Tuesday, January 31, 2017

100 Blessings a Day: a Practice of Mindfulness

I've been part of a study group for the past year.  We meet once a month for a couple of hours to dabble in Talmud. The Talmud consists of 50 some volumes that together comprise one of the main texts of rabbinic Judaism. There is the Torah, there is Mishna--the earliest written redaction of the oral law based on Torah, written down by the beginning of the third century CE in Northern Israel after destruction of the Temple in 70 CE--there is Gemarra, commentary on the Mishna, and there are stories, parables, and colorful characters.

Talmud, they say is an ocean, and we are dipping our toes. But it's interesting.

I have been posting my embellished class notes at a separate blog site HERE. I've posted the beginnings of the latest post, below...


Our Talmud Circle met on January 8, 2017, the 202nd anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans. The wind howled like the voice of God at Sinai. We were not deterred. We are in Berakhot 35b and the rabbis are concerned about work-life balance, how to approach their study of Torah, and the role of blessings. They, and Rabbi Peretz, set forth a vision of blessings as a practice of mindfulness. 

Worker/Workers from Judah Touro to Mark Zuckerberg

Sanctuary of Touro Synagogue,
New Orleans (built 1908)
Judah Touro (1775-1854), the son of a Hazzan at a Sephardic synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, moved to New Orleans in 1801. When the United States acquired the city in the Louisiana Purchase two years later, business boomed. Touro was all in. He enlisted in Andrew Jackson’s army and hauled ammunition in the War of 1812. Wounded in the war, he survived to become a wealthy merchant, shipper, real estate mogul, and, eventually, philanthropist. He donated for the construction of a free public library in New Orleans in 1824. He purchased a Christian Church building, assumed its debts, and allowed the congregation to use the building rent-free in perpetuity. “I am a friend to religion” he explained to a friend. He founded a home for the poor and a hospital. He purchased slaves in order to free them. And at his death he donated more than $500,000 to various institutions, including Jewish institutions in 14 states, (the equivalent of $2 billion today as a percentage of GDP). 

Touro thrived in the American milieu. His philanthropy embraced Christian, secular, as well as Jewish causes. In 1840 he gave $10,000 for the restoration of the Bunker Hill memorial and was eulogized for it by Daniel Webster. He gave money for the assistance of persecuted Christians in Jerusalem. Through all this “Touro remained a devout Jew, although for most of his life he was without a synagogue,” says his Philanthropy Roundtable profile. It seems safe to say that in the taxonomy of Rabbi Peretz’s cousin in Los Angeles, he was an assimilated earner/earner, and a philanthropist.

Is it enough? Was Judah Touro a good Jew? The rabbis wrestled with the question.
. . . (con't at Talmud Circle Blog)

If this looks vaguely of interest, read the rest at my Talmud Circle blog, and do consider reading The Five Books of Krinsky

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

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