Posts on the topic of "Torah"
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:
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:
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.
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It 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.
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.
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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:
Another failed attempt by the Arab world to pull itself out of ancient hatreds and into the 21st century.
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Perhaps 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.”
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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.
This 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.