Select Section WEEKLY Parasha Parashat Vayeshev Part 1, Language : english,SHIURIM & COMMENTARIES

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Rabbi Riskin on Vayeshev – “Torah Lights” 5774

Weekly Torah Portion: Vayeshev

Have you ever felt utterly and completely alone? Yosef must have. He was separated from his loving father and his brothers wanted to kill him. Ultimately he was thrown in a pit filled with scorpions and snakes and then sold to some passing Ishmaelites, who in turn sold him into slavery. Yet we’re never alone, and if our hearts are turned to G-d, we will identify His fingerprint upon our lives.

Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)
Parashat Vayeshev is read on Shabbat:
Kislev 20, 5774/November 23, 2013

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YouParsha – Vayeshev 5774

Weekly YouParsha show read by Rabbi Herschel Finman ( YouParsha is produced and at the Specs Howard School of Media Arts in Southfield, Michigan (248) 358-9000. YouParsha is made possible in part by a grant from the Paul & Leslie Magy Foundation. Torah, Parsha, Rabbi, Chasidic, Vayeshev 5774

Rabbi Joshua Bittan Vayeshev Sunday Mussar

A Vort for the Road – Vayeshev – A Horrible Mistake – Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Schwartz

Rabbi Joshua Bittan Vayeshev Monday Halakha Pesuka

Parashat Vayeshev – How Yosef Stood Up to the War of the Worlds Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein

Life is a Blessing: Spirituality in the Parsha – “Parashat Vayeshev” – Rabbi Yakov Nagen, Otniel

A Chance Meeting?’

Yosef searches for his brothers. At first, he is unsuccessful but ultimately he meets an anonymous passerby who guides him to his fateful encounter with his brothers.

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Rabbi Avraham Gaon Daily Zohar on Parashat Vayeshev Your Effort andTorah Part 2 2012

Rabbi Avraham Gaon Daily Zohar on Parashat Vayeshev: Tzaddikim and Hakadosh Baruch Hu 2012

Parashat Vayeshev : The Transformation of Sin

Rabbi Joel Finkelstein of ASBEE

Parshat Vayeshev & Chanukah (05/12/12)

For more Torah lessons go to:

Rabbi Haber, Shlit’a, Parashat Vayeshev – Why Yosef was so special to Yaakov Avinu 1-23-2013.MPG

Rabbi Haber, Shlit’a, Why Yosef was so special to Yaakov Avinu-Hate, jealousy and murder 1-23-2013

Rabbi Haber shows us that when the Torah tells us in the sentence “These are the generations of Yaakov” in Parashat Vayeshev it means this is the story of “Yosef.” And this story is not only the reason that we became slaves in Mitzrayim, but also it is the reason for the destruction of the 2nd Temple, and is the reason for our ultimate redemption. Yaakov saw in Rachel that he would have a child that would insure the future of the Jewish People. Yosef was “the plan!” Yosef was the image of Yaakov. The story of the life of Yaakov was the same story as the life of Yosef. Yaakov and Yosef were both hated and hunted by his sibling. There are 25 commonalities between the life of Yaakov and Yosef. The jealousy of the sibilings of Yaakov and Yosef was due to the greatness of Yaakov and Yosef.

Parshat Vayeshev – Yosef and Eishet Potiphar – War of the Worlds Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein

Jewish Torah Insights: Short Vort on Parshat Vayeshev
By Rabbi Shimon Isaacson
Short and inspiring vort on Parshat Vayeshev. For more spiritually inspiring Jewish Torah classes visit and sign up for FREE!

Machlis Presents… Parshat Vayeshev (part 1 of 2)

Machlis Presents… Parshat Vayeshev (part 2 of 2)

Parshat Vayeshev Rabbi Shlomo Odze

Rabbi Yehuda Moses – Parshat Vayeshev – The Power Of A Smile

Parshat vayeshev וישב

Parshat vayeshev
Jealousy and victims.
Rabbi Efim Svirsky

Jewish Torah Insights: Short Vort on Parshat Vayeshev
Rabbi Avishai David discusses the ascendancy of Yosef to royalty by virtue of eliminating haughtiness.
For more spiritually inspiring Jewish Torah classes visit and sign up for FREE!

Torah Reading Parshat Vayeshev Rabbi Weisblum קריאת התורה פרשת וישב

Parshat Vayeshev- Rabbi Mayer Friedman

Mamaar Vayeshev # 9  Rabbi Seligson

Abraham_Reiss_The Portion 07 – Vayeshev

Vayeshev  Rabbi Yaakov Glasman

Parshat Vayeshev

Mayanot Moment Parashat Vayeishev – Rabbi Shemtov

Mohorosh Breslov Vayeshev (part 1) yiddish with english subtitles

Mohorosh Breslov Vayeshev (part 2) yiddish  with english subtitles

Shiur Rab David Perets – Parashat Vayesheb 5773

Vayeshev: Rabbi DovBer Pinson

Harav Chitrik message on Parshas Vayeshev- The power of one small gesture

Parshas Vayeishev | I Won’t Back Down

levi chazen vayeishev

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Weekly Parsha

The Torah parsha begins with the simple narrative statement that Yaakov settled and “dwelled in the land of the sojourn of his forefathers, the Land of Canaan.” That last clause in that sentence – the Land of Canaan – seems to be superfluous. We are already well aware from the previous parshiyot of Bereshith that Avraham and Yitzchak dwelt in the Land of Canaan. Since every word and phrase in the Torah demands our attention and study, the commentators to Torah throughout the ages examined this issue and proposed a number of different lessons and insights. I believe that the lessons for our time from these words that open our parsha are eerily relevant. Yaakov is forced to live…

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Kislev 18, 5774 · November 21, 2013
General Overview:
In this week’s reading, Vayeishev, Joseph relates to his brothers his grandiose dreams of greatness, arousing their jealousy. He is consequently sold into slavery to an Egyptian master. After defying his Egyptian master’s wife, Joseph is thrown into jail, where he interprets the dreams of Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker. The story of Judah and Tamar is also related at length.
This Week’s Features Printable Parshah Magazine

By Yossi Ives

Genesis 37:1–40:23

Jacob makes a colored coat for his favorite son, Joseph. Joseph’s brothers are jealous; they sell him to travelling Ishmaelites, and tell Jacob he is dead. Joseph is taken to Egypt, works for Potiphar, and is thrown into jail, where he meets the baker and the butler and interprets their dreams.


Judah, Tamar, and the inner meaning of levirate marriage

Judah, Tamar, and the inner meaning of levirate marriage.

By Yosef Y. Jacobson
By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

It is one of the ironies of life that in order to swing to the greatest height, it is necessary to plunge to the lowest point. Often there’s a “descent” in order to “rise”—a negative situation before the positive.

By Tali Loewenthal

Life Lessons from Parshat Vayeishev

The Torah’s narrative of Joseph provides special insight into our outlook and mission in life.

By Yehoshua B. Gordon
Watch Watch (23:47)

How to Study Torah – Vayeishev

What are the meanings of Joseph’s dreams which angered his brothers and caused the chain of events that ultimately caused the entire Jewish people to go into exile in Egypt?

By Mendel Kaplan
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A Taste of Text—Vayeishev

Anger and self-pity rob us of our serenity. Bitterness and victimization blind us from seeing another’s pain.

By Chana Weisberg
Watch Watch (26:15)

A deeper look at Joseph’s dreams; the lessons that can be learned from them and Jacob’s reaction.

By Moishe New
Download Download   Listen Listen (38:24)

A five minute weekly Torah insight based on the wellsprings of Torah and Chassidut.

By J. Immanuel Schochet
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Kislev 18, 5774 · November 21, 2013
The Desire For Prosperity
Vayeishev; Genesis 37:1–40:23

Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXX, p. 176ff

Does G-d Approve of the Desire of the Righteous?

On the verse,1 “And Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s wandering,” Rashicomments:2

Yaakov desired to dwell in prosperity, but the distress of Yosef’s [disappearance] beset him. The righteous desire to dwell in prosperity, but the Holy One, blessed be He, says: “Is not what is prepared for them in the World to Come enough for the righteous? Must they also desire prosperity in this world?”

Rashi’s statement is problematic, for a casual reading gives the impression that G-d does not approve of the righteous wanting prosperity. On the other hand, the fact that “the righteous” follow this path of conduct indicates that the desire for prosperity is a positive trait and not a character flaw.3

Seeking Internal not External Challenges

This difficulty can be resolved by focusing on the fact that Rashi speaks about a desire for prosperity expressed by the righteous. Why only the righteous? Everyone wants to enjoy an abundance of good without strife, contention, or difficulty.

The desire for prosperity by the righteous, however, is of a different type entirely. To cite a parallel: with regard to the Era of the Redemption, the Rambam writes:

When a person is beset… with sickness, war, and hunger, he cannot occupy himself neither with wisdom nor with mitzvos. For this reason, all Israel and [in particular,] their prophets and sages have desired the Era of the Mashiach.4

The Sages and the prophets did not yearn for the Era of the Mashiach so that [the Jewish people] would rule the world… nor to eat, drink, and celebrate. Rather, their aspiration was to be free [to involve themselves] in the Torah and its wisdom, without anyone oppressing or disturbing them.5

On the surface, such a condition describes the World to Come, where the righteous will “sit… and derive benefit from the radiance of the Divine Presence.”6 It seems unnatural, however, in our present material circumstances.

Nevertheless, a distinction must be made. The World to Come represents G-d’s reward to man just recompense for man’s Divine service. This is a departure from the pattern of our present existence, of which it is said,7 “Today to perform them (themitzvos); tomorrow to receive their reward.”

The righteous, by contrast, are not concerned with reward. On the contrary, to refer to the passage cited above, they long to involve themselves in the Torah and its mitzvos. Their aspiration is only that they be freed from external difficulties. They want to grow in understanding and personal development. Why must they be confronted with challenges from the outside? Let all their efforts be devoted to the internal challenges of spiritual growth.

The Fulfillment of Yaakov’s Desire

In this light, we can understand G-d’s response to Yaakov’s request. G-d wanted Yaakov’s wish for prosperity to be fulfilled as it was indeed fulfilled in the 17 years of prosperity which he enjoyed in Egypt. But such prosperity must be earned by an appropriate measure of Divine service. Since Yaakov in his current state was not worthy to receive such prosperity, G-d subjected him to a further trial through which he could advance himself.8 The sorrow caused by the sale of Yosef initiated a process of refinement by which Yaakov ultimately merited to attain the spiritual and material prosperity he sought.

This concept resolves a problematic point. The name of a Torah reading communicates not merely a significant lesson in itself, but the message and theme of the reading as a whole. Seemingly, the name Vayeishev, which indicates prosperity, is not at all appropriate for this reading, which deals primarily with travail and sorrow.

Based on the above, however, it can be explained that the name is deserved, for it is only this travail which enabled Yaakov to attain true prosperity.

Two Levels of Prosperity

But further clarification is necessary. Yaakov must have known that the spiritual prosperity he desired would be granted only as result of Divine service, and that this would require that he overcome challenges. Nevertheless, he thought it was sufficient for him to have confronted the challenges posed by Esav and Lavan.

Our Sages identify9 Yaakov with the attribute of Truth; thus we can assume his self-appraisal was honest. Since Yaakov saw himself as being worthy of prosperity, why was it necessary for him to undergo a further challenge?

In resolution, it can be explained that there are two levels of prosperity fitting for the righteous:

a) One which can be appreciated by mortals: that a person, his children and his grandchildren should be able to serve G-d without difficulty, free to pursue the spiritual path.

b) One above mortal conception, a foretaste of the World to Come: “you will see your [portion of] the World [to Come] in your lifetime.”10 Just as the nature of the World to Come cannot be comprehended by mortals,11 so too, this foretaste transcends our understanding.

Yaakov asked for a level of prosperity that could be conceived by mortals. G-d granted this to him, and thus for nine years he enjoyed success and happiness in Eretz Yisrael.12 But G-d also wanted Yaakov to appreciate a higher level of prosperity, and therefore subjected him to the trials beginning with the sale of Yosef so that Yaakov would become worthy of this greater Divine favor.13

A Challenge of a Unique Nature

Since the prosperity G-d desired to grant Yaakov was above the limits of worldly existence, the Divine service which made him worthy of it differed from the challenges he had already faced. Yaakov’s confrontations with Lavan and Esav were symbolic of the struggle between good and evil, and man’s efforts to refine and elevate his environment.

The tribulations brought about by the sale of Yosef, by contrast, did not reflect these goals at all. The challenge and the refinement it brought about was strictly internal. It was a trial that seemingly had no purpose, bringing only aggravation and suffering, and initially lowering Yaakov’s spiritual level.14 Nevertheless, this was the process by which G-d chose to lift Yaakov to a more elevated spiritual rung and make him fit to receive the ultimate blessings.

The Necessity to Ask

One might ask: Since the prosperity which Yaakov was ultimately granted was not the prosperity he initially sought, why was his request the catalyst that triggered the sequence of events which would lead to this prosperity? Since the initiative was G-d’s alone, why was it at all dependent on man?

The answer is that “the Holy One, blessed be He, desires the prayers of the righteous.”15 Until Yaakov asked for prosperity, G-d did not grant it to him. But when he asked, G-d set him tasks that would bring him not only the limited prosperity which man can comprehend, but the prosperity that transcends understanding.

A similar concept applies with regard to our requests for the coming of the Redemption. The true nature of the Redemption is beyond human conception.16Nevertheless, our prayers hasten its coming.

1. Genesis 37:2.
2. Commentary to the above verse.
3. The positive nature of the desire for prosperity is indicated by the slight differences between Rashi’s text and his apparent source, Bereishis Rabbah84:3. The Midrash states: “When the righteous… desire to dwell in prosperity…”Rashi, however, states: “The righteous desire to dwell in prosperity…” indicating that this is the natural and proper course of behavior for a person who is “righteous.”
4. Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 9:2.
5. Ibid., Hilchos Melachim 12:4.
6. Berachos 17a.
7. Eruvin 22a.
8. Similarly, our Sages’ state (Menachos 53b, Shmos Rabbah 36:1) that just as an olive releases its oil when pressed, so too, the Jewish people attain their greatest spiritual heights when put under pressure.
9. Zohar, Vol. I, p. 139a.
10. Berachos 17a. See also Bava Basra 17a, which states that the Patriarchs were granted a foretaste of the World to Come.
11. See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 8:7.
12. In this context, the opening verse “And Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s wandering,” can be interpreted to mean that in the land where his fathers, Avraham and Yitzchak, were forced to wander, Yaakov was able to dwell in prosperity. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVI, p. 316.
13. Significantly, this higher level of prosperity was granted to Yaakov in Egypt. Although Egypt was “a foreign land (Genesis 15:13)” and a morally decadent country (see Toras Kohanim and Rashi, commenting on Leviticus 18:3), Yaakov and his descendants enjoyed material and spiritual prosperity there. This paradox was possible because of the transcendent nature of the Divine favor.
14. For as the verse states (Genesis 37:34), for all the years he was separated from Yosef, Yaakov was in a state of mourning, and “the spirit of prophecy departed from him” (Zohar, Vol. I, p. 180a, see Rashi, Targum Onkelos, and Targum Yonason to Genesis 45:27).
15. Yevamos 64a.
16. And therefore, despite our requests for its coming, the advent of the Redemption will be בהיסח הדעת, “unexpected” (Sanhedrin 97a).
By Eli Touger    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Kislev 18, 5774 · November 21, 2013
The German Newspapers

And he was youth-like (37:2)

Joseph would engage in youthful follies, curling his hair and making-up his eyes

– Rashi’s Commentary

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Horodok was once asked: “You are forever extolling the trait of humility. So why do you dress in such handsome clothes?”

Said Rabbi Mendel: “The surest place in which to conceal a chest of treasure is a pit of mud and slime…”

When the third rebbe and leader of Chabad chassidism, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, passed away in 1867, he was survived by a number of scholarly and pious sons. Each had a following of disciples who wished to see their mentor assume his father’s place.

Rabbi Grunem Estherman, one of the great mashpi’im1 in the annals of Lubavitch, was a young man at the time, and undecided as to which of the Rebbe’s sons to turn for leadership and guidance. When he discussed his dilemma with the famed disciple Rabbi Shmuel Ber of Barisov, the latter said to him: “Listen, Grunem. They are all children of the Rebbe’s. ‘They are all beloved, they are all mighty, they are all holy.’2 But let me tell you of one incident, and then you do as you see fit.

“During one of my visits to Lubavitch, there was something in our late Rebbe’s discourse which I found difficult to understand – it seemed to contradict a certain passage in the kabbalistic work of Eitz Chayim.3None of the elder disciples were able to provide an answer satisfactory to me, so that night I made my rounds among the Rebbe’s sons. I visited Rabbi Yehudah Lieb, Rabbi Chaim Schneur Zalman, and the others. Each offered an explanation, but, again, none of their ideas satisfied my mind.

“By now it was fairly late at night. I was headed for my lodgings when I noticed a light burning in Rabbi Shmuel’s window. I had not considered asking him – he is the youngest of the sons and, as you know, his behavior is that of a rather ordinary and indistinct individual. However, I was curious to know what he is up to at such a late hour. So I pulled myself up on to his windowsill and looked in. What did I see, but Rabbi Shmuel immersed in the very section of Eitz Chayim where my difficulty lay?! So I figured I had best go in and discuss it with him.

“I went round to the door and knocked. ‘Just a minute’ he called out. After a rather long minute the door opened. I took in the scene: newspapers were laid out on the table, German papers, Russian papers. Of the Eitz Chayim not a trace.

” ‘Reb Shmuel Ber! Rather late, isn’t it?’ he said. ‘How can I help you?’ I told him of my problem with the discourse the Rebbe had delivered that day and the passage in Eitz Chayim. ‘Ah, Reb Shmuel Ber’ he said ‘they say you are a smart Jew. Nu, I ask you, you come to me with a question in Eitz Chayim…?’

” ‘Listen, my friend,’ I said, “your game is up. Five minutes ago I saw you with the Eitz Chayim. Now either you tell me how you understand it, or else tomorrow the entire Lubavitch will hear about the interesting tricks you pull with your German papers.’

“We sat and discussed the matter till morning,” Rabbi Shmuel Ber concluded his story, “and I came away thoroughly impressed with the extent and depth of his knowledge. This is what I can tell you, Grunem, now you do as you see fit…”

1. A mashpia is a spiritual guide and mentor
2. A phrase from the daily morning prayers.
3. A collection of the kabbalistic teachings of Rabbi Issac Luria (the ‘Ari’ 1534-1572) compiled by his disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital.
By Yanki Tauber    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Yanki Tauber is content editor of
Kislev 18, 5774 · November 21, 2013
The Multidimensional Plan

What can we learn from the life of Joseph? His story, told partly in this week’s Parshah, seems simply a succession of unhappy events. His mother Rachel died in his youth. He could not get on with his elder brothers, the children of Leah. The conflict became so great that they sold him into slavery. Then further sad events led to his being put into prison in Egypt.

One thing we can learn from this is that G-d has His own Divine “plan” for the world. We do not realize at the time, but very negative or even tragic events can sometimes lead to openly positive results. In the case of Joseph, the fact that he was in prison in Egypt led to his appointment as viceroy of Egypt. This in turn meant that he could provide food for his family during the famine which was to come.

This is how Joseph himself understood his life. When, as viceroy, he finally revealed his identity to his brothers (in the Parshah Vayigash) he said to them: “Don’t be upset that you sold me here. G-d sent me here in order to provide for you… G-d sent me here to save you” (Genesis 45:5-7).

Trust in the ultimate rightness of G-d’s plan for our lives is an important quality. In the case of Joseph, the Plan seems quite simple. A child could understand it. Yet when you turn to the overall history of the Jewish people the Plan looks more complex. Something like a game of snakes and ladders in four dimensions… (and are you sure you know which direction is “up”?). One thing is sure, you do not stand still. And eventually you get there!

The story of Joseph in our Parshah gives an example of how the Plan unfolded in the past. It carries with it the promise that this will happen for us too, as individuals and as a people, in the present and the future.

By Tali Loewenthal    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

By Dr. Tali Loewenthal, Director of Chabad Research Unit, London, UK; based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Kislev 18, 5774 · November 21, 2013

“Anticipating the Event”In the Torah portion of Vayeishev, we find Yosef telling his brothers about his dreams, the gist of which was that he would rule over them in the future. The verse tells us that, as a result, “his brothers were jealous of him, and his father guarded the matter.”1Rashi2 explains that “guarded the matter” means Ya’akov was awaiting the event. “So too,” says Rashi , “does the verse state, ‘awaiting His faithfulness,’3 and ‘do not await my sins.’ ”4Why does Rashi find it necessary to cite two verses in order to explain that “guarded” means “awaiting” and “anticipating”? Why doesn’t one verse suffice?

The fulfillment of Yosef’s dreams came about when hunger forced Ya’akov and his sons to descend to Egypt, where Yosef served as viceroy. Their descent served as the precursor to the Egyptian exile, the source of all subsequent exiles.

Although the Jewish people are exiled from their land as a result of their iniquities, the underlying purpose of exile is to propel the nation to a level far superior to that attained prior to exile. Thus, at the time of the final Redemption, the Jewish people will be on an even loftier level than they were while the Beis HaMikdash existed.

This provides us with a lesson in terms of our own spiritual service. When one ponders the state of the planet, each day spiritually darker than the one before, one might despair of ever having the strength to illuminate the world with the light of Torah and mitzvos.

But all spiritual descents, states of darkness and concealment, etc., are only external manifestations. The inner truth is quite different.

Everything that transpires in the world is in fulfillment of G-d’s benevolent will. Therefore, despite appearances, the world is each day ascending in holiness and becoming more refined, until it becomes a fit dwelling place for G-d.

This is clearly evident with regard to exile. For although, as stated earlier, we are banished from the Land as a result of our sins, the actual banishment comes about from above.

Since all things that come from above are surely intended to bring the world to its ultimate fulfillment, it follows that exile not only extirpates the sins that caused it, but also leads us to a spiritual level far higher than we enjoyed while the Beis HaMikdashstood.

Clearly then, exile serves as part and parcel of our elevation.

Rashi alludes to the above by quoting both passages regarding Ya’akov’s response to Yosef’s dreams — precursors of the exile in Egypt — and by first quoting the verse “awaiting His faithfulness” (referring to G-d’s promise to the Jewish people), and only then going on to quote the verse “do not await my sins.”

By doing so, Rashi indicates that, although exiles come as a “payback” for our iniquities (“do not await my sins”), their primary purpose is to help bring about the future Redemption, as indicated in the first verse quoted by Rashi — “awaiting His faithfulness.”

This refers to the ultimate elevation, realized with the speedy arrival of our righteousMoshiach.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, pp. 180-184, 62-63

“Binding Bundles”

At the beginning of the Torah portion Vayeishev, we are told that, in relating the beginning of his dream to his brothers, Yosef said:5 “We were binding sheaves in the field.” Rashi explains the words “binding sheaves” according to the Targum — that the phrase means “binding bundles, i.e., sheaves of grain.”

In terms of our spiritual service, the verse and Rashi’ s comment imply6 that the spiritual service of “binding sheaves” involves gathering disparate sparks of holiness and uniting them, just as separate stalks of grain are brought together and bound into a bundle.

This manner of service also applies to each individual’s soul; he is to gather the disparate elements of his personality and unite them with the Divine.

Herein lies the lesson of Yosef’s dream: in addition to tying together and elevating the holy sparks found within each of us and uniting them through the service of Torah andmitzvos , we must also “go out in the field” and occupy ourselves in uniting the elements of holiness scattered throughout the world.

We do so in order to bring others back to G-d and the observance of Torah andmitzvos , and to the light of Torah7 — its inner dimension8 — the “Tree of Life.”9

Rashi elaborates on this theme when he explains that “tying sheaves” means “binding bundles,” i.e., that the purification and elevation of the sparks of holiness is to be done in a way that binds them permanently to their source, similar to something that is tied and bound. This will guarantee that the binder will have a lasting effect on the one who is bound, so much so that all the ill winds in the world will be unable to sever his bond with G-d and Torah.

Rashi then goes on to explain that, in order for this to be accomplished, we must learn a lesson from “sheaves of grain. ” Just as kernels of grain yield future crops, so too, when one betters another, it is to be done in a manner such that the beneficiary will in turn have a positive impact on others.

Shabbos is connected to the previous days of the week, for “He who toils before Shabbos gets to eat on Shabbos.”10 Similarly, Shabbos is linked to the days that follow it, for “Shabbos is the day from whence all the coming days of the week are blessed.”11 Shabbos is thus a day that unites the days before it with the days that follow it.

During many years (and this year as well), the Shabbos of the portion Vayeishev falls between the festival of the Alter Rebbe’s liberation on the 19th of Kislev and the days of Chanukah. Since the Torah portions are related to the time during which they are read,12 it follows that the above-mentioned lesson applies equally to the festival of the 19th of Kislev and to the festival of Chanukah.

One of the pillars of the Alter Rebbe’s service was getting Jews to return to Judaism.13In fact, the Alter Rebbe related that, upon hearing a particular Torah message from his teacher the Maggid of Mezritch, he decided that it was incumbent on himself to draw all Jews closer to Judaism. He thereafter spent five years traveling from place to place in order to bring Jews on the “outside” closer to Torah and mitzvos.14 Moreover, it was after the festival of the 19th of Kislev that there began15 the service of “spreading the wellsprings outside. ”

The Chanukah lights are to be lit as well in the entrance of one’s home. For they also serve to illuminate and purify the “outside,” bringing it back into the domain of holiness.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, p. 115-121

1. Bereishis 37:11.
2. Ibid.
3. Yeshayahu 26:2.
4. Iyov 14:16.
5. Bereishis 37:7.
6. See Torah Or , Vayeishev 28a; Or HaTorah Bereishis, Vol. VI, p. 1083. See alsoToras Chayim, Vayeishev p. 66 and onward.
7. Beginning of Eichah Rabbah ; Yerushalmi, Chagigah 1:7 and commentary ofKorban HaEidah.
8. See Likkutei Levi Yitzchak , notes to Zohar, Vol. II, Sisa p. 150b.
9. Zohar , Vol. III, p. 124b. See also Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 26.
10. Avodah Zorah 3a.
11. Zohar, Vol. II, p. 63b, 88a.
12. See Sheloh, Cheilek Torah Shebichsav, beginning of the Torah portionVayeishev.
13. See Likkutei Dibburim, Vol. IV, end of p. 755ff.
14. Ibid., p. 1512.
15. Toras Shalom , p. 112ff.
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Kislev 17, 5774 · November 20, 2013

Vayeshev, and the following Sidra of Mikketz, have a common theme: Dreams. In Vayeshev we are told of Joseph’s dreams, and in Mikketz, about the dreams of Pharaoh. Both dreamt twice, and in each case the dreams shared a single meaning, conveyed in different symbols. What was the significant difference between Joseph’s and Pharaoh’s dreams? Why did they dream twice? And what is the implication of their detailed symbolism? The answers are given in terms of the Jew’s contemporary search for a path to G-d.

1. Two Dreamers and Four Dreams

In the beginning of this week’s Sidra we are told about Joseph’s two dreams.1 Both had the same meaning: That Joseph would rule over his brothers and that they would pay homage to him. The second dream merely added that the “sun and the moon”—Jacob and Bilhah would be included in this homage.

There is a striking parallel between this and next week’s Sidra (Mikketz) which relates the two dreams of Pharaoh,2 which also shared a single meaning. But in Pharaoh’s case the Torah states a reason why there should have been two dreams: “Because the thing is established by G-d, and G-d will shortly bring it to pass.”3 Of Joseph’s dreams, no explanation is given of their repetition, and indeed the additional information that the second conveys could have been hinted at in the first. We are forced to conclude that Joseph’s two dreams, alike though they are in their meaning, are allusions to two different things.

What are these two things? And, since the actions of the Fathers are both a sign and a lesson to their descendants,4 what are their implications for us? For Joseph’s actions are included in the works of the Fathers, since he brought Jacob’s work into fruition in the world as hinted to in the verse: “These are the generations of Jacob: Joseph….”5

2. The Sheaves and the Stars

Joseph’s two dreams have the following difference. The first concerns things of the earth: “And behold, we were binding sheaves in the midst of a field.” But the second is about the heavens: “The sun and the moon and eleven stars.”

Both of Pharaoh’s dreams, however, had an earthly symbolism regressing in fact from the domain of living things (the seven cows) to that of plants (the seven ears of corn). For Pharaoh had no link with the realm of heaven. And whereas his dreams represent a regression, Joseph’s display an ascent in holiness.6

This distinction between Joseph and Pharaoh exemplifies one of the unique characteristics of the Jew, that he is simultaneously involved in both the material and spiritual, this world and the next. As the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe said7 when he was arrested in Russia in 1927 and one of his interrogators threatened him with a revolver: “Men who have many gods and one world are frightened by a revolver; a man who has one G-d and two worlds has nothing to fear.” These two worlds are not separate in time—a this-worldly present and an other-worldly future. The Jew is instead bound to a higher spiritual reality even in the midst of this world. He stands on a “ladder” set on the earth whose top reaches to heaven”8 and moves in his service from the mundane (“earth”) to the most exalted spirituality (“heaven”), always ascending.

3. Two Worlds Within One World

The Torah is precise, and every detail contains a lesson which has a bearing on the conduct of our life.9 The implication of the fact that Joseph’s dreams were about two worlds (earth and heaven) and yet had a single meaning, is that the Jew must fuse his dual involvement, with the material and the spiritual, into one. Not only must there be no tension between his two worlds, but the material must contribute to his spiritual life until it is itself spiritualized.10

The idea that physical acts like eating and drinking are directed towards G-d, is a natural one to every Jew. There is a story11 about the Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel,12 that when his two sons were children they were discussing the special virtues of the Jew, and to demonstrate his point he asked their servant: “Bentzion—have you eaten?”

The servant replied: “Yes.”

“Did you eat well?”

“I am satisfied, thank G-d.”

“Why did you eat?”

“In order to live.”

“Why do you live?”

“To be a Jew and to do what G-d wishes.”

As he said this, the servant sighed.

Later, the Rebbe told his children: “You see, a Jew by his nature eats to live, and lives to be a Jew and to do what G-d has told him; and still he sighs that he has not yet reached the ultimate truth.”

Since the Jew has a spiritual intention in every physical act, the acts themselves are spiritualized. In the words of the Baal Shem Tov: “Where a man’s desires are—there he is.’’13

4. The Meaning of the Sheaves

This, then, is the significance of the fact that Joseph had two dreams. What is the meaning of the detailed content of each?

The first begins, “We were binding sheaves in the midst of a field.” It begins, in other words, with work, an activity wholly absent from the dreams of Pharaoh. In the domain of unholiness, work (i.e., avodah, the effort involved in the service of G-d) may be absent, as we find it written: “We ate in Egypt free” (i.e., without the effort of the Mitzvot).14 But the rewards of holiness (the emanations of the Divine) come only through effort. And so the Jew’s ascent on the ladder from earth to heaven must—from the very beginning—involve the work of dedicating his physical actions to holiness.

The nature of this work—as in Joseph’s dream—is binding sheaves.15 We are born into a world of concealment which is like a field, in which things and people, like stalks of corn, grow apart, living separately, in and for themselves. In man we call this orientation towards the self, the “animal soul,” which creates diversity and separateness. And the Jew must go beyond it, binding like sheaves the many facets of his being into the unified service of G-d, a service which transcends self and separation.

In the dream, the sheaves, after they were bound, bowed down to Joseph’s sheaf. And so, for us, the next stage in service must be “bowing down,” the submission to what is higher than us. Jews form a unity, as if they were the limbs of one body.16 And just as a body is coordinated only when its muscles act in response to the nervous system of the brain, so the spiritual health of the collective body of Jews is dependent on their responsiveness to their “head”—the spiritual leader of the generation.17 It is he who instructs it so that its individual members act in harmony towards their proper goal.

Indeed, inwardly this submission precedes the act of unifying one’s existence in the service of G-d. The capacity to effect this “binding together” derives from the inner submission to the spiritual leader of the generation. But the outward manifestation of this service follows the order of Joseph’s dream: First the “binding,” and then the submission.

5. The Meaning of the Stars

But this is at the level of Joseph’s first dream. Service at this level is still confined to the “earth”—the limits of physical existence. And it remains for the Jew to transcend these constraints, in the act of teshuvah (“repentance,” or more correctly, “return”). The real process of teshuvah comes when “the spirit returns to G-d who gave it”;18 that is, when the soul of the Jew regains its pristine state, as it was prior to its embodiment. This does not mean that soul and body should—G-d forbid—become separate or that bodily existence should be denied, but that the body should cease to conceal the light of the soul. This is the ultimate purpose of the descent of the soul into the body within a physical existence—that without denying or standing aloof from this mode of existence—the soul should retain its unmediated closeness to G-d.

This is the meaning of Joseph’s second dream. It speaks of the Jew who has already passed beyond the service which is confined to “earth.” He has left the world of “separation”—the state where things are seen to exist in and for themselves—and no longer needs to “bind” together the schismatic elements of his being. His service is now wholly at the level of “heaven,” the path of return to the pristine state of the soul.

But the act of submission to the “head” of the collective body of the Jewish people is repeated in this dream (where the sun, moon and eleven stars bow down). This clearly implies that this inward attitude of reference is not restricted to the Jew who is still working “in the field,” but extends to the Jew who has already, as it were, reached the heavens. Certainly he no longer needs guidance to avoid the concealments and distortions that the physical life may bring to one’s spiritual sight. But even at this level, he must still act in harmony with other Jews in collective response to their spiritual leader.

6. The Rungs of the Ladder to Heaven

This, then, is the path mapped out for every Jew by the dreams of Joseph. First there is the “work in the field,” the effort (avodah) to unify a world of separate existences and divided selves, within the service of G-d (“binding sheaves”). And though the Jewish people are called “the sons of kings,”19 or even simply “kings,”20 this does not imply that this effort can be dispensed with. For the rewards of holiness must be worked for in this world. And they are rewards which it is beyond our power to anticipate: They will be “found”—that is, they will be unexpected.21 We read: “If a man says to you, I have labored and have not found (a reward), do not believe him. If he says, I have not labored, but still I have found, do not believe him. But if he says, I have labored and I have found—believe him.”22

Secondly, at all levels of service there must be submission to the “head” of the “body” of the Jewish people.

And then, as we are told in the Pirkei Avot,23 when “your will is nullified (in the face of His will)” it will follow that “He will nullify the will of others in the face of your will.” In other words, the concealments of this world of plurality and disunity (“others”) will lose their power, and we will be open to the flow of revelation and spiritual life that is the life of Joseph and of righteousness.

(Source: Likkutei Sichot, Vol. III pp. 805-10)

1. Bereishit 37:5-9.
2. Bereishit 41:1-7.
3. Bereishit 41:32.
4. Cf., for example, supra p. 13.
5. Bereishit 37:2. Cf. Biurei HaZohar, 30a. Or Hatorah, 386a.
6. For the relation between these notions of “ascent” and “regression” in holiness, and the idea of Chanukah (which always falls at the time of these two Sidrot) cf. Shabbat, 21b, and Chassidic writings on Chanukah.
7. Cf. Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn (biography) p. 13.
8. Bereishit 28:12.
9. Cf. Zohar, Part III, 53b.
10. Cf. Hayom Yom, 27 Elul. The point is emphasized by Rambam (Hilchot Deot, beginning of ch. 4) where he says “a healthy and perfect body is part of the path of (serving and knowing) G-d.”
11. Likkutei Dibburim, p. 421.
12. The fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe (1834-1882).
13. Cf. Sefer Hamaamarim-Kuntresim, p. 818. Likkutei Dibburim, p. 226, and elsewhere.
14. Bamidbar 11:5. Sifri and Rashi there. Cf. also Zohar, Part II, 128a.
15. Cf. Torah Or, 28a.
16. Likkutei Torah, beginning of Parshat Nitzavim.
17. Cf. Tanya, Part I, ch. 2. Sefer Hamaamarim 5710, p. 254.
18. Ecclesiastes 12:7. Cf. Likkutei Torah, beginning of Parshat Ha-azinu.
19. Shabbat, 67a. Zohar, Part I, 27b.
20. Berachot, 9b.
21. Because they will be far more abundant than our service merits.
22. Megillah, 6b.
23. 2:4.
Adapted by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks; From the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Kislev 17, 5774 · November 20, 2013
Vayeishev Aliya Summary

General Overview: In this week’s reading, Vayeishev, Joseph relates to his brothers his grandiose dreams of greatness, arousing their jealousy. He is consequently sold into slavery to an Egyptian master. After defying his Egyptian master’s wife, Joseph is thrown into jail, where he interprets the dreams of Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker. The story of Judah and Tamar is also related at length.

First Aliyah: Jacob and his family settled in Canaan. Of all his sons, Jacob favored Joseph, the firstborn of his deceased beloved wife Rachel, and he made for him a special robe of fine wool. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of the favoritism, and avoided talking to Joseph. Joseph related to his brothers two dreams he had, both implying that he would eventually rule over his brothers—and thus increased his brothers’ envy and hatred.

Second Aliyah: Joseph’s brothers were away tending their father’s sheep, when Jacob sent Joseph to see how his brothers and the flocks were faring. When Joseph’s brothers saw him approaching they plotted to kill him. Reuben, however, implored them not to shed blood, advising them instead to cast him into one of the nearby pits. Reuben’s plan was to later return and rescue Joseph from the pit.

Third Aliyah: Joseph arrived and his brothers immediately stripped him of his fancy robe and cast him into a pit. Upon Judah’s advice, they subsequently sold him to an Ishmaelite caravan traveling to Egypt, who in turn sold him as a slave to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s chief butcher. Meanwhile, the brothers dipped Joseph’s robe into blood, and showed it to Jacob, who assumed that Joseph was devoured by a wild beast. Jacob then commenced 22 years of mourning for his beloved son.

Fourth Aliyah: The story of Joseph is interrupted by the episode of Judah and Tamar. Judah married the daughter of a local businessman and had three sons. His first son, Er, married a woman named Tamar, but died soon thereafter. Judah had his second son, Onan, marry Tamar and thus fulfill the mitzvah of Yibbum, but he too died childless. Judah hesitated to give his third son to Tamar, so she returned to her father’s home. Judah’s wife then died, and he embarked on a business trip. Tamar dressed herself like a prostitute and sat by the side of the road. Judah didn’t recognize her, was intimate with her and she becomes pregnant. A few months later, when her pregnancy became evident, Judah ordered her executed for harlotry. As she was being taken out to die, she produced some of Judah’s personal effects that he had left behind when he visited her. Judah admitted that he was the father, and Tamar was spared. Tamar then gave birth to twin sons, Zerach and Peretz.

Fifth Aliyah: We return to the story of Joseph, who was serving in the home of Potiphar. G‑d was with Joseph, and he succeeded in all his endeavors. When Potiphar took note of this fact, he put Joseph in charge of his entire household and estate.

Sixth Aliyah: Joseph was exceedingly handsome, and Potiphar’s wife was attracted to him. She made many advances on him, but he steadfastly rebuffed her. Eventually she libelously told her husband that Joseph was making advances on her, and Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison. G‑d was still with Joseph, and he found favor in the eyes of the prison warden, who put him in charge of all the prisoners.

Seventh Aliyah: Two of Pharaoh’s officers, his butler and baker, aroused the royal ire and were cast into prison—the same one that Joseph was now administering. One night, they both had odd dreams, and Joseph interpreted them. Joseph told the butler that he’d soon be released and restored to Pharaoh’s service. The baker was told by Joseph that he would soon be hung. Joseph pleaded with the butler to mention his plight to Pharaoh, and ask for his release. Three days later, both of Joseph’s interpretations came true; but the butler forgot all about Joseph.
Kislev 17, 5774 · November 20, 2013
Genesis 37:1–40:23

Jacob settles in Hebron with his twelve sons. His favorite is 17-year-old Joseph, whose brothers are jealous of the preferential treatment he receives from his father, such as a precious many-colored coat that Jacob makes for Joseph. Joseph relates to his brothers two dreams he has which foretell that he is destined to rule over them, increasing their envy and hatred towards him.

Shimon and Levi plot to kill him, but Reubensuggests that they throw him into a pit instead, intending to come back later and save him. While Joseph is in the pit, Judah has him sold to a band of passing Ishmaelites. The brothers dip Joseph’s special coat in the blood of a goat and show it to their father, leading him to believe that his most beloved son was devoured by a wild beast.

Judah marries and has three children. The eldest, Er, dies young and childless, and his wife Tamar is given in levirate marriage to the second son, Onan. Onan sins by spilling his seed and he, too, meets an early death. Judah is reluctant to have his third son marry her. Determined to have a child from Judah’s family, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and seduces Judah himself. Judah hears that his daughter-in-law has become pregnant and orders her executed for harlotry, but when Tamar produces some personal effects he left with her as a pledge for payment, he publicly admits that he is the father. Tamar gives birth to twin sons, Peretz (an ancestor of King David) and Zerach.

Joseph is taken to Egypt and sold to Potiphar, the minister in charge of Pharaoh‘s slaughterhouses. G-d blesses everything he does, and soon he is made overseer of all his master’s property. Potiphar’s wife desires the handsome and charismatic lad; when Joseph rejects her advances, she tells her husband that the Hebrew slave tried to force himself on her and has him thrown in prison. Joseph gains the trust and admiration of his jailers, who appoint him to a position of authority in the prison administration.

In prison, Joseph meets Pharaoh’s chief butler and chief baker, both incarcerated for offending their royal master. Both have disturbing dreams, which Joseph interprets; in three days, he tells them, the butler will be released and the baker hanged. Joseph asks the butler to intercede on his behalf with Pharaoh. Joseph’s predictions are fulfilled, but the butler forgets all about Joseph and does nothing for him.

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Germany: Jewish community growing – Berlin Rabbi on 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht

Berlin’s chief Rabbi, Yitzhak Ehrenberg, said the Jewish community in Germany is growing and noted how Jews are enjoying freedom and democracy in the country, on the 75th anniversary of the 1938 Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass.

Rabbi Ehrenberg made the comments at the annual Conference of European Rabbis in Berlin on Sunday, as the conference is hosted in the German capital for the first time in its 28-year history. 200 orthodox Jews from Europe and Israel has travelled to Berlin, a city which today has Germany’s largest Jewish community of 12,000 members.

‘The Night of Broken Glass’, on November 9-10, 1938, saw the streets littered with shards of glass after 7,000 Jewish-owned businesses and 1,000 synagogues across Germany and Austria were burned or destroyed by the Nazis.

Despite its past, Germany has now seen a steady increase in Jewish immigration, and there are 107 Jewish communities organised in 23 regional associations.

NYC Jewish population: Orthodox Jewish community has grown most over past decade

According to newly released data, most of the growth within the Jewish communities in New York City over the past decade has occurred in two Orthodox neighbourhoods. The Jewish population within Borough Park grew by a staggering 71 percent, and in Williamsburg, the population increased by 41 percent.

Norwegian Jews hoping new circumcision rules head off banJewish Telegraphic Agency

Despite the moves, Scandinavian Jews said they were optimistic a compromise solution could be found. Ervin Kohn, the leader of Norway’sJewish community of 
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Police Seeking Help from Jewish Community in Death of Hispanic Yeshiva World News

Authorities believe the Hispanic Woman, very likely a housekeeper (cleaning lady) at Jewish houses, was still Pregnant as of Sunday the 10th. The baby was 
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No single solution to hatredCanadian Jewish News (blog)

The winds of change are blowing for Jewish communities all over the world. A shocking poll released recently by a European Union agency found that 76 per 
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NYC: Judea and Samaria Conference to Begin Amid Leftist ThreatsArutz Sheva

Left-wing extremists call for protest to oppose presence of Jews from Judea and  amid ongoing calls for the wholesale dismantling of Jewish communities and 
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From the Archive: Among JFK’s Jewish mourners was Oswald’s killerJewish Telegraphic Agency

Jewish communities across America and farther afield held memorial services for the slain president. Israel’s president, Zalman Shazar, and prime minister, 
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Select Section Jewish History : 24JEWISH ALERTS large selection in each section

Judaism: Inside the Torah – Exodus – National Geographic

Judaism: Inside the Torah – Exodus (Shemot)

The story of Moses (Moshe) re-told on how it happened naturally and historically. G-d proves everything, not just Biblically, but also Historically and Naturally. We will never forget what Hashem did for our ancestors when they were slaves in Egypt and returned to the Land of Israel (Canaan).

Barukh Hashem. Amen.

Jewish Professor at the World Kurdish Congress (Must Watch)

Jewish Professor/Doctor Mordechai Zaken talks about the history and culture of the Kurds, Kurdish Jews and Kurdistan, and their relationship with the Jews and the state of Israel.

This video is a The video uploaded in other videos, here.
News,news letter,news 2013,news 2014,news today,news channel,news videos,politics videos,news and politics,news week,politics today,news monthl

Western world and the Judeo-Christian revelation of God – by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Christians can learn from Jews. We can learn how to thrive in the secular world that no longer regards faith as central. So argues Rabbi Jonathan Sacks at the 2013 Erasmus Lecture. Speaking to more than five hundred people on the evening of Monday, October 21st at the Union League Club in New York, Sacks outlined a vision in which religious communities—Jewish and Christian—can function as creative minorities.

Sacks recently retired as Chief Rabbi of the Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, the most prominent Jewish body in the United Kingdom. After his appointment in 1991, he emerged as a powerful and articulate spokesman for religious believers.

More than any other Jewish leader Sacks has combined a deep affirmation of Jewish faith and practice with a remarkable ability to speak to non-Jews. More than any other religious figure in the English-speaking world, Sacks has recognized that an increasingly hostile secular culture requires religious people to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, not just to resist the worst excesses of secularism, but to bear witness to faith’s contribution society as whole.

“Creative minorities.” The formulation was used by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in a reflection of the future of Christianity in Europe. But Arnold Toynbee, a mid-twentieth century English historian, coined the term. He argued that new civilizations are made by creative minorities that displace dominant minorities that have become moribund.

Sacks’ main argument comes in his engagement with Toynbee, who presumed that creative minorities press toward empire, wishing to make their vision of reality universal. The one minority that does not fit into this pattern are Jews, and thus Toynbee dismisses Judaism as historically impotent. Impotent? What about the Jewish teacher whose name was Jesus?

Here Sacks zeroes in on Toynbee’s one-sided grasp of culture, which assumes what Sacks calls the Hellenistic view in which influence always seeks to maximize itself through domination. But there is also the Hebraic view. This view does not seek to become universal; it does not construct an empire. Its influence comes from the particularity of love, or to use more traditional theological terms, faithfulness to covenant.

The analysis Sacks provides helps us see that from the Enlightenment forward progressives and liberals were a creative minority of Toynbee’s sort. They sought to displace the ancien regime. They succeeded. Today the West is under their domination. Thus our age promises a new universal empire, one characterized primarily by globalized economic relations and animated by a doctrine of universal human rights.

Christians differ from Jews. Christianity has a missionary impulse that seeks universality. But the similarities are strong as well, not just in the concentration of Jewish particularity in the person of Jesus, but also in our historical moment. In the new secular Enlightenment empire Christians are becoming more and more like Jews. We are a discordant minority, whom modern secular liberalism treats as an archaic residue of an earlier era that has been superseded by reason and progress—an ironic recapitulation of the ways in which Jews were so often treated by the dominant Christian majority in earlier centuries.

It’s tempting to rage against this secular supersessionism. In his eloquent lecture Sacks does not downplay the difficulties we face. But he clearly and forcefully points us down a pathway of creative hope rather than impotent anger. Faith seeks to draw nearer to God rather than defining itself in terms of worldly power. The history of the Jewish people shows us that this venture of love has tremendous staying power, even when politically and culturally powerless. And not just staying power, but influence. Just a few grains of yeast, if they keep their freshness, can leaven the whole lump.…

Babylonian captivity

The Babylonian captivity was the period in Jewish history during which Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylonia.

According to the Hebrew Bible, there were three deportations of Jews to Babylon: the exile of King Jeconiah, his court and many others in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighth year; Jeconiah’s successor Zedekiah and the rest of the people in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year; and a later deportation in Nebuchadnezzar’s twenty-third year. These are attributed to c. 597 BCE, c. 587 BCE, and c. 582 BCE, respectively.

After the fall of Babylon to the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 538 BCE, exiled Jews began to return to the land of Judah. According to the biblical book of Ezra, construction of a second temple in Jerusalem began at this time. All these events are considered significant in Jewish history and culture, and had a far-reaching impact on the development of Judaism.

Archaeological studies have revealed that only a minority of the population of Judah was deported, and that, although Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, other parts of Judah continued to be inhabited during the period of the exile. The return of the exiles was a gradual process rather than a single event, and many of the deportees or their descendants did not return.

Biblical history of the exile

In the late 7th century BCE, the kingdom of Judah was a client state of the powerful Assyrian empire. In the last decades of the century Assyria was overthrown by Babylon, an Assyrian province with a history of former glory in its own right. Egypt, fearing the sudden rise of the Neo-Babylonian empire, seized control of Assyrian territory up to the Euphrates river in Syria, but Babylon counter-attacked and in the process Josiah, the king of Judah, was killed in the Battle of Megiddo (609 BC), although the circumstances are obscure. Judah became a Babylonian client, but in the following years two parties formed at the court in Jerusalem: one pro-Egyptian and the other pro-Babylonian.

In 599 BCE, the pro-Egyptian party was in power and Judah revolted against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon began the Siege of Jerusalem (597 BC), and Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, died in 598 BCE with the siege still under way. He was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin also called Jeconiah, aged eighteen. The city fell about three months later, on 2 Adar (March 16) 597 BCE, and Nebuchadnezzar pillaged Jerusalem and its Temple and took Jeconiah and his court and other prominent citizens (including the prophet Ezekiel) back to Babylon. Jehoiakim’s uncle Zedekiah was appointed king in his place, but the exiles in Babylon continued to consider Jeconiah as their Exilarch, or rightful ruler.

Despite the strong remonstrances of Jeremiah and others of the pro-Babylonian party, Zedekiah revolted against Babylon and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar returned, defeated the Egyptians, and again besieged Jerusalem. The city fell in 587. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city wall and the Temple, together with the houses of the most important citizens, and Zedekiah was blinded, and taken to Babylon, together with many others. Judah became a Babylonian province, called Yehud Medinata (Judah Province), putting an end to the independent Kingdom of Judah. Rabbinic sources place the date of the destruction of the First Temple to be 3338 HC (423 BCE) or 3358 HC (403 BCE), while modern historical dating is c. 587 BCE.

The first governor appointed by Babylon was Gedaliah, a native Judahite; he encouraged the many Jews who had fled to surrounding countries such as Moab, Ammon, Edom, to return, and took steps to return the country to prosperity. Some time afterwards, however — it is not clear when, but possibly 582 BCE — a surviving member of the royal family assassinated Gedaliah and his Babylonian advisors, prompting a rush of refugees seeking safety in Egypt. Thus by the end of the second decade of the 6th century, in addition to those who remained in Judah, there were significant Jewish communities in Babylon and in Egypt; this was the beginning of the later numerous Jewish communities living permanently outside Judah in the Jewish Diaspora.

According to the book of Ezra, the Persian Cyrus the Great ended the exile in 538 BCE, the year in which he captured Babylon. The exile ended with the return under Zerubbabel the Prince (so-called because he was a descendant of the royal line of David) and Joshua the Priest (a descendant of the line of the former High Priests of the Temple) and their construction of the Second Temple in the period 521–516 BCE.

Archaeological and other extra-biblical evidence

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Escape from 1913 Russia to America “Oral History”

My grandfather’s oral history leaving Russia and coming to the United States
Willie Sosin – Escape from Russia Nov. 17, 1913 to the America
Life in United States from 1913 as an immigrant to 1967

16th Street


Holocaust Education Week

‎12 ‎November ‎2013, ‏‎18:57:20

by Daniella Lurion, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

To coincide with the anniversary of Kristallnacht (November 9th) the first week of November is always Holocaust Education Week in my hometown of Toronto, Canada. The local JCC and Holocaust Museum promote awareness by organizing events and lectures throughout the week and throughout the city.

I thought I would share a personal story with all of you about the events of this week a few years back. I was in the process of completing an education degree and fulfilling my practicum hours by student teaching in a suburban high school in the Toronto area.

The class was a required course – 10th Grade Modern History. The students were primarily Christian from upper middle-class families in a bedroom community about 30 minutes north of Toronto. In general, they liked to chat amongst themselves and showed no particular interest in learning about the past. In short, most of them were there simply because they needed the credit.

My first lesson occurred spontaneously when my supervising teacher pushed me in front of the class to introduce their next unit: The Holocaust. This would be the first introduction to the Holocaust for most of these students. I stood facing 26 fourteen-year-olds.

I launched into a brief lecture about the Holocaust, familiarizing them with terms like Auschwitz, Zyklon B Gas, Anti-Semitism and Nazis.

As I talked, I noticed a tentative hand go up. Rosie. She was part of the usually loud and obnoxious group that sat at the back of the class.  At that point, I realized the class had been listening to me in complete silence.

I stopped my lesson and addressed Rosie’s question. She asked one of the most powerful and poignant questions. One that is difficult to answer even now, 75 years later.

“Why did the Nazis do that?”

I could not adequately answer her question.

A few days later, I led this same class on a field trip to the Holocaust Education Centre in Toronto. They had time to explore the exhibits, saw a short film, and then gathered to hear a survivor speak about her experiences.

I kept my eye on Rosie and her friends, lest they use this opportunity to pull out the ever-present cell phones. No one moved a muscle.

At the end of the presentation, the class filed out of the dimly lit room in contemplative semi-silence. Tyler (class-clown, school basketball star and one of Rosie’s friends) caught my attention as he was surreptitiously trying to wipe away a fallen tear before his friends could see. I pretended not to notice.

It was compelling to see an event so far removed from their lives resonate with a group of Canadian teenagers.

Gomez Mill House, oldest Jewish site in North America, approaches

MARLBOBO, N.Y.—The oldest Jewish site in North America is not Newport’s famed  Jewish history, and also holds a unique place in greater American history.
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Broadway’s Wonder of WondersExpress Milwaukee

Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof takes ahistorical look  21, in an event co-sponsored by the Sam & Helen Stahl Center for Jewish 
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History Comes to Life With Tweets From PastNew York Times

9, the night of the rampages, that she translated as: “In the synagogue Jews were  Ms. Förster, who teaches modern and contemporary history at Darmstadt 
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Tragedy in Riga: the Shoah story nobody toldJewish Chronicle

Since then, the city has woken up to its Jewish history and memorials have been erected at the Rumbula Forest and the Bikernieki Forest. A star of David 
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‎15 ‎November ‎2013, ‏‎05:45:00
It Came From the Stacks: Moby Dick

by Melanie J. Meyers, M.S., Senior Reference Services Librarian, Special Collections, Center for Jewish History

One of the strengths of the YIVO library collection is the amazing wealth of works translated into various languages, Yiddish or Hebrew in particular.

This version of Herman Melville’s classic work Moby Dick (Or, Mobi Diḳ, if you prefer), was printed in Tel Aviv, circa 1951, by the M. Newman Publishing House. It appears to mirror the version published in English in 1930 by Random House in New York City, and contains the same Rockwell Kent illustrations. Kent was very interested in maritime lore and whaling and did a great deal of research before embarking on the original project.

The illustration depicted is titled Whaleboat and Crew Tossed into the Sea and appears toward the end of the novel. The dual title pages, in English and Hebrew, are also shown here. And, it really does start the same way as the English version… “Call me Ishmael.”

Moby Dick was first published in America on November 14, 1851. Today is its anniversary.

Thanks to Zachary Loeb, Patron Services Librarian, for help with the Hebrew translation.

Holocaust Education Week

‎12 ‎November ‎2013, ‏‎18:57:20

by Daniella Lurion, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

To coincide with the anniversary of Kristallnacht (November 9th) the first week of November is always Holocaust Education Week in my hometown of Toronto, Canada. The local JCC and Holocaust Museum promote awareness by organizing events and lectures throughout the week and throughout the city.

I thought I would share a personal story with all of you about the events of this week a few years back. I was in the process of completing an education degree and fulfilling my practicum hours by student teaching in a suburban high school in the Toronto area.

The class was a required course – 10th Grade Modern History. The students were primarily Christian from upper middle-class families in a bedroom community about 30 minutes north of Toronto. In general, they liked to chat amongst themselves and showed no particular interest in learning about the past. In short, most of them were there simply because they needed the credit.

My first lesson occurred spontaneously when my supervising teacher pushed me in front of the class to introduce their next unit: The Holocaust. This would be the first introduction to the Holocaust for most of these students. I stood facing 26 fourteen-year-olds.

I launched into a brief lecture about the Holocaust, familiarizing them with terms like Auschwitz, Zyklon B Gas, Anti-Semitism and Nazis.

As I talked, I noticed a tentative hand go up. Rosie. She was part of the usually loud and obnoxious group that sat at the back of the class.  At that point, I realized the class had been listening to me in complete silence.

I stopped my lesson and addressed Rosie’s question. She asked one of the most powerful and poignant questions. One that is difficult to answer even now, 75 years later.

“Why did the Nazis do that?”

I could not adequately answer her question.

A few days later, I led this same class on a field trip to the Holocaust Education Centre in Toronto. They had time to explore the exhibits, saw a short film, and then gathered to hear a survivor speak about her experiences.

I kept my eye on Rosie and her friends, lest they use this opportunity to pull out the ever-present cell phones. No one moved a muscle.

At the end of the presentation, the class filed out of the dimly lit room in contemplative semi-silence. Tyler (class-clown, school basketball star and one of Rosie’s friends) caught my attention as he was surreptitiously trying to wipe away a fallen tear before his friends could see. I pretended not to notice.

It was compelling to see an event so far removed from their lives resonate with a group of Canadian teenagers.

Jews for Urban Justice: Part 2

‎11 ‎November ‎2013, ‏‎16:57:01

 by Ilana Rossoff, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

This post is part of the Jews and Social Justice Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.

Jews for Urban Justice (JUJ) organized programs that used Jewish holidays as opportunities to raise awareness about social injustices and expand on traditional Jewish spiritual practice. On July 23, 1969, Jews for Urban Justice held a Tisha B’av service on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building in protest the proposed Anti-Ballistic Missile System. As Michael Staub describes, the services aimed to commemorate the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and connect it to a moment in which mass destruction felt imminent. They invited all Jewish members of Congress, and in the end, 100 people were in attendance [8].

On September 21, 1969, one of JUJ’s most active members and supporters, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, gave a Kol Nidre sermon at Tifereth Israel Congregation in D.C. entitled “The Confession,” which caused controversy when members of the audience felt offended by the rabbi’s explicit references to racism and militarism as sins for which they must atone [9].

One of the most memorable political/spiritual efforts of JUJ was its Freedom Seder, its politically-charged Passover seder that incorporated pressing issues of the time into its message for liberation from bondage for all. Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s Haggadah, The Freedom Seder: A New Haggadah For Passover, had its debut at this multi-racial, political seder held in the historically African-American church, Lincoln Temple. The seder was attended by over 800 Jewish liberals, radicals, Black militants, hippies, and others. It was covered by numerous Jewish and progressive media outlets and inspired the formation of the National Jewish Organizing Project by members of JUJ and other Jewish radicals to emulate the work of JUJ on the national level. [10]

Jews for Urban Justice also organized numerous educational forums and initiatives that reached out to Jewish youth. They hoped to speak to their disillusionment with establishment Jewish culture and offer them a politically-engaged alternative. In a May 1970 internal article entitled “Where do we go from here?,” founder Mike Tabor writes how D.C.-area youth are entirely turned off by the major Jewish communal institutions, and that Jews for Urban Justice must make it their “only priority” to reach young people “with positive Judaic values.” On the necessity of bringing substantive political programming to youth, he writes, “Our ability to transfer some of our own feelings, understanding, and commitment to our brothers and sisters around us will determine whether we become a group that acts like a social club or one that functions as a movement” [11].

According to JUJ’s July 1969 report on their activities, they formed a “radical Jewish Sunday School,” a “Jewish high school group” and were going to establish a “Freedom Sunday School” [12]. In May 1970, they developed a proposal for a summer program entitled “The Jewish Festival House,” which would offer retreats, silk screening, workshops on public speaking and Sabbath celebrations with “a constant dedication to the achievement of personal liberation through the building of true community” [13]. They also held a discussion series entitled “The Jewish Urban Underground” for which they brought in such speakers that would lead discussions on “sexism, community, Israel, the police state, Marx and the Jews, the Palestinians, class warfare, and collectivizing our lives.” A clause on the bottom of the poster reads: “establishment & Jewish assimilationist press will not be admitted!” [914].

Staub writes that JUJ members were involved in the initial formation of the Fabrangen community center, intended to be a center for Jewish youth culture but limited in its political functions by its funders. Staub cites the progressive depoliticization of the center—combined with other factors such as JUJ members moving on to work with other (usually more political) organizations—as the cause for Jews for Urban Justice’s end in July 1971. [15]

Jews for Urban Justice began with the mission to target those Jewish individuals and institutions who perpetuated racism, militarism and oppression in the D.C. community. It evolved to incorporate much more community outreach, radical youth community formation, solidarity organizing with the anti-war and Black freedom struggles and radical Jewish practice into its work. While this shift reflected where its members’ passions lay, members had also made the conscious choice that “Jewish institutions are not the major enemy,” as quoted by Staub [16]. Similarly,  in “Where do we go from here?” Mike Tabor also writes that a year or so before the time of his writing, the group had agreed that “the American-capitalistic-melting-pot-system (and not establishment Jews) was the real enemy” [17].

Staub writes that the group’s retreat in March 1969 was where they reflected on their work and made this decision, which he claims resulted in part from the amount of backlash they received from major Jewish institutional leadership. Nonetheless, according to Staub, the group remained committed to highlighting the actions and in-actions of Jewish institutions, just not exclusively [18]. As such, they were successful in building a community of radical Jewish youth that engaged their spiritual beliefs and connection in radical political work.

While I am not aware of the specific numbers that the organization claimed during its time, its overall impact can be measured by the hundreds of people it brought out to such events as the Freedom Seder, its number of strong relationships with clergy and organizations, its number of educational and community-building events it held in various parts of DC, its founding of the National Jewish Organizing Project, and, in my opinion, the potency of its mission of bringing together the power of Jewish spirituality and radical political practice.


[8] Michael Staub, Torn at the Roots: The Crisis of Jewish liberalism in Postwar America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. Page 170.

[9] “The Confession” Kol Nidre 5730, 21 September 1969. Folder” Yom Kippur, 1969, Jews for Urban Justice collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives. Also Staub, pages 171-172

[10] Staub, 163-168

[11] Mike Tabor, Draft: “Where do we go from here?” Folder: Statement of Purpose, Membership Form, and Membership List, Jews for Urban Justice collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives here at the Center.

[12] Activities of “Jews for Urban Justice” 1967-1969. 14 July 1969. Folder: Programs: 1067-1970 & undated, Jews for Urban Justice collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives here at the Center.

[13] A Proposal For a Summer Program from Jews for Urban Justice, May 1970. Folder: Programs: 1967-1970 & undated, Jews for Urban Justice collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives here at the Center.

[14] Poster: The Jewish Urban Underground, undated. Folder: Programs: 1967-1970 & undated, Jews for Urban Justice collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives.

[15] Staub, 184-190 .

[16] Staub, 163.

[17] Mike Tabor, “Where do we go from here?”

[18] Staub, 163.

Further Reading:

David Glanz, “An Interpretation of the Jewish Counterculture,” Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 39, No. 1/2, American Bicentennial: II (Winter – Spring,1977), pages 117-128. This article can be found in the JSTOR database accessible here at the Center.

Jews for Urban Justice archival collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives. The Electronic Finding Aid to the archival collection can be found here.

Susan Agus, Bobbie Baom, Leslie Cheffer, Baila Goldstein, Iris Kodish, Rosalie Riechman, Sharon Rose, Arlene Rosenbaum, Adrianna Weininger and Chava Weissle, “j.u.j.” Off Our Backs, Vol. 1, No. 21 (May 6, 1971), p. 14.  This article can be found in the JSTOR database accessible here at the Center.

Michael Staub, Torn at the Roots: The Crisis of Jewish Liberalism in Postwar America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Remembering Kristallnachtby David P. Rosenberg,…

‎08 ‎November ‎2013, ‏‎17:49:37
Remembering Kristallnacht
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish HistoryNovember 9th -10th marks the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a series of attacks on Jews in Germany and Austria that was a turning point for the Nazi Party. Kristallnacht is often looked at as the beginning of the Holocaust.

Each of the five partners of the Center for Jewish History has material on Kristallnacht or the Holocaust. A search of the library catalog,, reveals over 730 records with the word “Kristallnacht” in the description, and over 15,000 with the word “Holocaust.”

The amount of digitized material available to anyone with an internet connection is similarly vast, with 550 results containing the word “Kristallnacht,” including over 100 photographs and over 40 oral histories. Using “Holocaust,” there are over 1,900 results, including more than 300 photographs and 300 oral histories.

The following is a small sampling of relevant holdings from each of our five partners.

American Jewish Historical Society

The oral history of Fred Margulies contains memories of Kristallnacht. It has been digitized and is available online.

There are digitized letters on the conditions in the displaced persons camps. This material was originally in Box 1, Folder 26 of the Abraham Klausner Papers, available here.

American Sephardi Federation

Birkenau (Auschwitz II) : memories of an eyewitness : how 72,000 Greek Jews perished by Albert Menasche, number 124,454. (1947)

The destruction of the Dutch Jews by J. Presser. Translated by Arnold Pomerans. (1969)

Leo Baeck Institute

One example of the many memoirs in the LBI collections is Kristallnacht and Aftermath, November 1938: German original and English translation of notes written in March 1939, in London, three months after release from Dachau concentration camp by Siegfried Koppel. This material has been digitized and is available online.

One example of the many photographs memorializing the event that have been digitized is Wiesbaden Synagogue Burning; Kristallnacht (see above).

Yeshiva University Museum

“Jews Have Always Fought for Freedom” Arthur Szyk image from 1943.

Yom Yahadut Polin Poster From 1945.

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Digitized photograph of Shlomo Grzywacz, a Jewish child from Warsaw hidden from the Nazis by Righteous Gentiles in Dembniki, Poland.

Digitized flier for an event to commemorate the first anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, New York City, April 13, 1944.


These ten items are a very small selection of items concerning the Holocaust held by the partner organizations here at the Center. The types of material are as impressive as the scope; the collections contain newspapers, memoirs, ephemera, archival material, oral histories, photographs, artwork, books and other types of material. Click here to explore the materials. You can also start a reference chat here, send an inquiry here or book a librarian here.

Plaque Depicting Lions Supporting Tablets of the Law. Circa…

‎07 ‎November ‎2013, ‏‎19:48:18
Plaque Depicting Lions Supporting Tablets of the Law. Circa 1929. Wood and paint. Yeshiva University Museum.For more, visit the Center for Jewish History’s Flickr photostream.
Click here to connect with the Center for Jewish History on Facebook.

The Center for Jewish History is pleased to be the recipient of…

‎25 ‎October ‎2013, ‏‎16:58:09

The Center for Jewish History is pleased to be the recipient of a 2013 digitization grant from the Metropolitan New York Library Council. The Center’s project, “American Soviet Jewry Movement in New York: Posters and Photographs,” will involve the digitization of dozens of political posters and rare photographs from the archives of American Jewish Historical Society, one of its partner organizations. The materials to be digitized document numerous protests, rallies, boycotts, and other acts of civil disobedience that united activists to create awareness of the plight of Soviet Jews. When digitized, these materials will be accessible online at no cost via the Center’s Digital Collections.

Above image: “Speak out for Silent Soviet Jewry,” Created by the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry. From the National Conference on Soviet Jewry Records held by AJHS here at the Center.

Out of the Archives: War Heroismby Kevin Schlottmann, Levy…

‎24 ‎October ‎2013, ‏‎18:04:28

Out of the Archives: War Heroism
by Kevin Schlottmann, Levy Processing Archivist, Center for Jewish History

Fred Lederman (born Manfred Ledermann, 1918-2003) was a baker by trade. After he fled Neckarsteinach, Germany for the United States, he was drafted into the Army and returned to Europe in 1944, where he earned a Bronze Star for convincing a German unit to surrender. The details of his heroic act are in the commendation letter above. From the Leo Baeck Institute’s Prölsdorfer – Lederman Family Collection (AR 25554). Also pictured above: Fred Ledermann’s Bronze Star, Army dog tag with prayer scroll, and service ribbons.

Celebrating Archivesby Susan Woodland, Senior Archivist,…

‎22 ‎October ‎2013, ‏‎22:52:00

Celebrating Archives
by Susan Woodland, Senior Archivist, American Jewish Historical SocietyOctober is Archives Month, and the archives community in metropolitan New York celebrated the week of October 7th with an extensive list of repository tours, programs, exhibits, a symposium on Disaster Recovery inspired by last fall’s superstorm Sandy, and an award ceremony. See the website of the Archivists Roundtable of Metropolitan New York (ART) for photographs and information about the week’s activities.

The five partners of the Center for Jewish History participated in Archives Week with two events. First, on Monday October 7th, the Center was a co-host with ART of the Disaster Recovery symposium. Video from the sessions will be posted soon on the ART site.

And second, the partners joined together with Center staff to host a two-hour information session and a tour behind the scenes, free and open to the general public. The information session included Q&As on conservation treatments with common family history items like books, photographs and older documents with Felicity Corkill, associate conservator; tips on reformatting older audio-visual formats with Zachary Loeb, reference services librarian, and Sarah Ponichtera, processing archivist; and what not to do with scrapbooks with Michael Simonson, archivist at LBI, and Susan Woodland, senior archivist at AJHS.

Tours are a regular part of the Center schedule, but the Archives Week tour was special in that it highlighted work that goes on in the building to support the work of the archivists and librarians in the areas of preservation, digitization and access to information.

Center staff who spoke during the tour included Jennifer Rodewald, manager of the Gruss Lipper digital lab; Rachel C. Miller, senior manager for archival processing in the Shelby White and Leon Levy processing lab; Miriam R. Haier, senior manager for communications and publications; Laura Leone, director of archive and library services; Moriah Amit, reference services librarian, genealogy specialist; and Melanie Meyers, senior reference services librarian for special collections.

Jews for Urban Justice: Part 1

‎21 ‎October ‎2013, ‏‎19:16:00

by Ilana Rossoff, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

This post is part of the Jews and Social Justice Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.

Jewish tradition emphasizes that Jews do justice and resist injustice. In past times of abundance, when the Jewish community has strayed, prophets have spoken out publicly to reawaken our people to their true heritage.” —from “A Declaration,” Jews for Urban Justice collection

Jews for Urban Justice—a small radical organization in Washington D.C.—was one of the few to attempt to hold Jewish community institutions and prominent individuals accountable for their direct and indirect complicity in the oppression of others, particularly racial minorities in D.C. According to Michael Staub in Torn at the Roots: The Crisis of Jewish Liberalism in Postwar America, Jews for Urban Justice was “the first radical Jewish group of the 1960s” [1] as is reflected in its unique take on Jewish community and social and economic justice. Ultimately, its work expanded to building power, education and community among radical Jewish youth throughout the D.C. area.

According to Staub, Jews for Urban Justice began when a group of young Jewish political activists grew disillusioned with the shortcomings of the social service work of the major Jewish institutions in D.C. Having attempted to work within these organizations for a short while, they decided that someone needed to address D.C.’s problems in a direct manner. They embarked on an information-collection survey to document and study the social work programs of Jewish community groups.

The introduction to their 1968 survey explains that the group was initially “alarmed over the increase of anti-Semitism within the ghettos [poor black communities]” and were interested in looking into its causes. “The group decided that some of the causes included: Jewish merchants who used unscrupulous practices in their businesses, Jewish ‘slumlords’ who continue to collect rent for unsafe and unhealthy housing, and Jews who practice residential segregation” [2]. They were shocked to find the lack of action taken by Jewish institutions to address the role that certain Jewish individuals and institutions played in maintaining social injustices. “Even more shocking were the occasional statements released by Jewish groups that made a mockery of mitzvah (moral imperative), tzedek (justice), and chesed (loving-kindness), the very principles they professed to uphold” (italics added) [3].

Thus, they committed themselves to confronting the Jewish community members who used such practices in their business lives and the Jewish communal institutions who remained silent about it. Tentatively calling themselves “Jews for Urban Justice,” in 1967 they began leaf-letting outside of synagogues on Yom Kippur with information on how some members of the Jewish community perpetuated racism and called on people to add to the list of self-reflective questions for atonement: “Have you discriminated against another human being? Have you remained silent? Have you ‘just followed orders’?” [4].

Members of the community were outraged, and the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League at the time sent JUJ founder Michael Tabor an incensed personal letter stating that “to engage in such activity on this day is a violation not only of all religious ethics but prostitutes the very purpose you profess to serve” [5]. Undeterred, the leaf-letting campaign continued for the next few years, and the resolve to confront Jewish complicity in oppression head-on—even with a touch of dramatic effect—strengthened.

In its first couple of years, Jews for Urban Justice organized several programs dealing with Jewish communal institutions, Jewish youth and larger social justice movements. In 1968 they released their study on Jewish institutions entitled  “A Report on Social Action and the Jewish Community.” It found that, particularly in situations where a synagogue or organization had members who were landlords or business-owners with exploitative practices, clergy or other leaders of the institution would not advise those members because their intervention would be deemed inappropriate.

With such responses, JUJ initiated campaigns that would bring support from Jewish communities to existing campaigns against social oppression. In compliance with the grape boycott called for by the United Farm Workers’ labor rights campaign, they approached synagogues and asked that their sukkahs not be adorned with, nor their wine made from, California grapes. After many letters and meetings throughout 1969 and 1970, all synagogues complied, to their knowledge and research. JUJ targeted Giant food chain as it was a major carrier of California grapes and asked the CEO, who was Jewish, not to sell grapes from California. Because he refused, they staged educational actions outside Giants stores and were accused of trying to sabotage the shelves of grapes inside the stores [6].

Additionally, JUJ compiled a study of the ways in which mortgage speculation inflated the costs of home loans for African American people and perpetuated existing financial discrimination against African American families. It concluded that one of the more egregious supporters of speculation was Guardian Federal, and though it was not the only institution of its kind, they said that because its board was comprised of mostly Jews, “it should be in the forefront of pressing for the good of the community rather than leading in its rape” [7]. They reached out to sympathetic Guardian Federal shareholders to use their place in the shareholder meeting as a proxy, so that organizers and people affected by mortgage speculation could speak during the meeting to challenge the company’s practices. In the end, however, this did not lead to a major change of policy by Guardian Federal.

In my next post, I will continue this close look at the work of Jews for Urban Justice.


[1] Michael Staub, Torn at the Roots: The Crisis of Jewish Liberalism in Postwar America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. Page 153.

[2] Introduction, A Report on Social Action and the Jewish Community, February-March 1968. Folder: Community Survey, 1968, Jews for Urban Justice collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives here at the Center. The Electronic Finding Aid to the archival collection can be found by clicking here.

[3] Jews for Urban Justice Statement of Purpose, Folder: Statement of Purpose, Membership Form, and Membership List, Jews for Urban Justice collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives here at the Center. (Finding aid.)

[4] Open Letter to Members of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, 1967. Folder: Yom Kippur 1967, Jews for Urban Justice collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives here at the Center. (Finding aid.)

[5] Letter to Michael Tabor by Jason R. Silverman, 1 November 1967. Quoted in Staub, Torn at the Roots, page 157.

[6] Memorandum, Giant Food Inc. 12 31 December 1969. Folder: Grape Boycott, Jews for Urban Justice collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives here at the Center. (Finding aid.)

[7] Fact Sheet: Mortgage Financing in the City and Jewish Community, November 1969, Folder: Banking Project, 1969-1970, Jews for Urban Justice collection, American Jewish Historical Society archives here at the Center. (Finding aid.)

Historic Recipes from the Jews of Alsace-Lorraineby David P….

‎18 ‎October ‎2013, ‏‎19:00:00
Historic Recipes from the Jews of Alsace-Lorraine
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History

In my last blog post, I touched upon three upcoming events here at the Center for Jewish History:

In looking into the food-culture of the Jews from Alsace-Lorraine, I learned about the importance of goose. According to Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York, force-feeding geese was economically important to the Jews of this region and dates to the 17th century.

Meat from birds that were bred and raised to provide foie gras was tough. As a result, it was sometimes used to make confit d’oie, a slow process involving garlic, onions, salt, fat and lots of time. Meat was also preserved by smoking. It was then sometimes eaten in traditional dishes such as cholent.

Goose fat also made its way into other traditional dishes such as lokshen kugel (egg noodle casserole) where goose fat replaced traditional schmaltz (chicken fat) or vegetable oil. Similarly, goose fat was occasionally used alongside corned beef or tongue, potatoes and sauerkraut in choucroute garniea dish that Alsace is known for.

Roden cites Suzanne Roukhomovsky’s Gastronomie Juive: Cuisine et pâtisserie … de Russie, d’Alsace, de Roumanie et d’Orient as the source for an interesting way to improve boiled tongue preparation. After the standard step of boiling the meat with spices for three hours to make it “very tender,” the Alsatian tradition calls for peeling off the skin and simmering the meat with white wine, sliced mushrooms and the original water (after it has been strained) for an additional half hour.

Geese were specifically bred to be at their prime for the Christians in the region to serve them at Christmas. Because Jews knew that the meat would be at its best during this general time, they often ate goose during Hanukkah. It was often prepared with a stuffing of apples, cabbage and chestnuts.

In my next blog post I’ll explore the economic life of Jews in Alsace-Lorraine and changes that came with emancipation – particularly with regard to their relationships with gentile neighbors. The program “French and Jewish: Defining a Modern Jewish Identity in the 19th Century on Monday, December 9, at 6:30pm will address the striking metamorphosis.

To start my research, I looked at The Economic Status of the Jews in Alsace, Metz and Lorraine (1648-1789) and learned several interesting things:

  • In the 17th century, Jews were required to wear a “yellow patch or another distinguishing mark reserved for Jews… Jewish children were converted to Catholicism by force…” (p.29).
  • “They had to struggle to obtain permission for storing their merchandise and to have stable for their horses outside the ghetto limit”—perhaps one of the reasons geese were raised (p.43).
  • Like in other places, usury was common among the Jews of Alsace-Lorraine. They often gave loans to peasants struggling to pay taxes.
  • Jews themselves struggled to pay their taxes because they were levied disproportionately. For example, in Metz, Jews were 1/18th of the population but were forced to pay 1/6th of the capitation tax (p.71).
  • Professional licenses were more expensive for Jews. They had to pay over double the cost of equivalent licenses purchased by gentiles. In 1715, Jews were charged 2,100 as compared to 1,000 pounds in one example given (p.71).
  • Overall, “prior to 1789 the greatest part of Jews living in Lorraine were poor” (p68-9).

To learn more about our current exhibition, click here.

Above image: A cheerful older woman with covered hair making matzah balls. From the 1886 Leon Cahun work La Vie Juive.

This fall, the YIVO Institute and the Center for Jewish History present an exhibition, a symposium and four public programs that explore the Jewish community in Metz, France in the 18th and 19th centuries. These programs were inspired by the Pinkas (Register) of the Metz Rabbinic Court, a rare and little-known document from the collections of the YIVO Institute Archives. 

The exhibition and program series is made possible by the generous support of The David Berg Foundation and Selz Foundation. Additional support has been provided by Emil Kleinhaus.

Food and the Jews of Alsace-Loraineby David P. Rosenberg,…

‎17 ‎October ‎2013, ‏‎21:11:00

Food and the Jews of Alsace-Loraine
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History

“Circles of Justice: Law, Culture and the Jews of Metz in 18th Century France” is now on view in The David Berg Rare Book Room here at the Center. Related programming includes Sex, Yiddish and the Law: Jewish Life in Metz in the 18th Century this Monday, October 21 at 6:30pm.

In exploring the history of the Jews of Alsace-Lorraine, I discovered sources that revealed the importance of food-culture in this region.

The 1886 Leon Cahun work La Vie Juive has “ein Alcase” neatly penciled on the title page. This work has not only descriptions of the Sabbath meal, but also a surprising number of illustrations devoted to the subject and other holiday meals. The number of illustrations was particularly striking considering its 19th-century imprint.

My favorites include a cheerful older woman with covered hair making matzah balls, an older man infatuated with a cake (see above), the spectacle of a matza bakery at its busiest time along and holiday scenes at the table. You can see all the illustrations by d’Alphonse Levy online. The physical book is available in the Lillian Goldman Reading Room here at the Center, and you can view its digitized version on

I also looked at Juifs en Alsace; culture, societe, histoire. The Leo Baeck Institute at the Center holds book number 746 of 2600.  This French work published in 1977 has a sizable section devoted to “Cuisine Judeo-alsacienne.” It starts with a discussion of the importance of dietary laws and includes terms like “Cachere,” “Treife,” “Milchig” and “Fleichig.”

I had someone with more intimate knowledge of French help me understand some of the other terms. I thought it was interesting that for Yom Kippur, “Kalbsvoresse, ragout de veau,” (veal stew) and Apfelkrapfel, Pommes decoupees” (sliced apples with raisins, almonds and cinnamon) were the standard fare. For Hanukkah, “Matseknepfle” (matzah balls), “Grive” (thrush), “Gfeltes Gänsehälsel” (stuffed neck of thrush) and “Gänse Voresse”  (oven roasted thrush) were mentioned. Thrush is a game bird. I learned that these recipes may actually be referring to goose, which was an important part of the culture and economy of the people of Alsace-Lorraine.

In my next post, I will look at recipes for goose and other Alsatian specialties. In future entries, I’ll examine the economic lives of the Jews of the region. Emancipation drastically affected Jews economically, which is a topic that will be addressed in a roundtable discussion on Monday, December 9, at 6:30pm, “French and Jewish: Defining a Modern Jewish Identity in the 19th Century.”

The changes that came with emancipation affected everyone, musicians among them. A concert and lecture on Monday, November 18, at 8:00pm will celebrate Charles-Valentin Alkan and his Music, who had roots in Metz.

To learn more about our current exhibition and related programming, click here.

This fall, the YIVO Institute and the Center for Jewish History present an exhibition, a symposium and four public programs that explore the Jewish community in Metz, France in the 18th and 19th centuries. These programs were inspired by the Pinkas (Register) of the Metz Rabbinic Court, a rare and little-known document from the collections of the YIVO Institute Archives. 

The exhibition and program series is made possible by the generous support of The David Berg Foundation and Selz Foundation. Additional support has been provided by Emil Kleinhaus.

Conducting Research on Jewish Fighters, WWIIWith a Focus on…

‎14 ‎October ‎2013, ‏‎21:59:00

Conducting Research on Jewish Fighters, WWII
With a Focus on Ukraine, Belarus and Russia
by J.D. Arden, Reference Services Assistant
with assistance from Aurora Zinder, Volunteer, and David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish HistoryAbove image: Kniga Pamiati Voinov-Evreev and Biographical Dictionary of Jewish Resistance

In the Lillian Goldman Reading Room here at the Center for Jewish History, you can explore Hebrew-language compilations of narratives and historical documents that testify to Jewish armed resistance in Europe during World War II. For example, the YIVO Institute holds three volumes published in Israel: Book of the Jewish Partisans / Sefer ha-partizanim ha-YehudimMemories of Partisans and Jewish Partisan Units in Belarus.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, more information about Soviet soldiers (both Jewish and non-Jewish) has become available. A 10-volume alphabetical Memory Book index in Russian of the Jewish soldiers who perished on the Soviet front is available in the Reference Section of the Lilian Goldman Reading Room under the title Kniga pamiati voinov-evreev, pavshikh v boiakh s natsizmom, 1941-1945Memory Book of Jewish Soldiers, who perished in combat with Nazism. This index is organized alphabetically by last names, and in most cases includes the birth date, death date and hometown of the soldier, and information on whether he died in action or subsequently from battle-related injuries. Some black-and-white photographs are available in a separate chapter.

For research on soldiers (and some civilians) who were from the republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and were killed during the War, YIVO has a large series of “Memory Books” in Ukrainian, Belorussian and Russian languages. These extensive volumes are indexed by individual towns and regions of each republic. The soldiers of each town are listed alphabetically with brief biographical information (including Jewish or other ethnicity, in some volumes). These and similar books (some that are not related to World War II) are searchable in our catalog under the keyword “pamiati.”

If you are interested in researching topics related to the geography and history of the War, there are many resources available across the collections of all of the partner organizations of the Center for Jewish History. For example, in the collections of the the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute and the YIVO Institute: Jewish documentary sources in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus : a preliminary list edited by Dorit Sallis and Marek Web  (Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1996. Online resources include “Letters from the Front: Jewish War Heroes” from the Center for Jewish History and Blavatnik Family Foundation, Memorial Database of Jewish Soldiers, Partisans and Workers Killed in Action during the Nazi Era by the Jewish Genealogical Society of New York; Pobediteli – Soldiers of the Great War, in English and Russian; and a website in Russian with more listings of Jewish Soviet soldiers who perished in detention brigades (shtrafnoi battalion). On the topic of  forced labor, search our archival collection here.

For more information on how you can access these resources and others like them, chat now with a librarian or schedule an appointment.

Conservation: Flattening Documents

‎10 ‎October ‎2013, ‏‎19:46:00

by Felicity Corkill, Associate Conservator, and Kevin Schlottmann, Levy Processing Archivist, Center for Jewish History

All physical objects change over time. Whether accelerated through exposure to light, changes in temperature and humidity, poor handling, or just natural decay, things break down. At the Center for Jewish History’s Collection Management and Conservation Wing, we attempt to address some of this inexorable decay through good storage environment and housing. We also try to repair and maintain the treasured documents, photographs, books and other materials of the Center’s partners.

An interesting example of the type of work performed in the Werner J. and Gisella Levi Cahnman Preservation Laboratory is the flattening of documents and photographs. A previous owner of this long portrait photograph had rolled it for storage:

Once rolled in this way, the photograph cannot be unrolled without cracking the gelatin emulsion every few inches and irreversibly damaging the image. Unfortunately, a rolled photo will often exhibit this sort of damage, as people have previously attempted to peek inside.  The proper way to treat such an item is to humidify and then flatten it. Humidification relaxes the gelatin emulsion and paper support that make up the photograph. This process is performed in a special chamber that allows a controlled amount of water vapor into an enclosed space.

As the photograph relaxes, it can be slowly unrolled until it is lying flat. Then it is placed between layers of blotting paper and weighted. After a couple of days, the item is dry and flat and can be viewed (and, in this case, eventually digitized as well). Additional repairs help stabilize the tears in the photograph. It is not perfect, as some damage is irreversible, but the photo can now be handled and viewed – a usable object once more.

This particular photograph is a portrait of Company A, 56th Signal Battalion at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, from August 9, 1941. One of the men who served in this company was Fred Lederman, a German Jew who arrived in the United States in 1940 and was promptly drafted into the Army and sent back to Europe to fight the Nazis. From the Leo Baeck Institute’s Prölsdorfer – Lederman Family Collection (AR 25554).

In Memory of Rabbi Ovadia Yosefby David P. Rosenberg,…

‎07 ‎October ‎2013, ‏‎23:10:00

In Memory of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History 

Above image: President Reagan with Ovadia Yosef, Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel. Early 1980s. AMIT records, I-521, from the collections of the American Jewish Historical Society. 

The partner organizations of the Center for Jewish History have many works penned by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, including:

New at the Center for Jewish HistoryOpening Sunday, October 6,…

‎04 ‎October ‎2013, ‏‎02:50:00
New at the Center for Jewish History
Opening Sunday, October 6, 2013

The David Berg Rare Book Room is a new state-of-the-art space presenting exhibitions and collections of rare books, first editions, illuminated manuscripts and letters dating back hundreds of years. It provides for the first time a shared exhibition space for the Center partners’ treasures. Visitors can virtually turn the pages of digitized volumes using touch technology. Open to the public six days a week. Click here to plan your visit to the Center for Jewish History now.

An Archive of My OwnOctober 2 – November 9, 2013 Meet the…

‎04 ‎October ‎2013, ‏‎01:55:00

An Archive of My Own
October 2 – November 9, 2013Meet the artist, Nino Biniashvili, on Sunday, October 6 from 12pm to 6pm.

In An Archive of My Own, Nino Biniashvili commits acts of artistic recovery. She rescues rare archival materials from obscurity and transforms them into compelling art exploring Georgian-Jewish experience.

In an exhibition that challenges traditional methods of history-making, Ms. Biniashvili brings history home. She answers Virginia Woolf’s insistence that a female artist have access to a personal study. An Archive of My Own is Biniashvili’s “room of her own”—a space that feels at once domestic and revolutionary.

A wooden table, chair and lamp, a large picture-book, a house plant and projected slides invite you into a world of actively engaging with the past for a meaningful experience of the present.

Ms. Biniashvili grew up in Georgia during the last years of the Soviet Union. As a Prins Fellow at the Center for Jewish History, she focused her historical inquiry on material available from the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, one of the Center’s partners. The slides that she found inspired her drawings.

In her art Ms. Biniashvili challenges borders between external and internal, collective and individual, historic specificity and timelessness. Her project explores the role an artist can have in investigating, interpreting and representing history—and the ways in which delving into archives can help us discover new things about our families and ourselves.

Learning from Children’s Literature

‎25 ‎September ‎2013, ‏‎23:23:04

by Sarah Ganton, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

The ways in which we preserve history for future generations are particularly relevant during holiday seasons, when we remember traditions and objects that mark special days. We might save our grandmother’s menorah, or pass down the secret family recipe for hamentashen. The yearly Sukkah is, of course, too big to save for future generations, but, nonetheless, we remember many happy times during Sukkot.

While looking through archival items housed at the Center for Jewish History that pertain to Sukkot, I stumbled upon three children’s books. All are sweetly illustrated and fun to read, but they represent something much deeper than nostalgia for childhood. These books, with their Sukkah-building bears and prayer-chanting children, are essentially teaching aids, helping to introduce young children to their Jewish heritage and the traditions of Jewish culture.

One of the books, The Sukkah and the Big Wind by Lily Edelman, was published in 1956 by the United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education and features a discussion of decorating the Sukkah, children singing a Hebrew song of welcome to their friends, and a nightly Hebrew bedtime prayer.

Similarly, Leo and Blossom’s Sukkah, by Jane Breskin Zalben, depicts two baby bears building their own Sukkah next to that of their parents, and shows the family equating the harvest feast of Sukkot to American Thanksgiving.

Succos Time with Fishele and Fraydele, self-published by author Faige Shain, is part of a series of books that show an observant family as they celebrate Sukkot, buying the appropriate decorations and attending services together. Succos Time in particular includes many Hebrew Sukkot-related words that a Jewish child might need to know, such as s’chach, the material used to make the roof of a Sukkah, and arba minim, the Four Species of plant that are waved in a traditional Sukkot ceremony.

To search the Center partners’ collections for these books and others like them, click here. To view other Sukkot-related materials, click here.

Books referenced:

The Sukkah and the Big Wind, by Lily Edelman. United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education, 1956. YIVO Archives 000131676

Leo and Blosssom’s Sukkah, by Jane Breskin Zalben. H. Holt, 1990. AJHS Archives BM695.S8 Z3 1990

Succos Time with Fishele and FraydeleI, by Faige Shain. Self-published, 1974. AJHS Archives PZ7.S4 S8

Sukkot in the NJWB Recordsby Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference…

‎25 ‎September ‎2013, ‏‎23:14:51

Sukkot in the NJWB Records
by Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish HistoryThis post is part of the Holiday History Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.

Above image: Decorating the Sukkah at Lowry Air Force Base, Denver, Colorado. Text on back of photograph: (l-r): Lt. Robert Goldberg, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Airman Maynard Schlager, Boston, Mass.; Chaplain Albert J. Leeman, Brooklyn, N.Y. October 1952. NJWBR. American Jewish Historical Society Collections.

As I discussed in my previous posts on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jewish holidays, along with their respective rituals and practices, are rooted in history and serve to facilitate individual connection to the collective Jewish past.

Sukkot, or the “feast of tabernacles,” calls for the building of temporary dwellings called “sukkot” (booths) in order to remind us of the precarious housing of the Israelites during their 40 years in the desert following the Exodus from Egypt. While remembering the experience of the Israelites in Egypt is of primary importance, congregational leaders desire to connect Sukkot to current events in order to make the holiday more relevant and meaningful to their community. Many examples of this can be found in the records of the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB), located in the American Jewish Historical Society collection at the Center for Jewish History.

The first example comes from a synagogue bulletin in October 1939. Just as Hitler began to reveal his answer to the “Jewish question,” one New York synagogue explained that the Sukkah represented the constant struggle of the Jewish people for freedom and existence. It describes the Sukkah as a perennial token of the survival of the Jewish people and their triumph in the face of oppression. The bulletin calls for the community to support and cling to the frail Sukkah, for it serves as the rock of the salvation during this terrible time for the Jewish people. By explaining the Sukkah as a symbol of survival during the Holocaust, the author of this bulletin addresses the current concerns of his community and increases the meaning of the holiday of Sukkot. (Call Number I-337, Subgroup 1, Series C, Subseries 4, Box 173, Folder 16. Click here for the finding aid.)

Another example of connecting Sukkot to current events can be seen in a holiday bulletin from the Jewish Community Center in Detroit in October 1944, a point at which Hitler had already carried out much destruction. After associating Sukkot with the Jewish people’s quest for freedom, this bulletin explains that the Sukkah, as a temporary shelter, is a reminder that life is transitory. The Sukkah serves as a reminder that millions of Jews in Europe have had no peace, rest or permanent shelter since the beginning of the war. The Sukkah, as a vulnerable and temporary shelter, also represents exposure to the elements and the hope of an end to war. (Call Number I-337, Subgroup 1, Series C, Subseries 4, Box 173, Folder 17. Click here for the finding aid.)

In attempt to keep Jewish holidays relevant to their community, leaders have often connected holiday rituals and symbols to current concerns of the Jewish people. These Sukkot bulletins during the Holocaust years are just two examples of many ways communities fused Jewish collective memory with contemporary Jewish struggles.

Yom Kippur in the NJWB Recordsby Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference…

‎13 ‎September ‎2013, ‏‎19:51:00

Yom Kippur in the NJWB Records
by Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish HistoryThis post is part of the Holiday History Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.

Above image: Text on back of photograph reads, “Yom Kippur services at Great Lakes, Ill. I think 1942 or 1943. Rabbi Julius Mark was chaplain. Services held in drill hall, now Catholic chapel.” c/o American Jewish Historical Society.

I wrote my last post on sermons and bulletins specific to Rosh Hashanah. Now I will explore a few examples from Yom Kippur announcements. Like the previous examples, these again highlight events most concerning to American Jewish communities as well as the ways in which Jewish leaders connected such events to the Days of Awe. The materials come from records of the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB), housed in the American Jewish Historical Society collections here at the Center for Jewish History.

The first example is an excerpt from a sermon delivered on Yom Kippur 1943 titled “The Jew and the Draft.” Doctor Rabbi A. Herbert Fedder of Laurelton Jewish Center begins his speech with a joke popular at the time: “What goes faster than a P-40? A Jew passing a draft board.” His sermon is devoted to debunking the myth that Jews avoid the draft in larger proportions than the rest of the American population, and arming Jews with facts that they can use to answer such a charge. After explaining common reasons Jews have been associated with avoiding the draft, Rabbi Fedder gives numerical evidence of Jewish involvement in the army at a proportion greater than that of other Americans. He calls for Jews to read, analyze, memorize and repeat the great contribution of the Jewish community to the American army. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 10. Click here for the finding aid.)

Another example can be seen in a letter from Rabbi Manning Bleich addressed to the worshippers of Ohev Sholom Synagogue in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. Before the penitential period of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in 1945, Rabbi Bleich wrote that while arms have been laid down, the community should approach the Days of Awe with no less meaningful prayer than in previous years. True penitence can help return the world to peace and alleviate suffering of Jews everywhere. He dedicated his Slichot service that year (a service of prayers for forgiveness said before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) to Lieutenant Louis Krentzman, the first member of his congregation to fall “for G-d and Country.” He called for the pews to be filled in order to honor this brave soldier’s memory. By dedicating the Slichot service to a fallen member of his congregation, Rabbi Bleich both incorporated the realities of WWII into his High Holiday agenda and made the Days of Awe more relevant to his community. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 10. Click here for the finding aid.)

A final example comes from a statement by Frank Weil, the President of the National Jewish Welfare Board in September 1945. Echoing the message of Rabbi Bleich, Weil expresses the feeling of hope for the Jewish community that accompanies the downfall of the tyrannical regimes in Europe. He commits the NJWB to relief and rehabilitation of displaced survivors of the war and reconstruction of Jewish communities abroad. He calls for prayer on these High Holidays—for Jews in America and for soldiers in Europe and the Far East—to be focused on the historic task of world peace, put forth by the prophets and proclaimed as the goal of mankind. In his message, Weil reveals the contemporary interest of the American Jewish community in supporting the rebuilding and revitalization of the Jewish people in Europe. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 11. Click here for the finding aid.)

Check back for children’s quizzes on the High Holidays, and a look into historic Jewish communities through Sukkot bulletins and sermons!

A Time to Reflectby Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference Services…

‎13 ‎September ‎2013, ‏‎04:05:41

A Time to Reflect
by Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish HistoryThis post is part of the Holiday History Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.

Above image: Text on back of photograph: “Chaplain Joseph H. Freedman Hq, USAFIME, is shown blowing the ‘Shofar’ during the annual religious service in observance of Rosh-Hashana. Photo by Sgt. E.M. Henderson, S.C., Signal Corps Photo Division, USAFIME.” Circa 1942. c/o American Jewish Historical Society. 

Since the high holidays draw the highest number of Jews to synagogue during the Jewish year, it is an apt time for congregational leaders to speak and write on topics of interest or concern to their communities. Sermons and bulletins on Rosh Hashanah, for example, typically inspire reflection on the past year and describe hopes for the year ahead.

As I noted in my previous post, records from the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB)—housed in the American Jewish Historical Society collections here at the Center—allow us to see which world events were most relevant to Jews at specific time periods, as well as the thematic ways in which Jewish community leaders connected these events to the Jewish New Year.

The first example comes from a bulletin called “The Synagogue Light” by Rabbi Joseph Hager. On Rosh Hashanah 1941, in the midst of the Holocaust, he writes that as Jewish communities blow the ram’s horn, they should reflect on the innumerable losses in blood and treasure of the Jewish people in many parts of the world. He explains that over the past year Jews have been persecuted, their existence as a people has been threatened, and they have been made to experience the suffering of the dark ages. He expresses hope that on this Rosh Hashanah, prayer will hasten the coming of well-being for humanity, and that the new year will be one of deliverance and salvation for the Jewish people. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 9. Click here for the finding aid.)

Another example comes in the form of a New Year message from Dr. Louis Finkelstein, President of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1945. He begins by saying that as the enemies of democracy in Europe and Asia have been defeated, and men begin to return to their regular lives, it is a fitting on Rosh Hashanah to reflect upon the events of the past six years. He writes that even while much is being done to repair the world after the physical destruction of WWII, that the most important goal moving forward is to lay the foundation of lasting peace among nations. He connects this call for cooperation among mankind to the Rosh Hashanah themes of renewed heart and spirit. He puts forth the hope that as Jews help to rebuild the world and repopulate the Jewish people, that they focus on the establishment of Israel as a shelter for those in need and the education of children about the importance of a life devoted to Jewish values. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 10. Click here for the finding aid.)

A final example comes from the President’s Message in the Mizrachi Women’s Cultural Guide on Rosh Hashanah 1948. She says that this is the first Jewish New Year since the creation of Israel and thanks God for the great events of the past year. In asking for peace and security of the new country, the President notes the importance of determined and loyal Zionists in the essential building up of the land, including its schools, agriculture and army. She hopes, on Rosh Hashanah, for the continued privilege of contributing to the growth of the Jewish people and the new state of Israel. (AJHS I-337, subgroup 1, series C, subseries 4, box 168, Folder 11. Click here for the finding aid.)

Best wishes for a sweet new year, full of meaningful reflection on the past and hope for the future. Check back for a look into past Jewish communities through the lens of Yom Kippur sermons and bulletins.

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Kislev 15, 5774 · November 18, 2013
Today’s Tanya Lesson
Kuntres Acharon, end of Essay 6

אך מה שהיה משתבח בתהלת התורה במעלתה זו, ואמר: זמירות היו לי כו׳, נענש על זה

However, for extolling the Torah with this quality, saying,1 “[Your statutes] were songs for me,” he was punished.

ואמר לו הקב״ה: זמירות קרית להו

G‑d reproved him:2 “You call them songs?!”

משום שבאמת, מעלתה זו, שכל העולמות בטלים לגבי דקדוק אחד ממנה

For indeed, this quality [of the Torah], that all the worlds are nothingness compared to one detail of it,

היא מבחינת אחוריים של עומק המחשבה

is [but] of the hinderpart, the externality, of the profound Supernal Thought.

כמו שכתוב במקום אחר בשם האריז״ל על מאמר רז״ל: נובלות חכמה שלמעלה, תורה

This is explained elsewhere3 in the name of the AriZal, on the teaching of our Sages,4 “Torah is [merely] a shade of Supernal Wisdom.”

אבל פנימית שבעומק, שהוא פנימית התורה, היא מיוחדת לגמרי באור אין סוף ברוך הוא, המלובש בה בתכלית היחוד

However, the innermost core of the depth [of Supernal Thought], which is the innermost core of the Torah, is utterly fused with the [infinite] Ein Sof-light that is vested within the Torah in a perfect unity.

ולגבי אין סוף ברוך הוא, כל העולמות כלא ממש, ואין ואפס ממש

Relative to the Infinite One, all the worlds are as absolute naught, sheer nothingness, nonexistent.

כי אתה הוא עד שלא נברא העולם וכו׳

For5 “You were [the same] before the world was created, [You are the same since the world has been created].”

Being of absolutely no account relative to G‑d, all the worlds effect no change in Him.

והלכך גם לפנימיות התורה אין לשבחה כלל בתהלת חיות כל העולמות, מאחר דלא ממש חשיבי

Hence, the internal aspect of the Torah too (which is wholly united with G‑d) is not at all to be lauded as being the animating force of all the worlds, forrelative to the internal aspect of the Torah they are reckoned as nothingness itself.

ובבחינת פנימיותה, אינה שמחת לבב אנוש ושעשועיו

In this inward aspect of the Torah there can be no mortal heartfelt joy and delight,

אלא, כביכול, שמחת לב ושעשוע המלך, הקב״ה, שמשתעשע בה

but rather, in a manner of speaking, the heartfelt joy and pleasure of the King, the Holy One, blessed be He, Who delights in it.

כי אלקים הבין דרכה, וידע מקומה ומעלתה

For [only]6 “G‑d understands its way, and knows its station” and quality

בידיעת עצמו, כביכול

through His self-knowledge,7 as it were; knowing Himself, he also knows the Torah that is entirely one with Him.

אבל נעלמה מעיני כל חי

This, however, is8 “concealed from all mortal eyes.”

כמו שכתוב: ופני לא יראו, דהיינו בחינת פנימיותה, כמו שכתוב שם בשם האריז״ל

As it is written,9 “My Face — i.e., the innermost dimension of the Torah, itspnimiyut, as implied by the word panim — shall not be seen,” as is explained there10 in the name of the AriZal.

וזהו שאמר הכתוב: ואהיה אצלו כו׳ שעשועים

Hence the verse,11 in which the Torah itself is the speaker, “I was… a delight unto Him,”

אצלו דוקא

specifically “unto Him.”

The order of the words in the original makes it clear that the Torah is G‑d’s delight alone.

משחקת לפניו

[Likewise, in the following phrase] which describes the Torah as causing G‑d delight by “playing before Him,”

לפניו דוקא, דהיינו בבחינת פנימיותה

the verse specifies the term “before Him” — lefanav, deriving from panim(“face”), which is related to pnimiyut (“inwardness”) — for this refers to the inwardness [of the Torah] that cavorts before the inwardness of the Infinite One.

* * *

The Alter Rebbe will now explain that this sublime level of Torah in which G‑d alone delights, descends to nurture the souls of the Jewish people. For this reason theMidrash calls the Torah uman (lit., “a craftsman”), one who skillfully nurtures a young child.

ועל זה אמר: ואהיה אצלו אמון, אל תקרי אמון, אלא אומן כו׳

Concerning this [innermost level of the Torah] it is written,12 “I was by Him amon (‘one who is nurtured’),” [and the Midrash comments],13 “Do not read amon, but uman (‘one who nurtures’).”

This sublime and innermost level of the Torah descends to nurture Jewish souls, inasmuch as they transcend the world. The world, however, is vitalized not by this level of the Torah but by its externality.

ועל בחינת אחוריים אמר: משחקת בתבל ארצו, ושעשועי את בני אדם

It is with reference to the hinderpart (the external aspect of the Torah) that it is written,14 (and in this verse the Torah describes itself as) “Playing in the world, His land; and my delights are with mortal men.”

It is the external aspect of the Torah that brings delight to the world and to man.

כי התורה ניתנה בבחינת פנים ואחור

For the Torah was given in states of both inwardness and externality;

כדכתיב במגילה עפה דזכריה: והיא כתובה פנים ואחור

as it is written concerning the “flying scroll” of Zechariah,15 “and it was written front and back.”

Panim (“face” or “front”) is the root of pnimiyut (“inwardness”); achor (“back”) is the root of achorayim (“hinderpart”, i.e., externality).

ולפי שתפס דוד בבחינת אחוריים

Since David seized upon [and praised] the hinderpart [of the Torah],

A term such as “songs” relates to the merely external aspect of the Torah that relates to the world and animates it.

לכך נענש בשכחה, הבאה מן בחינת אחוריים

he was punished with forgetfulness, which derives from an attitude of externality.

A person does not forget things that are truly internalized within him, but only things which remain external to him.

ונעלם ממנו לפי שעה מה שכתוב: עבודת הקדש עליהם, בכתף ישאו

He thus became momentarily oblivious to the verse concerning the Ark,16“The sacred service is their duty; on the shoulder shall they carry it” —

לחבר וליחד את הכתפיים, שהן בחינת אחוריים

in order to combine and unite the “shoulders”, which are akin to the hinderpart,

אל עבודת הקדש, היא חכמה עילאה, בבחינת פנים

with the sacred service, viz., the Supernal Wisdom, which is also called “sacred”, in a manner that reflects inwardness.

שמשם נמשכו הלוחות שבארון

For this state [of inwardness] is the source of the Tablets in the Ark,

כמו שכתוב: כתובים משני עבריהם כו׳

of which the verse states,17 “Written on both their sides….”

וכמו שכתוב בירושלמי דשקלים, שלא היתה בהן בחינת פנים ואחור

And as explained in the Yerushalmi, Tractate Shekalim,18 [the Tablets] did not have any front (panim) and back (achor) — they were entirely panim, signifying pnimiyut (“inwardness”).

The purpose of carrying the Ark on the shoulders was thus to connect the external aspect of man with the inwardness of the Torah.

עיין שם

Study that reference (in the Yerushalmi) well.

1. Tehillim 119:54.
2. Sotah 35a.
3. Note of the Rebbe: “See Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle XIX.”
4. Note of the Rebbe (in Likkutei Biurim, Vol. I, p. 485): “Bereishit Rabbah 17:5 and 44:17; explained in Etz Chayim, Shaar HaKlalim, end of ch. 1, et al.”
5. Text of the morning prayers, cf. Tanna Dvei Eliyahu Rabbah, sec. 21.
6. Cf. Iyov 28:23.
7. Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 2:10.
8. Iyov 28:21.
9. Shmot 30:23.
10. Note of the Rebbe: “See Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle XIX.”
11. Mishlei 8:30.
12. Mishlei 8:30.
13. Beginning of Bereishit Rabbah.
14. Mishlei 8:31.
15. The scroll referred to in Zechariah 5:1-2 is the same (see Rashi there) as that referred to — earlier in the Tanach — in Yechezkel 2:9-10, from which the above quotation is drawn. The Rebbe notes that an explanation is needed as to why thelater reference is quoted.
16. Bamidbar 7:9.
17. Shmot 32:15.
18. 6:1.
The Tanya of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun.
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