Handled with Holiness

Published in The Jewish Press  on December 1, 2023   If a Jew is found who has been killed, he is to be buried exactly how he was found, without shrouds. They do not even remove his shoes . Such is the ruling in the  Shulchan Aruch  ( Yoreh De’ah  364). Unfortunately, the rabbinate of the IDF has had to employ this  halacha  hundreds of times over in the last several weeks. They are situated in Machane Shura, an army base near Ramle, which acts as the central command for the IDF Rabbinate. While the Rabbinate’s most common activities involve ensuring kosher food for the military, enabling Shabbat observance on army bases, and providing spiritual support for soldiers, since this war began their energies as well as those of many reservists have been focused on the unfathomable number of casualties. On our synagogue’s recent mission to Israel, we visited Shura, where a few of their rabbis, led by Rabbis Binyamin Zimmerman and Bentzi Mann, described the entire process. When IDF soldiers di

Simchat Torah?

אֵיךְ לָשׂוּשׂ וְלִשְׂמֹחַ בְּשִׂמְחַת תּוֹרָה וְאַחֵינוּ עָלוּ בִּמְדוּרָה לָשִׁיר וּלְרִקּוּד עַל הָאַדֶּרֶת וְעַל הָאֱמוּנָה וַאֲחוֹתֵנוּ הָיְתָה לְאַלְמָנָה  נֶהְפַּךְ לָנוּ מִיּוֹם טוֹב לְאֵבֶל וּמִשִּׂמְחָה לְיָגוֹן  אָנָּא קוּם רַחֵם צִיּוֹן כִּי עֵת לְחֶנְנָהּ כִּי בָא מוֹעֵד כָּל הָעָם נְכֵה-רוּחַ וְחָרֵד אֲזַי פָּתַחְנוּ כָּל הַקָּפָה בִּקְרִיאַת אָנָּא ה' הוֹשִׁיעָה נָא חַי עוֹלָמִים אַל תִּטְּשֵׁנוּ בְּיַד אוֹיְבֵנוּ רַחֵם נָא עַל רֵאשִׁית צְמִיחַת גְּאֻלָּתֵנוּ

A Long Way from the Wonder Pot

  Artzeinu, KJ's weekly publication with Israel news updates, published a special 75th Anniversary Issue in which several writers were asked to answer the question, "Where will Israel be 75 years from now?" Below is the answer I contributed I have a childhood memory of flipping through my mother’s old Israeli recipes and noticing a recipe for a Bundt cake. However, instead of baking it in an oven, this cake was to be cooked on a stovetop, in a Sir Peleh – a  "Wonder Pot." Shortly after the founding of the State of Israel, her Jewish population doubled. The government established the tsena period, a period of austerity, to ensure that everyone had the resources they needed. Citizens received rations of flour, eggs, oil, and other ingredients, and there were limits on the purchase of furniture and household objects. Most people did not own an oven and many did not even own a stove; cooking took place on a portable gas burner known as p’tiliya . But without an ove

Is Chazzanut Good for KJ?

Adapted from a sermon delivered at KJ on Shabbat Va'era The beginning of Parashat Va’era describes a critical conversation that took place between God and Moshe. God told Moshe that a new chapter was about to unfold for the Jewish People, as God will now be known by a new name. “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai , but I did not make Myself known to them by My name Hashem .” The problem with this statement is that it’s not true. The name, Hashem, was in fact so familiar to Abraham that he even called God by that name early in their relationship, asking “Oh Hashem , what can You give me?” God introduced Himself to Jacob by that name too: “I am Hashem , the God of your father Abraham.” So what then is the meaning of God’s words to Moshe that I did not make Myself known to them by My name Hashem ?” Seforno (16th century Italy) suggested that God did not mean that He never used the name Hashem when interacting with the forefathers, but rather that the attributes an

Should we still recite the Prayer for the State of Israel if we disagree with its government?

  A Letter to the Editor published in The Forward's Opinion section (see original here ) Re: “ Why this Zionist rabbi has stopped saying the Prayer for the State of Israel ”  by Jodi Rudoren Should we pray for the State of Israel? I certainly think so, but some of my rabbinic colleagues have proclaimed that, in light of their disagreement with Israel’s new governing coalition, their congregations will stop reciting the usual prayer for the State of Israel. That prayer was written in 1948 by some combination of Chief Rabbis Isaac Herzog and Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel and edited by Noble laureate Shai (S.Y.) Agnon. For decades, its prominent recitation on Shabbat and holiday mornings has been de rigueur at Zionist congregations. “How can we pray for the success of a government with which we disagree so vehemently? How can we claim that the State of Israel represents the ‘first flowering of our redemption’ (r eishit tz’michat ge’ulateinu )? This is not the redemption we have been praying

The Most Important Ingredient (Salt)

  Adapted from a sermon delivered at KJ on Shabbat Vayera, November 12, 2022 A while back, a situation necessitated that my family eat in a non-kosher venue. We spoke with the maître d’ about what he could bring us, especially for the children.  After going through some details and possibilities, he remarked, “One thing you can be absolutely certain about; I have been through the entire kitchen, and all the salt we use here – all of it – is kosher salt.”  Of course, that has nothing to do with the kashrut of the salt. It is the name for the type of salt used for koshering meat; some decades ago the salt companies marketed it to the general public as “kosher salt” and it became a hit with cooks. Salt is probably the single most important ingredient in the kitchen because it does so much for food. It preserves foods (think salted or brined meats). Salt as a preservative has been known for millennia – since at least 2000 BCE in Egypt. And when it comes to flavor, if used properly,

Reflections on Chesed

Adapted from remarks delivered at the first Yahrzeit commemoration for DeeDee Benel Z”L   שִׁמְעוֹן הַצַּדִּיק הָיָה מִשְּׁיָרֵי כְנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה. הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, עַל שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים הָעוֹלָם עוֹמֵד, עַל הַתּוֹרָה וְעַל הָעֲבוֹדָה וְעַל גְּמִילוּת חֲסָדִים :   Shimon the Righteous was one of the last of the men of the great assembly. He used to say: the world stands upon three things: the Torah, the Temple service, and acts of kindness.   Our sages identified chesed as one of the pillars on which the world stands. Our daily prayers emphasize the importance of doing chesed even more strongly. As part of Birkot HaTorah (the blessings over Torah study), we study a passage from the Mishna which lists acts of chesed as one of the mitzvoth which has no prescribed limit—that is, there is no end to how much chesed we can do.   We then study a passage from the Talmud which lists chesed as a mitzvah with a double reward: we are rewarded in this world for doing chesed, and also