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The Darker Side of Purim Graggers

It’s every Jewish kid’s favourite activity: each year on Purim, while the megillah is being read, we gleefully shake our graggers and shout aloud, drowning out the name of Haman. Haman (yimach sh’mo – may his name be erased) is, of course, the bad guy of the Purim story. The perennial enemy; the face of…

The Need for Rest: What We Can Learn From the Land

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’m so busy! I can’t take a break or else I’ll never catch up.” It’s a universal concern – we’ve all felt that way at one time or another. This week’s parashah addresses this issue – only it’s not talking (directly) about people, but rather about land. “Six years…

“The Earth God Has Given” – Blessings as Mindfulness and Gratitude

The practice of saying blessings is very ancient in Judaism. In this Talmudic text, the sage Rabbi Levi gives a beautiful explanation and meaning for the practice: Rabbi Levi raised a contradiction between two texts in the Psalms: On the one hand, it is written: “The earth and all it contains belongs to the Eternal”…

The Unity of All Things: Shabbat with Spinoza

Sometime in the mid 1600s, the young philosopher Baruch Spinoza – recently excommunicated from the Jewish community for his “radical” ideas – wrote about what is fleeting vs. what is lasting. Here are his words (much excerpted): Most things people think to be the highest good may be reduced to these three: wealth, honour, and…

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