This week's Torah portion includes a strange episode. A "mixed multitude" (asafsuf) riled up the Israelites so that they complained bitterly about their situation. They longed to eat meat. They reminisced about the diet they had in Egypt--fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onion and garlic. The miraculous mannah from heaven, that was delivered to them daily in the wilderness, did not satisfy them.
The Revelation at Mount Sinai was a national experience for all the people of Israel—but it also was very personal. Each Israelite heard the same words—but in different ways!
The Ideal Modern Orthodox Rabbi believes that the Jewish people exists by virtue of our Torah and our religious traditions, and that Jews are happiest and most fulfilled when they conduct their lives according to our Torah. His duty is to bring the word of Torah to the Jewish public in such a manner that more and more Jews will want to study and observe Torah.
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.
With their military victory over the Hellenistic Syrians, the Maccabees entered the Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the worship of God. According to Jewish tradition, they found one jar of pure oil with enough to last for one day. They lit the Menorah and the oil miraculously burnt for eight days, enough time to produce a new batch of pure oil.
When we tell this story year after year, we tend to imagine that the Maccabees found the beautiful gold Menorah of the Temple in its place, and they simply added the pure oil to it.
""...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.
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.