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.
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.”
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The tale of the Ben Hecht can help remind us that Israel is a moral and humanitarian enterprise. It took the bravery and the sacrifices of so many to build a country where refugees could rebuild their lives in freedom and allow their dynamism to contribute so much to the well-being of the world.
The Torah does not insist on democratic rights; the Torah antedates modern democracy. Torah-observing Jews have survived under many other sorts of political entities. The Torah clearly wants us to create a virtuous society, in which the powerful protect the weakest and most vulnerable, who represent the “image of God” as well as powerful people do.
The story of Isaac and Abimelech repeats itself in various forms throughout history. It is a reminder of human conflict and reconciliation, enmity and peaceful relations. It is a story that speaks to us today.