Posts Tagged ‘Judaism’

[VIDEO] Learn About World Religions Via Free Screencasts

June 27th, 2014 No comments

I was delighted to come across philosophy and religious studies professor, Dale Tuggy’s Youtube account. As a religion blogger and scholar, I often find it difficult to locate quality and informative videos that are free from theological/philosophical biases to share with my flock.  It’s a somewhat arduous task, but thankfully Dr. Tuggy has just made it a whole lot easier.  Here, you can learn about the five major world religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism).  You can also learn about various theories of religion put forth by such scholars as Freud, Durkheim, Weber, and Marx.

There are 90 videos to choose from, ranging from just a few minutes long to over 15 minutes – meaning you can complete a ‘lecture’ in about the time it takes to make a cup of tea.  Don’t let the duration of these lectures deceive you – they are packed full of useful information which Tuggy presents in an ‘easy-listening’ voice.

Soar on over and subscribe to Dr. Tuggy’s YouTube channel or start watching now:

World Religions (Screencast lectures by Dr. Dale Tuggy)

M. xo


The Lev Tahor Controversy in Canada

March 13th, 2014 No comments

I couldn’t let an opportunity pass to comment on yet another religious controversy making headlines in my home country.  If you’ve been paying attention to the news out of Canada lately, then you may have heard about a small ultra-Orthodox Jewish group, Lev Tahor, creating quite the controversy here in the Great White North.  Now, Canada tends to be known for its multiculturalism, and as a champion of individual rights and freedoms, including religious freedom.  Although admirable, at times this tolerance creates a firestorm of controversy.

Late last year, media stories began percolating about a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews living in a secluded and tight-knit community in Quebec.  They were clashing with the province over the education of their children, and fled to Ontario in order to privately educate their children (read about issues surrounding private and public education in my post on Creationism in Canada).  What began as an increasingly common story, religious rights versus the public education system, has turned into a media frenzy with accusations circulating of child endangerment, suspicious charitable donations, and religious discrimination.

I won’t bother rehashing all the details that have been steadfastly published in the media.  You can do that for yourself, here, here, and here.  You should also consider watching two investigative reports available on YouTube, one by Global’s 16×9, and the other by CBC’s Fifth Estate.  Both provide some interesting insight into this group, particularly during the interview segments.  Regardless of how sensationally the information has been portrayed in the media, it’s pretty clear that something isn’t quite right.  So, should Lev Tahor be considered a legitimate religious group simply trying to live in accordance with their beliefs, or are they a dangerous cult?

In all honesty, I don’t know.  I hesitate to label minority religious groups, fringe religious groups, or new religious groups as a cult, because the word is far too often misused and abused.  That said, after researching Lev Tahor, something is terrible amiss with the leaders of this group.

It’s no secret that I champion religious tolerance and freedom; however, it’s important to clarify that there are exceptions.  For example, religious rights should never trump basic human rights.  If there is even the suspicion that Lev Tahor children are not being properly cared for, then a full investigation is warranted.  Lev Tahor claims they have nothing to hide, then open your doors and let social service workers have unfettered access to your way of life.

There are also questions surrounding how Lev Tahor generates income, particularly when so few members work outside the community.  According to community leaders, generous donors help sustain the community.  It was reported that at least one charity run by Lev Tahor had their charitable status revoked.  As a taxpayer, I’d like to ensure that tax exemptions are indeed being given to real charities. Further, it was reported that some Lev Tahor members receive thousands of dollars in child tax benefits.  This causes me concern too.  Child tax benefits are intended to ensure that children are being adequately taken care of, but clearly there are numerous accusations that suggest otherwise.  This must be investigated fully.

I don’t wish to see Lev Tahor members persecuted, but there are too many unanswered questions that need to be addressed.  I hope that officials and the media can do so in a responsible and unbiased manner, so that religious freedoms and basic human rights are appropriately balanced and equally championed.  Anything less would be ‘un-Canadian’.

Do you have thoughts or questions about this story?  I’d like to hear from you!

M. xo

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Holy Daze: Sukkot (September 30th, 2012 – October 7th, 2012) – Judaism

October 1st, 2012 No comments

Etrog, silver etrog box and lulav, used on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot

Sukkot is an annual week-long harvest festival that follows the solemn holiday of Yom Kippur.  It is sometimes referred to as the Feast of Booths.  Historically, it commemorates the years that the Israelites wandered the desert following the revelation at Mount Sinai.  Sukkahs, or huts, are traditionally built during this holiday to represent the temporary shelters the Israelites used.  These huts are also believed to represent pre-biblical times when ancient farmers would construct these during harvest to protect their crops.

Typical rituals during Sukkot include the eating of meals in the sukkah, and for some, sleeping in the sukkah.  Construction of the sukkah is very specific so as to allow for certain elements, such as a view of the stars.  Another, traditional observance is called the Taking of the Four Kinds.  A blessing is recited, while holding and shaking four specific species of plants consisting of palm, myrtle, willow (lulav) and citron (etrog).

For more in-depth information, check out the videos below.  My Jewish Learning presents two fun and informative videos.  The first video, entitled Sukkah City, will inform you in a hip, urban style on the construction and nature of a sukkah.  The second video follows Heshy Fried aka Frum Satire around Hasidic Brooklyn as he tries to find out what makes for the perfect etrog (and he also reveals the astonishing price paid for these sacred fruits).  Finally, Maoz Israel presents a more serious look at the sacred meaning behind this important Jewish holiday.

M. xo

What is a Sukkah?

Buying a Lulav and Etrog for Sukkot

Sukkot in Israel

Image Source: Wikimedia


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Holy Daze: Yom Kippur (September 25-26, 2012) – Judaism

September 25th, 2012 No comments

Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, considered the holiest day of the year, is the Day of Atonement.  It occurs on the 10th day of Tishri (the seventh month of Jewish year).  It is a day to atone for the sins of the past year.  A ritual fast is performed for 25 hours beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending the following night.  Eating, drinking and sexual relations are prohibited, as well as bathing or anointing the body with such things are perfumes or deodorants.

Another rite historically performed and alluded to in the Bible is the casting of sins by driving a goat into the wilderness.  In this rite, a high priest would confess the sins of Israel onto the goat before sending it into the wilderness.  This also may be where the term “scapegoat” originates.

As usual, I’ve found some interesting supplements to my brief introduction of this holiday.  Check out the videos and links below if you’re interested in learning a bit more about this sacred holiday.

M. xo

Yom Kippur: Overboard (Jonah’s song)

Huffington Post: Yom Kippur Explained (including video and photo gallery)

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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Holy Daze: Rosh Hashanah (September 16- 18, 2012) – Judaism

August 29th, 2012 No comments

I’ve decided to start a regular series of posts showcasing upcoming religious holidays. I’ll be entitling this series, Holy Daze, because clearly these observances are sacred, and I’m hoping to dazzle you with new and enlightening stories, myths and rituals. Of course, I will only be able to give a snapshot into these sacred celebrations, but I’ll provide links and fun resources for you to find out more information. Let’s get started by talking about the upcoming “Jewish New Year”.

Rosh HaShanah (September 16- 18, 2012) – Judaism

Rosh HaShanah is one of the High Holy Days in Judaism. It occurs on the first and second days of Tishri (the seventh month of the Jewish year). In Hebrew, Rosh HaShanah literally means “the first of the year”, and is commonly regarded as the Jewish New Year. It is a time for reflection, resolution and renewal. The main ritual of Rosh HaShanah is the blowing of the shofar (a ram’s horn) which symbolizes both a trumpet call of a coronation of a king and a call to repentance, particularly those of man’s first sin. Other special observances include eating apples dipped in honey to symbolize wishes for a sweet year ahead and casting bits of bread from one’s pocket into a nearby stream to symbolize the casting away of old sins.

Check out these music videos that explain and celebrate Rosh HaShanah in a hip-hoppin’, rockin’ way:

Rosh Hashana Rock Anthem:

Shofar Callin’:

Suggested further reading:


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