Who Was Moses Hess? Originally Published January 15-16, 2021.

Moses Hess (originally Moritz Hess), was born on January 21, 1812, in Bonn, Germany, and passed away on April 6, 1875, in Paris, France.  Along the way, this journalist, philosopher, and early modern Zionist influenced Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Theodor Herzl, and many others in important ways.  Hess’ first work published was The Holy Read More…

What Is a Gittith? Who Was Asaph? Originally Published January 8-9, 2021.

Psalm 81 (which is also the Psalm of the Day for Thursday) begins: לַמְנַצֵּ֬חַ ׀ עַֽל־הַגִּתִּ֬ית לְאָסָֽף׃   For the leader; on the gittith. Of Asaph. Many Psalms have “incipits” such as this (opening notes) which scholars believe indicate musical annotations.  Other Psalms mention the gittith, as well.  Just a note – English dictionaries use Read More…

Who Was Serah? Originally Published January 1-2, 2021.

Serah (שֶׂרַח בַּת אָשֵׁר) was the daughter of Asher, who was a son of Jacob.  We read about her briefly last week, in Vayiggash (Genesis 46:17), as we read the names of Jacob’s 53 grandsons and this one granddaughter being among the 70 to be transported to Egypt. Interestingly enough, we read about her again Read More…

Who Was Ephraim? And Why Were His Bones Fused? Originally Published December 25-26, 2020.

Ephraim (אֶפְרַיִם) was the younger brother of Manasseh, and they were the sons of Joseph and Asenath, who was given to Joseph as a gift from Pharoah.  In Genesis 48:13 et seq., when Jacob finally gets to see Joseph (and I use the term broadly, as Jacob’s eyes were dim by that point – something Read More…

What Is Targum? Originally Published December 18-19, 2020.

“Targum” (תַּרְגּוּם) is Aramaic for interpretation, translation, or version.  Originally referring to a spoken translation of Tanakh into the language of the listeners, made by a meturgeman (מְתוּרגְמָן), a translator, Targum, the practice of delivering Scripture to the masses in their (our) own language, began around the end of the first century BCE.  Word has Read More…

Who Was Hirsz Mojżesz Wonsal? Originally Published December 11-12, 2020.

Born on December 12, 1881, in Krasnosielc, Poland, this fellow would later be known as Harry Warner, one of nine children born to Benjamin Abraham and Pearl Wonsal (later Warner).  Harry was the eldest of the four brothers – with Albert (1883-1967, born in Baltimore), Sam (1884-1927, born in London, Ontario), and eventually Jack (1892-1978, Read More…

How Many Years Will Noam Chomsky Celebrate on December 7th? Originally Published December 4-5, 2020.

Avram Noam Chomsky was born on December 7th in 1928 in the East Oak Lane neighborhood of Philadelphia (generally pronounced by locals as O’Clane) to Ze’ev “William” and Elsie (Simonofsky) Chomsky.  Having fled Russia to Baltimore in 1913, Ze’ev did manual labor and worked in Hebrew elementary schools before attending college and thereafter moving to Read More…

Why Celebrate Baruch Spinoza’s Birthday November 24th? Originally Published November 25-28, 2020.

Baruch Spinoza was born in 1632 to a Portuguese Sephardi family living in Amsterdam, and would become one of the earliest philosophers of the Enlightenment. He is well worth celebrating on his birthday, though not without controversy. Raised in the Amsterdam Jewish community, Spinoza had to stop his studies of Talmud to join the family Read More…

What Is Kiddush Levanah? Originally Published November 20-21, 2020.

There is a Yiddish song, “Sheyn Vi Di Levone,” “Nice Like the Moon,” and your correspondent has been singing it (the Lainie Kazan version) since learning about Kiddush Levanah.  One is a love song, and the other is an ancient practice. In terms of the religious practice, we recite Kiddush Levanah every month as the Read More…

What U.S. Supreme Court Justice Descended from Rabbis? Originally Published November 13-14, 2020.

For at least three centuries, members of the Frankfurter family had been rabbis.  Yet, after Felix Frankfurter’s father Samuel visited the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, he decided to move the family to America (to the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and he became a fur trader.  Young Felix had been born in Vienna, Austria, Read More…