Download A Time to Every Purpose: Letters to a Young Jew by Jonathan D Sarna PDF

By Jonathan D Sarna

At the flip of the twenty-first century, the crucial query confronting Jewish leaders in the US is easy:

Why be Jewish?

Jonathan D. Sarna, acclaimed pupil of yank Judaism, believes that “Why be Jewish?” is the inaccurate query. Judaism, he believes, isn't rather a lot a “why” as a way—a lifestyle, a fashion of marking time, a manner of when it comes to the surroundings, to humans, to relations, and to God. Judaism is skilled via doing—doing issues Jewish, doing issues for fellow Jews in want, doing issues as a Jew to enhance the nation of the realm. The extra Judaism one does, the extra one involves get pleasure from what Judaism is.

Using the Jewish calendar as his place to begin, Sarna displays at the significant subject matters of Jewish existence as expressed in a whole yr of holidays—from Passover within the spring to Purim 11 months later. Passover, for example, yields a dialogue of freedom; Shavuot, a dialogue of Torah; Yom Kippur, the position of the person in the Jewish neighborhood; Chanukah, problems with assimilation and anti-assimilation.

An crucial short introduction—or reintroduction—to the key practices of Jewish existence in addition to the various complexities of the yankee Jewish event, this ebook should be crucial analyzing for American Jews and definitely the right present for the vacation season.

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But by then, at least six million other Jews—two-thirds of European Jewry—lay dead. Where was God when all of this was going on? Perhaps, as some theologians claim, God was hiding. Perhaps, as others insist, God was weeping. Perhaps the mystery is so great that it transcends our ability to comprehend it. qxd 6/17/08 10:48 AM Page 37 remembering the holocaust | 37 after the Holocaust, surely we must wonder even more how Jews can continue to believe in humanity! Astonishingly, an inscription found on the walls of a cellar in Cologne, Germany, where Jews hid from the Nazis, suggests that even in the very midst of darkness, some Jews did continue to believe: I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.

I won’t tell him this, but actually Spanish explorers brought the potato from Peru to Europe in the sixteenth century; King David never ate a potato in his life! The potato custom actually developed when Jews lived in cold climates where green vegetables were not to be found at Passover time. Still, family customs are not to be trifled with. A potato he shall have. There are other traditions that guests are bringing with them. One discovered a custom, dating back to the early Middle Ages, of adding fish to the seder table in commemoration of Miriam, the sister of Moses.

Historically, indeed, visions of chosenness have served both noble and ignoble purposes, promoting persecution of the “unchosen,” as well as selfless efforts to make ours a better world. When a “chosen people” conceives of itself as a “master race” and attempts to put down those it disdains, that is a disaster—as we Jews know all too well from our experience with Nazism. But when a “chosen people” labors to elevate itself, to create a distinctive and “great society” serving as a beacon to others—then, it seems to me, chosenness is a godsend, a marvelous benefit not only for one people but for humanity at large.

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