The Passing of Ben Zion Shenker

The Modzitz hassidic dynasty has lost a great composer

passing-ben-zion-shenkerThe recent passing of Ben Zion Shenker z”l, the acknowledged master composer and singer of hassidic music, has left the Jewish community with a great void. He passed away in Brooklyn on November 20. Ben Zion Schenker was born to hassidic immigrant parents in 1925. They raised him with a deep appreciation for Jewish music, played cantorial music for him, and gave him piano lessons. He was soon singing in choirs, made his first record at 13, and had his own 15-minute weekly radio program. He studied at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, then in Williamsburg, where he received semichah (Rabbinic ordination) and Brooklyn College. When he was a 15-year-old, the Modzitzer Rebbe, Rebbe Shaul Yedidya Elazar Taub (1886-1947), of blessed memory, who had recently arrived in America as a refugee, realized that Shenker was sight singing the Rebbe’s own composition from a musical score and asked him to be his musical secretary. By 1956 he had put out the first hassidic record ever. (Two years later Shlomo Carlebach released his first record.) From then until his passing just a few weeks ago, Shenker notated and recorded innumerable melodies of the Modzitzer Rebbes… Continue reading

Jerusalem after the Maccabean Revolt

Jerusalem after Maccabean REvoltThe period following the Maccabean Revolt ushered in tremendous expansion in the city of Yerushalayim and even on the Har Habayis (Temple Mount). Yerushalayim expanded westward to include the area known as the Upper City and a combination of enlargement and refurbishing of the enclosure of the Har Habayis resulted as well. As a result, Yerushalayim in this period once again became a prosperous and beautiful city. But to understand these important developments, it is necessary first to know what happened in the aftermath of the re-conquest of the city and Beis Hamikdash under Yehudah the Maccabee in the revolt of 168-164 BCE.

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Jerusalem Paypyrus “Proves” Jewish Connection to Temple Mount

Papyrus Proves Jewish Connection to Temple MountBut is it a Forgery?

There was much excitement a few weeks ago when a report that an ancient Hebrew Papyrus mentioning Yerushalayim, dating to the 7th century BCE and certainly proving the Jewish presence there, had been recovered. Papyrus, a writing material made of reeds crisscrossed and pressed together, was commonly used in the ancient Near East for all kinds of documents and appears to have been used in ancient Israel as well.

The document, only an inch high and a bit more than four inches wide, preserved a short Hebrew text, a record of the delivery of wine: “From the female servant of the king, from Naharata [a place near Jericho], two wineskins to Jerusalem.” The papyrus was reportedly confiscated by Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) investigators from Bedouin who had plundered it from a cave in the Judean Desert some years earlier.

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