How ought religion, including Modern Jewish Orthodoxy, interact with America’s political democracy? And can it survive our current culture? Not surprisingly, these simple questions simultaneously point in many directions. However, my interest is specific. I wish to understand how secular politics and culture affect religion in the United States and vice versa. Although answers are complex, I do think that a few meaningful generalizations are possible.
In 1954, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the acknowledged leader of Modern Orthodoxy in America, was asked whether it was permissible for Orthodox rabbis and congregations to unite or to cooperate with their non-Orthodox counterparts.
(This article consists of two sections with different purposes. The first is an account of how I came to take on the observance of mitsvot, and what was going on in my family while that was happening. Though it is my personal story, it touches on issues that will resonate with others in various stages of engagement with halakhah. In the following section, I address a broader set of concerns that could be useful for potential ba’alei teshuvah, converts, and those who may be connected to them.
Why in Megillat Esther is the name of God not mentioned even once, considering that it was the hand of God that altered a near catastrophe for the Jewish people living in Persia?
Judaism, to me, is not about laws but about music and musical notes. In all of its laws, I hear powerful sonatas that transform my soul: Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, with its heights of intensity; Johann Sebastian Bach’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, with his iron fist, uncompromising dedication to detail, and strict adherence to rigid rules of composition, resulting in a phenomenal outburst of emotion. When I listen to these masterpieces, I encounter the thunder and lightning experienced by the children of Israel when God revealed His Torah at Mount Sinai. It feels like being hit with an uppercut under the chin and remaining unconscious for the rest of the day.
“Rabbi, what will you do about the rain?”
Exhausted and in shock from my first exposure to the realities of the swarming, squalid city of Mumbai, then called Bombay, I stared back, perplexed and concerned.
“Don’t you know, Rabbi, there is a drought here in Maharashtra.” Their thoughts, though unsaid, were loud and clear: “We have survived as Jews for 2,000 years without rabbis; if you can not bring rain we do not need you.”
Question to Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Rosh Yeshiva of the Hesder Yeshiva of Petach Tikva:
I ask you to bravely write an answer to a question that has been disturbing me very much for quite some time. I am a thirty-six years old woman, rather pretty, educated and well taken care of, who has been attempting for over fifteen years to get married, but to no avail…
I want to have a child!!! I dream all the time about him and I want a child!!!
“Home” is a concept not easily put into words. It is our refuge, our sanctum, our institution for the whole. It evokes the pictures of the happy family, of children playing in security, and the nurturing environment in which people grow into themselves. It is the place you go back to, that you belong to.
When home is not where your heart is, and the individuals comprising that home have no cohesive identity, there is no belonging – and sooner or later, those individuals (since, after all, that is all they are) learn that their home is broken, and they therefore run away to the refuge of their castles in the air (of which their psychologists collect the rent).
Review by Israel Drazin
A Synagogue Companion, by Rabbi Hayyim Angel
Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, 2014, 351 pages
Rabbi Hayyim Angel is a scholar who writes very readable, interesting, and informative books. He presents “a vision of the Torah that is authentic, passionate,
reasonable, and embracing of people of all backgrounds.” He exposes the plain meaning of biblical texts. He raises thought-provoking questions. He shows that many biblical
books do not state what people think they state, and surprises and delights readers by revealing what the Bible actually says.
In his Synagogue Companion, Angel, the National Scholar of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, has brief essays of no more than a page and a half on the 54