On this coming Rosh HaShana the Shmita (Sabbatical) year (5775 – 2014-15) will begin. According to its laws, routine agricultural activities are prohibited and its produce is ownerless, free to be taken by all. At the end of the year, Shmitat Kesafim (the remission of debts) also takes effect.
“Excuse me for a moment; I need to take this call,” I said to the rabbis I was meeting with at an important convention for Hareidi professionals dealing with practical halakhic issues and public policy. I had just stopped by the convention to meet some of the rabbis who had taught me and mentored me over the years. I was sitting with my main mentor—a Yeshivishe, Litvishe Rav—and his friend, a close associate of some of the Hareidi rabbinic authorities.
As a child, in my formative years, I grew up on New York’s Lower East Side. I attended Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem and was privileged to know Rav Moshe Feinstein. My grandfather was the b’al koreh at the Yeshiva and a close friend of Rav Moshe, so I was blessed to have visited the Feinstein home on numerous occasions. Rav Moshe had a great influence on me. It was he who taught me how to interact with Jews of a wide range of observance, especially in the way he modeled Torah as an expression of love, patience, tolerance, and universal respect (b’sever panim yafot).
This week, we are commemorating the horrific murder 50 years ago of three civil rights workers, two Jewish and one African American, in Mississippi.
When I began reading up about the freedom riders, groups of mainly white young men and women from the north who spent the summer of 1964 in Mississippi working for civil rights, voting registration etc., and especially Andrew Goodman and Michael Shwerner, two amongst many Jews who were part of this summer, I had a hope.
Songs, Stories and Scholars:
A New Look at Sephardic Culture,
An Extraordinary One-Day Seminar
Hillel at the University of Washington
Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, 10am-2pm
The Israeli government recently moved to decentralize the conversion system by allowing local courts to convert individuals on their own.
Ironically, as Israel moves away from centralization, here in America the Rabbinical Council of America is enthusiastically embracing it. The modern Orthodox rabbinical organization recently reaffirmed its commitment to its centralized conversion system, which it calls GPS (Geirus Policies and Standards). Under the system, the RCA accredits only those conversions conducted under RCA’s batei din, or rabbinical courts, using the GPS process.
Since its inception in 2008, we have opposed this centralized approach. We still do today. Here’s why.
History was made on Sunday, November 30, when for the first time in the annals of the state, official recognition was given to Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran.