You Don't Say!
The story behind a popular saying.
Apple Tree Editor
: Tell Me Why, please settle a debate.
I'm convinced that "the apple of his eye"
is an ancient saying with Jewish roots. My
friend insists it's from a Shakespearean play.
Who is right?
"The apple of his eye" may sound like
something out of A Midsummer Night's
Dream, but rest assured it was around long,
long before William Shakespeare was even
"The apple of his eye" is from Deuteronomy
32:10, in which God describes His love for
the Jewish people. God is said to watch over
the Jewish people with the same care as He
would have for the center of His eye.
As you probably know, a number of other
popular sayings are based on biblical phrases,
• "A man after his own heart" (in Samuel
13:14, we read of how God sought a king,
who would obey the Torah, to rule over the
Land of Israel);
• "A leopard cannot change its spots" (in
Jeremiah 13:23, the prophet worries that the
Jewish people will never learn to behave
• "Out of the mouths of babes" (In Psalms
8:1-2, it is said that even the youngest of
souls can praise God);
• And "Am I my brother's keeper?" (a refer-
ence to the story, in Genesis 4: 9-10, of Cain
and Abel. After Cain murders his brother,
God asks where Abel is and Cain responds,
"What, like I should know? I have to know
where this guy is all the time?" — well, that's
the modern version, anyway).
: Is Paula Abdul of "American Idol"
fame Jewish or not? I've heard that she
isut her name sure sounds like it's Arabic.
Abdul is an Arabic name — it's Syrian.
It's also Jewish. Paula's father, Harry
Abdul, is a Syrian Jew and her mother, a
native of Canada, also is Jewish. That they
spent a great deal of time living throughout
the world, along with the fact that Paula her-
self has been pretty mum on the subject of
her background, is no doubt why so many
are left wondering
about the famed
Abdul was once
married to the
Beckerman, in a
where she said she
looked forward to
raising children in
a Jewish home. The
was short lived.
: I see the word Mizrachi all the time
and I have to admit I have no idea
what it means, though I know it's some
variety of Orthodox Judaism. Who started
it and what is it?
: To tell you the truth, there are so many
groups and ideas and affiliations within
Judaism that only a complete genius could
understand them all. Fortunately, Mizrachi is
pretty easy to explain.
The Mizrachi movement was founded in
large part by Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines
(1839-1915). He was born in Byelorussia,
then moved to Lithuania where he became a
Rabbi Reines was something of a renegade
within the Orthodox movement. First, he
believed in the value of a secular education
alongside Jewish learning. Second, Rabbi
Reines advocated a logical approach to
Jewish learning, rather than mere memoriza-
tion, which had previously characterized cur-
riculum in yeshivot.
Perhaps most controversial, however, was
the fact that Rabbi Reines was a longtime
supporter of Theodor Herzl and backed the
idea of establishing a modern Jewish state in
the Land of Israel. This came at a time when
Herzl desperately needed support, as many
rabbis of the time did not advocate Zionism,
usually because of their belief that only God
— not a man-made campaign — could
restore the Land of Israel to the Jewish peo-
Most likely, Rabbi Reines inherited his
deep love for Israel from his father, who had
lived there during the 1830s. Following a
drive initiated by Herzl, Rabbi Reines
encouraged Jewish immigration to the Land
of Israel, where young settlers would work
and learn Torah.
In 1902, Rabbi Reines even published a
book, A New Light On Zion, expressing his
support for political Zionism, and that same
year sponsored a leading conference on the
matter, resulting in the creation of the
Mizrachi, or Religious Zionist, movement.
Reines was himself
a deeply observant
Jew and a scholar,
he was anything
but reserved when
it came to disagree-
ing with his col-
leagues on the sub-
ject of Zionism —
and disagree he did.
When a number of
stepped forward to
criticize the new
he answered back with a distinct confidence
and sharpness — even daring to challenge
the most respected scholars of his day.
In his later years, Rabbi Reines spent much
of his time writing.
Though he did not live to see the creation
of the State of Israel, he did realize one
dream: in 1905 he watched as a new yeshiva,
teaching both Jewish and secular studies, was
created in Lida, Lithuania.
The Mizrachi movement continues to this
day, with great support, and, like Rabbi
Reines, those who identify as Mizrachi are
both religiously observant and supporters of