The Happiest News Of The Jewish Week: World Seders, Jewish Superheroes, Yiddish Rockstars
It’s like a normal Friday times seven (or eight) — Passover is almost over!
Take a slug of wine, count your blessings and your Omer, and celebrate the happiest news stories this Jewish week. It’s spring, it’s the season of redemption, and Natalie Portman showed up at the “Avengers: Endgame” premiere — that, my friends, is good news for the Jews.
If you have a tip for a Jewish news story that brought you joy, please send it to [email protected].
Israeli Avengers: Fans at an “Avengers” showing in Kfar Saba, Israel went viral with a joyful moment of public fandom. Meanwhile, Israeli scientists at Bar-Ilan University announced their findings that watching “Spider Man” and “Ant-Man” movies decreases arachnophobia and fear of ants. Even brief exposures, haters — seven seconds of Paul Rudd will cure your insect fears (and many other things). We recommend the trailer for the upcoming “Spider-Man: Far From Home” featuring chiseled Yid Jake Gyllenhaal.
A Jew now leads Ukraine: It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of a Jew becoming the leader of Ukraine, a country with a history of anti-Semitism and violence towards Jews that runs so long and deep. It’s even more miraculously bizarre when you realize that Volodymyr Zelensky defeated the sitting president in a landslide, that he is a professional comedian with zero political experience, and that he currently stars on a television show as a teacher who gets elected Ukraine’s president. And when you realize that Ukraine’s Prime Minister is also Jewish, making Ukraine the only country outside of Israel to have Jews in both prime positions of leadership. Oh, if our grandparents could see us now.
Rekindling in Morocco: If that’s not enough for you, the Jewish community in Morocco has made plans to hold its first democratic election in 50 years, JTA reports. The elections, which will happen under the auspices of the king of Morocco, signal greater acceptance of the local Jewish community after a half-century notable for animus against Jewish Moroccans, which led to a mass migration to Israel. Moroccan royals have also announced plans to open a Jewish museum in Fez.
Rebirth in Warsaw: If it had just been the Jewish Ukrainian prime minister but not the president, dayeinu. If it had been the Jewish Ukrainian president but not the Moroccan Jewish elections, dayeinu. But there was also rebirth for the Jewish community in the darkest of places — the site of the Warsaw ghetto hosted a Passover seder on the first night of the holiday, officiated by the Chief Rabbi of Poland, on the 76th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Another unlikely seder was held in Reykjavik, Iceland, which recently welcomed a rabbi to a permanent position, the first time a rabbi has been employed in the country since World War II.
Last quick things: A mikveh is intentionally welcoming Jewish people who are gender non-binary, meaning that they do not identify as men or women. The creators of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” are set to make another show for Amazon:a Jew-ish period piece about strong women trying to break into the male-dominated art world — sound familiar? And Seth Rogovoy writes poignantly about rockstar Kurt Cobain’s joyful use of Yiddish words.
Torah: This week, congregations worldwide may be split in their Torah readings. Communities that observe Passover for seven days will read this week’s Torah portion, Achrei Mot. One big takeaway from Achrei Mot? Don’t drink blood. Pretty straightforward.
Communities that observe Passover for eight days will have two Torah readings — one from the book of Deuteronomy, and one from the book of Numbers.
Earlier this week, during the middle days of Passover, Jews read Exodus 33-34, revisiting a particularly heart-rending moment with Moses. Having hiked back up Sinai to retrieve a second set of tablets after he smashed the first during a rage about the golden calf (that’s why you have to pay for AppleCare, folks!), he has a near breakdown of self-doubt in front of God.
“See, You say to me, ‘Lead this people forward,’ but You have not made known to me whom You will send with me,” Moses cries, desperately, to God. “Further, You have said, ‘I have singled you out by name, and you have, indeed, gained My favor.’ Now, if I have truly gained Your favor, pray let me know Your ways, that I may know You and continue in Your favor. Consider, too, that this nation is Your people.” And even as God grants Moses everything he’s asking for, Moses still wants something more — proof. Certainty. “Oh, let me behold Your Presence!” Moses pleads.
And God, to God’s credit, comes up with a compromise. In classic God style, it involves rocks.
Shabbat is almost here. Time to be as great as God claims to be, in this same reading — compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness. Shabbat shalom!
[Edit: An earlier version of this article stated that some Jews will read Exodus 33-34 this week. Rather, that section is read during the intermediate days of Passover.]