BY MJL STAFF
Great traditional Jewish jokes.
From Groucho Marx to the Borscht Belt to Sarah Silverman, many of America’s best-known comedians have been Jewish. And so important is humor to Jewish culture that a landmark study on American Jewish identity in 2013 found that 42 percent of American Jews consider “having a good sense of humor” to be “an essential part of what being Jewish means.” (In contrast, only 19 percent said observing Jewish law was essential.)
But Jewish humor can be difficult to define. As William Novak and Moshe Waldoks write in “The Big Book of Jewish Humor,” it is easier to describe Jewish humor in terms of what it is not, than what it is.
It is not, for example, escapist. It is not slapstick. It is not physical. It is generally not cruel and does not attack the weak or the infirm. At the same time, it is also not polite or gentle.
By Abigail Klein Leichman for Israel21c
From the Jerusalem Festival to the Maccabiah Games, the summer of 2017 in Israel is chockful of activities and festivals for all ages and interests.
Opera, jazz, puppetry, sports, crafts, books, avant-garde theater: All that and much more is planned as spring slides into summer in Israel. If you’re planning a visit between June and August, consider putting some of these 17 events on your itinerary. Always confirm dates ahead of time in case of changes.
Jane Eisner for The Forward
Sheryl Sandberg may be the most famous widow in America right now. Before her husband, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly two years ago, she was already famous as the second-in-command of Facebook, the best-selling author of “Lean In” and a globe-trotting speaker and influencer — who did all this while raising two children in an equitable and loving marriage. (Extreme wealth, prestige and privilege helped.)
Goldberg’s sudden death at age 47 on May 1, 2015, made Sandberg seem mortal. Grief nearly crushed her, and she wasn’t afraid to say that out loud. But because she is Sheryl Sandberg — brainy, driven and connected — she didn’t stop there and called upon the top grief experts to analyze what was happening to her and her children, and to guide their recovery.
From Coffee Shop Rabbi
Shavuot [sha-voo-OHT or sh-VOO-us] is coming. Even though it is a major Jewish holiday, only the more observant Jews will even be aware of it.
That’s a shame. It’s a beautiful holiday – and in real ways, it is the completion of the journey we began at the Passover seder. The trouble is that unlike Passover, it didn’t see as successful a transition to the new realities Jews faced after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.
HISTORY Shavuot combines two ancient observances: a festival for the first grain harvest of the summer and the chag, or pilgrimage holiday, celebrated in Temple times. All Jews who were able traveled to Jerusalem to observe the sacrifices and bring the first fruits of their harvests, remembering and celebrating our acceptance of the covenant at Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments. The drama and pageantry of the holiday made Shavuot a major event in the Jewish year.
Memorial Day for Ethiopian Jews who Perished on their Way to Israel
The 28th of Iyar is marked by the Israeli Ethiopian community as the memorial day for those who perished on their way to Israel.
A mass immigration of Ethiopian Jews ("Beta Israel") took place in the years 1980 – 1984, from their villages in the area of Gundar and through Sudan. Many of them, who dreamt for many years of making Aliyah to Israel, managed to flee Ethiopia and arrive at the Ethiopian-Sudanese border, where they waited in provisional camps to make Aliyah. The passage through Sudan was made possible by an unspoken agreement, only known to a few senior officials in Sudan. Agents of the Mossad awaited the immigrants at the Sudanese border and instructed them to hide their Jewish identity.
Jerusalem Day - A Historical Introduction
Jerusalem was divided during the War of Independence and nineteen years later was reunited as a result of the 6-Day War.
The battle of Jerusalem began on the morning of June 5, 1967 when the Jordanians opened fire along the entire cease-fire line. By that afternoon the Jordanians occupied the Governor's Palace.
The Central Command of the Israeli Army, under the command of General Uzi Narkiss, moved the "Har'el" brigade to the Jerusalem front. This force tore through the enemy positions of "Har Adar" and "Abdul Aziz" and conquered "Nebi Samuel".
Questions and answers about traditions for the seven-day Jewish mourning period.
What is shiva?
Shiva is a period of mourning that generally lasts seven days, starting when the mourners return home from the funeral. During shiva, a mourner traditionally stays at home or at the home of the deceased or the deceased’s other mourners, wears torn clothing or a torn black ribbon pinned to one’s clothes (a practice known as kriah) and doesn’t go to work or school. More details about kriah and other mourning practices can be found here.
A Non-Animal Sacrifice
Most people know that in the Holy Temple we brought animal sacrifices. What many people do not know is that many of the sacrifices were not from animals at all! A great many of them were from agricultural produce. The Omer Sacrifice was one such offering.
The Omer Sacrifice was brought not from animals, but from barley.
The Torah commands us to bring, on the second day of Passover, the Omer Offering. Let us first discuss some of the meanings behind the Commandment, and then, Gop willing, we will discuss how it was actually done.
The Meaning of the Omer
Since the establishment of the State of Israel, four new holidays have been added to the Jewish calendar - Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day), and Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). In Israel, these holidays are observed as national holidays.
The Israeli Knesset established the day before Yom HaAtzmaut as Yom HaZikaron, a Memorial Day for soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the War of Independence and in other subsequent battles.
Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, marks the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. It is observed on or near the 5th of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in April, sometimes May.
Read more about the history, customs, an Israeli perspective and how to make this holiday a sacred day.
Want to feel confident walking into a synagogue, seder or shiva? Start with our Judaism 101 video collection.
An introduction to the Jewish laws around eating
An introduction to kosher, for everyone. Learn why people keep kosher, the basic rules, how to get started, or how to be thoughtful as a guest in a kosher home. A great intro for Jews and non-Jews alike – share with your curious coworker or family member.
What Do People Do?
Passover lasts for up to eight days (or seven days among Reform Jewish groups). There are many Jewish people who adhere to most of the Sabbath observances during the last day of Passover. Some may take a holiday around this time of the year. It is also a time for Jewish people to recite special blessings or prayers, as well as visit a synagogue or listen to readings from the Torah and eat a ceremonial meal.
Many Jewish families in the United States eat a ceremonial meal known as the Seder, which involves telling the story of the exodus from Egypt as well as eating various symbolic foods, such as meat of the paschal lamb and bitter herbs (recalling the harsh life of slavery).
Along with Sukkot and Shavuot, Passover is one of the Shalosh Regalim, or Three Pilgrimage Festivals, during which people gathered in Jerusalem with their agricultural offerings in ancient times. There are several mitzvot (commandments) unique to Passover, which are evident in the customs and rituals of the holiday to this day: matzah (the eating of unleavened bread); maror (the eating of bitter herbs); chametz (abstention from eating leaven); b’iur chametz (removal of leaven from the home); and haggadah (participation in the seder meal and telling the story).
For more great Passover ideas, check out our Passover Resource Kit.
By MJL Staff
How to decode the different kosher labels.
Question: I’ve noticed that there are a lot of different symbols that indicate something is kosher. An OU, a triangle K, a cRc in a triangle, etc. One of my friends only eats things with some of the symbols, and not others. What’s the difference?
Answer: You’re right that there are dozens of different symbols that indicate something is kosher. Each symbol comes from a different organization or rabbi.
What The Labels and Symbols Mean
By Rabbi Irving Greenberg for MyJewishLearning.com
Why The Exodus Was So Significant
Periodically, scholars survey historians’ opinions as to what is the most influential event of all time. In recent decades, the Industrial Revolution has often appeared at the top of the list. For the politically oriented, not uncommonly the French Revolution wins; for Marxists, the Russian Revolution. Christians often point to the life and death of Jesus as the single most important event of history. For Muslims, Mohammed’s revelations and his hegira [exile, 622 CE] have a similar transcendental authority.
Yet when Jews observe Passover, they are commemorating what is arguably the most important event of all time — the Exodus from Egypt. If for no other reason than the fact that the Exodus directly or indirectly generated many of the important events cited by other groups, this is the event of human history.
Want to learn more about Passover? Check out our Passover Resource Kit.
BY RABBI OR N. ROSE FOR MYJEWISHLEARNING.COM
Jewish Sources Are Conflicted About What Happens After We Die.
Like other spiritual traditions, Judaism offers a range of views on the afterlife, including some parallels to the concepts of heaven and hell familiar to us from popular Western (i.e., Christian) teachings. While in traditional Jewish thought the subjects of heaven and hell were treated extensively, most modern Jewish thinkers have shied away from this topic, preferring to follow the biblical model, which focuses on life on earth.
The Bible’s Sheol: An Underground Abyss
The subject of death is treated inconsistently in the Bible, though most often it suggests that physical death is the end of life. This is the case with such central figures as Abraham, Moses, and Miriam.
The Joy of Kosher
In Hawai'i, the word aloha means hello, goodbye, and love. This Purim, when you greet your guests, you can say aloha in addition to shalom, as you offer them a lei and a Coconut Ambrosia Hamantaschen (see below).
In fact, get the whole family involved: All you need are Hawaiian shirts, sunglasses, leis or flower necklaces, and a laid back fun-in-the-sun attitude. If you're feeling creative, you can also put together grass skirts with ribbons or streamers.
Below you will find some great Hawaiian inspired recipes for your Purim meal as well as mishloach manot. And don't forget to print out our nifty Aloha Happy Purim cards, to decorate with your own photos and message!