Jewish History

Korah: G-d vetoed democracy. If necessary, so should Israel.

Which form of government is best?  Although most of us would likely immediately answer “Democratic,” the better response would be to first ask several clarifying questions. Best for whom?  Best for what purpose?  Under which circumsta... Continue Reading »

Important Lessons of the Touro Synagogue

This week, I depart from discussing the weekly Torah portion in order to share some thoughts on our history as American Jews.  This departure is prompted by my recent visits to Recife, Brazil and to synagogues in Barbados and Newport, Rhode Isla... Continue Reading »

Beshallach: The proud, the few, the ... Jews?

A “Final Jeopardy” category this week was “World Religions.”  The “answer” was that this religion’s worldwide adherents number more than one billion, with particularly strong representation in the Middle East. The contestants chose Islam, Judais... Continue Reading »

Tisha B'Av Observance? Learn and Decide!

Tisha B'Av Observance?  Learn and Decide!
Tisha B’Av (Ninth Day of the Month of Av) – the culmination of the "three weeks" and the saddest day of the Jewish year -- commemorates numerous tragedies in Jewish history.  It occurs this year on July 25th.... Continue Reading »

Bechukotai: My Covenant with Fannie of Berdichev, z”l

Bechukotai: My Covenant with Fannie of Berdichev, z”l
... and I will remember My covenant [with] Jacob, and also My covenant [with] Isaac, and also My covenant [with] Abraham I will remember. And I will remember the Land,  (Leviticus 26:42) Do you know the names of your great-grandparents?  ... Continue Reading »

Pesach: Putting the Exodus on Trial

Pesach: Putting the Exodus on Trial
Lawyers will tell you that cases are often won or lost depending on which evidentiary standard, or “burden of proof,” applies.    In American criminal trials, the prosecutor must prove the accused guilty “beyond a reaso... Continue Reading »

Vayakhel: Kindleh, baby, kindleh!

Vayakhel: Kindleh, baby, kindleh!
Each Erev Shabbat, Jewish women around the world light candles and recite the following blessing (in Hebrew): “You are Blessed, Adonai our G-d, Sovereign of the Universe, Who has Sanctified Us with His Commandments, and Commanded Us to Kindle t... Continue Reading »

Yitro: The Most Jewish Thing We Can Do.

Yitro: The Most Jewish Thing We Can Do.
What's “the most Jewish thing” we can do?   Say the Sh’ma?  Light and bless Shabbat candles?  Fast on Yom Kippur?   Keep kosher? Tell a Jewish joke?  (For the latter, see Pew Report opinions). Gi... Continue Reading »

Bo: The Karet and the Stick

Bo: The Karet and the Stick
[Given at Kehillat Moreshet Yisrael, Jerusalem, 12/31/2013 – 28 Tevet 5774] Motzei Shabbat, I attended a lecture by Rabbi Dr. Daniel Gordis in which he discussed some of the implications of the Pew Report.  Perhaps his most interesting ... Continue Reading »

Balak: Better Depressed Than Dead!

Balak: Better Depressed Than Dead!
In this week’s Torah portion, King Balak of Moab hires the prophet Balaam to: “Come, curse Jacob for me and come invoke wrath against Israel.”  Balaam describes Israel as “a nation that will dwell alone, and will not be r... Continue Reading »
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A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb