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{ Category Archives } Judaism and religion

The Rabbis and Environmentalism

Jim Davila was wondering whether the following quotation from Anglican minister Martin Palmer was really Talmudic: “The Talmud says that the angels went to God and said, ‘You just created this wonderful world and now you’ve created these human beings who will only go and mess it up. Are you start staring mad?’ And God […]

Hey, man

Things I thought about during the Megilla reading this year, in no particular order. I’m not saying I thought of all this actually during the reading, some of it is expansions of the original ideas that are coming to me as I write it down I’m not sure if this counts as a meme. RenReb […]

Whumping the Willow

The Hoshana Rabba service (or, as my Siddur puts it, The Seventh Day of Tabernacles, Called Hosha-gnana The Great) is something of an omnium gatherum of Jewish liturgy — apart from counting the omer and a megilla reading it has just about everything. Extended pesukei de-zimra, ya’aleh veyavo, shaking the lulav, Hallel, Torah reading, Mussaf, […]

For calendar geeks 2

One of the unusual features in this year’s Jewish calendar is that the first day of Pesach is Sunday, so Seder will be on Saturday night. This is actually not as unusual as everybody thinks — it would be more accurate to say that any other day of the week when Pesach falls is unusually […]

I am a feminist

There are advantages to living in a small country. If I was in America or even England and saw that someone whose work I admire and whose blog I read regularly was speaking somewhere, chances are it would be 1,000s of miles away and I wouldn’t be able to get to it. In Israel, on […]

The voices in my head

I hadn’t been planning on learning Daf Yomi this cycle. I’ve had good intentions many times before, and got right through Berachot once, but sticking to routines is not one of my strong points, and seven and a half years is about 50 times longer than I usually manage to do anything before wandering off […]

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

Aviad, describing himself on an school application form: “If the religious were red and the secular were yellow, I would be orange.”

This one’s for Glazou

Shamelessly stolen from a comment on Hirhurim by someone called Fotheringay-phipps: They say a story about the head of the local apikorsim who was dying. And as he lay there on his deathbed, with his apikorus talmidim gathered around him, he told them “call the rov – I want to do t’shuva“. So they told […]

Two years

Today is my mother’s second Yahrtzeit, the anniversary of her death by the Hebrew calendar. We invited several friends of ours and hers over for an azkara or memorial service, with prayers (I think this was the first time in my life that I have led a weekday evening service), light refreshments and Torah study. […]

Kubanga okusaasira kwe kwa luberera

That’s כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ, the refrain of Psalm 136 in Luganda, as sung by the Abayudaya community of Uganda. (Thanks to Danya (Jerusalem Syndrome) posting at JewSchool, via Rachel (Velveteen Rabbi)). I have to get this disc!

Making myself useful

It’s good that the remnants of a classical education that I carry around with me sometimes come in useful for me and other people. My ever loving wife is winding up her M.A. thesis on Eve and Mary in Irenæus of Lyons, and it’s my privilege to help her as computer and language dogsbody, looking […]

Nearly Yom Kippur

If I was capable, I would translate this into English. I’ve tried many times to translate Agnon, but I just can’t capture it. השמים היו טהורים והארץ היתה שקטה וכל הרחובות היו נקיים, ורוח חדשה היתה מפרפרת בחללו של עולם. ואני תינוק כבן ארבע הייתי ומלובש הייתי בגדי מועד, ואיש אחד מקרובי הוליכני אצל אבי […]

Ideas for teaching liturgy

I realized during Rosh Hashana services last week that Aviad doesn’t know half as much as I had assumed that he did about the structure of the Mahzor. The middle of the silent Amida wasn’t a very helpful time to realize this, but I gave him a whispered overview of Malchuyot Zichronot and Shofarot before […]

For calendar geeks

Hat-tip to Avraham Bronstein for the link to “How is this year different from all other years?” Sample quotation: This year 5765 is the only year in all of history whose “keviut” (year-type determination) involves dechiyyat BeTU-TaKPaT at the end of the year, and whose Pesach falls on April 24. The “exercise for the reader” […]


In the Torah reading for the first day of Rosh Hashana, Hagar and Ishmael have been sent off into the desert and have run out of water. Hagar sits crying, out of sight of her son so as not to see him die. She has given up hope. At this point, just as in the […]

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine

As far as I know (and I would love to be corrected) Ellul is the only Hebrew month which has Midrash on its name. The one that everybody remembers is the notarikon אני לדודי ודודי לי from Song of Songs 6, 3, but there are several more. That one itself is part of a set […]

Are you bluish? You don’t look bluish!

Aviad will be bar mitzvah next February and we have been working together on learning his Torah portion, Parshat Teruma (Exodus 25,1 – 27,19). One of the first questions to come up was, what exactly is the “blue” (תכלת) mentioned in chapter 25 verse 4, which is also used for making Tzitzit — except that […]


The latest hot topic in Mozilla blog-land is God. It started when Gerv went into hospital with appendicitis, and asked “Those Christians among you, please pray that he would trust continually in Christ as his strength and as his Creator!”. I and others of Gerv’s friends and colleagues added our prayers to the comments on […]

Moving on

Tonight, which is the first night after the end of the period of saying Kaddish for my late mother, Gwen Montagu נעמי בת אברהם ושרה נ”ע, I was meditating and had the following insight. I hope I will be able to write it down as clearly as it appeared to me. כִּי עִמְּךָ מְקוֹר חַיִּים […]

Reason to Disbelieve?

I have noticed before how intelligent people will throw logic to the four winds when discussing their religion. It’s interesting to see atheists doing it too. I’m quite sure that Hixie would not come within a thousand miles of perpetrating a multiple non sequitur like this in connection to any other topic. Not that I […]