The Talmud posits an important principle: the Heavenly court deals with us by the exact same standards that we use to deal with others (Sotah 8b). If we are kind and compassionate, we can expect to be judged by God with kindness and compassion. If we are cruel and unfairly critical of others, we can expect the Heavenly court to deal with us with the same qualities we have shown to others.
In his book, “Games People Play,” Dr. Eric Berne wrote of a phenomenon that he described as recognition hunger. Humans have a deep psychological need to be recognized, to be validated. It is a natural desire to want to be loved and appreciated. These signs of affirmative recognition convey a message: your life matters, you are good, you make a difference. When someone sincerely praises or thanks us, we feel better about ourselves.
""...and by thy seed shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves" (Bereishith 26:4).
In this week's Torah portion, God assures Yitzhak that the nations of the earth will find blessing in his descendants. God had made a similar statement to Yitzhak's father, Abraham; and later makes this statement to Yitzhak's son, Yaacov. The children of Abraham, Yitzhak and Yaacov--the people of Israel--have a special destiny. They live not only for themselves and their immediate families; rather, they live for the benefit of all humankind.
(This opinion piece was published by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, November 21, 2016)
Let us begin with the facts: Converts whose conversions were conducted according to halachah, or Jewish law, are 100 percent Jewish.
In the eyes of God and Torah, they are full Jews, just as Jewish as any born Jews. Their Jewishness is not contingent on the Israeli Chief Rabbinate or anyone else. Halachic converts are Jewish, their children are Jewish, they are obligated to fulfill the mitzvot like all other Jews.
This article discusses some cases, reflective of the educational approach of many religious schools and individuals, that are symptomatic of serious problems in the way our community transmits Torah teachings. The fundamentalist, literalist position—so vehemently criticized by Rambam—still holds sway among many Orthodox Jews.
Prayer and Windows: Thoughts for Parashat Noah
God’s instructions to Noah for building the ark include: “A light you shall make to the ark,” (Bereishith 6:16). Rashi, drawing on rabbinic tradition, offers two explanations of what this “light” was. 1) it was a window; 2) it was a precious stone.
A window provides direct light from the sun; a person inside the ark could see the skies above. A precious stone refracts light; a person inside the ark has light, but has no direct contact with the outside world.
The Psalm associated with Shemini Hag Atsereth/Simhath Torah seems to be a strange choice. It is Psalm 12, a Psalm that Martin Buber has described as a prophecy “against the generation of the lie.” The Psalmist cries out: “Help, O Lord, for the pious cease to be…They speak falsehood each with his neighbor, with flattering lip, with a double heart they speak.” The generation is led by oppressors who say “our tongue will make us mighty,” who arrogantly crush the downtrodden.
Most of our religious observances are indoors--in our homes, in our synagogues.We generally do not like to create a public spectacle of our religious experiences, but we behave modestly and try not to call attention to ourselves as we perform mitzvoth.
Paul Gaugin, the famous 19th century French artist, commented: “When I want to see clearly, I shut my eyes.”
He was referring to two different ways of perceiving reality. With our eyes open, we see surface reality—size, shape, color etc. But with our eyes shut, we contemplate the context of things, our relationship to them, the hidden meanings.
The Generation of the Lie (reprinted from Marc D. Angel, The Wisdom of Solomon and Us, Jewish Lights Publishers, 2016.)
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, even they both are an abomination to the Lord. (Proverbs 17:15)
Death and life are in the power of the tongue; and they who indulge it shall eat the fruit thereof. (Proverbs, 18:21)