Monthly Archives: January 2021

‘Freedom for Humanity’: A Cautionary Tale of Antisemitism

by Ben Cohen

Kalen Ockerman’s antisemitic mural is seen prior to its removal from a wall in east London. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. – What follows here is a story about a politician from the extreme left, a politician from the far-right, and a painting replete with antisemitic tropes that has traveled around the Internet for around a decade, and still does.

Let’s start with the painting — more precisely, a wall mural. The image exists only in digital form now, having been unceremoniously wiped in 2012 from a wall on a street in the East End of London that it once occupied.

The mural was removed in part because of numerous complaints to the local council about its antisemitic content. The creation of a Los Angeles-based street artist named Kalen Ockerman (aka “Mear One”), the mural’s vanilla title — “Freedom for Humanity” — doesn’t quite prepare the viewer for the spectacle on display.

At its center, we see a group of six elderly, impeccably dressed men with prominent noses playing the board game Monopoly. The game sits on a table constructed on the broken backs of human beings stripped of their clothes, who strain under its weight while bent double, heads clasped in hands. Directly behind them, the “eye of providence” stares out ominously.

The “eye of providence” — a symbol that appears on the Great Seal of the United States and on the reverse of a one-dollar bill — is much prized by conspiracy theorists as evidence that the world’s financial system is run by freemasons and sundry other illuminati. Place the eye alongside a group of plump Jewish bankers who extract their profits through the sweat and toil of downtrodden workers and, presto, you have an antisemitic trope in your hand.

As is par for the course with those who traffic in antisemitism, Ockerman denied that his mural was another incarnation of the medieval depiction of Jews as parasitic exploiters of regular, God-fearing folk. “My mural is about class and privilege,” he told an interviewer in October 2012. “The banker group is made up of Jewish and white Anglos. For some reason, they are saying I am antisemitic. This I am most definitely not. … What I am against is class.”

Unsurprisingly, this interpretation of the mural was already shared by others on the left, including Jeremy Corbyn, three years before he became the leader of the opposition Labour Party, when he was, as he now is once more, an ordinary member of the British parliament.

When the mural was removed in 2012, Corbyn opined in a Facebook post that Ockerman now shared the illustrious company of the Mexican artist Diego Rivera, whose famous mural at New York City’s Rockefeller Center was plastered over by Nelson Rockefeller, who objected to the inclusion of a portrait of Vladimir Lenin. On the far-left, that counts as a huge compliment.

When Corbyn’s post about the mural came to light six years later — as the Labour Party was enveloped by one antisemitic scandal after another under his leadership — he issued a hasty apology, claiming that he hadn’t looked at the artwork closely enough to notice the “disturbing” antisemitic imagery that it contained. For anyone aware of the long tradition of antisemitism on the political left, which is rooted in the notion of Jews as transnational financiers, Corbyn’s explanation was hardly convincing. He admired the mural because its constituent images spoke meaningfully to his anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist convictions; he just didn’t have the courage to admit that.

Here’s what is interesting, though. The very same mural had the same energizing effect on someone whose view of the world would seem to be the absolute opposite of Corbyn’s — an individual whose election pledges included commitments to fight “taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal aliens” and “the expansion of Medicaid and medical welfare,” alongside a full-throated defense of Second Amendment rights.

How is it that someone who represents these opinions in a US state legislature — in this case, Republican Rep. Jim Spillane of Deerfield, NH — finds himself in perfect harmony with an English Socialist who gets teary-eyed at the mere mention of the old Soviet Union? The question arises because, in early January, Spillane shared the “Freedom for Humanity” mural on Twitter, helpfully adding the caption: “Truth. Agree.”

Spillane doesn’t believe that he erred in sharing the image, which he insists is not antisemitic. “As far as I know, none of those people are Jewish,” he snapped at a local news outlet before hanging up the phone last Thursday. Sadly, he is not the only GOP state legislator to have approvingly shared the mural with their online followers. Last September, Rep. Danny McCormick of the Louisiana state legislature did exactly the same on his Twitter feed.

The cyclical journey of this particular mural — from the extreme left to the far-right and back again — takes place on a road that is much more straightforward to navigate than partisans of either side would be comfortable admitting. For while the historic enmities between both of these extremes are undeniable, the clashes between far-left and far-right in the last century have fundamentally been driven by geopolitics, not ideological disagreements.

As the example of the mural demonstrates, when it comes to breaking down the alleged evils of capitalism — in essence, a system that privileges a white, “Judaic” elite while everyone else is immiserated and enslaved — today’s Communists and right-wing populists find themselves in broad agreement on what these are.

Not every extremist will place the same emphasis on the Jewish elements of the mural, and the majority would probably echo Spillane’s incredulous denial that these antisemitic themes are present in the first place! But the lesson that matters for the Jewish community is that antisemitism can exist on the furthest reaches of left and right for exactly the same set of reasons. Whatever else might divide them, on this question, which both sides used to call “The Jewish Question,” their unity is too close for comfort.

Ben Cohen is a New York City-based journalist and author who writes a weekly column on Jewish and international affairs for JNS.

As taken from, ‘Freedom for Humanity’: A Cautionary Tale of Antisemitism | Jewish & Israel News

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Posted by on January 26, 2021 in Uncategorized


Is ‘Jewish’ a Nationality or Religion? Inside Israel’s Fierce, Bitter Debate About Identity

by Simon Rabinovitch

How one man’s quest, half a century ago, for the right to define his own family’s identity unwittingly set up a momentous clash between Israel’s secular and religious power centers, changed the Law of Return and still fuels conflict over who is a Jew

A young Israeli wears a national flag as fellow Israelis protest against a recent cease fire with the Hamas movement, in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on November 15, 2018.
A young Israeli wears a national flag as fellow Israelis protest against a recent cease fire with the Hamas movement, in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on November 15, 2018.Credit: AFP

Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, stirred controversy in the first week of 2020 by asserting that there are “many, many goyim” in Israel, many of whom, he stated, were religion-hating “communists,” and also who, he implied, were deliberately brought there to act as secular ballast against the electoral strength of religious and ultra-Orthodox Israelis. 

Yosef was referring to the hundreds of thousands of people who have migrated to Israel since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe that the state rabbinate he co-heads does not consider Jewish (he was probably also referring to the many more Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are recognized as Jewish, but are defiantly secular). 

These and other immigrants gained automatic citizenship under the 1970 amendment to Israel’s Law of Return. The law offers citizenship to anyone with one Jewish grandparent, a right extended to their spouses and immediate family irrespective of their religion or heritage. 

Rabbi Yosef is not alone in ascribing a close-to-conspiratorial view of that 1970 amendment which greatly opened up, and formalized legally, the potential immigration pool.

But the Law of Return was not changed to bring secular and non-Jewish voters to the Jewish state for the purpose of diluting the political power of the Orthodox, or for any other nefarious reason. After all, few if any of the drafters of that amendment in 1970 could have predicted the dramatic collapse of Soviet power and the lifting of Iron Curtain emigration controls.

Rather than the result of a cunning, comprehensive plan, this key “one Jewish grandparent clause,” more derisively known as the “Nuremberg clause,” was the unintended legislative by-product of one man’s quest half a century ago to define his own family’s identity. That individual wanted greater freedom of conscience for all Israelis, but had no idea his advocacy would lead to Israel’s current Law of Return, and its legal definition of “Who is a Jew.” 

Benyamin Shalit, an Israeli navy psychologist, married Anne Geddes, a non-Jewish Scottish woman in Edinburgh in December 1958, and they moved to Haifa in 1960 to raise their new family. When the Shalits’ son Oren (which he now spells as Orren) was born in 1964, the couple were required to register their new child. In the registration’s “religion” category, the new parents made no entry; they indicated “Jew” in the space for “nationality.” 

Reviewing the registration, an Interior Ministry official changed baby Oren’s nationality to “not registered,” and in the space for religion wrote “Father Jewish – Mother alien.” The couple decided not to respond.

Oren Shalit's birth certificate. The author has access to Benyamin Shalit’s personal archive, before it's deposited in Tel Aviv University's Israeli Legal History Archive. Permission of Anne Shalit

But when their daughter Galia was born in 1967, they were prepared to fight: they wanted the right to define the identity of their child, and stated in a letter to the Ministry of Interior that any other registration than that of “No religion” and “Jewish” or “Hebrew” nationality would be “contrary to our wishes and constitutes an infringement on our freedom of conscience.” 

The Ministry of Interior once again ignored their wishes, but this time the authorities categorized Galia’s religion as “not registered” and wrote in the space for nationality: “Father: Jewish, Mother: Alien.” In other words, Galia was registered with the opposite categorization as her brother. 

Galia Shalit's birth certificate. The author has access to Benyamin Shalit’s personal archive, before it's deposited in Tel Aviv University's Israeli Legal History Archive. Permission of Anne Shalit

Apparently the meaning of each category – religion and nationality –  was ambiguous enough that even government officials were unsure of how to employ them. 

The Shalits made a decision when Galia was born to do whatever would be necessary to register her as they pleased. Benyamin took their petition all the way to Israel’s High Court of Justice, where the Supreme Court President, Shimon Agranat, appointed all nine justices – a hitherto unprecedented occurrence – to hear what became known as “the Shalit case.” 

Why, you may be wondering, have two distinct categories (or any categories at all) in Israel’s population registry, for both religion and nationality? Indeed, before the Supreme Court considered the case, Agranat tried to push the Interior Ministry to simply remove the category of “nationality” from the population registry: he was unsuccessful. 

A popular justification at the time for the two categories was that removing the “nationality” category was a form of symbolic violence towards Zionism, based as it was on the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people. That may have been a galvanizing story, but there was a more prosaic underlying reason. 

The population registry was used like a census to gather statistics on the demography of the state (which in turn was used by the state for less prosaic surveillance and security purposes). To determine the size and nature of the Arab minority, there was the “nationality” category, but this needed further subdivision by religion to capture data on how many citizens were Muslim or Christian.

Back to the Supreme Court. On January 23, 1970, in a narrow 5-4 decision, the court sided with Shalit that the duty of the Ministry of Interior and its registration officers is to register, not to interpret the sincerity of declarations about religion or identity, what the decision called “facts which lie in a man’s heart.”

The majority justices tried to stick to the question of bureaucratic authority, but in a vitriolic dissent, Justice Moshe Zilberg argued that the decision “surpasses in import and significance anything this court has dealt with since becoming an Israeli court.” 

The Supreme Court’s decision created a constitutional crisis and a crisis in the government, when Israel’s chief rabbinate (ostensibly the state’s highest rabbinic authority) responded to the High Court decision by issuing an injunction against registering as Jewish someone known to be non-Jewish according to halakha. 

Jerusalem's Chief Rabbinate building
Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbinate buildingCredit: Lior MIrachi

The chief rabbinate had no legal authority to direct the Ministry of Interior, except that the ministry happened to be held by a member of Knesset from the National Religious Party, who were members of the Labor-led governing coalition. The stage was set for a clash: It was not clear that the ministry would implement the secular law of the state and courts against an authoritative religious decision. 

After intense negotiations, the cabinet agreed to legislate a solution, but the new law would not be implemented retroactively. The compromise reached was that, for the purposes of the population registry, “religion” would be determined according to Jewish religious law, and for Jews, their “nationality” would match their “religion.” Going forward, only if you were defined as being Jewish by religion could you be registered as Jewish in the nationality “category.” 

So Benyamin and Anne’s children Oren and Galia were registered as having no religion, but holding Jewish nationality. Nonetheless, the Shalits’ first two children were bureaucratic unicorns. No one in Israel (including the Shalits’ third child Tomer) would ever be legally registered according to that definition again.

Part of the compromise necessary to pass legislation that would resolve the matter once and for all meant clarifying eligibility for immigration according to the Law of Return, which grants Jews who apply for it automatic Israeli citizenship, a bureaucratic version of the question: who is a Jew.

The result of the political horsetrading meant that the state now had a new statutory definition of the term “Jew,” and it was based on traditional halakha: “A person who was born of a Jewish mother or has been converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion.” This definition, made as an amendment to the Law of Return and added to the Population Registry Law, would apply equally to the categories of “religion” and “nationality.” 

Yet the state adopting an Orthodox religious definition of who is a Jew wasn’t the end of the issue. To avoid discriminating against mixed families, and those who as Jews but don’t meet the criteria of halakha, that definition was set aside to determine who could immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return.

The right to immigrate and become an Israeli citizen was extended to anyone with one Jewish grandparent and all members of an individual who met that criteria’s family, even if they were not themselves Jewish, with the lone exception of Jews who had voluntarily converted out of Judaism. 

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands with new Russian immigrants on their flight from Russia to Israel
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands with new Russian immigrants on their flight from Russia to Israel Credit: OHAYON AVI / Government Press Office

That last point was actually more exclusionary than the strictures of halakha. Jewish law doesn’t recognize any “exit” from being Jewish, but the clause in the Law of Return reflected the prevailing Israeli Jewish taboo against out-conversion (an earlier court decision, the Brother Daniel case, denied citizenship by the Law of Return to a Jewish convert to Catholicism). 

The expanded (non-halakhic) qualification for citizenship, made to preserve as broad a pool as possible of potential Jewish migrants and their families, enraged ultra-Orthodox parliamentarians who wanted only Jews they regarded as “authentic” to get automatic citizenship and had long sought (and still seek) to delegitimize other forms of Judaism and Jewish identity.

One member of Knesset from the Agudat Yisrael Party, Menachem Porush, stood at the Knesset podium and dramatically hurled a prayer book on to the floor – a Reform prayer book, which to him, like the new law, signified the betrayal of “Torah-true” definitions of Jewish identity and legitimized intermarriage and assimilation.

Given the controversy of the Shalits’ battle, it’s easy to forget that the official definitions of Oren and Galia’s religion and nationality were, until the government’s intervention, of no legal consequence. No matter what their registration, they would be Israeli citizens and enjoy all of the benefits of Israeli citizenship. 

But, like hundreds of thousands of other Israelis, they would be treated by the rabbinate as non-Jews, and thus be unable to marry within Israel because of the absence of civil marriage and the rabbinate’s exclusive control over Jewish weddings. 

Members of the Falashmura community arrive in Israel from Ethiopia, Ben-Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv, February 4, 2019.
Members of the Falashmura community arrive in Israel from Ethiopia, Ben-Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv, February 4, 2019. Credit: \ Moti Milrod

Other critics of Benyamin Shalit, those who attacked Shalit from a nationalist perspective, claimed that his quest threatened to undermine the very meaning of what it meant to be a Jew – but from the national, not halakhic, point of view – and that his case presented an existential threat to the unity of global Jewry. According to this argument, seeing religion and nationality as something that can be conveniently separated was the domain – and error – of assimilationist Jews, be they in the diaspora or Israel.

According to Anne Shalit, Benyamin’s concern was with the principles of freedom of conscience and freedom from religion, and the Shalits’ many supporters considered the case clear validation of their concern with the problematic power wielded by Israel’s Jewish religious establishment over the state and civil society. 

In a strange way, because there were no practical legal consequences to the case – it was about a population registry alone – both sides could attribute enormous significance to what the decision meant about the nature of the state. 

If the significance of the Shalit case was symbolic more than practical, the same cannot be said for the legislative amendments that followed it.

Between 1948 and 1970, Israel had operated with no legal definition of who is a Jew, despite that question’s significance for issues of immigration and citizenship. After 1970, Israel restrictively defined Jews according to religious criteria, while simultaneously and dramatically expanding the potential pool for of immigrants and citizens, changes which ultimately reshaped the state’s demographic composition in unexpected ways. 

Today, two out of three of Benyamin and Anne’s children live in Sweden, where they happily define themselves however they want, while Israel’s chief rabbinate has little idea that the “many, many goyim” who have come to Israel since the end of the Soviet Union did so as a result of its own intervention in the law of the state 50 years ago. 

In some ways the Shalit case is a perfect demonstration of the law of unintended consequences. Benyamin Shalit wanted freedom of conscience and to disentangle religion from the state; he ended up changing the demographic composition of the state itself. 

Similarly, those who now seek to change the Law of Return to make it more restrictive may well create their own unintended reaction: the political impetus to break the rabbinate’s monopoly over Jewish personal status in Israel. 

When religious politicians and some right-wing allies push to modify the “one grandparent rule” as qualification for Israeli citizenship, secular politicians from left to right with a more expansionist view of Jewish identity are likely to ask in return for the state’s recognition of non-Orthodox Jewish personal status, conversions, weddings, religious courts, and even burial in state military cemeteries.

If pushing to limit the Law of Return to Jews ultimately resulted in a more pluralistic legal definition of who is a Jew, Israelis will, ironically, have the rabbinate – and Benyamin and Anne Shalit – to thank.

Simon J. Rabinovitch teaches history at Northeastern University. He is currently completing a book for Yale University Press entitled “Religious Freedom and the Jews: Collective Rights in Modern States.” Twitter: @sjrabinov

As taken from, Is ‘Jewish’ a nationality or religion? Inside Israel’s fierce, bitter debate about identity – Israel News –

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Posted by on January 25, 2021 in Uncategorized


Hombre y Mujer: Una Visión Judía Acerca de la Diferencia de Géneros

Hombre y Mujer: Una Visión Judía Acerca de la Diferencia de Géneros

por Rebetzin Tziporah Heller

El hecho que el primer ser humano fue creado como un ser andrógino nos deja mucho para aprender sobre la relación Hombre-Mujer.

Para tener una idea clara del rol de la mujer en el judaísmo, tenemos que ir al principio, a la Torá.

En el primer capítulo de génesis, la Torá se refiere a Adán en plural:

“Dios creó al hombre a su imagen; a su imagen Dios lo creó, hombre y mujer los creó. Y Dios los bendijo” (Génesis 1:27,28)

¿Por qué la Torá dice ” los” creó? ¡Esto fue antes de la creación de Eva!

La tradición oral judía nos provee una fascinante explicación a esta irregularidad gramatical. La primera persona era verdaderamente un ser andrógino, era hombre y mujer en un solo cuerpo, sofisticado y autosuficiente.

Pero si Dios había creado un ser humano tan completo, entonces ¿por qué luego los separo en dos, Adán y Eva?

Una de las respuestas dadas, es que Dios no quería que este primer hombre estuviera solo, ya que esto iba a crear en él, una sensación de autosuficiencia. Podemos notar que en el hebreo clásico, no existe una palabra para referirse a “independencia”. (La que usamos ahora, atzmaut, es del hebreo moderno). El concepto de independencia no existe en la tradición judía. Aparte de Dios, nada ni nadie es realmente independiente. Ya que debemos enraizar en nuestro corazón que Dios es la fuente de todo, la autosuficiencia sería una derrota espiritual.

El ser humano no está destinado a estar solo, ya que no tendría con quien crecer, ni nada por lo cual esforzarse.

Dios quería crear al ser humano en dos seres distintos, para así crear una sana relación de dependencia, anhelo y entrega mutua. El ser humano no está destinado a estar solo, ya que no tendría a quien darle, no tendría con quien crecer, ni nada por lo cual esforzarse.

¿Por qué no los Creó Mellizos Idénticos?

Pero, ¿por qué entonces Dios no creó dos seres idénticos? La respuesta es, que para poder aumentar la acción de dar al prójimo, el receptor debe ser distinto al dador. Si los dos fueran idénticos, el darle al otro puede ocurrir, pero limitadamente. La persona daría, basado en sus propias necesidades, ya que el receptor tendría las mismas necesidades que el dador. Para ser verdaderamente un dador, la persona tiene que tener en cuenta lo que el receptor necesita y no lo que él quiere dar. Al darle a otro, que tiene necesidades diferentes, la persona aprende a pensar y a dar en términos que no son los suyos propios.

Entonces vemos, que la separación tenía que expresarse en dos seres distintos, para así nosotros llegar a apreciar, amar, dar y preocuparnos por personas distintas.

Esto es fundamental para todo crecimiento moral y espiritual. También podemos entender, porque Dios no creó dos seres desde el comienzo: al comenzar como uno, podemos saber, y sentir, que nuestra pareja es nuestro verdadero complemento y que la necesitamos con sus diferencias así como ella nos necesita con las nuestras.

Diferencia entre los Géneros

La Torá es el camino hacia el crecimiento espiritual. Hemos visto que para poder crecer, una persona no puede estar sola. Por lo tanto, dos seres fueron creados. Para aumentar el crecimiento, los seres necesitan ser distintos, y por ello el hombre y la mujer fueron creados como seres distintos. ¿Pero cuáles son estas diferencias?

En los textos que hablan de la creación, en el libro de Génesis, la forma en que Dios separa al hombre y la mujer nos da una idea acerca de la diferencia entre los dos géneros, el masculino y el femenino. Brevemente discutiremos acerca de las poderosas diferencias. Nótese, que las diferencias masculinas-femeninas que vamos a analizar, no aplican exactamente de la misma manera a cada hombre y mujer, ya que todos fuimos creados como seres únicos. Sin embargo, lo que la Torá describe se aplica a todas las personas en algún grado.

Adán no fue dividido en dos; sino que Eva fue creada de un órgano interno: su costilla.

Es interesante notar, que Adán no fue dividido en dos; sino que Eva fue creada de un órgano interno: su costilla. Al mencionar la costilla, la Torá nos enseña un principio para entender la naturaleza de la fuerza masculina y de la fuerza femenina, a saber, que la manifestación y fuerza femenina es más interna, mientras que el enfoque y expresión masculina es más externa.

La naturaleza interna femenina, puede ser observada en la enorme importancia que tienen las relaciones (que por definición son personales y privadas) para la mujer. La psicología moderna confirma esta diferencia. El best seller, “Los Hombres son de Marte y las Mujeres son de Venus” por el Dr. John Gray, extiende esta idea y dice que las mujeres están más orientadas a basarse en las relaciones que los hombres.

El énfasis en lo interno tiene muchas consecuencias prácticas. Mientras que la mayoría de los preceptos del judaísmo se aplican por igual al hombre y a la mujer, incluyendo las ideas centrales de celebrar el Shabat y comer casher, no todos los mandamientos se aplican de la misma manera. El sistema de la Torá para lograr el desarrollo espiritual y la felicidad, se aplica de manera diferente en los dos sexos.

Por ejemplo, las mujeres al ser su naturaleza más interna, y ser más reservadas, generalmente encuentran su conexión directa con Dios a través de los rezos personales. Por eso, el judaísmo las anima a expresar su conexión a través de los rezos diarios individuales, aunque obviamente, que de así preferirlo, pueden rezar en la sinagoga. Los hombres son más externos (vemos evidencias de esto en el mundo en que vivimos, ya que los hombres están más inclinados a ser parte de un grupo o un equipo). Esto forma parte del espíritu masculino, y explica porque el camino espiritual del hombre esta más relacionado con los rezos públicos.

Razonamiento Interno

La Torá también describe el proceso de la creación de Eva usando la palabra vayiven, “Dios construyó”. Esta palabra comparte la misma raíz en hebreo que la palabra biná, que significa “perspicacia” o entendimiento. Esto sugiere, como dice el Talmud, que las mujeres fueron creadas con una dosis extra de sabiduría yentendimiento.

Biná significa mucho más que “intuición femenina”, significa tener la habilidad de compenetrarse con algo y entenderlo desde su interior, lo que también se conoce como “razonamiento interno”.

Los hombres tienen más de lo que se llama daat, un entendimiento que viene del exterior

Los hombres tienen más de lo que se llama daat, un entendimiento que viene del exterior, un tipo de entendimiento que tiende a estar más conectado a los hechos y figuras.

La sociedad pierde un gran recurso cuando sólo uno de estos dos aspectos es valorado. Así como dos ojos nos permiten ver las cosas con más precisión, el ver las cosas desde la perspectiva masculina y femenina nos da un entendimiento más completo de la vida.

Hay que tener en cuenta que la ciencia moderna apoya este antiguo punto de vista del judaísmo de que la mente de los hombres y de las mujeres funcionan diferente.

Un caso acerca de esto ha sido investigado por Ralph Holloway, Christine de Lacoste-Utamsing, Jeanette McGlone y Doreen Kimura. Esta investigación ha probado más allá de toda duda, que el cerebro del hombre y de la mujer tienen diferencias físicas menores. Por ello, no es sorpresivo que cientistas sociales estén centrándose más y más en la fisiología como fuente de explicación de las diferencias en el comportamiento y el pensar, y así también como factor determinante en las áreas de interés y excelencia.

Igual pero diferente

El género es una cualidad crucial en la identidad de cada persona. El hombre y la mujer son totalmente iguales, pero diferentes – y esa diferencia es positiva. Con sus talentos y naturalezas especiales pueden dar el uno al otro y ayudarse mutuamente a lo largo del camino de la vida.

Ya que los géneros son distintos, sería contraproducente forzarlos a comportarse de manera idéntica

Dios, en Su infinita sabiduría, creó al ser humano en dos géneros distintos para permitirles complementarse y completarse. Cada género debe apreciar y usar su fuerza especial. Ya que los géneros son distintos, sería contraproducente forzarlos a comportarse de manera idéntica, lo que ayuda a un hombre, no necesariamente ayuda a una mujer y viceversa.

El bello poema del Rey Salomón llamado Eshet Jail, “Mujer Virtuosa”, describe toda la gama de roles que una mujer puede llevar a cabo, incluyendo profesora, mujer de negocios, madre, esposa, pero todos ellos como una mujer.

Cuando le preguntan a una mujer a que se dedica, ella generalmente responderá nombrando su profesión. Pero la verdad es que no somos meramente doctoras, ingenieras, secretarias, educadoras. Somos seres humanos tratando de realizar nuestro potencial.

Al darle las herramientas para crecer moral y espiritualmente, mientras que desarrolla sus fuerzas especiales, la Torá libera a la mujer para que sea ella misma con autoestima y alegría, y sin pedir disculpas.

Según tomado de, Hombre y Mujer: Una Visión Judía Acerca de la Diferencia de Géneros (

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Posted by on January 24, 2021 in Uncategorized


Ética judía: la caridad comienza por casa

por Dr. Asher Meir

Ética judía: la caridad comienza por casa

Pero un “hogar verdadero” es aún mejor.

Pregunta: Mi presupuesto para caridad es relativamente limitado. ¿Puedo entregarlo a miembros necesitados de mi familia?

Respuesta: La respuesta a tu pregunta parece obvia. Siglos antes de que se acuñara en español la expresión “la caridad comienza por casa”, el profeta Isaías (58:7) reprendió al pueblo diciendo: “Es para compartir tu pan con el hambriento y para que traigas a los pobres que rechazaste en tu casa, y para que cuando veas al desnudo, le cubras de ropas y para que no te ocultes de tu propia carne“, lo que alude a tu propia familia. Incluso antes, la Torá nos dice: “Abrirás tu mano a tu hermano, a tu pobre y a tu necesitado en tu tierra” (Deuteronomio 15:11). Una antigua traducción aramea dice explícitamente que “tu hermano” es “tu pariente”.

Por lo tanto, la ley judía dice específicamente que en nuestras decisiones de caridad los miembros de la familia tienen precedencia antes que otros individuos necesitados u otras causas. (1)

Sin embargo, hay otra fuente que parece sugerir lo opuesto. Uno de los diezmos que menciona la Torá está destinado a los pobres. El Talmud nos informa que podemos dar este diezmo a miembros de la familia, pero “la desgracia le sobrevendrá a quien alimenta a su padre con el diezmo de los pobres”. (2)

Los comentaristas explican esta paradoja de forma muy simple. Idealmente, el apoyo a nuestros parientes más cercanos no debe considerarse en absoluto como “caridad”. Tal como no nos mantenemos a nosotros mismos de nuestro presupuesto de caridad, también debemos considerar las necesidades básicas de los miembros pobres de nuestra familia como necesidades básicas que debemos financiar con nuestro presupuesto principal. La caridad es exactamente ese dinero que está más allá de nuestras necesidades y que se deja de lado para ayudar a las necesidades de los demás.

Por lo tanto, la persona que convierte a un padre pobre en un “caso de caridad” en vez de verlo como parte de su propia familia, merece ser condenado. El resultado es que el padre se siente una carga en vez de ser honrado como un miembro de la familia, y al mismo tiempo otros pobres de la comunidad se ven privados de ayuda porque todo se usa para ayudar a los miembros de la familia.

Sin embargo, la realidad es que muchos hogares no tienen dinero adicional para ayudar a parientes pobres y también dar una mano a otros miembros necesitados de la comunidad. En este caso no sólo está permitido, sino que de hecho es adecuado dejar ese dinero para ayudar a los parientes como dinero de caridad. La caridad es un hábito que se debe cultivar e inculcar. La Mishná (3) nos dice que “Todo es acorde con el alcance de nuestros actos”. Maimónides explica que una persona debe esforzarse por hacer muchos buenos actos para desarrollar buenos hábitos. Él escribe que en particular es mejor dar frecuentemente una pequeña suma de caridad antes que dar sólo un gran donativo.

Asimismo, si una persona concluye que no puede dar más caridad ese año porque ayudar a un pariente pobre está afectando su presupuesto, puede perder el hábito de dar caridad. En ese caso, es mejor designar el dinero como caridad, pero al distribuir los fondos dar precedencia a los padres, hijos u otros parientes cercanos.


(1) Shulján Aruj Ioré Deá 240:5, 251:3

(2) Talmud de Babilonia, Kidushín 32a

(3) Mishná Avot 3:15

Según tomado de, Ética judía: la caridad comienza por casa (

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Posted by on January 24, 2021 in Uncategorized


Talmudic Rainbows

by Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

What is the Talmud all about?

This is not an easy question to answer because the Talmud does not fall into any of the literary or religious categories that we are used to. It contains a peculiar world of its own which is sui generis; there is nothing like it in secular or religious literature. Even calling it “literature” is a misnomer.

The first thing that must be emphasized is that the Talmud displays deliberate chaos. It is a highly unusual text, in which no topic is found in its logical place. Everything seems to be mixed together and appears as if it is introduced by “sheer coincidence ”, in a totally unexpected manner. The Talmud roams from one topic to another without any real inner logic, other than that one word gives rise to a whole new idea without warning us that it is coming.

It is like an ocean in which the waves come and go and overpower each other. They appear as gigantic breakers, building huge arguments and destroying them a moment later, before disappearing as if they had never been.

Really anything gets discussed and analyzed, sometimes in highly peculiar ways, even topics the student would never have thought of. Matters are discussed from every possible angle, sometimes with a surprising degree of imagination, psychological color, and even musical overtones. It reminds me of the beauty of classical music or jazz. The text makes something of issues that look farfetched, suddenly turning them into matters of the greatest importance.

We find a long debate about damages, that borders on being tedious for those who do not have an analytical legal mind. And then a moment later, we learn how a woman is able to seduce her husband in the bedroom. Then a bit later, we are instructed in the need to pray with great intention. The motif here is clear: the Talmud is emphasizing that the experience of sexual intercourse has a lot to do with prayer and with a legal debate about finances, weaving them together in the most original—even humorous—ways.

All this is accompanied by Aggadic, meta-halachic, material, peppered with prophetic stories, highly unusual fables, philosophical insights, subconscious revelations, ethical advice, and harsh or subtle critique among the sages about one another’s competence.

It is an eruption, a thunderstorm, of limitless knowledge, feelings, and intellectual debate. Even if nobody else would ever imagine or think about a topic , you can be sure the sages did so! The famous cellist Pablo Casals once said that music is a “succession of rainbows” (Casals and the Art of Interpretation, David Blum, 1977). This is also true of the Talmud.

But in truth the Talmud is even more. It is all an enormous symphony which not even Johan Sebastian Bach, George Gershwin, or Arik Einstein could beat!

At loggerheads

The Talmud is a basically an authoritative body of Jewish law and lore accumulated over a period of seven centuries (200 BCE-500 CE). It consists mainly of endless discussions and observations which took place in Israel and Babylonia (There are two Talmuds: the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud). The Babylonian Talmud, for years the more authoritative, was probably composed and edited by the great sage Rav Ashi around the year 500. It includes long discussions between about 400 outstanding sages who, for the most part, do not agree on nearly anything. It consists of two and a half million words and nearly 5,900 double-sided pages.

Many of the sages who are at loggerheads with each other, never actually met, as they lived in different centuries; they were deliberately set up against each other by a final editor. Most of the time these arguments were oral discussions, which were later written down, edited, and blended with other arguments with the intention “to have one’s cake and eat it” after all.

All this is written in its own language, mostly Aramaic and old Hebrew, in which most of the words are missing, a kind of telegram style, leaving it up to the student to use her/his imagination and creativity to fill in the gaps. There are no commas or periods, and it is not always clear where one sentence ends and a new one begins. It gives the impression of a maze, where one has great difficulty even finding the exit!

The outsider may have trouble making heads or tails of the Talmud. And then suddenly one gets the hang of it and realizes that all this chaos flows together into an unbelievable picture with hundreds of colors which harmoniously come together. That moment is a marvelous eye-opener and a great joy for the intellect and the human soul.

Greek thinking and Talmudic logic

The Talmud is entirely different from Greek thinking, in which everything has to follow by way of a methodological, often carefully thought-out process, which everything needs to fit into, often without yielding to emotions or feelings.

Still the Talmud has a logic of its own, even a sharp and piercing logic, cutting right through its own suggestions. It is constantly at loggerheads with itself. But at the same time it interacts with the inner emotional and subconscious struggle of human life.

In other words, the Talmud’s legal discussions constantly “network” with the world of Aggadah. In fact only a third of the (Babylonian) Talmud relates to Halacha, while almost two-thirds consists of midrash and Aggadah. This is crucial, as it offers a worldview that is of the greatest importance to a post Corona world.

As taken from, Thought to Ponder: The Upcoming Post Corona Crisis – Part 6: Talmudic Rainbows (

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Posted by on January 21, 2021 in Uncategorized


A Israel no se le perdona ni la mejor campaña de vacunación contra el covid-19

por Richard Kemp

Los medios de ambos lados del Atlántico tuvieron que hacer contorsiones de todo tipo y desfigurar la realidad para arremeter contra Israel por el notable éxito que está cosechando con su campaña de vacunación contra el coronavirus. En la imagen (Jack Guez/AFP, vía Getty Images), una trabajadora sanitaria conversa con una mujer árabe israelí antes de suministrarle la vacuna contra el covid-19 en un centro de Clalit en la localidad árabe israelí de Um al Fahm el pasado día 4.

El prejuicio contra el Estado judío es tan intenso en los medios occidentales que acciones loables que garantizarían titulares si las realizara cualquier otro país son con frecuencia ignoradas, infravaloradas o denigradas cuando las hace Israel.

Cuando se produce un desastre en cualquier parte del mundo, Israel suele ser de los primeros países –o directamente el primero– en brindar asistencia y enviar personal especializado. Por ejemplo, el mes pasado las Fuerzas de Defensa de Israel (FDI) enviaron un equipo a Honduras tras el devastador paso de los huracanes Eta e Iota, que dejaron a miles de personas sin hogar. En los últimos 15 años, las IDF han enviado misiones de asistencia a Albania, Brasil, México, Nepal, Filipinas, Ghana, Bulgaria, Turquía, Japón, Colombia, Haití, Kenia, EEUU, Sri Lanka y Egipto, y previamente a muchos otros países. Entre 2016 y 2018, con la operación Buen Vecino, las FDI montaron hospitales de campaña en la frontera con Siria para atender a víctimas civiles de la violencia en ese país y enviaron suministros vitales directamente a la propia Siria –que se encuentra oficialmente en guerra con Israel– para aliviar el sufrimiento de la gente.

Fuera de Israel, de las comunidades judías repartidas por todo el mundo y de los lugares que se han beneficiado del socorro de las FDI, pocos tienen la menor idea de todo esto por el desinterés de los medios. En algunos casos, cuando se informa de los países que aportan ayuda ante un desastre se excluye a Israel a pesar de que se sabe que las FDI han desempeñado un rol importante.

El mismo tratamiento reciben otros grandes beneficios que Israel ha aportado al mundo, por ejemplo en los ámbitos de la innovación científica, la tecnología médica y la información vital de inteligencia. Informar sobre el Estado judío de manera positiva va contra la agenda editorial de los medios; a menos que se pueda retorcer la historia hasta convertirla en una mala noticia.

Eso es justo lo que sucedió la semana pasada con los medios de ambos lados del Atlántico que tuvieron que hacer contorsiones de todo tipo y desfigurar la realidad para arremeter contra Israel por el notable éxito que está cosechando con su campaña de vacunación contra el coronavirus. En el Reino Unido, el Guardian dijo:

“En la segunda semana de su campaña de vacunación, Israel está administrando ya más de 150.000 inyecciones diarias, lo que totaliza más de un millón de primeras dosis para sus 9 millones de ciudadanos, tasa superior a la de cualquier otro [país].”

Con el mundo entero tan pendiente del coronavirus, periódicos como el Guardian difícilmente pueden evitarse informar sobre ese logro israelí, por mucho que lo deseen. Pero siempre pueden cargar las tintas en los titulares: “Los palestinos, excluidos de la campaña de vacunación israelí contra el covid mientras las inyecciones llegan a los colonos”.

Acusando a Israel de racismo por ignorar a los árabes palestinos, el Guardian consignó: «Los palestinos de la Margen Occidental, ocupada por Israel, y Gaza sólo pueden mirar y esperar”. Al otro lado del Atlántico, la Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) engalanó su artículo sobre el éxito israelí con este titular: “Mientras Israel lleva adelante su campaña de vacunación contra el covid-19, a los palestinos se les deja a la espera”. El Washington Post exhibió sentimientos igual de perversos con el titular “Israel empieza a vacunar, pero los palestinos tendrán que esperar meses”.

Como era de prever, la Oficina de la ONU para la Coordinación de Asuntos Humanitarios también se subió al cochambroso carro y publicó en su web una declaración conjunta con varias organizaciones pro derechos humanos en la que se esgrimían las mismas críticas y se denunciaba mendazmente la comisión de violaciones de la legalidad internacional. Ken Roth, director ejecutivo de Human Rights Watch –cuyo fundador, el difunto Robert L. Bernstein, la abandonó precisamente por su sesgo antiisraelí–, aludió en un tuit al “trato discriminatorio de Israel hacia los palestinos”; y clamó en otro: “[Israel] no ha vacunado a un solo palestino”.

Amnistía Internacional no quiso quedarse al margen de la andanada de ataques infundados contra Israel y también le acusó de contravenir la legalidad internacional por no vacunar a los árabes palestinos.

Como sucede con la mayoría de las informaciones relacionadas con Israel de los medios de referencia y con la propaganda emitida constantemente por organizaciones que se proclaman defensoras de los derechos humanos, esas infamias son completamente falsas. Los árabes palestinos que viven en Judea y Samaria, o Margen Occidental, y Gaza no son siquiera ciudadanos israelíes ni han sido asignados a proveedores israelíes de atención sanitaria.

Según los Acuerdos de Oslo firmados por Israel y los palestinos en los años 90, que dieron pie a la creación de la Autoridad Palestina (AP), esta y no Israel es la responsable de la atención sanitaria a los palestinos, que comprende el suministro de vacunas. Cerca de 150 Estados miembros de la ONU reconocen a “Palestina” como Estado, pero esos medios y entidades relacionadas con los derechos humanos no pueden dejar de desplegar su deplorable tendenciosidad.

La AP tiene sus propios planes de vacunación, en coordinación con la alianza Covax de la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS), de los que de hecho se ha informado en los mismos medios que pretenden basurear a Israel.

Cuando Israel preparaba su programa de vacunación y se aprovisionaba de vacunas, la AP rompió relaciones con el Estado judío. Desde que los contactos se restablecieron, ni la AP ni el régimen terrorista de Hamás en Gaza han solicitado ayuda a Israel para la vacunación, porque evidentemente prefieren atenerse a sus propios planes. No obstante, tan tarde como el pasado día 5 un oficial de la AP dijo que Ramala está ya explorando con Israel la posibilidad de que le suministre algunas vacunas, algo que están tomando en consideración las autoridades de Jerusalén.

Hay informaciones que apuntan a que de hecho Israel ya habría mandado dosis en secreto a la AP, a raíz de una serie de contactos no oficiales. La razón de estos contactos entre bambalinas es la vergüenza que le da a la AP pedir públicamente ayuda a Israel, al que demoniza cada vez que se le presenta la oportunidad. Nada de esto saben o reportan los medios: no encaja en sus agendas.

La idea avanzada en ciertos medios y en el ámbito de las organizaciones de DDHH de que se podría permitir a Israel vacunar a los habitantes de Gaza, cuyos gobernantes lanzaron y lanzan cohetes contra territorio israelí, es irrisoria. ¿Qué están haciendo esos analistas y sedicentes organizaciones pro DDHH para persuadir a la comunidad internacional de que ayude a los gazatíes?

Frente a las acusaciones de racismo y de practicar el apartheid, Israel no ha dejado de vacunar a sus ciudadanos árabes en ningún momento. Dada la reluctancia de algunos de ellos, el Gobierno israelí, junto con los líderes de la propia comunidad árabe, se han volcado en convencerlos, y a tal efecto hace unos días el primer ministro Netanyahu visitó dos localidades árabes.

El periodista del Jerusalem Post Seth Frantzman confirmó personalmente que los árabes del este de Jerusalén estaban siendo vacunados. Para Ken Roth, esa gente es ciudadana de Palestina, lo que deja a los pies de los caballos su propio aserto de que Israel “no ha vacunado a un solo palestino”.

Según Frantzman, hay individuos que no tienen la ciudadanía israelí que están acudiendo a los centros de vacunación y siendo vacunados en ellos. Así, cita el caso de un palestino de Judea que fue vacunado por las autoridades israelíes pese a no tener tarjeta sanitaria israelí, lo que demostraría que “las autoridades sanitarias israelíes están haciendo lo que pueden por vacunar al mayor núimero de gente posible, con independencia de que sean árabes o judíos”.

Como podría esperar cualquiera que conozca Israel aunque sea un poco, su Gobierno hará cualquier cosa que razonablemente pueda para ayudar a los palestinos de Judea, Samaria y Gaza en su lucha contra el coronavirus.

Pese a las habituales acusaciones en su contra, las IDF informan de que han aceptado y facilitado todas las peticiones de asistencia médica procedentes de Gaza, con el suministro de ventiladores, generadores de oxígeno o equipos para la realización de test. Esto casa con su historial de hacer todo lo posible por coordinar la ayuda humanitaria para los gazatíes incluso en momentos de conflicto intenso con los terroristas de la Franja.

El New York Times también apuntó contra Israel, pero desde un ángulo diferente. Aunque consignó las críticas sobre su “fracaso” a la hora de vacunar a los palestinos, no se centró en eso sino en que el éxito israelí estaba motivado por el deseo del primer ministro Netanyahu de “potenciar su maltrecha imagen”. De una forma u otra, los periodistas están determinados a no arrojar una luz positiva sobre los logros israelíes.

El mismo enfoque es observable en lo relacionado con los Acuerdos de Abraham, hito histórico en la hasta entonces elusiva paz entre Israel y los árabes. Con frecuencia han sido despachados con despiadado cinismo por los medios y por veteranos de los procesos de paz, cuyas prescripciones han fracasado repetidas veces. Lo mismo han hecho numerosos líderes europeos. Su rechazo de décadas al Estado judío ha fungido como un deseo interesado de alinearse con un mundo árabe vehemente opuesto a la existencia de Israel.

Lord David Trimble, ex primer ministro de Irlanda del Norte y Premio Nobel de la Paz, propuso el pasado noviembre para tal galardón al primer ministro israelí, Benjamín Netanyahu, así como a Mohamed ben Zayed al Nahyan, príncipe heredero de Abu Dabi. Lord Trimble reconoció que Netanyau es el gran artífice de los Acuerdos de Abraham, cuyos orígenes se remontan al discurso del mandatario israelí ante una sesión conjunta del Congreso de EEUU en 2015, en el que hizo un alegato contra las ambiciones nucleares de Irán. Los líderes árabes tomaron nota y empezaron a comprender que tienen una causa común con el Estado de Israel, lo que podría conducir a un futuro más brillante que otro presidido por una animadversión innecesaria.

En las últimas décadas no ha habido una mayor apuesta por la paz en ninguna otra parte del mundo. A ver si dan el Nobel a Netanyahu en octubre. Si no, se deberá a ese desdén del NYT y de tantos otros en la autoproclamada inteligencia occidental hacia este primer ministro que, aun controversial dentro y fuera de Israel, encarna ese espíritu israelí que parecen empeñados en denigrar a como dé lugar, incluso ante logros monumentales como los Acuerdos de Abraham y el mejor programa de vacunación del mundo.

Según tomado de, A Israel no se le perdona ni la mejor campaña de vacunación contra el covid-19 (

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Posted by on January 21, 2021 in Uncategorized


Havdalah: Transition, Separation, and Memory

Jewish congregants practicing the candle lighting ritual of Havdallah

The beautiful ritual of Havdalah is thethe ceremony marking the end of Shabbat. According to Jewish tradition, the Havdalah service may be recited through the following Tuesday. Nevertheless, Havdalah is most often observed on Saturday evening, marking the end of the day of rest.

Havdalah is a Hebrew word meaning “division” or “separation” and is the name of this ritual that formally ends Shabbat, “separating” it from the beginning of the new week. Havdalah is a short, participatory service infused with music, symbols, and meaning. The basis for Havdalah comes from the fourth of the Ten Commandments: “Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it” (Exodus 20:8). The Rabbis decided that “remembering” Shabbat required “sanctifying it” at both its beginning (Kiddush) and its end (Havdalah). 

This service has become popular at synagogues, summer camps, retreats, and at home. As the sun sets and stars become visible in the night sky, groups gather in circles to share in this ritual together. Jewish communities around the world and across denominations use a melody for the Havdalah blessing composed by Debbie Friedman(z”l) often using guitar and other instruments to enrich the experience.

Traditionally, the Havdalah ritual has five parts, each highlighting different symbols and senses:

  1. The service begins with an introductory Hebrew paragraph comprised of quotations from biblical verses.
  2. The central element of the service consists of four blessings. The first is a blessing over a cup of wine: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, borei p’ri hagafen. “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.”
  3. Next, a blessing over fragrant spices in a special spice box: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, borei minei v’samim. “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, Creator of many kinds of spices.”
  4. This is followed by a blessing over light, using a special braided Havdalah candle with two or more wicks: “Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, Creator of the lights of the fire.”
  5. A final blessing that distinguishes Shabbat from the rest of the days of the week: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, hamavdil bein kodesh l’chol ben or l’choshech bein Yisrael laamim bein yom hash’vi-i l’sheishet y’mei hamaaseh. Baruch atah Adonai hamavdil bein kodesh l’chol. “Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, who makes a distinction between the holy and the secular, between light and darkness, between Israel and the other nations, between the seventh day and the six working days. Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, who makes a distinction between the holy and the secular.” 

In many families and communities, the Havdalah service concludes with a song, such as “Eliyahu HaNavi” (Elijah the Prophet), “Shavua Tov,” or both. We can think of Shabbat as “a foretaste of the World-to-Come, [so] we are sad at its departure. Yet we mix our sadness with a declaration of our faith in the coming of the ‘never-ending Shabbat,’” by reciting these future-looking, hopeful songs.

There are many layers of deeper meaning of the Havdalah blessings and symbols. In some communities, a different person holds each symbol, lifting it up or passing it around during its blessing. Each symbol relates to our senses: wine is for taste; the spices are for smell; the candle is for sight; the blessings are spoken, sung, and heard. We use our sense of touch when we pass around these ritual objects, tangible reminders of separation, and when we join hands or link arms as a community.

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish teaches in the Talmud (Beitzah 16a) that we each receive an additional soul, a neshama yetera, on Shabbat, which will sadly depart at the end of this sacred day.The spices have come to symbolize this additional soul. Although we are saddened when this soul leaves as Shabbat draws to a close, we retain the memory of Shabbat when we smell this fragrance.

All of these Havdalah rituals allow us to remember the blessings of the week that is ending, particularly the holiness of Shabbat. Havdalah enables us to ceremonially transition into a new week, full of potential and blessings.

As taken from, Havdalah: Transition, Separation, and Memory | Reform Judaism

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Posted by on January 21, 2021 in Uncategorized


What Is the Secret of Chabad?

Gershom Scholem studying Zohar in a sukkah, Israel, 1925.
Professor Gershom Scholem offers a theory

Gershom Scholem studying Zohar in a sukkah, Israel, 1925.

Here’s a story that probably nobody knows. I heard it firsthand from one of the two people involved, both of whom have since passed away.

Gershom Scholem (1897–1982) was the famed professor of Jewish Mysticism at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Despite his broad knowledge of Kabbalah, he was not a particularly Torah-observant man. He studied Judaism as an academic pursuit, not a way of life.

Sometime during the 1970s, Professor Scholem was visited by his Australian nephew, David Scholem. A few years ago, David shared with me the details of their conversation.

David had recently become religious, a move that surprised some members of his family. The Scholems were known for embracing Marxism, Enlightenment, Assimilationism and other secular Germanic philosophies. In fact, Gershom himself, with his ardent Zionism and love of Jewish texts, was somewhat of a black sheep in that mix. But he certainly was not a black hat. And here was his brother’s son, yarmulke proudly perched on his head and tzitzit dangling for all to see. How could it be?

Professor Scholem was curious to know what turned an educated young man towards tradition.

David’s answer was straightforward: “I discovered the Book of Tanya. I found Chabad.”

No further explanation was necessary. David was one of thousands of Jews the world over who rediscovered their Judaism after being touched by Chabad, the Chassidic school of Judaism that teaches joyous spirituality, unconditional love, and passionate devotion to the Torah. Anyone who studies Tanya, the masterpiece of Chabad philosophy, will find it hard not to be taken by its profound soulful message. David certainly was.

This intrigued the professor. He was familiar with Chabad’s mysticism, but he marveled at Chabad’s dynamism.

The professor asked his nephew, “What is Chabad’s secret?”

David thought for a moment, and replied, “They have a general.”

Ah. The Rebbe. This must be what sets Chabad apart from all other movements. They have a general, a spiritual leader, a visionary. The Rebbe is Chabad’s secret.

The Professor sat up in his chair. Then he gave a piercing look and corrected his nephew, “No. It’s not that they have a general. It’s that he has an army.”

He was referring to the shluchim – the Rebbe’s emissaries, men and women whom the Rebbe sent to every corner of the world to revive Jewish souls and help them reconnect to their source. The Rebbe is indeed the visionary, but a visionary needs people to give life to the vision. They, said the professor, are Chabad’s secret.

By Aron Moss

As taken from, What Is the Secret of Chabad? – Professor Gershom Scholem offers a theory – Contemporary Voices

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Posted by on January 19, 2021 in Uncategorized


In the First Place

by Adin Even-Israel (Steinsaltz)

Parshat Bo, whose climax is the plague of the firstborn, concludes with a law that is likewise connected to the firstborn: “Consecrate to me every firstborn.”1

The firstborn once possessed a special status: The firstborn in each family received a double share of the inheritance and, as a group, almost became the Priests. Nowadays, not much of this special status remains. The last remnant of it is perhaps the custom that, when there are no Levites present in the synagogue, the firstborn wash the hands of the Priests prior to Birkat Kohanim.

But what is the point of this special status? Are the firstborn more successful? It is a known fact that in the case of animals, this is not so. In fact, scientific literature has shown just the opposite – that the firstborn in many animal species have a much lower survival rate than offspring born to their mothers thereafter. In the case of human beings, however, the matter is not so simple, and in the Torah as well the matter of the firstborn is multifaceted and variegated.

In the Torah’s narratives, only little importance is assigned to the firstborn. Various sources, such as “Reuben, you are my firstborn”2 or “Israel is My son, My firstborn,”3 do seem to indicate preference given to the firstborn, but more prominent in these narratives is the tension between the firstborn and the chosen son. The world’s first firstborn, Cain, does not distinguish himself with noble character traits. (According to one opinion among our sages, humanity today is actually descended from Cain, a possibility that would explain much of our history.) The overwhelming majority of the Torah’s great personalities, with the prominent exception of Abraham, are not firstborn: Isaac, Joseph, Judah, Moses, David, Solomon – the list goes on and is quite impressive.

On the other hand, in the laws of the Torah, clear preference is given to the firstborn. Besides the laws regarding human firstborn, the Torah assigns sanctity to the firstlings of “pure” animals, designating them as korbanot, and to the firstlings of donkeys, instructing us to redeem them or perform arifah, killing them with a blow to the back of the neck. In other areas of Torah law as well, we find mitzvot that reflect an aspect of the firstling or firstborn laws; for example: an omer of the first of the harvest, the first fruits of the soil, terumah (which is called “raishit,” meaning, “first”), the first shearing of the fleece, etc.

In the case of human firstborn, however, there is an unresolved question: How do we redeem the firstborn, and what happens if he is not redeemed? Obviously, he is neither subjected to arifah nor taken by the Priest. The truth is that nothing happens to him. What, then, is the point of the firstborn? What is his role? Why is he given a special status, with a position of greater privilege and sanctity?

“The first fruits of His harvest”

The answer to these questions lies not in the firstborn’s own essential worth but in the special feeling and affection that we have for things that are first. The first fruit is not necessarily the choicest, but our connection to it is the deepest, and it is different from our connection to the fruit that comes after it, even if the first is not always worthy and deserving of this affection.

This can be observed in actual life as well. Everything that a person creates gives him a feeling of amazement, but some of the most powerful feelings are bound up with one’s first creation. When Cain, the first child in the world, is born, Eve proclaims, “I have acquired a man together with God!.”4 The names of her second and third children are given but not explained, and thereafter the Torah suffices with the statement, “and he begot sons and daughters.”5 The first letter that a child writes is not necessarily the most beautiful letter that he will ever write, but it is the first; every letter that follows it will be just another letter. Similarly, the Talmud states, “A woman is [like] an unfinished vessel, and makes a covenant only with [her first husband] who fashions her into a [finished] vessel [when they are first together].”6 The same applies to difficult experiences, such as one’s first encounter with death or other crises.

As we have stated, in all these areas the first creation or the first experience is not necessarily the best or most perfect. Its uniqueness is that we remember it in a special way; it is indelibly engraved in our memories. After all, there cannot be two firstborn children, and even if the first does not turn out to be successful – like Reuben, “exceeding in eminence and exceeding in power”7 – he is still Jacob’s firstborn. Likewise, according to halakha, a firstborn who is a bastard or the son of an unloved wife still receives a double share in the inheritance, even if a different son is legitimate or more beloved.

Herein also lies the superiority of childhood education. At first glance, this superiority appears to be counterintuitive, for children are often immature and easily confused, whereas adults possess a far greater degree of understanding. In reality, however, what is absorbed as a primary experience becomes ingrained in a more fundamental way, while what is learned later in life – even if it is deeper and more nuanced – does not retain the same character of primacy.

This is what our sages mean when they say, “One who learns when young, to what may he be compared? To ink written on fresh paper. But one who learns when old, to what may he be compared? To ink written on paper that has been erased.”8 It could be that what is written on the fresh paper is inaccurate, and what is written afterward is correct; but since the latter is not written on fresh paper, it is much less likely to be retained.

The issue of the firstborn’s uniqueness is not a quantitative question of greater or lesser feeling. Just as it is always possible to find a greater number, there can always be a greater emotion as well. However, it is impossible to find a number that is “more first.” The first possesses a certain quality that is immutable and ineradicable.

The Talmud presents an interpretation that seems almost hasidic:

[The community of Israel] said before [The Holy One, Blessed Be He]: “Master of the Universe, since there is no forgetfulness before the throne of Your glory, perhaps you will not forget the sin of the [Golden] Calf?” He replied: “‘Even these will be forgotten’”.9 She said before Him: “Master of the Universe, since there is forgetfulness before the throne of Your glory, perhaps You will forget [what You said at] Sinai?”10 He replied to her: “‘For11 your sake, I will not forget Anochi’”.12

To be sure, after responding, “We will do and obey,”13 before receiving the Torah at Sinai, the people made the Golden Calf and went on to make all sorts of calves, for themselves and for the entire world. Nevertheless, what they said first – “We will do and obey” – will never be forgotten.

Loss of the beginning

The essence of the firstborn, then, teaches us what a person should do in his life, how he should devote his primary energy and creativity: “I therefore offer to God all male firstborn animals, and shall redeem all the firstborn of my sons.”14 The things to which we have the deepest emotional attachment, which can never be replicated, are the very things that should be given to God. In every matter, one must scrutinize himself as to whether he truly gave “the choicest first fruits of his land” to God.

Traditionally, one of the first things a Jewish child is taught to say is “Shema Yisrael.” But why bother? Does the child understand what the Shema is? He will surely understand it better when he grows up. Nonetheless, we try to arrange it so that his first sentence, the “first fruit,” will be “Shema Yisrael,” for that is what will be ingrained in his personality.

Just as there are first fruits of the soil, there are also first deeds and first dreams. Here as well, people become more sophisticated as they mature, as do their aspirations and dreams. Nevertheless, there is a special significance to one’s first dreams.

However, there is a fundamental problem: A person who is in the stage of a fresh beginning does not always understand the world around him, and by the time he does understand, he often can no longer return to his original state of youthful freshness. In our youth, we do not always know the significance of the things we do, the activities to which we dedicate ourselves. Only after passing this stage do we understand how many things could have been done so much better, but by then it is too late – we cannot go back and correct our mistakes.

Innocence, the moment it is lost, can never be recovered. An infant possesses a freshness that is totally pure, but with time it gradually fades. For youth in general, freshness springs from the very nature of that period of life. With time, though, this fades as well.

One of the interpretations of the verse, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of youth,”15 is that an arrow, the moment it is shot, cannot be called back. All the arrows that we shoot when we are still “children of youth” are like “arrows in the hand of a warrior,” in that they cannot be repeated. To be sure, every day of one’s life is unique and original, and even in old age it is still possible to continue growing; even death itself is a new experience. But new experiences no longer come with the same regularity and succession as in the days of one’s childhood and youth.

Almost any mistake can be rectified, but to reinvent oneself, to become like a new being, is the most difficult rectification of all. Regarding the verse, “For how shall I go up to my father if the youth is not with me?,”16 one explanation is that “the youth” refers to a person’s youthful years, for many people leave these years behind when they ascend to heaven to meet their Creator.

“Give Me the firstborn of your sons”

What should be done with the firstborn, then, is “Give Me the firstborn of your sons;”17 that is, dedicate the first thing to God. Since there is some aspect of renewal each and every day, this dedication can be fulfilled by devoting one’s first thought each day to holy matters.

This is one of the reasons that we recite “Modeh ani” upon awakening in the morning, even before the morning ritual washing of the hands, before uttering any other words. Clearly, not everyone says “Modeh ani” with reverence; generally, it is muttered out of habit, when one is still half asleep. Nevertheless, we persist in saying “Modeh ani,” so that no matter what follows throughout the day, we always dedicate the first moment to God. For this same reason there are many people who take care not to do anything before they pray in the morning. This is also the reason why Rosh HaShana is considered one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar: It begins a new year.

Approaching every undertaking as if it were an entirely new beginning, even if the reality is otherwise, is an extraordinarily difficult spiritual endeavor. Even with the guidance of our extensive teshuva literature, it is still incredibly challenging to become a new being, the likes of which never existed before.

Cain offered to God “of the fruit of the soil,”18 surely consisting of fine, good fruit. In contrast, Abel “also (gam hu) brought of the firstlings of his flock.”19 Abel brought not only “firstlings” but “gam hu” – he brought himself as well. One who succeeds in offering his inner self to God will be able to experience “your youth will be renewed like an eagle,”20 to approach the world through the fresh eyes of a child once again.

1.Ex. 13:2.
2.Gen. 49:3.
3.Ex. 4:22.
4.Gen. 4:1.
6.Sanhedrin 22b.
7.Gen. 49:3, and see Rashi’s explanation there.
8.Avot 4:20.
9.Is. 49:15.
10.Namely, “I (Anochi) am God your Lord” (Ex. 20:2).
11.49:15. This is a play on words; the simple meaning of the verse is “For your sake, I (Anochi) will not forget.”
12.Berakhot 32b.
13.Ex. 24:7.
14.Ex. 13:15.
15.Ps. 127:4.
16.Gen. 44:34.
17.Ex. 22:28.
18.Gen. 4:3.
19.Gen. 4:4
20.Ps. 103:5
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Posted by on January 19, 2021 in Uncategorized


¿Cree el judaísmo en la astrología y los horóscopos?

¿Cree el judaísmo en la astrología y los horóscopos?
¿Hay algún problema en leer el horóscopo en el periódico, sólo por diversión?


¿El judaísmo cree en la astrología? ¿Tiene alguna validez o es una tontería pagana que se infiltró en las enseñanzas judías? ¿Hay algún problema en leer el horóscopo en el periódico, sólo por diversión?

Respuesta del Rabino de Aish

Gracias por tu importante pregunta. La creencia judía es que la astrología es una fuerza real. Es uno de los medios que Dios puso en el mundo para canalizar las fuerzas espirituales hacia el mundo físico (De más está decir que para el judaísmo, no es una fuerza independiente de Dios, ya que no existe tal cosa). Las personas se ven influenciadas por factores tales como el día de la semana en que nacieron y la constelación predominante en el momento de su nacimiento (ver en particular Talmud, Shabat 156a). En cierto grado, el zodíaco también dirige las fuerzas que fluyen hacia la tierra en cada momento y pueden utilizarse —a grandes rasgos— para predecir eventos futuros.

Si bien la ciencia de la astrología prácticamente se ha dejado de lado en la actualidad, las civilizaciones antiguas estaban mucho más familiarizadas con ella.

Ahora bien, aunque es cierto que estas fuerzas existen, la Torá prohíbe tanto el estudio de la astrología como consultar adivinos sobre el futuro. Ver, por ejemplo, Deuteronomio 18:10-12: “No habrá en ti… quien practique adivinación, un astrólogo, alguien que lea augurios o un hechicero… o alguien que consulte a los muertos. Porque es una abominación para Hashem todo el que haga estas cosas, y a causa de estas abominaciones Hashem tu Dios los expulsa [a los canaanitas] de delante de ti” (ver también Levítico 19:26 y Shulján Aruj I.D. 179:1).

Si bien tales prácticas son medios para descubrir potenciales eventos futuros, también son formas oscuras y malvadas de hacerlo a través del uso de fuerzas sobrenaturales prohibidas, en lugar de recurrir a Dios mismo. La Torá dice que en cambio Dios nos enviará profetas para hacernos conocer Su voluntad y lo que nos depara el futuro (v. 15). Más aún, está escrito: “Serás íntegro con Hashem tu Dios” (v. 13). En lugar de intentar adivinar el futuro, confía en que Dios hará que ocurra lo que es bueno para ti. Retorna a Dios y rézale; deja tus preocupaciones por el futuro en Sus manos.

El Talmud (Shabat 156a) declara otro principio: “No hay mazal (una constelación dominante) sobre Israel”. Si bien los astros influyen sobre el mundo, los judíos podemos elevarnos por sobre ellos a través de la plegaria y el mérito personal. El Talmud ilustra esta idea con un incidente que le ocurrió a la hija de Rabí Akiva. Un adivino le informó a Rabí Akiva que su hija moriría por la mordedura de una serpiente en el día de su boda. Pero el día de la boda no ocurrió nada. A la mañana siguiente de la boda, la hija fue a buscar un broche para el cabello que la noche anterior había colocado en una grieta de la pared, y descubrió que había clavado el broche sobre una serpiente, matándola. Su padre le preguntó si sabía por qué había ocurrido eso. Ella explicó que el día anterior, en la boda, cuando todos estaban ocupados, un hombre pobre se presentó en la puerta pidiendo caridad y nadie tuvo tiempo para ayudarlo. Ella le dio su propia porción de comida. Rabí Akiva le dijo: “Hiciste una buena acción” y aplicó a ella el versículo: “La caridad salva de la muerte” (Proverbios 10:2).

Además de todo esto, los sabios entienden que la práctica de la astrología es una ciencia muy inexacta y para nada confiable. El profeta Isaías describe a los adivinos como “chirriantes y quejosos” (8:19). Como dice el Talmud (Sotá 12b): “Ven y no saben lo que ven, dicen y no saben lo que dicen”. Esto lo ilustran con el decreto que dio el Faraón al ordenar que ahogaran a los niños judíos en el Nilo. Sus astrólogos le habían dicho que el salvador de Israel estaba a punto de nacer, y que era vulnerable al agua. Quizás podían ahogarlo apenas nacía. Poco después de que colocaran a Moshé Rabeinu en el agua, los astrólogos dijeron que ya no veían ninguna señal en el cielo y que el decreto había sido anulado. Pero el Talmud explica que los astrólogos del Faraón no entendieron bien lo que vieron. Moshé fue castigado en el desierto, mucho después, con “las aguas de la disputa”, cuando en vez de hablarle a la roca la golpeó para que diera agua (Números 20). Pero las aguas del Nilo no tuvieron ningún efecto sobre Moshé.

Para resumir, el judaísmo cree en las influencias astrológicas, pero se nos ordena no consultarlas. De todos modos, no son muy precisas, particularmente en relación al pueblo judío. En cambio, debemos confiar en que Dios hará lo mejor para nosotros.

Y si bien es muy poco probable que los horóscopos y los adivinos de la actualidad tengan alguna validez, por las dudas no se los debería consultar, ni siquiera por diversión.

Si quieres una explicación más detallada de la perspectiva judía sobre estos temas, puedes leer el libro Fe y desatino, del Rav Yaakov Hilel, un estudio profundo y de fácil lectura sobre este y otros temas relacionados.

Según tomado de, ¿Cree el judaísmo en la astrología y los horóscopos? (

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Posted by on January 19, 2021 in Uncategorized