Japanese students learn Judaism from chief rabbi

Japan's first chief rabbi, Rabbi Edery, fascinates Japanese high schoolers with Judaism, teaches spiritual message of Tu B'Shvat.

Ari Yashar,

Rabbi Binyamin Edery with the schoolkids
Rabbi Binyamin Edery with the schoolkids
Kazumasa Fujimori

Rabbi Binyamin Edery late last year became Japan's first-ever chief rabbi, and this week the head of Tokyo's Chabad House held a special visit to teach Japanese schoolkids about Judaism.

The rabbi was invited to a high school in Shizuoka, a coastal city to the southwest of Tokyo, by teacher Kazumasa Fujimori who wanted his students to get a first-person experience in learning about Judaism, a subject that is not often well understood in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Rabbi Edery reports that the students displayed great interest and curiosity, "they were both fascinated and inspired, learned a lot and asked many questions. They came out of the learning experience new people."

Back in 1999 the rabbi arrived in Japan to establish its first Chabad House, where he offers classes to "strengthen the identity and moral compass, both to Jewish and non Jewish people."

In his meeting with the students, Rabbi Edery found the students were particularly interested in the Jewish perspective on divine punishment and reward, Jewish marriage, the status of women, and kashrut - Jewish dietary laws.

To illustrate the last point, the rabbi showed them his kosher bento, the traditional Japanese lunch-box. He also brought with him a megillah scroll, a mezuzah, and a shofar.

He explained that Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish new year for the trees, is approaching next Monday, and noted it is a holiday in which man is likened to a tree. The rabbi said that in the holiday people "build themselves to be good and upright people, their positive resolutions they take on themselves now have an impact on  their whole life, and the next generation as well, eternally."

"Just like a tree, if it grows well and strong in its youth it will be a strong, well rooted tree that will give wholesome fruits that will make new strong trees," he said.

The school's principal and teachers thanked the rabbi for his lecture, and asked him to come back and speak at the high school again in the future.

Rabbi Edery's visit Kazumasa Fujimori



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