Ian Silverman, Rabbi

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View current news articles, commentary, videos and more that have an impact on Jewish culture, politics and religion at Rabbi Silverman's Sites to See

 

When it comes to the Gregorian calendar, there are things we Jews do and things we don't do: the Peculiar case of Birkat Tal u'Matar vs. Thanksgiving

(This gets a bit complicated so put on your thinking cap!)

Some wonder why, in our standing devotion (Amidah), we request that God send "dew and rain" for a blessing from December 4th until Passover [and discontinued after]. Why is this tied to the secular calendar and not to the Jewish calendar? Actually, in Israel, it is tied to the Jewish calendar because the blessing for "dew and rain" (Tal u’Matar) begins on Cheshvan 7 each year. Why? This is because the Israelis didn't want rain for two weeks when they began their pilgrimage back from Jerusalem. Who needed mud and rain during travel?


It was the Jewish community of Babylonia, followed by all of the diaspora, that decided to wait 60 days following the autumnal equinox (Sept 23) to recite the blessing, because the harvested crops took 2 months to fully dry. Well then, why do we not begin to pray for rain on Nov. 22, which would be 60 days from the Autumnal Equinox? The answer is that Pope Gregory, in the 16th century, decided to rob October of ten days to correct a discrepancy in the calculation of the length of the year. Unlike the Greco-Roman Julian calendar, which assumed the length of the year to be 365.25 days, the actual time computation, based on the earth's orbit, is 365.2422 days. That difference would henceforth be corrected, according to Gregory, by not taking a leap day (a Feb 29) during the century year unless it was a century year divisible by 400 (which is why we had a leap day in Feb. in the year 2000). It was determined by astronomers of the day that the calendar had gotten 10 days ahead of itself. So these ten days were omitted in that year of 1583.

The Jewish community of that century didn't accept the correction to the Julian Calendar. As far as they were concerned, the 60 days from the Equinox would henceforth fall on December 2, not November 22! So why are we now beginning prayer for rain on December 4th? Because they also didn't accept Pope Gregory's correction to omit a leap day each century year. Therefore, in 1700, the date advanced to December 3. In 1800, the date advanced an additional day to December 4th. In 1900, many prayer books failed to make the adjustment to December 5. In 2000 both the Julian and Gregorian calendar agreed to include a leap day. Presumably, if prayer books do due diligence in the future, the prayer will advance to December 5 in 2100, where it should have been already, and to December 6 in the next century, 2200. Fast forward 30,000 years or so, and our descendants will pray for winter rains as we approach summer! But we should be so fortunate that Judaism has the staying power to have such problems! Or who knows, some great sage in a future era may say we should accept Pope Gregory's leap day omission on century years.


We have, however, some unanimity to accept the November computation of Thanksgiving as the 4th Thursday in November. There are some ultra-Orthodox communities that don't believe in observing any holiday on the secular calendar–only Jewish ones–but most traditional communities of the last 150 years or so accept the observance of the civic holiday of Thanksgiving. There ought not to be a problem observing a civic holiday that all Americans mark. Most importantly, Thanksgiving, as currently observed, is a day of gratitude to God for the precious blessings our country and our God bestows. That, actually, is a Jewish imperative every day of the year. We mark that very sentiment each and every day when recite the psalm in the morning "it is good to give thanks to God and to sing Your praises on High!" Naturally, it can and should be marked with our dietary restrictions and so forth as American stands for the right of all to practice their religion. We also have no problem with observing it on the appropriate day rather than 10 days later. Since it is anchored in the American calendar, which has accepted the Julian accounting of time, there is no reason to make adjustments.

If any of this information is wrong, by the way, because math is not my strong suit, please let me know! To quote Wilbur Cross' 1936 proclamation, "as the chill and frost begin to set in in these darkening days of autumn under the heel of Orion" Beth and I wish you and your families a year that is fertile and prosperous, a year of plenty–rich in blessings, and a very happy Thanksgiving.

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Israel Items of Interest

KEEP CURRENT WITH THE LATEST NEWS IN ISRAELI ADVOCACY, THE DAILY ALERT HERE.

An Israeli company has developed a means to evaluate the freshness of foods. Read about it HERE.

Israeli startup Zebra Medical Vision, offers an online software that can provide a second opinion on CT scans by analyzing the information and producing a medical report within 90% accuracy. Read about it HERE.

Film recommendation: Mekonen, the story of an Ethiopian Jew who makes peace with an emotional past and embraces his future in Israel, becoming a decorated officer in the IDF while remaining true to his African roots and culture.

Did you know that the first victim of 9-11 was an Israeli Special Forces Veteran who rushed the cockpit of American Airlines Flight 11 to stop the hijackers, but was murdered in his attempt to stop these al-Queda terrorists. Watch a quick video, HERE. 

Read about a small guitar workshop in Jaffa, creating the finest instruments, HERE.

A PhD student at Hebrew University has won an award for developing a test to detect Parkinson's Disease. Read about it HERE.

Three years after publishing an anti-Israel letter in the medical journal, The Lancet, the editor admits he has deep regrets and has dedicated the latest issue to highlighting health care in Israel. Read about it HERE.

Read an article by Chris Coons and Marco Rubio from the Wall Street Journal, "Every Senator Agrees the UN Must Change," HERE.

Israel's medical clowns- they cheer up sick kids, reduce anxiety, decrease pain, and alleviate depression. They are Jews, Christian Arabs, and others. Watch a YouTube video about them HERE.

Learn about the connection of Jews with Israel, the decades-long quest of Israel for peace with it's neighbors, the failure of Palestinian leadership to turn conflict into coexistence, and the contrast between the fate of Palestinian and Jewish refugees from the Arab-Israel conflict, HERE. 

Women of the IDF video

 

Rabbi Silverman's Suggested Sites to See

Read and article from The Forward that is perhaps the best, most concise summary of the core issue in the Palestinian conflict, HERE.

Link to a primer on what caused the Palestinian exodus in 1948 HERE.

American Indian Chief Joseph RiverWind recently visited Israel with his wife and noted the common passion of each for freedom and a willingness to fight for and defend their sovereignty. Read about it HERE.

Sign a peititon urging school presidents and chancellors nationwide to implement "The Equity Pledge," calling for equal treatment of all students on campus, HERE.

BDS calls for Israel's destruction, but the world ignores this. Watch this video.

Take a look at the Social Media Public Service Announcement put out by Hamas for the Nakba Day Riots, HERE.

Read the views of "Arabs with Israel" member Bassem Eid, who congratulates Israel on its 70th anniversary and promotes recognition of the State of Israel, HERE.

MIT's Israel program is an example of an American campus getting it right. Their cultural exchange and internship program will have a huge impact with capable and brilliant students in future years. HERE.

Read a fascinating account of how Harry Truman defied his own State Department as he remained stalwart in his intent to declare Israel the defacto Jewish State in Palestine upon the departure of the British. HERE.

The Rabbinical Assembly has issued a statement on the Iranian Attack on Israel, HERE.

Read about Donniel Harman's (Director of the Pluralistic Religious Think Tank, Harman Institute, Israel) perspective on the Two-State Solution, HERE.

Professor Melissa Landa was fired from her teaching position at the University of Maryland for her vocal pro-Israel views and efforts to fight BDS. Please sign a petition to hold the University of Maryland accountable for this injustice, HERE.

Fallout by Jewish women's groups from the Women's March continues as anti-Semitism seems to be emerging from the March leadership by Mallory and Sarsour. HERE. 

Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel and that is the aim of the latest demonstrations. The media forgets to mention this. Watch a video HERE.

Muslim Advocacy Day takes place May 7-8 and an Egyptian specialist has uncovered ties between its organizers and delegates in the US Capitol and prominent terror operatives. Read about it HERE.

The Rhode Island Women's March has broken ties with the national Women's March, which continues to work with Tamika Mallory. Mallory is co-president of the March and has refused to denounce anti-Semitic statements made by Louis Farrakhan. Read abut it HERE.

Yet another cause for concern–the BDS 's new target is Israeli banks, HERE.

See a disturbing comparison of anti-Semitism from the Nazi era and how current BDS era HERE.

Read an excellent article by Yossi Klein HaLevi about how Israelis react to the international condemnation of their country for their tough military resonse to the Second Intifada and the attemps to breach Israel's borders HERE.

The New York Times is calling for Abbas to resign, following his anti-Semitic speech to Palestinian leadership. Read about it HERE.

Read  the article "A Holocaust Lesson: It Starts with Bullying," by a survivor who talks about bullying, gun safety, and much, much more. HERE.

Mahmoud Abbas' incendiary speech, where he blamed the Jews for their own murder in the Holocaust and denied any Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, not only vindicated claims made by Netanuyahu over the years, but more importantly revealed that the Palestinians have no credibility as partners in establishing peace in the region. Even the New York Times seems to have shifted its consistent support of the Palestinian cause. Read about it HERE.

  Although New York Times columnist Bret Stephens doesn’t necessarily recommend scuttling the Iran deal in view of the recent Mossad find, certainly there are reasons to do so–  At the very least, the US must hold the Iranians accountable for hiding vital information they had agreed to both reveal and to destroy re. their nuclear bomb project. The world hopefully will agree to delay sunset provisions well beyond 2025 and to restrict Iran’s missile programs and their proxy activities in Syria. To not do so brings a scenario between  Iran and Israel that much closer to direct hostilities. Read the story HERE.

If you wonder if Israel is becoming cynical under so many efforts to discredit her and deflate her citizens, listen to this speech. It’s in beautiful Hebrew with subtitles but well worth it. Miriam Peretz who won the Israel prize not for literature or science or a work of theology, but for her open heart and her resilience, HERE. 

A large number of Arabs and Muslims see Israel as a country to be admired. Read about it HERE.

The Palestinian claim of indigenousness is patently false according to a knowledgeable piece–a Native American. Please watch and learn HERE.

Israeli-born Natalie Portman, who was to receive the Israeli version of the Nobel prize for "outstanding achievement by an individual who has attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional field, embodying the character of the Jewish people," has turned down the Genesis prize, thought to be because of Israel's recent deadly shooting of Palestinian protestors on the Gaza border. Read about it HERE

Organized riots continue at Israel's southern border, as Palestinians clash with IDF soldiers, now sending burning kites over the fence to set Israel's fields afire. Read about it HERE.

Now 100, Binyamin Brenzel came to Isreal from his native Lvov, Ukraine. Read a letter he wrote to his sister in New York upon the establishment of the State of Israel as he awaited news on the radio of the UN Partition Plan in 1947, HERE.

As Israel celebrates its 70th birthday, read David Harris' blog from the Times of Israel, reflecting on Israel's accomplishments and challenges, HERE.

Read a brilliant analysis of the perils facing the Islamic nations in the Middle East. With so many states in a fragile condition and devoid of nation-building elements, including those of the PA and Gaza, one wonders about the lasting nature of any brokered peace agreement with Israel, even in the unlikely event that such a deal could be accomplished, HERE.

Donate toward medical treatments for injured Israeli soldiers HERE.

Watch and important video showing the proximity of Israeli families to the Gaza border and just what is at stake in allowing the border to be penetrated. For some reason this simple information is not made explicit in press coverage. HERE.

Read David Harris' blog in The Times of Israel, highlighting the stark differences between Hamas and Israel- and that while Hamas threatens and harasses Israel, it is only Israel's response that is under scrutiny, HERE.

Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik was the keynote speaker at the Global Conference on Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem. Read about her address HERE.

Read Israeli President Rivlin's speech as he led the 30th annual March of the Living from the gates of Auschwitz to Auschwitz-Birkenau HERE.

Due to the British Labour Party's anti-Semitic statements and actions of late, Israel's Labor Party has suspended ties. Read about it HERE.

Gino Bartali was an Italian bicyclist who saved hundreds of Jews in the Holocaust. His story is being made into a film by Jerusalem U. Donate toward this effort to tell the world about his inspiring life. HERE.

Hear the REAL story behind Gaza's "peaceful" protests at the Israeli border HERE. Hamas is orchestrating the violence at the border in their latest effort to destroy Israel, yet Israel is taking all the blame. Read about it HERE. 
Read Hadassah National President Ellen Hershkin's letter to the Washington Post to urge for fair reporting on the situation in Gaza HERE.

In honor of Yom Hashoah, listent to a moving rendition by over 600 survivors and their families singing Oprah Haza's "Chai/I am Still Alive," written 35 years ago, HERE.

Stick with "Zionism" rather than running from it and letting the haters win. Read a blog from the Times of Israel, HERE.

Even the Palestinian Authority is accusing Hamas of sending children to their deaths in Gaza to grab headlines. Why doesn't the world nor the media believe these words from the mouths of Palestinians? And the irony: As Palestinians rolled burning tires toward the border, a Hamas spokesman is condemnins Israel for stopping the import of new tires to Gaza and now there is a tire shortage. Read about it HERE.

In the face of Britain's Labour Party anti-semitism, watch an uplifting Passover message in a video by Prime Minister Theresa May HERE.

Abbas' senior advisor is accusing Hamas of intentionally sendint Gaza Palestinians to "go and die" at the border demonstrations for the sole purpose of creating soundbites for TV and the media. Read and watch a video HERE.

Last week's conflict between Israel and Palestinians brought condemnation upon Israel for the killing and wounding of many Palestinians. But the Hamas-affiliated demonstration was orchestrated to use the 30,000 civilian participants as human shields with the sole purpose of triggering an Israeli response to maximize civilian casualties. Another round of these riots is scheduled, and will peak in May on the day the Palestinians term "Nakba." Read about it HERE.

Chuck Schumer's address at AIPAC brought a "reality assessment" of positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict, outlining 10 principles of a new US concensus that brings Democrats in line with Republicans. Read the article HERE. 

Jews are being murdered in France_Again! Jews are reviled on both the far right and far left. Should French Jews leave and head for Israel? Read a NYTimes Opinion piece HERE. 
France will be charging two men with the brutal anti-Semitic murder of an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor. Read about it HERE. 

 

Western European nations, claiming to be against racism and supremacism, lavishly fund Muslim Jew-hatred. Read about it HERE.

As we are mindful of slavery at this time of Passover, remember that slavery still exists in the Sudan, and that Louis Farrakhan, who has accepted millions from the Nation of Islam to keep quiet on the issue of slavery, should be decried for selling out on his own people. Read the story HERE.

Watch a couple short feel-good videos:
Reunion of Palestinian hero and the Jews he rescued HERE
NFL players visit Israel HERE

A Pakistani Muslim scholar and lecturer on the Holcaust at Manhattan College understands the need for the Jewish State and the importance of learning the many lessons the Shoah teaches. Read about her HERE.

Iceland has put forth a bill banning circumcision that may threaten the future of the small Jewish community there. Sign the petition HERE.

Israel's Arab curriculum is a crime, according to the PA Minister of Education because Israeli Arab children are missing out on why they should hate Isrealis. Read HERE.

The Women's March is losing staffers and supports because the leadership refuses to denounce a rant by Louis Farrakhan. Read about it HERE.

Congress passed pro-Israel legislation, inlcuding the Taylor Force Act. Thank members of Congress for their support HERE.

Anti-Israel campaigns on campuses are attacks on the norms and values of the university and with it, on the norms and values at the heart of Western civilization. Anti-Israelism is not about an exchange of dialogue, debate and an free exchange of ideas but rather, to silence such things. Read the article from The Tablet, HERE.

Although some argue that Jews are the alien population to Palestine, implanted by the British, in fact, Jews are the indigenous population in this area based on historical and genetic documentation. It is the Palestinians, however, who are there as a result of converts from those indigenous pre-modern Jews and Christians who submitted to Islam, Muslim invaders, and Arab immigrants. Read about it HERE. 

Congress has passed the Hamas Human Shields Prevention Act, sanctioning Hamas for using civilians as human shields. Read about it HERE.

Senators Corker and Menendez are urging the State Department to engage in a diplomatic solution with our allies to preent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon. Urge your senator to sign the letter HERE.

Learn the proper protocol to handle Palestinian activists on campuses as exemplified by Georgetown University HERE.

A video about all the wonderful aid Israel provides worldwide, that will bring a tear to your eyes HERE.

 

 

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