Celebrating Purim

image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Book of Esther, Hebrew, c. 1700-1800 AD - Royal Ontario Museum - DSC09614.JPG •Uploaded by Daderot Created: November 20, 2011
image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Book of Esther, Hebrew, c. 1700-1800 AD – Royal Ontario Museum – DSC09614.JPG  Uploaded by Daderot Created: November 20, 2011

A long time ago when the empire of Persia and Medea ruled the world, all citizens of the capital city of Shushan were called to a feast at the king’s palace. Though the leader of the Jewish community, a very wise man named Mordechai, advised against it, the Jews of Shushan felt they had no choice but to obey the king’s decree. This feast was the beginning of a series of events that would lead King Achashverosh (Ahasuerus or Xerxes in English), to stamp and seal a terrible decree on the suggestion of his wicked advisor, Haman (a direct descendent of the ancient Jewish enemy Amalek): all Jews in the kingdom were to be slaughtered on the fourteenth day of the upcoming Hebrew month of Adar. Men, women, and children would be destroyed, no survivors. The Jews of the kingdom gathered in prayer under the guidance of their leader Mordechai. They donned sackcloth and ashes in mourning. But the Jewish people had a secret weapon, one that had been put in place some time earlier: Mordechai’s niece, Esther, had been chosen out of all the beauties in the kingdom to marry King Achashverosh. Queen Esther lived modestly in the palace, keeping her Jewish identity and faith secret, but in this she had no choice but to act. When she heard of the decree, she fasted and prayed for three days. Then Queen Esther went before the king without being summoned. This was a selfless, extraordinarily brave act that would lead to her death unless Achashverosh stretched out his scepter in welcome. Miraculously, he did. Continue reading

Who is that masked man? Happy Purim!

image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.  Book of Esther, Hebrew, c. 1700-1800 AD - Royal Ontario Museum - DSC09614.JPG •Uploaded by Daderot Created: November 20, 2011
image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Book of Esther, Hebrew, c. 1700-1800 AD – Royal Ontario Museum – DSC09614.JPG  Uploaded by Daderot Created: November 20, 2011

On the night of Wednesday, March 4th, after having fasted all day Jews all over the world will gather in synagogues, houses of worship, places of study, and sometimes in their own homes to hear the story of Purim.

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Tu Bi’Shevat: Happy Birthday, Trees!

(CC image via Wikimedia)
An olive tree, “Olea europaea subsp europaea” (CC image via Wikimedia)

On February 4th of this year, Jews all over the world will eat fruit. Usually it is dried fruit, such as dried apples or pineapple, sometimes even dates, figs, or dried pear. Many purchase carob, known as bokser in Yiddish. My personal favorite was always the bright orange dried papaya. We didn’t really eat it otherwise and it tasted the best out of all the options in the little “pekeleh” (package) that we would get in school.  I never really liked the carob; it was always so dry and chewy, kind of like fruit jerky. But there we were, in the middle of winter, eating dried fruit to celebrate the birthday of the trees, as it says in the folk song we learned: “Tu B’Shevat Higiah, Chag La’Ilanot” (The fifteenth day of the month of Shevat has come, birthday (or holiday) of the trees).  Continue reading

You’d like to do what, now?

Looking for textbooks?

It’s the beginning of the semester and students are flooding into the library. That’s a very good thing-we’re glad to see our students and show them what we have to offer. After all, we have books, e-books, journals, article databases, multimedia…and sometimes, if they’re very lucky, we may even have a copy of the textbook they need (but only if they’re VERY lucky!). But one question has been popping up as the fresh faces filter in: “Can I rent a textbook?” Continue reading

The 17th of Tammuz and the Three Weeks

Destruction of Jerusalem by Ercole de' Roberti
The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70 (David Roberts)

Tuesday, July 15th marks the beginning of the period known to Orthodox Jews everywhere as “the Three Weeks.” In  the Hebrew calendar that date is the 17th of Tammuz, which  commemorates the day the Romans broke through the walls of Jerusalem, finally ending its long siege. Continue reading