At least since the sixteenth century, Purim celebrations have included costumes and masquerade parties. Various explanations have been given.
Although we popularly refer to the upcoming fast day as Yom Kippur, the Torah calls it Yom haKippurim—the day of atonements (in the plural). The plural form reminds us that there are many roads to atonement. Each person is different and is on a unique spiritual level; each comes with different insights, experiences, memories. The roads to atonement are plural, because no two of us have identical needs.
During the Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur period, some Jews have a custom known as “kapparot.” The ceremony involves swinging a live chicken over a person’s head three times, and then slaughtering the chicken. People who follow this practice believe that the ritual is a form of atonement (kapparah) for their sins. Many people see it as a primitive, quasi-idolatrous practice. Others view “kapparot” as egregious cruelty to animals.
Rabbi Marc D. Angel delivered this sermon on July 26, 2014 at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth in Seattle, Washington. On that Shabbat, the community marked the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Jews from the islands of Rhodes and Cos in July 1944, nearly all of whom were murdered in Auschwitz. We post this article in observance of Holocaust Memorial Day, May 2, 2019.
(This article originally appeared in “Sephardica: Hommage a Haim Vidal Sephiha,” Peter Lang Publishers, Berne, 1996.)
Religion produces the very best type of people: saintly, humble, compassionate, and genuinely pious. But we cannot help but notice that religion also produces—or at least harbors—the very worst type of people: terrorists, bigoted zealots, and self-righteous egotists. So religion has two faces: one that is righteous and compassionate; and one that is self-righteous and hate-filled. This article appears in issue 12 of Conversations, the journal of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.
All Israelis and all Jews have a stake in an honest, compassionate, competent and courageous Chief Rabbinate, one that serves as a unifying force. The sooner the rabbinate is reconstituted, the sooner will we be able to say with a full heart: "For out of Zion comes forth the Torah, and the word of God from Jerusalem."
This is the story of one Jewish family's confrontation with the Holocaust--a Sephardic family from the Island of Rhodes.
From the second half of the nineteenth century, Haskalah ideas filtered into the Sephardic communities in Muslim lands, especially through the efforts of the schools of the Alliance Israelite Universelle—bastions of French culture. The influence of European colonial powers in North Africa and the Middle East was also an important factor in Sephardic intellectual life. The impact of the Haskalah could not be altogether ignored.
On Shavuoth, as we celebrate the anniversary of the Revelation at Mount Sinai, we should direct our thoughts to that special moment in the history of Israel and to the ongoing lessons it provides to us in our own lives.