It’s the time of the year when we begin to talk about oil. Not just the kind that heats homes, but the kind that burned in the Tabernacle of the Temple—that is, olive oil.
Lecha Dodi // According to tradition, Mordechai led the way. When the day was expiring, he emerged from his house in white garments. The cares of the working week fell away, and he prepared with discreet joy for the Sabbath. His hair, just visible under his head covering, would be moist from immersion in the ritual bath.
Full disclosure: I am not a biblical or Talmudic scholar. As a professor of literature, I have taught selections from the Bible in humanities courses. I think of myself as a secular humanist and an agnostic interested in understanding the role of religion in the lives of millions of people.
French anti-Semitism, c’est une vieille histoire. True, following the Revolution, les Juifs were liberated from their ghettos. True, the Jewish Leon Blum was elected prime minister of France during the late 1930s. And true, except for the United States and Israel, no other country contains so many Jews—some 600,000 according to the latest statistics.
Be wary of historical fiction, especially if it’s good. It will forever mix up in your mind what actually happened, or what we can be fairly certain happened, with the inventions of playwrights and novelists, whose aim might be to draw a deeper meaning from events than mere facts can provide, but who do some violence to those puny facts.
Today, the Palestinian enclave of Gaza is known as a flashpoint for conflict that far eclipses its minuscule size. At 140 square miles—sharing an eight-mile frontier with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and hugging Israel’s border for nearly 32 miles—the sliver of desert is only twice the area of the District of Columbia.
A teenager with a big smile grins at the camera. Another waves his hand and keeps moving to stay in the picture. A bearded man is helped down the stairs of a building as groups of young and old crowd the streets of a small town, all anxious to be a part of this remarkable movie.