Entries for May 2012

B'midbar: "We're history."

B'midbar: "We're history."

According to the Etz Hayim Torah commentary: "A tradition has it that the tribe of Judah, situated at the eastern edge of the camp, marched backward when the Israelites broke camp and traveled eastward, to avoid turning their backs on the Ark.  They thus found their path to the future by orienting themselves to their past." (my italics) The last sentence is striking.  American culture emphasizes looking ahead, not behind. 

Continue Reading »
May 25

Behar/Behukkotai: My Countries Right or Wrong

Behar/Behukkotai: My Countries Right or Wrong

Many of you grew up in the 1960s and vividly remember it.  Student occupation of college administration buildings.  Rampant drug use.  Long hair.  Bra burning.  Race riots.  Vietnam war protests.  Protesters within earshot of the Oval Office chanting: “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” Flag burning.  The environmental movement.  The consumer movement.  Political assassinations.  It was a time of great social and political turmoil. 

Continue Reading »

Emor: Judaism's G-d of Vengeance?

Emor: Judaism's G-d of Vengeance?
This past Pesach (Passover), my wife, daughter, and I attended a Seder at a women’s prison.  Actually, the name of the institution is a “correctional facility.”  As we waited to go through security at the entrance, we discussed whether imprisonment for non-violent crimes is humane and effective.  I mentioned that in law school, I learned that there are three purposes of incarceration: punishment, correction, and deterrence.  The punishment aspect in America is limited by the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual” punishment.  
Continue Reading »
May 10

Of Bonfires and Biases: Lag BaOmer in the “Territories”

Of Bonfires and Biases: Lag BaOmer in the “Territories”
The phrase “Hilltop Outpost in the Territories” may conjure up the following image:  A remote spot, far from “Israel proper,” in mostly, or entirely, Palestinian-occupied area.  A few, far right-wing religious zealots individuals or families flout the law and bring international scorn, consuming widely disproportionate government funds (thanks to disproportionate right-wing political support in the fractious Knesset) and other resources (security, utilities, etc.), in furtherance of what they consider their Biblical mandate.  
Continue Reading »

Aliyah Diary Post #2

Aliyah Diary Post #2

Chance encounters and profiling Walking to synagogue for morning prayers, I approached a spot where a scrubby-looking man, perhaps in his 50s, very unkempt gray beard, dressed in what appeared to be very old Israeli army khakis, was hunched over a dirt area, busily doing something with his back mostly turned to me.  I initially thought ...

Continue Reading »
May 04
Posted in: Israel

Playing Catch-Up

Playing Catch-Up

Shalom from Jerusalem! This morning in synagogue, I gave a D’var Torah (short teaching) regarding Parashat (Torah Portion) Emor (Leviticus 21:1-25:23). I look forward to sharing it with you next week.  Why not this week?  Because whereas it is Shabbat Emor here in Israel, everywhere else in the world it is Shabbat Acharei Mot – Kiddoshim (a double portion), which we here read last week.  This difference in reading cycles occurs only for a few weeks every couple of years. Why?  The reason, like much of Jewish practice, combines historical, pragmatic, and “religious” considerations.

Continue Reading »

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