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Conversations

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The prophet disdains those for whom God’s presence is comfort and security; to him it is a challenge, an incessant demand. God is compassion, not compromise; justice, though not inclemency. The prophet’s predictions can always be proved wrong by a change in man’s conduct, but never the certainty that God is full of compassion.

Kamtsa and Bar Kamtsa

The Talmud records a poignant story relating to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE. Although historians describe various political, sociological, and military explanations for the Roman war against the Jews, the Talmud—through the story of Kamtsa and Bar Kamtsa—points to a moral/spiritual cause of the destruction:

Social justice is an essential ingredient in traditional Orthodox Judaism. It is important for Orthodox Judaism to reclaim its visionary universalistic worldview. Along with adherence to our ritual mitzvoth, we need to enlarge our commitment to the mitzvoth of social responsibility and social activism. With an inspired and vocal Orthodox Judaism, the world can become a better place for all.

As we fast and mourn the destruction of our ancient Temples in Jerusalem, let us also give thanks to the Almighty that we live at a time when Jerusalem is a thriving and beautiful city under Jewish sovereignty. And let us thank all those heroes of the Jewish people who have worked, and who continue to work, for the strengthening of Jerusalem and the entire State of Israel.

Generations of elementary day schoolers have colloquially called the Asher Yatzar blessing “the bathroom Berakha.” When looking at this Berakha through an understanding of modern science and medicine, its ancient wisdom truly shines.

It is intrinsic to human nature to strive to emulate God, and everything that creates a distinction from God makes us feel uncomfortable. Therefore, seeing Judaism as merely a set of commandments creates a negative view of the human soul. The commandments are necessary, but only after a person moves freely in the direction of ideals. Self-restraint must stem from freedom, and not the other way around.