Removing Obstacles

In what was probably the greatest Yom Kippur sermon ever preached, the prophet Isaiah enjoins us to “make a path,” to “clear the way,” to “remove all obstacles” from the path of the Lord’s people. We read Isaiah’s searing words today because we believe they speak not just to the inhabitants of ancient Israel but to us as well. The prophet’s urgent call to the Jews of his day, and to us, to observe Yom Kippur by clearing away all obstacles to our “fasting” in the way the Lord has chosen – to take decisive action ourselves – is consistent with the emphasis that Judaism has traditionally placed on human agency, an emphasis we will see affirmed later this afternoon when we once again recall the trials of Jonah.

Modern Orthodoxy: Definitions and Insights

Modern Orthodoxy: Definitions and Insights

By: Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen


I. Introduction

A popular contemporary rabbinic concern is to seek the essential quality that marks Modern Orthodoxy (MO) as a unique form of Torah Judaism.

In the middle ages theologians analyzed Judaism to assess its essential nature. Their concern was to locate a quality that should it be missing, then Judaism would not exist. A modern example of such an inquiry would be to seek the essential aspect of a car. A car even without air conditioning or radio is still a car. Yet, should a vehicle not have a motor, then it would no longer be deemed a car. What is, therefore, essential to Modern Orthodoxy?

A Winding Road to Mitsvot

A Winding Road to Mitsvot

(This article consists of two sections with different purposes. The first is an account of how I came to take on the observance of mitsvot, and what was going on in my family while that was happening. Though it is my personal story, it touches on issues that will resonate with others in various stages of engagement with halakhah. In the following section, I address a broader set of concerns that could be useful for potential ba’alei teshuvah, converts, and those who may be connected to them.

Transforming Israel's Chief Rabbinate

Our Rabbis taught: A certain Heathen once came before Shammai and asked him, “How many Toroth have you?” “Two,” he replied: “the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.” “I believe you with respect to the Written, but not with respect to the Oral Torah; make me a proselyte on condition that you teach me the Written Torah [only].” He scolded and repulsed him in anger. When he went before Hillel, he accepted him as a proselyte. On the first day he taught him, Alef, beth, gimmel, daleth; the following day he reversed [them] to him. “But yesterday you did not teach me thus,” he protested. “Must you then not rely upon me? Then rely upon me with respect to the Oral Torah too.”

The Proselyte Who Comes


by Rabbi Dr. Isaac Sassoon

(Rabbi Dr. Isaac Sassoon is a faculty member at the Metivta, the Institute of Traditional Judaism. Among his publications is his commentary on Torah, "Destination Torah.")

“We are gereem before Thee” (1Chr 29:15)

Review of "Nehalel"--an amazing new Siddur

In Praise of Praising Together - A review essay in Praise of Nehalel (Jerusalem: Nevarech, 2013)
By Rabbi Alan Yuter

This engaging Siddur is the post-modern expression of a thoughtful, educated, worldly, urbane, and religiously sensitive modern Orthodox lay person. The Siddur’s magic lies in the originality of its concept, the personal voice that provides an Everyman’s perspective as expressed by one thinking and feeling individual, and the public sharing of one person’s personal response to prayer.

Winding Through Music, A Luminous Journey

When I was in high school, a friend and I decided we needed to know whether God existed. It was a big public high school on Long Island, full of Catholics and Protestants who went to church and enough Jews to support a kosher bakery just around the corner from the football field. Everyone got along pretty well. But apart from bar mitzvahs, first communions, and the Civil Rights Movement—which galvanized much of the town’s clergy—daily life didn’t seem to have much to do with religion. God was mostly for holidays.