Lieba Rudolph's

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Goodbye 2016

B”H Zev and I were outside of Walgreens in North Hollywood, California, where our son-in-law Nachman was putting up signs for his Chabad community’s Chanukah event. He wished the obviously Jewish-looking man a Happy Chanukah. “I’m not Jewish,” he answered, “but everybody thinks I am.” He went on to tell us that his ancestors were from Ecuador and how he had lots of Jewish friends. He knew about the Jewish expulsion from Spain, too, adding that his family could have...

What’s the Spin?

B”H You’ve heard the classic joke about every Jewish holiday: “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.”  There’s truth to that, but it’s never the whole story, especially with Chanukah. In the Chanukah story, the military victory is the “body” of the story.  There’s also the “soul” of the Chanukah story, which revolves around the death decree issued by Syrian tyrant Antiochus against Jews who observed the supra-rational mitzvos, mainly Shabbos and kashrus. The way of the Syrian world...

The Other Holiday in Kislev

B”H Everyone knows Kislev is the month of miracles, with Chanukah as our emblematic holiday of Jewish victory over all physical and spiritual opposition. Less well known is the holiday of Yud Tes Kislev, the nineteenth day of Kislev (corresponding to this Monday), a day of victory celebrated in the world of Chabad as “the New Year of Chassidus.” On this day in 1798, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi– known as “the Alter Rebbe”– was liberated after 53 days in...

Conquering My Second Worst Fear

B”H People used to comfort my aging father, of blessed memory, telling him that getting old isn’t great, but “it beats the alternative.” To this, he answered, “Yes…but not by much.” Two of my biggest fears as a teen-ager were dying young and getting old. Now that I have successfully beaten the first rap of dying young, I am working on the art of staying young. I have already researched and written about the Jewish antidote to aging.* The trick...

Legacy of Mumbai: Is It Light Yet?

B”H For reasons known only to G-d,  Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivkah were murdered in their Chabad House in Mumbai on November 28th, 2008. Along with four of their guests, they were brutally tortured and killed, targeted for death simply because they were Jews. Like millions of Jews before them and too many after them, they died al kiddush Hashem, in sanctification of G-d’s name. But martyrdom is the antithesis of what G-d wants from us: He wants us...

The Jew and the Turkey

B”H Yes, it’s true. I didn’t always appreciate “the most wonderful time of the year.” But times have changed and I’ve changed. Let’s start with Thanksgiving. Traditionally, when our kids were young, my real objection to Thanksgiving was that it’s on a Thursday, when Shabbos starts shortly after breakfast the next day. That’s a lot of kitchen time for someone who doesn’t like to cook, doesn’t like turkey, and isn’t looking for opportunities to overeat. And while celebrating an American...

Five Phrases Every Lubavitcher Wants You to Know

B”H When my husband and I decided to become observant through Chabad thirty years ago, I was overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know. By memorizing a few key Hebrew and Yiddish phrases, I felt more authentic around my new friends.  I also felt more scholarly around my old friends, in case they asked why we made such a radical decision. (Hardly anyone did.) Today, almost everybody is familiar with the world of Lubavitch. Here are five phrases worth knowing if...

Looking for G-d in the Elections

B”H “I hope you don’t mind my asking, but how are the Orthodox voting?” She was an older woman with cropped grey hair and a New York accent; we left the polls together on Tuesday. I was surprised by her assumption–how was she sure I was even Jewish?–but I had to think quickly. “People are pretty much deciding for themselves,” I answered politely, hoping to end the discussion. What good would it be to debate politics after we both voted? In...

Why Are You Reading This?

B”H There were many arguments in favor of our return to Jewish observance, but the most compelling one was physical. I loved the idea that G-d wanted me to have children, because there was some innate, womanly part of me that had an undeniable and tremendous desire for children as well. Some aspects of the mitzvah to “be fruitful and multiply”–commanded in this week’s portion of Noah— were more challenging for us than others. (Raising our kids gave new meaning...

Out of the Box and in the Air

B”H My husband Zev and I arrived at the airport gate for our morning flight to California. He typically goes to shul to pray, but our flight was too early. He decided he had enough time before boarding to “daven Shachris,” pray the morning prayers while we waited to board. It’s times like these that I admire his commitment to praying three times a day–morning, afternoon and evening– no matter what he’s doing or where he is. He was standing with his huge...