Entries for August 2012

Ki Tetse: Mercy and the Injustice of Forgiveness

Ki Tetse: Mercy and the Injustice of Forgiveness

Last week, I described the loss of my Smartphone on a Jerusalem bus and suggested a variety of Chesbon HaNefesh lessons it inspired.  But the High Holidays are not only about self-evaluation. They are also, of course, about seeking and granting forgiveness. It’s now been more than a week since I lost my Smartphone, and no one has contacted me nor turned it in to the bus company lost and found.  According to this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tetse, (22:1-3), which requires the return of (identifiable) lost property, they have therefore stolen it from me.   Am I obliged to forgive the thief?

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Aug 31

Shoftim: Lost and Found

Shoftim: Lost and Found

I lost my new “Smartphone” a few days ago.  It happened somewhere between my Jerusalem apartment and my arrival at morning minyan.  I think I put it on the bus seat when I opened my backpack to retrieve something that then took my full attention during the remaining short ride.   I remember being surprised when I looked up and saw that we were arriving at my stop; I jumped up, grabbed my backpack, and alighted without checking around me. No one has turned it in.  Yet, prompted by the Jewish calendar, I think that I have gained, rather than lost, from this incident ...

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Re'eh: There's no such thing as bad publicity?

Re'eh: There's no such thing as bad publicity?

In politics, I’ve heard, there’s no such thing as bad press. Of course, no politician prefers criticism or scandal to praise and respect, but the worst thing is irrelevance. “It’s not what they say about you that matters, it’s whether they talk about you!” Proponents of this idea argue that voters have short memories; if a candidate makes an impression, they’ll remember the name long after they’ve forgotten why. Then, when they arrive at the ballot box and look at a list of names, they’ll most often choose the most familiar one. Name recognition is also ...

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Aug 17

Ekev: Fists and Noses

Ekev: Fists and Noses

A familiar maxim of American law is, “my right to swing my fist ends at the other fellow’s nose.”   In other words, the governing principle of American liberty means that I can do as I please (and what I do is nobody else’s business and his/hers none of mine) so long as we don’t actually hurt each other.  A related maxim is the “no duty of rescue” rule: with very few exceptions in only a few jurisdictions, one has no legal obligation to help another in an emergency, even if such help can be rendered without risk or inconvenience.  I can live my life and ignore the plight and interests of others (unless I actively or negligently harm or damage them). 

Conversely, familiar maxims of Judaism include,

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Aug 10

Va-etchanan: This "week" in Jewish history...

Va-etchanan: This "week" in Jewish history...

This week I made a list of potential themes for my D’var Torah: 

1. Jews as the “Chosen People”
2. The “Ten Commandments”
3. The Commandment to “Do the Right and the Good”
4. Siyum Hashas (the completion of the 7.5 year Talmud study cycle)
5. This Shabbat’s designation as Shabbat Nachamu 
6. The Aleinu prayer with which we end each service.   

Each of these, among others, appealed to me.  Perhaps because I have just returned to Jerusalem and have not yet caught up on sleep,  I found myself unable to decide which to write about.  So, I thought I’d try briefly weaving them all together!




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