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    The Story of Chanukah

    23. December, 2014UncategorizedComments are off

    The story of Chanukah has been told to millions and millions of Jewish children for over two thousand years. Most of those children learned about the “miracle of the lights.” The miracle of the lights story is that when the Hebrews defeated the Assyrian soldiers and retook the Holy Temple they found only one cruse of oil; enough to last for only one day but miraculously lasted for eight days. However, many historians believe that the eight days of Chanukah is rooted in another eight-day (and much more holy) week. The holiday of Sukkot. Here is the story, which I hope you will read with your parents and see which story they believe.

    About 2,200 years ago, in the land of Judea, which today lies in Israel and the West Bank, and was part of the Seleucid Empire (this was the empire formed by some of Alexander the Great’s generals after he died, so technically, it was Greek). Judea had long been the epicenter (most important part) of Jewish civilization; its capital, Jerusalem, was home to the Holy Temple.

    The country of Israel was split into two separate and independent nations. They were known as the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah, which lasted from 722 to 586 Before the Common Era (known as BCE, which really means before Christ, but 2 non Christian countries were offended by that term, so now we use BCE), Judeans had seen the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah and the forced exile of the Jewish elite, (religious leaders, scholars,
    professionals and business people) to Babylon. In the centuries since, Judea had been ruled by a series of foreign powers: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Macedonians, and now the Greek-Syrian Seleucids. Yet regardless of the regime in power, generation after generation of Judeans (by the way, that is probably how we got to be called “Jews”) had steadfastly continued to live and pray as Jews.

    In Antioch, the capital of the Seleucid Empire, change was afoot (coming). The Seleucids had once been the dominant empire in the Middle East, but a series of military defeats had weakened them. After Seleucid armies lost battles in Greece and Turkey to the Romans, the rising regional power, the Seleucids had lost valuable territory in the west of their empire. Seleucid power was waning.

    Then after a series of power grabs, Antiochus, the younger brother of a deposed king, seized the throne in 175 BCE. Having restored his family to the head of the empire, Antiochus was determined to return the empire to its former glories. In order to shore up control of their lands in the east, the Seleucids turned their focus toward Judea.

    Antiochus was convinced that weakness in the east was undermining Seleucid power, and considered Judean Jewish cultural and religious life unacceptable. The Jews’ national culture was not only a conspicuous (obvious) dissent (opposing) against Seleucid Greek culture; it was borderline seditious (almost open
    rebellion). As this was Seleucid land, Antiochus believed, anything religious or cultural should be Greek (or Hellenistic). So he passed laws aggressively promoting Hellenism—Greek language, Greek art and culture, Greek gods.

    These new laws changed life in Judea. Jewish life receded, while Greek and Hellenistic culture became more (prevalent or majority). Many Jews took to Hellenism. They dressed as Greeks; they attended Greek wrestling matches; some even ate pork and worshipped Greek gods. Of course, other Jews were strongly
    opposed. But what could they do? They were but a small people ruled by a much larger imperial power. So the unhappy Judeans did what they could: they resisted by practicing Judaism at home and in their temple in Jerusalem, while trying not to antagonize (anger) the Seleucid authorities. But the situation was tense—many Judeans felt their way of life was under threat from the powers in Antioch.

    Yet although the pro-Hellenism laws had been established, Antiochus did not believe they went far enough. Sure, Greek culture was increasingly prevalent and popular in Judea, but far too many 4 Judeans persisted with their Jewish life for his liking. So Antiochus ordered his troops to make a bold statement—in 168 BCE they seized the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the Greek god Zeus.

    Religious Jews were aghast (horrified): their most sacred place had been violated. It had always been dedicated to their one, true God, the Judeans believed, but now the temple was dedicated to what they saw as a false idol. This was not just degradation (lowering or bringing down); it was desecration (ruin or defilement). The temple was the holiest of holies. But although Jewish anger rose, once again, what could they do? A small group of Jewish rebels, centered on the village of Modi’in, ten miles outside of Jerusalem, proposed rising up against the Seleucid forces but they were just a bunch of angry priests. They could do nothing against the imperial troops guarding the temple. Judea was occupied. The Judeans were a disorganized, divided and colonized people.

    Then, a year after taking over the temple in Jerusalem, Antiochus passed a draconian (totally terrible) new law strictly forbidding any Jewish activity. Any Judean found observing Judaism was to be punished by death. But he wasn’t done. Not only did Antiochus prohibit any form of Jewish religious life, he also mandated (ordered) that Jews must worship Greek gods. This was a law too far—Jews 5 began to resist, especially in Modi’in. Antiochus ordered his troops to crush any resistance and a band of Seleucid soldiers entered the village.

    Once inside Modi’in, the Greek troops forced the Jewish residents to gather in the center of the village. Then the soldiers ordered villagers to bow down before a Greek idol. They ordered the Jews to make a sacrifice to their gods. And they ordered the Jews to eat pork. They were demanding the Jews commit the ultimate transgressions (to do things that the Jewish religion said not to do) of their faith. The Seleucid troops, weapons at the ready, were
    forcing the Judeans to profane (show tremendous disrespect) to all that they held holy.

    The situation was tense. Some Jews acquiesced (gave in), but many did not. When a Seleucid officer demanded a Jewish high priest named Mattathias obey their orders and make a sacrifice to the Greek gods, Mattathias refused. This enraged the officer, who drew his sword. Seeking to pacify (calm down) the Seleucid officer, a Judean villager offered to make the sacrifice on behalf of Mattathias. But what Mattathias saw as craven (cowardly) collaboration outraged him.

    “Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him and have chosen to follow his commandments instead of the religion 6 of their fathers,” Mattathias said, “I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers.” He took out his sword and killed first the Jew, then the Greek commanding officer. After that, Mattathias shouted: “Let everyone who has (passion) for the Torah and who stands by the covenant (the agreement with God) follow me!”

    Mattathias’ five sons followed him, as did many other villagers. They drew up arms and attacked the stunned Seleucid soldiers. After bloody sword battles, all the imperial troops that had entered Modi’in were dead. But having killed them, Mattathias, his sons, and the other Judean rebels knew they had become wanted men. And sure enough warrants went out for their arrest. The Judean resistance movement was now official—and now officially in trouble.

    With the Seleucid authorities after them, Mattathias and his sons— Judah, Eleazar, Simon, John and Jonathan—fled Modi’in for to the remoteness of the Judean hills. While they hid out in the wilderness, Mattathias’ rallying cry spread throughout Judea. Jews unhappy with the terrible laws of Antiochus went to the mountains to join Mattathias, first in trickles (just a very few), then in torrents (tremendous amounts). Before long, there was a large group of
    rebels massed together in the hills. They called themselves the Maccabees, from the Hebrew word for hammer. The Maccabees were dedicated to one aim: to overthrow the Seleucids and retake 7 their land of Judea.

    To do so, they needed a plan. But then Matthias was taken gravely ill. As he died, Matthias instructed his son Judah take charge of the Jewish rebels in the hills. Judah knew that the Seleucid (really, the Assyrian army under Greek control), made up of professional soldiers, was not only better prepared than his (Judah’s) men but also outnumbered them. So Judah instructed the Maccabees to avoid direct confrontation with the Seleucid forces. Instead, the
    Maccabees engaged in guerilla warfare. They would attack Seleucid garrisons unexpectedly, or engage only isolated Seleucid units. The Maccabees also attacked Hellenized Judeans (their own people that sided with the Greek way of life), destroyed their altars dedicated to Greek gods and forced many of the formerly fellow Jews to join the rebel cause.

    In the relative safety of the hills, which the Seleucids could only access through a few exposed canyons, Judah trained his men to become fighters in secret caves. The Maccabees trained and studied religion, developing their skills and spirit. Eventually they were ready for their first battle. The rebels engaged the Seleucid troops as the Greeks, complete with a formidable herd of war elephants, scaled the mountain via canyons. Enjoying the high ground, the Maccabees won this first fight. The revolt was now alive 8 and succeeding. And there would be many battles to come.

    After the Maccabees emerged victorious in battle after battle, more and more Hellenized Jews joined them and the Seleucid soldiers became increasingly demotivated (not really wanting to fight the Jews). Three years after the revolt started with a motely crew of Judeans, the Maccabees were by 164 BCE a large, well-trained band of fighters. They were ready to retake Jerusalem, home of their sacred temple. Judah Maccabee led his mean into their holy city and
    the Judean rebels retook the temple. Their moment of triumph was rudely interrupted, however, when the Maccabees saw what the Seleucids have done with their temple. The Greeks had turned it pagan; pigs were sacrificed at the altar. As pigs wandered around the destroyed temple, the Judeans saw that their sacred candelabrum, the menorah, which must always been lit, was about to burn out.

    Story one why we celebrate Chanukah for eight days:

    As the menorah must always burn, the Judeans were in a race against time: to make the requisite (required) holy olive oil. A Maccabee found one unbroken jar of oil. But one jar was supposed to last one day—still insufficient time for them to prepare more oil for the menorah. But, of course, the miraculous happened: the oil from 9 the sole jar burned for eight nights, giving the Jews enough time to make a new batch and ensuring their sacred candles remained
    aflame.

    Story two why we celebrate Chanukah for eight days:

    A month or so before their big victory, the Hebrews were supposed to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, which, coincidently, was observed (followed) for eight days. Because the Hebrews were fighting the Seleucids they couldn’t construct (put up) huts and follow the rules of this very important holiday. After the victory defeating the enemy the Maccabees decided to celebrate Sukkot Shay-nee (shay-nee means the second), the second Sukkot for eight days. And they did! When Sukkot came around the next year, the Hebrews celebrated the holiday. They then decided to make candelabra with eight regular places for those candles and one special place for the ninth candle (which is the helper, or in Hebrew sham-as) to light the other candles with.

    Whichever story you believe, the other facts remain the same,
    including what happened after the Maccabees took back the Holy
    Temple. Here is what happened:

    But the Judeans weren’t safe yet. The Seleucids ordered a huge army to finally quash the revolt. But just as they were approaching Jerusalem, they were ordered back home to Greek Syria. Antiochus had died. The capital city, Antioch, was again a place of political jockeying and intrigue. The troops were needed to keep the peace at home, as the Seleucids, an empire on the wane, was preoccupied with internal fighting. Unable to dominate the region as before, the Seleucids agreed to a compromise law in Judea. The Judeans had their religious freedom restored.

    No matter which story you believe, there is one miracle that no one can dispute: a small, weak group of men, who couldn’t even call themselves an army was able to defeat the world’s strongest and well equipped army and retain (keep) our religion alive.

    Much of my information about the story of Chanukah came from a very good website called Jspace. I highly recommend it if you are interested in anything Jewish, including Israel.

    Shame on You

    7. November, 2014UncategorizedComments are off

    The world remains incredibly quiet (even the United States), as more and more acts of violence are perpetrated against Israel and its citizens. Why are the politicians of most nations so quiet? Why are there no complaints to Hamas or their leadership for these acts of violence to stop? Is Israel doing something wrong that these nations continue to ignore these acts of murder? Where is the United Nations while all of this continues to occur? Where is the condemnation by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of South Korea? Does he know only to condemn Israel and not murders of innocent civilians who are Jewish? Does this make him anti-Semitic or is his country, South Korea so dependent on imported oil that he, in his opinion, has to turn a blind eye to any acts of violence against people in the Jewish State? I am willing to wager a bet that if Israel retaliates against Hamas for these actions that the Secretary General will have some very harsh words for Israel to stop the aggression. Are the lives of innocent Israeli citizens less worth less than their Arab counterparts to him? Below is an article (with a few changes by me), by Jspace describing the most recent attack.

    A Palestinian vehicle rammed into a group of Israeli soldiers today, just hours after a similar terror attack earlier today and left one soldier dead.

    Three other Israeli soldiers were injured in this afternoon’s attack on a West Bank road. The soldiers have been evacuated to Jerusalem hospitals for treatment, and one is listed in critical condition.

    The driver fled the scene, and a search is currently underway. Roadblocks in the area have already been set up to catch the man responsible for the murder.

    “The IDF is conducting a widespread search in the region to locate the vehicle and its driver,” an Israeli military spokesman said in a statement.

    This morning, a Palestinian man drove his car into the light rail station at Shimon HaTzadik street in Jerusalem, killing at least one victim.

    Ten individuals were struck in the Jerusalem collision. The terrorist, after plowing into the rail station and hitting the commuters waiting for the train there, also rammed his car into other cars driving along the street. Once his car was no longer able to be driven, he exited the car with a crowbar and attacked pedestrians with it. He was then shot by police and border guards who were in the area. The terrorist died of his gunshot wound at the scene soon afterwards.

    This attack followed a similarly executed attack using a car or some other vehicle and driving it into a crowded rail station. This is not the first time this method of attach has been used. The first attack killed two innocent victums; 20 year old Karen Muscara, and three month old infant Chaya Zissel Braun.

    After having read this article, I came to the conclusion that the Jews of 2014 must change the way they react when confronted with their children being murdered. They must list to the Secretary General of the United Nations and be like the Jews that lived in the shtetls of the early 1800’s; fearful that more attacks would happen if the Jewish people retaliated. Or the Jews (many of whom) went to the crematoria.

    Well, Mr. Secretary General of the United Nations, the Jews of today fight back and take care of their own, because as Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” The United Nations does not ever look upon Israel in a kind light, or for that matter neither does most of the free world’s nations. This time I don’t even hear an outcry from Israel’s greatest ally, the United States. Shame on all of those nations.

    I am a Jew

    28. October, 2014UncategorizedComments are off

    I read an interesting article a few months ago and during the summer I was so wrapped up in the mid-east war, I forgot all about it. It is a rather eye-opening article about having faith in our people, here, in Israel and around the world. We can do this if we understand that we have to continue helping Israel to be the strongest and best equipped country in that region of the world. We can’t be number two. If we’re number two we will cease to exist.

    Help Israel and other Jewish causes because in the end, you are truly helping yourselves. Be proud of our accomplishments and if you can, help fund them even more. Remember YOU are a Jew and the world thinks of you that way, and in the end, that’s not so bad at all … in fact, it’s great! Please read the article with changes made to it by me. It is worthwhile.

    Only 65 years ago, Jews were brought to death like Sheep to slaughter. NO country, NO army. Only 60 years ago seven Arab countries declared war on little Israel, the Jewish State.

    Just a few hours after it was established. We were 650,000 Jews against the rest of the Arab world. No IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) or Air Force. We were only a small group of stubborn people with nowhere to go. Remember: Lebanon , Syria , Iraq , Jordan ,Egypt ,Libya , and Saudi Arabia, they all attacked at once. The state that the United Nations “gave” us was 65% desert. We started it from ZERO !!.

    Only 41 years ago, we fought three of the strongest countries In the Middle East, and we crushed them in the Six Day War. Over the years we fought different coalitions of Arab countries With modern armies and with huge amounts of Russian-Soviet ammunition, and we still won.

    Today we have a beautiful country, a powerful Army, a strong air force, an adequate Navy and a thriving high tech industry. Intel, Microsoft, and IBM have all developed their businesses here. Our doctors have won important prizes in the medical developement field. We turned the desert into a prosperous land. We sell oranges, flowers, and vegetables around the world. We launched our own satellite! Three satellites at once! We are in good company; together with the USA (335 million Residents), Russia (220 million residents), China (1.3 billion residents) and Europe ( France , England and Germany with over 100 million residents), we are one of the only countries in the world that have launched something into space!

    Israel today is among the few powerful countries that have nuclear technology & capabilities. ( We will never admit it, But everyone knows.) To think that only 65 years ago we were disgraced and hopeless. We crawled out from the burning crematoriums of Europe. We won in all our wars. With a little bit of nothing we built a beautiful democratic country.

    Who are Khaled Meshal (leader of Hamas) or Hassan Nasrallah (leader of Hezbollah), trying to frighten us? They are amusing us. As we celebrate our Independence Day every Mat, let’s not forget what this holliday is all about; we overcame everything. We overcame the Greeks, we overcame the Romans,
    we overcame the Spanish Inquisition, we overcame the Russians pogrom, we overcame Hitler, we overcame Germany and overcame the Holocaust, We overcame the armies of seven countries.

    Relax chevray, (friends), we will overcome our current enemies. Never mind where you look in human history. Think about it.The Jewish nation, our condition has never been better than now. So let’s lift our heads up never mind which country or culture tries to harm us or erase us from the world. We will still exist and persevere. Egypt ? Anyone know where the Egyptian empire disappeared to? The Greeks? Alexander, the Macedon? The Romans? Is anyone speaking Latin Today? The Third Reich? Did anyone hear news from them lately?

    And look at us, the Bible nation – from slavery in Egypt, we are still here, still speaking the same language. Exactly here, exactly now. Maybe the Arabs don’t know it yet, but we are an eternal nation. All the time that we will keep our identity, we will stay eternal. So, sorry that we are not worrying, complaining, crying, or fearing…

    Business here is kol b’seder (very or just fine). It can definitely be much better, but it is still fine. Don’t pay attention to the nonsense in the media, as they will not tell you about our festivals in Israel or about the people that continue living, going out. Sometimes morale is down, so what? This is only because we are mourning the dead while they are celebrating spilled blood. And this is the reason we will win after all.

    Please tell all of your Jewish friends everywhere in the world. You are all part of our force to keep our existence.

    Reading this blog may help some of us lift our heads up and be proud to say:

    “I AM A JEW”

    Rosh Hashanah

    13. September, 2014UncategorizedComments are off

    rosh-hashanah

    …In the seventh month, on the first of the month, there shall be a Shabbath for you, a remembrance with shofar blasts, a holy convocation. -Leviticus 16:24

    I would like to thank the beautiful web site, Judaism 101, from which I borrowed Extensively much of my material. It was an invaluable and well explained resource.

    Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of Tishri. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, “Head of the Year” or “First of the Year.” Rosh Hashanah, to most Jewish people is known as the Jewish New Year. This name is somewhat deceptive (misleading), because there is little similarity between Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year, and the American midnight on December 31st where people seem to find an excuse for having a drinking bash (party and do things to excess (more than usual), and daytime football games.There is, however, one important similarity between the Jewish New Year
    and the American one: many Americans use the New Year as a time to plan a better life, making “resolutions” (promises).

    Likewise, the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, (which means) looking at ourselves and the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year. Here is some more on these words, The Days of Awe. We call Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur the Days of Awe because these are
    the most important holy days in our religion and most Jewish people believe that this is when God is deciding who shall live and who shall pass away and we are in awe or wonderment of God.

    The name “Rosh Hashanah” is not used in the Bible to discuss this holiday. The Bible refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (The Day of Remembrance) or Yom Teruah (The Day of the Sounding of the Shofar). The holiday is in the Book of Leviticus, chapter 23:, paragraphs 24-25.

    The Shofar is a ram’s horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue or somewhere else. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day of the holy day (two outside Israel and one in Israel). There are four different types of shofar notes: Tekiah, a 3 second sustained note; Shevarim, three 1-second notes rising in tone, Teruah, a series of short, staccato notes
    extending over a period of about 3 seconds; and Tekiah Gedolah (literally, “big Tekiah”), the final blast in a set, which lasts (10 seconds minimum or as
    long as the person blowing the shofar can last.

    The Bible gives no specific reason for this practice, but many of our people believe that it is done to remind us to have a spiritual reawakening.
    Another idea about the blowing of the Shofar is that has been suggested is that the shofar’s sound is a call us to repentance (to repent or feel sorry for the wrongs we did in the past year and to ask God and those who we wronged and ask for forgiveness). We cannot ask God to forgive us because we did wrong
    to a person. In the Jewish religion (unlike Christianity), the Jewish people have to go to the person we wronged and ask them for forgiveness. When we commit a sin against God, we ask God for forgiveness. The Shofar is not blown in Orthodox and Conservative temples if the holiday falls on Shabbat, but is in most Reform temples. No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah.

    Much of the day is spent with family or in temple where the regular daily service is somewhat expanded. In fact, there is a special Prayer book called the Machzor used for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because of the added reading and songs for these holidays.

    Another popular observance during this holiday is eating apples or challah dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet New Year. I highly
    recommend it. It’s yummy. Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlikh (“casting off”). We walk to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and empty our pockets of crumbs into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off. This practice is not discussed in the Bible, but is a long-standing ( a custom for hundreds if not thousands of years custom. Tashlikh is normally observed on the afternoon of the first day, before afternoon services.

    The common (usual) greeting at this time is L’shanah tovah (“for a good year”). This is a shortening of “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” (or to women, ” L’shanah tovahtikatevi v’taihatemi”), which means “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”

    You may notice that the Bible speaks of Rosh Hashanah as occurring on the first day of the seventh month. The first month on the Jewish calendar is Nissan, occurring in March and April. Why, then, does the Jewish “New Year” occur in Tishri, the seventh month? Judaism has several different “New Years,”
    a concept which may seem strange at first, but think of it this way: the American “New Year” starts in January, but the new “school year” starts in
    September, and many businesses have “fiscal years” that start at various times of the year. In Judaism, Nissan 1 is the New Year for the purpose of counting the reign (rule) of kings and months on the calendar, Elul 1 (in August) is the New Year for the tithing (giving ten percent of them), of animals,
    Shevat 15 (in February) is the New Year for trees (determining when first fruits can be eaten, etc.), and Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashanah) is the New Year for years (when we increase the year number.

    The Challenge of the New Year

    7. September, 2014UncategorizedComments are off

    To most Jewish people around the world, on the evening of Wednesday, September 24th another new year will emerge. Jewish people of all persuasions will celebrate Rosh Hashanah in many different ways. After two days of worship, blessings and celebration it will sadly glide into limbo as the days, weeks and months have pursued one another down the stairway of our lives.

    What will this New Year bring? What must the New Year bring? Hopefully, it is to renew our faith in the human species and to remind us that we are bound together far beyond any divisiveness, by a more fundamental unity than any mere agreement in thought or doctrine can create.

    Is it possible that people will yet learn that they all possess the same primordial desires and tendencies and that is the domination of one person over another can no longer be justified by any appeal to nationhood (did you hear that Mr. Putin?), or nature, or even to God? Is it not our purpose to clear the way for the foundation of a world history, not in terms of nation or race or culture alone, but in terms of each person’s respect for self and others that reaches beyond immediate self-interest? The unsettling experiences of our time on earth leaves the question open as to whether mankind shall annihilate nothingness or whether nothingness shall annihilate mankind.

    The New Year always beckons to brighter things for the new year. In the word, “new,” lies the hope that in spite of humanity’s finite power, in spite of nationalisms, and in spite of spiritual bereavement and moral denigration, beneath the apparent turmoil and upheaval of the present, here yet lies the great possibility which must be rooted in the unshakable faith that mankind can emerge from the abyss of meaninglessness and suffering to one of kindness, empathy, spirituality, dignity and love. Perhaps it is our need to do more than recognize, but to feel so deeply in our own viscera that the establishment of justice, freedom and peace are not only intellectual constructs or achievements, but are also spiritual and moral achievements demanding a cherishing of the wholeness of the human personality.

    May the blessings that we say aloud or whisper to ourselves during this time of renewal, when the old year breathes its last and the warmth of the infant New Year is upon our cheeks, blossom forth in the days and months ahead, bright and beautiful…and peaceful.

    Trivia

    1. July, 2014UncategorizedComments are off

    From time to time I like to lighten things up a little, especially in light of what’s going on in the Middle East right now, so see how well you can do without seeking help from any source.

    1. What holiday is considered to be the holiest of the year (hint—It is NOT Yom Kippur)?
    2. What holiday do we eat matzah on?
    3. Who was the first king of Israel?
    4. Who was the second king of Israel?
    5. Who was the first Jew (really the first Hebrew)?
    6. What was his wife’s name?
    7. Who was his cousin?
    8. What city did they come from?
    9. Why did they leave that city?
    10. What is the capital of Israel?
    11. Who made it the capital?
    12. On what holiday do we plant trees?
    13. What holiday do we dip apples or bread into honey?
    14. Why do we do this dipping?
    15. What holy day do we fast?
    16. On what holiday do we finish reading the Torah and immediately start to read it over again?
    17. What was Moses’ brother’s name?
    18. What was was Moses’ sister’s name?
    19. How many Commandments are there (hint: the answer is NOT 10)
    20. How many days do we here in the United States celebrate Rosh Hashanah?
    21. How many days do they celebrate it in Israel?
    22. What mountain did Moses go up to receive the Ten Commandments from God?
    23. What happened when he came down from the mountain after 40 days and 40 nights and saw the Hebrews worshipping the Egyptian idol?
    24. For how many days do we celebrate Passover?
    25. What was Jacob’s name changed to?
    26. What were Jacob’s two wives’ names?
    27. Who was Jacob’s favorite son?
    28. What did Jacob have made for this son to show he was the favorite?
    29. For how long were the Hebrews slaves in the land of Egypt?
    30. What is the famous river in Egypt that Moses floated down?
    31. Who spotted Moses in the basket?
    32. What is the Egyptian name for king?
    33. How many “tribes” is Israel supposed to have had?
    34. Who was the villain in the Purim story?
    35. Who was the king?
    36. What was his first wife’s name?
    37. What was his second wife’s name (tricky question)?
    38. Who was the hero of the story?
    39. For Passover, what do the vegetables represent?
    40. What does the lamb or shank bone represent?
    41. What do the bitter herbs represent?
    42. What does the egg represent?
    43. What does the salt water represent?
    44. What name have we given to the Chanukah Menorah?
    45. What is the Hebrew name of the helper candle?
    46. According to the story, for how many days did the oil last?
    47. From which country did the Assyrian soldiers come?
    48. Why do we eat potato pancakes on Chanukah?
    49. What was the name of the Jewish leaders father?
    50. What was the name of the most famous brother in this group of brave warriors?
    51. Bonus Question: What animal killed one of these brave Maccabee warriors who defeated the Assyrian soldiers?

    What Are my Philosophies Concerning Preparation For Bar and Bat Mitzvah … and the Service?

    15. April, 2014UncategorizedComments are off

    My name is Michael Marcus, and among other services for Jewish people, I am a Hebrew tutor and Bar and Bat Mitzvah teacher and officiator, who was requested by many of my students’ parents to comment on the following two frequently asked questions regarding the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience.

    I have had over 25 years of experience working with all types of youngsters (challenged and not challenged—my wife and I have a mentally challenged son), and I am proud, but humbled to say that I have had amazing success because of my intense devotion to the needs of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah son or daughter and their family.

    I can be reached at my website: barbatmitzvahlessons.com, or you can reach me at: (855) Hebrew1 or (855) 432-7391

    Q: How long will it take to prepare my child for this most important day?
    A: I assure all of my clients that their goals and mine are exactly the same; and that is, I want their child prepared and “ready to go” with complete confidence, knowledge and understanding of their Torah, Haftarah, their blessings, the service and with their speech. If parents want my instruction to include some holiday preparation, history, customs and traditions, that can be provided as well. Most children are tutored for one hour each week; however, some with less Hebrew background might prefer more frequent instruction. I am available 7 days a week and even tutor by video chat when face-to-face lessons are not plausible. My goal is to accommodate the needs and aspirations of the parents and … the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I pride myself on my flexibility to meet the needs of the students and parents, and bring everything together in a beautiful, personalized, caring service.

    Q: Should we invite to the service the friends of the Bar and Bat Mitzvah?
    A: Recently, there has been a trend not to invite friends because the of the equation, “kids equal noise,” at services is essentially, true, and as we all know, we adults want a quiet dignified service that is filled with reverence and meaning. However, I am of the opinion that we can have a multitude of kids at the service with none, or at most, a minimum of disruption and have a reverent and meaningful service as well. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive The responsibility for this falls upon the leader of the service and how the service is conducted. If the service is meaningful and the congregation is involved then everyone will participate.

    During the services that I conduct, the Bar or Bat Mitzvah is up at the podium, having been prepared for, and leading a very large portion of the service, with me always standing alongside them, helping when needed and supportive all of the time.
    When kids in the congregation see their friends not only participating, but actually leading the service, it seems much more meaningful to them. The kids actually participate along with the adults and soak up the “hamishness” and warmth and beauty of Judaism and hopefully come to the conclusion that Judaism is a wonderfully meaningful, inclusive and vibrant religion.

    Does the fact that their friend is leading the service quiet all of them all of the time? The short answer is, “no,” but the longer answer is that the vast majority of kids not only pay attention, but participate and are impressed that their friend is the leader and they’re much more respectful.

    Although, I am equipped to conduct as traditional a service as parents would like, I have concluded that a service of about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes is about the maximum that most youngsters (and believe it or not, adults), can handle without getting restless, so that is what I recommend to most parents. If parents wish, I am capable, and have conducted services that have lasted between two hours and forty minutes to just about three hours, although that is not what the majority of parents want.

    As I stated earlier, the parents are the judges as to how long the service is and I make sure that their needs and wishes are met. In conclusion, despite any downside, I opt for having as many kids at the service as possible. They’re needed at the service because they are the future of Judaism.

    Chanukah

    3. November, 2013UncategorizedComments are off

    On the evening of Wednesday, November 27, 2013, the lighting the first lights of Chanukah marks the 2178 annual celebration of an historic triumph; the festival of lights. This Festival of Dedication commemorates the victory of Judaism in its struggle against pagan Hellenism. The Maccabees, led by the father of the Maccabees, Mattathias and his son, Judah and their brave band of warriors did not destroy Hellenism paganism. What they did was to defeat its attempt to engulf Judaism. Two centuries later, Hellenism did merge with the few who left Judaism to form Christianity. Chanukah celebrates the successful Jewish resistance to being so merged.

    Spiritually and religiously, Chanukah and Christmas have nothing important in common; despite what the card, candy and commercial industries might say. It makes no sense to pretend that the two observances are equitable, merely because they usually occur during the same month (however, this is not so this year). Chanukah, which saved Judaism from Hellenism, is totally unrelated to Christmas. Jews cannot in good conscience observe Christmas in any form. Christmas, as its name clearly indicates, is the Mass celebrating the birth of Christ (the Greek word which means Messiah) Incarnate. These are precisely the kinds of beliefs and practices the Maccabees fought to keep out of Judaism and that is what we have been fighting for over two thousand years. Of course, in today’s world, this is mitigated somewhat when there are people that marry out of our religion and have children from this mixed union and decide to expose their progeny to both cultures.

    As for the folk customs associated with Christmas; holly, mistletoe, fir trees, Yule logs and the rest—they represent the victory of the Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon paganism over Christianity in early medieval times. When missionary monks found that they could not extirpate those primitive European symbols, the Church capitulated and made them part of the Christian observance.

    Carols and evergreens are “folk customs” only for Christian folk (once again, unless there is a couple that intermarries; then the rules of the individual families come into play).

    Jewish families who desire to be recognizable as Jews will celebrate Chanukah. And they will celebrate this distinctly Jewish festival not only in schools in conjunction with Christmas observances, but also in their homes and communities with their family and friends. These observances include: tasty foods (depending upon where particular Jews live determines the kinds of special Chanukah foods they will have; for example; Jewish people in Eastern Europe enjoy Latkes, or potato pancakes, while Jewish people living in the Middle East and in South America enjoy jelly donuts), joyous songs, fun filled games, chocolate gelt, presents (sometimes as many as eight; one for each day of our holiday), and beautiful blessings (three the first night and two for each of the remaining seven days of our holiday). But the most important observance was saved for last; families spending time together, bonding in the warmth of one our happiest holidays.

    These are the kinds of activities that bring our Jewish families closer together and strengthen our Jewish roots and perhaps even bring blended families closer to the traditions of our mothers and fathers.

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