The current policies of the Orthodox rabbinic/beth din establishment are causing anguish to thousands of would-be converts and their families; are turning would-be converts away from Orthodoxy; are de-legitimizing Orthodox rabbis and converts who do not subscribe to the "establishment" positions; are causing thousands of halakhic converts to fear that their and their children's halakhic status will be undermined.
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.
The Akedah, or binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:1–19),  is a formative passage in Jewish tradition. It plays a central role on Rosh haShanah, and many communities include this passage in their early morning daily liturgy. What should we learn from this jarring narrative with regard to faith and religious life?
Imagine this scenario. A person suffering in pain. Incurable. Depressed. Unable to eat. And the son or daughter attends synagogue every day praying that God should send this unfortunate person a refuah shelemah--a complete cure.
Here is the question: Should one pray to the Almighty to allow this person to continue to suffer, or rather should one pray for the beloved’s speedy death?
Shouldn’t all Jews who wish to pray be allowed to do so without having to pay premium prices? Does it seem ethical for synagogues to “sell seats” for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? Doesn’t this process diminish the sanctity and idealism of synagogues? Yes, these criticisms certainly seem valid. In an ideal world, synagogues would not “sell tickets” or charge expensive dues for membership. But we don't live in an ideal world.
In this essay, I will focus on two great modern-day posekim, studying how they approach similar halakhic questions. Both are scholars of vast erudition, of wide influence; both have written and published many works. The two posekim to be discussed are Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rabbi Haim David Halevy.
When I was a young rabbi, I believed that the classic models of Sephardic rabbinic leadership provided a responsible and meaningful example for all of world Jewry. Nearly 50 years later, I still believe this to be true. In spite of all the negative signs that abound, I still believe this to be true.
Sir Moses Montefiore Bart. was the most famous English Jew of his time, probably of all time. Passionate in his beliefs, both as a Jew and as an Englishman, he became a legend throughout the entire Jewish world in his own lifetime. He was respected by kings and potentates; and was venerated by impoverished Jews in the shtetls of Eastern Europe as well as in the mellahs of North Africa and the Middle East.
Many Jews in our day, like many of our brethren of other tribes, are seeking to mend the fractures that divide us from ourselves and from others, and to find ways to heal the wounds that afflict us only seven decades after the Holocaust and the rebirth of Israel. Amid these efforts, an idealistic, scholarly nineteenth-century rabbi from Livorno seems, to some, to provide a beacon of hope and humanity.
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