Thoughts for Shavuoth 5770

My wife and I recently had dinner in a fine New York kasher restaurant. At a nearby table, a father and daughter (about 12 or 13 years old) were seated together. How nice, I thought, that this father wanted quality time with his daughter, and took her out to a special dinner. However, the father soon received a call on his cell phone, and he was on the phone for the entire time that we were in the restaurant. The "quality time" with his daughter was not of a very high quality. She was picking away at her dinner, staring off into space, as her father talked endlessly on his cell phone.

Taking a Census: Thoughts for Parashat Bemidbar, May 15, 2010

This week's Torah portion focuses on the census of the Israelites taken at the beginning of their second year in the wilderness. The census was important for various reasons. It revealed how many men were of age to serve in the military. It helped determine how to organize the various tribes according to their numbers and needs. It provided a psychological boost to the entire nation when the people realized their numerical strength. It underscored the need for each generation to take a census and to reflect on its strengths and weaknesses.

Superstition is not Religion: Thoughts for Shabbat May 8, 2010

"And you shall not wrong one another; but you shall fear your God, for I am the Lord your God."

I recently read a heart-breaking news story.

The Brooklyn District Attorney's office is investigating accusations that a popular kabbalistic rabbi in Israel has defrauded American Jews in the amount of many thousands of dollars. This rabbi is also accused of having bilked many Israelis. The charges relate to his promising to use kabbala, blessings and amulets to cure the terminally ill or to make barren women fertile.

Religion and Charlatanism: Thoughts for Parashat Ki Tavo, August 28, 2010

What is the difference between a genuine religious leader and a charlatan?

A genuine religious leader tries to bring people closer to God, tries to inspire people to intensify their spirituality so that they may approach God and live in the spirit of holiness. A genuine religious leader tries to foster receptivity to a religious worldview, empowering the individual to draw on his/her inner resources in the quest to come closer to God.

Reminders to members of the University Network

Shalom. Here are a few reminders. We've had some good conversations on the new University Network discussion group, and I encourage you to enroll if you haven't already done so--and I encourage you to add your comments, raise your issues, and help make the discussion group a lively and worthwhile forum.

If you've enrolled on the discussion group but have not been receiving messages, please let me know asap. Today, you should have received the latest comment from Michael Makovi.