Stories need careful handling. Stories may be the secret of survival; stories can also kill. The way we tell our people’s story, how we cast our national narrative, the place we give to self, to others and to God, not only reflects but determines our destiny.
Seder is the great night of the Jewish story. We have always been mindful of how we tell it. The Haggadah is Judaism’s most frequently printed, most variously interpreted, and most fascinatingly subverted, text.
Nothing typifies the ambivalence of Jewish life today more than the famous midrash repeated in the Talmud. Rebbi Shmuel Bar Nachman, in the name of Rebbi Yonatan, said at the Red Sea: “The angels wanted to sing a song before the Holy One, Blessed is He, but He rebuked them, saying ‘My handiwork is drowning in the sea and you want to sing to me?’ Rebbi Yose Ben Hanina said: ‘Even if He will not rejoice, He allows others to’” (Sanhedrin 39b).
Why is this year’s erev Pesach different from all others? Because this year, Wednesday April 8, will be the day on which Jews have the rare opportunity to recite the prayers of the service of blessing the sun, or, rather, the prayers by which we bless the Creator of the sun.
According to the Hamas charter, Palestine is an Islamic endowment “for all generations of Muslims until the Day of Resurrection” which no one may renounce. The Arab-Israeli conflict is seen as not just a political dispute but an implacably religious one.
It became an iconic image: a book by an award-winning writer burned on the streets of Britain. In September 1988, Salman Rushdie published his novel The Satanic Verses, which contained an irreverent alternative life of the Prophet Muhammad. While literary critics debated its artistic merits, elsewhere a storm was gathering. Many Muslims felt deeply affronted by what they saw as an assault on their faith and, in January 1989, some took to the streets in Bradford to demonstrate, culminating in the now notorious book-burning.
I love finding new messages whenever one returns to biblical texts. As a teenager, I discovered that Mordecai sounded like the Sumerian deity Marduk, who was adopted as the patron god of Babylon, and Esther sounded like Astarte, or Ishtar, the Mediterranean goddess of fertility, sex and much else besides.
A Jewish Guide To Fairtrade The Fairtrade Foundation
I’ve long been grateful that Fairtrade exists. It makes me feel less like a thief when I go shopping. I’m doubly appreciative now, with the publication of this Jewish Guide, which relates the principles of fair trade to Jewish ethics, rooting them in textual sources and listing kosher Fairtrade foods.
‘Is it on your grandmother’s or grandfather’s side that you are descended from an ape?” asked Thomas Huxley, Bishop of Oxford and one of the early opponents of evolutionary theory at an infamous debate at Oxford University in 1860. It was one year after the publication of Darwin’s The Origin Of Species had set the world alight.
If you are looking for a novel half-term activity, then it would be hard to beat the ancient art of demon-trapping. On Tuesday and Thursday next week, the British Museum in London, in association with the Jewish Museum, is running family workshops where you can make an incantation bowl like the ones used by our Babylonian ancestors to keep unwanted spirits at bay.
In February 2008, a fig tree was mauled in Bodh Gaya, India. Allegations focused on a thick branch of the tree that was mysteriously lopped off and sold in Thailand in 2006. The branch reappeared for sale on the black market; accusations of corruption followed. Apparently, police never resolved the case; it was hard to conclude whether the tree had been legitimately pruned, or whether the nefarious activities of the black marketeers were to blame. Nowadays, the tree is surrounded by protective railings.