4/24/16

NYTimes: Talmudic Awareness - Mindfulness Without the Meditation

A Talmudic method of looking at life. The Times discusses achieving mindfulness without meditation. Ah, but the essay does not mention Talmud. Oh well.

Achieving Mindfulness at Work, No Meditation Cushion Required
Preoccupations

By MATTHEW E. MAY

In a recent seminar I gave for over 100 business professionals, I asked the
participants to play a simple word association game with me: “I say
mindfulness, you say ________.” The word that rang out in unison was, of
course, “meditation.”

Mindfulness, it seems, has become a mainstream business practice and a
kind of industry in its own right. Meditation instructors are the new
management gurus, and companies including Google, General Electric, Ford
Motor and American Express are sending their employees to classes that can
run up to $50,000 for a large audience. Many mindfulness apps exist, nearly
all of which focus on “mindfulness meditation.”

4/20/16

Hamilton on Broadway for $24

Of course tickets to the Broadway show "Hamilton" start at $500 for the foreseeable future.

But for $24 you can get an official libretto of the show, richly supplemented with numerous chapters on how the show came to be.

The libretto has explanatory footnotes, arranged on the margins, reminding me of the talmud, and lovely photos.

I recommend this book. It captures the utter genius of the play and gives you a window to the creative processes behind the play,



Ten Tips for a Better Seder

It's a great performance. A dramatic Off-Broadway revue.

I have always had fun directing the reading of the Haggadah at the Seder. I learned this dramatic art as a child by watching my father (Rabbi Zev Zahavy) masterfully conduct the performance of the communal synagogue Seders as the rabbi of the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan.

So in the spirit of the season of rebirth and freedom, let me offer you ten tips for your seder extravaganza.

1. Script! 
Spend an hour before Passover reading through your favorite version of the Haggadah. Sort out the rituals (like Kiddush), the liturgies (like the Hallel) and the learning (like the ma nishtanah and what follows). Make marginal notes or use a highlighter.

2. Actors!
Find out who is coming (yes, Seder directors need to know that). Think through what their skills are and what role they can play in the Seder. Remember some guests may be simple, some wise, some won't know how to ask a question. Try to meet the needs of everyone assembled.

3. Casting!
The Best Ever Seder will be a collaboration of all the guests. Those who can't read Hebrew can read a passage from the Haggadah in translation (English, Russian or otherwise) or perform another essential task.

4. Props!
The matzo, maror, haroseth, shank bone, egg all have familiar symbolic meanings worth mentioning. You can include other props of your choosing for added flavor to the event: use miniature pyramids, toy or paper or chocolate frogs, relevant family memorabilia or a special illustrated Haggadah (hold it up to show it off or pass it around).

5. Child actors! 
Give them something nice at the retrieval of the afikomen or distribute something small anytime they start to lose interest.

6. Improvise!
During the reading of the Haggadah tell about how your family matriarch or patriarch conducted the Seder or prepared the meal. Reminiscing in small doses adds great flavor to your production.

7. Really! Drama!
The Seder is a drama. The guests are the actors. Yemenite Jews have the custom to dress up and walk around the table to reenact the exodus. Even if you are not much of an actor, at the very least, you can talk about how other people are dramatic.

8. No melodrama!
You and your guests all are on stage. This is not the time to bring up old family arguments. If you do, your Seder might become the "last supper" that you eat together.

9. Charm the critic! 
The matriarchs (of the families) must greet Elijah at the door. Watch as the wine in Elijah's cup changes color as he sips from it. Talk about loss and the mystical redemption.

10. Bring down the curtain with with over-the-top gusto!
Sing the closing songs in all the ways you can remember. You can sing Chad Gadya in Yiddish, if someone knows how, or you can add the animal sounds. Have fun -- these are supposed to be rowdy songs that you sing after drinking four cups of wine.

As the seder thespians say, "Break a shankbone!" Good luck and have a happy and kosher Pesach.

[annual repost, with a rewrite]

Free Passover Books

This one is $.99 the rest are free for Passover from Talmudic Books - Babylonian Talmud Pesahim

Babylonian Talmud Pesahim deals with regulations for the Passover holiday, prohibitions of leavened food and prescriptions for the Paschal lamb. It is the third treatise of the order Mo'ed. It is divided into ten chapters.

Chapter ten deals with the Seder meal eaten on the evening of Passover; the four cups of wine, and the benedictions pronounced over them; the questions of the son and the father's answers and instructions; other benedictions and the Hallel.

From Talmudic Books special free for Passover by Reuven Brauner:

In preparation for Pesach- Laws of the Red Cow

For Pesach and particularly Seder Night- Laws of Korban Pesach

And for the days of Sefiras Ha’Omer - Pirkei Avos Synthesized

Not to mention the entire Reformatted Soncino Talmud and lots more goodies, at: Halakhah.com

and our Kindle books at Amazon: Talmudic Books for Kindle on the Talmud, Bible, Kabbalah and Prayer and  The Kindle Edition of the Classic Soncino Talmud in English

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah - a Star of the Seder

Passover is here once again. We will soon open our Haggadahs and find the familiar prologue stories to the Maggid section of the Seder. And soon we all will wonder, Who was Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah?

Maggid is literally the "telling" of the story of the Exodus from Egypt, the event that we celebrate in our evening of dramatic activity. My teacher Rabbi Soloveitchik always underscored that this is not a mere retelling of a story. The Maggid is an archetypal session of rabbinic Torah study. The major section that we read is a classic rabbinic midrash that expounds upon a few condensed biblical verses. This is the exodus story as told by the rabbis, not by the Torah of Moses. To make the point unmistakably clear, the rabbis go so far as to omit the mention of Moses altogether in the Haggadah.

The rabbis do mention several of their own rabbis by name and top among them is my favorite, Eleazar ben Azariah. He was a second century rabbi in Israel who also held the highest political position in his community.

The Most Expensive Haggadah is the Sarajevo Haggadah

I have posted here about all of the free Haggadahs for Passover Seders that are available on the Internet. That led me to ask -- what is the most expensive Haggadah in the world?

The answer is -- the rare illuminated Sarajevo Haggadah which also is said to be one of the most beautiful manuscripts and one of the most valuable books in existence.

My facsimile of The Sarajevo Haggadah that I bought a while back is awesome.

If you are at all interested in this Haggadah, you must read People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.

Wikipedia explains:
The Sarajevo Haggadah is an illuminated manuscript that contains the traditional text of the Passover Haggadah which accompanies the Passover Seder. It is the oldest Sephardic Haggadah in the world, originating in Barcelona around 1350. The Haggadah is presently owned by the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, where it is on permanent display.

The Sarajevo Haggadah is handwritten on bleached calfskin and illuminated in copper and gold. It opens with 34 pages of illustrations of key scenes in the Bible from creation through the death of Moses. Its pages are stained with wine, evidence that it was used at many Passover Seders. It is considered to be the most beautiful illuminated Jewish manuscript in existence and one of the most valuable books in the world. In 1991 it was appraised at US $700 million....more...
You can view quite a few pages from the Sarajevo Haggadah here.  

Or you can purchase a facsimile edition of your own here: The Sarajevo Haggadah  or see this web site here.


More posts about the Haggadah...

Download Online a Free Passover Seder Haggadah

Here are several of the best places you can go online to download a Passover Haggadah for your Seder.
We give Chabad credit for a great resource if you want a wide selection of Hebrew Haggadahs.  
Download Hebrew Haggadahs here.

Library Makes 1,000 Rare Haggadahs Available Online
An illustration of King David praising G-d in a rare Haggadah published in 1710 in Frankfurt am Maine, Germany
An illustration of King David praising G-d in a rare Haggadah published in 1710 in Frankfurt am Maine, Germany

The central Chabad-Lubavitch library in New York made 1,000 Passover Haggadahs, many of them rare, available on the Internet for browsing by the public. The Agudas Chasidei Chabad Library has one of the largest collections of the Passover orders of service in the world.

Housed at the Lubavitch World Headquarters, the library's Haggadah collection began years ago with a nucleus of some 400 volumes purchased on behalf of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, by renowned collector and bibliographer Shmuel Wiener in 1924.

The posting at ChabadLibraryBooks.com represents close to half of the library's total Haggadah collection and is part of chief librarian Rabbi Sholom Ber Levine's goal of making the library more accessible to the public. All told, the library possesses more than 2,200 editions of the Haggadah. Although the rarest of the books, all handwritten, are not yet available, Levine is looking for ways to post them next year. Hebrew Books, directed by Chaim Rosenberg, collaborated on the project.

Our Favorite Pesach Recipe for Passover Peach Kugel

Here once again is our favorite Passover Peach Kugel recipe! Happy and Kosher Pesach to all!

3/31/16

The Four Questions of Domestic Abuse: My Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column in the Jewish Standard for April 2016

My Dear Rabbi Zahavy Column in the Jewish Standard for April 2016: 
The Four Questions of Domestic Abuse

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I am 11 years old. I have a younger brother and a sister. My parents fight with each other all the time. My father gets angry. He yells at my mother. When they start to fight, my brother and sister and me go into our room and close the door. We still can hear them fighting. I can tell that sometimes my father hits my mother. I am afraid. I don’t know what to do. Please tell me.

Scared in Bergen County

Dear Scared,

If this happens again, and you see or think that your father is hitting your mother, go to the phone and dial the police at 911. Tell the police your name, age, and address. Tell them your father is hitting your mother. If your parents have a gun in the house, tell the police. Answer their questions and do what they say you should do. They probably will say that you should go back to your room, close the door, and wait for the police to come to your house.

When the police arrive, they will ask you questions about what happened and why you called them. Tell them everything you remember and tell them how you feel. They will talk to your mother and your father. After they do that, if they feel that your father has calmed down and it is safe for you and your mom, they will leave.

If they think it is not safe, they may arrest your father and take him to the police station. You may feel bad about this. Try not to feel bad. It is for the best for your dad to learn that if he hits your mom, that means that he broke the law. And when a person does that, he can be put in jail.