Author Archives: Jordanna Birnbaum

About Jordanna Birnbaum

Jordanna Birnbaum is the intern at MyJewishLearning.com

I Command You to Eat

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

It’s Erev Yom Kippur, so everyone get eating! Just as there is a commandment to fast on Yom Kippur, there is also a mitzvah to eat the day before. Some opinions even say that one should try and eat all day long by keeping a sucking candy in your mouth or some other type of snack.

While preparing for the concluding meal (seudah hamafseket) munch on as much as possible and while your preparing your white clothing, blessing your children, diving into the mikvah and doing all the other customary things before Yom Kippur, don’t forget to have a bite to eat.

What a nice commandment.

Posted on October 8, 2008

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

Shimon Peres on The Globalization of Peace

This entry was posted in General on by .

Last night, Shimon Peres, the President of Israel spoke at NYU on the Globalization of Peace.

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Although President Peres spoke on major political and social issues, the caveat that interested me the most was his “midrashic” conclusion.
President Peres told a story that he heard from a Muslim teacher:

“The Rabbi asked: When does the night end and when does the day begin?
A student replied: If you can distinguish a lamb from a dog from a distance then maybe the night is over.
Another student replied: If you can distinguish an olive tree from a fig tree then perhaps the day arrived.
The Rabbi said:  When you meet a woman, whether black or white and you say, ‘you are my sister’ and when you meet a man, whether rich or poor and you say, ‘you are my brother,’ then the night is over.â€?

Posted on September 26, 2008

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Rabbi Dov Linzer On Science & Halakha

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Practices on by .

This past Wednesday night, Rabbi Dov Linzer, the Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah spoke at NYU’s L’SHMA Lecture Series on “Science and Halakha: Sympathies and Strategies.”

Rabbi Linzer discussed the difficulties in dealing with rabbinical errors in the Talmud. Do we have a right to say that the Rabbi’s were wrong in certain cases? Rabbi Linzer explained that many groups in Judaism deal with nishtanu hateva or the concept that the rabbis were not wrong, but rather nature has changed.

He elaborated, that although this concept may have worked in the past, or within more traditional Jewish communities, today in more modern communities this explanation is not really viable.

Rabbi Linzer discussed an example of a baby born in the eighth month of pregnancy. In the Talmud it says that a baby born in the eight month is not considered viable and therefore cannot be delivered on Shabbat and is even considered mukstza. Rabbi Linzer explained that obviously today we know that there is high rate of survival for babies born in the eight month and sometimes even in months before that. If a baby is born on Shabbat it is clear that it can and should be saved.

Some other examples that he brought included the Talmud’s prohibition of eating meat and fish together because of health reasons as well as the issue of paternity blood tests.

Traditionally the Rabbis were hesitant to contradict opinions in the Talmud. They were fearful that any acceptance of scientific reasoning over a rabbinic opinion would destabilize the halakhic system. On the other end of the spectrum, Rabbi Linzer pointed out that we must also recognize the importance of truth in our system. How can we live by a system or by a certain halakhic decision if it was based on false knowledge?

Posted on September 16, 2008

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A Wicked Jewel

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

In one of this week’s Jewels of Elul, Marc Platt, the producer of Wicked, reflects on the evolution of his career and the show which has touched audiences everywhere.

“I’m through accepting limits ’cause someone says they’re so.Some things I cannot change but ’till I try, I’ll never know.I think I’ll try defying gravity and you can’t pull me down.”

So sings the lead character, Elphaba, in my Broadway musical Wicked.

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Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed about working in the theatre. When I set out professionally, the one thing I wanted to do above all else was to produce a Broadway musical. My career opportunities took me into the film industry instead, yet despite having earned great success, I never lost that lifelong dream.

Not content to accept the limits that historically defined film producers, almost two decades into my career, I embarked on my dream when I endeavored to bring to life on stage a novel for which I had great passion: Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. The project was a great risk for everyone involved, but our love for the story and belief in its theatrical potential drove us. I just opened Wicked’s ninth company worldwide, and the original Broadway company celebrates its fifth anniversary this year.

But the greatest reward has been the audience’s love for our show; to hear constantly how enormously it has impacted them. A young Palestinian American Muslim woman from Brooklyn wrote about Elphaba: “Her hardships paralleled the hardships and scrutiny I have had to endure. I never thought that my life could be portrayed up on stage. I never thought that the theatre could move me as much as it has.�

Throughout all of Wicked’s blockbuster triumph, it is these moments that mark the real achievement of my dream.

Marc Platt is the producer of Wicked, the Legally Blonde films, and Empire Falls. www.wickedthemusical.com 

Posted on September 11, 2008

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These Books Should be Burned

This entry was posted in Culture, History, Practices on by .

Recently I walked into a Judaica store in New York City with my boyfriend. We had to buy some new tanach’s and commentaries. My boyfriend picked out the JPS tanach and put it on the counter to pay. Suddenly the cashier stated “Why are you buying this and not the Artscroll?” We replied that we happen to like the JPS translation and layout better but it seemed that the cashier had something else in mind.

He quickly pointed to the books and said “These books should be burned, they are produced by heretics who violate the yud gimel ikarim (thirteen principles of faith).” He continued on “Are you orthodox? Do you follow the law of the Shulhan Arukh, if you are then you will not buy these books.”

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It was hard for me to hold myself back from tackling the old man behind the counter, I started to respond, but the conversation ended with a cool comment “We’ll agree to disagree” and with that we bustled out of the store.

I felt sorry for the old man, how could he be filled with such burning hatred? even in the month of Elul he could not be accepting or even tolerant of his fellow Jews.

Ironically, I also happen to be planning a community wide tanach siyyum for the entire NYU Jewish community. I was told to burn the very book which I was hoping could unite the different denominations on campus.

Perhaps for the communal tanach siyyum, we will use a variation of all tanach’s ever produced.

Posted on September 10, 2008

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Remembering A Mystic: Rabbi Yitzhak Luria Ashkenazi

This entry was posted in Beliefs on by .

Today is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yitzhak Luria Ashkenazi, aka the Arizal or just the Ari (1534-1572). He was the father of modern Kabbalah and studied under greats such as Radbaz and the Shita Mekubetzet. The Arizal was no elderly sage–more like a boy wonder–by the age of 22 he was studying Zohar intensely and at age 36 he lived in Safed and rubbed shoulders with Rabbis Joseph Caro , Moses Cordevero (Ramak), Shlomo Alkabetz, and Moshe Alschich. The Arizal tackled hot topics including reincarnation and transmigration of souls. He also had a major influence in introducing the mystic system into Jewish religious observance. His ideas were compiled by his student Chaim ben Joseph Vital, into the work known as the Eitz Chayim.

What had you accomplished by age 22?

(Stay tuned for a new section about magic and the supernatural–coming to MJL this Fall…)

Posted on August 6, 2008

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

Welcome Home Mahmoud Ahmadinejad!

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

On Wednesday I heard John Ruskay, the executive vice president of the UJA speak at a seminar of 50 college interns who are part of CLIP-Collegiate Leadership Internship Program.

He raised many current issues in the Jewish community. But one stood out to me.

He spoke about brainstorming for what the Jewish community should do when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, returns in September for the U.N. General Assembly.

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Should we have a rally?

Ruskay went around the room calling on different people, some suggested an interfaith, multiethnic rally with powerful speakers, but Ruskay replied that this has been done, and is not really effective, as only a small group of people come.

At NYU on Yom Hashoah, I was part of a group of about 50 students who walked around the village in silence wearing all black. Each student had a white placard strung on them that read “Never Forget”, if someone asked “never forget what?” We would hand them an index card with an explanation. We walked single file around Washington Square Park, through dining halls and the Library. People were mesmerized by the silent march.

Yesterday, I suggested to John Ruskay that we should have silent marches all around the city on the day that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes to the U.N. The marchers could wear placards that stated different human rights infringements that Ahmadinejad has caused ranging from women to homosexuals as well as signs about the dangerous dictator and his hateful message against Israel.

Perhaps people are sick and tired of yelling at the top of their lungs, with flailing signs when no one seems to listen.

A different type of silence could be the answer.

Posted on August 1, 2008

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

Nuclear Warfare & Obama’s Feelings…

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

When Barack Obama met with members of the Democratic Caucus to speak about his tour of the Middle East, he had a feeling.

“Nobody said this to me directly, but I get the feeling from my talks that if the sanctions don’t work, Israel is going to strike Iran,” Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, was quoted as saying, according to ABC News, which cited multiple sources. (MORE)

Hmm, I know Barack had the best intentions when he said this, but is it really a good idea to say you have a feeling about nuclear warfare?

(HT: Matthue Roth)

Posted on July 31, 2008

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I Never Tasted Shrimp So Good!

This entry was posted in General, Practices on by .

Last night on my daily supermarket run I picked up some Full Circle Shrimp for the whole family. I had never tasted shrimp so good…maybe it was the way we spiced it, the family gathering, or maybe it was the Hashgacha.

Shrimp.jpg

This morning I awoke to a blaring kashrut alert in my inbox:

Full Circle Shrimp
Brands: Full Circle
Products: Assorted Frozen Shrimp Products
Company: Topco Associates LLC- Skokie, IL
Issue:
These products are bearing an unauthorized OU symbol and are not certified kosher by the Orthodox Union. Corrective action is being taken. Consumers spotting these products are requested to contact the Orthodox Union at 212-613-8241 or via email at kashalerts@ou.org.

Posted on July 25, 2008

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

HA YA!

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

Four years ago in Athens, Gal Fridman (whose first name means wave) took home the first gold medal for Israel in the men’s windsurfing competition. Fridman’s victory spurred celebrations around Israel and empowered Israeli’s and Jews around the world.

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He started a wave of pride as well as a long overdue tribute for the 11 athletes and coaches who were murdered at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. An article in USA Today captured the moment on that glorious day in August, 2004.

Fridman won it Wednesday…emerging to say that he won the race for countrymen who died before he was born, countrymen taken by hooded and masked Palestinian terrorists who would fly them out of the Games and into their graves. “I hope that they are happy up there,” Fridman said. “When I return to Israel, I’ll go to the memorial place to show them the gold medal.” (MORE)

Israel has undergone many tragedies and hardships in the past four years. The ailing health of a prime minister, the Lebanon War, the internal conflict of Gush Katif, threats from Iran, and most recently the prisoner swap and bulldozing rampages.

Although that all might have sounded very depressing, the 2008 Olympics are on the horizon and the JTA has just reported that there is Gold Medal hope in the air.

A female taekwondo champion will fight for Israel at the Beijing Olympics. Bat-El Gatterer, a 21-year-old resident of Kochav Yaakov, a Jewish settlement near Ramallah, is among 42 athletes Israel is sending to go to this month’s Games in the Chinese capital. (MORE)

Bat-El Gatterer is possibly the first settler to have a shot at a medal and hopefully her presence will rally the Israeli people. I believe Gal Fridman said it best when he spoke about winning gold.

I don’t get into politics, Fridman said. “I don’t understand that stuff. … The only thing I can want is, I would love to bring peace to Israel. The fight (should) stop in the water. If you fight someone, fight him in sport to prove you are better, not in different ways. This is our job as athletes, to show the other side of the Israeli people. We want peace. All of my friends I know want peace.” (MORE)

Hopefully this taekwondo champion will show the other side of the Israeli people.

It would be interesting for a settler to bring Israeli people together.
Let the games begin!

Posted on July 22, 2008

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