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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Week of 20 Sivan

Nemirov massacres and the Chmielnicki uprising

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Medieval Europe offered its inhabitants little in the way of prosperity or security, especially the Jews unfortunate enough to live there. In 1096, a mere three months into the First Crusade, the ragtag army of Urban II obliterated Jewish communities up and down Germany's Rhine River, communities guilty of nothing other than lying in the path of Crusaders who sought distraction from the tedium of the road. Two centuries of Crusading, undertaken to free the Holy Land from heretical Moslems, inflicted a steady fallout of collateral damage upon Jews from Paris to Jerusalem.


In the 14th Century, the Black Plague that wiped out over a third of Europe struck Jews less than half as often as gentiles, ostensibly because of Jewish dietary standards and hygiene. Knowing nothing of germ theory, however, superstitious Europeans assumed that the Jews had poisoned or cursed their well water and responded, predictably, with violence. Blood libels, pogroms, and expulsions left tens of thousands of Jews dead, with the survivors emotionally and spiritually traumatized.


But there seemed to be a faint ray of hope on the eastern horizon. As early as 1334, King Casimir III of Poland invited the Jews to settle in his country, and by 1500 the Golden Age of Polish Jewry had begun. Over the next century, the Jewish population tripled to 150,000 as Polish Jews established a successful merchant class, while the talmudic academies and scholars of Poland rivaled any throughout the Diaspora.


In a tragically familiar pattern, the financial success of Polish Jews precipitated an eventual decline in their piety and spiritual commitment. Materialism, arrogance, factionalism, and corrupt business ethics eroded the Torah foundations of the community, while persecution by the Church and resentment from an impoverished peasantry made the position of the Jews ever more precarious.


In the 1630s, a series of Cossack uprisings in the Ukraine sparked a wave of unrest throughout Eastern Europe. The Cossacks, warlike descendants of Russian serfs renowned for their skill as horsemen, had been recruited by the kings of Poland in the previous century to repel Tartar invaders from Crimea to the East. So well had the Cossacks performed their duties that, with the threat of the Tartars eliminated, the Polish government revoked the privileges and autonomy it had granted the Cossacks as payment for their services.


In 1648, a leader rose up among the Cossacks in the person of Bogdan Chmielnicki, who unified a band of former serfs, robbers, and escaped criminals into a devastating military force. Assuming the title of Hetman, or Captain, Chmielnicki allied himself with his former adversaries, the Tartars, then launched a revolt against the Polish nobility, routing 8000 soldiers of the Polish army.


Celebrated by the peasants and serfs as a hero and savior, Chmielnicki incited a peasant rebellion against the nobles. Whipped into a frenzy of violence and vengeance, the peasants struck out at the most accessible object of their oppression -- the Jewish tax collectors and moneylenders who, in their minds, represented all the injustice of the Polish system. Grateful for the opportunity to allow the rabble vent their anger against the Jews, the Polish nobility did nothing to defend them.

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A wave of massacres broke across Poland as the Cossacks drove the uprising from town to town and subjected their victims to almost unimaginable brutality. The historian Nathan Nata Hanover in Yeven Metzula records: "Some were skinned alive and their flesh thrown to the dogs. The hands and feet of others were chopped off and their bodies flung into he roadway where wagons ran them over and they were trampled by horses... Children were slaughtered at their mothers' breasts, and they were sliced open like fish... no form of unnatural death in the world was not inflicted upon them." And although Jews were the primary target of violence, the rebels ravaged and beheaded Roman Catholic clergy, while churches were pillaged and set aflame.


In what has become known as the Gezeiras Tach V'Tat (the evil decree of the Jewish years 5408 -- 5409, but which continued for an additional three years), an estimated hundred thousand Jews lost their lives, and hundreds of communities disappeared. But amidst the long travail of savagery, one day stands outs beyond all the rest.


On the twentieth day of the month of Sivan, 1649, the rebels fell upon the Polish town of Nemirov. In a single day, Chmielnicki's Cossacks slaughtered 6000 Jews until the Bug River turned red with Jewish blood. The following year, the Council of the Four Lands, an autonomous Jewish governmental body over Eastern Europe, established the date as a day of fasting and lamentation. In some communities, the mournful Selichos prayers are still recited in commemoration of the massacres.


With his forces widely scattered and the Tartars having betrayed him by allying themselves with the Poles, Chmielnicki negotiated a treaty in August 1649, only to reignite his rebellion in 1652 when the Tartars switched their allegiance back to the Cossacks. During the interim, the Jews of Poland found themselves victims of violence from the Poles who, incomprehensibly, accused them of collaboration with the Cossacks. Further ravaged by a cholera epidemic in the summer of 1652, many Jews fled Poland for Germany, Lithuania, Russia, or the Balkans.


The aftermath of the Chmielnicki massacres, however, was even more far-reaching. Demoralized and disillusioned, the Jews of Europe cast about for some way to make sense of the devastation that had left so many dead and so many more with shattered lives. Surely, G-d would not have subjected them to such senseless pain and suffering unless it were part of a greater plan. Surely, there had to exist some divine method behind the madness. Surely, a tragedy of this scale could only be explained as the chevlei Moshiach, the prophesied and long-awaited birth pangs of the Messiah.


Seeking to make sense out of insanity, the Jews of Europe assuaged their scarred psyches by indulging hope in the coming dawn of messianic redemption. Barely a decade later, many of them would believe their faith rewarded with the appearance of the charismatic leader Shabbsai Tzvi, who convinced much of European Jewry that he was indeed their prophesied Redeemer.


The catastrophic rise of this false messiah and his eventual conversion to Islam left an already broken Jewish people even more bereft of hope and faith. It began an era of spiritual darkness for the Jews of Europe from which they would only begin to emerge with the birth of the Chassidic movement half a century later.


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JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis. Comment by clicking here.


Previously:

Independent Judea under Shimon HaMaccabee
The Great Revolt begins
Dedication of new walls of Jerusalem

© 2006, Rabbi Yonason Goldson