Friday, January 31, 2014

The Talmud @ A Taste of Honey

A Page (or Two): Brush up your Aramaic! It's time to learn Talmud!

To help get you started, here is how one Talmud page (Shekalim 2a) appears in almost every edition of the Talmud published since the Vilna Edition in 1835.

What, exactly, is Talmud? The Orthodox Union definesTalmud as:
Repository of "Oral Law" of Judaism; consists of Mishnah and Gemara. 
There exist two versions: the Babylonian, or "Bavli" (this is the most frequently used version) and the Jerusalem, or "Yerushalmi." It is similar to an encyclopaedia, but with by no means as strict a structure. 
It consists of sixty three "Masechtot," or volumes, such as "Berachot," or "Blessings and Prayers," and "Sanhedrin," or "The Jewish Supreme Court," etc. 
It was written/compiled by Rav Ashi and his colleagues ca. 500 C.E., preserving generations of analysis and discussion by "Amoraim" of the more concise Mishnah, which contains the discussions of the "Tannaim". 
It also contains extra-legal and anecdotal material relating to all aspects of life. It is similar, in breadth and organization and random-access type memory organization, to the Internet and world-wide web, but is far deeper and qualitatively not comparable. 
It is referred to as the "Sea of the Talmud."
How important is Talmud study? The Jewish Virtual Library says:
Among religious Jews, talmudic scholars are regarded with the same awe and respect with which secular society regards Nobel laureates. Yet throughout Jewish history, study of the Mishna and Talmud was hardly restricted to an intellectual elite. 
An old book saved from the millions burned by the Nazis, and now housed at the YIVO library in New York, bears the stamp 
The Society of Woodchoppers for the Study of Mishna in Berditchev
That the men who chopped wood in Berditchev, an arduous job that required no literacy, met regularly to study Jewish law demonstrates the ongoing pervasiveness of study of the Oral Law in the Jewish community.
And Abq Jew says:

Judaism is a civilization; Talmud defines that civilization.
When you study Jewish history and language,
music and literature, you learn about Judaism.
When you study Talmud, you learn Judaism.

To study Talmud properly, you must first of all  be able to read Hebrew and Aramaic (a bit of Greek wouldn't hurt, either) - in standard Hebrew print and in Rashi script. And you must be extremely well-versed in the Bible - Torah, Prophets, and Writings.

Furthermore - like the sea, like the Internet - Talmud has no beginning and no end. Whatever masechet (volume) you are studying, Talmud assumes you have complete and thorough knowledge of every other masechet.

At least, that's the old way of studying Talmud.

It will always be true that the more background you bring to Talmud study, the deeper your learning.

But you can now study Talmud in English. And you can study Talmud by yourself, and not with a chavrusa (partner) - although that is not recommended.

Here, for example, is how the Talmud page shown above (Shekalim 2a) is displayed in the new Noe Edition of the Koren Steinsaltz Talmud.

Talmud aficionado Marc Yellin (aka Abq Jew) presents a one-hour session that explains all the Talmud. Or, all the Talmud that can be explained in a one-hour session. Of which Abq Jew says:
Welcome to the world of Talmud study. Learn what is on each page, where the components are, and why they are there. Discover key concepts, terminology, and methodologies. Identify the major Talmud portions you should know. No previous knowledge of Hebrew or the Talmud is required.

If this fascinating topic is simply not your cup of tea ....
A Taste of Honey has 19 more very interesting classes to choose from ....
Plus author Judith Fein!

See you at

And don't forget

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!
Happy Rosh Hodesh Adar א, Israel!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pew and Jew @ A Taste of Honey

The Recent Survey and What It Means: Abq Jew doesn't say this too often, but:

Let's get serious. 

Abq Jew has humorously covered The Pew Research Center's recently published A Portrait of Jewish Americans (see Laughing at Pew and Laughing at Pew 2). 

But the Portrait has serious implications for Jewish life - in all of North America, and certainly here in New Mexico.

The Pew Research Center tells us:
Jews tend to be less religious than the U.S. public as a whole, with fewer saying they attend religious services weekly, believe in God with absolute certainty, or that religion is very important in their lives. 
The Pew Research Center’s landmark new survey of American Jews found that overall, about six-in-ten (62%) say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture, while just 15% say it’s mainly a matter of religion. (The rest cited some combination of religion, ancestry and/or culture.)
Is that enough to keep the Jewish enterprise in business?

Sam Sokolove, Steve Barberio, Rabbi Min Kantrowitz, and Sara Koplik present their views of what what the Pew survey means for New Mexijews. These presenters say:
The Pew Research Center’s survey on U.S. Jews — the first comprehensive portrait of American Jewry in more than a decade – reveals: 
31 percent of Jewish adults affiliate with  a synagogue; one-third of Jews under age 32 don’t identify as Jewish by religion; U.S.  Jews are intermarrying at a rate of 60%; and that most intermarried Jews are not raising their kids as Jews. 
This conversation with “frontline” community leaders will examine the implications of these national trends in Jewish New Mexico, and what is being done locall  to address shifting issues of Jewish identity and affiliation. 

If this fascinating topic is simply not your cup of tea ....
A Taste of Honey has 19 more very interesting classes to choose from ....
Plus author Judith Fein!

See you at

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Husbands and Wives

Shalom Bayit (Peace at Home). You may have noticed by now that Abq Jew is a stickler for correct spelling, impeccable grammar, and proper English usage in strict accordance with the work of Henry Watson Fowler. Or maybe not.

It is thus difficult for Abq Jew to admit that he had a hard time describing his favorite pasuk in Parshat Mishpatim (see Writing Down the Laws).

The first clause of the pasuk was easy:

.אִם-בְּגַפּוֹ יָבֹא, בְּגַפּוֹ יֵצֵא
If a man came with a coat, he should leave with his coat.
The foundation of the entire coat (and hat) check industry.

The second clause, not so much:

.אִם-בַּעַל אִשָּׁה הוּא, וְיָצְאָה אִשְׁתּוֹ עִמּוֹ
If a man is married, his wife should go out with him.
The fundamental law for husbands - go out with you wife after Shabbos!

Here, Abq Jew struggled with
  1. Husbands should go out with their wife ... which some might think suggests polyandry.
  2. Husbands should go out with their wives ... which some might think suggests polygamy.
As shown above, Abq Jew decided to skirt the entire issue and go for an alternative (not alternate; see Word Girl) but still imperfect wording.

Our Torah does not put much stock in polyandry, and doesn't really deal with it. (The case of levirate marriage cannot reasonably be considered polyandry.) But the Torah clearly permits polygamy.

But the Torah does not exactly promote polygamy. In fact, our Torah shows - particularly in the stories of Abraham (Sarah and Hagar) and Jacob (Rachel and Leah and Bilhah and Zilpah) - just how well [not!] polygamy worked for our ancestors.

So why does Judaism not permit polygamy today? Two reasons are traditionally offered.

1. Rabbenu Gershom, Meor HaGolah

Who, Abq Jew hears you ask, was Rabbenu Gershom? Wikipedia tells us:
Gershom ben Judah, (c. 960 -1040? -1028?) best known as Rabbeinu Gershom (Hebrew: רבנו גרשום‎, "Our teacher Gershom") and also commonly known to scholars of Judaism by the title Rabbeinu Gershom Me'Or Hagolah ("Our teacher Gershom the light of the exile"), was a famous Talmudist and Halakhist.  
Rashi [yes, our Rashi] of Troyes (d. 1105) said less than a century after Gershom's death,"all members of the Ashkenazi diaspora are students of his." As early as the 14th century Asher ben Jehiel wrote that Rabbeinu Gershom's writings were "such permanent fixtures that they may well have been handed down on Mount Sinai."  
He is most famous for the synod he called around 1000 CE, in which he instituted various laws and bans, including prohibiting polygamy, requiring the consent of both parties to a divorce, modifying the rules concerning those who became apostates under compulsion, and prohibiting the opening of correspondence addressed to someone else.
There are two very interesting things about Rabbenu Gershom's polygamy ban:
  1. The ban was only intended for and accepted by the Ashkenazic community, and not for and by the Sephardic community.
  2. The ban was only until "the end of the millennium." That is, until the year 5000 - according to our Hebrew calendar. Hint: we are now in the year 5774.
So now, Rabbenu Gershom's polygamy ban is little more than a custom. But then there is

2. Dina D Malkhuta ("Dina")

At one time or another (also at one time and another), Dina D Malkhuta ("Dina") has lived in every Jewish community in the world. Sometimes we recognize her as the cop on the corner or the accountant in the corner office; other times she is invisible, and we belatedly perceive her presence only in the subpoenas and hearings that follow.
OK, this is just the type of thing that Abq Jew finds humorous. Dina d'malkhuta dina (the law of the land is the law) is a Rabbinic / Talmudic statement that states equivocally that Jews must observe the laws of wherever they live. What, you expected unequivocally?
The blog Jewish Treats explains:
“Dina d’malchuta dina,” the law of the land is the law, is a phrase repeated numerous times in the Talmud, and always attributed to the sage Samuel. According to Samuel, there is no question that a Jew must obey the laws of the land in which he/she resides... unless that law directly contradicts halacha (for instance a law ordering everyone to worship idols).  
In certain cases, the rabbis determined that certain rulers and their unfair and harsh laws were dangerous to the Jewish people, and therefore permitted the local Jews to "skirt the laws" or even to ignore them (such as the anti-Semitic decrees of the Russian Czars). In a country like the United States, however, there is no question that dina d’malchuta dina must be strictly observed.  
What does this mean? This means that being a law-abiding citizen is more that just one’s civic duty, it is one’s religious obligation as well. Taxes, civil law, even the “rules of the road” are our responsibility to uphold.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Mobster in the Family @ A Taste of Honey

Jewish Outlaws, Gangsters & Bandits: The Purple Gang, Wikipedia tells us, also known as the Sugar House Gang, was a mob of bootleggers and hijackers, with predominantly Jewish members. They operated out of Detroit, Michigan in the 1920s.

Boesky’s delicatessen on 12th and Hazelwood in Detroit, Nov. 24, 1937, after the fatal shooting of
gangster Harry Millman; “Millman’s death signaled the end of the Purple Gang as a force in organized
crime in Detroit.” From Robert A. Rockaway in Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
20.1 (2001) 113-130 (The Detroit News via Virtual Motor City collection, Wayne State University Library.)
The gang members were the children of immigrants from eastern Europe, primarily Russia and Poland, who had come to the United States in the great immigration wave from 1881 to 1914. The gang of boys were led by four brothers: Abe, Joe, Raymond and (Isadore) Izzy Bernstein, who had emigrated to Detroit from New York. 
They started off as petty thieves and shakedown artists, soon progressing to the more lucrative areas of crime such as armed robbery, extortion, and hijacking[disambiguation needed] under the tutelage of older neighborhood gangsters (Charles Leiter and Henry Shorr). They soon gained notoriety for their operations and savagery, and began to import gangsters from other American cities to work as "muscle" for the gang. 
The Purples soon became hijackers and gained a reputation for stealing the booze cargoes of the older and more established gangs.As their reputation of "terror" grew people began to fear them; Al Capone was against expanding his rackets in Detroit and began a business accommodation with the Purples in order to prevent a bloody war. 
For several years, the Purples managed the prosperous business of supplying Canadian whisky, Old Log Cabin, to the Capone organization in Chicago. 
The Purples were involved in various criminal enterprises. They were also involved in kidnapping other gangsters for ransom, which had become very popular during this era. They were reportedly suspected by the FBI to have been involved with the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.
And then there was Sammy “The Mustache” Norber, an associate of the Purple Gang.

Naomi Sandweiss wrote about  her husband's Great Uncle Sam for Tablet Magazine, and now presents her personal story of criminal Jews in her upcoming class at A Taste of Honey. Naomi says:
From Meyer Lansky to Bernie Madoff, some Jewish Americans followed illegal paths to the American dream. Meet Jewish gangsters, outlaws and mobsters. Consider the historical / social context of American Jews who pursued criminal careers.

If this fascinating topic is simply not your cup of tea ....
A Taste of Honey has 19 more very interesting classes to choose from ....
Plus author Judith Fein!

See you at

Friday, January 24, 2014

Writing Down the Laws

Parshat Mishpatim 2014: Has Abq Jew ever mentioned that Mishpatim is one of his favorite parshas? Unlike Beshalach or Yitro, it's got no complicated story line to follow. Just laws. Just laws.

My Jewish Learning says:
In this Torah portion, Moses details many of God's laws to the Israelites. These include laws about worshiping other gods, kashrut, business ethics, and treatment of animals.  God outlines the details of three holidays: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. God provides an angel to protect the Israelites from their enemies, and warns the Israelites not to worship other gods. Moses goes up to Mount Sinai to meet with God for 40 days and 40 nights, leaving Aaron and Hur in charge.
It's as if The Kadosh Baruch Hu (הקב״ה) said to Moses, "Let''s get down to tachlis, Moish. Just listen to Me. I'll tell you what you have to do." And after listening for a while, Moses said to G-d, "Wait a minute. Maybe I better write this all down."

And as for the laws - there are 53 (count 'em!) for your favorite darshan (sermonizer) to choose from. Abq Jew has his favorite pair, and they both come early (the third pasuk) in the parsha.

.אִם-בְּגַפּוֹ יָבֹא, בְּגַפּוֹ יֵצֵא
If a man came with a coat, he should leave with his coat.
The foundation of the entire coat (and hat) check industry.

.אִם-בַּעַל אִשָּׁה הוּא, וְיָצְאָה אִשְׁתּוֹ עִמּוֹ
If a man is married, his wife should go out with him.
The fundamental law for husbands - go out with you wife after Shabbos!

In other news: the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) and My Jewish Learning have announced their intention to merge, saying
The planned merger will allow the two organizations to increase revenues and grow readership through the formation of unified and expanded audience development, business development and fundraising teams. With more resources and greater reach, the combined entity will be able to expand and improve content and services to existing clients, readers and communities, and create new content and distribution mechanisms for engaging new readers.
Similarly, the American Hebrew Academy and Moment Magazine have formed a partnership, to be called AHA Moment.

OK ... Abq Jew made that one up. For which he apologizes.

But it's all Woody Allen's fault. Many years ago, Woody said that Commentary and Dissent magazines were going to merge and call the resulting entity ... wait for it ...


Which is no laughing matter. And while we're not laughing, Abq Jew must point out that Dawn Zimmer (see A Solemn Mess for Christie), the Hoboken mayor who spurred the latest Christie investigation, is indeed Jewish, as JTA reports.
A 2010 piece in the Hudson Reporter said the Unitarian-raised Zimmer and her husband, Stan Grossbard, agreed when they were dating to raise their children Jewish but that Zimmer felt uncomfortable converting just for marriage. 
However, a few years after their two sons (now 12 and 13) were born, Zimmer and Grossbard, who runs a family diamond-and-jewelry business, took an introduction to Judaism course at the Hoboken Synagogue. The family now sets aside Friday nights for family time. They are also frequent donors to the synagogue. 
We think it is safe to assume the governor will not make the guest list of Zimmer’s son’s upcoming bar mitzvah.
And while we're really, really not laughing, Abq Jew notes with concern that the owner of NOSH Jewish Delicatessen and Bakery in Nob Hill found a couple of anti-Semitic notes on her front door Thursday morning. Yes, the ADL and KOB were notified.

Still, the owner's response was

Show love. Everybody just needs to get along.

But back to Parshat Mishpatim. Everyone knows that Moshe Rabbenu wrote a book while he was on Mt Sinai (the mountain, not the hospital) ... actually, five books. How long could that have taken? Abq Jew hears you ask. Forty days and 40 nights?

Probably not. So what took so long? In addition to dictating the Written Law (Torah) to Moses, G-d also took the time to explain the Oral Law - what we know as the Mishna. Which eventually was also written down.

We are indeed the People of the Book(s), as this G-dcast video explains:

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

See you at

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Moments of Mussar @ A Taste of Honey

Balancing Our Lenses: The Mussar movement in Judaism, says the Jewish Virtual Library, is defined as the education of the individual toward strict ethical behavior in the spirit of halakhah.

Wikipedia tells us:
The Musar movement (also Mussar movement) is a Jewish ethical, educational and cultural movement that developed in the 19th century in Eastern Europe, particularly among Orthodox Lithuanian Jews. 
The Hebrew term Musar (מוּסַר), is from the book of Proverbs 1:2 meaning moral conduct, instruction or discipline. The term was used by the Musar movement to refer to efforts to further ethical and spiritual discipline. 
The Musar Movement made significant contributions to Musar literature and Jewish Ethics. 
And the Mussar Institute further explains:
Mussar is a path of contemplative practices and exercises that have evolved over the past thousand years to help an individual soul to pinpoint and then to break through the barriers that surround and obstruct the flow of inner light in our lives. 
Mussar is a treasury of techniques and understandings that offers immensely valuable guidance for the journey of our lives. 
The Jewish community spawned Mussar to help people overcome the inner obstacles that hinder them from living up to the laws and commandments - the mitzvot - that form the code of life. 
That community tends to see Mussar as inseparable from its own beliefs and practices, but the human reality Mussar addresses is actually universal, and the gifts it offers can be used by all people.
Paula Amar Schwartz and Erin Tarica present a contemporary interpretation of the principles and practices of Mussar in their upcoming class at A Taste of Honey.
Paula and Erin say:
Life’s complexities emerge through the multiple lenses we bring to each of our experiences. Using the richness of the Mussar tradition, engage in conversation and meditation focused on listening to our true selves while maintaining awareness of the needs of others.

If this fascinating topic is simply not your cup of tea ....
A Taste of Honey has 19 more very interesting classes to choose from ....
Plus author Judith Fein!

See you at

Monday, January 20, 2014

Say Chai to Yiddish @ A Taste of Honey

Eighteen Indispensable Words and Expressions: Yiddish, says the Jewish Language Research Website
... has historically been the language of the Ashkenazim, the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe and their descendants around the world. 
At its peak, in the years immediately preceding the Holocaust, there were perhaps ten or eleven million Yiddish speakers worldwide, making Yiddish the most widely spoken Jewish language. 
As a combined result of genocide in Europe, cultural assimilation in America, and official and unofficial pressure to shift to Hebrew in Israel and Russian in the Soviet Union, today there are probably fewer than two million speakers, most of whom no longer use it as their primary language. 
With the rare exceptions of young Yiddish activists, it is only in certain Orthodox and Hasidic communities that Yiddish remains the language of everyday discourse and is still learned by children. 
However, there has been a resurgence of interest in Ashkenazic culture generally in recent decades, and Yiddish courses are now offered by many universities and Jewish cultural organizations.
Harvey Buchalter, one of Albuquerque's best known Yiddish scholars, translators, and - perhaps most importantly - speakers, presents his "Top 18" list in his upcoming class at A Taste of Honey. Harvey says:
Yiddish words and expressions are packed with emotion, humor, anguish, and a certain indefinable quality. There’s a story - and some history - behind each of them. 
They are mostly ‘Old Country,’ but a few were even minted by American immigrants.  Learn them and you will never be at a loss for words. 
I have selected eighteen (chai) Yiddish words and expressions for you to savor. No knowledge of Yiddish is required.

If this fascinating topic is simply not your cup of tea ....
A Taste of Honey has 19 more very interesting classes to choose from ....
Plus author Judith Fein!

See you at

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Solemn Mess for Christie

What's A New Jersey Governor To Do? Yes, Abq Jew came very close to saying "Mass" - with reference to the current and ongoing scandal over a 4-day intentional traffic jam in Fort Lee on the approaches to the George Washington Bridge.

Abq Jew must point out that there are 5-day traffic jams in Fort Lee on the approaches to the GWB roughly four times every month. But those traffic jams occur naturally, and without the encouragement of the New Jersey Governor's staff.

Abq Jew must also say that - apart from the time and energy wasted, the lives and fortunes placed in jeopardy, and the overall meanness suggested by the allegations - this scandal is almost laughable.

OK ... it's very laughable. See below.

As usual, The New Yorker has this covered. Starting with the cover of the current issue. By Barry Blitt; you can visit his website here.

In other coverage from The New Yorker:

George Packer, The Trouble with Christie
I was there in Tampa in August, 2012, for Governor Chris Christie’s keynote address at the Republican National Convention, and from the first line I knew this guy was trouble: 
“Well! This stage and this moment are very improbable for me.” For twenty-four overwrought minutes, Christie spoke, proudly, glowingly, about the subject that really gets him fired up, which is himself—how he always faces the hard truths; how he wants to be respected more than loved; how, of his two parents, he’s much more like his tough, brutally honest Sicilian mother (“I am her son!”) than like his good-hearted, lovable Irish father. 
It was later observed that the Governor almost forgot to mention the Party’s Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, whose nomination Christie was in Tampa to kick off; less widely remarked was that he also practically disowned his sole surviving parent, who was in the audience listening, and presumably didn’t mind. 
The trouble with Christie has to do with more than ordinary narcissism, which, after all, is practically an entry requirement for a political career.
<Read more
Ben McGrath, Roadkill
The former New York City traffic commissioner Sam Schwartz, who is better known as Gridlock Sam, was away in Aruba last week, but the big news in his field reached him all the same. “Believe it or not, it was on the front page of Aruba Today,” Schwartz said, over the phone. “ ‘road rage,’ with a picture of Chris Christie.” 
Last September, we now know, Chris Christie’s office, if not the New Jersey governor himself, conspired with the Port Authority to close access lanes to the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge, the world’s most heavily trafficked span, apparently out of spite.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Schwartz maintains a Top Ten list of New York City’s worst gridlock incidents, dating from a blizzard on March 12, 1888, through Halloween of 2012, two days after Hurricane Sandy. 
The Christie antics, because they were confined to the Jersey side of the bridge, don’t register on the official Gridlock Sam scale, but Schwartz hears things and, during the mysterious G.W.B. delays last fall, he asked around. 
When he couldn’t get a straight answer, he assumed that there was a sinkhole on the approach, or some other maintenance mishap that would embarrass the authorities. “I never imagined that it was a deliberate act,” he said. 
<Read more
John Cassidy, Blunder Road: Springsteen Runs Over Christie
What now for my thesis that Chris Christie, the troubled New Jersey governor and self-described Bruce Springsteen fanatic, isn’t quite ready for the politicians’ slaughterhouse? 
On “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” on Tuesday night, the Boss teamed up with the host to sing a modified version of “Born to Run,” which featured the rousing refrain “I’m stuck in Governor Christie’s Fort Lee, New Jersey, traffic jam.” 
To say that the Springsteen-Fallon video has gone viral is an understatement. 
<Read more
And in case you haven't seen the video yet - Abq Jew is here for you!

Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
Good Shabbos, New Mexico!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Power of the Hebrew Alphabet

Gloria's Glorious Galleys: Award-winning international artist (and, Abq Jew is proud to say, friend) Gloria Abella Ballen will present her most recent work, an exhibition of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, on Sunday, February 9, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm, at Waxlander Gallery, 622 Canyon Road, Santa Fe.

Gloria Abella Ballen
Works on the Hebrew Alphabet
Waxlander Gallery
622 Canyon Road, Santa Fe
Sunday, February 9, 2014
2:00 ~ 5:00 pm

In this new work, Ms Abella Ballen has fused mysticism, art, and spiritual traditions, as she leads the viewer through the twenty-two letters that changed the world. With these letters were recorded the lives of Abraham and Moses, the history of David and his songs, and the wisdom and poetry of Solomon.

These chromatically rich images draw from kaballistic, mystical traditions.

Ms Abella Ballen will also present her book on the same subject, entitled The Power of the Hebrew Alphabet.

She has studied the Hebrew aleph bet for years, doing research on the Jewish illuminated manuscripts at the British Museum and the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

And she has studied the Zohar and contemporary works such as The Alphabet of Creation by Ben Shahn and The Book of Letters by Lawrence Kushner.

Here is what others are saying about the book:
  • Dr. Tamar Frankiel, President of the Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles and author The Gift of Kabbalah among other titles, describes this book as “artistic genius” that is a “mystical quest…tamed by a deep caring for meaning and tradition.”
  • Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, author of A Hidden Light and a library of books on Jewish life, calls this a “glorious book” that brings the “enlightenment and wisdom” of the Hebrew letters.
  • Rabbi Berel Levertov said, “Just got the book and couldn’t put it down! This is an awesome book full of quality art and amazing tidbits about each letter of the Hebrew aleph bet!”
Here is what Abq Jew says about the book: 

A visually stunning publication that colorfully and powerfully melds intellectual contemplation with kabbalistic yearning.
An insightful, deeply meaningful work of thought and art.

Ms Abella Ballen has exhibited from Christie’s in London to Louis Stern in Los Angeles, from the Carrillo Gil Museum in Mexico City to the Bellevue Art Museum in Seattle.

She has been visiting lecturer on Jewish art, Jewish illuminated manuscripts, and her own work in museum and university programs across the United States and internationally from the University of Essex and the Camberwell School of Art in the U.K. to the Mishkan Omanim in Herzliya, Israel and University of Xinjiang in China among others.

In addition to her graduate degree in art from SUNY-Buffalo, she did specialized work with Larry Rivers and John Cage. Abella Ballen lives in Santa Fe.

For further information on the exhibition call Bonnie French at the Waxlander Gallery, (505) 984-2202.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Taste of Honey 2014

Abq Jew Palooza!  A Taste of Honey, the Jewish community's annual, exciting, social, cultural, and educational event, is scheduled to take place at the Albuquerque JCC on Sunday, February 9th.

 Sign Up By January 31st for Early Bird Price!!!

Yes, this is Abq Jew Palooza! Event Number 1. Abq Jew has not forgotten Event Number 2 (KlezmerQuerque!). He simply wanted to be sure you have enough time to catch the Early Bird Price!


The Keynote Speaker will be Judith Fein.

Award-winning international travel journalist, author and blogger Judith  Fein is launching her new book, The Spoon from Minkowitz: A Bittersweet  Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands.

Be prepared to laugh, be moved, challenged and inspired as Judith reveals insights and shows photos from her own recent journey to Russia and the Ukraine.

With great intellect, humor and heart, she shares the world left behind by our ancestors, who seemingly passed into oblivion. But Judith discloses the secrets of how our ancestors still live within us, and how they continue to impact and influence our lives.

Violin accompaniment provided by Beth Cohen, Chazzan / Music  Director of Congregation Nahalat Shalom and KlezmerQuerque! organizer. 


Session A courses are:
  1. Buchalter, Harvey. Say Chai to Yiddish:
                 18 Indispensable Words and Expressions
  2. Dardashti, Schelly Talalay. Online Genealogy -
                 How to Search & Record  Family History
  3. Davis, Jane. Jews in Jail: Why We Might Care 
  4. Karni, Shlomo. Evolution of Jewish Defense Organizations:
                 Ha-Shomer (1909) to IDF (1948)   
  5. King, Nancy. The Healing Power of Jewish Stories
  6. Muldawer, Judy & Michael. Jewish Songwriters of Tin Pan Alley
  7. Pack-Campbell, Andrea. Your Ancestors:  Old Family from Far Away
  8. Rubin, Gail. Show & Tell: Jewish Funeral Superstitions and Traditions
  9. Schwartz, Paula; Tarica, Erin. Moments of Mussar: Balancing our Lenses
  10. Shlachter, Rabbi Jack. People of the (Cook) Book
  11. Abq Jew [Marc Yellin]. The Talmud - A Page (or Two) 
                      Session B courses are:
                      1. Brin, Rabbi Deborah. The Life and Poetry of Ruth Brin
                      2. Cohen, Beth. Zingt zhe mir a Lidele in Yidish (Sing a Little Yiddish)
                      3. Dardashti, Schelly Talalay. Our DNA: Who Are We Really?
                      4. Diel, Michele. A Taste of Dance                                                                  
                      5. Keynote Speaker Judith Fein. The Spoon from Minkowitz -
                                     a Book Discussion with the Author 
                      6. Sandweiss, Naomi. A Mobster in the Family:
                                     Jewish Outlaws, Gangsters & Bandits
                      7. Sokolove, Sam; Barberio, Steve; Kantrowitz, Rabbi Min; Koplik, Sara.
                                     Pew and Jew
                      8. Tafoya, Eddie. The Whole of Western Comedy is a Footnote
                                     to Harpo, Groucho and Chico
                      9. Taylor, John. The Los Lunas Mystery Stone
                      Click here for the brochure and sign-up form.
                      For more information, contact Phyllis Wolf at or (505) 348-4500.

                      Friday, January 10, 2014

                      Longest. Haftorah. Ever.

                      The Long and Short of It: In prose and again in poetry, this week's Haftorah reading celebrates the victory of judge and prophetess Deborah over that nasty guy Sisera.

                      Now, to be fair - Barak and some of the all-male Israelite tribal armies had something to do with winning.

                      And the testosteronic army of Yavin, King of Canaan - led by General Sisera - had something to do with losing.

                      But for the most part, this Haftorah is about the women.

                      And to drive home the point (c'mon, you knew that was coming; see Judges 4:21), the twice-told story ends with the death of Sisera at the Arm & Hammer of Yael the Kenite. And Sisera's mom mourned him.

                      OK ... Abq Jew knows what you're thinking.

                      Where were the men?

                      Even the fearsome and fearless Barak had to be persuaded to go fight Sisera.
                      And Barak said unto [Deborah]: 'If thou wilt go with me, then I will go; but if thou wilt not go with me, I will not go.'
                      To which Deborah responded:
                      And [Deborah] said: 'I will surely go with thee; notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thy honour; for the LORD will give Sisera over into the hand of a woman.' 
                      Not exactly a proto-feminist womanifesto. But wait! It gets better!

                      Where does it get better? In the Song of Deborah, of course!

                      Abq Jew must point out that, while it is the Ashkenazic custom to read both the prosaic and poetic versions of the story, the Sephardim customarily opt for the poetic version only. And only when prose and poetry are read together is this the

                      Longest. Haftorah. Ever.

                      And in the poetic version we find:
                      Among the divisions of Reuben there were great resolves of heart. Why sattest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the pipings for the flocks? At the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.
                      As it turned out, some of the tribes - Naftali, Zebulon, Issachar - were immediately ready to fight alongside Deborah and Barak. Others, however - most notably, Reuben - wanted to think about it for a while. Deborah keeps careful track of who showed up to help her and who didn't.

                      And what became of the enemies of Israel?

                      !נַחַל קִישׁוֹן גְּרָפָם, נַחַל קְדוּמִים נַחַל קִישׁוֹן; תִּדְרְכִי נַפְשִׁי, עֹז
                      The brook Kishon swept them away, that ancient brook, the brook Kishon. O my soul, tread them down with strength.
                      Now this is a great story.

                      Followed, in true Folk Music tradition, by an even greater song.

                      Sisera, his king Yavin, his army, and his mother all had a very bad day. So did the armies of Pharoah, which is what this week's Torah reading is about.

                      This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Song. Most people claim that's because of the song that Moses sings. Abq Jew claims it could just as easily be for Miriam's song - and Deborah's.

                      They all had very good days.

                      If you're having a bad day, here is Instructions for a Bad Day, a prose poem by Shane Koyczan that may help you gain perspective. Abq Jew doesn't usually go for this sort of thing, but this one is exceptional.

                      Shabbat Shalom, Albuquerque!
                      Good Shabbos, New Mexico!