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While religion should be the strongest force for a united, compassionate and tolerant humanity, it is too often identified with terrorism, extremism, superstition, exploitation…and hypocrisy. People commit the most heinous crimes…and do so while claiming to be acting in the name of God. Isaiah Berlin’s concept of pluralism provides a framework to be faithful to our own truths, while being genuinely respectful of the truths of others.

The ark in the Mishkan held both sets of Tablets of the Law, just as our inner selves hold both sets of our own personal Tablets of our lives. Ultimately, this strategy teaches us humility as well as confidence; it teaches us to look to our strengths but not to forget our weaknesses; it helps us strive to become whole human beings.

Earlier this summer, Rabbi David Weiss Halivni passed away. He was a foremost Talmudic scholar, a wonderful educator, and a true gentleman. Rabbi Alan Yuter, a student and colleague of Rabbi Halivni, has written an appreciation of the man and his work.

Moral education must be systemic and systematic. Educators must set the goals and the stage at the very outset, and keep coming back to them and reinforcing them. Children often do not listen to what we say because our words are drowned out by what we do.

In the earlier parts of David’s reign, he was famed for executing “true justice among all his people” (II Samuel 8:15). Now, however, his listening to patently unequal narratives to act “even-handedly” dealt a profound injustice to Mephibosheth, rewarded the dishonest Ziba, and, according to Rav, sowed the seeds for the nation itself falling apart.

At what point does charisma become dangerous? In a community (and a wider world) where an elusive quality called “spirituality” is constantly sought as representing the “authentic” in the religious quest, how can the individual, or the community, or the responsible leader, distinguish the teacher with integrity from the predator?