Monday, December 25, 2006

“Torah-True Meteorology”?

New SLOGAN of the Yeshiva University:

New(?) Slogan(?) of the Weather Channel website:
zoomed in »

ברוך הוא אבינו בוראנו יוצרנו הצייר העליון
משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם השלג והטל

Sunday, December 24, 2006

אויף דער שטעג On The Way

Talmud Bavli « masekhet Berakhot « 29b-30a
And Ribbí Ya‘aqov said, Rav Hhisda said:
Anyone who sets out on the way must pray Tefilat Haderekh.
What is Tefilat Haderekh?

יהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלהי
שתוליכני לשלום
ותצעידני לשלום
ותסמכני לשלום
ותצילני מכף
כל אויב ואורב בדרך
ותשלח ברכה במעשי ידי
ותתנני לחן ולחסד ולרחמים בעיניך
ובעיני כל רואי
בא"י שומע תפילה

May it be your will, YHVH my god,
that you walk me to peace,
and pace me to peace,
and support me to peace;
and save me from the hand of
any enemy and ambush on the way;
and send a blessing in my handiwork;
and place me for grace, kindness and compassion in your eyes
and the eyes of all who see me.
Blessed are you, YHVH, who listens to prayer.

Abayey said, one must always associate themself together with the community.

How would we say it then?

יהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלהינו
שתוליכנו לשלום, וכו׳

May it be your will, YHVH our god,
that you walk us to peace,

That is how the Travelers' Prayer appears in the Gemara. The exact text we say today differs from the Gemara's text, as well as among the different ancestral traditions.

One of the more salient differences is that at least some Ashkenazic versions of Tefilat Haderekh ask God not only to save us from אויב ואורב, enemy and ambush, but also from ליסטים וחיות רעות, bandits and evil beasts — ומכל מיני פורעניות המתרגשות לבוא לעולם, and from all types of tragedies that suddenly happen in the world.

At least according to Prof. Alick Isaacs of Hebrew University (i never got a chance to ask him for sources on this claim), in medieval Ashkenaz, the term חיות רעות did not mean simply 'evil beasts' or 'wild animals', but something in particular. Werewolves.

Although I am fairly rationalistic, and don't believe in werewolves or other monsters, I really like the idea of mentioning them in Tefilat Haderekh. I see it as asking God to protect me/us from ALL dangers — natural and supernatural, real and imaginary. It's asking God to save us from our own nightmares, our own fears, and our own overactive imaginations wondering what lurks out beyond the campfire. Whatever it is, God can keep us safe from it.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


End of the footnote-introduction to "Haftaras Shabbas Chanukah II" (the haftara reading from the Prophets for the Second Shabbos of Hhanuka, when such exists) in Artscroll's Stone Chumash:
...Israel was charged with the task of being a magnet to the nations, drawing them toward a recognition of God's majesty and service. Hiram and Cyrus saw and responded. Antiochus did not. When Israel is worthy, it is instrumental in leading society toward this state. Indeed, in the aftermath of Chanukah, when the family of Hasmoneans inspired the Jewish people to risk their lives to renew the glory and purity of the Temple, the result was that the Jewish Commonwealth expanded, in size, wealth, and spiritual influence.

I wouldn't quite describe Yohhanan Hyrkanos's forced conversion of Edom to Judaism an expansion of "spiritual influence". Nor the adoption of Greek names by him and his descendents who ruled Judea only a generation after their ancestors, the Makabim, fought so hard to get rid of foreign Hellenistic influence.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It's Spelled ח נ (ו) כ ה

This was passed along by TikkunGer...

¡Feliz Janucá, mis amig@s!

How Do You Spell Channukkahh by The LeeVees


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dedication... Take 4

Gut vokh, shavua‘ tov, and hhappy Hhanuka!

This morning at shul, one of the guys who sits near me showed me his hhumash, where it refered to the holiday of guerrilla warfare and religionationalistic rebellion which we are now ( iiiiIiiii ) celebrating not as Hhanuka (or Chanuka, Hanukka, Khanike, Janucá, etc.) — but as "the Fourth חנוכה".

He asked me what was up with that, since the hhumash (this was by the introduction to the haftara for the First Shabbos of Hhanuka) didn't explain it.

Here is what it probably was referring to:

חנוכה means Dedication or Inauguration.

The First חנוכה was חנוכת המשכן, the Dedication of the Mishkan, as described in Bemidbar/Numbers 7.

The Second חנוכה was חנוכת הבית, the Dedication of the First Beit Hamiqdash by King Shelomo, as described in Melakhim/Kings 1:8.

The Third חנוכה was חנוכת הבית, the Dedication of the Second Beit Hamiqdash, as described in ‘Ezra-Nehhemya/Ezra-Nehemiah 1:3.

So therefore the Fourth חנוכה was the Rededication of the Second Temple by the Hasmoneans after kicking the Seleucids and their lackeys out of Jerusalem.