December 29th, 2012
While this is not a book club blog, I just had to let you readers know that there is a book out there by the above title disclosing riveting stories of very, very “secret Jews.” In many cases, they were known to each other only by false, misleading, or confusing names, such as the ‘titular talisman’ or by specific clues, like including a Jewish object like a mezuzah in a painting of a Madonna.
The descendants of these secret Jews, the Marranos, are still with us today. These are harrowing firsthand stories of survivors and their rescuers which vividly reveal the secret history of the Jews who found asylum from Hitler’s Final Solution under Franco’s Fascist Regime.
There are times when there is more to something than meets the eye, but there was a time in history when a mezuzah was not meant to be seen by one.
December 27th, 2012
And I Quote
Yes, folks. That’s what Maran HaGaon HaRav Ovadia Yosef Shlita has been talking about of late. Political parties in Israel are now preparing to air their TV ads for the upcoming elections scheduled to take place in the Knesset.
He has been quoted as saying that, “When a man buys a home, he does not move in prior to placing a proper mezuzah. This is kedushas habayis. We have a government. They build a government. What is necessary then, a mezuzah, and Shas is that mezuzah!”
It might be a reach to compare the strength and power of a political party to the protection of the G-d of the Jews. What happens if you don’t vote? Or worse, what if you vote for an opposing party?
December 26th, 2012
The Libeskind Mezuzah
Daniel Libeskind, a world famous architect, artist, and set designer, is a Polish born accordion prodigy of two Holocaust survivors. He has used his rather formidable talents to design a cover for the mezuzah gracing the entrance of the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, California. It is a very, very, modern looking piece.
The design for this pewter mezuzah is modeled on the two standard architectural forms which intersect the historic building, based on the Hebrew letters “chet” and “yud.” So this is a very cool piece. You just need to find out which way to hang it. Would you touch it?
December 24th, 2012
We are all aware that the information highway in the internet age is a place where all types of knowledge is just a click away. The “Yahaduton Channel, Your Personal Guide to Judaism,” has previewed a series of video clips which explain how to keep mitzvahs on a daily basis. Rabbi Shmuel Bistritzky is the writer and director. You can view tutorials on many diverse topics, most recently produced in Russian, French, and German.
Specifically, for all of you ‘mezuzahphiles,’ the “Yahaduton” channel shows a clip on how to affix a mezuzah. There are step- by-step easy to follow directions. You can’t really make a mistake when you get to see the job up close and personal. Plus, you can replay it whenever you want. This site is definitely, as the expression goes, a “sight for sore eyes!”
December 19th, 2012
putting it on
“Nes Gadol Hayah Poh”a great miracle happened here! This timely phrase was recited by President Daniel Lehmann at a Chanukah celebration on December 11th to rededicate the building which houses the Hebrew College in Newton, Massachusetts.
150 members of the Hebrew College financial committee found themselves in serious debt, to the extent that that the school was put up for sale last year. Restructuring efforts paid off with the help of some substantial monetary gifts from generous contributors.
Beaming with joy while affixing mezuzahs on the doorposts of five rooms in the Conference Center in gratitude and thanksgiving, these folks feel that the rededication of their building echoes the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem so many years ago. May the miracles of the past come to life again for us too, one and all!
December 16th, 2012
a special gift
There exists a mezuzah in the world, the largest, most expensive (equal in price to a Sefer Torah), which is the one and only calligraphic entry in the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records. The scribe is Avraham Borshevsky, an artist and calligrapher from Jerusalem, Israel.
He began his career as a secular, formidably talented student at the Leningrad Civil Engineering Institute where he became enamored with Hebrew language and letters. He went on to create many sacred works, choosing the mezuzah as the symbol for traditional Judaism based in the home.
Interestingly, religious people of other faiths recognize and appreciate the beauty of his works. For those who ‘have everything’ an authentic piece a treasure. He says that, “The work is even more than art. It brings light and the word of G-d into our lives.” Well, let it bring the light and the word of G-d into everyone’s life. May he go from strength to strength!
December 12th, 2012
quill and ink
Most people are aware that the halacha requires that each letter in a mezuzah be written perfectly. Also, it must not be written by erasing. For example, if in error the Sofer wrote a beis instead of a kof, he might be tempted to save time by erasing the foot of the beis so that the kof would remain. This however, is writing by erasing and the mezuzah would not be considered kosher.
This law also applies if a drop of ink splashes onto a letter. Even if the ink can easily be cleaned away leaving a letter intact, the law of writing by erasing may have been violated.
So what this all means is that even if a mezuzah looks fine, it might actually be posul. That is why mezuzahs need to be purchased from a certified scribe who has been tested and is aware of the many laws, and most importantly, has a fear of G-d. Who knew that what you can’t see on a parchment is as equally important as what you can. Who knew?
December 11th, 2012
The Talmud Gittin 45b states that Sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzah scrolls are considered kosher only when written by certain select groups of specially trained scribes. Women, as a category, are not mentioned to be among them. However, in 2003, Canadian born Aviel Barclay became the world’s first known ‘traditionally’ trained female sofer.
Since that time, there have been other women from Brazil, Israel, and the United States following the lead. This endeavor is known as the Women’s Torah Project. One of the scribes considers herself non-denominationally Jewish. I’m not exactly sure what this means and I’m not so sure this is a good thing. What do you think?
December 7th, 2012
In the Studio
Gary Rosenthal runs a suburban Washington, D.C. studio where handmade contemporary Judaica is crafted, especially in volume before the Chanukah season. Glass, copper, and steel are expertly manipulated in the making of dreidles, mezuzahs, and menorahs.
In the 1980’s, when the former Soviet Union agreed to let hundreds of ‘refuseniks’ out of the country, Rosenthal put several of them to work. After Hurricane Katrina, he sold menorah making kits to 20 synagogues around the country, had the congregants donate their work, and then drove to New Orleans where he gifted the menorahs to 500 Jewish families and threw them a Chanukah Party.
Today, among the workers are two autistic men, both 51 years old who don’t completely understand the significance of the objects they so carefully and lovingly craft. Rosenthal says, “We make art not just to make something. It is to bring people together.” This man puts his money where his mouth is!
December 2nd, 2012
Only an Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman can provide the answer, and it seems that at this time no one is volunteering. The question is, what is the purpose of Site 911, a new five story underground facility scheduled to be built as an Israeli Defense Force complex near Tel Aviv? Planners of this top secret project are taking bids from U.S. construction firms until December 3rd.
There is an extremely detailed description of all aspects of the mezuzahs the contractor is to provide. a sample: “They must be written in erasable ink on uncoated leather parchment. The mezuzahs shall be proof read by a computer at an authorized institution for mezuzah inspection, as well as manually proof read for the form of the letters by a proof reader authorized by the Chief Rabbinate. The mezuzah shall be supplied with aluminum housing with holes so it can be connected to the door frame or opening.” Read more »