Shalom, shalom, shalom, shalom: Magic and the protection of women and children



Shalom, shalom, shalom, shalom: Magic and the protection of women and children

The Magic Incantation Bowl of The Mizel Museum of Judaica (Denver, Colorado USA)[1]


Seth Ward

—I wrote this in 2002. Looking through my records, it is based on a lecture I gave, and I circulated it to a number of places, including the Mizel Museum. It describes one of the oldest pieces in their collection, an incantation bowl similar to many found in the Middle East, especially in what is now Iraq–although unusual in that it has an inscription ending with Shalom “peace” repeated several times.  I added an Arts and Crafts project idea for the museum context, which is also reproduced here. I do not think Mizel ever did anything with this essay. 

Mizel now has exhibition space and last time I was there the bowl was exhibited as part of the permanent collection. This article is reproduced as it was written back then, with very minor revisions and copy editing. 



In Hispanic culture, La Llorona is a spirit who is supposed to inhabit streams and waterways, lurking in readiness to snatch and kill young children who wander alone in desolate areas.[2] She continues to be respected and feared at least by some.


Perhaps her story is based at least in part on the figure of La Malinche, an Aztec woman who became a Mayan slave and then the translator, guide and lover of the Spanish conquistador[3] Cortez and mother to his children. According to at least one version of the story, she learned that Cortez planned to return to Spain with a Spanish noblewoman, taking her sons.  She became despondent, realized that she had betrayed her people, and in her despair, she killed her own children. At least this is one view; others recount her story as an old Indian story or an Iberian folktale with no reference to the Spanish conquest of Central America.[4]


Hers is a sad tale, but the classic story of La Llorona struck fear into young children, and into the hearts of their parents. In recent years, some retellings of her story have reconstructed her image into a more favorable one, stressing the pathos of the narrative and remaking her into a symbol of woman spurned, of the evils of paternalism, of the need for female heroines.


Her tale and her fate are reminiscent of stories told in other cultures when contemplating the danger inherent in childbirth and in the survival of infants and children. She may, for example, be totally unrelated to the story of Lillith. Lillith, whose ancestry is Middle Eastern, is another story of female considered demonic for generations, then associated with a figure believed to be historic. Also like La Llorona, she is now enjoying something of a rebirth as a sympathetic figure, without reference to her murderous activities.[5]


In the Bible, there is a reference to “lilit” in Isaiah 34:14, where it may refer to a bird and is sometimes translated as a night owl. In context, this is one of a list of fearsome night creatures. Male and female night-demons with etymologically identical names are known also from ancient Mesopotamian sources.


A terra cotta bowl, probably made sometime between 400 and 800 C.E. and now owned by the Mizel Museum of Judaica contains an inscription that invokes protection against any lilliths. This bowl was apparently found around 1940 in Susa in southwestern Iran, the Biblical Shushan, not far from the border with Iraq. Hundreds of such bowls have been uncovered, perhaps more, although I am not aware of any other such bowls in museums or in private hands anywhere in Colorado.  This one may have become separated from the other artifacts found by a French team excavating Susiana because, although the letters are clear, their meaning is not entirely decipherable. Nevertheless, the incantation clearly calls for the expulsion and separation of any lillith.[6]


The “Magic Incantation Bowls” as they are often called, have inscriptions in Aramaic. This was a multi-cultural or at least multi-religious enterprise: They were prepared by Christians, Jews and Mandeans.  Each wrote their own dialect of the Aramaic language, using their traditional script. Jews prepared the bowls with Aramaic in Hebrew characters. Other bowls use Syriac characters, a script used primarily by Christians. Mandeans wrote in their own Aramaic script; their religious practices included frequent baptism and the search for gnosis, specialized knowledge that would help the believer achieve everlasting life. Although each dialect had its unique features, they were all branches of the Aramaic language, the nearly universal language of Middle Eastern discourse for centuries before becoming displaced by Arabic in the ninth century or so, several centuries after the Islamic conquest. The inscriptions begin near the center and spiral outwards, facing towards the outside of bowl. Some of these bowls have illustrations in the very center of the bowl; the Mizel bowl does not. Some of the bowls also have “magical letters,” usually written with lines and circles, again, the Mizel bowl does not.


The language of the Jewish Aramaic bowls included many words and phrases in Hebrew. Perhaps the most common ending to the invocations written on the bowls was “Amen, Amen Amen, Selah,” echoing the language of Psalms and Jewish prayer. The final words of the Mizel bowl are highly appropriate, even if unusual in the incantation context; I found them in none of the magic bowls whose inscriptions were reproduced by Shaul Shaked and J. Naveh or C. Isbell, nearly a hundred inscriptions. The Mizel bowl ends: Shalom, shalom, shalom, shalom. “Peace, peace, peace, peace.”


It is not clear how the bowls were used. The most frequently encountered idea is that somehow or other they captured demons and constrained them from doing any harm. This may be similar to a story about a woman mentioned in the Talmud (2-6th centuries CE.). Johanne the daughter of Retibi is mentioned as a paradigm of a woman who brings destruction to the world (Sotah 22a), but the details of her story are never mentioned. The narrative supplied by Rashi (France, d. 1105), whose glosses are printed in every traditional edition of the Talmud, is based on earlier material from Mesopotamia, and reflects traditions about how magic practitioners were understood to control magical elements associated with childbirth: [7]


She was a widow and a witch (makhshefa). When it came time for a woman to give birth, she would stop up her womb by witchcraft, but after the woman was in great pain she would say: “I will go and pray for mercy, perhaps my prayer will be answered.” She would then go and undo her magic and the child would come out. One time she had a day laborer in her house. When she went to the home of a woman in childbirth, the laborer heard the sound of the spells knocking around in a vessel, just as the child knocks in the mother’s womb. He went and opened the stopper of the vessel and the spells left. The child was born and it was known that she was a sorceress.


This is the only reference to this Johanne in Rabbinic sources, although the name Johanne (here, a man’s name) is encountered in some Hebrew sources as one of Pharaoh’s two chief magicians, usually rendered in Greek (including the New Testament, 2 Tim. 3:8) as Jannes. (Johanne does not occur in the New Testament, but the woman’s name “Johanna” does, mentioned in nearly the same breath as the seven demons that had afflicted Mary Magdalene, in Luke 8:2-3).[8]


Many of the incantation bowls were found upside down, and it is sometimes assumed that they were placed that way in order to trap demons, much as one might trap a bee or wasp under a cup. Perhaps, as in Johanne’s story, these bowls were used to contain magic spells that would be released to counteract the evil. Very similar spells were written on amulets, which could be rolled up or left flat. Presumably in these cases, it was the inscription itself which made the amulet powerful not the role of its physical shape in constraining the demon world.


In this period, the Lilliths were thought at least in some circles to have fled to a cave by the Red Sea. Versions of the legend appear in many languages. In the version which has become best-known in Jewish sources, three spirits, Sanvay, Sansanvay and Samanglof seek her out and hold her down, and she promises that wherever her name is mentioned together with theirs, she will refrain from killing women in childbirth and their young infants. Based in part on a lengthy text on one of the incantation bowls, Shaked and Naveh have reconstructed further details of the story at this stage, including the relationship of the names of Lillith’s subduer in Byzantine Greek and Ethiopic versions of the story to iron. (Some of the Arabic stories about jinn also have them repelled by saying hadid “iron.”).


In the Alphabet of Ben Sira, probably a tenth century work, Lillith became identified with the “first wife” of Adam. In Genesis 1, God creates man and woman together; in Genesis 2, Eve is created from Adam’s rib. There are previous attempts to explain the difference between the two accounts by postulating the creation of an initial male and female, but the Alphabet is the first time that “the first woman” is identified by name as Lillith. She rejected Adam, making a strong statement against male superiority. This statement, in context probably a reference to sexual positions rather than social or religious equality, was taken as the motto of Lillith, the major Jewish feminist journal started in the 1970’s. In any case, the historical story provides an answer to the puzzling question of why anyone, demon or otherwise, would attack good women and helpless babes.


In the Jewish tradition, Lillith’s role continued to develop; she was identified by Kabbalists as the wife of Sammael, the prince of “the other side” (perhaps today we should translate this as in Star War’s “the dark side”), sometimes identified as the Kabbalists’ notion of Satan.   In a fascinating morality tale reminiscent of earlier attempts to constrain a very different model of Lillith, Joseph Della Reyna is supposed to have chained Sammael and Lillith, and embarked on a journey to bring them forth for judgement.  This would have brought their power to an end and brought about the redemption of the entire world—except that Della Reyna acceded to their request for a brief chance to rest along the way. The point of the tale is that even a momentary pause in the search to end evil can be fatal to the entire project.


Magic traditions are highly adaptive, and leave traces long outlasting their original context. As noted above, some incantation bowls contain “magic letters,” as do some amulets written centuries later. These letters are often thought to be based on ancient Greek magic. Although long removed in time from Greek influence, the forms were retained. Perhaps La Llorona and the jinn combatted by yelling “iron” evidence continuity with Mesopotamian, Jewish and Byzantine accounts of Lillith. Or perhaps they are different ways in which mankind has tried to explain our dangerous world.


The Mizel Museum currently has no exhibition space. It is hoped that the very near future will see the construction of its new home, and that the bowl will have a prominent place in its permanent display.


Seth Ward




An Arts and Crafts project based on the Magic Bowl

Arts and Crafts Project: I discussed the Mizel Museum bowl at a recent presentation on calligraphy at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. Art teachers present at my talk were enthusiastic about the bowl as a vehicle for children’s arts and crafts projects.  I am grateful to them for this project idea, and to Ashley Kaszprzak for urging me to put my thoughts into written form.


Youngsters have fears and hopes. Create a small terra cotta bowl and write an inscription. The Mesopotamian bowls’ inscriptions begin near the center and spiral outwards; the letters face towards a reader on the near side of the bowl. Some of these bowls have illustrations in the very center of the bowl, usually schematized depictions of what look like people. Perhaps they are illustrations of the demons described in the bowl, or amuletic representations of the person for whom the bowl was made.


Some of the bowls speak about night visions and evil dreams; youngsters might want to write inscriptions to keep away nightmares or other scary visions they might have at night. No doubt, some will want to write similar inscriptions hoping that pesky sibling never invade their personal space. In any case, youngsters’ inscriptions can hope for safety for themselves and their families.


Many cultures have fears associated with snatching away babies or young children of various ages. The magic incantation bowls may have been a unique approach in terms of the shape and  material used; but the ideas behind the amulets, good luck charms, and warnings about demons or the “bogeyman” may well be pervasive. Art teachers creating inscriptions for bowls to be made by youngsters may have the making of a multi-cultural program, perhaps incorporating the creation of other objects with similar, protective purposes. Nevertheless, teachers should exercise diligence and care regarding community sensibilities and appropriateness of inscriptions.


The Mizel bowl provides at least a suggestion for an ending to the inscription that should be appropriate any context: “Peace, peace, peace, peace.”


[1] Thanks to Molly Dubin, who first brought the Mizel Museum of Judaica Incantation Bowl to my attention; to Ellen Premack, who greatly facilitated access to the bowl, and to Ashley Kaszprzak.  Thanks also to Edward Yamauchi and Shaul Shaked, who offered much sage advice about the bowls in general and this bowl in particular. Most of this article was written in conjunction with a lecture given in 2002 at the Arvada Center for Arts and Humanities funded by a grant from the Colorado Council for the Humanities, or shortly thereafter. Only minor editing has been possible since that time.

[2] Tina Griego, writing in Denver Post, 27 February, 2002, p. B1, recalled warnings about La Llorona offered in her youth and found them still to be very much alive today.

[3] This and other versions of her story may be found at // (accessed March 4, 2002).

[4] On La Llorona, see for example Domino Renée Pérez, “Caminando con la llorona : traditional and contemporary narratives,” in Norma E. Cantú and Olga Nájera-Ramírez, edd.,  Chicana traditions : continuity and change . Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 2002. Robert F. Gish, Beyond bounds: cross-cultural essays on Anglo, American Indian, and Chicano literature, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

[5] Griego referred to advertisements for milk and other products in which there is no mention of La Llorona’s infanticide. Probably the most striking turnaround in Lillith’s stature is the cooption of the name of this demon—feared as a killer of women in childbirth, seducer of their husbands, and killer of their children—for the name of the preeminent monthly magazine devoted to Jewish feminist issues.

[6] On the Incantation Bowls, see works by Montgomery, Isbell, Yamauchi, Cyrus Gordon, Naveh and Shaked. Rebecca Macy Lesses, Ritual Practices to Gain Power, Harvard Theological Studies 44; Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1998, has interpreted the bowls within the context of other mystical practices used to gain power over demons. Shaked examined digital photographs of the bowl, and confirmed that the inscription is mostly indecipherable.

[7]  In traditional Talmud editions, the same story (with minor variants in wording) is also found in a commentary by another French expositor, Shimon of Sens. The story was also known to the Geonim (Iraq, c. 600-1031 CE),  as it is found in a Geonic responsum.

[8] There is a lengthy tradition in Jewish literature of associating Jesus with magical arts, including linkages between Jesus and Mary Magdalene and Egyptian magic. Anything more than this quick reference is beyond our scope here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

On singing pieces by Shelomo Carlebach (1925-1994) or having “Carlebach Services.”

I came across this short essay while clearing and reorganizing my computer. I wrote this some time ago; the time stamp in my computer indicated the most recent revision had been in 2015. There is a reference close to the end about hesitating to post it to the Blog, and apparently I did: at least according to the search engine, I never posted it at that time. Perhaps the reason I did not post it was that I struggled with putting the issue into a broader perspective–it seems to need one, and I added only a brief line about the broad perspective when lightly editing it now in August 2017 for posting here.

Should we sing Shelomo Carlebach’s songs? The question comes up from time to time, for example, it was raised when the Colorado Hebrew performed an arrangement of one of Carlebach’s compositions: is it appropriate to sing Carlebach’s songs or to have a whole service based on his melodies?  The issue never has anything to do with whether he was sufficiently loyal to Orthodoxy or strayed too far from the derekh, “the path.”  Rather, it has to do with reports about what today would be called abusive behavior to women; women have come forward reporting they were victimized by such activities.

I suppose I should make a disclosure, in the 1970s when I was an undergraduate at college—well after the responsum by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein mentioned below, but well before broad discussion of reports about him—we had Rabbi Carlebach visit our campus. As I recall, I was active in the committee organizing this and the Hillel rabbi would not let him be alone with women, not even to have one of our student officers meet or pick him up alone from the train station. We students were surprised, and in my recollection the Hillel rabbi did not go into any details beyond saying it was best not to have one of our female students pick him up, certainly not without another person in the car. It was clear that this was because of what today we would call inappropriate behavior, although we students probably thought it was just “unwanted hugging.” Apparently it went far beyond that, and indeed some women were traumatized by his actions. My point is that there was awareness by Hillel or religious professionals—and many who worked with them—decades ago. I do not know how much detail was “actually known” and how much was carefulness, based on unconfirmed reports. Those were different times; I do not wish to justify a less-stringent attitude of those days.

In fact, these reports had reached many in the Orthodox world—a world likely to have Carlebach services today. As I noted, they had been addressed by no less a figure than Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in 1959. There is some discussion about the meaning and reference of Rabbi Feinstein’s responsum. Rabbi Dratch, founder of J-Safe and now Exec. VP of the RCA seems to think that Feinstein would not have prohibited Carlebach’s music.   [2017: this link is down, but the article is posted here:]. Like Rabbi Feinstein’s responsum itself, Rabbi Dratch does not even mention the name of the singer about whom the responsum was written.  Although it is hard to imagine the responsum refers to anyone else.

But as shown by R. Feinstein and by my experience, some people, especially “professionals,” were aware of at least some aspects of Carlebach’s behavior towards women well before the lengthy article that appeared in Lillith magazine shortly after Carlebach died.

And the opening of a musical based on his songs reopened old wounds.

Scandals involving various rabbis and educators, including scandals at Yeshiva University, at Kesher Israel in Washington DC, and so forth, as well as increasing sensitivity to women’s issues in Judaism and in general society have made it imperative in some circles to raise the issue: Does the singing of Carlebach songs rub salt in women’s wounds? Is it insensitive and supportive of abuse in ways that, whatever we may have felt a generation ago, we cannot tolerate today? This should be an issue in the Orthodox world highly likely to value Carlebach’s melodies (and to treat Rabbi Feinstein’s rulings with great honor). And it should be noted that his melodies are encountered in the non- Orthodox world as well, which, also, has not been exempt from scandals. poses the issue well.  The author probably should have discussed the quintessential rule of Lashon ha-Ra “evil tongue” –we should not speak negative things about people even if true, but if there is a purpose in doing so, it is allowed–and in some cases even expected.  I worried about this in writing this post; indeed, I hesitated for quite some time to add it to my Blog. However, the issue is worth discussing, and, unfortunately, only by including the singer’s name will the issue become clear. And it is not only an issue with Carlebach’s music: readers of this Blog are likely to be aware of parallel situations. One can ask whether sensitivity to such issues helps us move forward, or—when focused on past actors whose times were different from our own—takes energy away from moving forward. I cannot say that there is a convenient rule, or even that such a rule is possible: individuals will come to different conclusions—and it is best to be aware of the issues and be sensitive to contemporary sensitivities. [As I post this in 2017, I can think not only of Carlebach and Cosby, and for that matter R. Freundel, mentioned in this essay, but of Orff and Wagner, and in the US context, of issues raised by removing statuary, images and naming associated with support for slavery]. I know there are some people who are passionately opposed to any performance of Carlebach’s music—knowing full well that in the current situation, there are many victims who associate his music strongly with his abuse.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


The Middle East and Israel in Film course at the University of Wyoming awards the TORRYS at the end of each term the course is taught. The awards memorialize the late Prof. Robert Torry, who taught English at the University of Wyoming for many years and who, together with Paul Flesher, introduced and taught a Film and Religion course. He is greatly missed.

Students make the nominations after we’ve seen all the films, and vote at the very end of the last session. Students have great leeway in nominating. Sometimes it is not clear to me that the scene or person nominated actually fits the category, and sometimes these unlikely nominations win. For example, the “real couple” in the Egyptian classic Ghazl al-Banat are the star, Leila Murad, and the aviator character played by her then-husband–and the director of the film. This would have been obvious to Egyptians viewing the film in 1949! But students saw the unlikely couple of Leila Murad–who plays the daughter of the Pasha–flirting with a poor school teacher who disingenuously falls in love with her, despite differences in age and social status that make this unthinkable. Perhaps this provides a window into the perceptions of these films amongst college students in Wyoming.

Most of the categories are carried over from previous terms in which I taught the course. Students have a chance to change the wording or to add or delete categories; some of the categories they’ve suggested are quite whimsical. I tried to keep the wording describing categories, scenes or people as close as possible to what the students nominated—although I made some minor edits.

Of the films screened in Spring 2017, the Turkish movie Mustang was the most popular among my students. A truck driver who helps the youngest sisters in the movie was voted the Best Hero. This is a great example of recognizing the importance of a character with only a few scenes, who nevertheless plays a key role.

Once upon a Time in Anatolia was selected for screening by students, from among numerous possibilities presented them in DVD cases, but was not enjoyed at all. One scene in the film was remembered as particularly pointless by our students. Nevertheless, the filmmaker is an important Turkish artist and the film raised a number of important points for discussion about the nature of filmmaking. It was the only nominee for Worst Film and the students nominated a scene in it as particularly pointless, involving an apple rolling down the hill. Of course, they had talked about the meaning of this scene at some length, and any time a scene sticks out and generates discussion—even if it appears pointless—it is a credit to the filmmaker’s art.

In a few categories, there was an opportunity to consider Israeli films separately from other films; for the most part, any film we screened was eligible.

“The Miracle” is a chapter in Rio I Love You, in which the topic is not Middle Eastern, but the filmmaker is Nadine Labaki, from Lebanon.

The voting for Best Israeli Movie was nearly tied; Or My Treasure was only slightly ahead of the other nominees. There was a tie for “most heart wrenching” scene.

Kazablan clearly won for best music. Not surprisingly, several of its hit numbers were nominated for best song. But the “Hashishat ‘albi” song in Where do we go now? won hands down—written by the husband of director and star Nadine Labaki.  The scene in which it is sung also won for Best Scene.

We did not show a documentary, but the students wanted to nominate and vote on two films for accuracy of depicting reality. The Egyptian comedy Terrorism and Kebab won for its depiction of the reality of oppressive bureaucracy.

I am not surprised that Zohar (Dana Ivgy) narrowly lost to the Lale character in favorite movie Mustang as best female character, although students clearly regarded Zero Motivation and Or  highly. Ivgy also ran against the Lale character, nominated for the child acting category as the teenager in the film Or. At the annual conference of the WJSA this year (2017) Ivgy spoke about some of her characters being the child of characters played by the late, great Israeli actress Ronit Elkabetz—whom she would call for advice about acting and address as “Mom” because of their relationship in the films. (I think she also played the child of her father Moshe Ivgy in a film, and a high school age child in Broken Wings.).  The Lale character though was an elementary school or early middle school aged character (Mustang).

Pleasing to me (and totally without prompting from me), one of the most memorable scenes in classic Israeli cinema, the cat and gefilte fish scene from Kazablan, was recognized by my students.

In the chart below, the winners in each category are underlined and in bold. The list of films we saw follows beneath the list of winners.

May Bob Torry’s name be remembered for a blessing.


Terrorism and Kebab

Where do we go now?

Zero Motivation



☐ Walid in Fauda

Uncle in Mustang

☐ Eye-glass General in Atomic Falafel

☐ The Lizard in The Lizard

☐ “Gulash” in Kazablan


☐ Iranian Girl in Atomic Falafel

☐ German Guy in Atomic Falafel

Truck driver from Mustang        

☐ Ahmad (Adel Iman character) in Terorism and Kebab



Where do we go now  

Marmulak (Lizard)


Apple rolling scene in Once Upon a time in Anatolia


Zero Motivation

Atomic Falafel

Or My Treasure

Apples from the Desert



Atomic Falafel

Zero Motivation


The Attack



The Attack—Doctor finds out his wife was the terrorist

Final Scene in Or My Treasure     

Suicide in Mustang



Ushpizin—friends come in to celebrate circumcision 

☐ “The Miracle”—in Rio I Love You Harvey Keitel character calls kid pretending he is God

☐ Dancing because they got the money scene, in Ushpizin


Young Israeli teens from Atomic Falafel   

☐ Mom and German in Atomic Falafel

☐ Young Couple from Apples in the Desert

☐ Couple from Ushpizin



Atomic Falafel

☐ Soundtrack of Terrorism and Kebab


Hitchki from Atomic Falafel

Hashishat ‘Albi (the baking song) from Where do we go now?

☐ Respect song (Kol HaKavod) in Kazablan

☐ We are all Jews (Kulanu Yehudim) in Kazablan

Democratiah in Kazablan

☐ Rosa in Kazablan



Or – last scene

Katherine the Great

Zero Motivation—pauses



Where do we go now




Terrorism and Kebab



Women changed religion in Where do we go now

☐ Suicide in Zero Motivation

☐ Trashcan Intercourse in Zero Motivation

☐ Carving the tattoo out in Zero Motivation


☐ both generals pressing the button for nukes in Atomic Falafel

Where do we go now? when they are all united together

Baking scene in Where do we go now?     

☐ Wife says she is pregnant in Ushpizin

☐ Two girls find their teacher in Mustang

☐ “Whirlpool” of people in circling in Mugamaa in Terrorism and Kebab


Atomic Falafel






☐ Zohar (Dana Ivgy) in Zero Motivation

☐ Nadine Labaki in Where do we go now

☐ Daffy from Zero Motivation

☐ Possessed Russian from Zero Motivation

Lale from Mustang


☐ Boyfriend (Elisha Banai character) in Apples from the Desert

☐ Ahmad (Adel Iman character) in Terrorism and Kebab

Doran (Lior Raz character) in Fauda

☐ Moshe in Ushpizin


The Attack

☐ Walid and Cousin from Fauda

Ghazl al-Banat – Leila Murad and Hammam


☐ Shuli Rand

Dana Ivgy

☐ Nadine Labaki


Apples from the Desert



Zero Motivation


Once upon a time in Anatolia


West Bank Story

Katherine the Great

“The Miracle” in Rio I Love You  



☐ Dana Ivgy in Or

Atomic Falafel – two Israelis and Iranian


Cat and Gefilte Fish in Kazablan

☐ Video track scene from Atomic Falafel

☐ Daffy staples herself in Zero Motivation

☐ Lale tells woman dress is shit colored in Mustang

☐ Suit Scene in Kazablan




Once upon a time in Anatolia 2011
Nuri Bilge Ceylan


Mustang 2015
Deniz Gamze Ergüven


O Milagre” (The Miracle) in Rio I love you

Nadine Labaki


Or My Treasure 2004
Keren Yedaya


West Bank Story 2005
Ari Sandel


Footnote 2011
Joseph Cedar


Terrorism and Kebab 1992
Sherif Arafa


Catherine the Great 2011
Ana Kuntsman


Ushpizin 2004
Gidi Dar/Shuli Rand


Apples from the Desert 2014
Matti Harari, Arik Lubetski Savyon Liebrecht


Fauda 2015…
Avi IssacharoffLior Raz


Atomic Falafel 2015
Dror Shaul


Zero Motivation 2014
Talia Lavie


Marmulak (The Lizard ) 2004
Kamal Tabrizi


Where do we go Now? 2011
Nadine Labaki


The Attack 2012
Ziad Doueri


Arab Labor Season 1 episode 5 Passover 2007…
Syed Kashua


Ghazl al-Banat (Flirtation of Girls) 1949
Anwar Wagdi


Kazablan 1973
Menachem Golan





Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Middle East and Israel in Film University of Wyoming 2012 Class Awards

In preparation for my 2017 Middle East and Israel in Film class awards, I am posting the list from the 2012 version of the class. This was before these awards were named the “Torrys” in memory of our colleague Robert Torry. 


Middle East and Israel in Film University of Wyoming 2012 Class Awards (“Oscars”)

Categories and Nominees
Winners are underlined


Most accurate historically 
Wedding Song
Paradise Now
Lawrence of Arabia
Waltz with Bashir

Best Picture
Lawrence of Arabia
Paradise Now

Most Heartwrenching  Scene
Convicts eating citron – Ushpizin
Bathhouse Scene Wedding Song
Loss of child scene Yakubian Building

Most Gutwrentching Scene
Strangulation Scene Yakubian
Shooting Scene Yakubian

Best couple
Kazablan and Rachel
Malli and Moshe–Ushpizin
Yakubian Building
Hanna Rovina and Alexander Penn

Best use of silence and/or music
Waltz with bashir
Paradise Now
No One knows about  Persian Cats
Arab Labor

Best Female Character
Marjane in Persepolis
Busaina in Yacoubian Building
Rachel in Kazablan
Zahra in Soraya M
Grandmother in Persepolis
Mali Ushpizin
Soraya herself in stoning of Soraya M.

Best Villain
Shoemaker “Goulash”–Kazablan
Malik in Yacouibian
Ali husband of Soraya M
Dawlat – Yacoubian Building
Phalangist from Lebanon

Best Hero
Zaki Pasha (Yacoubian Building)
French Reporter in Soraya M.
Said from Paradise Now
Tarik from For my Father
Grandfather from Arab Labor

Best “Muslim” Movie
Persian Cats


Muhammad the Last Prophet

Paradise Now

Best Israeli Movie

Waltz With Bashir







Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Passover Internet LInks

This is an updated copy of a page I posted at UW several years ago, and reposted on Coffeecups.  I’ve checked and updated the links. Use the search box INSIDE the blog to look for other things I’ve posted about Passover. — Passover 2017.

Happy Passover

חג כשר ושמח

From Seth Ward



From my teaching: A note about Moses

Moses in the Passover story.

Based on the prominence of Moses in the movie retelling of the Exodus, it is perhaps surprising that the ritual and liturgical retelling of the Exodus gives him almost no role at all. Moses is mentioned only once in the traditional Haggadah, the order of prayers, psalms, and ritual foods for Passover eve, in the context of recalling the “Song of the Sea.”

This is not particularly surprising, as Moses does not play a large role in the daily, Sabbath or festival liturgy. On a daily basis, the prayer book recalls that Moses and the children of Israelrecited the Song of the Sea. On the Sabbath, the evening Amida service recalls Creation, with no reference to Moses, but the morning Amida service recalls revelation, with Moses depicted as rejoicing that he was called a “faithful servant” and through his agency, the Two Tablets of the Decalogue were given, with their command concerning the Sabbath. (Interestingly, this passage introduces a selection from Exodus 31 about observing the Sabbath, not the passage on the Sabbath from the Ten Commandments). All in all, the ritual and liturgy emphasize divine revelation and redemption, not Moses’ role.

Contrast this, of course, with the depiction of Moses in all the movies and bible stories. Paul Flesher suggests one possible reason why: Moses’ role is the archetypical figure for Protestant America, basing law on revelation—but revelation of the heart—and foreshadowing both the Christian savior and the American enterprise of freedom. (Flesher’s point is not less valid even though some of the motifs he points to are mirrored in Midrashic texts glorying in the miraculous birth and career of Moses; these may themselves be responding to Christian themes, or themselves be the models on which those themes are based.)

One could say, too, that Moses’ role in the Biblical books of Exodus through Deuteronomy is greater than that in the Jewish ritual. Nevertheless, these books are not simply narrative or celebration of Moses’ role in the escape from slavery, and leading the way to the Promised Land. All have very lengthy descriptions of building the Tabernacle, ritual worship, social legislation, and religious exhortations that usually do not play a role in the American retelling of the story. A typical explanation of why Moses is downplayed in the Haggadah is to emphasize the divine role in the Exodus. Passover is not about human leadership but about divine intervention—and about the redefinition of a tribe knit together primarily by memories of common ancestors,  into a coherent people. Freedom from slavery is only the starting point. While, to paraphrase the haggadah, it “would have been enough for us” simply to leave Egypt, that was not enough for the divine purpose: the journey necessarily led to definition of social and religious values, a way of worship and a way of life, and a way forward to the fulfillment of the national promise and purpose.  Hag kasher vesameah.

Passover Links and Texts.


Among the more compelling arguments:

You may find the Projecting Freedom project quite useful in exploring the holiday.  Although some of the links lead to a website, several years ago, the videos migrated to a YouTube channel:


MISHNA Chapter 10 of tractate Pesachim — this chapter is the basic guide to the Seder.

My discussion of the Seder Plate A source sheet I prepared: 

Text of my brochure on Passover


Full text of the Haggadah—with transliteration! – look at the bottom of this page for a link to the Haggadah! (other links are to the full text of the Siddur).

Passover Tunes (with sheet music)—free access


A historic Performance of Israel in Egpyt by G.F. Händel. The recording was made by the Jerusalem Symphony with a choir from Edinburgh. The setting: the Red Sea (Gulf of Eilat) overlooking Jazirat Far’un “Pharoah’s Island” – or Coral Island, as it was called by the Israelis. It is about ten minutes’ drive south of the current border. The castle on the Island was built by Saladin. The full oratorio includes a setting of the complete Song of the Sea (Ex. 15).

For fun.

Who was responsible for the Exodus?

The fundamental question in Exodus narrative, and in the Passover Seder, is “Who precisely was responsible for letting the Israelites out of Egypt?”  The Haggadah’s answer is unambiguous, restated in different ways over and over. The video poses this question, but does not really reply to it.

Deliver Us—song by Ofra Haza in Prince of Egypt  Ofra Haza recorded this in multiple languages, so that every release would have it in the language, sung by her, not dubbed.


We may not know much about Moses, but we know how he would have done the Exodus if he had had facebook!

The same in English:


All you really need to know about the importance, taste, and ramifications of eating Matzah:


Projecting Freedom project. This is a Matza Music Video for “Motzi Matzah.”

Here is the entrance video to the project:  Michele Citrin (“Rosh Hashana Girl”)

The Passover Seder:

The Singing Seder Plate: scroll down to hear this part of the important record “Menorah’s Little Seder:”

The recording is from the 60s I think. Stanley Sperber (founder of Zamir Chorale) is conducting the Camp Massad choir, precursor to the Zamir. The original is usually called the “Orchestra Song” and apparently is by Willy Geisler. Here is a version from Hollywood: (For Hebrew readers interested in this song: and read more about it at

60 Second Seder (Hebrew)

Arab Labor: hit Israeli TV show. Season One had a Passover episode, with a sendup of almost every group within Israeli society: Haredim, Israeli Arabs, Secular Jews, Reform Judaism, “traditional” Jews (in this context, neither religious nor secular); the Reform Jewish woman is depicted in very “Beautiful-People-Leftist” terms as being something like a “flower child” in her approach. Unfortunately, I cannot find a live link to this episode at present!

This is from a movie about the most important question at the Seder—easter-vs–passover Jon Stewart on Passover vs. Easter.

Songs in English (parody texts):

There are quite a few of these. Here is one:  Sample: “haggada wash that man right out of my hair” and “afikomen round the mountain”

A large number of songs and jokes:

Songs from the end of the Seder: Who knows one—The “Glick/Tasky girls” same—Sydney and Andrew.

Moishe Oysher’s most famous Passover performance piece, Chad Gadya:

Chad Gadya—a Jewish/Arab choir from Jaffa, singing Chad Gadya in Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic, with an extra verse by Chava Alberstein:

Here is Chava Alberstein singing it herself:

Other materials:


Write me with your suggestions!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Yahrtzeit and Martin Luther King Jr. Day–Jan 16, 2017



m Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr.

Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr.

The Jewish world was abuzz when the first day of Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving, as it did a few years ago, or with Christmas as it did this year. In truth though, the alignment of various dates in the Hebrew, with the civil calendar or with each other, often creates important opportunities for contemplation.

It seems to me that this year has a particularly significant alignment for contemporary Jewish Americans. The yahrtzeit (anniversary of the death) of Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) is 18 Tevet; this year this occurs on January 16, 2017 (the day I am writing this note).  This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day occurs on the same day, January 16. (Officially this holiday is called Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. but it is celebrated on the third Monday of January).

This does not happen very often. In 2020, Heschel’s yahrtzeit falls on King’s actual birthday, Jan. 15, 2020. The next time Heschel’s yahrtzeit and the MLK Day occur on the same Monday is Jan. 17, 2028, and then not until Jan. 18 2044 (and again on Jan. 18 2055).

King was familiar with Heschel’s writing, and apparently sometimes would quote a biblical verse as it was translated in Heschel’s publications rather in Bible translations typically found in the pews of his church.

Heschel famously marched with Martin Luther King. Perhaps most to the point, both King and Heschel were theologians whose vocations included a strong commitment to working for the common good—making a difference by becoming active in the public sphere.

Heschel’s teachings included works on the Sabbath, and on God’s search for Man as well as Man’s search for God. His early work on the Prophets, originally written in German and translated into English after he arrived in the USA, influenced not only generations of Rabbis but also Christian theologians, such as King and many others.  His ideas about the Divine quest for a relationship with humanity, about the Sabbath as a “Palace in Time,” about the legacy of the prophets, about the need for people of faith to work together for the common good, and many other subjects are continuous with precursors in the Jewish tradition—indeed, many of these show he learned much from his study of Philosophy both secular and Jewish, and his deep familiarity with Hasidism, including the teachings of the Kotzker Rebbe (and his namesake ancestor the Apter Rebbe).

Heschel’s activism centered on a number of very prominent areas. He pioneered Interfaith relations, and argued that, in the realities that emerged in the post-World War II environment, Jews should see Christians as allies—fellow humans with religious sensibilities—rather than adversaries in the field of religion. He worked with the Vatican to overcome centuries of anti-Jewish discourse. His famous speech to Union Theological Seminary, “No Religion is an Island” can rightly be credited with immense influence in all aspects of Interfaith relations.  He was involved in freeing Soviet Jewry when this issue came to the fore.

His civic engagement was largely in two areas: opposition to the Vietnam War, and fighting for civil rights, especially for African Americans.

Heschel’s yahrtzeit occurs only two days before Maimonides’. Heschel’s biography of Maimonides is still an important work.

My only research into Heschel had to do with his response to Islam; I found much of interest, but in the large picture of his writings, he really wrote very little that was relevant to this theme. I had assumed that perhaps Heschel’s work on Maimonides and other medieval thinkers who lived most of their lives in the Islamic world would have sparked more interaction that it did. Heschel worked with Moshe Zucker of JTS and shared some important insights on Islam in his book Israel: Echo of Eternity, completed after the 6-day War. Early in his career, he described Almohad Islamic fanaticism in his biography of Maimonides. Heschel’s description of medieval Islamic fanaticism resonates well in our own times, but  it’s important to remember to read it in the context of the era in which it was written, when Interwar Islam was largely moderate–today’s Islamic extremism was decades in the future. But in Germany where it was written, the Nazi party had already come to power and the powerful description of Almohad extremism may have to be seen in that light. It’s quite possible to argue that Heschel’s description of God’s desire for Man contradicts mainstream Islamic thought too, although less clear that Islamic sensibilities were of any concern to Heschel. When he was writing in Germany and later in the US, the interfaith concerns of working with Muslims were simply not on his radar. This was a time when “Three Faiths One God” meant “Protestants, Catholics, Jews” not “Christians, Jews, Muslims.”

Heschel and King were giants of the American scene in the 1960s. Both were taken much too early. King of course was assassinated; Heschel died at a relatively young age, in his mid-sixties. In terms of my own research, I think that, had Heschel lived, he would have had powerful things to say about the growing importance of reaching out to Muslims the way he had earlier reached out to Catholics and other Christians.

One further thought: back in the 1960s, Jews and Blacks marched together. Both communities have gone on. I do not know if the remembered warmth of the Black-Jewish Alliance stands up under scrutiny or is more a thing of nostalgia. I don’t think African Americans perceive Jewish support for their issues to be truly significant today. And many Jews are likely to give greater weight than justified to the pronouncements of a few African Americans with decidedly negative views of Jews, or whose pronouncements are shaped within a discourse seen as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel. And, really, they usually have no real reason to be sensitized to Jewish perceptions about this discourse.

But the issues of racism and bigotry are still with us. God help us, we still need a movement like “Black Lives Matter.” The coincidence of Heschel’s yahrtzeit falling on MLK Day should help all of us rededicate ourselves to universal rights and human dignity, and to the role religion and religious leaders can play in advancing them.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Language, authority, tradition and memory and the themes of the modern Fast of Tevet Seth Ward—EDOS—31 December 2011 ה טבת תשע”ב  

Edited and enhanced January 6 2017 


Five Events for the Tenth of Tevet (Parallel to Massechet Taanit regarding 5 events of 17th or Tamuz amd 9th of Av)


The Siege of Jerusalem,

The Fast of the Faulty Translation,

The Christianity Calamity,

The General Kaddish (יום הקדיש הכללי) for Holocaust victims, and

Chaim Nahman Bialik (whose birthday is marked on the 10th of Tevet).

(I do not want to suggest Christianity is a calamity, or that such an approach is dominant in Judaism; compare for example Maimonides’ oft-cited remarks at the end of the Mishneh Torah about its positive role in the unfolding  of the Divine plan. But some Jewish writers might have seen it as a reason for a fast day. Nor is Bialik’s birthday a reason for the fast, despite the fact that some treated his falling away from Volozhon as a tragedy; rather, given the theme of the “faulty translation” and the important role of Bialik in reestablishing the Hebrew language, I think it is appropriate to include Bialik in this list. )


  1. The Prophetic Establishment of the Fast


יט  כֹּה-אָמַר ה צְבָאוֹת, צוֹם הָרְבִיעִי וְצוֹם הַחֲמִישִׁי וְצוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וְצוֹם הָעֲשִׂירִי יִהְיֶה לְבֵית-יְהוּדָה לְשָׂשׂוֹן וּלְשִׂמְחָה, וּלְמֹעֲדִים, טוֹבִים; וְהָאֱמֶת וְהַשָּׁלוֹם, אֱהָבוּ.  {פ}

19 ‘Thus saith the L-ORD of hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful seasons; therefore love ye truth and peace. {P} Zechariah 8:19


  1. Shulhan Arukh OH 549  


  • חייבים להתענות בתשעה באב ובי”ז בתמוז ובג’ בתשרי ובעשרה בטבת מפני דברים הרעים שאירעו בהם
  1. Shulhan Arukh OH 580.2

בשמונה בטבת נכתבה התורה יונית בימי תלמי המלך והיה חושך בעולם שלשה ימים. ובתשעה בו לא נודע איזו היא הצרה שאירע בו.

  1. Nebukhadnezzar lays siege to Jerusalem– 10th of 10th month of 9th year of Zedekiah, or Ezekiel learns about Jerusalem’s fate (Ezek. 24:1, 33:21), see also 2 Kings 25:1-4, Jer. 52: 4-7.


5.       Rosh Hashana 18b

דאמר רב חנא בר ביזנא אמר ר”ש חסידא מאי דכתיב {זכריה ח-יט} כה אמר ה’ צבאות צום הרביעי וצום החמישי וצום השביעי וצום העשירי יהיה לבית יהודה לששון ולשמחה קרי להו צום וקרי להו ששון ושמחה בזמן שיש שלום יהיו לששון ולשמחה אין שלום צום אמר רב פפא הכי קאמר בזמן שיש שלום יהיו לששון ולשמחה יש גזרת המלכות צום אין גזרת המלכות ואין שלום רצו מתענין רצו אין מתענין . . .צום השביעי זה ג’ בתשרי שבו נהרג גדליה בן אחיקם ומי הרגו ישמעאל בן נתניה הרגו ללמדך ששקולה מיתתן של צדיקים כשריפת בית אלהינו ואמאי קרי ליה שביעי שביעי לחדשים צום העשירי זה עשרה בטבת שבו סמך מלך בבל על ירושלים שנאמר {יחזקאל כד-א} “ויהי דבר ה’ אלי בשנה התשיעית בחדש העשירי בעשור לחדש לאמר בן אדם כתב לך את שם היום את עצם היום הזה סמך מלך בבל אל ירושלם” ואמאי קרי ליה עשירי עשירי לחדשים והלא היה ראוי זה לכתוב ראשון ולמה נכתב כאן כדי להסדיר חדשים כתיקנן ואני איני אומר כן אלא צום העשירי זה חמשה בטבת שבו באת שמועה לגולה שהוכתה העיר שנאמר {יחזקאל לג-כא} “ויהי בשתי עשרה שנה בעשירי בחמשה לחדש לגלותנו בא אלי הפליט מירושלם לאמר הוכתה העיר” ועשו יום שמועה כיום שריפה ונראין דברי מדבריו שאני אומר על ראשון ראשון ועל אחרון אחרון והוא אומר על ראשון אחרון ועל אחרון ראשון אלא שהוא מונה לסדר חדשים ואני מונה לסדר פורעניות


  1. Hanah b. Bizna has said in the name of R. Simeon the Saint: ‘What is the meaning of the verse, Thus had said the L-ord of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness? (Zech. VIII, 19). The prophet calls these days both days of fasting and days of joy, signifying that when there is peace they shall be for joy and gladness, but if there is not peace they shall be fast days’! — R. Papa replied: What it means is this: When there is peace they shall be for joy and gladness; if there is persecution, (Lit., ‘decrees of the Government’). they shall be fast days; if there is no persecution but yet not peace, then those who desire may fast and those who desire need not fast. . . The fast of the seventh month’: this is the third of Tishri on which Gedaliah the son of Ahikam was killed. (Jer. XLI, 1, 2) Who killed him? Ishmael the son of Nethaniah killed him; and [the fact that a fast was instituted on this day] shows that the death of the righteous is put on a level with the burning of the House of our God.       ‘The fast of the tenth month’: this is the tenth of Tebeth on which the king of Babylon invested Jerusalem, as it says, And the word of the Lord came unto me in the ninth year in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, saying, “Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this selfsame day; this selfsame day the king of Babylon hath invested Jerusalem.” (Ez. 24:1-2) Why is it called the tenth? As being the  tenth in the order of months. [It might be asked], should not this have been mentioned first? [Soncino: The event commemorated being chronologically the first of those mentioned] Why then was it mentioned in this place [last]? So as to arrange the months in their proper order. I, however, [continued R. Simeon], do not explain thus. What I say is that ‘the fast of the tenth month, is the fifth of Tebeth on which news came to the Captivity that the city had been smitten, as it says, And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that one  who had escaped out of Jerusalem came to me saying, The city is smitten, (Ezek. XXXIII, 21) and they put the day of the report on the same footing as the day of burning. My view is more probable than his, because I make the first[mentioned by the prophet] first [chronologically] and the last last, whereas he makes the first last and the last first, he, however, following [only] the order of months I [also follow] the order of calamities.

Fast of the Faulty Translation


  1. Megilat Ta’anit: “On the eighth of Tevet, the Torah was written in Greek in the days of King Ptolemy, and darkness came to the land for three days.”


  1. Tractate Sofrim, 1:7: “Five Elders wrote the Torah in Greek for Ptolemy. This day was as difficult for Israel as the day in which the Golden Calf was made, for lo hayta ha-torah yekhola lehitargem kol tzarkah the Torah could not be translated adequately.” [Sofrim next refers to the translation of the Bible by 72 elders, also arranged by Ptolemy, in which miraculously, all 72 produced identical translations even though they worked independently, and 13 places in which they diverged from the Hebrew.


  1. From the Letter of Aristeas:

Since the law which we wish not only to transcribe but also to translate belongs to the whole Jewish race, what justification shall we be able to find for our embassy while such vast numbers of them remain in a state of slavery in your kingdom? In the perfection and wealth of your clemency release those who are held in such miserable bondage, since as I have been at pains to discover, the God who gave them their law is the God who maintains your kingdom. They worship the same God – the Lord and Creator of the Universe, as all other men, as we ourselves, O king, though we call him by different names, such as Zeus or Dis….Set all mankind an example of magnanimity by releasing those who are held in bondage.’….   Hecataeus of Abdera says. If it please you, O king, a letter shall be written to the High Priest in Jerusalem, asking him to send six elders out of every tribe – men who have lived the noblest life and are most skilled in their law – that we may find out the points in which the majority of them are in agreement, and so having obtained an accurate translation may place it in a conspicuous place in a manner worthy of the work itself and your purpose. May continual prosperity be yours!’. . . .

308 When the work was completed, Demetrius collected together the Jewish population in the place where the translation had been made, and read it over to all, in the presence of the translators, who met with a great reception also from the people, because of the great benefits which they had 309 conferred upon them. They bestowed warm praise upon Demetrius, too, and urged him to have the whole law transcribed and present a copy to their leaders. 310 After the books had been read, the priests and the elders of the translators and the Jewish community and the leaders of the people stood up and said, that since so excellent and sacred and accurate a translation had been made, it was only right that it should remain as it was and no 311 alteration should be made in it. And when the whole company expressed their approval, they bade them pronounce a curse in accordance with their custom upon any one who should make any alteration either by adding anything or changing in any way whatever any of the words which had been written or making any omission. …


Ninth of Tevet: Christianity Calamity

The 9th of Tevet is a fast day, although

  1. “no one knows why.” (SA-OH 580:2). This passage follows the Tur and is based largely on an appendix to:
  2. Megillat Ta’anit: “Our Masters did not write what this was about.”
  1. Ibn Da’ud, Sefer Ha-Qabbalah: Joseph Ha-Nagid of Granada died on this day in 4827 (Saturday, December 30, 1066):

Indeed, a fast had been decreed for the ninth of Tebet as far back as the days of our ancient rabbis, who composed Megillat Ta‘anit; but the reason had not been known. From this [incident] we see that they had pointed prophetically to this very day.

  1. Tosafot Hadashim, Vilna edition Megillat Ta’anit 22b: “I heard from a great man that on that day Oto ha-Ish was born.”

(indeed it is possible to understand 9 Tevet as being the equivalent of Dec. 25 in the year 3761 of Creation, i.e., 1 BCE).

Yom Ha-Kadish Ha-Kelali

  1. From the Knesset Website (Hebrew only)

יום הקדיש הכללי – עשרה בטבת

בעשרה בטבת פתחו  צבאות נבוכדנצר מלך בבל במצור על ירושלים, ובסופו חרב בית המקדש הראשון. יום זה נקבע כיום צום ואבל לדורות.עשרה בטבת הוא יום הקדיש הכללי לזכר נפטרים ונרצחים שיום פטירתם לא נודע ובהם קורבנות השואה. ביום זה נוהגים קרובי הנפטרים להדליק נרות נשמה ולומר “קדיש” ותפילות לעילוי נשמות הנפטרים.

בשנת 1949 קבעו מועצת הרבנות הראשית ומשרד הדתות שיום זה יהיה יום הקדיש הכללי לזכר קורבנות השואה. בהחלטה זו באה לידי ביטוי ההשקפה כי חורבן יהדות אירופה הוא חלק בלתי נפרד מההרג והחורבן שפקדו את עם ישראל משחר ההיסטוריה.


  1. From an essay by Roni Stauber, Merkaz Zalman Shazar

בעשרה בטבת החלו, על פי המצוין במקרא, צבאות נבוכדנאצר מלך בבל לצור על ירושלים.7 כיבוש העיר על ידי הבבלים, חורבן המקדש והגלות נקבעו בזיכרון הקיבוצי היהודי, בעיקר באמצעות ימי התענית,8 כאירועים ארכיטיפיים למסכת מסעי הגירוש וההרג שידע העם היהודי בימי גלותו. נבוכדנאצר וטיטוס אחריו היוו בהקשר זה פרוטוטיפוסים לדמויות שונות של ארכי-רוצחים שהביאו כליה וחורבן על עם ישראל. “צום ראשית החורבן [עשרה בטבת] הוכרז יום זיכרון לאחרית החורבן. יום שבו סמך מלך בבל אל ירושלים הוא אב-פורענות לעם שאבד עצמאותו ולבש כלי גולה. קו אחד מתוח מנבוכדנאצר עד הרוצח הגרמני. חיית-הטרף מבבל, רומי וברלין בקשה לטרוף את ישראל”, הסביר עיתון ‘הצופה’ את החלטת הרבנות הראשית להכריז על עשרה בטבת כיום זיכרון חללי השואה”.

HN Bialik1873-1934

  1. “In 1933, his sixtieth birthday was celebrated as a national holiday and a final edition of his poetry and prose was published.”
  2. Misrad Ha-hinukh

בעשרה בטבת חל יום הולדתו של חיים נחמן ביאליק. אנו ממליצים לציין ביום זה את תרומתו המיוחדת של המשורר הלאומי ליצירת תשתית לתרבות העברית החדשה.

This announcement is from 2012 and has two suggestions: the first focuses on Bialik’s songs for children and about children. The second contrasts Bialik’s attempt to create a “new Hebrew culture” expressing the values of the Bet Midrash but appropriate for the modern, secular and enlightened world, with Ben-Gurion’s approach that saw in the Bible the unique basis for the New Hebrew Culture.

16. Bialik, Halacha and Aggadah

17. Because the 10th of Tevet has been recognized as “The Day of the General Kaddish” it is appropriate to reference “On the Slaughter” even though it was written in response to Kishinev, decades before the Holocaust. But a few other poems are also listed below.

אֶל הַצִפּוֹר / חיים נחמן ביאליק


שָׁלוֹם רָב שׁוּבֵךְ, צִפֹּרָה נֶחְמֶדֶת,

מֵאַרְצוֹת הַחֹם אֶל-חַלּוֹנִי –

אֶל קוֹלֵךְ כִּי עָרֵב מַה-נַּפְשִׁי כָלָתָה

בַּחֹרֶף בְּעָזְבֵךְ מְעוֹנִי.


בִּרְכַּת עָם


תֶּחֱזַקְנָה יְדֵי כָל-אַחֵינוּ הַמְחוֹנְנִים

עַפְרוֹת אַרְצֵנוּ בַּאֲשֶׁר הֵם שָׁם;

אַל יִפֹּל רוּחֲכֶם – עַלִּיזִים, מִתְרוֹנְנִים

בֹּאוּ שְׁכֶם אֶחָד לְעֶזְרַת הָעָם!

. . .
אַל-תֹּאמְרוּ: קָטֹנּוּ – הֲטֶרֶם תִּתְבּוֹנְנוּ

פְּנֵי אֲבִיר יַעֲקֹב הַהוֹלְכִים בַּקְּרָב;

מִימֵי זְרֻבָּבֶל יָדֵינוּ לֹא-כוֹנְנוּ

מִפְעַל אַדִּירִים כָּמֹהוּ וָרָב.

From Ba-Ir HaHarega

קוּם לֵךְ לְךָ אֶל עִיר הַהֲרֵגָה וּבָאתָ אֶל-הַחֲצֵרוֹת,

וּבְעֵינֶיךָ תִרְאֶה וּבְיָדְךָ תְמַשֵּׁשׁ עַל-הַגְּדֵרוֹת

וְעַל הָעֵצִים וְעַל הָאֲבָנִים וְעַל-גַּבֵּי טִיחַ הַכְּתָלִים

אֶת-הַדָּם הַקָּרוּשׁ וְאֶת-הַמֹּחַ הַנִּקְשֶׁה שֶׁל-הַחֲלָלִים.


וְרָאִיתָ בְּעֵינֶיךָ אֵיפֹה הָיוּ מִתְחַבְּאִים

אַחֶיךָ, בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ וּבְנֵי בְנֵיהֶם שֶׁל-הַמַּכַּבִּים,

נִינֵי הָאֲרָיוֹת שֶׁבְּ”אַב הָרַחֲמִים” וְזֶרַע הַ”קְּדוֹשִׁים”.

עֶשְׂרִים נֶפֶשׁ בְּחוֹר אֶחָד וּשְׁלֹשִׁים שְׁלֹשִׁים,

וַיְגַדְּלוּ כְבוֹדִי בָּעוֹלָם וַיְקַדְּשׁוּ שְׁמִי בָּרַבִּים…

מְנוּסַת עַכְבָּרִים נָסוּ וּמַחֲבֵא פִשְׁפְּשִׁים הָחְבָּאוּ,

וַיָמוּתוּ מוֹת כְּלָבִים שָׁם בַּאֲשֶׁר נִמְצָאוּ,

וְהֵגִיחוּ בַעֲלֵיהֶן מֵחוֹרָם וְרָצוּ בֵית-אֱלֹהִים

וּבֵרְכוּ עַל-הַנִּסִּים שֵׁם אֵל יִשְׁעָם וּמִשְׂגַּבָּם;

וְהַכֹּהֲנִים שֶׁבָּהֶם יֵצְאוּ וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ אֶת רַבָּם:

“רַבִּי! אִשְׁתִּי מָה הִיא? מֻתֶּרֶת אוֹ אֲסוּרָה?” –

וְהַכֹּל יָשׁוּב לְמִנְהָגוֹ, וְהַכֹּל יַחֲזֹר לְשׁוּרָה.


אִםיֵשׁ אֶתנַפְשְׁךָ לָדַעַת


אִם-יֵשׁ אֶת-נַפְשְׁךָ לָדַעַת אֶת-הַמַּעְיָן

מִמֶּנּוּ שָׁאֲבוּ אַחֶיךָ הַמּוּמָתִים

בִּימֵי הָרָעָה עֹז כָּזֶה, תַּעֲצוּמוֹת נָפֶשׁ,

צֵאת שְׂמֵחִים לִקְרַאת מָוֶת, לִפְשֹׁט אֶת-הַצַּוָּאר

אֶל-כָּל-מַאֲכֶלֶת מְרוּטָה, אֶל-כָּל-קַרְדֹּם נָטוּי,

לַעֲלוֹת עַל-הַמּוֹקֵד, לִקְפֹּץ אֶל-הַמְּדוּרָה,

וּבְ”אֶחָד” לָמוּת מוֹת קְדוֹשִׁים –

On The Slaughter1

By Chaim Nachman Bialik

Translated by A.Z. Foreman


Mercy O Heavens, beg mercy for me!

If a god be in you2, with a way in you,

A way that I never knew

Pray ye unto him for me!

My own heart is dead, prayer drained from my tongue.

The hands lie limp, and hope undone.

How long? Until when? How long?


Executioner! Here is my neck, for you,

Your axe and right hand. Put me down like a dog.

The world is my chopping block.

And we’re just Jews, just a few.

My blood is fair game, from the struck skull you sever,

Our blood be on you, from our children and elders,

Staining your raiment forever.


If Justice there be, let it now shine forth!

But if it wait till I’m killed from under the sky

To shine, let Justice die

And its throne be thrown to the earth

And heaven rot with eternal wrong.

Ye wicked, go forth in this your brute force,

And live in your blood6, a cleansed throng.


And cursèd be he that saith: avenge this!

Such vengeance for blood of babe and maiden

Hath yet to be wrought by Satan.

Let blood just pierce the abyss

And pierce the abysmal black of creation

And there in the dark devour and corrode

This Earth’s whole rotting foundation!





Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment