Why the Terms CE and BCE Replaced AD and BC, and Why Jews Care About It

Posted on January 8th, 2018
Philologos, for Mosaic

It’s not why you think.

Viktor Kappel, a reader of Mosaic, writes:

I am a Christian who happens to believe that the Jewish people are indeed God-chosen. Please explain to me, though, why it has become so important to a part of this people to replace AD and BC with CE and BCE. I believe that this is not helpful to the Jewish cause.

As a Jew, I must say that I sympathize with the Jew in the story who, while reciting the words “Thou has chosen us among all people” in the holiday kiddush, stops, raises his arms to heaven, and asks in exasperation, “Why don’t You pick on someone else for a change?” Still, I welcome Mr. Kappel’s question. Since, between this column and my next, 2017 CE or AD will become 2018 AD or CE, it couldn’t have been timelier.

Continue reading.

Jewish Ritual Objects: A Guide

Posted on January 1st, 2018

From challah covers to yahrzeit candles, what they are used for, how they look and where you can find them.

Jewish practice involves a number of special objects, referred to as ritual objects or Judaica. Many people like to use, or even collect, beautifully crafted objects, honoring the concept of hiddur mitzvah, beautification of the mitzvah.

The objects below are listed in alphabetical order. All can be purchased from most Judaica stores and online. (Prefabricated sukkah s and sukkah-building kits are available for purchase, although many people prefer to build their own.) Most of the objects listed — with the exception of the yad, shofar and Torah scroll, which are generally reserved for synagogue use —are commonly found in Jewish homes.

Continue reading.

God 101

Posted on December 25th, 2017

In Judaism, who or what is God?

There is no single Jewish conception of God. God has been described, defined, and depicted in a variety of ways in different works of Jewish literature and at different historical moments.

About God

God is beyond human comprehension, but that has not stopped Jewish thinkers from attempting to describe God. The Jewish God is referred to with many names and euphemisms, though God’s scriptural names are traditionally only pronounced during religious activities. Belief in one God is one of Judaism’s defining characteristics. Nonetheless, some parts of the Torah seem less monotheistic than others. In addition, there are minor currents of thought within Judaism that play down the importance of belief in God.

Continue reading.

Ethical Treatment of Animals in Judaism

Posted on December 18th, 2017
BY RABBI JILL JACOBS for myjewishlearning.com

The concept of Tza'ar Ba'alei Chayim demands that we take animal suffering seriously.

Beginning with the first chapters of the Torah , Judaism establishes a fundamental connection between human beings and animals. Animals, created on the fifth day of the biblical story of creation, can be understood as prototypes of the first human beings — Adam and Eve, created on the sixth day. One of Adam’s first responsibilities as a human being is to name the animals. As evidenced by the episode in which a serpent tempts Eve to eat a forbidden fruit, humans and animals originally speak one another’s language (Genesis 1-3).

The story of Noah’s ark represents a turning point in the relationship between human beings and animals. Furious about human misbehavior, God decides to destroy the world by flood, saving only the righteous Noah and his family and enough animals to sustain all of the species. When the waters recede, God gives Noah seven laws — now known as the Noahide laws — aimed at establishing a just society.

Continue reading.

Hanukkah Discussion Questions

Posted on December 11th, 2017
by Breaking Matzo

This project is highlighted in our Hanukkah Guide. Find more articles, crafts, and recipes in our Hanukkah Guide.

1.  Hanukkah is a holiday of re-dedication, a festival celebrating the re-establishment of the holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees.
Is there something in your life that you want to improve or to which you want to rededicate yourself this season?

2.  Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of a small jug of oil lasting for 8 days.
As you light your Menorah, ask this question: What “miraculous” events, large or small, do you wish to celebrate this year?

Continue reading.