Perhaps the Torah is teaching us to be attentive to the Leahs and Rebeccas among us. No one should have to die feeling that their lives had been unfulfilled, second best, unimportant to those among whom they lived.
The term Orthodox is misleading because it hints at a uniform standard of religious conduct that, in reality, does not exist. When used to enforce exclusivity—the holier-than-thou phenomenon—it can become haughty, condescending, downright mean: ‘I am more Jewish than you.’
Although the medieval recasting of Hanukkah as a celebration of the victories of the Maccabees is important, the core of the talmudic observance celebrates the Sages' stand against assimilation and religious zealotry.
When we speak of imbuing children with good midot and derekh erets, we are speaking of the creation of the total mentch that he or she can become. This quest cannot be accomplished by measures that address only a part of that whole. We must address the whole person.
The Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals began as an idea, as a framework for reshaping the thinking within the Orthodox Jewish community and beyond. It has been a strong, steady voice for diversity, creativity, dynamism. It has been a strong, steady voice against authoritarianism, obscurantism, extremism and sectarianism. We thank our friends and supporters as we celebrate our 15th anniversary.
As Jewish days schools and Torah institutions, it is within the core of our ethos to make the character development of our children a fundamental aspect of their Jewish educational experience. This article by Rabbi David Teller continues this conversation with some suggested first steps.
Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks was the Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth.This excerpt is from his book, To Heal the World, and is reprinted by permission of Schocken Books, a division of Random House. This excerpt appeared in issue 2 of Conversations, the journal of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. Rabbi Sacks passed away in November 2020.
The power of Jewish wisdom during the era of racial upheaval was perhaps most evident when Rabbi Joachim Prinz spoke right before King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Washington Mall in 1963. In front of one of the largest civil rights marches in our country’s history, Prinz started by saying, “I speak to you as an American Jew.”
In a sense, we each are two people: our heavenly ideal self; and our earthly self. The heavenly self is an ideal to which we should aspire. We are each born with unique talents, sensitivities, opportunities. If we strive to develop to our maximum potential, we can approach the heavenly ideal of ourselves.
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