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Mussar Without Yelling

25 Shevat 5769 – February 18, 2009
There are two types of people in the world – those who are inspired by Mussar and those who are turned off by it. Mussar is a school of study that teaches religious self-improvement. Traditional Mussar, as practiced in many yeshivas to this day, has a rabbi exhorting his listeners, often yelling at them, to be more careful in their actions and attitudes. This is frequently accompanied with a Torah insight and maybe even a good parable. But it can be scary: fire, brimstone, judgment day – all the horrible implications of religious failure, in graphic detail.

The Greatness Of Rav Kook

Rabbi Avraham Isaac HaCohen Kook (1865-1935) was an extraordinary Torah giant. His genius was astounding – there was no field of Torah study he had not mastered. His recall was astonishing – great scholars related that no matter what Torah subject they discussed with him it would appear as if he had just recently learned the issue in depth.

Israeli Voters Step Decidedly To The Right

The Israeli election was on the surface a tie between Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and Kadima, led by Tzipi Livni (who replaced Ehud Olmert as party chief). While Livni loudly proclaimed victory because Kadima had come out one parliamentary seat ahead, the election was largely a victory for the Israeli Right.

Jimmy Carter: Polemist-In-Chief

18 Shevat 5769 – February 11, 2009
Jimmy Carter’s recent comments about Israel are another chapter in his book on how not to be a former president.

What Do I Tell My Daughter? An Open Letter to Bernard Madoff

Dear Mr. Madoff, Having kissed my daughter goodnight, I sat in the final quietude of the raucous street crowd’s secular New Year's celebration. I could not help but hear her earlier words as we watched the fireworks in Central Park from the roof of our building.

Denial And Disaster

The United States and much of the rest of the world are in a depression, a word that apparently must be avoided, perhaps in the hope that if we do not say it the bad news will go away.

What Would Any Country Do?

It’s very difficult when a democratic country has to confront an illegal terrorist group. Whatever we do is being photographed; whatever they do, nobody sees. For example, when they throw a rocket on a settlement in Israel, it’s not being photographed. You cannot see a mother trying to defend her child and the resultant sleepless night. Have you ever seen on television a sleepless night?

The Language They Understand

Initially dismayed at the phenomenon, we have by now grown used to seeing pro-Palestinian and pro-Hamas demonstrators behave like Holocaust-era Nazis. These haters goose-step, Nazi-style, and shoot out their arms as they deliver the Hitlerian sieg heil salute. They also chant and scream such charming slogans as “Jews to the ovens,” “Hitler did not kill enough of you” and “Jews to the gas chambers.”

Tu B’Shevat And The Value Of Life

11 Shevat 5769 – February 4, 2009
Other than God Himself, Judaism values nothing greater than life. Life is the ultimate gift from God. Without life, none of the riches of creation is available to us. Without life, the great adventure of our lives – our embrace of the Holy – is impossible.

The Single-Minded

Moshe was looking for employment (he wasn’t cut out to learn full-time), and was having a difficult time finding the right fit. Sometimes he went weeks without even landing an interview, and he rarely made it past the first round. People began to speculate that there was something wrong with Moshe, and his self-esteem took a blow every time he heard of someone else who found a job.

The New American Jewish Bible

I regret to report on the ascendance of an American Jewish version of Replacement Theology and a corresponding new American Jewish Bible. These have been adopted primarily in the Reform and secular sectors, as well as in the overlapping wider societal groups of Democrat Party faithful, academia, and the media establishment.

Talking Turkey

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a temper tantrum at the Davos forum on world economics.

Rains And Reigns: Thoughts For Tu B’Shevat

There is no rain in Israel. The weather is sunny and warm.That is bad news.

The Fight For Jonathan Pollard Goes On

4 Shevat 5769 – January 28, 2009
Everyone knows the story. Moshiach finally arrives and goes from shul to shul telling the Jews it’s time to go home to Eretz Yisrael. But wherever Moshiach goes he is rejected because of his dress, his yarmulke, his hat or his accent. Eventually, in frustration, he simply leaves.

Got Shul?

Do you “get shul?” Do we as a community of people praying in shul for thousands of years actually get what it is, or what it is supposed to be? A year or two ago I would have answered one way. Now, having served as director of the Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services at the Orthodox Union for almost a year and a half, my answer has changed.

Gaza: Looking Back And To The Future

The guns are now stilled. Criticism and debate, suggestion and advice, censure and fault-finding are being unleashed – as befits a Jewish society to which analysis and self-search are as natural as sunrise and sunset are to the realm of nature.

Heroes And Those They Inspire

Israel was at war, and though I live across the ocean, I felt like I was on high alert. Strangely enough, I was actually grateful to have experienced this feeling during the crisis.

Requiem For A Presidency: How Howard Dean Beat George Bush After All

26 Tevet 5769 – January 21, 2009
Five years ago, George W. Bush finished the last good year of his presidency. Things were looking up. The Democratic front-runners seeking their party’s presidential nomination lauded the historic accomplishments in Iraq, particularly Saddam Hussein’s capture.

Jews In The News

Over the past few weeks Jews have been in the news and made headlines around the world, creating immeasurable reverberations. The impact of three particular Jews has been tremendous – but the difference in that impact has been at least as important as the impact itself.

Farewell, Good And Faithful Friend

Throughout his presidency, George W. Bush was a stalwart friend of the Jewish people. His support for Israel was as rock solid as his opposition to anti-Semitism, levels of which have been rising alarmingly around the world in recent years.

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