During the Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur period, some Jews have a custom known as “kapparot.” The ceremony involves swinging a live chicken over a person’s head three times, and then slaughtering the chicken. People who follow this practice believe that the ritual is a form of atonement (kapparah) for their sins. Many people see it as a primitive, quasi-idolatrous practice. Others view “kapparot” as egregious cruelty to animals.
(This article originally appeared in “Sephardica: Hommage a Haim Vidal Sephiha,” Peter Lang Publishers, Berne, 1996.)
All Israelis and all Jews have a stake in an honest, compassionate, competent and courageous Chief Rabbinate, one that serves as a unifying force. The sooner the rabbinate is reconstituted, the sooner will we be able to say with a full heart: "For out of Zion comes forth the Torah, and the word of God from Jerusalem."
From the second half of the nineteenth century, Haskalah ideas filtered into the Sephardic communities in Muslim lands, especially through the efforts of the schools of the Alliance Israelite Universelle—bastions of French culture. The influence of European colonial powers in North Africa and the Middle East was also an important factor in Sephardic intellectual life. The impact of the Haskalah could not be altogether ignored.
On Shavuoth, as we celebrate the anniversary of the Revelation at Mount Sinai, we should direct our thoughts to that special moment in the history of Israel and to the ongoing lessons it provides to us in our own lives.
The following articles, spanning over 30 years, offer reflections on aspects of
the theme, “Bridges, Not Walls.” They relate to issues of intellectual openness;
interpersonal relationships; and human dignity.
Orthodoxy and Isolation
Embracing Tradition and Modernity:
Rabbi Uziel offers a Halakhic perspective which reflects a profoundly sympathetic and understanding spirit. Recognizing the practical realities of our world, it is essential that Halakhic authorities courageously respond to the needs. We have a moral obligation to convert those who seek conversion, not only for their sakes but for the sakes of their children.
Within the boundaries of normative Judaism, dissent is respected and even encouraged. But beyond those boundaries, dissent is not tolerated. Intellectual freedom gives way to the authority of tradition. A problem arises: What exactly are the boundaries established by tradition?
I can still hear the voices of my grandparents, parents and elder relatives speaking and singing in Judeo-Spanish. Although they have passed away years ago, I still feel their presence especially on Shabbat and holidays and at family celebrations.