There is probably no sentiment as fundamental to Judaism as recognizing the good that others do for us and expressing our gratitude to them (in Hebrew, “hakarat ha-tov”). God is reputed to have created the world in a burst of loving-kindness for which humanity and all living creatures should intuitively praise Him, and the Jewish people’s special relationship with God is predicated on His kindness in having redeemed the Jews from Egypt. The very word for Jew in Hebrew, Yehudi, comes from the verb le-hodot, to thank, and hearkens back to our foremother Leah thanking God for giving birth to her fourth son. Therefore, I was not surprised to recently come upon a poster in Har Nof (a largely Haredi, Jerusalem suburb) proclaiming that this Jewish calendar year is the year of Hakarat Ha-tov.
In light of the new Pew study on Jewish affiliation, there will be a lot of hand-wringing about what the Jewish community can do to get people more engaged. My revolutionary
suggestion? Get to synagogue.
People are always telling me that they’d love to come to shul more often, but they’re just not as religious as I am. Its one of the hazards of being married to a rabbi. Strangers think they know my exact level of religiosity, whatever that means. So here’s what I’ll say. You have no idea what goes on inside my head. And I have no idea what you’re thinking, either. Even more blasphemous, I don’t care.
Storied Jewish Lives around the World, by Hillel Goldberg
Feldheim Publishers, 2013, 228 pages
Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, an award winning author who has published inspiring Jewish stories for over 45 years, and has authored five previous books, has now given us three dozen well-crafted, easy-to-read, inspiring tales of people who we will admire, people we should emulate.
“There is greatness,” Rabbi Goldberg writes, “not only in well known leaders. ‘There is no person who does not have his hour.’ I have known this person too – the ‘simple Jew,’ the poshuteh Yid – shining in his moment of distinction. I have tried to capture” the greatness of these Jews, and their contribution to those around them.
To the editor,
I am writing in response to Rachel Tanny’s article, “Religious Jews Leaving Religious Life,” printed on June 14, 2013, and distributed last week via email.
I was raised in a loving Orthodox household in the wonderful Jewish community in Sharon, Massachusetts. But the intolerance I faced at Maimonides School in Brookline and the disinterest I had in continuing a lifestyle with so many prohibitive restrictions on my interaction with the modern world led me to stop leading a religious lifestyle when I left for college. As I made this decision, and as I have continued to work out how I would like to lead my life and raise a family, I have felt accepted and supported by my religious family, friends, and members of the Sharon community.
On more than one occasion, I heard Rav Mordechai Gifter zt”l tell the following story.
Review by Israel Drazin
A Synagogue Companion, by Rabbi Hayyim Angel
Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, 2014, 351 pages
Rabbi Hayyim Angel is a scholar who writes very readable, interesting, and informative books. He presents “a vision of the Torah that is authentic, passionate,
reasonable, and embracing of people of all backgrounds.” He exposes the plain meaning of biblical texts. He raises thought-provoking questions. He shows that many biblical
books do not state what people think they state, and surprises and delights readers by revealing what the Bible actually says.
In his Synagogue Companion, Angel, the National Scholar of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, has brief essays of no more than a page and a half on the 54
When our Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals was established in October 2007, we knew we wanted to publish a journal--but did not know how we could make this happen.
But then we met Mr. S. Daniel Abraham.
Mr. Abraham immediately understood the need for an Orthodox journal that was high quality, open to new and diverse ideas, and challenging to readers. He promptly "invested" in our Institute, and became the founding "angel" of our journal, "Conversations."
The first issue of "Conversations" appeared in spring 2008. Thanks to Mr. Abraham, we were able to publish and circulate thousands of copies to readers throughout the world. The reception was so positive that we expanded the format of "Conversations" so as to include more articles and generate more reaction.
A few years ago, I spoke about domestic violence on Yom Kippur. Afterward, two very sweet members of my synagogue came up to me and said, "Rabbi, you shouldn't speak about such ugly things from the pulpit. That doesn't happen here."
I thought to myself, "Two rows behind you and a little to the left, it does."
Domestic violence happens in Jewish homes. This article is the reopening of the conversation, because we need to confront this issue. I wish we didn't have to. But this isn't only an issue in the Catholic Church. It is much closer to home than we'd like to admit.
Abuse happens within Jewish families. Physical and verbal abuse happen in Jewish families.