Angel for Shabbat

The "Bil'am Effect:" Thoughts for Parashat Balak

In our world today, we are—unfortunately—accustomed to dealing with biased, hate-filled, and dishonest enemies. We sometimes wonder why people abandon reason and fairness in order to maintain hateful prejudices.
But we also know that the “Bil’am effect” is possible. Some special individuals—steeped in animosity and prejudice—can rise above their biases, can open their eyes, can become forces for good instead of pawns of evil.

Fear or Freedom: Thoughts for Parashat Devarim

In his book, “The Case for Democracy,” Natan Sharansky divides the world into two kinds of societies: fear societies, and free societies. Fear societies are tyrannies which rule by terrorizing their subjects, by restricting freedom of speech and movement, by instilling fear so that people will not voice opposition to the rulers. Fear societies are controlled by tyrants who are not hesitant to brutalize their people in order to quash dissent.

Intellectual Humility: Thoughts for Parashat Beha’aloteha

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.

Torah and Nature: Thoughts for Parashat Va-et-hanan

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.