When two men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined … But if other damage ensues, the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Exodus 21:22-25)
— 

The text describes a scene in which a pregnant woman is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and she is accidentally injured. But what sort of injury is it? The Torah portion considers two cases: first, that the trauma is to the fetus, and the injury causes the woman to miscarry; second, that the trauma results in some other kind of injury to the woman herself.

In the history of Jewish interpretation, these verses have been understood to indicate a clear distinction between the potential life of an embryo or fetus, and the life of a living human being like the pregnant woman. The distinction is seen in the difference between the punishments: in the first scenario the penalty for the loss of the fetus is only monetary, while in the second scenario the death of the pregnant woman would be a capital crime. That essential distinction — that a fetus, while precious, is not equivalent to a fully formed human life — lays the foundation in later Jewish law for a relatively permissive view of abortion. Because pikuach nefesh, the “saving of a human life,” always takes precedence in Jewish law over other concerns, the morality of abortion in Judaism is always tied to the welfare of the pregnant woman.

- Rabbi Beth Kalisch, The Roots of the Amicus Brief

It’s unlikely Sanders will win the nomination. But sooner or later, if trends inside the Democratic Party continue, a secular candidate will. Whether or not that candidate is Jewish, his or her secularism will constitute America’s cultural frontier. Today, only 58 percent of Americans say they would vote for an atheist for president. (A lower percentage than say they would vote for a Muslim). Given the greater secularism of America’s young, that number should rise but it will remain a massive hurdle for years, if not decades to come. 

Bernie Sanders’ success in Iowa thus poses a fascinating cultural question. The question is not whether Americans would elect a Jew. They would. It’s whether Americans would elect a Jew who eschews Judaism. The answer divides the two parties today, and may well for a very long time.
independent.co.uk
The Muslims who saved Jews during the Holocaust are finally being commemorated

From the article:

Dubbed the “Iranian Schindler”, Islamic diplomat, Abdol Hossein Sardari, saved thousands of Jews from the Nazi regime by confusing the fascist group with their own propaganda. When the Nazis began implementing anti-Jewish laws in occupied France, Mr Sardari, head of the Iranian Consulate in Paris, used the Nazis’ own racial purity laws to convince the group Iranian Jews were actually Aryan and not subject to the Reich’s racial laws. Issuing Iranian passports to occupied Jews, without the consent of his superiors, Mr Sardari helped 2,000 Jews escape the Nazi regime.

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Pre-Shabbat thoughts

If we move beyond the concept of God, and instead take a Kabbalistic approach which discusses the Ein Sof, i.e. the Infinite, we realize that everything is permeated or constituted by Ein Sof because of its limitless nature.

The Jewish religious responsibility is to recognize this divine reality by performing mitzvot and reciting blessings. By doing this, one repairs the world both in the literal sense that the Kabbalah teaches, but also for oneself by recognizing the fundamental unity of reality, i.e. coming to recognize “God,” the Ein Sof, in everything and everyone. 

The recognition, both intellectual and intuitive/emotive, of the underlying unity of existence is what constitutes salvation in Judaism; it’s not otherworldly in the sense of going to heaven, but this worldly in the sense of creating a just society and being in harmony with God/Ein Sof. The person who engages in this process understands the interdependent nature of reality and the importance of their own actions in restoring/preserving the unity of that reality in a way that doesn’t harm others and allows them to achieve an understanding of that unity as well.

Of course, as liberal Jews we don’t perform the mitzvot in the way that Orthodox Judaism has understood them. The task of liberal Judaism is to engage the tradition and determine those things that help us recognize Ein Sof in our lives, which can be discovered through personal experience, Jewish liturgical traditions, the moral values of Judaism, and the godly traits demonstrated through the sefirot and other theological traditions as far as possible. The task is to determine which parts of the tradition can lead to an understanding and experience of the Ein Sof and which are no longer helpful in that pursuit, and this will inevitably be different for different people. 

Shabbat is a weekly reminder to reaffirm the sanctity of life by resting, drinking wine, eating delicious food, lighting candles, and joining others in reflection on our values in the prayer service. I hope you all have a wonderful Shabbat as we take time to affirm those things which make our lives meaningful and holy. 

Shabbat Shalom

Do something about antisemitic hate mail, general antisemitism, and staff response on Tumblr!

For too long, Jews on Tumblr have had to deal with antisemitic hate mail, general antisemitism, and a mediocre staff response to our complaints. We have many anecdotes of antisemitism that we experience on tumblr, but we do not have data. Data can be more powerful than anecdotes when trying to convince companies such as Yahoo and Tumblr to change their ways. This is why I have created a survey about antisemitism on Tumblr (most specifically hate mail). Whether you are converting to Judaism, openly Jewish on Tumblr, or a not openly Jewish Jew your responses to this survey are powerful. 

Click here to get started

Also, it would be awesome if you would reblog this post. We need as much data as possible for effective advocacy. 

jta.org
Jewish transgender man gives birth and embraces life as a single ‘abba’
(JTA) — When Rafi Daugherty went to the hospital for the birth of his first child, he posted a sign on the delivery room door.

Here’s your Sunday #goodread to wrap up the weekend: 

Meet Rafi Daugherty, a Jewish trans man who recently gave birth to a new baby, Ettie Rose. This profile is the lovely story of Rafi navigating coming out to a religious community, giving birth, (single) parenthood, and keeping his Jewish faith as a trans man. Here’s how the article starts:

When Rafi Daugherty went to the hospital for the birth of his first child, he posted a sign on the delivery room door.

“I am a single transgender man having my first baby,” it read. “I use he/him/his pronouns and will be called ‘Abba’ (Hebrew for father) by the baby. Papa, Dad, Daddy, Father … are also ok.”

“I didn’t want them to assume that I identified as female because I was having a baby,” he said.

After eight hours of labor, Rafi was holding his 7-pound, 10-ounce daughter: Ettie Rose, named, in the Jewish tradition, for Rafi’s maternal grandmother and great-grandmother.

Rafi, 33, wanted hospital staff to be prepared for what they were about to see: a man laboring in bed.

The story is gorgeous and gives a small snippet of Rafi’s incredible journey. Amazing, truly. Congratulations to this beautiful family. 

gawker.com
Powerful: Oregon Militiamen Upload Video of Themselves Blowing "Battle Trumpets" (?)
You may know the shofar as a musical instrument of Jewish antiquity, traditionally blown in synagogues during Rosh Hashanah—but did you know that right now, in the frozen hinterland of the Pacific Northwest, the Oregon militiamen are blowing the HORNS OF FREEDOM as we speak?
By Sam Biddle

Or that time the Oregon Miltiamen rebel group culturally appropriated Judaism for NO DESCRIBABLE REASON.

Seriously, what the fuck is this?

2

This shit pisses me off so much. This is a Christian bible being passed off as a Jewish Bible in the Jewish section of Books-A-Million. Less than three feet away was a section filled with at least 30 different kinds of Christian bibles. Meanwhile half of the meager shelf of Jewish books have something to do with Christianity, or were just Christian books about how to incorporate Jewish practices into Christianity. Why do Christians always feel the need to convert Jews using these dishonest tactics, or to appropriate Judaism for themselves? Seriously, this is nothing more than a lie. Christians just need to step off.

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Beautiful synagogues from around the world

  1. Dohány Street Synagogue, Budapest
  2. Grand Choral Synagogue, St. Petersburg
  3. Grand Synagogue of Edirne, Edirne, Turkey
  4. Hurva Synagogue, Jerusalem
  5. Eldridge Street Synagogue, New York
  6. Great Synagogue of Rome, Rome
  7. Ohr Torah Synagogue, Acco, Israel
  8. Great Synagogue of Sydney, Sydney
  9. Rykestrasse Synagogue, Berlin
  10. Szeged Synagogue, Szeged, Hungary
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“Why survive at all if you want to be is sad, angry and hurting?”

81-year-old Eva Kor is an extraordinary woman. She not only survived the hell we know as Auschwitz, but she also found in her an unimaginable amount of forgiveness for one of her tormentors in the camp: A murderer called Oskar Groening who was responsible for over 300,000 deaths. When she was 10, Eva and her twin sister fell victim to notorious ‘Angel of Death’ Josef Mengele. He performed painful experiments on the sisters, and injected them with chemicals to turn them into zombies. Eva vividly remembers that, once, Doctor Mengele stood over her caged bed and announced that she had two weeks to live after injecting a mysterious substance into her bloodstream. He was wrong however, and Eva grew up to controversially forgive the Nazis. The above photo shows Eva embracing 94-year-old Groening in court. She said he was immensely compassionate and had tears in his eyes, thanking her forgiveness. The decision to forgive such a callous killer has caused uproar in the Jewish community, particularly with other Holocaust survivors. Eva feels triumphant though, and wants others to follow suit and to spread forgiveness.