Responsible intellectual freedom is the hallmark of a healthy religious community. Diversity of opinion and freedom of expression are vital to our wellbeing as Jews—and as human beings. Those who attempt to serve as a coercive “thought police” are doing a vast disservice to our community and to the Torah itself.
Many of our children and grandchildren spend a year or more studying in yeshivot in Israel. This is a wonderful phenomenon...as a rule. But it is becoming more common for students to be drawn into studying for shana bet and beyond. There's a tendency to glorify lifelong Torah study even if that means forgoing college or developing skills necessary for long term employment.
Hanukkah reminds us that the Jewish People have long faced enemies of all kinds…but that we have been able to prevail! With the help of the Almighty, and with our own personal commitment, we will continue to bring light, love and kindness to our world.
The Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting took place on October 27, 2018, at the Tree of Life – Or L'Simcha Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The congregation was attacked during Shabbat morning services. The shooter killed eleven people and wounded six. Three years later, we cannot forget this tragedy and its implications for our community...and society at large.
From time to time, we read about polls taken among Israelis, asking if they are religious or secular. These polls reflect a popular Israeli division of its population into "dati" (religious) or "hiloni" (secular).
The State of Israel faces attacks on many fronts. Its enemies are relentless in striving to hurt Israel in every possible way. One area of attack is in the area of economics. There are concerted efforts to boycott companies that do business with and in Israel, and to boycott Israeli products.
Some words get overused, misused and abused. The words become degraded so that they no longer can be taken at face value. I’ve begun receiving notices for upcoming lectures/shiurim that are “major.” Does that imply that all “non-major” lectures, shiurim/programs are “minor?” When hyping events as “major,” the result is to downgrade all other “non-major” events…and ultimately to downgrade “major” itself.
Demonization of any one group threatens the moral fabric of the entire society. Unless society as a whole can address the plague of dehumanization and demonization, all of us—of whatever background—are at risk. Each of us, in our own way, can contribute to creating a more harmonious, tolerant, humane society.
In our time, like throughout history, there are those who seek to manipulate crowds in dangerous, murderous and hateful ways. There are those who play on the fears and gullibility of the masses. But there are also those who resist the crowd instinct and maintain the personality instinct. These are the stars who will form a new kind of crowd, a crowd that will bring human beings together in harmony and mutual respect.
The Talmud (Berakhot 31a) provides guidelines for how we are to approach prayer: “Our sages taught: One must not stand in prayer in sadness or in laziness, or in laughter, or in conversation, or in light-headedness, or in idle matters; but [one should pray] in happiness [of a mitzvah].”