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Monsters, demons, and other mythical creatures in Jewish lore

Jewish tradition is opposed to magic, divination, and sorcery. Exodus 22:18 reads: "You shall not allow a witch to live." And Deuteronomy 18:10-11 is more elaborate: "Let no one be found among you...

 

Why do Jews put stones on graves?

The Jewish tradition of leaving stones or pebbles on a grave is an ancient one, and its origins are unclear. It is a custom or tradition, rather than a commandment, and over time many interpretation...

 

Tisha B'Av 101

Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av (which month coincides with July and/or August), is the major day of communal mourning in the Jewish calendar. Although a large number of disasters are said to have befallen the Jews on this day, the ma...

 

12 Great Introduction-to- Judaism Books

Looking for a Judaism 101 book to start your Jewish learning? The most frequent emails we receive at My Jewish Learning are variations of this: “Help! I want to learn about Judaism, and I know almost nothing. Where do I start?” Although we joke...

 

The tattoo taboo in Judaism

The Jewish world has a longstanding aversion to tattoos. Even among largely secular Jews, the taboo against body ink remains powerful - a disinclination attributed both to the tattooing of...

 

What Jewish tradition says about pets

For many Jews today, pets are beloved household members who are often considered part of the family. That is despite the commonly held perception that Jewish observance and pet ownership are...

 

9 things you didn't know about Shavuot

Along with Passover and Sukkot, Shavuot is one of the three major Jewish pilgrimage festivals. It falls out precisely 49 days after the second day of Passover, a period of time known as the Omer,...

 

The evil eye in Judaism

The “evil eye,” ayin ha’ra in Hebrew, is the idea that a person or supernatural being can bewitch or harm an individual merely by looking at them. The belief is not only a Jewish folk superstition but also is addressed in some rabbinic texts. T...

 

How to make your own Haggadah

Making your own Haggadah is not just a money-saver, but also a great way to educate yourself about the Passover seder, add a unique twist to your seder and have a more meaningful and satisfying hol...

 

9 things you didn't know about Purim

With costumes, spiels and lots of drinking, Purim, which in 2021 starts at sundown on Thursday, February 25th, is one of Judaism's most raucous holidays. You might know about beautiful Esther...

 

Must-know Purim words and phrases

Gragger - Pronounced GRAH-gur. Yiddish for "noisemaker." Graggers are used during the reading of the megillah (see below). When the reader speaks the name of Haman the congregation tries to drown...

 

The magnitude of destruction on Kristallnacht

On the night of Nov. 9, 1938, synagogues, Jewish schools and Jewish-owned businesses were targeted in violent riots throughout Nazi Germany. This map shows many of the synagogues destroyed on...

 

Must-know High Holidays words and phrases

(MJL via JTA) — Here are some important Hebrew words and terms you may encounter over the High Holiday season. Akedah — Pronounced ah-keh-DAH. Literally “binding,” the Akedah refers to the biblical story of the binding of Isaac, which is...

 

Why Jews Blow a Ram's Horn On the New Year

Question: Is there a reason we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, and why don’t we use a trumpet or some other instrument? I know it’s traditional, but is there a reason that the shofar is so special? Answer: Well, I don’t want to toot the...

 

Jewish humor makes America happy

The Torah tells us that Sarah, the matriarch of the Jewish people, laughed when told she’d give birth in her old age. Since that moment, it seems, Jews have continued laughing — at themselves and their predicaments, at each other, even at...

 

Lesser-known facts about the Festival of Lights

Chanukah is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays in the United States. But that doesn't mean there is nothing new to learn about this eight-day festival. From the mysterious origins of...

 

6 tips for hosting a solo Passover seder

Passover is among the most celebrated of Jewish festivities, a time when families typically gather together from wherever they may be dispersed to engage in the ritual retelling of the exodus from Egypt. Circumstances don’t always allow for large... Full story

 

9 Things You Didn't Know About Purim

With costumes, spiels and lots of drinking, Purim, which starts at sundown on Monday, March 9, is one of Judaism's most raucous holidays. You might know about beautiful Esther thwarting evil Haman'... Full story

 

Lesser-known facts about the Festival of Lights

Chanukah is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays in the United States. But that doesn't mean there is nothing new to learn about this eight-day festival. From the mysterious origins of... Full story

 

Shavuot commemorates the spring harvest and the giving of the Torah

Shavuot, the "Feast of Weeks," is celebrated seven weeks after Passover (Pesach). Since the counting of this period (sefirat ha-omer) begins on the second evening of Passover, Shavuot takes place... Full story

 

Answering some oft-asked Chanukah questions

(My Jewish Learning via JTA)—How do you pronounce Chanukah? Is there a correct spelling for the holiday? Why does Chanukah last eight days? These are just some of the frequently asked questions about the Festival of Lights. Here are the answers to... Full story

 

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