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

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
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If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.
Jewish Proverb