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Russell, one of the leading philosophers of the 20th century and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, was maintaining that what a person studies and teaches need have no bearing on his behavior.
This is the polar opposite of the Torah viewpoint. Torah knowledge and Jewish leadership is sine qua non with Torah living. Torah study is not so much about pedantic learning, flawless logic and cerebral chess as it is about refining and purifying one’s rudimentary, crude being.
According to the Vilna Gaon the raison d’être of Torah is self-perfection – to serve as a vehicle for rectifying one’s character traits. The objective of Torah study is to form a Torah-ingrained personality. What one studies and teaches must become an integral part of his or her life.
The first Jewish powerhouse was Avraham Avinu. The progenitor of the Jewish people and the world’s first disseminator of monotheism had no tradition about God. His immediate forebears were pagans, as was the culture in which he lived. Avraham operated without any initial revelation. It was necessary for him to engage in a scientifically objective quest to find God.
Interestingly, the written Torah is entirely mute on the subject of how Avraham discovers God. Avraham is mentioned only in the context of his first spiritual assignment, but his entire spiritual saga of discerning God remains shrouded in mystery.
Why is that? Why should Avraham’s intellectual drama be so obscured? Perhaps it is to teach that one’s individual metamorphosis is too personal of a subject to be broadcast publicly. To decipher truth amid decadence and hedonism is a formidable challenge.
The emotional and intellectual rigor, turmoil, and anguish of refining one’s instincts and imperfections is a battle waged in the innermost recesses of one’s heart. Mustering the courage to let go of long-held doctrines and beliefs, and forgoing illicitness one has become ingrained with, is a deeply private exercise. And it is the most important exercise.
In our current chinuch system, we often lose the forest for the trees and get derailed by extolling the didactic, pedagogic, and technical instead of celebrating the work and spirit that goes into shaping an ethical and altruistic conscience.
Our true leaders, like Avraham, never succumbed to the temptation of power. They knew that real power is defined not by one’s clout or material worth but is achieved by perfecting one’s character and living a life of empowering, enabling, and honoring others.
Lord Acton was right – to an extent. Power does tend to corrupt, but only when in the hands of mediocre leaders. Great men fall not because they are innately bad men but because they have not become intrinsically good men.
About the Author: Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer is a popular lecturer and educator and the author of "Search Judaism: Judaism's Answers to a Changing World" (Targum, 2009), available at SearchJudaism.com. He is also director of the Think and Care Tank (thinkandcare.org), an organization dedicated to spreading Jewish values and innovative Jewish programming.
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My father took Yeshiva University debating into the national spotlight when he competed in the individual National Collegiate Debate finals.
My parents arrived as Austrian Jewish refugees in Switzerland almost exactly sixty years ago.
Israel is a country that understands security concerns. Many civil rights have been sacrificed in the name of security and Israelis are used to being checked every time they enter a shopping center, a large store or any public building. Americans recently learned that they, too, are subject to many checks on their most private activities.
No one can envy President Obama’s current dilemma over Syria.
His decision to begin arming the Syrian rebels challenging Bashar Assad’s regime drew charges that the rebel forces are driven by jihad movements, particularly al Qaeda. Further, many rebel spokesmen have regularly denounced Israel and suggested that once in power they will end Mr. Assad’s policy of not rocking the boat with Israel. How, then, critics ask, could the president align the U.S. with the rebels?
In a gushing report on the election of Hassan Rohani as Iran’s new president, The New York Times began with this: “In a striking repudiation of the ultraconservatives who wield power in Iran, voters…overwhelmingly elected a mild-mannered cleric who advocates greater personal freedoms and a more conciliatory approach to the world.”
Last month in this space we noted that the New York State Assembly was considering legislation that would prohibit domestic insurers from including on their financial statements investments in companies that engage in investment activities in Iran. These financial statements are relied upon by the state to determine whether the company is solvent and able to pay claims. That bill has since passed the Assembly, but the New York State Senate is balking at passing it as well.
There is no other candidate running for mayor who supports our community’s values as Salgado does.
If the eyes are the window to the soul, then children’s eyes are the window to the Almighty Himself.
Adding Turkey to the list of volatile states would mean even more uncertainty for Israel.
Is there no one who remembers this recent history?
Making Rouhani the president was a brilliant strategic move for Khamene’i.
Noone, least of all me, wants to see any Arab child suffer, God forbid.
Chosen People Ministries, a Hebrew Christian missionary group, has spent $2.1 million to acquire a building and nearly $1 million more on renovations to construct an 11,000 square-foot missionary center in the heart of Flatbush. It will house a “synagogue,” sefer Torah, classrooms, and a dining hall – all with the intention of attracting the general Orthodox community and particularly unaffiliated local Jews and adults at risk from frum homes who have abandoned Yiddishkeit or are on the fringe.
Soap opera-like debacles have stunned, stupefied, and dismayed our community. We have witnessed a prime minister, governors, and men of stature plummet to the depths of scandal and ignominy. Especially disconcerting and the epitome of paradox is when revered men, charged to exemplify God’s Word, purportedly disgrace His Word instead. Why do great men fall?
For thousands of years of Jewish history there wasn’t a unique nomenclature classifying Torah-deviant Jews. Denominations like Conservative, Reform and Orthodox were non-existent. One was either more observant, less observant, or, in highly atypical cases, nonobservant.
I was apprised of the fact that a renowned rav and posek in Flatbush dedicated his Shabbos morning drasha to the plight of a young lady who was recently dismissed from her Brooklyn Bais Yaakov. It seems she vexed the administration because she asked her teacher incisive questions about the nature of Gan Eden. Thankfully, due to the intervention of this prominent rav, she was reinstated to her school.
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