While you might be getting excited for next week’s Shavuot extravaganza (since when does receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai not count as an extravaganza?), you probably forgot about today’s Jewish holiday–Yom Yerusalayim (Jerusalem Day). It’s easy to forget the day. It’s not mentioned in the Bible, the Talmud or any classic Jewish book. In fact, the holiday has only been around since 1968, when the Israeli Knesset designated the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, captured in the 6-Day War, to be a national holiday.
With the holiday in mind, I’ve compiled my favorite Jerusalem videos of the moment. Enjoy and chag sameach.
1) Jerusalem Time Lapse Video:
3) Jerusalem in 1967:
4) Ofra Haza–Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold):
5) Jerusalem 2111: Last Stand (this one’s a little different…):
The new book Folktales of the Jews: Tales from Arab Lands, edited by Dan Ben-Amos, collects hundreds of years’ worth of Jewish stories culled from all over the Diaspora. This is an excerpt, reprinted by permission of The Jewish Publication Society.
Remember Days of Old!
Told by Yosef Shmuli to Zvi Moshe Haimovits
There was a place in days of old where the custom was to crown a king according to the will of heaven. They had a special bird that they called the bird of happiness. Upon the death of the old king, they would let the bird fly and crown whoever’s head the bird came to rest upon.
One day, the king died, and the bird came to rest upon the head of a slave. This slave used to wear a cap of feathers and a belt made of sheep hooves. He earned his bread by dancing and drumming at weddings. When the slave was chosen to be the king and moved to live in the royal palace, he ordered the construction of a small house alongside the palace. Into this small house, he put all his possessions: the cap of feathers, the belt of hooves, and the drum. He also put there a large mirror.
The new king dealt with his people kindly and compassionately and was loved by all. Often, he would visit the small house alongside the palace. Once he left the door open, and the ministers saw their king put the cap on his head, strap the belt around his hips, and drum and dance before the mirror.
The ministers asked the king to explain his actions: “Are you not a king and must you not preserve your own dignity, even for yourself?”
The king answered, “I was a slave and was made a king. Daily, I wish to remember that I was a slave, so that I will not think better of myself than you and become proud-hearted.”
Shavuot is on the horizon, which means everyone is preparing for a holiday whose main ritual is eating blintzes. Don’t get me wrong, I love blintzes, but I’ve been thinking about a good way to combine the custom of eating dairy on Shavuot with the theme of the Israelites receiving the Torah on Shavuot. What I’ve come up with is this: butter sculptures. Specifically, butter sculptures of the Ten Commandments, Moses on Mt. Sinai, and a Torah scroll.
This seems like a fun Shavuot activity. In fact, it seems so obvious I’m kind of shocked that there aren’t a whole lot of Biblical butter sculptures already. Think about it! Ruth collecting wheat, Jonah inside a whale, Esther in a harem, Jacob wrestling with an angel—these would all make great butter sculptures.
Recently Mayim Bialik posted for our friends at Kveller about a 2-year-old boy named Ezra who is desperately in need of a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately there are too many people, especially children, also in Ezra’s situation like 1-year-old Ayelet Galena.
Fortunately registering to be a bone marrow donor is super easy. It involves swiping the insides of your cheeks with a long-handled cotton swab and mailing it in an envelope. So easy you can do it yourself by registering here.
If you’re a match, donating is easy. Eighty percent of the time that you are a match for someone, you can donate stem cells from the blood in your arms, just like giving blood.
As Mayim wrote:
“If I had the power to save a life, I would. I would do it in a heartbeat. And I hope God gives me that chance if that’s what I am here to do.”
“He who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the entire world.” -Talmud
The day my first novel, Vaclav and Lena, was published, I didn’t do anything wild or anything flashy. There were only two people in the world I wanted share the experience with: my parents. After dinner, and some champagne, we walked to our local bookstore to visit my book—to see my book for the first time in a bookstore. My mother, who is completely without shame, found the manager and proudly announced that there was an ACTUAL author in the store. My dad and I hung back and giggled. The store manager indulged us, had me sign some copies, and stuck some “local author” stickers on the books. We thanked him, and he walked away, and then my mother ran after him — for what, we didn’t know. She came back with an extra “local author” sticker and stuck it right on my chest. We all cracked up. It was a long and difficult road to that “Local Author” sticker and my parents were there every step of the way.
When my family had Shabbat dinner, each and every Friday night – whether it was brisket or Cajun meatloaf or pizza, my mother blessed us. Instead of thetraditional blessing, asking god to make my sister and me like Sarah, Rebeccah,Rachel and Leah, or my brother like Menashe and Ephraim. She said. “May you be who you are and may you be blessed in all that you are.”
It is not easy to raise a writer. It is not easy to raise a creative child. It is not easy to emotionally support your child when she’s graduating from college and NOT jumping feet first into the job force, but instead jumping feet first into a writing a novel. When everyone else’s twenty-something kids are going to law school, or med school, or getting promotions, your twenty-something is living with five roommates, working odd jobs, and writing this nebulous mysterious book that she refuses to talk about. It is not easy to help your writer (or painter, or actress, or musician) figure out how to make a life that is satisfying and fulfilling and structured while they pursue their dream.
In my novel, Vaclav & Lena, the main character, Vaclav, wants to become the worlds greatest and most famous magician. His parents, recent Russian Jewish immigrants, worry about his future, about the prospects for a child who wants a singular and difficult dream. Vaclav’s parents struggle, as mine did, to support and protect their child. I’m sure that at times, my parents felt like Vaclav’s mother, Rasia:
I’m sure that my parents struggled with supporting a writer, and sometimes I think that the blessing, “May you be who you are and may you be blessed in all that you are,” was as much a blessing for me as an affirmation for them.