When Rabbi Marc Angel asked me to write an article for this issue of Conversations, an issue dedicated to a consideration of Orthodoxy and the State of Israel, I saw both challenge and opportunity.1
An Orthodox colleague recently created a controversy after writing a blog post explaining why he no longer recites the blessing shelo asani isha - thanking God for not creating him as a woman. Several Orthodox rabbis criticized this position for various reasons with one even questioning the author's right to call himself "Orthodox," ostensibly for deviating from the traditional liturgy through his omission. In the grand scheme of Orthodox Jewish history this rabbi's personal choice is relatively trivial.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
“Pyramids, cathedrals, and rockets exist not because of geometric theories of structures or thermodynamics, but because they were first a picture—literally a vision in the minds of those who built them.”
—Historian Eugene Ferguson
The pattern is much the same everywhere – because the cause and effect is the same everywhere. It's probably true that the new communication technologies are catalyzing the process, but that process existed in ancient and medieval times too, so only the externals have changed, not the substance.
“It’s strange the way circles hook up with themselves.”
—Bob Dylan, Chronicles, p. 288
An Orthodox synagogue finds itself in an unusual position as an educational institution. Although there are growing numbers of Conservative, Reform, and multi-denominational Day Schools, it is often a synagogue-based religious school that provides the primary Jewish education for non-Orthodox youth.
“All who are thirsty: come for water…”
We're addicted to branding. By we, I mean Americans, but it's probably true of most people, and for good reason. Seeking out name brands may be a simple and effective survival tactic. Pick a good brand (olive oil, car, university) and you feel confident you will live and be well, otherwise, who knows? Conversely, we don't just buy brand names, but sell them. For success in business, or in the arts, college graduates were told at a recent convocation, you must brand yourself, figure out and highlight the one key brandable thing you have to offer, and name it in a way that sparks recognition and interest.
Would you like to study Torah with a Rabbi who has mastery over the text, depth of understanding, and breadth of knowledge? Do you want a teacher who not only is steeped in classic rabbinic interpretation, but who is aware of and sensitive to the literary features of the text, the relationships of Torah narratives with ancient stories of the Near East, insights of modern biblical scholarship?
All of us should want such a Rabbi and Teacher of Torah.
We have such a Rabbi and Teacher of Torah: Rabbi Moshe Shamah.