Poet Robert Bly speaks of two periods of “opening” in human life, roughly between 18 and 23 years of age, and then again sometime in one’s mid-40s. The first of these coincides with our college years, a time of notable openness to new ideas, new ways. It was as a freshman at Yeshiva College that I was introduced to serious religion, and I became an enthusiastic participant. My engagement lasted only five years. I was very much in love with the Orthodox life, the practices, and the learning. But for better or worse I had a philosophical conscience.
We are very pleased to announce that beginning June 1, 2013, Rabbi Hayyim Angel will serve as National Scholar of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. A remarkable scholar and teacher, Rabbi Hayyim Angel will dramatically increase the programming of our Institute by offering classes, serving as scholar in residence in communities throughout North America, organizing public conferences, conducting seminars for Judaica teachers…and more. Along with his work for our Institute, he will be expanding his teaching at Yeshiva University.
“Then you begin to give up the very idea of belonging. Suddenly this thing, this belonging, it seems like some long, dirty lie ... and I begin to believe that birthplaces are accidents, that everything is an accident. But if you believe that, where do you go? What do you do? What does anything matter?”
—Zadie Smith, White Teeth
Going off the derekh is one of the greatest epidemics facing the religious Jewish community today. You would be hard-pressed to find a frum family untouched by this phenomenon, whether it is a child, sibling, spouse, cousin, friend, or schoolmate who has left religion behind. In the wake of the individual leaving is a tempest of emotions—confusion, guilt, anger, hurt, and sadness.
Secular subjects are taught with various approaches in Jewish schools. Some take the approach that they are a necessary evil, and are taught only because they are required to do so by the civil authorities. They believe that only really worthwhile learning is that of limudei qodesh. Others take a more positive attitude toward limudei chol, considering them important at least for purposes of earning a living. Others go even further and consider all knowledge to have some intrinsic value. Scientific truth has sanctity in that it attests to the wisdom of the Creator.
Issachar and Zebulun are said to have founded an economic model that has become popular within a segment of Orthodox Jewish society. The model is commonly viewed as follows: Issachar “bore the yoke of Torah,” devoting himself exclusively to study, while Zebulun was a successful global merchant. Recognizing the benefits and deficiencies of their single-track careers, they contracted to share the rewards, if not the burdens, of their respective interests. Each brother received goods produced by the labor of the other. Lacking time for constant study, Zebulun financed his brother’s cerebrally pious lifestyle and, in return, was guaranteed a portion of Issachar’s metaphysical reward. Issachar avoided traditional work but, thanks to Zebulun, he could still put food on the table.
“Rabbi, what will you do about the rain?”
Exhausted and in shock from my first exposure to the realities of the swarming, squalid city of Mumbai, then called Bombay, I stared back, perplexed and concerned.
“Don’t you know, Rabbi, there is a drought here in Maharashtra.” Their thoughts, though unsaid, were loud and clear: “We have survived as Jews for 2,000 years without rabbis; if you can not bring rain we do not need you.”
Most discussions of the recent gathering at Citi Field have focused on the logistics of the event and the topic – the dangers of the Internet. With such a focus, however, we may very well be missing something of great importance. What struck my attention was the name of the organization staging the event: Ichud HaKehillos Letohar HaMachaneh, or the Union of the Communities for the Purity of the Camp.
It is my understanding that though this is far from the first use of the expression “the Purity of the Camp,” it has risen to prominence only in recent decades. I think it is a telling term, both for what it says and what it leaves unmentioned. And I would suggest that understanding its use might help us make some sense of contemporary dynamics in the Orthodox world.
Ethnic tensions among Jews are a transnational, diachronic phenomenon, amply documented by Jews as well as by outside observers. Tradition prescribes Jews to rescue other Jews from affliction, underscored by the halakhic concept of pidyon shvu’im (redemption of captives) and the talmudic dictum kol Israel arevim ze baZe, which teaches that every Jew is responsible for the other. Yet, when the factor of physical remoteness between two communities was eliminated, these time-honored values frequently dissipated. As one eminent historian quipped, “ahavat Israel is inversely proportionate to distance.” 
Identifying the Problem
…the player directly responsible for Hapoel losing this critical game was the team's goalkeeper, Haim Cohen. His amateurish blunder in letting the ball slip through his hands gave Maccabi their first goal, and the second was the result of Cohen's poor positioning for the free kick. Nor was this the first game this season in which Hapoel has been let down by Cohen. His tendency to make mistakes under pressure has surely eroded his teammates' confidence in him; Hapoel manager Aryeh Rubin is rumored to be looking for a replacement...
In what was probably the greatest Yom Kippur sermon ever preached, the prophet Isaiah enjoins us to “make a path,” to “clear the way,” to “remove all obstacles” from the path of the Lord’s people. We read Isaiah’s searing words today because we believe they speak not just to the inhabitants of ancient Israel but to us as well. The prophet’s urgent call to the Jews of his day, and to us, to observe Yom Kippur by clearing away all obstacles to our “fasting” in the way the Lord has chosen – to take decisive action ourselves – is consistent with the emphasis that Judaism has traditionally placed on human agency, an emphasis we will see affirmed later this afternoon when we once again recall the trials of Jonah.