A Winding Road to Mitsvot

A Winding Road to Mitsvot

(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.

Transforming Israel's Chief Rabbinate

Our Rabbis taught: A certain Heathen once came before Shammai and asked him, “How many Toroth have you?” “Two,” he replied: “the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.” “I believe you with respect to the Written, but not with respect to the Oral Torah; make me a proselyte on condition that you teach me the Written Torah [only].” He scolded and repulsed him in anger. When he went before Hillel, he accepted him as a proselyte. On the first day he taught him, Alef, beth, gimmel, daleth; the following day he reversed [them] to him. “But yesterday you did not teach me thus,” he protested. “Must you then not rely upon me? Then rely upon me with respect to the Oral Torah too.”

The Proselyte Who Comes


by Rabbi Dr. Isaac Sassoon

(Rabbi Dr. Isaac Sassoon is a faculty member at the Metivta, the Institute of Traditional Judaism. Among his publications is his commentary on Torah, "Destination Torah.")

“We are gereem before Thee” (1Chr 29:15)

Review of "Nehalel"--an amazing new Siddur

In Praise of Praising Together - A review essay in Praise of Nehalel (Jerusalem: Nevarech, 2013)
By Rabbi Alan Yuter

This engaging Siddur is the post-modern expression of a thoughtful, educated, worldly, urbane, and religiously sensitive modern Orthodox lay person. The Siddur’s magic lies in the originality of its concept, the personal voice that provides an Everyman’s perspective as expressed by one thinking and feeling individual, and the public sharing of one person’s personal response to prayer.

Winding Through Music, A Luminous Journey

When I was in high school, a friend and I decided we needed to know whether God existed. It was a big public high school on Long Island, full of Catholics and Protestants who went to church and enough Jews to support a kosher bakery just around the corner from the football field. Everyone got along pretty well. But apart from bar mitzvahs, first communions, and the Civil Rights Movement—which galvanized much of the town’s clergy—daily life didn’t seem to have much to do with religion. God was mostly for holidays.

Growing Gender Issues within the Orthodox Community: A Psychohistorical Perspective

Development of Formal Jewish Education for Women in the Orthodox Community

The issues surrounding the education and status of women have been universal over time and cultures. As late as 1868, the English parliament was debating whether women could own property. One of its statesmen announced the following, which was picked up by The London Times, “giving women the right to own property will destroy marriages and society as we know it” (Munday, 2012). This issue, incidentally, was resolved by the Torah thousands of years ago in the divine decision relayed by Moses to the five daughters of Zelophehad, giving them the right to own land (Num. 27:1–11).

Challenges and Opportunities for a Robust Orthodox Judaism

The mid-nineteenth century was a heady era for Reform Judaism in America, with a strong influx of German Jewish immigrants for whom the modernity of Classical Reform resonated. By the middle of the twentieth century, the whole world seemed to be moving toward Conservative Judaism—certainly Orthodox Judaism was the odd man out, or so it appeared. The Jewish community fully embraced suburbanization, and whether in the city or in the suburb, new synagogues being built were almost entirely without mehitsot (partitions between men and women) and with large parking lots.