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People of the Facebook?

Aug 10, 2012 at 08:02:25 AM

A few months ago, Israeli President Shimon Peres got some backlash when he launched his own Facebook page under the banner:

"We used to be the people of the Book. Now we're the people of the Facebook."

This cartoon is a good rejoinder:


90,000 Celebrate the Talmud

Aug 2, 2012 at 12:44:53 AM

We hear a lot of talk these days about "Jewish unity" – the lack of it, and the need for more.

Jewish unity was on glorious display last night at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, New Jersey. The place (more commonly used as home to the NFL Giants and Jets) was hosting the "Siyum HaShas," a celebration of the completion of studying the entire Babylonian Talmud, the compendium of Jewish wisdom and law that was written down in the fifth century.

In addition to the 90,000 men, women and children packed into MetLife Stadium, live feeds went out to more than 100 communities around the world, who held their own similar events. In all, it was the largest celebration of Jewish learning in the past 2,000 years.

At 2,711 pages, the Talmud is a grueling yet invigorating exercise in deciphering the terse Aramaic and Hebrew text with no vowels or punctuation. At a schedule of one page per day ("Daf Yomi"), the Talmud takes seven and a half years to complete.

Various learning tools have been developed to make the Talmud more accessible. One popular system, called Gemara Markings, uses geometric lines and shapes to visually highlight what is unfolding on the page, and to break down the flow of the Talmud into precise points. (Using this system enabled me to complete the Talmud cycle.)

Last night, I attended a Siyum HaShas near my home in Israel. The celebrant was a 20-year-old young man who was completing the cycle (yes, he began even before his bar mitzvah). His father and his grandfather studied with him at various points along the way. In today's world, with the "generation gap" so pronounced (it is said that due to technology, every two years is a "new generation"), the sight of three generations inspired and invigorated by the same material – more of a "generation flow" – was a true anomaly.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried of the Dallas Area Torah Association (DATA) makes an interesting observation about how the Siyum concurs with the Olympic Games:

As we know, Olympic medalists achieve their goal through amazing levels of dedication to put in thousands of grueling hours of training, day in and day out without letup for years to get to that special moment. So too, tens of thousands of Jews throughout the world became "Jewish gold-medalists" by completing 7 ½ years of remarkable devotion, commitment and perseverance, day after day, to complete the entire Talmud – becoming Jewish Olympic gold-medalists for us all to be proud of.

There's one more aspect of the Siyum HaShas that really impressed me: Immediately after reading the last page to complete the cycle, the participants immediately began again from the beginning. Judaism says that attaining life wisdom is not an endpoint destination, but rather an ongoing, lifelong process of refining one's sensitivity to the world around us and to the spiritual realms.

Why not give it a try?

Read one Aish rabbi's fascinating first-person account of his journey through the Talmud.

Visitor Comments: 2

(2) Oscar, August 23, 2012 7:45 AM

la guerra civile non deve esserci mai!

In Nome di Cristo Signore ed a Prezioso Sangue del Cristo Dio siano o lascino le armi del "ferro e fuoco" che vuole fare Assad,che attacca con i 22 carrri armati che di fronte ad una guerra in Siria,depone le armi di Fronte alla Beata Vergine Maria,come 2 persone le deposero Arrendendosi!Buongiorno.

(1) Michael Wall, August 2, 2012 4:46 PM

Mazel tov!

How wonderful that we get to share in a joyous affirmation of our faith, our love of and respect for learning, and the power of coming together.


Bibi’s Bible Study

May 30, 2012 at 03:04:24 AM by:

Bibi Netanyahu with a BibleIt is the Jewish people’s most unique national symbol, our constant anchor for 3,300 years, the foundation of Jewish tradition, culture and nationhood itself. It is the Torah.

So imagine my dismay every time an Israeli leader acts in an official capacity with seeming disregard for the Torah’s dictates. How I yearn to see an Israeli prime minister stand before heads of state while donning a kippah – as if to simply say: I am representing the Jewish people.

And imagine my pleasure to hear that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched a weekly Bible study session at his home, joined by a few dozen rabbis, academics, archeologists and linguists.

Netanyahu knows a thing about Bible study. His father and father-in-law were both noted scholars, and in 2010, Netanyahu's 15-year-old son Avner won Israel's National Bible Quiz, beating out 12,000 other students.

At the start of the first Bible study session, Netanyahu said:

“The Bible is the foundation of our existence. It unites the Jewish people, as it has throughout the generations. It also serves not only as a foundation but also as a map and compass. The Bible is always relevant vis-à-vis today's problems and challenges. It inspires, it is a source of life for our people and it is important to expand Bible study and love of the Bible among all parts of the nation."

When it comes to Israeli Prime Ministers showing regard for the Torah, Netanyahu has good precedent in Menachem Begin. During his tenure from 1977-83, Begin held Torah study sessions at his home every Saturday night. At auspicious occasions Begin would remove a kippah from his pocket and recite Psalms, as he did in March 1979 when signing the Camp David peace accords on the White House lawn.

Herb Keinon writes:

A tale is told that one Saturday evening Begin was studying the weekly Torah portion with his group, when a call came in from the White House. U.S. president Jimmy Carter was on the line. Begin is said to have replied that he was in the middle of studying verses from Deuteronomy, and that Carter should call back in a couple of hours.


Apocryphal or not, the story sends a message that certain things are important, like calls from the U.S. president, and other things are even more so.

Visitor Comments: 2

(2) Ifeoma JUDE-ILOMA, December 11, 2012 9:12 PM

A Blesseing To Isreal

Benyamin is really a blessing to the people- Israel. He is a shining example to other world leaders.

(1) Mikoel, May 30, 2012 7:49 PM

What a blessing from G-d to have such leaders in the government. How I wish we have those kinds of leaders in my country.


The Talmud: Now in Arabic

May 28, 2012 at 01:25:47 AM

Look out, Schottenstein. A Jordanian research center has now published the first-ever Arabic translation of the Babylonian Talmud, the classic repository of Jewish wisdom and law.

The project is the brainchild of Jordan's Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Approximately 100 translators and researchers worked for six years to produce the 20-volume Arabic version of Talmud.

The Talmud is written in Aramaic, the common language spoken in Israel and the Jewish Diaspora 1800 years ago.

The new Arabic translation, covering 7,100 pages, retails for $750 a set.

This appears to be a growing trend. In 2009 Egyptian researchers translated Maimonides' magnum opus, Mishneh Torah, entirely into Arabic.

What motivated the Jordanian group to undertake such a mammoth project? Officially, it is "to make the Talmud accessible to the Arab population."

A closer look at the publisher's introduction, however, reveals an ulterior motive:

"These texts confirm the racist and hostile perception toward the non-Jews, especially those who threaten the 'chosen nation' and stand in the way of its ambitions and hopes. There is no doubt that Israel is the best example of this racist position, both in the level of its daily crimes against the Palestinians and the level of its rejection and contempt for international resolutions and laws."

Another failed attempt by the Arab world to pull itself out of ancient hatreds and into the 21st century.

Visitor Comments: 4

(2) Anonymous, May 30, 2012 6:27 PM

what goes round comes around(again)

yet another insideous arab/muslim attempt to turn white into black, good into evil. . When the time to pay for all their misguided attempts at hurting the people of the book, the name of allah and his miscreants will fall into a crack in the earth forever.

(1) Mikoel, May 28, 2012 9:30 AM

G-d is great!!!!

Thanks be to our G-d for this project. Although it was made for the purpose of instilling more hatred against Israel, the TRUTH will always prevail. God has opened another door to speak to the Arab world through these books. What was meant for evil, I am sure God will use for the good and for the glory of His Name.

Ilan, May 28, 2012 6:16 PM

The truth may not prevail

This is a very bad development. I read the Al Jazeera article on it in Arabic and it went on about Jewish supremacism or such nonsense. The Arab world is full of conspiracy theories about the Jews and this will increase it 10-fold. Bad.

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The Bible Strikes Oil

Apr 30, 2012 at 05:47:48 AM by:

Onshore oil fields in IsraelPerhaps you’ve seen the cartoon depicting a biblical character complaining to Moses for having “led us for 40 years in the desert to the one place in the Middle East that has no oil!”

This is no longer the case. Incredibly, Israel is now on the verge of energy independence – due to three recent developments:

  • the discovery of huge deposits – trillions of cubit feet – of natural gas in the Mediterranean sea off the coast of northern Israel, enough to supply all of Israel’s needs into the foreseeable future
  • the discovery of onshore oil fields
  • the near-completion of Better Place’s nationwide electric car infrastructure

Now here’s the really cool part.

Back in 1993, when Tovia Luskin began searching for oil, the prevailing wisdom was still stuck on that biblical cartoon. Luskin, a Russian-born geologist who is very religious, was intrigued by a passage in the Torah stating that Jacob (Israel) will “suck oil out of the flinty rock” (Deut. 32:13).

In the next chapter, Moses blesses the tribes of Menashe and Ephraim with “the best of the ancient mountains, and the sweetness of the eternal hills” (Deut. 33:15).

Using information provided by the medieval commentator Rashi, Luskin saw these verses as hinting to geological structural traps, associated with petroleum reservoirs.

So Luskin did what any smart businessman and believing Jew would do: He surveyed the tribal area allocated to Menashe and performed a geological evaluation. This led him to the spot now known as the Meged field, containing hundreds of millions of barrels of oil.

“It confirmed the story in the Bible,” Luskin told the Times of Israel. “I have worked on oil fields in Australia, Indonesia and Canada, and I have never seen a structure so likely to contain oil as the Meged field.”

Luskin’s plans for the future include building a university in Israel to train engineers in oil and gas exploration and energy management. “If a solution to the energy crisis is to be found, it will be here,” Luskin says, adding that “the world needs the Jewish brain.”

Visitor Comments: 5

(5) David Lambert, April 10, 2014 12:22 AM

Thank You for speaking out, it's your duty

I am an American Veteran, I can tell you with absolute assurance, the veterans at all the VAHospitals and clinics, stand unwavering for Israel's rights regardless of what any USA Secretary of Defense says.

(4) chris, May 8, 2012 1:41 PM

Oil in Israel who would have thought?

I remember Golda Meir making this comment many years ago about no oil in Israel. G-d is true and His Torah is true. "It is the glory of G-d to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings to search out a matter."

(3) Daniel Ratner, May 2, 2012 2:54 AM


I am very happy you have a blog. You articles are usually the basis for my weekly dvar torahs at my shabbas tables. Keep up the great work!

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Wrapping the Reverend in a Torah Scroll

Feb 9, 2012 at 02:07:11 PM

Jews for Judaism (Canada) has posted a video of a notorious missionary, "Messianic Rabbi" Ralph Messer, wrapping mega-church leader Rev. Eddie Long in a Torah scroll. The scroll allegedly came from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Bishop Eddie LongThis video, which is now circulating widely on the Internet, is a shocking illustration of how the so-called "Messianic Jewish" (Jews for Jesus) movement exploits, distorts and violates the most sacred objects and rituals of normative Judaism.

The video also illustrates the scope of acceptance and impact that Messianic Jews are having within the broader Evangelical Christian world. For those who wonder whether there really is a missionary problem, this video shows the very tip of the missionary iceberg.

Rev. Long is currently embroiled in scandal after being accused of sexual misconduct with five young men. This "wrapping in the scroll" is apparently a misguided way of offering him "divine protection."

Here is a link to the YouTube video. But be warned: it is very disturbing.

Visitor Comments: 14

(13) Linda, May 2, 2012 11:18 AM

These people are not real Christians

Please do not judge all Christians by the "STUPIDITY" of people like these phonies. I am a Christian and reverence and totally respect the Jewish Faith. What these phonies did was not in anyway that I am aware of sanctioned by Jews For Jesus or any other Messianic Jews. I am very sorry that these "christians" would do something so offensive.

(12) Marty, February 20, 2012 12:47 AM

Search Beyond the What to Find the Why

While this abomination played on, I too watched and listened. I was numbed by the blatant disrespect and manipulation of our Holy book in its physical form, as well as the many levels of the contents within. Although this display allows us to see what is occurring, it does not, however, divulge why it is happening. This clip, and the many others which can be viewed does not inform us that the goal and agenda of these tricksters is to target Jews and trick them into converting to Christianity. By using deceptive yet familiar Jewish terminology, these vermin convince you to visit a service, similar to the one in the video. Once you are there, you are made to feel more welcome than you ever have in a real synagogue. Not only do they welcome you with open arms, but they create an atmosphere which is nearly identical to a true synagogue experience, down to the rabbi on the bima, all the way to the kiddush and the ha'motzi. The reason for this grand facade is that this is a practice that has become most effective for getting Jews to accept j.c. as their savior and messiah. You see, the Messianic Jews believe that the Messiah (j.c.) will only make his second coming when the Jew accepts that he did indeed die for our sins. In other words, it is the Jew who is preventing the messianic era from being ushered in; it is us Jews who are holding up the show. So, when we view clips of this nature, keep in mind that this is what the Jewish people are up against in an eternal battle for the Jewish soul. Our job now is to find a way to build a stronger Jewish foundation within our children so that they never turn feel the need to seek out false Gods and that when they are exposed to these types of videos that they too become incensed by the way our Torah and its message is distorted and manipulated in such an evil way.

(11) Shmuley, February 14, 2012 11:58 PM


This video... I watched all of it. I made myself. And... oh my goodness. I was absolutely DISGUSTED by it. I cannot believe that they can so thoughtlessly desecrate Judaism. How could those heartless non-believers turn our beautiful religion into some kind of a demented freak show? I am appalled, I am angered, I am just so... all I can say is, yuck. Just UGH. X(

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