Jew of the Week: Daniel

The Secret Hero of Purim

‘Daniel Interpreting the Writing on the Wall’ by Gustav Doré

Daniel (c. 6th-5th century BCE) was born in Jerusalem to a noble family of scribes and scholars. In the third year of King Yehoyachin’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon subdued the Kingdom of Judah and made it a tributary of the Babylonian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar took a number of noble Jewish families with him back to Babylon, including young Daniel. Together with his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Daniel was raised in the royal palace and trained by the Babylonian wise men. The four were given new names: Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Beltshazzar. However, the Jewish youths held on to their faith, and refused to eat the non-kosher food of the Babylonians. God blessed them to be wiser than all the greatest sages of Babylon. Daniel grew up to become one of the trusted advisors of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors. Daniel also served as an important leader of the exiled Jewish community in Babylon. His prophecies were later collected by the Knesset HaGedolah (“the Men of the Great Assembly”) and make up the Biblical Book of Daniel. In one famous episode, we read how envious ministers in King Darius’ court passed a law to forbid praying to any deity except the king. They then accused Daniel of praying to his God—which he did and did not deny. Daniel was punished by being thrown into a lions’ den, from which he was miraculously saved. The envious ministers were themselves consumed by the lions. King Darius and his court were then convinced of the existence and supremacy of God: “I make a decree, that in all the dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God, and steadfast forever, and His kingdom is that which shall not be destroyed…” (Daniel 6:27) The Talmud points out that Daniel is the same person referred to as Hatach in the Book of Esther. It was he who took care of Esther in the royal palace and communicated between her and Mordechai. And so, Daniel was also the secret hero of the Purim story!

Purim Begins Thursday Evening! Chag Sameach!

The Incredible Secret Story of Stalin’s Purim Death

The Spy Who Brought 120,000 Jews to Israel

Revealed: Wuhan Lab Kept Bat Cages for Coronavirus Experiments 

Will Israel-UAE Oil Deal Destroy Eilat’s Corals?

Monsanto and US Officials Pressuring Mexico to Drop Toxic Glyphosate Ban

Meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Black Lives Matter Working to “Dismantle” Israel

Words of the Week

Purim and Chanukah are both about antisemitism. There is one obvious difference between them: Haman, of the Purim story, wanted to kill Jews. Antiochus, of the Chanukah story, wanted to kill Judaism. It was the difference between Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks 

Tomb of Daniel in Shush (Susa), Iran.

Jew of the Week: Elia Levita

The First Yiddish Novel and Hebrew Dictionary

Cover Page of a 1541 Edition of ‘Bovo-Bukh’

Eliyahu “Bachur” haLevi (1469-1549) was born near Nuremberg, the youngest of nine children. When the Jews were expelled from the region, his family settled in Venice. Throughout these years, Eliyahu spent most of his time in the study of Torah, Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), and Hebrew grammar. In 1504, he settled in Padua and took on a job as a teacher of Jewish studies. He wrote a textbook of Hebrew grammar for his students, and the book quickly spread far and wide. It became especially popular among Christian scholars, many of whom were then trying to learn Hebrew in order to understand the Bible in its original language. Meanwhile, inspired by other Renaissance authors, Eliyahu wrote a romance novel in Yiddish, the Bovo-Bukh, history’s first Yiddish novel. Hugely popular, it has been continuously published until this day, going through some 40 editions over the past five centuries. It was also translated to other languages, including German and Russian. The book’s title is the origin of the well-known Yiddish phrase, bube mayse, an “old wives’ tale”. Eliyahu wrote two satires in Italian as well. By the time he resettled in Rome in 1514, he was quite famous, and became close with Cardinal Egidio da Viterbo. The two made a deal in which Eliyahu and his family could live in the Cardinal’s palace, in exchange for Eliyahu teaching him Hebrew and Jewish mysticism. (At that time, Jewish mysticism was very popular in Europe, and had many famous non-Jewish students, too, including Michelangelo and Pico della Mirandola.) Eliyahu lived with the Cardinal for the next 13 years. During this time, he composed several more textbooks on the Hebrew language, including one of the first Hebrew dictionaries. He also translated various Jewish texts, mainly Kabbalistic ones, into Latin. Rome was sacked in 1527, so Eliyahu had to relocate again. King Francis I offered him to become a professor of Hebrew at the University of Paris, but Eliyahu declined because at that time Jews were banned from living in Paris and he refused to live in a city where his brethren were not welcome. Eliyahu would return to Venice and passed away there. Today is his yahrzeit. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron is one of his descendants.

Jewish Scientist Who Developed First COVID Saliva Test Passes Away

The New Climate Billionaires

First Year of Marriage in Jewish Law

Sleep Doctor’s 5-Step Plan for a Better Night’s Rest

The Economics of Jewish History

COVID Infections Are Plummeting 

The Kuwaiti Muslim Who Found Out He Was Jewish

Words of the Week

To have a second language is to have a second soul.
– Charlemagne

Jews of the Week: Mitchell Schwartz and Ali Marpet

Jewish Super Bowl Showdown

Mitchell Schwartz
(Credit: Jeffrey Beall)

Mitchell Bryan Mendel Schwartz (b. 1989) was born in California and raised in a religious Conservative Jewish home. By the time he started high school, he was 6’5″ and weighed 240 pounds—so he started playing football. Very quickly, he dominated the game, and just a couple of years later was California high schools’ Offensive Lineman of the Year. He was also an all-star baseball pitcher, and an honour roll student with a near-perfect GPA. Not surprisingly, many colleges wanted him, and he chose to go to UC Berkeley where he majored in American Studies. Over his four-year college career, he didn’t miss a single game. In 2012, Schwartz was drafted to the NFL by the Cleveland Browns. He went on to play all 16 games in his impressive rookie season. After several more successful seasons, he signed a 5-year, $33 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, making him one of the highest paid tackles in the sport. Schwartz wears his Judaism proudly, and co-authored a book with his brother Geoff (also an NFL player) called Eat my Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith. He is a big supporter of Kansas City’s Chabad of Leawood, and has lit the city’s public menorah. Last year, he helped lead the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory. Until then, he had never missed a single game in his entire NFL career. Unfortunately, that incredible streak ended earlier this season, though his team still made it to the Super Bowl, and will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has their own Jewish all-star:

Ali Marpet
(Credit: buccaneers.com)

Alexander “Ali” Marpet (b. 1993) was born in New York to a traditional Jewish family. He was also a big high school football (and basketball) success. Marpet studied economics and public policy at Hobart College, which is not a particularly strong athletic school and doesn’t even award athletic scholarships. Only one other player in the history of the college ever made it to the NFL. Marpet went there anyways, and led their football team to multiple championship appearances. He was drafted to the NFL in 2016 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his rookie season, he was voted the best pass-blocker among rookies and 12th-best run-blocking guard overall. In 2018, he signed a 5-year, $55 million extension with the Buccaneers, making him one of the highest paid guards in the NFL. Marpet once described how, while on Birthright Israel, the classic camel ride in the desert didn’t go so well for him since he weighed over 300 pounds and the camel wasn’t too happy about that! He has stated that he is honoured to represent all Jews as a professional athlete. Marpet hopes to win his first championship ring this Sunday.

Words of the Week

Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.
– Chinese Proverb