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.

Exile and Redemption: Thoughts for Shabbat, August 21, 2010

Life is filled with choices. We have all made fateful decisions which have determined our road of life. We chose a school to attend, a career, a spouse, a lifestyle, friends, a level of religious observance. Indeed, everything we are today is the result of the many choices we have made throughout the course of our lives.

We may look back at our various decisions and ask: were they right or wrong? Should I have done this or that? Am I living my true life, or have I actually taken the wrong path, a path not true to myself, to who I really am?

A Test of Leadership: Thoughts on Parashat Shelah Lekha, June 5, 2010

When ten of the spies reported that the Promised Land was inhabited by undefeatable giants and fortified cities, the people of Israel immediately lost heart. Panic swept the community. They cried all night. They complained that they would rather have died in Egypt. They even thought of appointing a new leader to take them back to servitude in Egypt. To them, that seemed preferable to entering Canaan only to be murdered by the powerful Canaanite nations.

Divine Justice, Human Responsibility: Thoughts for Parashat Korah, June 12, 2010

The Talmud posits an important principle: the Heavenly court deals with us by the exact same standards that we use to deal with others (Sotah 8b). If we are kind and compassionate, we can expect to be judged by God with kindness and compassion. If we are cruel and unfairly critical of others, we can expect the Heavenly court to deal with us with the same qualities we have shown to others.