Friday, February 27, 2015

Pesach Watch 2015 Begins!

How Can You Tell When Pesach is Coming?  Yes, Abq Jew covered this exciting event last year (see Pesach 2014 Begins!) and the year before (see Pesach Watch 2013 Begins!), as well as in the now classic 2012 blog post Pesach Watch Begins!

In any event, Abq Jew is here to tell you that Pesach is indeed coming again this year!  How can you be sure?

Here are two signs that Pesach is coming:

1. The first Albuquerque sighting of Pesach food is reported. 

This year it was Abq Jew himself who discovered on Thursday February 26 (Adar 7) that the Whole Foods on Wyoming has a modest display of Passover items.

That's one whole week before Purim. But it's a week later than the ShopRite in Livingston, New Jersey, which drops Abq's Pesachdikity a few points from last year.

Last year (2014) it was Moreen Siegel of Congregation B'nai Israel who told Abq Jew after Shabbat services on March 1 (29 Adar 1) that the Albertson's at Montogmery and San Mateo had displayed some Passover items.

In 2013, it was Rabbi Arthur Flicker of Congregation B'nai Israel, who emailed Abq Jew on February 12 (Adar 2) with the news that the Smith's at Constituion and Carlisle has started to assemble what in past years has become (thanks to Rabbi Flicker's efforts) the Mother Lode of Passover Food.

In 2012, the first sighting took place on February 27 (Adar 4). 

2. Abq Jew opens up his Pesach Watch page.

Please help your Jewish community!
Email, call, or Fan Wall (see The Abq Jew App) Abq Jew
and let him know where you have spotted Pesachdik food.
Then Abq Jew will let everyone know!

Synagogues and Jewish organizations!
Please make sure Abq Jew's new
New Mexico Seder Roundup 
is complete!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

God and the World: Are We in Conflict?

Interfaith Spring Colloquium:  Jewish Christian Dialogue of New Mexico presents its 22nd Annual Interfaith Spring Colloquium on Sunday, March 8, 2015. The Colloquium will be held at Congregation B'nai Israel, 4401 Indian School Rd. NE in Albuquerque.

The Jewish Christian Dialogue Presents
22nd Annual Interfaith Colloquium
God and the World:
Are We in Conflict?
Congregation B'nai Israel
Sunday, March 8, 2015
1:00 - 5:30 pm

Speakers will include
  • Rabbi Jack Shlachter, who serves as a rabbi at HaMakom, The Place for Passionate and Progressive Judaism in Santa Fe, and is also a physicist working at Los Alamos National Laboratories. 
  • Sister Joan Brown, osf, a Catholic Franciscan sister who serves as the Executive Director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, an organization that works with all faith communities to address climate change and sustainability.
Topics to be considered include:
  • What do our faith traditions tell us about caring for the Earth and the environment?
  • How do we interpret this passage from Genesis 1:28 today?  "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it."
  • As individuals, what roles do love and moral values play in better living in harmony with our world and fellow human beings?
  • What do our Scriptures have to say to us about the advancement of technologies, the protection of the environment and the treatment of our fellow human beings?
The registration fee for the Colloquium of $30 includes snacks and high tea. Students can attend for $15. Register online with a credit card at

In case you missed the story, CBS News (et al) reported Tuesday:
Trapped manatees rescued from drainage pipe 
SATELLITE BEACH, Fla. - Rescue workers and animal experts lifted 19 manatees from the Satellite Beach storm drain system in an operation that lasted from Monday afternoon into early Tuesday.
The workers used earth-moving equipment -- and a gentle touch. 
All the rescued manatees were released back into the wild. 
Officials said some 11 others apparently got out on their own. 
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission marine biologist Ann Spellman said she was acting on a hunch when she called city workers and asked them to check the drainage pipes Monday. 
You can read the rest of the story here, and watch the accompanying video here.

Abq Jew firmly believes that

This is exactly what the Holy One, Blessed Be He
had in mind 
when He said (in the continuation of Genesis 1:28) 
וּרְדוּ בִּדְגַת הַיָּם, וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם, וּבְכָל-חַיָּה, הָרֹמֶשֶׂת עַל-הָאָרֶץ
and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over
the fowl of the air, and over every living thing
that creeps upon the earth.
No, He wasn't thinking about coyote killing contests.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Interesting Jewish Sundays Leads Off

Henry Kissinger on First: The Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque introduces its new Sunday Afternoon Jewish Interest Series.

Henry Kissinger 
in conversation with Richard Haas
(Recorded: 92nd St Y Fall 2014)
Albuquerque JCC
Sunday March 1 ~ 2:00 pm

Henry Kissinger has traveled the world, advised presidents and been a close observer and participant in the central foreign policy events of our era.

His new book, World Order, analyses today’s ultimate challenge: how to build a shared international order in a world of divergent historic perspectives, violent conflict, proliferating technology and ideological extremism.

The Nobel laureate draws on his deep study of history and experience as national security adviser and secretary of state to share profound and urgently needed insights into the roots of international harmony and global disorder.

There is no charge for this series.  
We ask that you bring non-perishable food items to donate
to the food bank and/or diapers of any size from infant to adult
to donate to the Diaper Bank of NM. 

Appreciated to provide ample seating
Phyllis Wolf (505) 348-4500 
Sarah Friedland (505) 348-4518

Upcoming events in the Sunday Afternoon
Jewish Interest Series include:

Friday, February 20, 2015

Washington and The Jews

And The Jim Kweskin Jug Band: George Washington's parents (Augustine and Mary Ball Washington) celebrated his first birthday on February 11, 1732.
Note: Washington was born on February 11, 1731; when the Gregorian calendar was implemented in the British Empire in 1752, in accordance with the provisions of the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750, his birth date became February 22, 1732.
We Americans have celebrated Washington's Birthday as a Federal Holiday since 1879. But, as Wikipedia tells us,
On January 1, 1971, the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.  This date places it between February 15 and 21, which makes the name "Washington's Birthday" in some sense a misnomer, since it never occurs on Washington's actual birthday, either February 11 (Old Style), or February 22 (New Style).
To include Abraham Lincoln's Birthday (never celebrated as a national holiday) in the February festivities, Americans have informally renamed Washington's Birthday "Presidents Day," aka President's Day and Presidents' Day.
Note: Because "Presidents' Day" is not the official name of the federal holiday, there is variation in how it is rendered, both in the name of official state holidays and colloquially. Both "Presidents Day" and "Presidents' Day" are common today, and both are considered correct by dictionaries and usage manuals. "Presidents' Day" was once the predominant style, and it is still favored by leading authorities, notably, The Chicago Manual of Style, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Webster's Third International Dictionary, and Garner's Modern American Usage. In recent years, as the use of attributive nouns (nouns acting as modifiers) has become more widespread, the popularity of "Presidents Day" has increased. This style is favored by the Associated Press Stylebook (followed by most newspapers and some magazines) and the Writer's Digest Grammar Desk Reference (ISBN 978-1582973357).
In New Mexico, Abq Jew was surprised to learn, Presidents' Day, at least as a state-government paid holiday, is observed on the Friday following Thanksgiving.

Washington began his working life as a surveyor, then switched to the military. After some success in that field, he entered his third career, government.

A mere 160 years (1790) before Abq Jew's Birthday,Washington wrote a famous Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island.

The Letter contains the celebrated clause
to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance
and ends with the felicitous wishes
May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid. 
May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.
So let's talk about Valley Forge (it's going to come up later). Wikipedia tells us:
Valley Forge in Pennsylvania was the site of the military camp of the American Continental Army over the winter of 1777–1778 during the American Revolutionary War. It is approximately 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Starvation, disease, malnutrition, and exposure killed nearly 2,500 American soldiers by the end of February 1778.
That was, coincidentally, during the period known as the Little Ice Age.

This concludes the serious portion of this blog post.

This brings us, of course, to Jim Kweskin and his Jug Band. Kweskin's website tells us
There has never been another group like Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band. The original "Americana" band, playing everything from classic blues to hillbilly country, ragtime, jazz, and rock 'n' roll, they perfectly captured the legendary 1960s mix of exuberant anarchy and heartfelt sincerity. 
Their imitators were legion, including a San Francisco jug band that became the Grateful Dead and a New York jug band that became the Lovin' Spoonful, but no other group attained their unique blend of youthful energy and antiquarian expertise, tight musicianship, loose camaraderie, and infectious swing.
Jim Kweskin, Wikipedia tells us, was born on July 18, 1940, a mere one month and 10 years before Abq Jew's Birthday. Kweskin's Birthday, like Lincoln's Birthday, has never been celebrated as a national holiday.

Nevertheless, when Abq Jew founded the Motherhood & Apple Pie Skiffle Band a mere 47 years ago (1968), it was the Jim Kweskin Jug Band that he modeled his group after.

In keeping with the theme of the day, here is Washington at Valley Forge, a favorite of both the Jug Band and the Skiffle Band.

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
Happy Washington's Birthday, USA!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A New Milestone: 300,006 Page Views

To Life! To Life! L'Chaim!  On February 18, 2015, at 5:27 pm New Mexico (Mountain) Time, this Abq Jew Blog achieved 300,006 All Time Page Views.

We achieved 252,754 All Time Page Views
on October 1, 2014 - about 4½ months ago.
That's about 336 Page Views per Day.
Plus 3,078 Facebook Likes and 1,678 Twitter Followers.
Thank you!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jewish Life in Europe Today

Crisis or Revival? The UNM International Studies Institute is pleased to introduce its 2015 inaugural lecture in Contemporary Jewish Studies. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Michael Brenner
Jewish Life in Europe Today:Crisis or Revival?
Keller (Popejoy) Hall
Friday February 27 2015
Reception 9:30 am  ~  Lecture 10:00 am

The first speaker will be Michael Brenner, Professor of Jewish History and Culture, University of Munich, Germany; and Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies, American University.

Jews in today's Europe face numerous new challenges: the rise of extreme right-wing populist parties, a mixture of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism among radical Islamists, and diminishing awareness of the Holocaust among the younger generation.

Some communities experience existential threats and an exodus of their members. Yet, other communities are flourishing. This lecture will show both crisis and revival of European Jewry in our generation.

For further information, please contact 
the International Studies Institute at (505) 277-1991. 

This Lecture Series is supported in part by a grant 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Old Time Taxes

Shabbat Shekalim Reminds Us: Last Shabbat we were commanded and privileged to read Parshat Mishpatim, which (as Abq Jew now recalls) describes all (well ... many) of God's laws that we would have thought of on our own, if we had just thought about the central issue of Jewish Law:

How To Live in Society

As Abq Jew pointed out back in June 2014 (see Statutes and Ordinances)"
The Rabbis taught in a baraita (an outside-the-Mishna law from the same era) that a mishpat is a commandment that we would have figured out even if the Torah had not commanded it. Examples include the laws about murder, rape, pillage, and similar inappropriate behavior. 
But a hok is a commandment that we never, ever could have figured out by ourselves, because it (mostly) doesn't make sense. Examples include the laws about shatnez (can't wear linsey-woolsey), halitzah (get out of marrying your sister-in-law after your brother is Photoshopped out of the picture), and similar mishegas (that's a technical term).
Now, we all know that there are two things that every person living on earth must do -

Die and pay taxes.
Not necessarily in that order.

Which is where Shabbat Shekalim comes in.

Shabbat Shekalim reminds us
that it's time to pay the Temple Tax.

The Torah really makes it really easy for us.

Remember the old joke about the two-step 1040-EZ form?
1. How much money did you make last year?
2. Send it in.
Well, the Torah simply commands us - every one of us - to pay half a shekel toward ... what, exactly? Hang on - we'll get there.

But first - the words of the Torah.

הֶעָשִׁיר לֹא-יַרְבֶּה וְהַדַּל לֹא יַמְעִיט מִמַּחֲצִית הַשָּׁקֶל
The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than the half shekel

Where, thinks Abq Jew, do these people live? Should not the pasuk read

הַדַּל לֹא-יַרְבֶּה וְהַהֶעָשִׁיר לֹא יַמְעִיט מִמַּחֲצִית הַשָּׁקֶל
The poor shall not give more and the rich shall not give less than the half shekel

Too political? OK ... the next question Abq Jew hears you ask is

Just how much is half a shekel, anyway?

To get the answer, we look at Masechet [Tractate] Shekalim of the new Noe Edition of the Koren Steinsaltz Talmud.(see The Talmud @ A Taste of Honey), where we learn
The shekel was a coin worth about half a sela, or two dinars. It was apparently called by this name because it was equal in value to the amount that each person was obligated to donate to the Temple each year, which is half of a shekel of the Torah, the sacred shekel, worth four dinars.
That pretty much clears it up, don't you think?

Chabad's Rabbi Eliezer Posner tells us:
Maimonides writes (Laws of Shekalim 1:5) that the half shekel mentioned in the Torah – the annual tithe every Jew was required to give to the Temple coffers – is equal to 160 grains of barley, which, in modern measurements, would be approximately eight grams of silver. 
It is impossible to know silver's value in biblical times. At today's rate of approximately 17 US dollars per ounce, 8 grams of silver is around five dollars.
The Jewish Virtual Library points out:
In establishing the value of the shekel there is an additional complication in that the Bible mentions at least three kinds of shekels: in Genesis 23:16, a shekel of silver "at the going merchant's rate [over la-socher]; in Exodus 30:13, "shekel by the sanctuary weight [ha-kodesh]"; and in II Samuel 14:26, "shekels by the king's stone [b'even ha-melech]," that is, shekels stamped by the royal treasury as proof that they are perfect. 
It cannot be determined whether these shekels were equivalent in value, but on the basis of evidence from external sources, it appears that there were differences between them.
But the important thing is that

The Temple Tax is due and payable by the 1st of Nisan.

Now (returning to the question Abq Jew posed earlier), what were these shekels used for? Why, for upkeep on the Temple property, of course. And for "the acquisition of communal offerings" - you know, animals for the sacrifices. What? You thought they were free?

And returning to Masechet Shekalim of the new Noe Edition of the Koren Steinsaltz Talmud, we discover that - in addition to the proclamation that the Temple tax is due - lots of other things kicked in at the beginning of Adar.
  1. Roads and cisterns that had been damaged during the winter had to be repaired.
  2. Diverse kinds of food crops in gardens and fields had to be uprooted.
  3. Grave markers that had eroded during the rainy season had to be replaced.
What was that middle thing, again?

Diverse kinds of food crops in gardens and fields
had to be uprooted.

Yep. Remember what Abq Jew said about shatnez (see Autumn, Red, Linen and Wool)? It turns out that shatnez (linsey-woolsey) is just one example of

Two things that just don't belong together.

The Jewish Virtual Library explains the two pasukim that form the prohibition (כִּלְאַיִם; kilayim) against mixed species thusly:
Leviticus 19:19 states: "Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind; thou shalt not sow thy field with two kinds of seed; neither shall there come upon thee a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together." 
Deuteronomy 22:9–11 states: "Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with two kinds of seed; lest the fulness of the seed which thou hast sown be forfeited together with the increase of the vineyard. Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together. Thou shalt not wear a mingled stuff, wool and linen together." 
From these two passages the sages deduced six types of mixing of species which are forbidden: the mixing of seeds; the grafting of different species of trees and vegetables; the mixing of seed in a vineyard; the hybridization of domestic and wild animals; plowing or driving with domestic or non-domestic animals of different species; and the mixing of wool and linen (*sha'atnez).
Did they really have Crop Police? Agents of the court who would
go out to inspect the fields for diverse kinds of food crops, to determine whether or not the farmers had in fact uprooted these seeds ...? 
Yes , they did.

In fact, the Mishna tells us:
If the agents of the court found that these diverse kinds had not been uprooted, they themselves would uproot them.

What do we learn from all this?

That it is possible to study certain tractates of the Mishna and Talmud without ever thinking about God or The Meaning of Life (see A New Milestone: 42K+42).

And yet.

Abq Jew firmly believes that

The purpose of the Torah, Talmud, and Jewish Law
is to teach us to distinguish between Right and Wrong.

But that is often a difficult task; there are many more than 50 Shades of Grey.

Therefore, God starts us out with simpler things; telling the difference between the Sabbath Day and the days of the week; milk and meat; linen and wool -

and kinds of seeds.