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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 30, 2004 / 8 Nissan, 5764

The magnificence in the mundane

By Rabbi Avi Shafran


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http://www.jewishworldreview.com | This time of Jewish year is a curious study in contrasts.


Mere weeks ago, the synagogue Torah readings were recounting the seminal events of Jewish peoplehood, the Exodus from Egypt and the revelation at Sinai; then, abruptly, the subject matter turned to oxen goring one another and penalties for thieves; and, after that, the minutiae of constructing the Tabernacle and its vessels.


And then there are the two holidays of the season, Purim and Passover, a mere month apart but so very different in tone. The staple of the Passover Seder (besides, of course, the matzo and wine) is the grand narrative of the exodus from Egypt; the commemoration, all miracle and majesty. How different Purim, where so hidden is G-d's hand that no overt mention of Him is even made in the Megillah of Esther. In fact, the narrative of the deliverance of ancient Persian Jewry can easily (if wrongly) be read entirely as a sort of Shakespearean comedy, with fortuitous coincidences taking the place of divine intervention.


There is a lesson in the abrupt juxtapositions: We are always to remember that holiness can permeate not only the miraculous but the mundane. G-d, indeed, is "in the details."


The details of the Torah's laws and the details of history. The payment due the owner of a damaged ox no less than keeping the Sabbath day; the subtle miracle of Purim, no less than the splitting of the Red Sea.


In fact, Judaism teaches that G-d is in the details, even, of daily life. Ours is a religion where every area and moment of human endeavor is sublimated by the law — or, better "the proper way," a more precise translation of the word "halacha."

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From the first words we speak upon arising in the morning until the final ones before retiring; from what we wear to what we eat; from how we pray to how we treat others, an observant Jew's every utterance and action is governed by the Torah's directives. Nothing is mundane.


And more: Not only are our words and actions to reflect G-d's immanence, so are our mindsets. When we ponder the world, we must try to discern G-d's hand, which is ubiquitous if not always obvious. As a keen rabbi once put it: "Seas split every day, but only sensitive eyes notice." That is true about history — the Jewish people's perseverance a case in point — but also with regard to our immediate physical surroundings, the constant miracles so easily taken for granted.


Perhaps that is why the same season of the year that presents such contrasts in its Torah-portions and its holidays, is also the season for a special blessing that can be made no other time of year.


It comes from a category of blessings pronounced upon witnessing certain natural phenomena (like a rainbow, or thunder and lightning), and is made only in the early spring, in the Jewish month of Nisan (and only once a year), upon seeing two or more fruit-bearing trees in bloom.


"Blessed are You, G-d, King of the universe," it begins, as all such blessings do, "Who has omitted nothing from His universe, and created within it lovely creatures and lovely trees, to bring pleasure to human beings."


The springtime tree-blessing, fittingly made as we experience a contrast in climate, winter's darkness and cold giving way to spring's light and life, helps us focus on what we might all too easily overlook, lost as we all too often are, in "more important" concerns.


It makes us stop and look at something commonplace — trees — and see within the beauty of their blossoms and potential fruit a gift from G-d.


It compels us, faced with the mundane, to perceive the magnificent.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America Comment by clicking here.

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