When people—individually, communally, nationally—have disagreements, they can engage in serious discussion and dialogue even if the parties are critical of each other’s positions. But when people—individually, communally, nationally—are contemptuous of the other side, then the basis for discussion, debate and reconciliation is undermined. The contemptuous party or parties see themselves as being superior; they are above discussion or criticism; their opponents are discredited and dehumanized.
Angel for Shabbat
When teaching the words of our Sages, we need to have the literary tact to know how they used language. If we teach hyperbolic statements as being literally true, then we not only misconstrue the teachings of our Sages, but we unwittingly mislead our students into believing problematic things. As they grow older and wiser, they may say to themselves: if our Rebbis were mistaken on this, perhaps they were mistaken on many other matters.
There are two basic paths to the Almighty: Torah and Nature. These are not mutually exclusive paths, but are complementary. When we study Torah, we study the word of God. When we experience the beauties of nature, we confront the awesome creations of God. A proper religious worldview entails proper appreciation of both Torah and Nature, and sees the ultimate harmony and unity of both.
Economists speak of the “principle of revealed preferences.” This principle teaches that we can better predict what people will do based on their current behavior patterns rather than on what they say they will do. People most accurately reveal their real selves by their deeds, not by what they espouse.
I recently met with a friend who is a very successful entrepreneur who deals with top people at leading high-tech companies such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon. He told me that when these companies look to hire new employees, they especially value applicants with entrepreneurial experience—even if these applicants had run their own businesses and failed
When the Israelites gathered around Mount Sinai to experience the awesome Revelation of God, each of them heard the same words—but in different ways! The Midrash teaches (Shemot Rabba 29:1) that God spoke “bekoho shel kol ehad ve-ehad,” according to the individual abilities of each listener. The universal message of Torah was made direct and personal.
By Rabbi Marc D. Angel
“And you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Vayikra 19:18).
Rabbi Akiva considered this verse to be a great principle of the Torah. Indeed, it is widely considered to be the “golden rule” that is at the root of human morality and civilization.
The only problem is: is it really possible to love one’s neighbor as oneself? In some special cases, the answer is yes. But in many cases, it would seem to be unlikely, if not impossible, to love others as oneself—especially if they are unlovable!
Orthodoxy needs to foster the love of truth. It must be alive to different intellectual currents, and receptive to open discussion. How do we, as a modern Orthodox community, combat the tendency toward blind authoritarianism and obscurantism?
Who is thinking about our souls? Who is investing the time and thought to foster a religious life that is deep and strong, that can withstand popular pressures and market demands? Who is reminding us that when it comes to the human spirit, instant gratification is not the path to long- term growth and development?
If people come to think that the religious establishment is corrupt and is susceptible to undue external influence, then the foundations of religious life are seriously eroded. If religious leaders sell out their independence in the desire to curry favor with this or that religious "in-group"--then Judaism and the Jewish people suffer the consequences.