The How of Chanukkah

Hanukkah has very few requirements:

  1. Lighting candles and placing them in the window or outside near the doorpost of your home when in Israel.
  2. Four short blessings are said before and after you light your candles.
  3. Celebration in the house with games, stories and food.

But it’s all done with music and song!

When the candles are prepared in the menorah or hanukkiah, a candle for each night in ascending order from 1 – 8, we do this:

 

After the candles are lit, we say a brief admonition to all. The candles are not used for any earthly purpose other than to shine and glow for us and the world outside our windows.

Hanerot Halalu, a traditional prayer, sung after the lighting of the menorah.

We kindle these lights on account of the miracles, the deliverances and the wonders which thou didst work for our fathers, by means of thy holy priests.

During all the eight days of Chanukah, these lights are sacred, neither is it permitted us to make any profane use of them; but we are only to look at them, in order that we may give thanks unto thy name for thy miracles, thy deliverances and thy wonders.

We then we sing Maoz Tsur.

 

What about food?

The Rabbis decreed, “There is no celebration without food.”

Traditional foods are potato pancakes fried in oil – latkes, and oil-fried donuts -sufganiyot.

 

And, who says you can’t have a festive meal together!

That’s it, folks!

Chanukkah Sameach! Happy Hanukkah!

PS: You can spell it any way you like – Chanukkah, Hanuka, Hannukkah, Hanukkah – as long as you light the candles, sing the blessings and enjoy the people and the food together.

 

How to Create Peace – Personal and Communal

The ultimate lesson of Hanukkah is for world peace that we hope and pray for but have not yet achieved. Rabbi Nir Menussi gives us a mirror to illuminate how this may be brought about.

This week, I listened to two podcasts by Rabbi Nir Menussi *2, which address this issue of individual and communal behaviour change. Behaviour change for good is called “teshuva” – return to your better self in Hebrew.

In the first podcast, Awakening Teshuvah,*3 Rabbi Menussi was asked whether his weekly talks on the Torah lead people to change their ways. For example, to become more observant of the Jewish religion – “hozer be teshuvah” in Hebrew.

Rabbi Menussi explains:

“People awaken to teshuvah – self-improvement and spiritual growth – not when censured or rebuked, but when they are helped to recognize their sins on their own.

There is something inherently paradoxical about the awakening of Teshuvah. On the one hand, it must start from within. On the other hand, only the chick knows when to break out of its egg. If someone tries to hatch the egg, prematurely , its growth can be ruined. This is what criticism and rebuke often do. They make a person shrink back, thereby hindering their development… because teshuvah entails the unpleasant realization that we’re not living optimally, we react with defence mechanisms. These can manifest as either self-justification or self-flagellation. In either case, the result is the same. We further entrench ourselves in our everyday lifestyle and don’t change.”

The upshot of this paradox is that the ability to stir a person to Teshuvah is a subtle art.

In this week’s Torah portion, we see it masterfully demonstrated by Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law, in a way that changed history.

Let’s recall the story. Tamar marries Judah’s firstborn son, but he dies because of his sins, leaving her a childless widow. Following the Biblical laws of levirate marriage, she is married to the next brother, but he too sins and dies. Judah is now obligated to marry Tamar to his third son, but he is afraid that Tamar might have caused their deaths, unaware of his sons’ sins. So to buy time, Judah instructs Tamar to wait in her father’s house until the third son grows up.

Time passes, and Tamar sees that Judah is postponing the wedding indefinitely. She then concocts a daring plan.

Judah and Tamar, school of Rembrandt

Judah and Tamar, school of Rembrandt

She dresses up as a prostitute and seduces Judah himself at the crossroads. Having nothing to compensate her, he leaves her his staff, signet ring, and cloak as a deposit. The next day he sends a messenger to pay her and take back his belongings, but she is nowhere to be found.

Three months go by, and Tamar’s pregnancy becomes apparent. Judah – whose son Tamar is still officially betrothed – is furious that she has committed adultery and commands that she be burned at stake. In response, Tamar sends him the three articles she had received from him and adds vital sentences.

From the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant… Please recognize whose signet ring, cloak, and staff are these?

Notice Tamar’s words. She could have said, “I’m pregnant from you, and here’s the proof!” Yet she decided to use the third person.

“From the man to whom these belong I am pregnant.”

Only after this does she address Judah in the second person, and even then in a way that leaves things open.

“Please recognize whose signet ring, cloak, and staff are these?”

Tamar’s actions are ingenious. She had planned everything from the outset and now finds herself poised at the most crucial crossroads. If she remains silent, she would undoubtedly be put to death, but confronting Judah will publicly humiliate him, and then there’s no knowing what he’ll do. So, in her wisdom, she chooses a middle path. She presents Judah with a metaphorical mirror, allowing him to recognize his wrongdoings on his own and repent for them. Judah, in his pride, had climbed up a high tree. Tamar, in her humility, placed a ladder for him to climb down with.

The plan succeeds. Judah admits his guilt, and Tamar lives and gives birth to twins, who descend no other than King David and the future Messiah.

Point to ponder: People awaken to Teshuvah – self-improvement and spiritual growth – not when censured or rebuked, but when they are helped to recognize their sins on their own. However, this requires the helpers themselves to work on their self-rectification. If they degrade the other in any way, they will only hinder their progress. But if they approach them with a pure heart, they will awaken them to accurate, complete Teshuvah.

In the second podcast, The Secrets of Jewish Progress, Rabbi Menussi expounds on how social change comes about. He speaks about the brothers Jacob and Esau, rivals from birth, as they meet after twenty years and how their behaviour reflects on the long-term story of Western culture alongside the story of the Jews.

The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau

Peter Paul Rubens, The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau, 1624.

“The king is dead; long live the king!”

This well-known cry is heard in monarchies whenever a new king is crowned. Part of what makes it powerful is that, at first, it sounds self-contradictory. How can we wish him a long life if the king is dead? We realize that the two kings mentioned are different people after a moment. This is intentional. It is meant to emphasize the totality of the change in rulers. The moment the old monarch dies, it’s as if he’s gone and forgotten, and from now on, the new monarch is the one and only king, the new exclusive, eternal bearer of the crown.

The existence of this custom is more than anecdotal. The pattern of erasing the past and starting with something completely new is deeply embedded in Western culture and comprises one of the most fundamental differences between Judaism.

After bidding farewell to Esau, the Torah enumerates the great people and kings destined to come from him. The Torah also includes a list of “kings who ruled the land of Edom before the children of Israel had a king.” After each king is named, it is written that he died and immediately afterwards, a new king reigned in his place.

According to tradition, Edom represents Rome or the West. The description of the kings of Edom can therefore be seen as alluding to a recurring pattern characterizing Western civilization. Western history is replete with revolutions attempting to destroy what came before and establish a new order that promises to solve all previous problems – until, of course, a new order is overthrown by the next revolution.

A HISTORY OF UPHEAVALS

The hedonistic cultures of Greece and Rome were replaced by a Christian theology espousing asceticism and abstinence, only later to be replaced by worldly secularism. The French revolution rebelled against the ancien régime but deteriorated into a reign of terror that had to fall before it could become a democracy. The communist revolution overturned the Czarist rule but quickly turned into a dictatorship that eventually collapsed.

The “he died… he reigned” dynamic is found even in the history of science, art, and culture. Antitheses refute these; new paradigms topple the old, modern movements succeed outdated ones – and each time, there’s the feeling that this is “the last word,” the pinnacle of progress.

We are now witnessing the fallout of several such hasty revolutions:

  1. Drunk on smartphone technology, society was quick to equip every child with their screen of delights. It took a whole generation to begin seeing the resulting damage and pedalling back with apps like YouTube Kids and Google Families.
  2. The leaders of the sexual revolution broke almost all traditional sexual mores, leaving society to deal with children exposed to pornography, a loneliness epidemic, and a wave of “me-too” litigants.
  3. A short-sighted academic fad portrayed all gender differences as oppressive “social constructs,” and now a whole generation of parents and educators are facing an unprecedented wave of gender-confused children seeking to do irreversible damage to their bodies.

MY OWN SLOW PACE

We can see this pattern with Esau himself. In a moment of fatigue, he scorns his birthright and sells it to Jacob for some lentil stew, but later regrets it and claims he was tricked into it. One moment he honours his father, preparing a meal for him, and the next, he starts making plans for what he’ll do after his father passes away.

Esau selling his birthright to Jacob by Matthias Stom

Esau selling his birthright to Jacob by Matthias Stom, 1640s.

First, he wants to kill Jacob, but further down the line embraces him and suggests they live together. Western revolutions are rooted in the fluctuating character of their founder. Opposite Esau stands Jacob, who embodies a different approach. When the brothers unite, and Esau invites Jacob to join him, the younger brother replies in the following words:

“My master [i.e. Esau] knows that the children are tender, and the flocks and the cattle, which are raising their young, depend upon me… Now, let my master go ahead before his servant, and I will move at my own slow pace, according to the pace of the work that is before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my master, to Seir.”

The keywords here are “I will move at my own slow pace.” Jacob doesn’t rule out joining Esau. He, too, wants all the beautiful things Esau wants. But, Jacob doesn’t want to act hastily. He wants to advance “toe to heel,” each foot touching the previous one as he befits his name. He doesn’t want to rush things and discover he left something behind.

What causes Jacob to proceed so slowly? Two factors are noted:

“according to the pace of the work that is before me”

and “according to the pace of the children.”

The Hebrew term used here for “according to the pace of” is le-Regel, which comes from the word for “leg.” The verse thus brings to mind two weights attached to the legs, slowing the walker’s pace.

The first is work. On a superficial level, this refers to Jacob’s sheep and cattle. However, in another place, the Sages tell us the word “work” alludes to the building of the Sanctuary. “Work” can be interpreted as the ambition to turn this world into a dwelling place for the Divine Presence. Jacob isn’t interested only in practical solutions that “work,” but in life based on spirituality and an affinity for what’s beyond this world.

The second consideration is children, representing concern for the next generation. The novel and the revolutionary are not necessarily suited to the tender souls of children, nor every generation. Multi-generational thinking allows us to examine things from a broader, more far-seeing perspective. But, unfortunately, it tends to break on adopting new ideas favouring a stable and flourishing future.

SUSPECT THE NEW

Jacob’s level-headed approach doesn’t necessarily state that “the new is forbidden according to the Torah,” but it does view innovation with some wariness. Is it indeed all good? What is hidden within it? Does it sit well with the old ways? The word “new” in Hebrew, “chadash,” is made up of the same letters as the word for the suspect, “chashad.” So the new is something to be suspected.

This is the secret of Jewish progress. We don’t get mired in the past, but we also don’t throw it away; we carry it with us towards the future. We don’t march in place, but we also don’t jump ahead; we walk with moderation step by step. We aren’t satisfied with the old interpretations, but we also don’t dismiss them; we add to the new variations that respond to the times.

Point to ponder: The Sages say, “the innovator has the lower hand.” The simple meaning is that he who seeks to change the status quo is always at a disadvantage. But, I heard from Rabbi Moshe Genuth a new interpretation of this expression, both conservative and revolutionary. Anyone who wants to innovate must place their hand on the lowest, earliest level of the structure, and from there, raise the whole system upward. Innovators need to take and include everything before them and elevate it with them. Their innovations will connect to previous generations, be accepted by all, and carry the past into the future.

Footnotes:

  1. The Hill lessons from London: You can’t fix Jihad by A.J. Caschetta, February 26, 2020
  2. Nir Menussi, identified on the Aish Website, is an author, public speaker and teacher. He has written and edited several books on Kabbalah and Hassidut and lectures widely in Israel and abroad. His work is characterized by its unique combination of scholarly knowledge, psychological depth, and clear, lucid explanations.
  3. Nir Menussi Podcast, Points to Ponder Awakening Teshuvah
  4. Nir Menussi Podcast, Points to Ponder The Secrets of Jewish Progress 

The Hidden Hanukkah

Many may know the story of Hanukkah, when Greek forces wanted to impose their religion and ways on the Jewish people, and a small band of priests, Matityahu and his five sons, and their untrained followers, took up the sword to protest and fight for survival, and won!

But few know about the hidden story of Hanukkah, which begins 150 years before the battles of Hasmonean priests when Alexander the Great of Greece managed to extend Greek hegemony from the westernmost shores of the Mediterranean to the shores of India. At that time, as he approached Jerusalem with his renowned army, The High Priest of Jerusalem put on his High Holy Day Special Temple garments and asked all the other priests to dress in white. All night, they carried torches and walked on foot unarmed to greet the forces of Alexander the Great. Finally, they met at dawn and to everyone’s amazement, Alexander got off his chariot and bowed down to the High Priest. Below is a video depicting what happened then.

 

However, in 175 BCE, When the Hellenic forces had divided between the northern Syriand Greeks and the southern Greeks based in Egypt, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the northern ruler, invaded Judea at the request of the sons of Tobias, the Hellenizing Jewish faction within Jerusalem. As Flavius Josephus relates:

The king being thereto disposed beforehand, complied with them, and came upon the Jews with a great army, and took their city by force, and slew a great multitude of those that favored Ptolemy, and sent out his soldiers to plunder them without mercy. He also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice of expiation for three years and six months. — The Jewish War

The battles of Hanukkah are commemorated in the song Al hanissim – about the miracles – prayer we say after lighting the candles of the menorah.

You delivered the mighty into the hands of the week, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the degenerates into the hands of those who cling to your Torah!

This victory astounded the ancient world as much as the splitting of the sea during the Israelite exodus from Egypt. However, the victory was brief and in no way definitive for Israel. The Jews achieved sovereignty in their own land, but the influence of Hellenism among them persisted, and only one hundred years later, after the death of King Herod, the Roman Empire, heir to the Greek empire, reasserted total hegemony over Judea and its inhabitants. And When Jews resisted, the Grand Temple in Jerusalem was burnt to the ground by the Romans in 70 AD, resulting in 2000 years of exile before Jews would recover sovereignty over their people in their native land. After the destruction of the Temple, some Rabbis considered abolishing Hanukkah altogether! But others insisted on keeping the Holiday, as Rabbi Jonathon explains below. *1

 

Sadly, misinformation and attacks on Jews have occurred throughout the world in recent times. Yet, our best defence is to study Torah and celebrate our holidays, which teach us how to enjoy the best of times and how to survive the worst of times!

This acapella music video about Hannukah says it all.

 

FOOTNOTES:

1. The Office of Rabbi Sacks, On 20th October 2012, Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks delivered a keynote address at Bushey Synagogue on The Hidden Story of Chanukah. With thanks to Bushey Synagogue for the use of this video.

 

Forgiveness and its impact

Forking forest path

On the cusp of the Jewish New Year of 5782 is Elul, a month devoted to reckoning with the past year, we are supposed to address whom we have harmed in the past year, make amends, and ask for their forgiveness.

Amnon and Tamar, painted by Jan Steen              Amnon and Tamar, painted by Jan Steen

When one person wrongs another, the latter should not remain silent and despise him as it states in Samuel 2: 13:22 .

“And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.” Rather he is commanded to make the matter known and ask him “Why did you do this to me?”, “Why did you wrong me regarding that matter?”.

 

Even if you feel that you are the one who has been offended, you are instructed to reach out to those who may have hurt you, to allow them to redress their behaviour. For example, perhaps the other person is unaware of his error, or you have misjudged something he may have said. Thus It is incumbent upon you to open the pathway to reconciliation.

Moreover, you are obligated to reach out for reconciliation three times. This applies to family as well, since often, those closest to us may have the most significant possibility to offend and withdraw in hurt and silence and anger as in the above reference of Absalom and Amnon. *1

Rabbi Avraham Danzig *2 claimed that if ever you hurt another person, that is a violation of G-d’s law, and none of it is forgiven unless forgiveness is sought from the person first. Thus, one is not forgiven in the heavenly court until he has done the work on earth.

Rabbi Yehezkel Levenshtein *3 goes one step further, and remarks, “the only reason that G-d ever moves from the Throne of Judgement to the Throne of Mercy is if he sees us doing the same, seeking reconciliation and forgiving each other.”

The Synagogue Service of Rosh Hashanah:
The Jakab and Komor Square Synagogue in Subotica

The synagogue service of Rosh Hashana is designated as a person’s opportunity to ask for forgiveness from G-d, so that he may be blessed with life, health and prosperity in the coming year. We are aware that life and death, blessing and punishment are in Heaven’s hands, not ours. However, G-d does not consider forgiving us unless we have done the work of Elul – the work of forgiving each other first.

Paris

The structure of our holiday prayer service on Rosh Hashanah is divided into three sections, Malchuyot, Zichronot and Shofarot.

Malchuyot (Sovereignty) – Rather than entreating multiple deities to provide for all of our needs — food, weather, fertility — Jews enthrone and crown The One and Only Heavenly Deity who reigns over all aspects of life.  Malchuyot refers to the Heavenly Reign, the Coronation of the “Sovereign Over All” as expressed via the words of our prayers  The notion that all of life’s blessings and curses come not from a capricious G-d who has to be appeased but from a loving God who cares and wants us to behave lovingly with each other, this was Judaism’s radical idea, then and now.

Zichronot (Remembrances) – we acknowledge God’s role in our lives. Although we no longer experience direct divine prophecy as we did in ancient times, nevertheless, we trust that God remembers us today, as he did then and that we remember God and all he has done for us in bringing us to this very day. While God may be literally out of sight, God should never be out of mind.

Shofarot (Revelation) looks to our future as a people. In Judaism, we recognize that while God was revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, that event did not represent the end of our relationship. God’s revelation continues each day. It attests to the brilliance and durability of our tradition that each successive generation has the ability and the current responsibility to reinterpret and internalize it. The Torah famously tells us in Deuteronomy 30:12, “lo bashamayim hee” – “It is not in heaven” but here on earth, where the sacred words of our ancient texts are to be continually interpreted and understood. *4

And here is Rabbi Yair Silverman, of Moed in Zichron Yaakov, Israel, giving us a reading re malchuyot, zichronot, and shofarot that speaks to our present moment.

 

Our prayers beseech God to move from the seat of Strict Judgement – Din – to the Seat of Rachamim – mercy.
Please God, grant us life, health and prosperity.
Teshuva, Tefila, Tzedaka, maavirin et roah hagzera”
Teshuva, returning to our core self and God
Tefila, through words of prayer and
Tzedaka, giving and sharing freely with our fellow man

maavirin et roah hagzera  have the power to sweeten the harshness of G-d’s decree. *5

Chazzan

 

Shana tova ve metuka, Hebrew, for wishing you a sweet year to come.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Maimonidies, Mishne Torah, Hilchot De’ot
  2. Rabbi Avraham Danzig, Wikipedia
  3. Rabbi Yehezkel Levenshtein, Wikipedia
  4. Structure of our prayer service on Rosh Hashanah, Malchuyot, Zichronot and Shofrot, My Jewish learning www.myjewishlearning.com
  5. Teshuva, Tefila and Tzedaka, Ten Days of Teshuvah, quoted in Torah Studies: a Parsha anthology by Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson adapted by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Kehot Publication Society, Brooklyn, New York, pp.334-337.

Review of the CNN documentary on Jerusalem:  The Rise and Fall of Herod the Great 

The second instalment of the CNN series on Jerusalem: the City of Faith, entitled 39 BC, The Rise and Fall of Herod the Great *1 tells the story of Jerusalem from the point of view of the ruling Kings of the period, their ambitions and jealousies: Herod, King of Israel, Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt and her Roman consort Mark Antony, Emperor of Western Rome and the ambitious Octavius.

Holyland Model of Jerusalem. A model of Herod’s Temple adjacent to the Shrine of the Book exhibit at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

The program makes for stimulating tv filled with plots and battles for supremacy between Egypt, Israel, and Rome, recounted by excellent contemporary historians.

King Herod married the Hasmonean princess Mariamne in a plot to be loved and accepted by the Israelites. However, Herod’s love did not prevent him from murdering his wife, their five children and anyone else he suspected as a rival. He was also part of the global web of power relationships, an ally of Marc Antony of Rome and mortal enemy of Cleopatra. These relationships are amply elaborated in the CNN plot.

He also tried to build his way out of depression:

https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2021/07/22/jerusalem-faith-fury-herod-the-great.cnn

The series advise us that Herod’s ambition and envy ensured he had no peace in his public or private life. CNN describes him as “going mad” by the end of his lengthy reign.

After his death, Roman colonial ambition led to the invasion and military occupation of Israel (then called Judea) and to the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple that Herod himself had enhanced in the grand tradition of Roman edifices.

This true story is eerily similar to The  Game of Thrones tv series. Unfortunately, the viewpoint of traditional Jewish texts, Torah and Talmud, which tell the story of Jewish Kingship is missing from the CNN narrative.

Moses himself lays out the roadmap for Jewish governance and Kingship in the book of Deuteronomy.

If, after you have entered the land that the LORD your God has assigned to you, and taken possession of it and settled in it, you decide, “I will set a king over me, as do all the nations about me,” you shall be free to set a king over yourself, one chosen by the LORD your God. Be sure to put as King over yourself one of your people; you must not set a foreigner over you, one who is not your relative. Moreover, he shall not keep many horses or send people back to Egypt to add to his horses since the LORD has warned you, “You must not go back that way again.”

And he shall not have many wives, lest his heart goes astray; nor shall he amass silver and gold to excess.  (Sefaria: Deuteronomy 17:14-17 *2)

This roadmap for a Jewish King is referenced in later historical descriptions of the history of the Jews as recorded in the later prophetic books, Samuel 1 and 2, Judges and Kings. In these canonical Jewish texts, transparency about situations, characters, motivations, and outcomes are impressive. Successes and failures are recorded along with the “sins” of both the mighty and the ordinary person. Additionally, the sins of the kings from Saul to Herod are amply documented.

The sins of the Jewish leadership of this period had started with the Hasmoneans, one hundred and fifty years earlier. The Hasmonean Dynasty (140 BCE to 37 BCE) was successful in ridding Israel of Greek hegemony. This early victory is what we celebrate annually on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. The Hasmoneans were of the priestly caste and served as priests and High Priests. However, after their victory, they assumed the crown of Kingship and the office of High Priest. This went against the Mosaic law mentioned above. They also forcefully conquered neighbouring tribes and enforced their conversion to Judaism. This is also frowned upon by Moses’ injunction. King Herod, a Jewish member of one of these tribes that were converted by force, also coveted both crowns. He consulted neither holy books nor priestly advisors, yet he strove to be High Priest and King of Israel.

 

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik’s podcast episode #32, Kohen vs King: Two Models of Leadership *4, points out that it is inevitable that both Kohen/Priest and King will make mistakes or “will sin.” Moreover, Rabbi Meir points out that the Torah’s prescription for recognition and repentance for mistakes/sins is different for Priests and Kings. When in Leviticus the Torah refers to the High Priest, it says “if,” “If he sins,” but when speaking about Kings, it uses the word “asher-when,” “when he sins.” The Biblical text closely prescribes the conduct of the priests as they perform the rituals of worship, and so are very clear, but the narrator understands that the “errors” of rulers are inevitable. A ruler or King has to assess every situation as it crops up and make his own decisions.

The High Priest                                             The King     

 

Herod the Great

Herod the Great

The high priest.  

 

To help him with these decisions, he needs to:

“have a copy of this Teaching written for him on a scroll by the Levitical priests. Let it remain with him and let him read in it all his life, so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God, to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching as well as these laws. Thus he will not act haughtily toward his fellows or deviate from the Instruction to the right or the left, to the end that he and his descendants may reign long amid Israel.” 3 Sefaria: Deuteronomy 17:14-20

Herod’s reign was followed by Roman colonization and rule by Roman governors. His magnificent Temple – the Second Temple that he had greatly enhanced – was crushed and demolished, but Judaism, as we know it today, managed to survive this destruction over two thousand years ago by a hairs’ breadth.

A small group of scholars/rabbis fled Jerusalem surreptitiously and gained permission from the Roman Emperor to establish their community in Yavneh, a remote town in Galilee. This is where the Talmud – the conversations of the Rabbis on every subject mentioned in the Torah, what Jews call “the oral biblical law” – became formalized and written down over the next six centuries. The Torah and Talmud form the basis of Jewish communal life to our present day, both in Israel and the diaspora. Torah and Talmud continue to be studied daily by Jews of all ages, in yeshivas worldwide, synagogue classes, and even universities. These canonical texts have been the backbone of Jewish communal life all over the world in the diaspora and in Israel. It has been the guide for life for commoners and kings.

But it’s not enough to study these texts; execution is even more critical because Jewish history teaches us that acts of both kings and commoners have consequences.

 

FOOTNOTES:

  1. CNN series on Jerusalem: City of Faith, 39 BC, The Rise and Fall of Herod the Great (www.cnn.com/2021/07/18/middleeast/jerusalem-original-series-faith-and-fury-timeline/index.html). This tv program is based on historic writings studied by modern-day scholars, like Sebag Montefiore, contemporary author of Jerusalem: The Biography and others.
  2. Sefaria, Deuteronomy Ch 17 – V. 14-20, a website presenting the Jewish biblical canon, including Torah and Talmud, along with many commentaries (www.sefaria.org/Deuteronomy.17.15?lang=bi&with=About&lang2=en).
  3. Sefaria: Deuteronomy 17:18-20
  4. Rabbi Meir Soloveichik’s podcast, Bible 365, episode #32, Kohen (Priest) vs King: Two Models of Leadership https://bible365podcast.com/bible-365/kohen-vs-king-two-models-of-leadership/
  5. Rabbi Jonathon Sacks, Covenant & Conversation, Learning and Leadership (Shoftim 57)
  6. Sefaria, Deuteronomy Ch 17, v 18