Articles

For Tal

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A fellow art student—we’ll call him Tal—once described to me how it felt to wear a skirt for the first time—jubilant, liberated, correct, and uncomfortable. The skirt exposed a deep truth; but even as he felt whole, wearing a skirt meant sacrificing the convenient comportment he had once used as a shield. Since he had always been an unassuming person, the stares took some getting used to. Tal worried that wearing a skirt was overly flamboyant; he didn’t want to be a drag queen, he just wanted to be a gay man who wore a skirt. His conclusion, and I have thought of this often, was that joyously idiosyncratic behavior is almost always viewed as extravagant, whether it presents as a man wearing a skirt or a woman wearing a headscarf.

Judaism: An Incubator of Creativity

The current world is one of information-overload and hyper-stimulation. In this increasingly changing and competitive world, the stakes are high. Being creative gives you the competitive advantage. The fastest and best innovators thrive and survive, and creativity is the key factor. In this article, I propose and will provide support for the argument that Jews historically have been highly creative, and that they are currently very creative in many endeavors.

Arbeit Macht Frei

I cannot sing this place.

I stand on ash, balance
on the platform. The audience of ten
faces, hollow and ghostly, urges—
Try not to fall into those earthen jaws,
moats of dust mixed with rain.
Looking into the deep troughs, dizzy
from time-induced nausea, I think
of that lullaby, Sleep, sleep,
one day you will have raisins and almonds.

I try to make a song here.

The air drips with inky streaks,
bus fumes and burnt hair.
Charred scrawls on the station
wall condemn me to death,
Stars of David replace Xs, cross
out hearts, point to the letters in Polish,
need no translation: Gas the Jews.
I want to scream old songs, erase
these coal marks that smudge, but do not fade.

My voice is no vandal.

One small voice: I hate
the green narrow barracks

Maimonides: Essential Teachings on Jewish Faith and Ethics--a New Book by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Rabbi Marc D. Angel has come out with a new book, published by Skylight Illuminations, a division of Jewish Lights Publishers. Entitled: "Maimonides: Essential Teachings on Jewish Faith and Ethics," the book includes an introduction to Maimonides' religious philosophy; an English translation of most of Maimonides' Book of Knowledge and his 13 Principles of Faith; and a running commentary by Rabbi Angel. This book allows the reader not only to learn about Maimonides, but to study his essential teachings in his own words (translated into English).

The book is available through the online store at jewishideas.org Bulk rates are available by contacting info@jewishlights.org The book is valuable not only for personal study, but for group discussions and adult education classes.

Orthodoxy and Mission

Modern Orthodox and Haredi Judaisms have traditionally been distinguished on the basis of attitudes in three areas: secular knowledge and education, Israel and Zionism, and the role of women. We can safely add a fourth theme that has gained prominence over the last two or three decades: Daas Torah---is the authority of great Rabbis limited to their expertise in Jewish law, or does it extend to other realms, such as science and politics?

It now appears that a fifth theme is emerging, and a critical one: the place of Jews in the world, or our very mission here on earth.

New Family?

Together with some friends, I’ve established an organization called KayamaMoms. I’m religious, 40 years old and unmarried and I would like to have children. Like me, there are thousands of women in Israel and the rest of the world who have dreamed their entire lives about having a family but unfortunately have not yet found the right partner.

Urim and Tumim, Tohu VaVohu

Urim and Tumim
We live in times when the demands on intellectual conformity are increasing to the point where to challenge is to offend and to think in an unusual way is to court charges of heresy. This article is an invented midrash that presents uncertainty in a positive rather than a negative light.

A New Hearing for Kol Ishah

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The topic of kol ishah, the halakhic prohibition on men from listening to a woman's singing voice, is obviously a matter of concern for religiously observant Jews. Yet, there are various interpretations as to what exactly constitutes the prohibition. The present essay aims to clarify the prohibition, demonstrating that it is far less restrictive than is commonly believed.

Installation of New Haham at Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam: Reflections from Rabbi Marc D. Angel

I had the honor of spending the weekend of March 16-18, 2012 with the community of Amsterdam’s famous Portuguese Synagogue, Talmud Torah. I was invited to install their new Haham, Dayyan Pinchas Toledano. The Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam is the “mother” Congregation of my own Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of New York City, founded in 1654. Our two Congregations share over 350 years of historical association and both maintain the Western Sephardic minhag. The installation of Haham Toledano underscored the historic connection of our Congregations, as well as the long-standing personal respect and friendship which Haham Toledano and I have shared over the years.