Professor Daniel C. Dennett of Tufts University published an article, “Why the Future of Religion is Bleak.” He argues that religious institutions have survived historically by controlling what their adherents know, but today that is next to impossible. In the United States, one out of six Americans identifies as a “None,” a person without a religious affiliation. And the number of Nones is on the increase.
Angel for Shabbat
Halakha works best when it is most human and humane. It is most meaningful when the rabbis and the laymen know each other and understand each other. In an increasingly depersonalized world, the religious community needs to keep focused on the dignity of the individual. We need to foster human dignity, not bureaucratic indignity.
Some years ago, I attended a conference that attracted a number of rabbis and academics. At lunch, I found myself sitting next to a gentleman whose name tag indicated that he was a "Professor". Given his title, I assumed he taught in a university and I asked him what was his field.
Esther the Jewess marries King Ahashverosh. Her Uncle Mordecai tells her not to reveal that she is Jewish. The Jews throughout the 127 provinces of the Empire know Esther is Jewish. But not one of them gives away the secret. Ahashverosh, Haman and the entire royal court are kept in the dark about the Queen’s true identity.
Let us imagine how this story would play out if it occurred today.
A story is told of the great Hassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev. He had been visiting a town and attended prayer services in the local synagogue. One day, he stopped at the synagogue door and did not enter the sanctuary. The many people who were accompanying him were perplexed. Why did the Rebbe not enter the synagogue? Rabbi Levi Yitzhak told them: “I am not entering the synagogue because it's too crowded.” But the synagogue was empty! The Rebbe explained: “The synagogue is full of prayers, there's no room left for us.
Although there are those who promote the impurity of Metsora, there are also many who promote freedom and creativity, beauty and harmony. Life is an ongoing struggle between Tazria and Metsora.
I hope your academic year has been going well.
We are now recruiting Campus Fellows for the coming academic year. Campus Fellows receive a stipend and expense money and are obligated to arrange two programs per semester that focus on issues relating to modern Orthodoxy, Torah study, religious life etc. Rabbi Hayyim Angel serves as Director of our Campus Fellows Program. For more information and an application, please see https://www.jewishideas.org/university-network/application
While in Jerusalem many years ago, I met a wise, humble man who was something of a mystic. In one of our conversations, he told me: There are three kinds of music.
The Haggada explains the historical background of the three main symbols; but I wondered if other important ideas were also hidden within them. Here are some thoughts.
Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu brought a “strange fire” to the altar and were immediately stricken as Divine punishment for their sacrilege. Upon learning of the tragic deaths of his sons, Aaron must surely have been horrified. Yet, the Torah reports: Vayidom Aharon, and Aaron remained silent.