Rabbi Wein.com The Voice of Jewish History

Rabbi Wein’s Weekly Blog

RABAN SHIMON BEN YOCHAI

One of the leading figures in Jewish history, one who is intimately connected with the sefira period of the Jewish calendar through which we are now passing, is Raban Shimon ben Yochai. This great sage who lived in the second century of the Common Era was a primary disciple of Rabbi Akiva. He inherited from his great mentor a strong antipathy towards Roman rule and culture. After the defeat of...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

REMEMBERING THE CRUSADES

One of the reasons why the sefira period of time between Pesach and Shavuot is marked as a period of semi-mourning on the Jewish calendar is the haunting memory of the pogroms that accompanied the First Crusade in 1096. The first thirty-three days of the sefira period mark the deaths of the twenty-four thousand students of Rabbi Akiva in the times of the Roman persecutions initiated by Hadrian in...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

RABBI AKIVA

The current period of time between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot are the times of the sefirat haoemer- the counting of the seven weeks of forty-nine days that are between these two major holidays on the Jewish calendar. As is well known this period of time is also a period of semi-mourning because of historical tragedies that occurred to the Jewish people during this particular period of...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

PESACH WEATHER

Pesach falls in the month of Nisan - the month of aviv, springtime. In the southern hemisphere it falls in the beginning of the autumn, but since the Jewish world is centered on the Land of Israel and Jerusalem, Pesach is always thought of as being the holiday of the springtime. Spring is a time of warmth and renewal of beauty and fragrance. There is a special blessing that the rabbis composed...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

JEWISH POPES

There have been persistent legends circulated in the Jewish world over the centuries about the fact that certain Jews who either posed as Christian converts or were actually converted, rose to become pope. There was an excellent book written about the subject a number of decades ago entitled <i>Three Jewish Popes.</i> Alas, none of the legends have ever been authenticated. There is one favorite...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

SHABAT AND PESACH

As we are all aware, this year erev Pesach, the day before the holiday and the Seder, falls on Shabat. This phenomenon occurs at irregular intervals within the confines of the Jewish calendar. Sometimes, it comes every four or five years as it has during the last few decades and as it will occur again in this decade, and then at times it does not occur for many years. In any event, whenever it...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

SUCCESSFUL SUCCESSIONS

In the Orthodox Jewish world today there are a number of unfortunate struggles over dynastic successions. Some are in the Chasidic world - especially when a rebbe passes away leaving no son to succeed him. Others are in the yeshiva world, where competing members of the former rosh yeshiva's family each feel entitled to assume the role of leadership in the yeshiva. That these struggles bring very...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

PESACH FOODS

One of my fondest and earliest memories of Pesach is eating matzo smeared with chicken fat for breakfast. Cholesterol heaven! In our home, when I was a small child there were no dairy products present in the house for the entire Pesach holiday. We ate chicken, meat, matzo and potatoes, with carrots thrown in for variety, all eight days of Pesach. (Remember that I did not live in Israel during my...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

JEWISH MAIL

In the ancient world and through the period of the Middle Ages there were couriers who risked their lives to deliver letters and messages to far-flung outposts. Diplomatic pouches and their carriers date back at least a millennium and the beginnings of a modern postal system existed in England in the seventeenth century with the advent of postage stamps, and official postal authorities arose in...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein

SCRIBES

One of the most honored professions in Jewish life is being a scribe: a sofer. It has been the profession of many great men in Jewish history, chief among them the great Ezra who succeeded in rebuilding the Second Commonwealth and Temple. The word sofer in Hebrew literally means "one who counts." Since a scribe in essence "counts" the holy letters and words of the Torah as he writes them, the...

Posted in:
In My Opinion
by
Rabbi Berel Wein