Saturday, September 29, 2018

Soloveitchik’s Lonely Man of Faith (1965)

Book Review

“All I want is to follow the advice given by Elihu the son of Berachel of old, who said, ‘I will speak that I may find relief” (Job 32:20); for there is a redemptive quality for an agitated mind in the spoken word, and a tormented soul finds peace in confessing.”
—p. 2, The Lonely Man of Faith 

The Lonely Man of Faith (originally published in 1965; revised edition of 2012)
Photo Credit: ©2018. Perry J. Greenbaum

A slim volume of deep penetrating insight, by Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, “The Rav” (born in Pruzhany, then Poland and now Belarus in 1903–died in Boston, Massachusetts in 1993). This book contains many places where one is struck by the thoughtful and sensitive writing, no less important today than when it was first written and spoken, first at a Catholic seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts; and then at Yeshiva University in New York City. After reading it you will undoubtedly come out of it understanding more than you did before embarking on this “journey of faith.”

You will understand the dialectical tension between the two biblical Adams: Adam the first, Majestic Man of Culture; and Adam the second, Covenantal Man of Faith. It is the latter Adam, the lonely man of faith, who invites the Divine, “The Lonely One” in the work of creative redemption. In contrast, the former is invited to subdue the earth and by doing so feels the power of his hands, his creation, his works and he witnesses the beauty of it all and is well pleased. There is no resolving the two. Lonely is the man of faith.

Such is the considered view of the writer of this work, a confessional of sorts from a man living later in life, around the age I find myself now, who might not have been appreciated as he is today after his death, his passing from our world, his ideas and ways not sufficiently understood. Small wonder, then, that few enter into such a covenantal world, since it is full of uncertainty, unease and unpleasantness, in contrast to the world of the first Adam, who by dint of his efforts rises to the top. He makes covenants of a material nature and achieves a measure of success.

Even so, despite all that this entails, Rabbi Soloveitchik argues that both are required for Western Man’s understanding and growth as a human, not only materially but also spiritually. Yet, Western Man has moved in a certain direction, mistaking and replacing religion for faith. It is for this reason that towards the end of this 77-page book, Rabbi Soloveitchik writes:
Western man diabolically insists on being successful. Alas, he wants to be successful even in his adventures with God. If he gives of himself to God he expects reciprocity. He also reaches a covenant with God, but the covenant is a mercantile one. In a primitive manner, he wants to trade “favors” and exchange goods. The gesture of faith for him is a give-and-take affair and reflects the philosophy of Job which led to catastrophe—a philosophy which sees faith as quid pro quo arrangement and expects compensation for each sacrifice one offers. Therefore modern man puts up demands that faith adapt itself  to the mood and temper of modern times. He does not discriminate between translated religion formulated in cultural categories—which are certainly fluid since they have been evolved by the human creative consciousness—and the pure faith community which is as unchangeable as eternity itself. 
—(p. 71)
So it is and so it must be with Western Man—he overpowered by the modern secular ethos, at its root pragmatic and utilitarian, where success is everything, something that one must achieve, even in religion—i.e., where “success” is both the beginning and the end of Man’s ambition, an ambition that can appear demonic in its pursuit that failure is viewed with dread. Still, there is also an old truth, emanating/springing forth from the ways and traditions of old, that speaking one’s heart is good for the tormented soul, even if the heart still aches afterward.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Adi Ran: Ata Kadosh (2005)

Adi Ran: Ata Kadosh (2005), a song, in the form of a prayer, from the wonderful Israeli film Ushpizin. Ata Kadosh (אתה קדוש; “You are Holy”) acknowledges our (Man’s) place in the world in which we live, Olam HaZeh (עוֹלָם הַזֶּ֗ה; “This World”). The word kadosh (קדוש; “holy”) implies separation, notably from the mundane, the profane, the vulgar—in the same way that Shabbat is separated from the other six days of the week. The Jewish People are repeatedly told in the Torah (e.g., Exodus 19:6; Lev. 19:2; Lev. 20:26; Deut. 7:6; Deut 30:11-14; I Kings 8:53; Ezra 10:11; Neh 9:2, etc.) to acknowledge this and emulate this in their lives—in other words, to put this into practice. To make it an everyday reality. It is true, at least to me, that to what degree we understand and devote ourselves to this idea of kadosh and its understood meaning of separation and sacredness is how much we will find meaning and direction on how to live our lives as Jews. This thought, although simple and yet difficult—at least in the beginning—is itself the beginning of understanding.
Via: Youtube

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Ushpizin: ‘We Need a Miracle’ (2004)

Ushpizin (2004): “We Need a Miracle” from a scene in the Israeli film, Ushpizin directed by Gidi Dar and written by and starring Shuli Rand and his wife Michal Bat Sheva Rand, which looks at the meaning of Sukkot, particularly as to the power of faith when material circumstances make it more difficult to believe. Yet, one still wants to believe. In Judaism this requires both emunah (אמונה; faith) and bitachon (בטחון; trust ), essentially not only having knowledge of but also retaining trust in Hashem. In His goodness, mercy and justice, or as one article, by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller and Sara Yoheved Rigler, in, puts it (“Trusting God;” November 18, 2000), “believing that there is an end to the story, and that if we could know the end we would have no doubts now.” Bitachon means not surrendering to such doubts, but to see a plan, a grand plan if you will, and to move forward to fulfill it. As for the film’s title, Ushpizin ( אושפיזין; “guests“) is an Aramaic word for guests, but just not any guests. They refer to the seven supernal guests, holy guests, “the founding fathers” of the Jewish people, who come to visit us in the sukkah: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. See this film if you already haven’t done so already. Or see it again. You will surely find it an inspiring delight. Chag Sukkot Sameach.
Via: Youtube

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Thinking About Teshuvah


“There is no sin that cannot be mended and remedied by teshuvah. Teshuvah removes a burdensome past and opens the door to a new future. It means renewal, rebirth. The ba'al teshuvah becomes a different, new, person. It is much more than correction, more than rectification. Teshuvah elevates to a status even higher than the one prior to all sin. Even the perfectly righteous are surpassed by the ba'al teshuvah.”

Rabbi Dr. J. Immanuel Schochet [1935–2013],
The Dynamics of Teshuvah;”
 To Touch the Divine (1999);
as posted on

In a few days will be Yom Kippur (יוֹם כִּיפּוּר‬; Day of Atonement) and also called “Sabbath of absolute rest” (Leviticus 16:31), the culmination of the Ten Days of Repentance. It is a holy day. During this period of rest, Jews throughout the world are free to think about the merits of teshuvah (תשובה; return). The article, by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet, which I quote above,  is worth reading in its entirety. 

I also like what Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene, writes (“Yom Kippur: Of Angels & Men;” October 7, 2005) on the subject of return for
The literal translation of the word teshuvah, repentance is “returning to oneself”. Where a person has deviated from the pathway of life by not observing the Torah laws, to achieve forgiveness, it is imperative that he “returns back on track”. This means identifying himself with his soul and not associated himself with his body.
In other words, the return is to Torah Judaism, not always an easy task, and often not an appealing one for many Jews in the world, who know not where the soul is or where it can be found. The body we all can both see and feel; the soul, on the other hand, is not tangible, and yet it is very much a part of us. Thus, I sense that it is important that each Jew ought to move in such a direction, step by step, if he is to find some meaning and a sense of peace in life. If he is to rediscover his true self.

The same rabbi ends this brief article with the following piece of good advice: 
The way to national and personal forgiveness is to confess and repent by declaring complete detachment from one’s past failures, when the external kernel and layers of sin are discarded. This is Yom Kippur’s atonement, when the true nature of every Jew, his pristine spiritual soul, is of paramount importance.
This is an encouraging thought, one that helps to better one’s mental heath and move us away from discouragement and despair. Past failures do not and should not weigh us down, and equally important should not define who we are. Each Jew can return to himself or herself, the way he or she is meant to be. Each mitzvah is an accomplishment for the soul, helping us to ascend higher. This is very freeing, and a thought that can lead to peace of mind; and more so if one could put this into daily practice and live like this.

The rabbis say not only that we should but also that we can.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Making Smart Choices Regarding Vaccines (2018)

Parents & Children

I am reposting this article/book review, which I first wrote & published in March 2011 (“Informed Parents: Making Good Choices”), more than seven years ago. Nothing has changed in how I view the efficacy of vaccines and how they are beneficial to humanity. Should scientific evidence prove the contrary I will be pleased to post it. Yet, in many ways anti-vaxxers are already winning, by spreading fear and disinformation through the use of pseudoscience. Any win of theirs, however, is humanity’s loss. 

Title: Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All
Author: Paul Offit, MD
Date: 2011
Publisher: Basic Books: New York City, NY


“The modern American anti-vaccine movement was born on April 19, 1982, when WRC-TV, a local NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C., aired a one-hour documentary titled DPT: Vaccine Roulette.”
Paul Offit, Deadly Choices, p. 2

“To the contrary, I was pro-vaccine. But I was pro-vaccine safety. I was knowledgeable enough to know the history that many more people's children and adults have been saved by vaccines than have ever died from them.
John Salamone, who effectively changed polio-vaccine policy
in the United States after his son, David,
suffering a crippling side-effect from the Sabin vaccine.”
—Deadly Choices, p.81

“Parents need to understand that when they choose not to vaccinate, they are making a decision for other people’s children as well.”
Brendalee Flint, whose daughter suffered bacterial meningitis in Jan 2008. They resided  in Minnesota, which had seen a sixfold increase in parents refusing to give their children the Hib vaccine.
—Deadly Choices, p. 214

IDeadly Choices, Paul Offit pushes back against the threats, allegations and fear-mongering of the anti-vaccine movement. His weapons of choice are historical evidence, reams of scientific studies and court cases, which individually and collectively prove, with acute clarity, that vaccines in general are not only considered safe, but are necessary for the sound health of our children and society in general

Offit's well-balanced book offers us a detailed example how ignorance and distrust of science and medicine, ignited by grass-roots politics, has led to a step backwards in health-care policy and prevention, notably in the United States. Throw in a few medical doctors and health officials raising the alarm bells, and fear-mongering from a willing media, and an entertainment industry built on sensationalism, and you have a witch's brew that has had and will continue to have deadly consequences for children.

Much of the credit for the modern anti-vaccine movement dates to 1982, when an NBC station in Washington, the nation's capital, aired a program, called DPT: Vaccine Roulette. Its focus was on the dangers of the pertussis vaccine, used to immunize children from whooping cough. The  program showed many images of children, both mentally and physically handicapped, easily provoking viewers to draw the conclusion that the pertussis vaccine for whooping cough caused this. Case closed.

Except for one thing. The show's images of children were as compelling as the science behind it was false. Scientifically False. It would take fifteen years of epidemiological studies in England, Sweden, Denmark and the U.S. to show no causal link between the vaccine and any long-term consequences.  But it would also take a 1988 court case, (Loveday v. Renton and Wellcome Foundation Ltd.), a class-action lawsuit that included two hundred other children in England to put the matter to rest.

The ruling by Lord Justice Murray Stuart-Smith concluded: "On all the evidence, a plaintiff has failed to establish, on a balance of probability, that pertussis vaccine used in the United Kingdom and administered intramuscularly in normal doses could cause permanent brain damage in young children." Another landmark case in Canada came to a similar verdict.

As for the likely cause of the seizures and mental retardation noted in Vaccine Roulette, Samuel Berkovic, a neurologist at the University of Melbourne and director of the Epilepsy Research Center, determined that a genetic defect in a gene (SCN1A) that regulates the transport of sodium in brain cells was primarily responsible. It was an important discovery, and such results ought to be good news for all parents, especially those who second-guessed themselves for vaccinating their children.
Berkovic wrote, "The identification of a genetic cause of encephalopathy in a particular child should finally put to rest the case for vaccination being the primary cause."
But, of course, there's money to be made. In this case, billions of dollars to doctors, lawyers and other special-interest groups, when accusations can be made and legal proceedings instituted against Big Pharma. Another example cited in the book is the MMR-autism controversy. One of the persons responsible for stoking the fears is Andrew Wakefield, an academic gastroenterologist and a medical doctorwho had published a controversial paper in the respected British medical journal The Lancet in February 1998, linking the MMR vaccine with autism.

It would take solid investigative journalism in England and a court case in the U.S. to again prove no causal link between the MMR vaccine and autism, which has no known cause. After a thorough investigation, first by the media (Brian Deer for the Sunday Times) and then by the General Medical Council (GMC), which licenses doctors in Britain, 12 years after initial publication, the paper was retracted by The Lancet on February 2, 2010.

Equally important, Wakefield has been struck off the Medical Registrar and may no longer practice medicine in the U.K. (For more information see On Vaccines: a Matter of Life.)

In 1988, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, or VICP, was set up by the U.S. federal government to protect vaccine makers from expensive civil lawsuits. Under VICP, cases are heard in what has been called Vaccine Court, a no-fault forum for legal proceeding in front of special masters.

The result? None of the allegations have been proven in this court in what was essentially a class-action lawsuit involving 5,000 cases and tens of thousands of pages of documentary evidence. In its first ruling, on February 12, 2009, all the masters unanimously "rejected the notion that MMR plus thimerosal-containing vaccines caused autism, finding not a shred of evidence to support the theory," Offit writes.

In the second ruling, on whether thimerosal alone was responsible for autism, the Vaccine Court, on March 12, 2010, called the plaintiff's arguments "scientifically unsupportable." Yet much damage has been done, clouding if not outright confusing the issue for parents.

In his book, Offit boils down the problem to one of trust: :
Unfortunately, nothing will change if the push to vaccinate comes only from doctors, vaccine advocates, public health officials, and hospital; administrators. Some parents will always view these groups as biased; and it hasn't been hard for anti-vaccine groups to appeal to the sentiment that they can't be trusted.
Undoubtedly, this has been the case thus far. Yet, it can change if parents make informed choices on the importance and necessity of vaccines. Offit's book in its purest form is a plea to parents to make a fully informed choice, based on scientific evidence, and to weigh this evidence against the fears and hysteria offered by anti-vaccine advocates. (Anti-vaccine movements have appeared periodically throughout modern history, first in England in the 1860s, and then in the U.S. in the 1890s.)

Herd Immunity

The necessity centres on reams of statistical data from credible sources, which posits that a certain percentage of the population are required to be vaccinated to take advantage of the protection afforded by herd immunity. If we want to avoid any epidemics of diseases like measles, mumps and diphtheria, the only proven method are vaccinations. And the scientific data supports this contention. Yet, too many parents remain unconvinced.

Conspiring against herd immunity are a number of important factors, including 1) The prevalence of international travel, in which travelers returning from nations with low immunization rates, increasingly are returning to North America with cases of such diseases; 2) Lack of scientific literacy;  and 3) The success of the anti-vaccine movement in lowering vaccine rates, thus depriving the population, which includes you and I, the protection offered by herd immunity.It's also important to remember that no vaccine is 100% effective.

In herd immunity, a proven scientific concept, if more people are immune to a certain virus, either through vaccination or having already had the disease, then more people in the population, even if they themselves aren't immune, are protected from the disease.The greater the percentage of people vaccinated, the smaller chance of having an epidemic. Diseases are typically transmitted from a person who's been infected to another person. If that person has been vaccinated, he does not become a transmission point.

That percentage of the population that requires vaccination varies, from 85% for mumps, rubella and diphtheria to 95% for measles and pertussis or whooping cough. Because of emphasis on vaccines in the 1960s and 1970s, many of these diseases, once considered a rite of passage for childhood, were considered almost eliminated in North America.

But then came the assiduous efforts of the anti-vaccine movement, and their success in convincing parents of the validity of their message has translated to lowering vaccination rates, Offit says:  "Some aren't giving any vaccines at all; since 1991 the percentage of unvaccinated children has more than doubled."

On a personal note, I experienced first-hand on the effects of Offit's subtitle: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All. When  children remain unvaccinated, others remain unprotected as herd immunity breaks down. I contacted  chickenpox (varicella) at a conference for families in Schroon Lake, New York, in June 2002, at age 45. My oldest daughter (then 12) and wife had already had chickenpox as young children, before the varicella vaccine became licensed for use in the U.S. in 1995. My four-month-old son had garnered immunity from my wife's antibodies while being breastfed.

My reaction was far more serious. It left me debilitated for almost four weeks, where I suffered hundreds of vesicular lesions, or blisters, over my entire body, a fever hovering above 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) and general discomfort. After I recovered, I found out that the consequences of adult chickenpox are more severe than in young children, sometimes leading to pneumonia, transient hepatitis, and encephalitis.

That experience marked me for life. I have always been convinced of the need for vaccinations, but after that I was an advocate. Equally compelling, I had thought that everyone, especially parents, favored vaccines. But I was wrong and ill-informed. Unknown to me at the time was that the effects of the anti-vaccine movement was being felt across the United States.

Paul Offit: “The fear of vaccines, the choice to act on that fear, the consequences of that choice, and the voices rising in protest are the subject of this book.”

Recent Outbreaks

Here's only a few examples that Offit has mentioned in his book:
  • Washington: An outbreak of pertussis (whopping cough) on Vachon Island, a small commuter island in Kings County, home to ten thousand people, most wealthy and and well educated. About one in seven children are unvaccinated. In 1994, 48 cases of whopping cough were reported. It increased to 263 in 1995, and 458 in 1999.
  • Indiana: In May 2005, a seventeen-year-old unvaccinated girl from Indiana traveled to Romania on a church mission. She visited an orphanage and hospital in  Romania, which was then undergoing a measles epidemic.On the way home, she felt ill, but unaware that she had contacted measles and  excited to share her overseas experience, she went to a church picnic attended by 500 people. Of the 35 unvaccinated people at the picnic, 31 contacted measles. "The girl who had contacted measles in Romania—after spending only a few hours in a crowd of 500 people—had managed to infect almost every person susceptible to the disease," Offit says.
  • New York & New Jersey: In June 2009, there was an outbreak of mumps among Hasidic Jews in New York and New Jersey. An eleven-year-old boy traveled to England and contacted mumps. Then, thousands of British children had not received the vaccine for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), afraid that it caused autism. The boy flew back to New York, attended a summer camp for Hasidic Jews, and, unfortunately, started a massive epidemic. By January 2010, fifteen hundred people had been infected with mumps, the book's author says: "When it was over, mumps was found to have caused pancreatitis, meningitis, deafness, facial paralysis, or inflammation of the ovaries in sixty-five people; nineteen were hospitalized."
And the cases continue.

The Changing '80s

How things have changed. Vaccinations, once considered the gold standard of a health-care prevention policy, are now often looked at suspiciously by parents, who want the best for children. When most of the developed world were once looking at the United States with awe and envy at how they improved the lifespans of children, they must now wonder what is going on.

When the U.S. was once at the forefront in the battle to eradicate many of the diseases that debilitated children, including measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis and polio, many parents have decided to not vaccinate their children.

Pharmaceutical companies, so-called Big Pharma, have made mistakes in manufacturing vaccines, particularly in the early history of production. In his book, Offit cites cases where huge mistakes were made, resulting in severe outbreaks and death.
Yellow fever vaccine: American soldiers receiving this vaccine in the 1940s were inadvertently given a vaccine that contained hepatitis B. Offit writes: "In March 1942, the US Surgeon General's Office noted a striking number of recruits were infected by hepatitis; more than three hundred thousand soldiers were infected with what we now know as hepatitis B virus; sixty-two died from the disease."

Polio vaccine: When the Salk vaccine was licensed for sale, one of the three manufacturers, Cutter Laboratories in Berkeley, California, had done a horrible job, in 1955, of producing the Salk vaccine, failing to inactivate the live polio vaccine. "As a consequence, Offit writes, "one hundred and twenty thousand children were inadvertently infected with a vaccine that contained a live, potentially deadly poliovirus: seventy thousand suffered mild polio, two hundred were severely and permanently paralyzed, and ten died. It was one of the worst biological disasters in American history."
Two things resulted from this disaster: Cutter Laboratories ceased making polio vaccines (It was bought by Bayer in the 1970s), and the creation of a vaccine regulatory system. As well, not cited in the book since it's not about a vaccine, but about an antibiotic, penicillin, is the recent discovery of research experiments conducted on prisoners, mental patients and soldiers in Guatemala during the 1940s and 1950s to test the efficacy of penicillin.

This was done without informed consent, despite stringent regulations in effect after the drafting of the Nuremberg Code in 1947 (see Unwilling Participants).  Such are the issues that tarnish the otherwise exemplary work going on in today's medical- research establishments.

The Evidence is Solid

Despite such mistakes, they are rare, and many controls are in place to reduce such incidents. For persons who hold particular ideologies, facts don't generally persuade them. Yet, their solution of zero vaccines falls short of a sound and proven health-care policy, and is be a menu for epidemics that would result in many more family tragedies and deaths.

Consider the following: If you speak to an older generation of adults, those born before the 1940s, before the widespread availability of vaccines, you will get a different picture. This generation is thankful for the benefits that vaccines offer to humanity.

Dr. Offit does an excellent job of explaining the history of vaccines and why they are necessary, effective and safe. For this, he ought to be commended. His book is well-researched and well-documented tour-de-force on his area of expertise.

He is a scientist with not only a fine mind, but a well-operating heart. He would prefer that people were united, and refers to the tragedy of September 11, 2001, as a time when people were more united toward a common good. "And if we can recapture it—recapture the feeling that we are all in this together, all part of a large immunological cooperative—the growing tragedy of children dying from preventable infections can be avoided."

As a writer and journalist, I recommend this book for anyone who wants to be well informed on vaccines and the history of the anti-vaccine movement. As a parent. I recommend this book to other parents who want to be well-informed on making the best choices for your children's health and well-being.


Paul Offit, MD, is the chief of the division of infection diseases and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He is the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and a professor of pediatrics at University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine. Dr. Offit is a founding advisory board member of the Autism Science Foundation, to which he is donating the royalties to this book. He resides outside Philadelphia.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Cantor Mordechai Hershman: Eilu Devurim

Cantor Mordechai Hershman [1888–1940]: “Eilu Devurim” (אֵלּוּ דְבָרִים; “These are the Things”), is often referred to as the Rabbinic Ten Commandments. The prayer dates to the writing of the Mishnah. For more on Chazan Hershman, go [here].
Via: Youtube

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Shulem Lemmer & the Shira Choir: Avinu Malkeinu (2015)

Shulem Lemmer & the Shira Choir: “Avinu Malkeinu” (אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ‎; “Our Father, Our King”) which was composed by Moshe (Max) Janowski [1912–1991] and is part of the liturgy for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur as well as during Aseret Yemei Teshuva (עשרת ימי תשובה‎; “Ten Days of Repentance”). It is an acknowledgement of Judaism and its history of powerful and heartfelt prayer. Lemmer [born in 1989 in  Brooklyn, New York], a Belz Hasid from Boro Park, was recently signed by a major record label. This young man has talent. Kol hakavod
Via: Youtube

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Maccabeats: Book of Good Life (2011)

The Maccabeats: Book of Good Life. A wonderful song to start off the New Year of 5779. Shana Tova to all. The song was originally released in 2011, in time for the Jewish New Year of 5772.
Via: Youtube

Shana Tova 5779

Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah: Apples and honey and pomegranates (often as the second night as “a new fruit”) are traditionally eaten during this holiday; the kabbalah says that there are 613 seeds in a pomegranate, equal to the number of mitzvot in the Torah. Also traditional is a circular challah (often with raisins), symbolizing both continuity and sweetness for the new year. The challah is dipped in honey and eaten.
Photo Credit: My Jewish Learning

Tonight at sundown marks the beginning of the period in the Jewish calendar of Yamim Noraim (Hebrew: ימים נוראים‎), or the “Days of Awe.” This is traditionally called the High Holy Days or High Holidays, a ten-day period of introspection, self-examination, and repentance, with the chief aim of making positive changes in our lives, and righting any wrongs one might have committed during the previous year. For this reason, this period is also called Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (עשרת ימי תשובה), or “Ten Days of Repentance.” 

The period starts with Rosh Hashanah (tonight, 1 Tishrei), the Jewish New Year (5779), and culminates with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. To those observing the holiday, let me wish you a healthy, happy and sweet year. The traditional greeting is Shana tova u’metukah, (Hebrew: שנה טובה ומתוקה) or “A good and sweet year.” In Yiddish, we say A gut gebentsht yohr, or “A good and blessed year. ” 

No matter how you say it, the thought remains the same. Moreover, we Jews don’t only say “have a sweet year,” we also want to experience it through our senses. So, enjoy your apples and honey, your challah dipped in honey, the seeds of the pomegranate and the holiday meal that follows it.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Offspring of Greatness: Henry Rosenblatt (1995)

Offspring of Greatness: Henry Rosenblatt (1995). A documentary interviewing the son, Henry Rosenblatt [1907–1998], of the great chazzan (cantor), Yossele Rosenblatt [1882–1933]; it was produced and directed by Ed Konecnik. There are very interesting insights and explanation of his father’s singing style. For those of you who have an interest in this subject, of chazzanut and of the past, of a time long ago, you can listen to a record of Henry Rosenblatt singing “Yaale” with his father [here].
Via: Youtube

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Cantors Yossele Rosenblatt & Samuel Malavsky: Seudas Moshiach

Cantors Yossele Rosenblatt [1882–1933] & Samuel Malavsky [1894–1985] sing Seudas Moshiach” in a wonderful duet; the Yiddish folk song is also called “A Sudenyu.” I could not find out when this particular recording was made, but it had to be before 1933. If anyone has such details, please contact me. You can also hear a version by the great operatic tenor, Jan Peerce [1904–1984],  [here].
Via: Youtube

Seudas Moshiach

Zog zhe rebenyu vos vet zayn ven meshiakh vet kumen? Ven meshiakh vet kumen? veln mir makhn a sudenyu. Vos veln mir esn oyf dem sudenyu? Dem shoyr ha-bor, leviyasan veln mir esn oyf dem sudenyu. Vos veln mir trinken oyf dem sudenyu? Dem yayin ha-meshumor veln mir trinkn oyf dem sudenyu. Un ver vet uns toyre zogn oyf dem sudenyu? Moyshe rabenyu vet uns toyre zogn. oyf dem sudenyu. Un ver vet uns shpiln oyf dem sudenyu? Dovid ha-melekh vet uns shpiln. oyf dem sudenyu. Un ver vet uns khokhme zogn oyf dem sudenyu? Shloymoy ha-melekh vet uns khokhme zogn. oyf dem sudenyu. Un ver vet tantsn oyf dem sudeynu? Miryam ha-naviya vet uns tantsn. oyf dem sudenyu.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: What We Worship (2017)


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “We have seen a growth of extremism in politics and religion—all of it fueled by anxiety, uncertainty and fear. Of a world that’s changing almost faster than we can bear. And the sure knowledge that it’s going to change faster still. […] Is there something we can do, each of us, to be able to face the future without fear?” asks Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. “I think there is.” And the question each of us must ask, he suggests, is what we worship, both as individuals and as a collective that make up communities. If it is only the worship of the self—the individual, the ego, the yetzer hara (יֵצֶר הַרַע)—then one is left vulnerable, fearful and alone. Rather, Rabbi Sacks says, it is important to view our identity in “us.” Moreover, a nation and a People are strong when it cares for the weak, the poor and the vulnerable. The act of tzedakah (צדקה‎; justice) is central to the Torah and the Talmud. So important is tzedakah that it says in Proverbs 21:3 (מִשְׁלֵי; Míshlê ): “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” In other words, although ritual is important, tzedakah is more so. This tells us something important.
Via: Youtube

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Noam Sheriff’s Revival of the Dead (1998)

Noam Sheriff’s Revival of the Dead (מחיה המתים; Mechaye hametim), performed by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Zubin Mehta conducting, at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, on May 4, 1998 (8 Iyar 5758 in the Hebrew calendar), in commemoration of Eretz Israel's 50th anniversary of its founding (5 Iyar 5708). This performance includes the Ramat Gan Chamber Choir and the Ankor Children Choir; Cantor Joseph Malovany (tenor) and Vladimir Braun ( baritone). Noam Sheriff, an Israeli composer, conductor and educator, was born in 1935 in Tel Aviv; he died last week on Saturday August 25th. He was 83.

Revival of the Dead: Zubin Mehta and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Yigdal Prayer


Below are some versions of  the Hebrew prayer, Yigdal (יִגְדָּל‬; “Magnify”), based on Maimonides’ (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, or Rambam’s) 13 Fundamental Principles or Articles of Faith (Shloshah Asar Ikkarim). In this powerful prayer God is magnified and acknowledged as the sole God of the His People, that the Torah is everlasting and unalterable, and that Redemption of the His People will take place. Depending on the tradition or shul, it is sung at either at the beginning of the morning or the close of the evening services. The authorship is uncertain, but it dates to at least the 14th century.

Avraham Perrera: Yigdal
Via: Youtube

Avraham David: Yigdal
Via: Youtube

Hazan İsak Maçoro, Yigdal, from a 1960 recording.
Via: Youtube

The following is cited courtesy of the Zemirot Database, an excellent resource:


יִגְדַּל אֱלֹהִים חַי וְיִשְׁתַּבַּח, נִמְצָא, וְאֵין עֵת אֶל מְצִיאוּתוֹ: 

אֶחָד וְאֵין יָחִיד כְּיִחוּדוֹ, נֶעְלָם, וְגַם אֵין סוֹף לְאַחְדּוּתוֹ: 

אֵין לוֹ דְמוּת הַגּוּף וְאֵינוֹ גּוּף, לֹא נַעֲרוֹךְ אֵלָיו קְדֻשָּׁתוֹ: 

קַדְמוֹן לְכָל דָּבָר אֲשֶׁר נִבְרָא, רִאשׁוֹן וְאֵין רֵאשִׁית לְרֵאשִׁיתוֹ: 

הִנּוֹ אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם, לְכָל נוֹצָר. יוֹרֶה גְדֻלָּתוֹ וּמַלְכוּתוֹ: 

שֶׁפַע נְבוּאָתוֹ נְתָנוֹ, אֶל אַנְשֵׁי סְגוּלָּתוֹ וְתִפְאַרְתּוֹ: 

לֹא קָם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל כְּמֹשֶה עוֹד נָבִיא, וּמַבִּיט אֶת תְּמוּנָתוֹ: 

תּוֹרַת אֱמֶת נָתַן לְעַמּוֹ, אֵל, עַל יַד נְבִיאוֹ נֶאֱמַן בֵּיתוֹ: 

לֹא יַחֲלִיף הָאֵל וְלֹא יָמִיר דָּתוֹ. לְעוֹלָמִים, לְזוּלָתוֹ: 

צוֹפֶה וְיוֹדֵֽעַ סְתָרֵינוּ, מַבִּיט לְסוֹף דָּבָר בְּקַדְמָתוֹ: 

גּוֹמֵל לְאִישׁ חֶֽסֶד כְּמִפְעָלוֹ, נוֹתֵן לְרָשָׁע רָע כְּרִשְׁעָתוֹ:

יִשְׁלַח לְקֵץ יָמִין מְשִׁיחֵֽנוּ, לִפְדּוֹת מְחַכֵּי קֵץ יְשׁוּעָתוֹ:

מֵתִים יְחֲיֶּה אֵל בְּרוֹב חַסְדּוֹ, בָּרוּךְ עֲדֵי עַד שֵׁם תְּהִלָּתוֹ: 

[אלה שלוש עשרה לעקרים הן הם יסוד דת אל ואמונתו. תורת משה אמת ונבואתו, ברוך עדי עד שם תהלתו.]


1. Magnified​ and praised be the living God: he is, and there is no limit in time unto his being. 

2. He is One, and there is no unity like unto his unity; inconceiv​able is he, and unending is his unity. 

3. He hath neither bodily form nor substance​: we can compare nought unto him in his holiness.​ 

4. He was before anything that hath been created--​even the first: but his existence​ had no beginning​. 

5. Behold he is the Lord of the universe:​ to every creature he teacheth his greatness​ and his sovereign​ty. 

6. The rich gift of his prophecy he gave unto the men of his choice, in whom he gloried. 

7. There hath never yet arisen in Israel a prophet like unto Moses, one who hath beheld his similitud​e, 

8. The Law of truth God gave unto his people by the hand of his prophet who was faithful in his house. 

9. God will not alter nor change his Law to everlasti​ng for any other. 

10. He watcheth and knoweth our secret thoughts:​ he beholdeth​ the end of a thing before it existeth.​ 

11. He bestoweth​ lovingkin​​dness upon a man according​​ to his work; he giveth to the wicked evil according​​ to his wickednes​s. 

12. He will send our anointed at the end of days, to redeem them that wait for the end—his​ salvation​. 

13. In the abundance​ of his lovingkin​​dness God will quicken the dead. Blessed for evermore be his glorious name. 

Trans​lation from The Standard Prayer book by Simeon Singer (1915) (public domain) 

[These are the thirteen fundamentals (of Jewish faith), they are the foundation of the religion of God and His faithful.​ The Torah of Moses and his prophesy is true, blessed for eternity be His name.] 


Although it is found in the beginning of the shacharit service in the siddur, Yigdal is often sung at the conclusion of the Ma“ariv service on Shabbat and Chagim. The lines in brackets are added in Sefardi communities. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish (1965)

Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish (1965). Shraga Friedman [born in 1924 in Warsaw, Poland–died in 1970 in Tel Aviv, Israel], who, because of the Nazi invasion of Poland, had to flee his hometown with his family through a number of countries before arriving in Haifa in 1941 in what was then pre-Israel British-controlled Mandatory Palestine. Friedman translated the words of the 1964 American Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof (Joseph Stein’s book and Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics, with music by Jerry Bock—all based on the stories of Yiddish writer, Sholem Aleichem, born Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich) into Yiddish, calling it Fidler Afn Dakh. This was first performed in Israel in 1965. It is good to hear this well-known American musical in Yiddish. As a note of interest, it was only this year, in 2018, that the play was performed in Yiddish, in America, at New York City’s National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene. There is, however, a 1939 Yiddish film called Tevye, directed and written by Maurice Schwartz [1889–1960], who also plays the lead role. Schwartz founded the Yiddish Art Theatre and its theatre school in 1918 in New York City; I must say that Schwartz's Yiddish is impeccable. A film clip can be seen [here], courtesy of the National Center for Jewish Film.

The Album
00:01 די תורה (Tradition) 07:25 שדכנטע שדכנטע (Matchmaker, Matchmaker) 11:26 ווען איך בין א ראטשילד (If I Were a Rich man) 16:30 קבלת-שבת ליד (Sabbath Prayer) 18:58 לחיים (To Life) 23:16 נסים ונפלאות (Miracle of Miracles) 25:24 דער חלום (Tevye's Dream) 32:31 טאג איין טאג אויס (Sunrise, Sunset) 36:05 חתונה-טאנץ (Wedding Dance) 39:08 ליבסט מיך, סארצע (Do You Love Me?) 42:21 ווייט פון מיין ליבער היים (Far From the Home I Love) 44:47 אנאטעווקע (Anatevka)