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Longing for Leavening - Passover 2024

04/28/2024 07:00:25 AM


Michael Greenfield

Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, the Torah tells us, neglecting to mention that by day six it will feel a lot longer than that because, of course, we start missing something the moment it's gone. You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread throughout the ages, the Torah adds. Feast? Well, yes, Shulchan Orech, The Festive Meal, makes the Seder a feast, but as the week moves along, some of us struggle to find meals that...Read more...

Tuning In #2: How We Got to Fauda

01/08/2023 07:00:00 AM


Michael Greenfield

Fauda’s theme song “Menasim” (Trying) is by Idan Amedi, the actor who plays Sagi. The lyrics, in Hebrew and Arabic, move between searching for serenity and living in chaos (fauda, in Arabic). The chorus promises that we’ll wake tomorrow in a better world. The Fauda characters probably won’t, but American lovers of Israeli TV already have. When Season 4 drops on January 20th, it will be just one of many Israeli TV shows we (and the...Read more...

Tuning In #1: The Chrismukkah Edition

12/18/2022 11:52:16 AM


Michael Greenfield

Every year we get new Chanukah parody songs. Less frequently, we get new Chanukah comedy songs. And - rarer still - new, actual Chanukah songs. What's the difference, is there a difference, and what's the connection to Christmas?

Tuning In to Jewish Music #1

The Chrismukkah Edition

Chanukah: Dec...

Groundhog Day is the High Holy Days

09/11/2022 11:28:14 AM


Michael Greenfield

This post originally appeared in eJewish Philanthropy:

It was Lenny Bruce who explained that Count Basie, Ray Charles, black cherry soda, and Italians are all Jewish. Also fruit salad. Fruit salad is obviously Jewish. So is the movie Groundhog Day – he didn’t say that, I did. But you can see it, right? The movie is a fast-tracked swing through the annual...Read more...

eJudaism: 48 & 49 - Torah, Shavuot (Part 8)

06/03/2022 09:30:18 AM


Michael Greenfield

On the day of his death, Moses wrote 13 scrolls of Torah - one for each of the 12 Tribes and one to put in the ark - so that no one could secretly alter even one word. The sun, out of deference to Moses, refused to set that day while he still sat writing. And 2000 years before the Creation, we're told, the Torah was written with black fire on white fire, and then the world was created so that we could receive Torah, which is why Abraham,...Read more...

eJudaism: 47 - You, Shavuot (Part 7)

06/02/2022 07:00:00 AM


Michael Greenfield

Shavuot is known as Z'man Matan Torateinu - the time of the giving of our Torah - and it's three days away. Yiscah Smith suggests that we understand this Hebrew phrase as follows:

The Torah was given on one day (Shavuot) by one God to one nation (the Children of Israel). But on every other day of the year, each person can decide how they want to receive it. And, however you receive it, that's how you'll reflect it back into the...Read more...

eJudaism: 46 - Rabbi Simlai, Micah, Rabbi Leon Morris, Shavuot (Part 6)

06/01/2022 07:00:00 AM


Michael Greenfield

Even for the Sages, 613 commandments was a LOT of mitzvot to make sense of, which is why they spend many of the approximately two and a half million words of the Talmud trying to both elucidate mitzvot and also boil them down to some kind of essence. On page 23b of tractate Makkot of the Talmud, Rabbi Simlai splits the list in two: there were 613 mitzvot stated to Moses in the Torah, consisting of 365 prohibitions corresponding to the number...Read more...

eJudaism: 45 - Nelson Mandela, The Sages, Shavuot (Part 5)

05/31/2022 07:00:00 AM


Michael Greenfield

Our Sages truly understood human foibles. Math? Not so much. The 10 Commandments includes at least 12, and that's not even counting the one that's just a statement. But we do have 613 mitzvot, right? Let's put it this way - we already ordered the stationary, we're not changing the house number.

What we can all agree on is that no one has ever fulfilled 613 of them. Some are understood to be impossible, some only apply to certain...Read more...

eJudaism: 43 - The Shechinah, The Velveteen Rabbi, Shavuot (Part 4)

05/29/2022 07:00:00 AM


Michael Greenfield

We're in the final week of counting the Omer, those 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. Today is the forty-third day of the Omer, making six weeks and one day.

The Kabbalists tied different qualities of God to the different weeks of the Omer, and we've just entered the period connected to the Shechinah - the indwelling of God which is also God's feminine aspect. To celebrate the start of this week with the Shechinah, I'm sharing...Read more...

eJudaism: 42 - Casey Kasem, Shlomo Alkabetz, the Sabbath Bride, Shavuot (Part 3)

05/28/2022 07:00:00 AM


Michael Greenfield

Coming in at #4 on the Top 10 Commandments chart is Remember (Zachor) the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Also coming in at #4 on the charts is Guard (Shamor) the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Those two tablets we got at Sinai on the first Shavuot - which was also a Shabbat! - show up twice in the Torah, once with Zachor, once with Shamor. Why?

Jewish tradition tells us that God spoke both words - Shamor/Zachor - simultaneously, and...Read more...

eJudaism: 41 - Luca Brasi, Doron Kavillio, Shavuot (Part 2)

05/27/2022 12:00:00 PM


Michael Greenfield

When Don Corleone wanted Jack Woltz to get an offer he couldn't refuse, he dropped Luca Brasi - a mountain of a man - on top of him. The Don didn't know it, but he was taking a page from Midrash. After Moses reads the Book of the Covenant to the people, they respond by saying, "Na'aseh v'nishmah! We will do and we will hear!" Obeying first and understanding later? What gives?

According to the Midrash, the actual and biggest OG of...Read more...

eJudaism: 40 - Pete Best, George Lazenby, Shemp, Shavuot (Part 1)

05/26/2022 09:21:09 AM


Michael Greenfield

Most people do a countdown to something exciting, but Jewish tradition goes the other way. Starting on the second night of Passover, we count up - day by day - for seven weeks. And then, after 49 days of ritualized counting, we hit the biggest Jewish holiday you're likely to forget.

Today is day 40 out of 49, which means we're just 10 days away from Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates the revelation at Mt. Sinai and the giving of...Read more...

eJudaism: You Had Me At "Bread of Affliction" (Part 4/4)

04/14/2022 06:30:04 AM


Michael Greenfield

This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt; let all who are hungry enter and eat thereof. Here you go, have some bread of affliction. It's great with chunks of horseradish root. We also have greens dipped in the tears of our ancestors and a fruit & nut mixture that looks like mortar. Wait! Come back! We also have a burnt egg! Did I mention we drink four cups of wine?!

Part 4: We're going to need...

eJudaism: Rabbi Chagai Vilosky Is Jewish. Extremely Jewish. (Part 3/4)

04/13/2022 11:55:00 AM


Michael Greenfield

Is there a more iconic, more central, more parodied, more necessary (and more poorly named) segment of the Seder than the Four Questions, which, technically speaking, is just one question and four statements? And is there a longer answer to a single question than the Passover Seder?

Part 3: We're going to need more questions.

Can you think of another people, another religion, that loves questions as much as we do? Can you even...Read more...

eJudaism: The Passover Multiverse (Part 2/4)

04/12/2022 04:01:37 PM


Michael Greenfield

Sure, you might aspire to be the Wise Child or relish the idea that you're the Wicked Child. We're all convinced that we're definitely not the Simple Child, but we have met them. Spoiler alert? You're all four.

Part 2: We're going to need more children.

If you're thinking, Hey - didn't he leave out one Child?, you can safely rule out the possibility of being the Child Who Has No Ability to Inquire. That's not just good news...Read more...

eJudaism: Why, For This Holiday, Are There Four Posts? (Part 1/4)

04/11/2022 03:56:59 PM


Michael Greenfield

You know that section at the end of the Passover Seder with the songs about God that sound like drinking songs? Yeah, those are drinking songs. They come - depending on your family traditions - hours or minutes after the Four Questions, the Four Children, and the Four Cups of Wine. Wine gladdens the heart according to the Psalms of David, our #1 partying king, but our kings don't get a mention in Who Knows One?, a song celebrating God, Torah,...Read more...

eJudaism: How's Your Balance? (High Holy Days)

09/05/2021 07:00:00 AM


Michael Greenfield

Haven’t we had quite enough of introspection and looking deeply into our souls over the last 18 months? And now the High Holy Days are here? Truth is, Judaism never gets tired of Cheshbon HaNefesh, the accounting of the soul that we’re supposed to be doing right now. But even if you’re not big on spiritual spreadsheets, it’s good stuff . . . unless you’ve got reflection-fatigue from a year and a half of continually assessing your...Read more...

eJudaism: Masks, Faces, Souls (High Holy Days)

08/12/2021 04:11:59 PM


Michael Greenfield

There’s something comforting about hiding behind a mask, and there’s something distressing about not being seen – the pandemic has made that all too clear. But none of us were strangers to the mask which is why the Jewish calendar reminds us to start taking them off today.

Today is the 1st of Elul, the month that leads to Rosh HaShanah, and it’s the month in which we each...Read more...


05/19/2020 06:02:39 PM


Michael Greenfield

Walk with me. Because to learn a city, you really need to walk its streets, and the story of Tel Aviv is written in its streets. It's a pre-COVID walk. The Nachalat Binyamin market is open. The Yemenite woman who makes the flatbread is there baking. If I had to guess, I'd say she's a bit older than the state, a bit younger than the city. I said Yemenite so you're going to want to tell me that her bread is malawach, but it's not. It's thinner....Read more...


05/01/2020 03:11:20 PM


Michael Greenfield

Another week is coming to a close. Another Shabbat nearly upon us to provide that sustaining refuge, that sacred sanctuary in time. I think we could all use some Shabbat.

I've been sending these eJudaism emails to share links to the digital Jewish world, but not this week. I've hit a wall of digital fatigue. Am I the only one? Other than buying avocados I'm not much of a gambler, but I'd bet a few bucks that some of you are feeling...Read more...


04/13/2020 04:42:09 PM


Michael Greenfield

This sheltering in place won't last forever, but according to the emergency broadcasting system message that blared through my phone earlier, we've got at least a couple more weeks. So this is a good moment to take stock of what we have in our Jewish pantry and improvise in ways that bring us both nourishment and joy.

My hope is that you're enjoying a sweet Passover, and that this finds you well and learning to improvise, in the...Read more...


04/08/2020 11:01:02 AM


Michael Greenfield

There's a moment at the start of the Seder when we hold up the matzah and declare, "This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry enter and eat." In his commentary to the Haggadah, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks asks whether it is actual hospitality to offer the hungry the taste of suffering. The matzah, he says, represents two things: it is the food of slaves, and it is the bread the Israelites ate...Read more...

Tue, July 23 2024 17 Tammuz 5784