Jewel in the Crown?

An India Travelogue, Part 7 by Lawrence Bush Click for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.   SUSAN HAD AN ERUPTION of “Delhi belly” a couple of nights ago, which laid her low for a few hours and has put us both on an even stricter regimen about what we will and won’t eat (no more ice cubes in India, […]

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Jewish Heretics and Heretical Jews

by Bennett Muraskin   A JEWISH HERETIC, in Yiddish and Hebrew, is an apikoyris –– a reference to the 3rd-century BCE Greek philosopher Epicurus, who taught that the gods have no interest in human affairs and that people would be better off if we did not believe in divine rewards and punishment. (It is not surprising […]

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Israel’s National Poet

Modern Israel’s “national poet,” Haim Nahman Bialik, was born in Ukraine on this date in 1873. By his mid-twenties, Bialik was widely acclaimed for his writings in both Yiddish and Hebrew and had translated Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and other classics of world literature into Hebrew. In 1903, Bialik went to Kishniev as part of a […]

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The Rambam

Maimonides (aka “the Rambam,” the Hebrew acronym derived from his full name, Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon) died on this date in 1204, at age 69. His Guide for the Perplexed helped bring Judaism into contact with science and Aristotelian philosophy and greatly fortified the intellectual integrity of Jewish philosophy. Born in Muslim-ruled Spain toward the end of a period […]

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Shabbtai Zvi, Would-Be Messiah

On this date in 1665, Shabbtai Zvi (born 1626), who was widely embraced as the messiah by Jews across Europe and the Middle East, led followers into a synagogue in his hometown of Izmir, Turkey, where rabbinical authorities had threatened him with excommunication. At the synagogue, he ran a heretical Torah service (calling women to […]

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MIDRASH: The Stories We Tell

WHY THE TORAH REMAINS AN OPEN BOOK by Reba Carmel   Moses received the Torah at Sinai and he transmitted it to Joshua,  and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly . . . [who] said three maxims: Be measured […]

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Why I’m Not (Still) a Marxist

BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE, NO MATTER THEIR CLASS by Lawrence Bush   I AM A SOCIALIST. I want to see the social and cooperative capacities of human beings cultivated at least as much as our individualistic and competitive tendencies, and I want to see an economic system developed that reckons justly with the reality that […]

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Baghdad in Jewish History

The city of Baghdad was founded by Caliph Al-Mansur on this date in 762 CE. However, a Babylonian city of that name is mentioned in the Talmud, which was compiled nearly three centuries earlier, indicating that Mansur rebuilt an already-existing Persian town. Sitting on the left bank of the Tigris River, Baghdad was very close to two centers of Jewish scholarship, Sura and Pumbedita, and Baghdadi […]

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Queen Esther’s Tomb in Iran

Archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld was born in Hanover Province, Germany on this date in 1879. He was deeply involved in archaeological excavations in Iran during the early 20th century and helped prompt the creation of the Persian law of antiquities, which protected some of humankind’s most ancient artifacts. Herzfeld also identified a shrine in Hamadan in the Kurdish region of Iran, […]

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