Kabbalah and Mysticism 101

Posted on November 13th, 2017
myjewishlearning.com Staff


Jewish mysticism has taken many forms.


The Jewish mystical tradition is rich and diverse, and Jewish mysticism has taken many forms. Scholar Moshe Idel groups the different expressions of Jewish mysticism into two fundamental types: moderate and intensive. Moderate mysticism is intellectual in nature. It is an attempt to understand God and God’s world, and ultimately affect and change the divine realm. This type of mysticism incorporates many aspects of traditional Judaism, including Torah study and the performance of the commandments, infusing these activities with mystical significance. Intensive mysticism, on the other hand, is experiential in nature. Intensive mystics use nontraditional religious activities, including chanting and meditation, in an attempt to commune with God.

Continue reading.

Jews and Beer: 8 Surprising Facts

Posted on November 6th, 2017
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller for aish.com


For centuries Jews have been vital in the production and marketing of beer.


Here are 8 surprising facts about Jews and this history of this popular drink.


Ancient Origins
Beer-making dates to ancient times. Egyptian tombs depict pictures of beer brewing; Hammurabi’s Code, from 18th century BCE Mesopotamia, mentions beer; the ancient Greeks learned how to brew beer from Egyptians and brought this knowledge to Europe.

Ancient Israel, in contrast, favored wine over beer. But after the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE, Jews were exiled to nearby Babylonia and adopted the Babylonian taste for beer. The Talmud records four different types of beer, brewed from barley, dates, figs and beer (Pesachim 107a). The modern usage of hops, a plant related to mulberries, in beer is also mentioned in the Talmud, which notes hops’ medicinal properties of being a preservative and antiseptic (Avodah Zarah 31b).

Continue reading.

Why Yiddish is Funny

Posted on October 30th, 2017
By Dara Horn for Tablet Magazine  


As demonstrated by the ‘Jewish Don Quixote,’ by S.Y. Abramovitsh, aka Mendele the Book Peddler


Those who know little about Yiddish often associate it with humor. But most Yiddish literature isn’t particularly funny except in a horrible, un-American way: comically-told plots in which people suffer terribly or die horrible deaths. Even the relentlessly upbeat Sholem Aleichem, whose Tevye stories inspired the relentlessly upbeat Fiddler on the Roof, fits this pattern: In the original, Golde and Motl both drop dead and Shprintze drowns herself, none of which made it to Broadway. Call it anti-redemptive comedy, the inverse of the Western-Christian comic storyline where winsome protagonists find love and grace. Their Yiddish counterparts instead find doom and more doom.

Continue reading.

Inside Ellis Island’s Immigrant Hospital

Posted on October 23rd, 2017
By Marjorie Ingall for Tablet Magazine 


An effort is underway to save old buildings crumbling into dust


A lot of us have visited the beautiful museum at Ellis Island and pondered our collective and family history. Fewer, however, know that there is an abandoned hospital complex on the island, empty since 1954—and crumbling. If you’re relatively fit, possess a pair of closed-toe shoes, and are willing to sign a waiver saying you won’t sue anyone if some debris falls on your head, you can see it.

A nonprofit called Save Ellis Island, working with the National Park Service to preserve the old buildings, raises funds in part through eerie hard-hat tours of the hospital. I went on a tour in the company of the New York Adventure Club, which gives its participants access to additional areas of the complex.

Continue reading.

I Survived, and Loved, a Road Trip with My Strictly Religious Sister

Posted on October 16th, 2017
BY BONNIE MILLER RUBIN for Kveller


It was a dream—and a challenge. Could my two siblings and I–now with full calendars and spread across the country–relive the road trips of our youth that exist only in sepia-toned photos?

After talking about it for years, we finally made it happen in summer 2016: A ten day itinerary, including San Francisco, Carmel and Yosemite National Park. But while we were excited, we also needed to acknowledge that a lot had changed since we last shared the back seat of a Ford station wagon, blissfully content with our Etch-a-Sketch, Archie comic books and a hefty bag of Oreos.

For starters, two of us had spouses, whose interests and physical abilities had to be considered–along with their tolerance for our endless singing of Broadway show tunes. (After our 10th rendition of “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” my husband might be reaching for a weapon of his own).

Continue reading.

Pages