Friday, February 26, 2010

Chag Purim Sameach

This last-minute-before-Shabbat Purim mini-message brought to you from the Windows & Doors blog:
Purim 2010 (5770) begins Saturday night and it's a serious party. Think socially responsible Mardi Gras and you begin to get the picture.
Rabbi Hirschfield goes on to list the four essential ingredients of Purim:
  1. Reading/hearing the megillah (hopefully you'll take time out to go do this on Sunday!).
  2. Giving gifts to the poor (consider making a donation to Chevra!).
  3. Mishloach Manot, giving food gifts to friends and neighbors (don't forget to check the hechsher for your Jewish friends!).
  4. The Seudah, or festive meal.
If you haven't already, make sure to work these essentials into your schedule for Sunday. Party responsibly, kids--and Chag Purim Sameach!

Friday, February 19, 2010

J-BOM is coming!

If you keep up with other Messianic blogs, then you've probably already heard of the Jewish Book of the Month Club (J-BOM), a new Jewish learning project started by Derek Leman.

If you read Gathering Sparks, then you're just the type of person who would benefit from participating--or even starting up a study group at your shul or church!

I'm going to be doing all of the above, as well as blogging about interesting things that I learn along the way. (Not to mention building up the Jewish section of my personal library with some quality selections!)

J-BOM starts this coming month (March).
The first book is The JPS Commentary on the Haggadah.

You can buy it from (probably the cheapest option), or you can take advantage of a special offer JPS made to Derek especially for this program and get 30% off list price by ordering from JPS directly.

Other blogs which will also be participating include:
So go ahead, order The JPS Commentary on the Haggadah and prepare for a Jewish learning explosion*!

* OK, so that was a cheesy word play on the whole J-BOM thing. You got me. Have a good Shabbos...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Be Happy! Adar is here...

From Halocho A Day:
One increases joy when Adar begins because Adar and (next month) Nissan historically have been full of miracles, including the redemption from Egypt and (nearly a millennium later) the miracle of Purim.

Adar is considered an auspicious month for the Jews.

Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 141:1

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jewish Bloggers Discuss Augustine

Last fall I read Paula Frederiksen's book Augustine and the Jews. One of the reasons Augustine stands out in early church history is because we have so much of his writing, much of which was highly introspective. Because of this, we can actually trace the development of Augustine's thinking on a particular subject over the course of his life. In Augustine and the Jews, Paula Frederiksen does just that, as she attempts to show that Augustine developed an innovative Christian theology of the Jewish people which, though it would certainly be judged anti-Semitic by today's standards, was actually far better than the existing theologies of the Jewish people (developed by John Chrysostom, for example).

I really enjoyed Frederiksen's book; her close reading of Augustine really opened up the exciting possibilities in studying primary sources from the early church period for me.

So I was interested to discover that several of my favorite Jewish bloggers were talking about Augustine and Frederiksen's book. Here are a few quotes:

From Kvetching Editor:
Should Jews thank the church?

. . . Augustine's philosophy, although really, incredibly backhanded, was that Jews survive and should survive throughout all time until the End of Days in order that they serve as evidence to Christianity's truth. By Jewish survival, Jewish books survive, and, according to Augustine, it is Jews and their books that provide a walking, talking, breathing witness to the truth of Christianity -- that the church fathers didn't just "make it up." Jews and Judaism were not a challenge to Christianity, insisted Augustine, but a witness to it!

. . . Is it Augustine's (REALLY BACKHANDED) doctrine that has allowed the world to not completely destroy Jews and Judaism?
From Dovbear:
John Chrysostom, was from the "kill them all "school. During his remarkable career as a preacher of violence against the Jews, he put it this way: "When animals are unfit for work they are marked for slaughter, and this is the very thing which the Jews have experienced. By making themselves unfit for work, they have become ready for slaughter."

Augustine, disagreed, and lucky for us, his view won the day. Basing himself on a proof-text found in Psalm 59.11, he argued that the Jews should be kept alive, in a demoralized and decrepit state, to serve as proof that God had rejected them. His model was Cain, a type for the Jews, who had murdered Able, a type for Jesus, and was likewise made into a despised wanderer as punishment.
Check out the full discussions!