Monthly Archives: May 2016


Personal Thoughts on Noahides
Noahide rainbow
Noahidism is a monotheistic faith based on the Seven Laws of Noah, as interpreted within rabbinic Judaism. According to Jewish law, non-Jews are not obligated to convert to Judaism, but they are required to observe the Seven Laws of Noah.
Non-Jews who agree with this are referred to as B’nei Noach (בני נח‎‎), Children of Noah, or Noahides.
The seven laws are found in the Tosefta, and in the Mishnah, tractate Sanhedrin 56a
Do not deny God.
Do not blaspheme God.
Do not murder.
Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.
Do not steal.
Do not eat a live animal.
Establish a legal system & courts.
There have always been gentiles who rejected their faith, and accepted the Jewish Bible and God, but who did not want to, or were unable to convert to Judaism. Non-Jews who accepted our faith without conversion often informally became Noahides, and in many Jewish communities they were known to worship in Jewish synagogues.
In the 20th century, however, a new phenomenon developed, in which a small number of Orthodox Jewish rabbis began systematically reaching out to disaffected Christians, and offered the option to become Noahides, under their tutelage.
Some in the Jewish community have mixed emotions about this: If an individual chooses to educate themselves about rabbinic Judaism, they may end up becoming monotheists, and good friends of the Jewish people. But for many, core aspects of their theology, or methods of Bible interpretation, are still Christian. Often their interpretations of the Hebrew Bible skew fundamentalist. I’ve noticed that some became hostile to any forms of Judaism that are not ultra-Orthodox. So, for this group, instead of becoming friends to the Jewish people, they actually become hostile to those of us in rabbinic Judaism, such as Modern Orthodoxy, Conservative, or Reform Judaism.  For this group, they only become friendly to right-wing conservative, Haredi Jews, which is only a small percent of the Jewish people. One would hope that someone who wanted to learn about Jewish views of God would be friendy to all of Klal Yisrael, not just 10% of it.
Noahides generally aren’t invited to rabbinic Jewish study groups: They aren’t in a position to have fun discussing Mishnah, Midrash and Talmud , because they don’t yet understand Judaism’s oral law, especially in it’s historical context. Many just know what they hheard from an ultra-orthodox rabbi, who himself may know little about historical Judaism.

If one wants to become a Noahide and a friend to the Jewish people at large, it would be advisable to learn about the historical development of Judaism’s oral law, and how it is the basis of how all denominations read our Bible; and learn about the wide range of theological and social beliefs that historically have existed within the Jewish community.


Simchat Bat

A Simchat bat (also, Brit Bat) is a naming ceremony for girls, welcoming them into the covenant. Some form of such ceremonies have been traditional since the early medieval era.

Simchat Bat Baby naming

In medieval German Jewish communities, a simple baby naming ceremony existed for both girls and boys, the Hollekreisch. In Sephardic Jewish communities this exists as the Zeved habat, which is somewhat more elaborate than the earlier German tradition. It is usually celebrated within the first month of the girl’s birth. Over the centuries there have been a variety of simple name-giving ceremonies for girls, but all were relatively informal.

In the last half-century, many in the non-Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Jewish community have revived interest in ceremonies for welcoming baby girls; we have developed innovative ceremonies which place equal emphasis on welcoming both daughters and sons. A wide variety of liturgies have been written, mostly informal, but some gaining wide use, and a few being incorporated into the liturgical works of various rabbinic organizations.

Currently, only a small number of liturgical developments have received widespread approbation within the Orthodox Jewish community. On the other end of the spectrum, an uncountable number of personalized ceremonies are being written with the Reform & Reconstructionist communities, but few of which represent an official point of view. Between these groups there exists Conservative/Masorti Judaism, which has been accepting of liturgical innovations, and working to make Jewish ceremonies and educational opportunities egalitarian.

Working within their understanding of halakhah {Jewish law} the Rabbinical Assembly has brought together a range of options within their official Moreh Derekh: The Rabbi’s Manual of the Rabbinical Assembly. The liturgies include options such as (a) Lighting seven candles (symbolizing the seven days of creation) and holding the baby towards them, (b) wrapping the baby in the four corners of a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl), or (c) lifting the baby and touching her hands to a Torah scroll.

The Simchat Bat below is based on the tallit ceremony.


Rabbi’s welcome

B’rukhah haba’ah b’shem Adonai.
B’rukhah at ba’ir, uv’rukhah at basadeh.
B’rukhah at b’voekha, uv’rukhah at b’tzetekh.

Welcome little one! Blessed may you be all your days, all your life;
Blessed may you be wherever you are, In all of your comings and in all of your goings.

Candle ceremony – p.A35
Parents read verses
Rabbi – p. A37

Tallit ceremony:

I will wrap {girl’s name} in my tallit.
Grandparents each hold a corner of the tallit, and wrap the baby.
Rabbi reads selections from pages A-42 to A-43

Kriat Shem – Naming the Baby

Eloheinu ve’elohei imoteinu ka’yem et ha’yalda ha’zot le’aviha u’leima, ve’yikarey shmah be’Yisrael {baby’s name}. Yis’mach ha’av be’yotze chalatzav vetagel emah bifri vitnah, ca’ka’tuv: El hana’ar hazeh hitpalalti vayitayn Adonai li et shiaylati asher sha’alti me’imo. Vikayem-lah, Adonai Eloheinu, mah shecatuv. Pihah patkha vi’khokhmah vi’torat khesed al li’shonah.

Hodu la’donai ki tov ki le’olam chasdo. Zot haktana {name} gdolah te’hiyeh. Yihi ratzon sheyizku horehah ligadlah li’Torah ul’chupah ul’ma’asim tovim, amen.

Our God and God of our ancestors, sustain this child. Let her be known among the people Israel as {her Hebrew name}. May her mother be blessed with renewed strength and may both parents find joy in their child, as it is written: “It was this child I prayed for, and the Lord has granted me what I sought.” [ I Samuel 1:27 ]
Fulfill for her, Lord our God, that which is written: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the Torah of loving-kindness is upon her tongue.” [ Proverbs 31:26 ]

Let us give thanks to the Lord for he is good; God’s loving-kindness is forever. May this child, {her name}, grow into greatness as a blessing to her family, to the Jewish people, and to all humanity. May her parents be privileged to raise their child to womanhood, and may {name} enjoy the blessings of Torah, chupah and ma’asim tovim. And let us say, Amen.

Rabbi: Sustain this child with her father and mother, and may her name be called among the daughters of Israel: {name} daughter of {parents}. May her parents rejoice with their child.

Bircat HaCohanim – Priestly blessings – A46

May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.
May the Holy One bless you and keep you.
May the Holy One shine light upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Holy One turn towards you and give you peace.


Rabbi: K’shaym shenikhn’sah labrit, kayn tikanes l’Torah, ul’huppah, ul’ma’asim tovim.

Guests: As she has entered the covenant, so may she attain Torah study, the wedding huppah, and a life of deeds of loving-kindness.

Here parents sometimes choose to read verses connected with each letter of her Hebrew name (verses shown in the manual)


Talmud explained with commentary

The Talmud, which includes the Mishnah, is the core text of rabbinic Judaism. Learners find it challenging to understand unless learning alongside a teacher, or with a detailed commentary.

The Talmud is an enormous document, covering centuries of rabbinic debates, hand written and edited, long before the invention of the printing press. In order to make it a practical size, it had to be encoded in a hyper condensed style. Arguments and methods of thought are often represented with a term or brief phrase; quotations from the Torah, Tanakh or Mishnah are brief: the text assumes that the reader is familiar with the entire corpus of Bible and rabbinic literature.  The document is effectively hyperlinked – each section assumes that the reader knows which other sections the text refers to.  Even so, the Talmud is the size of an entire encyclopedia.

It is instructive to compare the bare text of the Talmud, to how it is explained by a master teacher, who brings in the relevant material necessary to understand the text.

Here is an excerpt from the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Pesachim, from the famous Soncino Edition. It’s translation comes close to a literal, sometimes word-for-word rendering of the text:


GEMARA. What is OR? — R. Huna said: Light [naghe]; while Rab Judah said: Night [lele]. Now it was assumed [that] he who says light means literally light;8 while he who says night means literally night.
An objection is raised: As soon as the morning was light [or], the men were sent away, which proves that ‘or’ is day? — Is it then written, The ‘or’ was morning: [Surely] ‘the morning was or’ is written, as one says, Morning has broken forth. And [this verse is] in accordance with what Rab Judah said in Rab’s name. For Rab Judah said in Rab’s name: A man should always enter [a town] by day, and set out by day.
An objection is raised: As the light of [or] the morning, when the sun riseth, which proves that ‘or’ means the daytime? — Is it then written, ‘or is morning’: surely it is written, ‘as the light of [or] the morning’, and this is its meaning: ‘and as the light of the morning’ in this world so shall the rising of the sun be unto the righteous in the world to come.

What does this all mean? What precisely are the arguments being made?

The Steinsaltz edition of the Talmud – which has been published in several different editions (Modern Hebrew, French, English – from Random House, and English – from Koren) is something of a modern legend, used in Modern Orthodoxy, Chabad Lubavitch, and Reform and Conservative Judaism.  Here we present the same Mishnah and Gemara – but this time including the Koren edition’s introduction and translation/commentary: the commentary has the more literal parts in bold-face, while interpolated explanation is in non-bolded font.


The Torah prohibits the possession of any leaven or leavened bread throughout the
week of Passover, mandating its removal beforehand. However, the correct way to
practically fulfill these obligations is left undefi ned. At what point before the Festival
is a person obligated to remove leaven from his or her possession? How should this
be done?

Furthermore, what is the legal definition of leaven being in one’s possession? The
Torah formulates the prohibition by stating that leaven or leavened bread should
not be found in one’s house or quarters. This raises the question of leaven that is
physically found in one’s property but is owned by a gentile: Does such leaven have
to be removed? Similarly, what should be done with the leaven in order for it to be
considered removed from one’s possession? Is it necessary to physically remove or
destroy it, or is it suffi cient to renounce ownership or nullify it? Many of these questions
are addressed in the first chapter of tractate Pesaĥim.

Although the Torah requires only that the leaven be removed from one’s possession,
the Sages enacted that a search be conducted and that all leaven be identified, in order
to ensure its removal before the onset of the Festival. What method should be used?
When should the search ideally be conducted, and is it valid if conducted at other
times? Who is obligated to perform the search, especially in cases where more than
one person is responsible for a property? A full discussion of these issues provides
a major focus of this chapter.

Koren Steinsaltz Talmud 1

Koren Steinsaltz Talmud 2.PNG

Koren Steinsaltz Talmud 3

Koren Steinsaltz Talmud 4

Koren Steinsaltz Talmud 5

Also see our section Mishnah study.

Antisemitism on college campuses

Will our children have to endure anti-Semitism in college?  Will they be surrounded by students who say that Islamic fundamentalists have the right to celebrate murdering Jews? Told that Jews are the only people with no right to safely live in their indigenous homeland? Will their teachers harass them by proclaiming that our kids are “maintaining a system of domination by Jews” ?  People need to know how widespread this phenomenon is, because we can not effectively counter it without knowing it’s extent.


Some important resources

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Now the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency, ADL fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.


Camera – the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America – is a media-monitoring and research organization devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East. CAMERA takes no position with regard to American or Israeli political issues or with regard to ultimate solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

CAMERA on Campus

StandWithUs is dedicated to informing the public about Israel and to combating the extremism and anti-Semitism that often distorts the issues. We believe that knowledge of the facts will correct common prejudices about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and will promote discussions and policies that can help promote peace in the region.

Stand With Us: Supporting Israel Around the World


Singling out Israel is a very modern antisemitism
By Vernon Bogdanor, Professor of Government at King’s College, London
May 6, 2016
In the late 20th century antisemitism mutated. Nineteenth century antisemitism began by singling out Jews for the deprivation of civil rights. It climaxed with the Holocaust.
Modern antisemitism begins by singling out Jews for the deprivation of the right of self-determination. Its final aim is the elimination of Israel, or perhaps, as with the suspended Labour MP, Naz Shah, the transportation of Israeli Jews elsewhere. The older antisemitism insisted that Jews had no place in the national community. The new antisemitism insists that Israel has no place in the international community.
The central theme of the new antisemitism is the delegitimisation of Israel. The country’s enemies know that she cannot be defeated on the battlefield, nor by terrorism. But she can be defeated, so they believe, by turning her into a pariah state.
… the virus also seems to have infected the universities, in theory citadels of dispassionate thought, but all too often repositories of unthinking prejudice. In 2015, the National Executive Committee of the National Union of Students voted to boycott Israeli companies, while rejecting a call to boycott Daesh [ISIS, The Islamic State]….
…The new antisemites claim that “the Jews” or “Zionists” seek to shut down “criticism” of Israel by labelling it as antisemitic. If that is the aim of the Zionists, they have been remarkably unsuccessful, since university campuses are replete with such criticism.
In fact, the people who are being intimidated or censored, as pointed out by Alex Chalmers, the non-Jewish former chair of the Oxford University Labour Club, are the Jewish students who feel that they must distance themselves from Israel to avoid arousing hostility.
While a few pro-Palestinian meetings have been met with hostile demonstrations, there has been nothing comparable to the disruption of meetings addressed by Israelis; and it is not Palestinian academics who are threatened with boycott, but Israelis, even though they are as little responsible for the policies of their government as British academics are for the policies of the British government.
It is not the “critics” of Israel whose right to free speech is threatened, but the free speech of those seeking to support the Israeli government, or even the existence of the Israeli state. It is a mistake to underestimate the importance of the new antisemitism. After all, the “final solution” did not spring unaided from Hitler’s head. The ground had been thoroughly prepared by 19th-century cultural icons such as Schopenhauer, Nietzche, Dostoevsky and Wagner. It is ideas which, for good or ill, determine history.


Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitism. Get Over It.
Recent campus debates teach us an important lesson about bigotry and how to deal with it
By Liel Leibovitz

Is anti-Zionism any different from anti-Semitism? The question is probably the most accurate seismograph we’ve got to measure where one stands on the ever-tremorous political grounds we all walk when we talk about Israel…. The debate we’re having, true to our times, is both dumber and more malicious, and it was on display this month as at least two of our finest institutions of higher learning, Stanford and Oberlin…. Out west, a member of the school’s student senate argued that it was not anti-Semitic to argue that Jews control the media, the banks, the government, and all other social institutions. And in the Ohio enclave of righteousness, several Jewish students published a letter in a student newspaper defending a disgraced professor who had posted similar allegations on her Facebook page about the Jews’ malevolent omnipotence.

…At Stanford, the portentously named Gabriel Knight, a junior on the school’s student governing body, claimed that it was, like, totally cool to talk about how the Jews control the world. “Questioning these potential power dynamics, I think, is not anti-Semitism,” sprach Knight. “I think it’s a very valid discussion.”

Not to be outdone, the Oberlin crew, five Jewish students strong, produced a manifesto that ascended from the declaratory into the definitional.

“We are deeply troubled by the persistent conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, which is not only ahistorical and unfounded but also plays a central ideological role in the attempt to undermine legitimate criticism of the state of Israel…This conflation leaves us, as anti-Zionist Jews, without a community to turn to when we do experience anti-Semitism. We agree with the definition of anti-Semitism laid out by Aurora Levins Morales, a Jewish pro-Palestinian activist; she writes that anti-Semitism—writing about European Jewry under Christianity—functions by creating ‘a vulnerable buffer group that can be bribed with some privileges into managing the exploitation of others, and then, when social pressure builds, be blamed and scapegoated, distracting those at the bottom from the crimes of those at the top.’”

It’s an argument not even a Deconstructionist could love: Anti-Semitism isn’t the historic hatred of Jews, consistently documented for millennia and rooted in ancient theological fissures, but merely a conspiracy by unnamed rich Christian Europeans to elevate the Jews into disproportionate positions of power and influence merely to blame them later when the oppressed wise up and revolt.

… Arguing at first that anti-Zionism isn’t anti-Semitism, the enlightened left has now taken to arguing that even anti-Semitism isn’t anti-Semitism but, to put it in academese, a permissible form of discourse about power and privilege.

You hardly need a Ph.D. to know what all of it means. It means that it’s now OK for the students and professors of our finest universities and colleges—and, by extension, for all of polite society—to entertain vile stereotypes that, as recently as five or 10 years ago, were on display nowhere outside the Sieg Heil! fringes of the rabid right.

The first lesson is that it’s time to do away with the anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism debate. Whatever its intellectual merits are, or were, it’s largely irrelevant in an environment scorched by the flames of prejudice masquerading as thought. To ponder minute differences when students are fulsomely supporting the sort of stuff that would’ve made Henry Ford blush is like debating nautical safety long after the iceberg has been introduced to the Titanic’s hull.

…Those who believe Jews control the media and the banks, or that it’s OK to respectfully debate whether or not they do, make no distinction between the good, enlightened Jews who wash their hands of Israel and the bad ones, who have the temerity of adhering to their faith and their nationality like any other normal people in the world. And those Jews who believe that their liberal sophistication will somehow save them from the wrath of bigotry should strongly reconsider: Never send to know for whom the anti-Semites troll; they troll for thee.


Why Are Jews the Only Minority We Don’t Protect On College Campuses?

– Michael Sitver

Last week, some students at University of Chicago, where I attend, proposed a resolution to our College Council to divest from Chinese weapons manufacturers, in protest of China’s severe human rights abuses and its long-standing occupation of Tibet. Members of the council were quick to condemn the resolution, and for good reason. The members noted it was political, and disrespectful to Chinese students. Other members noted that Chinese students should be given time to respond to the presenters with a counter-presentation. One representative even suggested that the College Council issue an apology to Chinese students for even considering the resolution. The resolution was tabled indefinitely.

Curiously, when a few weeks earlier the same College Council passed a nearly identical resolution condemning Israel, no one suggested an apology. These same representatives argued why it was their moral imperative to condemn Israel. …Over the past few weeks I have been told that Jews “don’t count” as a minority. I have been accused of using anti-semitism to justify oppression.

All I want to know is why my campus doesn’t treat anti-semitism with the same rigor with which it treats any other forms of bias. When Jews stood before the council, and asked that it recognize the Jewish right to self-determination, a basic right for all people, people in the room laughed. One representative noted that “If we were to affirm the right to Jewish self-determination … it takes away from the intent of the resolution”.

Students in the room that day called us racists and murderers and “apartheid supporters”, for even thinking we, as Jews, could have a voice in the discussion over the one small state we call our own.

A Jewish student was chided “You are racist and you are against me and my family’s existence”… At one point, a student questioned the presenters, members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), about their organization allegedly holding a moment of silence for Palestinians who were killed while trying to murder Jewish civilians. One of the presenters confirmed the moment, then responded without missing a beat “Palestinians have a right to honor their martyrs”.

If the killing of any other ethnic group had been celebrated, the University would make grief counselors available. It would send out mass emails of condemnation. They would suspend the organization responsible, and possibly the students involved in it. The organization would certainly not have any credibility to present to the student government.

Since the victims were Jews though, their celebration of murder went unchallenged.

On the third slide of the presentation in favor of the resolution, presenters claimed that voting against the resolution would mean “maintaining a system of domination by Jews”.

The presenters were relying on one of the most common, long-standing, overtly anti-semitic tropes to make their case, and our representatives said nothing.

…Their coldness in minimizing the struggles of Jews, living with a legacy of being expelled and exterminated, was mind-boggling to me.

This week is Yom Hashoah, which commemorates the six million Jews that were murdered by the Nazis during World War II. On this day of remembrance, we say “Never forget. Never again”. Yom Hashoah also commemorates an international commitment not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Sadly, fifty-three years after this day was first honored, we seem to be forgetting those lessons. As a campus we’re remarkably tolerant of gender, race, and sexuality in general. Why is it that we’re so uncaring about this one, very real form of racism?