Chukat: Moses was Here!(?)

Chukat: Moses was Here!(?)
The entire congregation of the children of Israel arrived at the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people settled in Kadesh. … The congregation had no water; so they assembled against Moses and Aaron.  (Numbers 20:1-2). &... Continue Reading »

Jefferson and Korach: Is Rebellion "Good for the Jews?"

Jefferson and Korach: Is Rebellion "Good for the Jews?"
Discussing Shay’s Rebellion (an armed insurrection by Western Massachusetts farmers) in a 1787 letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson wrote: Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.  (‘I prefer the tumult of l... Continue Reading »

Shelach: Cutting the Cord?

Shelach: Cutting the Cord?
When Jews recite the Sh'ma and V'ahavtah, our custom is to gather the tassels (tzizit) of our Tallit and recite aloud the following verse from this week’s parasha, Shelach, (among others):  דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְ... Continue Reading »

Behaalotecha: “Throwing the Book” at Our Enemies

Behaalotecha: “Throwing the Book” at Our Enemies
7,500 miles, and perhaps an even greater distance in liturgical philosophy, separate the two synagogues to which I belong.  One is a Conservative (Masorti) congregation in Jerusalem, a less-than 20-minute walk from where the Ark of the Covenant ... Continue Reading »

Naso: The Enzyme of Blessings

Naso: The Enzyme of Blessings
The night before I commenced rabbinical school, I opened my new copy of The Complete Artscroll Siddur, an assigned text for my first class in Jewish liturgy.  The introductory essay by Rabbi Nosson Scherman included this intriguing sentence... Continue Reading »

Bamidbar: Where do you teach?

Bamidbar: Where do you teach?
This week I attended a university professor’s retirement party.   The guests were mainly either his grey-haired colleagues and former students (now professors at other institutions) or his other-color-haired current students.   Hav... Continue Reading »
May 10

Behar-Bechukotai: Your Sabbatical Year

Behar-Bechukotai: Your Sabbatical Year
Forty years ago in college economics I learned the concept of “opportunity cost.” The cost of doing “x” is the foregone benefit of the best alternative action.  Although an economic principle, it applies to every kind of ... Continue Reading »
May 03

Emor: Does This Mean War?

Emor: Does This Mean War?
This week, Israeli newspapers were rife with explicit threats of war. This wouldn’t have been surprising had they referred to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, or with Hezbollah and/or Hamas, or, of course, with Iran. &nbs... Continue Reading »

Kedoshim-Acharei Mot: How to Start Loving Your Neighbor

Kedoshim-Acharei Mot: How to Start Loving Your Neighbor

The “Golden Rule” isn’t in the Torah.  Hillel the Elder’s (110 BCE – 10 CE) great statement: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor; that is the whole Torah, while the rest is commentary thereof; go and learn it” is recorded in the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a.  Yet, Hillel’s advice may be the most pragmatic application we have of the famous maxim that is in the Torah (in this week’s Parashah): “Love your Neighbor as Yourself.”  [Leviticus 19:18). ...

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Apr 19

Tazria-Metzora: Rules for Kvetching?

Tazria-Metzora: Rules for Kvetching?

Clinical psychologist Dr. Susan Silk has a “Ring Theory” of Kvetching (complaining). She summarizes it as: “Comfort in -- Dumping out.”* According to Dr. Silk’s theory, we should draw a circle and place at its center the name of the person most affected by any situation about which we might kvetch.  We should then write in concentric circles the names of everyone to whom we might kvetch, ranked by how close they are to the person in the center.  This results in a “kvetching order.” ...

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Apr 12
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He who guards his mouth preserves his life
Proverbs 13:3