World's oldest Jew turns 107
The man believed to be the world's oldest living Jew celebrated his 107th birthday in Moscow. Boris Efimov, born Boris Fridland, worked as a political caricaturist until the early 1980s. He won two Soviet State Prizes and was named People's Painter of the USSR in 1967. Efimov had no Jewish education growing up. He began studying Judaism at the age of 100 at Moscow's Chabad-run Marina Roscha Center, where his birthday celebration was held this week.
From JTA News Website
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Another reflection on the current Jewish year, 5768:
What is the luckiest number in Judaism?
OK, there's no such thing as luck. But what's the most meaningful number you can think of?
For example, let's say you make a donation to Chabad of Westboro (click here, by the way, so this doesn't have to be theoretical :-) or to any Jewish charity of your choice.
Which sum would you choose to donate?
Could it be that you'd donate in units or multiples of 18?
Why? Because the number 18 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word Chai (Chet=8, Yud=10). And Chai means life, right?
Wrong. Chai actually is an adjective which means "alive."
"Life" as a noun would be "Chayim."
The numerical equivalent of "Chayim" is 68, the last two digits of this year.
So one could make the case that 68 is more "alive" than 18. 18 is merely a description of life, whereas 68 is life itself!
(Time to start increasing your tzedaka from 18 to 68 :-)
Anyhow, now that we've established that 68 is an important number, let's consider the number 57, the first two digits of this year.
Fifty-seven is the numerical equivalent of "Zan," which means "sustains," or "the one who sustains" (zayin=7, nun=50). 57+68, then, could mean "the One Who sustains life."
Or perhaps, we can use Gematriya (Hebrew numerology) a bit more liberally, and say that 68 is the English word, "now" (nun=50, aleph=1, vav=6).
In this sense, 57 and 68 means: "Life Now," i.e. now is the time for life, lliving life the way life ought to be. Living life to its fullest, by filling it with Torah and Mitzvot.
But in truth, life for a Jew can't be lived to the fullest until Moshiach comes and rebuilds the Bais Hamikdash. At that time, life will truly be meaningful, as we will live in a more real, G-dly reality. Indeed, at that time, human life will once more be eternal, as it was intended to be prior to Adam's sin. In Kabbalah, only immortal life is true life. (This is why, even nowadays, life is only truly meaningful when imbued with Torah and Mitzvot, which are eternal.) Likewise, although life is the synthesis of body and soul, it is the soul which makes the body live, and not vice-versa. For the soul is eternal whilst the body is not. When Mashiach will come, however, a deeper perception of reality will become evident. It is the raw physical existence of the human body, the nethermost end product of creation, that expresses the essence of G-d. Hence, the body will become eternal as well. In fact, there will be a great paradigm shift in the symbiotic relationship of body and soul. At that time, the body will sustain ("Zan") the soul, and not vice-versa, as it is today.
Anyway, sorry for digressing. Back to the point --
So 5768, "Life Now," really means:
May it be this year! Amen.
Posted by Rabbi Green at 10:04 PM
Saturday, October 6, 2007
This week's Parsha is the first of the entire Torah. Quite appropriately, it is called "Bereshit" -- "In the beginning" -- because of its opening phrase, "In the beginning, G-d created heaven and earth."
But let's analyze that for a moment. Rashi objects to the translation "In the beginning" for the simple reason that "Reishit" does not mean "beginning" as a free-standing noun, but rather "beginning of" in construct state.
For example, "children" would be "banim" in Hebrew, but "children of..." (as in Children of Israel) is "b'nei" in construct. "B'nai" never stands alone in a Hebrew sentence. Only when there is a complement phrase or noun that follows (i.e. "Israel") can a construct be used.
Reishit is a word in construct form. Consequently, a more accurate translation of this oft-quoted passage would read: "In the beginning of _______, G-d created heaven and earth." (If the verse intended "In the beginning," the phrase should have been "B'rishona")
This begs the obvious question: in the beginning of what?
(Rashi offers several interpretations. See B'reishit 1:1, 2nd Rashi, at length)
Let's try a somewhat unconventional approach to this age-old question.
Perhaps "In the beginning of [blank]" is precisely what the Torah is trying to say.
The Torah is telling you, the reader, to fill in the blank with something new you are beginning. Any new activity or pursuit, either spiritual ("Heaven") or a material ("Earth").
For example, "In the beginning of my trying to keep Shabbat," or "In the beginning of my new job," or "In the beginning of my trying to have a meaningful relationship with so-and-so," and so on.
Indeed, all new beginnings are fraught with difficulties. All too often we are too set with the status quo, too set in our ways to adapt comfortably to change. Sometimes we don't know where to start, and feel overwhelmed with a sense of chaos and lack of clear direction. At times we may feel a sense of emptiness, as though we are missing the motivation to go forward.
So the Torah (comes from word "Horaah" -- instruction) comes to guide us through by demonstrating that the beginning of any new endeavor in life follows the same model of creation.
Firstly, be aware that "G-d is creating heaven and earth." If the challenge seems too tough and insurmountable, don't shy away. It's not an accident or coincidence that you happen to be in your current set of circumstances. G-d is creating you and your surroundings anew at this very moment.
Secondly, don't get discouraged if you encounter difficulties, darkness, chaos, or feeling of emptiness, in your first attempts. G-d experienced the same thing. "And the earth was astonishingly formless and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep..."
Did He get discouraged? No. Instead He said: "Let there be light!"
That's what you need to do. Turn the darkness into light. "A Mitzva is a candle and the Torah is light." A bit of light dispels much darkness. By imbuing your surroundings with the joy, meaning & wisdom of the Torah, the "void and darkness" we all encounter in life will instantly dissipate.
Once there is light, there is clarity and focus. It won't happen all at once, but in an organized, orderly fashion. Just like in creation: first there was mineral, then plant life, then animal life, and finally human life.
Your efforts will finally bear fruit, through thoughtful planning and dedication. All you need to do first is turn on the light.
And there will be light.
Happy Shabbat Bereshit!
Posted by Rabbi Green at 10:46 PM