This illumination of the revelation at Sinai is taken from the Tripartite Mahzor (Germany, ca.1300). Beneath a line of heavenly trumpets emerging from a thick layer of clouds, a clean-shaven Moses receives the law, with a heavily bearded Aaron close behind him. Rather surprisingly, Aaron is wearing a Christian episcopal mitre rather than traditional priestly regalia. Behind him a group of men, each wearing a Judenhut—the pointed hat that often distinguishes an Ashkenazi Jewish man in medieval manuscripts—look on. Behind a partition (a kind of synagogue mechitzah) of flowering vines, a group of women with normal human bodies, but with the faces of animals, look to the heavens. Such depictions in Ashkenazi manuscripts are common, though here it must be noted that (unlike, say, in the famous Griffins’ Head Haggadah) men are given ordinary human features.
As the men look across toward Aaron and Moses, the women gaze upward at the letter aleph, which begins the first word of the poem on the page, the Shavuot piyyut “Adon Imnani.” The endpoint of their gaze is the trumpets, which broadcast the divine voice. The foremost figure among the group of animal-headed women holds what I believe to be a siddur (prayerbook). If so, then she is the firzageren (or zogerke), the woman in medieval Ashkenazi Jewish communities who was responsible for reciting, translating, and interpreting the prayers for the female section of the synagogue. This illumination undoubtedly makes Torah the province of men, but I understand this small and easily overlooked detail of the siddur to indicate that the experience of the Divine Presence is accessible to women through prayer.
Overshadowed by the more earth-shaking or at least highly publicized events elsewhere, the "Tent City Protests" that began in Tel Aviv last summer have been forgotten by many outside of Israel. Nonetheless, they were extraordinary both in size-on September 3 as many as 450,000 marched throughout Israel-and civility. We thought that it would be useful to listen to what some thoughtful and involved Israelis are saying about what they saw or did last summer in the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinian Nobel Prize-winning writer was captivated by Judaism. In 1934, he lamented, "hope is dimming that I will ever be able to discover my link to the Table of the Breads and the Sea of Bronze; to Heine, Gleizer, and the ten Sephiroth; to Ecclesiastes and Chaplin."
Should the Haskalah be rebranded as "Jewish Romanticism?” Olga Litvak seeks to bring about a radical change in the definition of Haskalah.
Explaining the origins of the many African and African American groups who identify themselves as Jews or, at least, as descendants of the ancient Israelites.