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Among the followers of Rebbe Elimelech MeLizensk (1717-1787) was a man who said he was a chassid, but did not act like one. He perceived that he had made many mistakes in his younger years was ridden with guilt, and sentenced himself to an ascetic life. Determined to become a baal teshuvah (penitent), he deprived himself of nourishment, just tasting enough to keep body and soul alive, fasting every Monday and Thursday, flagellated himself and undertook dangerous tasks. He thought that this ascetic lifestyle would atone for his wrongdoing. more
From the day of the Revelation on Sinai, it was an accepted fact that Jews lived according to the mitzvos of the Torah. But Mendele Sokolover was not satisfied with the mere observance of mitzvos. He was searching for more than that. He was searching for what he called a “real Jew.” more
Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld emigrated to Eretz Yisrael from Hungary in 1873 and settled in the Old City of Yerushalayim. Once settled, he meticulously refrained from remaining outside the walls of the Old City for more than thirty days. more
The Baal Shem Tov set out for Eretz Yisrael many times, but each time, his plans were thwarted by some unforeseen circumstance. Once the axle of his carriage cracked, once the boat upon which he traveled encountered terrible storms on the high seas and the captain refused to continue the voyage until the weather subsided. Eventually, he came to the realization that it was not destined for him to see the Holy Land. Nevertheless, he encouraged his disciples to make the trip, so they might be privileged to walk where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah had walked. more
Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heschel sat at a book laden table, deeply immersed in his studies, surrounded by eager students, who absorbed every word. Suddenly, he lifted his head, leaned back in his chair, and smiled. “I don’t remember if I have told you this Pesach story before, but it is good to retell the story of Eliyahu’s cup before Pesach.” more
There is so much that has been written about Purim that choosing something light and merry for review this year was not so hard. Nevertheless, based upon much discussion I am once again taking a serious tact in presenting to my readers a solemn theological and spirituality based path in this year’s review of Purim material based upon the writings and teachings of Rabbi Jeremy Kagan’s latest work, “The Choice to Be” [Feldheim, 2012]. more
I took a break from Holocaust books for one about shtetl life in the Pale of Settlement where Cossacks reigned. Next on my list is a book about Herod, Rome and the Jews. more
The Roman Emperor Hadrian was determined to rebuild Yerushalayim, not as a city holy to the Jewish people, but rather as a pagan city named Aeolina Capitalina. He re-issued the harsh decrees that Antiochus, the Syrian/Greek had imposed approximately two hundred years before, hoping to extinguish both the Jewish religion and the yearning of the Jewish people for independence from the oppressive Roman yoke. more
In a recent essay entitled, “Ignoring Munich Massacre Reminds Us Olympics Are Pure Baloney” [Commentary, May 18, 2012] Jonathan Tobin makes the following observation: more
New York Times bestselling novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford is currently on demand by Jewish organizations, crisscrossing the country from Dallas to Chicago, Teaneck to South Florida as a guest at brunches, lunches, dinners and teas in the wake of her new book, “Letter from a Stranger.” more
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