The life and works of R. Joseph Messas remain of great importance. He showed that traditional Judaism can encompass a great diversity of thought, and that even in matters of halakha, often thought to be the most "closed" of all Jewish disciplines, there is a myriad of interpretive possibilities to which we can avail ourselves.
Many years ago, a young lady came to my office to discuss the possibility of her conversion to Judaism. She was raised in Saudi Arabia to American parents in the American military. She grew up hating Israel and hating Jews—although she had never met either an Israeli or a Jew.
Rabbi Hayyim Angel reviews a book by Dennis Prager. Although Prager is best known as a political commentator, he is animated by his belief in Torah and its enduring messages for humanity.
The Torah envisions leadership that avoids the march of folly by recognizing their responsibility to their people and to God. Such leaders are not ashamed to admit their shortcomings. Such leaders have the courage to change direction—to march not to folly but to real greatness.
Jewish tradition has two roads to God: the natural world, which reveals God as Creator; and the Torah, which records the words of God to the people of Israel. But the Torah itself leads us back to the first road, the road of experiencing God as Creator. The Torah and nature are bound together.
The Song of the Sea is the biblical paradigm for the praise of God and provides a literary model for the organization of Pesukei de-Zimra. Like Shirat ha-Yam, Pesukei de-Zimra begins with an appreciation of God’s greatness and concludes with the contemplation of His holiness.
At 3 a.m., the train to Washington D.C. stopped in Stamford. I boarded with many congregants. I marched in the front row with Martin Luther King, Jr., and then watched him as he delivered his “I have a Dream” speech. It was an important moment not only in Black and U.S. history, but also in Jewish history. The next year, when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Jews were beneficiaries of newfound rights, along with African Americans.
(This article is excerpted from Marc D. Angel, Remnant of Israel: A Portrait of America’s First Jewish Congregation—Shearith Israel, Riverside Books, New York, 2004.)
Genuine modesty avoids the extremes of prudery or promiscuity. It fosters self-respect and respect for others. In a real sense, tseniut is not “old fashioned;” it is the avant garde of those who wish to live as dignified human beings.
How do we speak to our children about scandal—whether it is rabbis who have been convicted of sexual impropriety, or our nation’s leaders in the United States or Israel? This challenge presents an opportunity to clarify our thinking about our responsibility to foster the moral education of our children through direct discussion as well as awareness of some of the more subtle ways that children internalize our values.