(Rabbi Finkelman is a member of the International Rabbinic Fellowship. He earned his rabbinic ordination at Yeshiva University, and has a PhD in Comparative Literature from the City University of New York. He teaches literature at Lawrence Technological University, as well as adult education classes in his local Federation.)

Our prayers are with the people of Israel as they once again are compelled to defend themselves against the forces of terror, hatred and destruction.

Several Modern Orthodox High Schools have recently allowed female students to don tefillin during the morning prayer services at school. This decision has generated much controversy, rancor and name-calling. On one side are those who think this is an outright break with halakhic norms, and on the other side are those who think this is a wonderful step forward for halakhic Judaism.

This article is not going to pass halakhic judgment on this issue. Halakhic cases can be made on both sides. This article, rather, will deal with the larger question of the nature of prayer and the mitzvah of tefillin.

The goal of prayer is to come closer to God, to bring God into our lives, to experience in some way the reality of the Divine Presence.

(This article has appeared in various publications, most recently the Jerusalem Post of April 22, 2014)

Back in 2008, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) announced a new system of conversion (GPS – Geirus Policies and Standards).

Ostensibly, their goal was to create a universal and centralized standard for all conversions.

We warned then that the GPS system would result in invalidating conversions that had been done in the past in accordance with Orthodox law and approved by the RCA (JTA , March 10, 2008, “RCA Deal Hurts Rabbi, Converts”).

A popular quip has it that "I love humanity; it's the people I don't like." It sometimes seems easier to love an abstract concept like humanity, or the Jewish people, or the community--rather than to love actual individuals. After all, individual human beings are not always pleasant, nice, courteous or considerate. Individuals can be rude, obnoxious, violent, immoral. We can more easily love the abstract concept of humanity, rather than having to deal with the negative features of particular individuals.

This essay is not about same-sex marriage. It seems amply clear from Torah and halakha that marriage entails a union between a man and a woman.

This essay is not about whether the United States Supreme Court should have legalized same-sex marriage, or whether such marriages should or should not be performed by civil magistrates.

We are confronted with a reality, whether we approve or do not approve. The reality is that same-sex marriage is legal in the United States; that “Gay rights” activists have convinced much of the public that their cause is a “human rights” issue and that those who oppose same-sex marriage are “on the wrong side of history.”

A recent article in New York’s Jewish Week quoted an elderly man who said that lately he wakes up in the middle of the night “feeling terrible, depressed—I’ve never felt this bad.” This man had been a major financial supporter of his synagogue for many years.

He had attended daily services, was active on the Board, and played a key role in many synagogue activities. Now, at age 90, he is bitterly depressed. He didn’t pray at his synagogue on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but attended a “break-away” congregation.