At what point does charisma become dangerous? In a community (and a wider world) where an elusive quality called “spirituality” is constantly sought as representing the “authentic” in the religious quest, how can the individual, or the community, or the responsible leader, distinguish the teacher with integrity from the predator?
These are the kind of people whose melodies sound old, but are really as new as the morning sun. May our people be blessed to find their special melodies and may we never become so afraid of each other that we fail to sing and share our special songs.
The responsibility of Jews to be grateful to God is not only for facts of creation and our lives, but also for our liberation. Yet why does the Passover Haggada provide two versions of what would appear to be the same idea: from slavery to freedom and from enslavement to redemption? Why both formulations? Are freedom and redemption the same thing?
God offers each new generation of the Jewish people the opportunity to renew the covenant. Religious Jews today believe in the God of Israel and the truth of God’s Torah. Are we to believe any less in the eternal spiritual capacity of Am Yisrael to accept, with integrity, freedom and conviction, partnership with the Divine?
The Torah requires us to seek mishpat tsedek, righteous judgment. This is best attained if we are aware of the factors that can impact on the clarity of our judgment—stress, tiredness, informational cascades…and more. We must strive for a justice…that is just, fair and righteous.
Devarim Rabba places Isaiah alongside Moses as the greatest of the prophets (2:4). Isaiah has a central standing among the prophets of Israel and it is noteworthy that the most common epithet for God that Isaiah uses is K’dosh Yisrael “The Holy One of Israel” (Is 1:4). According to Isaiah and most of the other classical prophets, holiness is articulated in terms of social justice and political ethics.
If we rely entirely on “listening,” we sometimes come to a dead end. If we also incorporate “seeing,” we learn to internalize blessings and curses as personal opportunities and challenges in our relationship with God. How we deal with blessings and curses is an indication of who we really are.
Earlier this summer, Rabbi David Weiss Halivni passed away. He was a foremost Talmudic scholar, a wonderful educator, and a true gentleman. Rabbi Alan Yuter, a student and colleague of Rabbi Halivni, has written an appreciation of the man and his work.
How does the importance of personal character, the ethical quality of the individual, compare as between a secular judge - say a United States federal judge or a state court judge - and a religious authority, specifically a rabbinic leader or decisor?
The first and the twentieth centuries were tumultuous times for Jews: the destruction of the Temple and the beginnings of exile on the one hand; the Holocaust and the foundation of the State of Israel on the other. The major common denominator is the rupture of a long status quo and the need to adapt to new circumstances.