if you will.

locke.jpg

I highly recommend you visit this page right here to find all of the Jewish sources referring to the Messiah. The comparisons to John are striking.

Now, more about last night’s episode. Though the show currently is dealing with time travel, specifically, going back to the past, we have been told that whatever happened in the past happened. You cannot do anything about it.

Of course, the final scene of last night’s episode, on the surface, threw that theory away. Sayid, in an effort to prevent Ben Linus from manipulating everyone in the future (also, unaware of the rule of the inability to change the past), shoots “1977 Ben.” While this adds to a cool plot line, what was so fascinating to me were the Messiah and resurrection comparisons that could be made here.

We have known since the end of last season, that John Locke had died. We found out a couple weeks ago that it was Ben Linus who murdered him. We also know that John’s body returned to the island, only to be resurrected.

As far as we can understand, John is supposed to be Ben’s successor on the island. We don’t know why Ben needs to give up his power, but he does. If this is actually the case, then Ben murdering John actually is starting to make some sense. Why? Well, if John is supposed to follow the same steps that Ben did in order to become the leader of the Others/Hostiles/Natives, then he had to be murdered, just like Ben.

Some will think that just because Ben was shot, it doesn’t mean he died. No. He’s dead. Young Ben was killed. What is going to be crazy in the next couple of weeks is the story of Ben’s resurrection and his ascent into Messiah-like status for the Others.
Here is a quote from the Book of Daniel (12:2) referring to resurrection. “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence.” The question here is, if Ben (presumably) and John are able to come back to life, and if Richard Alpert seems to never age, if John’s prophecy is fulfilled, will everyone else who has died since arriving on the island come back to life as well?

And here is my final question. The whole focus of the first half of this season is bringing the “Oceanic Six” back to the island. But why?

Well, if you think about it in Messianic terms, it makes perfect sense. As Louis Jacobs explains, “After the restoration of the Jewish people to its homeland in the days of the Messiah, it was believed, the resurrection of the dead would take place.”

In order for John’s prophecy to occur, and for the island to bring in a new era, everything has to be in place. Everyone must make an effort. Everyone must come back.

Posted on March 26, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Musaf First Aid (just in case…)

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Practices, Texts on by .

Today is Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the Hebrew month and the festival of the New Moon. Jews celebrate by having festive meals, dancing (well, those people who generally celebrate things by dancing also celebrate this by dancing), and by saying additional prayers.

And if — you know, hypothetically — you forgot to say those additional prayers for Rosh Chodesh*?

Well, you’re in luck. According to Rabbi Meir** in the Talmud, you can pray the Musaf Amidah up until the seventh hour of the day. According to everyone else, you can keep on praying until the sun goes down. Of course, it’s better to get it out of the way earlier, or else you might turn into one of those people who (again, hypothetically) sees the sun setting in the window, the solar system calling an end to another business day, and frantically jumps off the couch while yelling “Hold on! I have to pray the morning prayers!”

I’m just saying.

* – Hypothetically, of course. Because no one who works for MJL would ever forget that it’s Rosh Chodesh….even if they were coordinating a crazy wild open mic night and their baby, over the past few days, has started deciding that 3 a.m. is a great time to wake up and hit the after-hours clubs.
** – Yes, it’s pretty weird that we have an article on Beruriah but not her husband. Go figure.

Posted on March 26, 2009

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Julian Sandler (Z”L)

This entry was posted in General on by .

Julian Sandler, former Chair of the Board of Directors of Hillel International and a supporter of MJL, has passed away at the age of 64:

During his 15 years of leadership, Mr. Sandler brought commitment, wisdom and vision to Hillel. As a member of the International Board of Governors, treasurer and vice chair of the Board of Directors, and as chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, he guided Hillel’s growth and assured a brighter future for Jewish students worldwide.

In one of his final acts, Mr. Sandler established The Julian Sandler Endowment for Executive Leadership Development which will support Hillel’s training, executive leadership development, mentoring, coaching and evaluation program for its most promising new Hillel directors. This endowment reflects the devotion of Julian and his wife Nina to Hillel’s work in inspiring Jewish students to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life

Julian Sandler was the founder and President of Rent-a-PC, Inc. – later renamed SmartSource Computer and A/V Rentals. — a nationwide provider of short-term computer, audio-visual and technology rentals to the IT community. He was a past president and an active member of the Dix Hills Jewish Center, a board member of the Fay J. Linder assisted living complex at the Gurwin Jewish Geriatric Center and a member of the Rabbinical School Board of Overseers at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Julian was one of the first funders to get behind Daniel’s and my vision to transform MyJewishLearning.com into the site it is today and was thus instrumental in this month’s relaunch.

Our condolences go out to Julian’s widow Nina and the rest of his family and friends. He will be missed.

Posted on March 25, 2009

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HaOrot – The Music of Rav Kook’s Inner Bebop Child

This entry was posted in Culture, Israel on by .

I did not expect this. When I got the package in the mail, it definitely felt like a CD. But when I ripped open the packaging, instead of being some self-consciously retro art or a picture of guys in black looking depressed, who should be staring me down but Rav Kook.

This is the music of Greg Wall’s Later Prophets — which I wrote about a few months ago on Nextbook, but hadn’t yet heard the album, which comes out this week. Back then, I said that Rav Kook was

known more for his mystical teachings than his poetry, an omission that probably comes more from the poems’ esoteric nature than from a lack of quality. But HaOrot aims to change that. By placing his poems in a 1960s spoken-word context—crashing free-jazz piano, high-hat-intensive drums, words purred into the mic like Allen Ginsberg describing his latest otherworldly vision—Wall and Marmorstein recast Kook’s words in the context of a more contemporary poetry, effectively mirroring their religious journey in the other direction.

Well, now we’ve got the album, and it’s a doozy. From the chill jazz of “The One Who Seeks the Good” to the the spaced-out noise experiments on “From a Distant World,” HaOrot endeavors to be faithful to Kook’s poetry while not being limited by it. How many poetry tributes have instrumental tracks, after all? A bass carries the melody of the wordless niggun on “Rav Kook’s Melody,” a kind of restrained intensity that finally — and passionately — bursts loose almost halfway through the six-minute track. The language switches between English and Hebrew, sometimes between songs and sometimes line by line, so your brain is always lurching forward to catch up with the pieces. At the same time, the music itself is so fine-tuned and resonant that it almost dares the listener not to keep up, to relax and let the sounds work their magic on you — so that, even if you don’t understand everything fully, you’re still hit with the full brunt of it.

Rav Kook himself — you can find out more about his life here, or his teachings here — was the product of an intermarriage: his father’s family were all great Lithuanian rabbis; his mother’s family were great Hasidic rabbis. His own school of thought borrowed significantly from both philosophies: there is both immense discipline and immense creativity.

This strikingly affects his poetry, and its feeling possesses this music. The straightforward a-a-b-b rhyme scheme for some of his work runs up against the free-verse feeling of other pieces; the music plays against it, providing a perfect counterbalance. This is the opposite of hip-hop, almost. There is the strict, steady beat of the poem, and the instruments flying in every direction around it. It’s a curious and exciting mix of poetry, rhythm, and raw sound. Bandleader Greg Wall’s Later Prophets have played together for so long that they know what to expect of each other, even when the musicians are trying to keep each other on their toes — but the whole disc plays like a three-way collaboration: between the band, Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein’s convincing renditions of the text, and Rav Kook himself.

It’s weird to have a jam session with someone who’s already dead (er, whose soul has already ascended), but it’s not so unusual — people did it with Louis Armstrong, they did it every time somebody plays a cover version of a song, and they’re doing it with Rav Kook. And I can think of few people who deserve it more.

HaOrot is available from Amazon or directly from Tzadik. Greg Wall’s Later Prophets will play the Jewish Music Cafe in Park Slope this Saturday night, March 28, with guest vocals from Matthue Roth (yes, that’s me) and opening act Moshe Weidenfeld.

Posted on March 25, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Today in History

This entry was posted in History on by .

On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirt Factory Fire occurred in New York City, killing more than 150 people:

A final catalyst transformed Jewish workers into an organized presence on the industrial scene. On Saturday afternoon, March 25, 1911, some eight hundred young women and several dozen young men were at work on the top floors of the ten-story Triangle Shirtwaist Company building. The firm’s owners had fudged on the strike agreement of the previous year, with its promise of Saturday half-days. Sanitary conditions also remained marginal, with piles of oil-soaked scraps lying under the sewing machines.(MORE)

Posted on March 25, 2009

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy