see HOME page
see HOME page
Torah nutshell from kolel.org
see HOME page
see HOME page
Interesting quotes from famous Jews
My father never lived to see his dream come true of an
I once wanted to become an atheist but I gave up. They have no holidays.
Look at Jewish history. Unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable. So, for every ten Jews beating their breasts, God designated one to be crazy and amuse the breast beaters. By the time I was five I knew I was that one.
The time is at hand when the wearing of a prayer shawl and skullcap will not bar a man from the White House, unless, of course, the man is Jewish.
Even if you are Catholic, if you live in New York, you're Jewish. If you live in Butte, Montana, you are going to be a goy even if you are Jewish.
The remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served us nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.
Let me tell you the one thing I have against Moses. He took us forty years into the desert in order to bring us to the one place in the Middle East that has no oil!
Even a secret agent can't lie to a Jewish mother.
My idea of an agreeable person is a person who agrees with me.
It's so simple to be wise. Just think of something stupid to say and then don't say it.
Don't be humble; you are not that great.
I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in fourteen days I had lost exactly two weeks.
-Joe E. Lewis
A spoken contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.
I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying.
Whoever called it necking was a poor judge of anatomy.
A politician is a man who will double cross that bridge when he comes to it.
Too bad that all the people who know how to run this country are busy driving taxis and cutting hair.
A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.
I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth, even if it costs them their jobs.
Television is a medium because it is neither rare nor well done.
When I bore people at a party, they think it is their fault.
"DAILY JEWISH WISDOM" is found @ Beliefnet.com
Fear builds walls to bar the light. - Baal Shem Tov
Engage in Torah and charity even with an ulterior motive, for that habit of right doing will lead also to right motivation. - Talmud: Pesahim, 50b
The sword comes into the world because of justice delayed and because of justice perverted.- Ethics of the Fathers 5:8
Ever since Rabbi Akiba used the Passover seder to plan a revolutionary struggle against the Roman occupiers, the Jews have used the seder to begin concrete work on tikkun (healing and transformation).
- Rabbi Michael Lerner, the Tikkun Magazine Passover supplement 2006
To work out ends of righteousness and love are you called; not merely to enjoy or suffer.
- S.R. Hirsch, "Nineteen Letters," 1836
“Pessimism is a luxury that a Jew can never allow himself.” Golda Meir
The worship of God, though desirable as an end itself, can somehow never be in the right spirit, unless it impels one to the service of man. - Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan
Concentrate on three things and you will not fall into the grip of sin. Know from where you came, where you are going, and before Whom you will have to give account and reckoning.- Pirkei Avot 3:1
We cannot learn from general principles: there may be exceptions. - Johanan, Talmud: Kiddushin
A truly generous man is he that always gives, whether it be much or little, before he is asked.- Orchot Tsadiqim
The best security for old age: respect your children.- Sholem Asch
A Jew can be Jewish with God, against God, but not without God.- Elie Wiesel
He who promotes his own honor at the expense of his neighbor's has no portion in the world to come.- Judah b. Hanina, Genesis Rabbah
Even if all the world tells you, "You are righteous," consider yourself a sinner. - Rabbi Simlai
Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism and falsehood. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the promise, the hope, the vision.- Abraham Joshua Heschel, "On Prayer"
Lose with truth and right rather than gain with falsehood and wrong.- Maimonides, "Tzavaah"
Seek the good in everyone, and reveal it, bring it forth.- Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1811), "Likutey Moharan"
Just as we love ourselves despite the faults we know we have, so should we love our neighbors despite the faults we see in them.- Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov
A man should never impose an overpowering fear upon his household. - Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 6b
If you add to the truth, you subtract from it.- The Talmud
Love unaccompanied by criticism is not love....Peace unaccompanied by reproof is not peace.- Genesis Rabbah 54:3
Quote of the Day
Fair Use Act
FAIR USE NOTICE: Many of the articles on this site contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making this material available in its efforts to advance the understanding of different issues related to this site. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use such copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Members' Mental Meanderings
Shavuot 5780 Suggested study topics
Our Torah recounts that the Patriarchs and Matriarchs worked as husbands and wives equals with each other. We have Torah stories which proclaim certain women as more righteous than men such as Tamar standing up to Judah to claim her right to bear a child of his lineage. Yet as time went on past Torah times, the Children of Israel became ever more tainted with the practices of the goyim, the neighboring tribes and nations. Hence the status of women devolved. Let us take this opportunity during Shavuot to investigate further the contributions of women such as Ruth, Hulda and Devorah to the well-being of the Jewish People.
A- Devorah, A Leader for All of her Time:
The biblical Devorah is described as a prophetess, a wise judge, an excellent military strategist, and the leader of all her people – not just women. [Shoftim, Judges Ch. 4: 4-9]
When her military Commander, Barak refused to go to battle without her, she predicted that the glory of victory would go to a woman and not to him. This prediction later came to pass when the enemy leader, Sisera, fled the battle and tried to take refuge with the wife of one he believed to be an ally. She apparently did not agree as she hammered a tent peg through his brain. [4:17-21]
Still Devorah was not arrogant nor prideful about her success. She worked cooperatively with the military commander, Barak. When victory was achieved she shared the honor with Barak as seen in their shared song related in Ch. 5….
Yet some still have been derisive of her name and demeaned of her for holding court under a tree…
B- Women as Priests and Leaders
Before the Temples and the monarchies, towns were led by councils of elders, wise women. We had great leaders and strategists like Devorah. Before and during the times of Moshe, Ethiopia was ruled by a line of Queens. Further, there were Jewish Queens during second Temple times. The most beloved and well known was Alexandra, Shlomtzion [Hasmonean times]. Also the Talmud includes contributions by Bruria, daughter of two teachers of Torah who were killed by the Romans for teaching Torah. She was wife to a Rabbi and recognized as wise for her own merit. Also quoted is Ima Shalom, another very respected wise woman.
Women as priests has mostly been dismissed as fantasy by men over the centuries. Yet evidences have been present – and ignored. Even today with dozens of orthodox women Rabbis [not to mention the many non-orthodox], there are some orthodox groups who want to dismiss them as invalid and inappropriate. Yet, about 80 inscriptions found from Tel el.Yehudiyyeh [first to fourth centuries C. E.] mention three women Priests: Marin [50 y.o.], Guadentia [24 y.o], and possibly Maria. The last one was difficult to read. The language is parallel to the 4 or 5 male Priest inscriptions there found. So how are women of today allowed to be leaders? What equalities and inequalities do they have to deal with?
C- Women as Teachers and Rabbis
During the Renaissance, Pomona de Modena of Ferrara was reputed to be as adept in Talmud scholarship as the best of the male scholars. When Hasidism developed, they believed that all people should be able to study Torah and scriptures. Many women became Rabbaniot [or Rabbanot], that is to say female Rabbis.
1. Sarah bat Joshua Haschel Teumim Frankel acted as Rebbe after the death of her husband. She was known for wise parables and consulted by many famous Rabbis.
2. Hannah Rachel Yerbermacher [Maid of Ludomir] used tzitzit, tallit, and tefillin [as did, it is reported, the daughters of Rashi]. She studied Torah and became a Rabbi whose sermons were well attended by many Rabbis.
D- Women as Writers and Historians
As in the non-Jewish world, women were disapproved of as writers. Yet there were Jewish women writers of note such as between the 16 th and 18 th century CE:
1. Hannah Ashkenazi of Cracow  on moral topics.
2. Edel Mendels of Cracow [17 th century CE] who wrote a history book for women.
3. Bella Hurwitz, historian and printer [1700’s].
4. Eva [Hava] Bacharech of Prague was an expert in rabbinical and biblical writings. She was widely consulted especially about obscure passages [1580-1651].
5. Rebbetzin Rebbeca Tiktiner [a learned woman and preacher, mid-1500’s] wrote on poetry and moral teachings from Talmud and Mishna. The printer’s introduction to her posthumous book is: “This book is called Meneket Rivka [Genesis 35:8] in order to remember the name of the authoress and in honor of all women to prove that a woman can also compose a work of ethics and offer good interpretations as well as many a man.”
E- and then there is Ruth… The Book of Ruth is a typical study reading for discussion during Shavuot! - touching on topics such as acceptance of converts...
Undoubtedly, many Jewish women educators and role models remain forgotten in history. A great many more discovered are not addressed here. We women Rabbis in IFR, RSI, Aleph, etc. continue the ever present [albeit rarely taught] traditions of our foremothers. As leaders, educators, and role models despite the patronizing sexism, bullying, and other bigotries we all have had to face, it is our prayer that this piece can open the door to intellectual curiosity and greater respect for each other regardless of gender identification.
What further history in Jewish leadership can you uncover that will encourage better equality acceptance regardless of gender identification? Please share what you uncover! Chag Shavuot Tov!
What was true before is still true now:
Remember Respecting All Others -
Recalling Yiskor and Ruth, Shavuot 5779
Where do we start to repair the world?
With respect going out to all others:
To the people, the plants, the animals and trees;
To welcoming all as sisters and brothers.
If instead we poison this World as with plastics, cans, and oil;
What will future generations gain beyond grief, trash, and spoil?
So back to loving basics we need now to return
To regain the pristine planet for which we yearn,
Respecting Earth so that we may be saved and not burn…
Rosh Chodesh Adar 1; 5 Feb. 2019
Chanukah 5779, 2018:
Let the Light Grow 5779 Chanukah
Little candles added one by one
Let the light grow stronger like the sun,
Brighter and brighter for all week long,
Filled with love and almost joyous song.
Yes, we were all saved but at what price?
Our freedom to worship is quite nice…
Yet then we denied that to others,
Leading to Herod and false brothers…
Still at this moment we can rejoice
O’er the principle of freedom’s voice,
If only we can keep in view
That all deserve these freedoms too.
From: Rabbi Pam Frydman
Sent: Friday, July 20, 2018 11:43 AM
To: Unknown ; Ohalah list
Subject: [truah-chaverim] Women of the Wall prayer book burned on Rosh Hodesh Av
In addition to other tragedies around the world, the nine days were also marred by the harassment of Women of the Women on Rosh Hodesh Menachem Av.
Our sisters had coffee, cookies and hard boiled eggs literally thrown at them during davening. Women standing near them during davening screamed, "why don't you set yourselves on fire?"
After davening, one of our sisters saw a WOW siddur on the ground. She reached down to pick it up and burned her hand on the flames that lept from inside the siddur. As she screamed in pain and horror, Haredi men stood nearby laughing in amusement.
May Tisha (Asara) B'Av be meaningful and our tikkun olam actions inspiring
Refuah shleimah for the woman who was burnt...
5778 July 21
Tisha B’Av 5778
Tisha B’Av was never meant to be as severe as or more severe than Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is a biblical observance meant for all peoples. Tisha B’Av is a Rabbinic observance intended for grieving. Yet Jewish grieving does not involve harming one’s self. There is intense initial grieving during which others provide sustenance and care [up to a year in some cases]. There is no one to provide support to us during our Tisha B’Av grieving. After initial regular grieving, the grieving is limitted to one day a year of prayers and candle lighting with special communal prayers during Yiskor Holy Days.
So, too, Tisha B’Av back in the 1950’s did not limit the use of lights nor going to work. It started very somber with the reading of Lamentations and kinot [elegies or personal expressions of grieving] in candlelight or with flashlights, sitting low on low benches or on the ground/floor. No greetings were offered to each other.
By morning, the readings also included everyday prayers. Some people wore tallis and tefillin. Some waited until midday afternoon [minchah] prayers. Tefillin is never worn during holy days, another sign that Tisha B’Av is not intended to be as severe as Yom Kippur. Minchah was not combined with evening prayers. It was midday. The combining of minchah with evening prayers is a practice of convenience so that the observant/ traditional/ orthodox men could pray with a minyan [quorum] without needing to leave work midday.
The trope chant/ tune for Lamentations is regularly used during the Haftorahs of the three preceding weeks and continued through the morning of Tisha B’Av. By midday minchah, the chant returns to everyday mode. This starts the process of returning to everyday life after grieving.
Yes, minchah is midday as it is said in the daily Siddur prayers that the prayers are to be done ‘morning, noon, and night’. Once minchah is done, the study and prayer obligations are done. The tradition is that once those obligations are done, the fast can be broken.
For those who do minchah back to back with evening prayers, they have no choice but to fast full day. However it is not law. One should point out that going to work with a full day fast is not a safe nor healthy practice. Indeed it is more severe than Yom Kippur. This might be viewed as Rabbinic abuse of power. It also loses sight of the true importance of Tisha B’Av which lies in using the lessons and memories for Tikun Olam, Repair of the World. This is similar to what we promised at Mt. Sinai: to learn the practices and then study to understand the why.
It is interesting to note that the JTS/JPS Tanach pre- and of the 1960’s had no Tisha B’Av afternoon Haftorah. By the 1980’s the Tanach was printed with the fast day haftorah for Tisha B’Av. As with many other aspects of Judaism, “Orthodox” groups have presented themselves as the only true Jews with the right to interpret the Law. They have forgotten that a Jew is a Jew is a Jew… Accordingly Law practices seem to be highly influenced by "Orthodox' thoughts.
So we now see Israel in the grip of such groups leaning ever more toward xenophobia, sexism and other bigotries. Yes, unfortunately, bigotry is an equal opportunity vice. Tisha B’av is a time during which we are reminded that the lesson of the observance is that we need to oppose all forms of man’s inhumanity to others -including bigotries, sexism, xenophobia, etc.
Remember Respecting All Others -
Recalling Yiskor and Ruth, Shavuot 5777
Where do we start to repair the world?
With respect going out to all others:
To the people, the plants, the animals and trees;
To welcoming all as sisters and brothers.
If instead we poison the Earth as with plastics, cans, and oil;
What will future generations gain beyond grief, trash, and spoil?
So back to loving basics we need now to return
In order to regain the pristine planet for which we yearn,
Respecting all so that we may be cool and not burn…
Dear Family and Friends;
Time flies. I hope you all are doing well and enjoying life. Would love to hear the latest from all of you!
Memorial Day and Shavuot once again. The summer is upon us. Indeed we had a few drops of rain Tuesday, large splattery drops that I have always associated with Shavuot and the start of summer… and the hot, dry weather approaching.
It has been strange given my being distracted by a tear in my elbow [since Sept.] causing nerve damage and fluid build-up. The fluid build-up causes a whole slew of other symptoms, all most unpleasant. So finally when my elbow swelled up, the doctors started paying attention. However the first mri and the electrical conductivity tests were inconclusive. Only the recent 3-D mri from Cottonwood finally showed what was going on. So now I have a referral to a surgeon and things are finally moving forward.
The mri was different than any I had had before. I was able to have it while lying on my stomach. The ear plugs were fantastically effective. Believe it or not, I nearly fell asleep! Of course that might be in part because I have a considerable sleep deficit accumulated given the elbow distress since Sept.!
In other news, we have our annual Civil Air Patrol conference this weekend in Flagstaff. As usual, I will be accommodated with kosher food. Even nicer, after working for it for years, instead of my asking to do Havdalah [small service saying farewell to the Sabbath], the coordinator asked if I wanted to do it again this year for those interested.
Unfortunately this conference conflicts with our annual dance performance at Sharlot Hall museum. Obviously the choice was a no brainer and I will be in Flagstaff.
So life goes forward albeit with adjustments to avoid exacerbating the elbow distress. I will keep you all posted next update as to how the elbow saga is progressing.
In the meantime, do take care.
Blessings, Peace, and LOVE,
Topic 2 Parah
Rabbi's letter re: hateful opinion piece in Chino Valley Review:
This week [Aug. 31] to my great dismay, over a third of the Opinion page was dedicated to nastiness. The caricature had no humor nor satire to make it a cartoon. It merely propagated an unsubstantiated allegation. Maybe we should depict the Powell foundation when Colin Powell was Secretary of State?
The text is no better. It is a selective tour of history irrelevant to today’s political situation and a group of unsubstantiated nasty allegations and accusations against Democrats. If it weren’t so irrelevant, then perhaps we should note that Eisenhower’s platform looked quite a bit like today’s Democratic platform!
It follows that what today’s political scene holds is what is relevant. Who is consistently welcoming to diversity? Who engages in hate speech and encourages [directly or indirectly] acts of violence, physical and/or verbal?
While it might not be fair to call Chino Valley a center of hate [hate as demonstrated by this so-called opinion piece self-described as a rant], there are still many people in Chino Valley terrified to speak their minds except to their most trusted friends. So Chino Valley may not be a center of hate, but it certainly is not a center of love either!
It is my fervent wish that all peoples in Chino Valley and elsewhere can truly grow up enough with decorum to respect all others regardless of differences and always avoid the use of violence and of negative, abusive language in describing others and their beliefs.
Blessings and Peace to all,
Rabbi Dr. Adele Plotkin
Aug. 21, 17 Av [2 days after Tu B'Av, Jewish Sadie Hawkins type day]
Last week I received a commentary from Rabbi Aaron Fajnland which spoke to me. While written for last week, it is true for every week [my Ekev commentary follows]:
In [this weeks] Torah portion it states, You shall love the L‑rd, your G‑d, with all your heart and with all your soul. ( Deuteronomy 6:5 )
We share a multifaceted relationship with G‑d: He is our king, and we are His subjects; He is our father, and we are His children; He is our shepherd, and we are His flock. These metaphors are more than poetic words used to describe the relationship. Rather, they imply the different sentiments and attitudes which the relationship demands of us: reverence, awe, obedience, trust, etc.
In addition to all these emotions, we are also instructed to love G‑d. This aspect of the relationship is portrayed by the husband-wife relationship we share with G‑d: a relationship characterized by passionate love. It therefore follows that an understanding of the husband-wife dynamic can enhance our love affair with G‑d.
Love. It’s a basic need. Every person needs to feel loved and cherished—by family, friends, and needless to say, by his or her spouse. Love itself is an intangible quality. It’s not what the other person does for you; it’s the sentiment which is behind the act, the feeling which is the motivation for the deed. It’s the life behind the relationship. There can be two married couples, both of who “go through the motions” and daily grind of marriage—but one couple shares a spark which is conspicuously absent by the other.
Yet the acts which express the love cannot be underestimated. Feelings of love cannot exist in a vacuum; they must be translated into deeds. "I love you" sounds nice. "Honey don't worry about dinner, it's done" sounds even nicer. Speak less and do more, we are encouraged by our Sages.
Why is a transcendent feeling like love so contingent on actions? While the question may sound profoundly philosophical, the answer is quite simple. If love is complete, it consumes the entirety of the person. It cannot be relegated to any single aspect of one’s personality—not even the totality of one’s feelings and emotions. Love means being all there for the one you cherish. Only when love translates into actions—when it is expressed by the eyes and the mouth and the hands and the feet—is it all-encompassing and complete.
“I love G‑d and share a very personal relationship with Him” sounds very spiritual, but it is an imperfect affection. If our love for G‑d is real and true, then it must express itself in everyday action. It’s not enough to have a “good Jewish heart”—one’s nose and one’s stomach and arms and legs also need to be involved.
In response to an email about last week’s commentary which claimed that community rights balance requires a need to take precedence over individual rights [removing inheritance rights of women] in order to keep property within the tribe:
HaShem did not make the caveat. Men did. Worship of land [or any property] is not an acceptable excuse for promoting discrimination [sexism, against women]. If keeping the land within the tribe is/was so important, then the ruling could have been made that even if the woman marries outside her tribe, the woman maintains control over her inheritance and property and it does not revert to the control of the husband nor to his tribe upon her death. In fact that could be applied even if she married within the tribe where her daughters could inherit if there were no sons... but heaven forbid that women gain any power or control over their own lives! Bigotry has been institutionalized in parts of Judaism [not just against women]. If we truly follow the mitzvot and understand them, then we need to clean up our act and respect all living creatures, all of HaShem’s creations.
I would also note that none of your examples given [of community rights vs individual rights] relate in any way to discrimination and bigotry and hence are not relevant per se to the discussion on women’s inheritance rights. Different kettle of fish. The only connection is the clear understanding that community rights need to be counted in the calculations BUT without the promotion of bigotry or violation of the respect due all of HaShem’s creations...
LETTER TO THE CHINO VALLEY TOWN COUNCIL MEMBERS
Dear Mayor, Council Members, and Town Manager
As you continue your evaluation of the invocation situation in Chino Valley and given that I was unable to share my thoughts with you on Feb. 9, I am taking this opportunity to write to you the thoughts I wanted to share then. My purpose is to open dialogue with you to further sensitivity and understanding among diverse views on the purpose and language of government invocations.
While I respect that you may have a required behaviour to close your prayers in a particular way, I understand it to be a man-made interpretive requirement. Certainly I support your right to pray that way in your homes, in your churches, even in a picnic with co-religionists in a public park. Those venues are not mine, so I would not be joining you in them.
However the town government public meeting areas make up the common home for all of our diverse religious and non-religious residents and business people here in Chino Valley. In addition, I too have a required behaviour, a required prohibition against participation in or even appearing to approve of what my religion would view as idolatrous practices or prayers, e.g. as defined in the Book of Exodus. Remaining in a meeting blessed by such a prayer would imply tacit approval of the practice and is therefor forbidden to me as well. So while I support your practice of your religions while with your coreligionists, I must object to that practice in our common home where our diverse community needs to address the government tasks we are all Constitutionally allowed and even obligated to join in.
As such, a sectarian invocation becomes a religious test a person must pass in order to participate in our government civic duties. Some people, like myself, can not pass such a test. To do so, we are being told to sell our souls or spirits to idolatry or theism before we are allowed to participate in our Constitutionally guaranteed right to equal access into public government functions e.g. meetings.
This is not a matter of tolerance of other religions. It is a matter of avoiding language and practices that are damaging to the souls, spirits and/or religions of some people. Clearly it is known that verbal abuse, hate speech, religious coercion, bullying, kidnapping, domestic abuse, forced prostitution, forced idolatry, etc. can cause spiritual violations and damage. Hence there exist laws on the books describing such abuses as criminal, consistent with parallel biblical prohibitions against stealing a person’s spirit or soul. So when a person says they are offended by, uncomfortable with, or demeaned by some sectarian prayers, they likely are describing emotional, spiritual, psychological, or other damage as the abuse they are experiencing.
As a result, there are many experiencing this abuse yet feeling that they must accept it in order to participate in speaking out freely on any topic at public government meetings. Only it is not free speech. If people speak out against religious coercion, they are vilified and denigrated as happened in January in a councilman’s response to the comment of a woman interested in a zoning issue who noted that the language of the invocation is offensive to some people.
Let me give some specific examples. Since Feb. 9, many people in the town have confided in me their support for my position on sectarian and/or idolatrous prayers/invocations for town council public meetings. To my horror, I have discovered that for the vast majority of these people, they are terrified to speak out publicly.
The four most common reasons are:
• Everyone is packing [firearms];
• They have local businesses and they fear losing clientele;
• The saddest reason is the downtrodden belief that it is “their” country and we need to let “them” do what “they” want to; and
• The most frightening reason seems to be the resurgence of blatant anti-semitism against Jews.
Fortunately it has only been verbal hate speech to date as per the few reports told me. However it points to the latent existence of such bigotry now being given permission to be hatefully expressed in view of the behaviours of town leaders, politicians, political candidates, etc.
Is this the purpose of government: to terrify people into saying only what the government wants to allow them to say? Isn’t government supposed to represent all, welcome all, and be inclusive of all without causing damage to any?
After decades of a tradition of sectarian prayers, the military found a solution to the quandary of how not to cause spiritual damage to its members or encourage religious bigotry. All prayers, invocations, etc. in military functions are to be to the common denominator of the audience. Sectarian prayers are allowed only with all coreligionists or in specifically designated sectarian settings like Sabbath services, funerals, etc. So there are three formats followed at military events with mixed audiences: prayers that are sensitive, welcoming, and inclusive of all; moments of silence; or no prayers at all. Given that I, too, am bound by a military code of conduct, it seems to me that this is the most positive approach to the challenge. An example of such can be viewed in my invocation at the Prescott City Council meeting of March 1.
So I ask you now to find it in your hearts to work with all town’s folk towards making all feel welcome to public town functions and towards helping all feel comfortable with speaking their minds in public. Let us all pray that we can go forward with Love in our hearts for our neighbors and the willingness to find ways to prevent any of them from feeling spiritually damaged by the practices of their town officials.
Sincerely with Blessings for Peace,
Rabbi Dr. Adele Plotkin, Chino Valley
Reprinted from Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia with permission of the author and the Jewish Women’s Archive.
“If I confess what motivated me, a woman, to become a rabbi, two things come to mind. My belief in God’s calling and my love of humans. God planted in our heart skills and a vocation without asking about gender. Therefore, it is the duty of men and women alike to work and create according to the skills given by God.” Regina Jonas, C.-V.-Zeitung, June 23, 1938.
Regina Jonas, the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi, was killed in Auschwitz in October 1944. From 1942-1944 she performed rabbinical functions in Theresienstadt. She would probably have been completely forgotten, had she not left traces both in Theresienstadt and in her native city, Berlin. None of her male colleagues, among them Rabbi Leo Baeck (1873-1956) and the psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), ever mentioned her after the Holocaust.
In 1972, when Sally Priesand was ordained at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, she was referred to as the “first female rabbi ever”– misinformation which was never corrected by those who knew better. Only when the Berlin Wall came down and the archives in East Germany became accessible was Regina Jonas’ legacy found in the Gesamtarchiv der deutschen Juden.In Pre-war Berlin, Yearning to Be a Rabbi
Regina Jonas was born in Berlin on August 3, 1902, the daughter of Wolf and Sara Jonas. She grew up in the Scheunenviertel, a poor, mostly Jewish, neighborhood. Her father, a merchant who died of tuberculosis in 1913, was probably her first teacher. Early on, Regina Jonas felt her rabbinic vocation. Her passion for Jewish history, Bible and Hebrew was apparent even at high school, where fellow pupils recall her talking about becoming a rabbi.
Many people supported Jonas’s interests, among them the Orthodox rabbis Isidor Bleichrode, Felix Singermann and Max Weyl, the last of whom was known for his open attitude regarding religious education for girls. Max Weyl often officiated in the Rykestrasse Synagogue, which Sara Jonas and her two children, Abraham and Regina, regularly attended. Until his deportation to Theresienstadt, Weyl and Jonas met once a week in order to study rabbinic literature — Talmud, Shulhan Arukh, and texts. In 1923, Jonas passed her Abitur at the Oberlyzeum Weissensee. The following year, she attended a teachers’ seminar, enabling her to teach Jewish religion in girls’ schools in Berlin.
In 1924, she matriculated at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, founded in Berlin in 1872. This liberal institution admitted women as students, as did the Jüdisch-Theologisches Seminar in Breslau, founded in 1854, but Jonas was the only woman who hoped to be ordained as a rabbi. All her fellow women students were studying for an academic teacher’s degree.Making a Halakhic Case for Women Rabbis
Eduard Baneth (1855-1930), professor of Talmud at the Hochschule and responsible for rabbinic ordination, was the supervisor of Jonas’s final thesis, which dealt with the topic “May a woman hold rabbinic office?” A copy of this document has been preserved and can be found at the Centrum Judaicum in Berlin. Submitted in June 1930, this paper is the first known attempt to find a halakhic basis for the ordination of women.
Jonas combines a halakhic line of argument with a modern attitude. She did not follow the Reform movement, which was willing to achieve modernization by abandoning halakha. Rather, she wanted to deduce gender equality from the Jewish legal sources: the female rabbinate should be understood as a continuity of tradition. This proves Jonas’s independence both from Orthodoxy, which held equality as incompatible with halakha, and from Reform, which saw itself as the sole advocate of female emancipatory interests.
On the opening page of her thesis, Jonas writes: “I personally love this profession and, if ever possible, I also want to practice it.” On the last page she concludes: “Almost nothing halakhically but prejudice and lack of familiarity stand against women holding rabbinic office.”
Since rabbinic literature did not deal with ordination per se, Jonas embraces the halakhic literature, which relates more generally to women’s issues. She names important women who, though not holding the title “rabbi,” fulfilled rabbinical functions, most specifically as decisors of halakha. In addition to biblical protagonists, she mentions Talmudic personalities such as Beruriah, Yalta, the Hasmonean queen Salome Alexandra, and also Rashi’s daughters and granddaughters, who were involved in halakhic decision making. She quotes negative Talmudic statements about women, not only countering them with positive statements, but also contextualizing them by quoting equally negative statements about great sages.
Jonas distinguishes between immutable statutes of divine origin on the one hand and “opinions” of individual rabbis on the other. For her, the validity of a prohibition depends on the reasoning behind it, not on the prohibition as such.
A key issue in her argument is the ideal of Tz’ni’ut–(Modesty). She expects women in particular to re-establish values such as humility, restraint and morality. In her opinion, a female rabbi should not marry — but every woman should be free to decide if she wants a life as wife and mother or a profession according to her skills. In Jonas’ opinion, women are especially fit to be rabbis, since “female qualities” such as compassion, social skills, psychological intuition and accessibility to the young are essential prerequisites for the rabbinate. Therefore, female rabbis are “a cultural necessity.”
Jonas’ thesis received a grade of “good” (Praedikat gut). Soon thereafter, Eduard Baneth died and his successor, Hanokh Albeck (pictured) (1890-1972), proved unwilling to ordain a woman. None of the other professors of the Hochschule raised their voices on this issue, probably fearing a scandal. As a result, Regina Jonas graduated only as religious teacher. In the following years, she taught religion at several girls’ schools in Berlin, where she was known to be a very popular and committed teacher.
In 1933, the workload for Jewish teachers increased tremendously, since the students who had to leave public schools due to anti-Semitism not only needed Jewish knowledge, but also needed to learn to be proud of their Jewish heritage.Achieving Ordination
Nevertheless, Jonas continued to pursue ordination. Finally, in 1935, Rabbi Max Dienemann (1875-1939), executive director of the Liberaler Rabbinerverband (Conference of Liberal Rabbis) agreed to the ordination, on behalf of the Verband. Her diploma of ordination reads: “Since I saw that her heart is with God and Israel, and that she dedicates her soul to her goal, and that she fears God, and that she passed the examination in matters of religious law, I herewith certify that she is qualified to answer questions of religious law and entitled to hold the rabbinic office. And may God protect her and guide her on all her ways.”
Only a few years of rabbinic work in Berlin were granted to Regina Jonas. In 1937, the Berlin Jewish Gemeinde (official community) began to employ her officially as “pastoral-rabbinic counselor” in its welfare institutions. Thereafter she officiated regularly at the Jewish Hospital. Since more and more rabbis were imprisoned or had emigrated, she also started to preach in the more liberal synagogues in Berlin. A group of regulars from the famous Neue Synagoge, the flagship of German Jewry, had her preach at Havdalah services in the “weekday” synagogue. Jonas lectured to groups of WIZO and the Jüdischer Frauenbund, as well as to sisterhoods of the Jewish lodges.
She herself put a strong emphasis on her pastoral work, visiting the sick in the Jewish Hospital and caring for those elderly whose economic situation became desperate after the pogrom of November 9 and 10, 1938 (“Kristallnacht“). Among her papers, there are many letters from abroad in which refugees thank her for taking care of their parents who had remained in Germany.
In the winter of 1940-1941, the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland (the compulsory umbrella organization of German Jewry established by the Nazis in 1939) sent her to several cities where the Jewish Gemeinde remained without rabbis. She gave sermons in Braunschweig, Göttingen, Frankfurt am Oder, Wolfenbüttel and Bremen.
In 1941, when most of those who had so far escaped deportation had to do forced labor and were therefore unable to attend regular services, the congregation instituted special services. Jonas, who was herself forced to work in a factory, led many of these. Survivors report that her sermons and her pastoral work were especially uplifting and encouraging.Deportation to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz
On November 6, 1942, Regina Jonas and her mother were deported to Theresienstadt. Even there she worked as rabbi, preaching and counseling. She was officially part of the Referat für psychische Hygiene, which was led by the psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl.
On October 12, 1944, she and her mother were deported to Auschwitz and probably killed the same day.
In the archives of Terezín there remains a handwritten document that summarizes her religious worldview and her legacy. Under the title “Lectures by the only female rabbi Regina Jonas,” it lists twenty-four topics for lectures, followed by notes on a sermon which she delivered in Terezin. Here she summarizes her religious outlook and testament:
“Our Jewish people was planted by God into history as a blessed nation. ‘Blessed by God’ means to offer blessings, lovingkindness and loyalty, regardless of place and situation. Humility before God, selfless love for His creatures, sustain the world. It is Israel’s task to build these pillars of the world– man and woman, woman and man alike have taken this upon themselves in Jewish loyalty. Our work in Theresienstadt, serious and full of trials as it is, also serves this end: to be God’s servants and as such to move from earthly spheres to eternal ones. May all our work be a blessing for Israel’s future (and the future of humanity) … Upright ‘Jewish men’ and ‘brave, noble women’ were always the sustainers of our people. May we be found worthy by God to be numbered in the circle of these women and men … The reward of a mitzvah is the recognition of the great deed by God. Rabbi Regina Jonas, formerly of Berlin.”
Chanukah Challenge 5776
How can we bring comforting lights to this ailing world
While respect for us all is hard to come by?
How can we help others to speak more kindly each word
While hatred and passions surround us and tempt fright?
At least we can light our candles, one more for each night,
As we spread hope for more love with ever more light!
Dec. 2015 from Stefan
re: your question:
“you shall not round [become clean shaven along] the side growth corners of your heads nor mar the side growth corners of your beard”
this is a quote specific to the Priests in the book of Leviticus. It refers to not using the hair styles of the heathen idol worshippers. the first part is the source for why peyes or sideburns are considered a needed part of the the hair growth for an observant man. some never cut them at all and some keep them neat but never shave them off.
the second part refers to not having goatees and the like such as was the custom of Egyptian priests. one can trim the growth to make it neat, but never be clean shaven on the sides. some allow for work safety so that to be clean shaven on the chin and cheeks is ok but it is never appropriate to shave the cheeks but not the chin.
Hope this helps.
Chanukah first candle Sunday night! May we strive for religious freedom from coercion for all and freedom to observe as we wish [so long as we do not impose upon others!] without adverse repercussions...
Blessings and Peace