Happy Hanukkah

Happy חנוכה (or Hanukkah or Hanukah or Chanukah or Khanukah). I hope that this festival of lights is illuminated with joy, hope, health, love and inspiration for you and your entire family.

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Haveil Havalim #243 published

ImaBima has posted this week’s Haveil Havalim, the NaBloPoMo edition.

Check it out for blog posts on the following topics:

Funny Things…good to start with a laugh

Israel and the Jewish World

Judaism and Torah

Miscllaneous

…read Haveil Havalim, the NaBloPoMo edition and enjoy!

Rashi’s Daughters

Today I finished reading the third in Maggie Anton’s series Rashi’s Daughters.   The series of three historical fiction weave the lives of our ancestors in 11th century France with the study of Talmud and the incredible lives of Rashi, his three daughters, his sons-in-law, grandchildren and community.  The popular volumes read accurately to me considering that outside of Rashi’s writings and responsa of the time we have little documentation of life in Troyes, France at that time.

If you haven’t read them, I encourage you to visit your local library or bookstore, open one of the volumes and start reading. I imagine that you will end up taking the book with you.

Maggie Anton is not the only contemporary author writing about Rashi.  Elie Wiesel recently wrote a mini-bibliography about Rashi which has gotten good reviews.  You can read Maggie Anton’s review on the Mixed Multitudes blog (from My Jewish Learning).

Have you read the books by Anton or Wiesel?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Read and enjoy!

Map Game

How well do you know the maps of the Middle East, North Africa, and the “Stans?”  Try your hand at this online map quiz called Rethinking Schools.

Summertime, Freedom and Captivity

Growing up in the United States, summertime equalled freedom. We were free from school, free to play, ride bikes, sit by the lake, free to spend much of our time in our imaginations. Celebration of America’s Independence Day on the 4th of July amplified the focus on freedom.

This year, more than the previous 2 years, my thoughts turned to Gilad Shalit as we celebrated American Independence Day. Gilad Shalit has not known freedom for 3 years. He sits in captivity, captured in a cross-boarder raid by Hamas. None of his family, friends or colleagues have heard from him in years. Hamas, the terrorist government of the Gazan Palestinian Authority does not allow even the Red Crescent, the Muslim version of the Red Cross to see him. This is in violation of international law and practice. (By the way, I wrote Gazan Palestinian Authority because the PA in Gaza does not get along with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank led by Fatah.) While he is not free, none of us are free.

Freedom is precious and cannot be taken for granted. I pray that Gilad will know freedom some day soon.

If you would like to learn more about Gilad Shalit, visit the website HaBanim.

Prayer Placed by Pope in Western Wall

(Quick follow-up to my last post on the Pope’s visit:)

Here is the text of the beautiful prayer he placed in the Western Wall (courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs). View the prayer as well as a photograph of its placement in the wall.

Written prayer by Pope Benedict XVI

God of all the ages,
on my visit to Jerusalem, the “City of Peace”,
spiritual home to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike,
I bring before you the joys, the hopes and the aspirations,
the trials, the suffering and the pain of all your people throughout the world.
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
hear the cry of the afflicted, the fearful, the bereft;
send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East,
upon the entire human family;
stir the hearts of all who call upon your name,
to walk humbly in the path of justice and compassion.
“The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him!” (Lam 3:25)

Pope’s Visit to Israel

Pope Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage visit to Israel is creating quite a bit of press coverage. Unlike Pope John Paul II visit a few years ago, Benedict XVI seems to be on a personal/church/religious mission rather than on a mission of interfaith understanding, bridge building and politics.

Many interesting stories accompany his visit:
Trembling Before the Pope (the story of the Latin Patriarch, Fouad Twal, and his view of Catholics in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)

A Muslim cleric and head of the Palestinian Sharia court, Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi, gave an unscheduled speech today at an interfaith gathering attended by the Pope.  Once the Pope heard a translation of the  Sheikh’s remarks he walked out, perhaps fulfilling one of Patriarch Twal’s concerns. Read another take on this story on CNN.

The Pope’s comments after visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust musuem, instigated many comments.  Read a few in Ha’aretz, al-Jezeera, BBC, the Forward and YNet.

I hope that the Pope’s visit leads to greater respect, understanding and peace between peoples and a willingness of all to turn away from hate and intollerance.

UPDATE:  A Holocaust Survivor says that the criticism of the Pope is exagerated (YNet).