Menachem Mendel

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Who Wrote the Prayer for the State of Israel

Much has been written over the years trying to answer the question who wrote the prayer for the State of Israel. The two main figures in this bibliographic drama have been Rabbi Isaac Halevy Herzog and Shai Agnon. Did Herzog write it and Agnon edit it? Did Agnon write it? Yoel Rappel has researched this issue more than anyone else and he has finally found the “smoking gun.” In the Agnon archive located at the NLI he has found a letter from Rabbi Herzog to Agnon mentioning the prayer for the State of Israel that he composed. Rappel says that there are still a few unknowns about the prayer but it is now clear that Rabbi Herzog wrote it.

Rappel’s post can be found here. (Hebrew) The post has images of all the relevant material.

A Lubavitch Nigun from a Sufi Imam


The National Library of Israel has been posting some excellent blog posts recently. They just posted one (Hebrew) on how a musical composition from a Sufi Imam became a Lubavitcher nigun.

Kibbutz and Secular Haggadot Online

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The past few years have been revolutionary in the access that people have to the thousands of haggadot that have been published over the centuries. First Hebrew Books published online a very large number of haggadot, and now I have become aware of a large collection of secular and kibbutz haggadah. The latter is a treasure trove of one of the most creative outgrowths of recent Jewish culture in pre-state Palestine and present day Israel. The Druck Collection of Kibbutz and Secular Haggadot can be viewed here.

(HT Michelle Chesner on Twitter)

Shaul Stampfer on the Myth of the Khazar Conversion


The other day I went to see the exhibit 500 Years of Treasures from Oxford at the Yeshiva University Museum. While I was there I was also able to listen to a lecture by Shaul Stampfer on The Myth of the Khazar Conversion and the Origin of the Ashkenazi Jews. Stampfer has spoken about this issue before and has also published an academic article on the subject. The audio of his talk can be found below.

This is an earlier lecture by Stampfer on the subject.

New Book on Amram Blau and Neturei Karta

A few months ago I wrote a post about Amram Blau, Ruth Blau, and Neturei Karta, as a follow up to this post I’m happy to say that Prof. Kimmy Kaplan has just published an entire book on Amram Blau and Neturei Karta.

A tweet by Elli Fischer has renewed discussion into the affair and Amram Blau, Ruth Blau, and Neturei Karta are almost trending on social media.


Demographics of American Clergy

The New York Times has an article about an interesting study about the demographics of American clergy. I don’t think that the political affiliation of non-Orthodox clergy is much of a surprise, nor that Jewish clergy are very educated and live in the most wealthy and white areas. The numbers that are worrying for the future of non-Orthodox Judaism are the median age of clergy. The average age of Conservative Jewish rabbis is the third highest among all religious denominations in America. Reform Judaism is closer to the bottom of the list, but in reality not much better. The split between male-female clergy can probably be explained by the number of years that denominations have been ordaining women.

Intro Video to Gemara Sedura

I am a big supporter of using Gemara Sedura and now there’s a short video about it.

You can download PDFs of certain chapters in the Gemara Sedura format here and here.

Kiddush Hahodesh in the the Gulf States



Kiddush Hahodesh is alive and well in the Gulf States. From Gulf News:

The Saudi Arabia Supreme Court announced that Friday May 26 will complete the month of Sha’baan and that the first day of Ramadan will be on Saturday May 27.
The UAE Moon Sighting Committee announced on Thursday that the moon crescent, which marks the beginning of Ramadan, was not sighted in the UAE on Thursday night.
The committee will again convene on Friday, May 26, to sight the crescent moon of Ramadan.

HT: here and here

Israel’s Broadcast University on Yom Hashoah

Israel’s Broadcast University, האוניברסיטה המשודרת, has posted a number of episodes (in Hebrew) on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Each episode is on Holocaust Memory, one on Holocaust memory and Israeli society in general, one focusing on Haredi Society with Kimmy Caplan, and another on Israeli Arab Society. They can be found here.

Burning Hametz on the Night of the 14th of Nisan

I previously mentioned my connection to Jews whose roots are in the community of Djerba and tonight I learned about a custom of theirs of which I had previously been unaware. Apparently, Jews from Djerba, along with some from Yemen, burn their hametz on the evening of the 14th of Nisan after they do bedikat hametz. Some of them burn hametz again on the day of the 14th, while others only burn it on the night of the 14th. On the website of Yeshivat Kissei Rachamim there is a responsum with some sources that describe this custom. The following book gives a good overview of the practice.

חג כשר ושמח.




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