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However, Jacob continued, my brother Esau will also ask a third question: “and for whom are these before you?” Are you ready to contribute your talents, capabilities, and efforts toward the material and cultural welfare of the general society? Are you willing to pay taxes, to develop and industrialize the country? The third inquiry is focused on the temporal aspects of life.
Jacob told his agents to answer the third question in the positive. “It is a gift sent to my master.” We feel obligated to enrich society with our creative talents and to be constructive and useful citizens. Yet in regard to the first two questions, he commanded his representatives to reply in the negative, clearly and precisely, boldly and courageously. He commanded them to tell Esau that their soul, their personality, their metaphysical destiny, their spiritual future and sacred commitments, belong exclusively to God and his servant Jacob.
The Rav here presents the proper attitude to the world. On the one hand, we are citizens of society who have much to contribute with our talents and resources. On the other, we are a distinct religious community. The Rav propounded similarly about Abraham’s self-description as a “ger ve-soshav, a stranger and an inhabitant” (23:4):
What is our position vis-a-vis modern civilization – with respect to science, to Western culture, to the countries in which we live? The answer is enshrined in these words. Certainly I am a resident, I am one of you. I engage in business as you do, I speak your language, I take full part in your social-economic institutions. But at the same time I am a stranger and, in some aspects, a foreigner. I belong to a particular world, one that is completely foreign to you. It is a world in which I am at one with the Creator… It is a world full of altars and sacrifices, a world of Torah, of lovingkindness, of sanctity and purity. You live differently, pray differently. Your conception of charity is different from ours; your days of rest are different from ours, and so on. In these matters I am a stranger in your world, and you are strangers in mine.
To my mind, there is no greater description than this of the Orthodox Jew’s role in American society. We are proud citizens, working hard and contributing to society on many levels. But we are also our own faith community with distinct beliefs and values. We see the world in terms of commands and obligations. We look to the Torah for our values. Our very conception of charity is different! The Orthodox Jew must be a valuable citizen and a cultural foreigner at the same time.
Teshuvah, repentance, served as a recurring subject of the Rav’s analysis. Human experience consists of a string of failures and successes. Our response to failure is just as important, if not more, than our response to success. The Torah attitude to personal failure is to grow from the experience, to undo our failings as much as possible and to become better people through the teshuvah process.
The Rav often dissected the Rambam’s ten chapters on teshuvah with lomdus (Talmudic concepts) and psychological insight. He also used it to explain difficult questions in the biblical narrative. For example, he asked why Abraham argued with God that Sodom should be saved if it contains ten righteous people? Why shouldn’t the wicked majority still be punished? Because, the Rav explained, Abraham had hope in the power of teshuvah (repentance). If there is a presence of righteousness in the city, even the most wicked people stand a chance of repenting. Unlike Noah, who accepted without argument the demise of all civilization, Abraham exhibited patience and hope in human potential (18:26). Those who fail must repent. Those who observe failure must retain hope in the power of teshuvah, man’s ability to repair his relationships with others and with God.
Living in prosperous America, the Rav was aware of the intoxicating allure of wealth. This society of plenty, the culture of excess and runaway consumption, is dangerous but that very threat can strengthen us. The Rav used the tools of biblical commentary to express the proper values and attitudes in the face of a prosperous but amoral (or immoral) society (39:1):
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For many, contemplating our exile from our homeland is more of an intellectual endeavor than an emotional one.
I encourage all singles and their parents to urge their shadchanim to participate in ShadchanZone.
People definitely had stress one hundred and fifty years ago, but it was a different kind of stress.
It is inspirational to see the average Israeli acting with aplomb and going about daily routines no matter what is happening.
Participants wore blue and white, waved Israeli flags, and carried pro-Israel posters.
To support the Victor Center for Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases at Miami Children’s, please call 305-666-2889 or visit www.mchf.org/donate and select the “Victor Center” fund.
The course will be taught once a month for seven consecutive months and is designed for women at all levels of Jewish knowledge.
Like many of his contemporaries, he went through some hard years, but eventually he earned the rewards of his perseverance and integrity.
The president’s message was one of living peacefully in a Jewish and democratic state, Jews of all stripes unified as brothers, with Arabs or citizens of other religions.
What Hashem desires most is that we learn to connect with each other as children in the same family.
You are my brothers and sisters. Your pain is my pain.
If we can learn to fear the surveillance of the Internet, we can learn to fear God’s constant watching.
There must be an Orthodox presence and an Orthodox refusal to attend Limmud NY.
I am from the generation that never saw or heard the Rav but lived in his shadow, feeling his recently departed presence in his students’ lectures. My poverty in this sense pales in comparison to that of the next generation, who have only a distant notion of who this great man was and his sprawling impact.
The Internet is a medium that has made its way in its short existence all the way to the center of contemporary life. Many of our daily tasks are now tied to it, and will be more so in the future.
In light of all the attention that the recent Internet Asifa garnered, we thought it wise to offer this analysis on the subject by Rabbi Gil Student, founder of TorahMusings.com and former managing editor of OU Publications.
Israel is a Jewish country – but can it continue to be so when Judaism threatens to destroy the state?
The unfair longstanding attacks on Israel’s legitimacy are a permanent stain on the international community. For over 60 years, Israel has valiantly grown under hostile conditions while fighting lies and half-truths in the international arena. Israel suffers doubly, however, when its very essence, its Jewish character, supports its opponents’ narrative.
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.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/book-reviews/a-chumash-for-all-times/2013/11/21/
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