Part of the standard liturgy of Jewish prayer is the pronouncement that “we were exiled for our sins.” The victories of the Babylonians and the Romans were not ascribed to the imperialist aggression of those predatory powers. Nor did our tradition assign blame for those defeats to the weakness of the Jewish forces, or even to the stupidity of both the strategic and tactical decisions made by Jewish leaders.
Let me state what is painfully obvious. Despite our most hopeful illusions, people are not really good, nor do they really practice peace. While power corrupts, absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely, and there is no safe place, neither high nor low, for the most vulnerable of our citizens.
It seems everyone is in a mighty tizzy about young Jews who fail to identify with Israel and don’t much care to visit there. How do we inspire these young folks to develop some feelings for the Holy Land, and attract them to visit Israel?
“And you shall rejoice in your festival” says the pasuk at the end of Parshas Re’ei (16:14), and this is actually a mitzvah. I suspect this is not intended to be one of the more difficult mitzvot for us to fulfill, yet for many hard-working Jews the Yomim Tovim are far greater sources of stress than joy.
In my former life as a school psychologist, I spent a great deal of time doing intelligence testing. Occasionally, I had the agonizing task of breaking the dreadful news to parents that a child was severely developmentally disabled. Whether or not I packaged the term in soft euphemisms like “cognitively depressed” or “mentally deficient,” most parents eventually caught on that I was just searching for other words to mollify that unbearable label.
Historians are both amazed and dumbfounded at the incredible saga of the Aztec nation. How was it possible, they ask, for Cortez and a relatively small number of Spanish soldiers to bring the mighty Aztec alliance to its knees?
Covering Israel, its relationship with the United States and the influential lobby that straddles the two often requires the basic skills and instincts of a cub reporter on the neighborhood beat.
In Yiddish folklore, the real-life Polish town of Chelm was characterized as a legendary community of fools. According to this folkloric tradition, Chelm’s residents were exceedingly proud of their tradition of non-wisdom and convoluted insight into the world’s problems. They viewed themselves as brilliant.
Jewish tradition teaches that the city of Tzfat (Safed), located in the north of Israel in the beautiful Galilee region, is one of Israel’s four holy cities (the others are Jerusalem, Tiberias, and Hebron). Yet it is Tzfat that is praised for its exceptional spiritual presence.
Did you enjoy 5767? For Jews around the world, it was the usual assortment of bad – and even worse – news. Of course, not everything was awful. It was a year of recovery in Israel, as the aftermath of last year’s less than successful Second Lebanon War was followed by recriminations and political stalemate.
It wasn’t easy for me to come out with a public call to Israelis to oppose the evacuation of Jews from Hebron with passive, non-violent resistance. Hebron is Jerusalem, not Yamit.
The Passover Seder liturgy tells us that in every generation an enemy arises seeking to eradicate the Jewish people. In the last hundred years, those enemies included the Russian czar, Stalin, Hitler, Gamal Abdel Nasser and, more recently, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Well, we just marked the anniversary of the 9/11 atrocities and who pops out of his Caliphite Cave? Yup, Osama bin Laden.
Usually when disasters strike, there is no time to ask questions. With a rational approach, we spring into action and move forward with helping those in distress and repairing the damage. As mere mortals, we cannot understand why some hurricanes strike land while others veer away. Facing the uncertainty of climate change and random storms is part of the human condition, and so is picking up the pieces afterward.
On its face, it is the quintessential story of the success of American Jewish life: a public school where the teaching of Hebrew will be at the center of its core curriculum. But behind this facade, the founding of the Ben Gamla School in Broward County, Florida, has generated controversy and criticism.
Tehila Elbogen died in March, shortly after her sixteenth birthday and after a two-and-a-half year struggle against a rare and as yet incurable cancer. She lost the physical battle, winning the one that was spiritual and leaving a legacy that all of us who knew and admired her shall cherish until the end of our days.
This Rosh Hashanah, Israel stands on the threshold of its 60th anniversary. Still we are fighting for survival, and, despite the passage of time, face the threats of war and terror. Yet Israel stands strong. And the collective support of the Jewish people makes us even stronger.
Rudy Giuliani’s article in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs (“Toward a Realistic Peace“) marks an important statement about the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.”
“What kind of job is that for a Jewish boy?” These were the words that greeted a friend and mentor when he chose the profession of Jewish educator almost 50 years ago. Two basic assumptions stand behind such a question: (1) Jewish boys are destined for greatness; (2) Jewish education is certainly not the path to achieve that greatness.
The revisionists are still hard at work in their attempts to recast the history of Israel’s birth. Without fanfare the Israeli Education Ministry has approved a textbook for Arab third graders in Israel that concedes the war that gave birth to Israel was a form of ethnic cleansing.
In 1890, William Blackstone organized a conference in Chicago of Christians and Jews to respond to the pogroms then occurring in Russia. The group unanimously passed a resolution urging world leaders “to stay the hand of cruelty from these time-honored People which have given them as well as us our Bible, our religion, and our knowledge of God.”
One year after the second Lebanon War, Israel’s north is back in business. Where 12 months ago the region was shaken to its core by the impact of hundreds of missile hits from Hizbullah, traces of the damage are now hard to find.
The Feldman Affair, by which I mean both the New York Times Magazine article and its aftermath, is a significant event in the development of American Orthodoxy, encompassing important issues about Modern Orthodoxy that have not been sufficiently explored, intra-Orthodox divisions, and our approach to intermarriage.
Once upon a time, I only read and wrote for the most radical, Left, and feminist media on the face of the earth. Reluctantly, suspiciously, I read just one establishment, “grown up” paper: The New York Times. After all, it was my hometown paper – and being as provincial as most Manhattanites, I somehow still believed (you imbibe this in the drinking water) that the Times covered issues in an objective, sophisticated, and leading-edge manner.
The Israeli Labor Party recently selected Ehud Barak, who had been prime minister from 1999 to 2001, to serve as its party chief and contender for prime minister in the next election, probably in 2008.