Answering "Intactivists:" Why We Circumcise

Answering "Intactivists:" Why We Circumcise

Thank you to all who graciously commented on last week’s “Letter to my Grandson.”  Thank G-d, Noam ben Reuven Yigdal v’Yehudit Tovah (aka Evan) and his mother are doing fine.  A few hours ago at our home, Noam entered into the covenant of Abraham.  In fulfillment of the Torah commandment, this occurred on the eighth day -- “b’yom haSh’mini” of his life.  “Sh’mini” (“Eighth”) is the name of this week’s Torah portion.  The reference is actually to the eighth day of the priestly ordination ceremony, not to circumcision.  Nevertheless, in light of this special day in my and my grandson’s life, and the “coincidence” of “Sh’mini” being this week’s Torah portion, I’ll take the opportunity to share some thoughts on the circumcision controversy.  “Intactivist” critics of circumcision ... 

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Shemini: Be Holy, My (Grand) Son

Shemini: Be Holy, My (Grand) Son

Dear Evan, At 1:30 this morning -- the 18th day of Nisan, the fourth day of Pesach, the third day of counting the omer, in the 64th year since the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in our national homeland, and (according to our tradition) the 5,773th year since creation, corresponding to March 29, 2013 -- you were delivered from Mitzrayim (literally “the narrow places”) and entered the world. ...

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Tzav: Cost-Benefit Ritual

Tzav: Cost-Benefit Ritual

This week’s Torah portion, Tsav, is one of several describing our ancient animal sacrificial rites.  These are certainly not rituals that most of us would care to witness, nor even contemplate.  In fact, just reading the Torah text can prompt a salad for dinner! But I suspect that in Temple times, when most people were likely personally familiar with slaughtering, they found the ceremonies spiritually meaningful. “Free-will” and “thanksgiving” offerings were probably especially so as means of ritualized emotional expression.

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Vayikra: Secret Weapon

Vayikra: Secret Weapon

Debbie told her co-worker Susan that Debbie intended to leave her job soon.  Debbie didn’t act as if this was confidential and did not ask Susan to keep it so.  Susan assumed that Debbie had told others, including Debbie’s boss. When Susan’s boss asked her to work with Debbie on a new project, Susan mentioned Debbie’s expected departure.  But Debbie had not told her boss of her plan, nor was it common knowledge.  Susan’s boss informed Debbie’s boss, who questioned Debbie and identified Susan as the information source.  Debbie was furious at Susan for revealing her “confidence” and complained bitterly to their acquaintances.  ...

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Mar 15

New Adult Ed Class Begins This Thursday

New Adult Ed Class Begins This Thursday

NEW ADULT EDUCATION CLASS FOR PASSOVER Thursdays, March 14 & 21, 7:00-8:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Tikvah, Fullerton, CA.  How have Jews understood the Passover narrative? Since “The Torah has seventy faces,” (Bamidbar Rabbah 13:15), there’s no “correct” interpretation. Even so, various approaches have dominated at different times in our history, reflecting the circumstances in which we have found ourselves. We will sample such major genres as: MidrashP’shat (rational/contextual), PaRDeS, and Kabbalah. Enrich your Passover Seder(s), future Bible (Torah/Tan”akh) study, and your understanding of Jewish history and cultural traditions! Please call Temple office at (714) 871-3535 or email tbtaa@sbcglobal.net to RSVP. 

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Vayakhel/Pekudei: "Good Egg"

Vayakhel/Pekudei: "Good Egg"

You’re hosting this year’s big family seder and it’s Erev Pesach morning.  The phone rings … “Oy!”, you think, “Who’s not coming?”  It’s your mother, who promised to bring four dozen hard-boiled eggs, but has a migraine!!!  ... 

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Mar 08

Ki Tissa: Shabbat in Jerusalem

Ki Tissa: Shabbat in Jerusalem

“V’shamru v’nai Yisrael et haShabbat, la’asot et haShabbat l’dorotam b’rit olam….” The Israelite people shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant for all time:  Ex. 31:16  This familiar Saturday morning Kiddush verse comes from this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tissa.  But the Torah says relatively little about how the Sabbath is to be observed. ...

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Tetzaveh: Can’t You Knock?

Tetzaveh: Can’t You Knock?

I haven’t watched an I Love Lucy rerun in years.  But an entry in Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book Love Your Neighbor concerning this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, brought to mind a small detail about Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel.  As I remember it, most scenes began with Lucy in her living room or kitchen.  Shortly thereafter, one or more of the “gang” would open the front door and walk right in.  ...

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Feb 22

Purim: Could Mordecai Buy Life Insurance?

Purim: Could Mordecai Buy Life Insurance?

For me, Purim’s predominant, eternal theme is the precariousness of life for all Jews.   In a land ruled by others, even one that apparently welcomed and accepted us, (according to a Midrash, Mordecai, known to be a Jew, was a member of the royal security police; even if not, he was publicly honored for his action), an anti-Semite was nearly able to wipe us out.  Only a series of unlikely “coincidences” ... 

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T'rumah: Do Cherubs Carry Arrows or Fiery Swords?

T'rumah: Do Cherubs Carry Arrows or Fiery Swords?

This week, billions of people around the world – including many Jews – celebrated “Valentine’s Day” with greeting cards, candy, flowers, candlelight dinners, expensive gifts, etc.  They were perhaps inspired by the iconic symbol of the “romantic” holiday: a chubby, bow-and-arrow equipped cherub (Cupid) either hovering over a heart or shooting an arrow into it.  St. Valentine’s Day is obviously not a Jewish holiday.  Yet, perhaps surprisingly, cherubs do occupy a very special and even prominent place in Judaism!  ...

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Feb 15
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He who guards his mouth preserves his life
Proverbs 13:3