Between 2005 and 2009, researchers at the Gallup World Poll surveyed thousands of respondents in 155 countries to find out the "happiness" levels in each country. They asked people to reflect on their overall satisfaction with their lives. Do they feel free? Are they making a living? Do they feel intellectually engaged? Are they relatively free of pain? Do they feel that they are respected by others?
On Shavuoth, we commemorate the awesome Revelation at Mount Sinai, when the Almighty presented the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel. All of the Israelite men, women and children experienced that solemn moment, marking an everlasting covenant between God and the Israelite nation.
Let us imagine that God would invite us to a second Revelation at Sinai, asking all the Jews of the world to attend.
In their new book, "American Grace," Robert Putnam and David Campbell present a thought-provoking analysis of the role of religion in the United States. Based on a large nation-wide survey as well as exhaustive scholarly research, the authors provide keen insight into how religion divides and unites us. While there are certainly clear rifts in our society based on religious beliefs, the overall tone of American life is actually quite tolerant and inclusive.
Angel for Shabbat, by Rabbi Marc D. Angel
Modern western civilization trains us to value independence, autonomy, freedom of choice. We have an aversion to being told what to do by authoritarian figures; rather, we like to make decisions based on our own judgment. We are open to advice and suggestions; but we are less than enthusiastic about being bossed around.
Some years ago, my wife and I visited Rome. Among the historic sites we visited was the Arch of Titus--a monument to the Roman conquest of Judea in 70 C.E. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem, razed the Temple, killed and enslaved many thousands of Jews--and sent our people into an Exile that lasted until the rise of the State of Israel in 1948. On the inner wall of the Arch of Titus is a depiction of the Roman victory over the Jews, with the Romans carrying off the Menorah which had graced the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
In describing God's creation of human beings, the Torah teaches that we were created "in the image of God". Philosophers and commentators have pondered the meaning of this phrase, and have given various explanations. What does it mean for humans to be created in God's image since God is an eternal, incorporeal being? Some have defined "image" as referring to intellect or will.
Rabbinic tradition teaches that Noah and his descendants were given seven basic categories of law, and that "Noahides" fulfill their religious obligations through these Noahide laws. The Talmud (Yevamot 47a) states: "Our sages have said that seven commandments have been prescribed for the Sons of Noah: the first requires them to have judges; the other six forbid sacrilege, idolatry, incest, homicide, theft, and the consumption of a limb taken from a living animal."
The Midrash teaches that Abraham and Sarah won many converts to their religious views. How did they succeed?