Judaism has many rituals to help transition the body and soul of the deceased, and no doubt also to help the living come to terms with their loss.
In the Sephardi world one of the important places where these rituals took place was the “House of the Circuits” (Casa de Rodeos or Rodeamentos). This building served the same purpose as the House of Tahara in Ashkenazi cemeteries, and was where the ritual washing of the body was performed. In the Sephardi tradition, after the body has been purified, the burial service starts with the men present walking seven times around the body. Continue reading
Rabbi Simon Schwab (1908-95), sion of Hirsch’s “Torah and Derekh Eretz” Community in Frankfurt, and leader of Khal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights, USA, composed a moving Elegy on the tragedy of the Holocaust, for inclusion among the others traditionally chanted on the Fast of Av, the saddest day of the Jewish Year.
R. Schwab’s elegy is structured like the well-known kinah “Betseiti Mimitzrayim” (also known by its opening words “Esh Tukad”), and intended to be chanted to the same chant. The S&P chant for “Esh Tukad” also fits the R. Schwab’s kinah well. Continue reading
Historical recordings of a service of thanksgiving held 58 years ago at Bevis Marks Synagogue, London, in celebration of the 300th Anniversary of the resettlement of the Jews in Britain are now available online, and on an inexpensive CD. For more details click here.
Recordings from the service held 50 years later, for the 350th Anniversary, can be heard here.
Was the biblical Miriam guilty of racial prejudice?
We feel uncomfortable with that idea somehow.
Rashi as he often does, tries to resolve the problem by adding things into the text or deleting things from the text, or re-reading the verse. He has no problem with changing a word’s meaning to solve a problem. For example in this week’s parasha when Miriam talks about Moshe’s Kushi wife, and Rashi does not understand who the Kushi wife is, since the only wife we know about is Tzipora, a Midianite, Rashi changes the meaning of the word. Continue reading
Problem keeping track of birthdays and anniversaries that use different calendars?
There are apps that help, but I wanted a physical book – like the birthdays books that used to be popular in my Gran’s day, but with Hebrew and Gregorian dates. I also needed more space than Gran’s little book had. So I designed this. Open it at the Hebrew end for Hebrew dates; English end for Gregorian dates. Problem solved! (Yes, you’ll need TWO bookmarks.) Continue reading
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) in Israel. The date was chosen because of it’s position between the Anniversary of the Waraw Ghetto Uprising and Israel Independence Day, and indeed in Hebrew the full name of the day is Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laGvura (Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day). There is a clear “angle” here, but then different points of view are fine as long as we recognise them as such. Continue reading
A little-known Chassidic custom has been gaining momentum. For the last few years I’ve been finding two opposing kinds of posts on my Facebook wall just days after the end of Pesach.
Some of them proudly show photographs of a home made challah in the shape of a key (with an accompanying wish to friends for “prosperity”); while others include derisory memes berating the “Christian or pagan” custom of “Schlissel Challah” as yet another “segulah” that cheapens God into a sort of “vending machine for superstitious people”.
So what is it really? Continue reading