Jewish tradition has two roads to God: the natural world, which reveals God as Creator; and the Torah, which records the words of God to the people of Israel. But the Torah itself leads us back to the first road, the road of experiencing God as Creator. The Torah and nature are bound together.
Genuine modesty avoids the extremes of prudery or promiscuity. It fosters self-respect and respect for others. In a real sense, tseniut is not “old fashioned;” it is the avant garde of those who wish to live as dignified human beings.
Although she was fully and personally aware of human viciousness and cruelty, Simone Veil wanted very much to believe in the ultimate victory of a righteous, compassionate and humane society. She stressed the role of righteous French non-Jews who acted nobly during the war years. “I am convinced that there will always be men and women, of all origins and in all countries, capable of doing what is right and just."
Rabbi Eliyahu Benamozegh of 19th century Livorno was a traditional rabbi…with a mind open to the untraditional. He was a rational, modern thinker…who fully embraced the truths of Kabbala. He was devoted to Jewish particularism…while fostering a remarkably universalistic worldview. He would not be constrained or confined by artificial intellectual categories. The ultimate unity could only be sought through all the available avenues of human thought.
Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a Prague-born Jew, one of the outstanding figures of modern world literature. His name has become an adjective: Kafkaesque. His writings feature eerie situations, disconnected characters, labyrinthine story lines.
Rabbi Dr. David de Sola Pool (May 16, 1885-December 1, 1970) was the foremost Sephardic rabbi in the United States during the middle decades of the 20th century. While scholars can list his many accomplishments and publications, the distinctive religious worldview that animated Dr. Pool’s life has remained relatively unexplored. This article will examine basic themes in Dr. Pool’s thinking, so that his unique contributions—and failures—might be better understood.
Elias Canetti (1905-1994), a Bulgarian-born Sephardic Jew, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981.I appreciate his keen insights into human motives and behaviors. I admire his close observation of people and places. With prophet-like clarity, he foresaw how humanity could destroy itself…or save itself from the brink.
The folk wisdom and the intellectual wisdom of the Sephardim derive from the same roots. While differing in expression, they articulate many similar ideas. A culture is a living organism. It is to be expected that all who are part of it - whether tending more to the folk or to the intellectuals – will share in the culture's general worldview.
The limelight often focuses on the great and famous, the celebrities and public leaders. Let us remember to appreciate the many humble, pious souls who have been the mainstay of Jewish life from antiquity to the present...and upon whom the future of Judaism depends.
The Jewish Press newspaper has a bi-weekly feature in which questions are asked to a group of rabbis. One of the respondents is Rabbi Marc Angel. Here are his answers to several of the recent questions.