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Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud

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Obama’s Lesson and The Jewish Community

There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack […]

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Drowning with Spitzer

My Dad had a terrific insight on the lessons learned from the Spitzer fiasco and the rise and tarnishing of his successor, David Paterson. In Ethics of our Fathers we are told that Hillel “once saw a man’s skull floating […]

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The Internet and Anti-Semitism

The other night my friend, Jewish media guru Steven I. Weiss, asked me to go with him to hear Bernard Henri Levy’s State of World Jewry lecture at the 92nd street Y in Manhattan. Levy can be very entertaining and […]

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The Bombing and Bloodbath in God’s House

A Palestinian gunmen today walked into Merkaz Harav Yeshiva gunning down eight boys in the middle of prayers. This horrible act of terror is but another sad chapter in this 60-year war. Yet, it represents an emerging trend in the […]

Farrakhan, Obama and Jewish Doubts

The attempt to depict Barack Obama as a Muslim and the response of the Jewish community are depressing on a number of levels. First off, even if he was a Muslim, since when does that disqualify someone from office? Have […]

In God We Trust? Faith and the Recession

I recently walked into my bank to deposit some money into a savings account. What a disappointment! Interest rates keep dropping as our government tries to dig itself out of what most economic observers say is a serious recession. The […]

Condi Off to Israel: Too Little Too Late

Contrary to what one might think based on the presidential campaign drama unfolding on our TV sets and newspaper stands, there is still a sitting president and a functioning/disfunctioning Congress that is still drawing up and determining domestic and foreign […]

Judaism & the Wholesale Ban on Abortion

It has now been 35 years since the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade. By a margin of 7-2 the court ruled that abortion was a private matter and that privacy was a constitutionally protected right. The ruling sparked […]

The Gluttonous American Child

This past I week I attended a Tu B’Shevat environmental sedar/symposium led by my friend, Rabbi Charlie Buckholtz, at The Samuel Bronfman Foundation. Charlie suggested that more than anything else our treatment toward the environment stems from a certain attitude […]

The Writers Strike, the Political Pundits, and We, the People

With the writers on strike, Hollywood has moved away from distorting our social relationships to our political ones. We all know the typical Hollywood love story: boy pursues girl, girl pushes away boy, eventually girl falls for boy who by […]

Conversion in Israel: Russians vs. Rabbis

This past week the Israeli political party Yisrael Beiteinu once again tried to introduce legislation that would ease up the conversion process in Israel. The proposal, like all other such initiatives, will inevitably be shelved by the right wing religious […]

Merry Christmas, Mike Huckabee

Much ado is being made out of Mike Huckabee’s, all I want to do is wish you “a Merry Christmas” TV advertisement. Huckabee’s ad seems sincere. He is an ordained minister, a devout Christian, and someone who seems to be […]

The Randomness of Anti-Semitism

Only in America, was my response to the New York Post story referred to by Rabbi Grossman. Could one ever imagine the same scene playing itself out in a European subway? Aside from it being a truly heartwarming story of […]

A Response to Christopher Hitchens’ ‘Hanukkah’

Christopher Hitchens is more than a clever chap. He is one of those rare public intellectuals that no matter what is the subject matter being addressed one can sit and listen to him rant and rave for hours on end. […]

Concerning Annapolis, I Am Not Going to Hold My Breath

In theory the Annapolis summit between Israelis and Palestinians sounds like a good idea. It’s been a really long time since Israelis and Palestinians substantively talked about the possibility of peace. It’s been an even longer time since the Bush […]

The Jewish Source for Universal Health Care

Rabbi Grossman has the right idea when she states, “As Jews we seldom have one position on any issue. Certainly, the idea of health insurance did not even exist at the time of those writing our great codes of Jewish […]

There’s No Jewish Position on the Iraq War

I don’t think Rabbi Waxman meant to say as much, but just to be clear: there is no Jewish position on the Iraq war. There are good wars, bad wars and complicated wars but there are few if any Jewish […]

The Jewish Response to Haredi Poverty

Even with all Israel’s political handicaps, its economy has performed remarkably well. Much credit should be given to Bibi Netanyahu for creating a strong business class and attracting foreign investors like Warren Buffet. So it might come as a surprise […]

Parents: The Reason Hebrew Schools Fail

In theory Hebrew schools are a great idea. A heavy dose of secular subjects in the morning and a nice light sprinkling of Jewish wisdom in afternoon sounds like a fine balance for the well-rounded Jewish child. But, as we […]

But What About the Answer?

Rabbi Jen, I wish you were right about your description of Jewry but the facts on the ground seem to say otherwise: As many have noted there are two sides of Jewry. Rabbi Jen nicely described one side. But in […]

The Blessings of Insularity?

What a pleasure it was to read Rabbi Jen Krause’s new book The Answer. Make no doubt about it this is not your regular self-help book. “The Answer” is more about realizing that ultimately life’s greatest challenge is coming to […]

The Environment & the Noah Story: Lessons for Today

In Judaism we tend to think that God’s promise to Noah after the flood means that the world will never be destroyed. But all God says is that “He” will never destroy the world through rain. “We” on the other […]

McCain, Is Religion Your Blankie?

John McCain 2000: Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and a few Washington leaders of the pro-life movement call me an unacceptable presidential candidate. They distort my pro-life positions and smear the reputations of my supporters. Why? Because I don’t pander to […]

Iraq in Sukkot

If there is one thing we have learned from the Iraq war it’s that the day after revolution is much harder to deal with than the revolution itself. What America is in the process of realizing is that teaching people […]

This Sukkot, the Whoa of Israeli Farmers

As Jews have done for thousands of years, I am in Jerusalem celebrating the festival of Sukkot. As one journalist put it to me the amazing thing about Israel is that on any given day there are 10 stories that […]

Jerusalem: A Matter of Perspective

As American Jews prepare once again to pray, “next year in Jerusalem,” on Yom Kippur, they should know that plans are being made to prevent that from taking place. For better or for worse, if it were up to Ehud […]

Ten Things Jews Should Ask Forgiveness for

For not being more honest about the Armenian Genocide For not being more responsible for the upkeep of our sacred tradition For not putting an end to the case of Agunot For not reaching out and being more welcoming For […]

Preparing for Rosh Hashanah in Ishmael’s House

If there is one thing Rosh Hashanah teaches us, it is the importance of self-reflection and the ability to be self-critical in the way we relate to one another. Communally speaking, as we enter the High Holidays the American Jewish […]

What Does AIPAC Have to Do with God?

Before I get shrill about Christiane Amanpour’s “God’s Warriors” let me just put a few things on the table: I am vehemently opposed to the continuation of the Israeli settler project. I find those Jews who live in Hebron to […]

Eco-Kosher: Halakha on its Head

Rabbi Grossman suggests that “The kosher laws are supposed to raise an awareness of what we eat and a sensitivity to the needs of all living creatures.” Interesting, because just like Jews have claimed that eco-kosher is a central tenet […]

Why Be Jewish?

Recently, Adam Bronfman and I co-hosted “Why be Jewish?” a gathering of leading Jewish rabbis, writers and thinkers sponsored by the Samuel Bronfman Foundation. The gathering was driven by the need for the Jewish community to take a step back […]

Intermarriage: Why Be Jewish?

Rabbi Waxman nicely explains the dilemma facing rabbis today with regard to the intermarriage issue. He highlights just how torn many in the liberal movements are regarding intermarriage. But the intermarriage question is part of a much larger discussion that […]

Outreach and Real Spiritual Growth

I love Jewish outreach, I support it all the way. But sometimes, in the hope of pleasing and bringing someone into the fold, it can become hurtful to that person. Recently, I was having a conversation with a “leader” in […]

Tisha B’Av: The Blame Game

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Leon Morris of the Skirball Center of Adult Jewish Learning, asked me to sit on a panel Tuesday, July 24, (the day of Tisha B’Av), entitled “Because of Our Sins: Do We Blame Ourselves Too […]

The Pope: Fundamentalist Relativism

Pope Benedict has once again taken steps to roll back the strides made by Vatican II regarding interfaith dialogue. On July 11, seemingly out of nowhere he decided to tell the world that the only true Church is the Catholic […]

Why Jews Needed Jesus

In the past few years there have emerged some very new and trailblazing studies on Jesus and his relationship to Judaism. Pope Bendict in his newly published book, “Jesus of Nazareth”, spent 18 pages addressing Jewish scholar Jacob Nuesner’s opposition […]

Support the War…from Your Home?

The Orthodox group Agudath Israel recently released a statement expressing their strong and continued support for the Iraq war. The statement comes after consultation with its rabbinic leadership. Excerpts of the text read as follows: ….Agudath Israel of America believes […]

What’s the Game Plan?

Just when you get tired of reading the same depressing Middle East story, a new even more depressing one emerges. Rabbi Grossman hits it on the head when she points to the failure of leadership surrounding the recent developments in […]

Earth to British Academics

Earth to British academics: Who are you and who cares what you have to say? My fellow blogger rabbis, Rabbi Waxman and Rabbi Grossman, along with Tom Friedman of the New York Times have already done a good job at […]

Interfaith Dialogue: Let’s Talk Without Letting Ourselves Be Duped

The recent pronouncements of some Muslim clerics, mixed in with the ever-quotable madman from Iran, has made people curious about the question: Should we have a “litmus test” to interfaith dialogue, conditions that must be met before we sit down […]

No U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. What Gives?

Forty years after the reunification of Jerusalem, the United States has still yet to move its embassy from Tel-Aviv. Of the 184 countries that the United States has embassies in, the only country where a U.S. embassy is not located […]

Rabbi Waxman, That’s Not What I Meant

Rabbi Waxman claims I asserted that, “The incidence of teenage pregnancy and AIDS in the Jewish community is not a problem that needs to be taken seriously.” That’s not what I meant. What I did say was: “Relative to America […]

Shavuot: Choice and Coercion in Modern-Day Life

The issue of intermarriage and conversion has most recently been reawakened by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s attempt to take over the full conversion process of the American Orthodox Rabbinate. This difference between American Jewry and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate comes […]

Jewish Mothers, Take a Joke

Rabbi Grossman has spoken like a true Jewish mother. Her moral finger-wagging at those who crack a few jokes is either obvious or prudishly naive about human nature. Yes, Jewish mother jokes can be insensitive and downright hurtful. But they […]

Are Jews Intellectually Superior? Who Cares!

I would agree with both Rabbi Waxman’s and Rabbi Grossman’s comments regarding Charles Murray’s recent essay in Commentary Magazine on Jewish brains. Even if his answers seem a bit strained, Murray’s article certainly has a certain grain of truth. The […]

Saving Darfur Is the Highest Form of Charity

Last week I had the chance to stop into B’nai Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for early Friday evening services (a little bit of cross denominational socializing and praying is always healthy), and was moved by the massive sign […]

Interfaith Dialogue & Israel’s Future

As we prepare to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut the question brewing around many political circles is: Is there a Muslim partner even worth dialoguing with? Recently Gary Bauer, the one-time Republican presidential candidate and Christian activist, and Mort Klein, the head […]

Holocaust Restitution & the Claims Conference

In 1952 the Prime Minster of Israel, David ben Gurion made one of the gutsiest and hardest political decisions ever to have been made, he accepted restitution funds from West Germany –a country that had just murdered six million Jews. […]

We Should Make ‘Choosing’ the Focus

Rabbi Grossman asserts that she does not eat bread on Passover because she “loves God.” Her metaphor pulls at my heart but it also pulls on my brain. Do we really believe that God asks us to practice mitzvot in […]

History Without Moses

The question of the historical authenticity of the Exodus story gets into far larger questions, namely, does history matter and if so what are the claims it can make on us? Personally I have gone back and forth on the […]

Why Jewish Organizations Matter

In wake of the recent shakeup in leadership at the World Jewish Congress, bloggers, pundits, and Jews around the country have been calling into question the role and import of national and international Jewish organizations such as WJC, United Jewish […]

Stop Pardoning Domestic Abuse

A few years ago Rabbi Michael Dratch founded the organization JSafe: The Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse-Free Environment. Its mission reads that JSF “works to promote a Jewish community in which all of its institutions and organizations conduct themselves responsibly […]

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: The New Haman

There is no end to the amount of homilies that rabbis will spin out of the story of Purim. Pending what’s in the New York Times that week, Vashti, Esther and Mordechai all become transformed into real-life characters. Usually this […]

Where is Esther? Jewish Women’s Leadership Today

Purim is amazing in terms of the importance it grants to women in leadership positions. So I guess it only normal for me to ask, so where are our Esther’s today? Sadly, in the Jewish community today there remains a […]

Burial Grounds as Battle Grounds

So burial grounds have now become the new battle grounds for American Jewish identity. In a responsa regarding the permissibility of burying Jews and non-Jews together, Rabbi David Golikin, whom I have enormous respect for, closes his ruling that both […]

A Redemptive Nose Job?

Rabbi Grossman gets it just right on the issue of Judaism’s relationship to bio-ethical issues. Here Judaism radically differs with certain elements of the Christian tradition. Instead of looking for an all-embracing universal theory that runs through every situation–such as […]

C’mon–Take Off Your Blinders

Rabbi Grossman, if you read my posts, you would see that I have no problem condemning Orthodox violence. I have done so many times before on this blog and in other publications. Nor am I, nor have I ever been […]

Orthodoxy: American Jewry’s China

Reading Rabbi Waxman’s post, I thought to myself “I could easily have written the exact same piece…10 years ago when I was freshman at Yeshiva University.” Much of what Rabbi Waxman says is correct. The problem is that it’s too […]

Jewish Book of 2006: The Nimrod Flipout

To be honest, I did not read too many Jewish books published in 2006, and of those I did read I was not blown away by any of them. Still, in my spare time I did manage to look at […]

Mr. Halper, Please Respond to the Facts

In response to Rabbi Eliyahu Stern’s blog post criticizing former President Jimmy Carter’s new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” “God’s Politics” guest blogger Jeff Halper, an Israeli peace activist, defended Carter’s perspective on Israeli policies toward Palestinians and his use […]

A President’s Foul Play

On the surface, it would be hard to find any commonality between a group of long-bearded, black-hatted, cloistered members of the Orthodox Jewish, anti-Zionist group Neturei Karta and former President Jimmy Carter, a Nobel prize-winning Anglo-Saxon Protestant. But it seems […]

Oprah’s Hanukkah Torah

A couple of weeks ago, Oprah gave each person in her audience $1,000. But as they say, nothing is free, and so the money came with some strings attached. The $1,000 had to be spent on someone other than the […]

In Search of the Next Great Jewish Band-Aid

Gary Rosenblatt’s op-ed in the Jewish Week titled “The Next Great Jewish Idea” should read “The Next Great Jewish Band-Aid.” What is remarkable about the piece is that it contains not one idea. Instead of realizing that Jewish outreach and […]

Do Clothes Make the Politician?

It’s a fact: In public life, we often tend to make judgments based on appearances. If someone looks or acts different enough from us, we tend to believe his or her views are outside of the mainstream as well. For […]

Too Much Information?

Andrew Sullivan has raised the issue of Mitt Romney’s Mormon underwear. Sullivan, usually a very astute and articulate voice, goes a bit too far on this one. Rabbi Grossman is right on this one. Who really cares what undergarments Romney […]

Another Possibility: Jewish Peoplehood

Rabbi Stern’s presentation of the issue of Jewish status as a question of genes vs. identity is right on the mark. Judaism has been so hard to pin down for so many people because it’s not a religion–you can certainly […]

Jewish Genes vs. Jewish Identity

There have always been two sides to the “Who is a Jew?” question. There are those who identify Jews primarily through blood and genetics, and those who see being a Jew as being more about choosing to identify with the […]

The Rabbi as Saintly Stand-In?

How telling are the wise words of Rabbi Waxman. Though Judaism always privileged the tzaddik, the ultra-pious human being, its texts from the Bible on through the Talmud highlight just how flawed and full of failure leadership can be. Just […]

Can Religious Leaders Be Perfect?

At the very beginning of my rabbinical studies, one of my teachers gave me a sage piece of advice: “Don’t let your congregants put you on a pedestal. Then they’ll spend all their time trying to knock you off of […]

He Who Is Rich…

There are two great poles in religious existence: redemption and thankfulness. Redemption constantly calls on us to make our lives and the world around us better and more holy. Thankfulness forces us to be content with what we have been […]

Giving Thanks and Giving Hope

The AJC Thanksgiving Reader Rabbi Grossman mentions is in many ways rooted in the thought of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, founder of Reconstructionist Judaism. Kaplan claimed that Jews in America lived in two civilizations–one American and one Jewish, and that each […]

Fear and Homophobia in Jerusalem

Apparently, the planned gay-pride parade through Jerusalem has been cancelled as a result of threats of violence. I agree with Rabbi Grossman that this is a shame: Capitulating to threats only emboldens those who seek to use intimidation as a […]

Called Off

So the gay community has called off their march scheduled for this weeken, averting a showdown with a violent haredi (extreme Orthodox) community. This should not be seen as a form of capitulation, but rather the maturity of the gay […]

Rights Don’t Make Right

Ohhh please…Rabbi Grossman’s position is a caricature of just the kind of simplistic, clichéd liberal thinking that has got us into this mess to begin with. Firstly, I just want to be clear: If one haredi lifts up a hand […]

A Question of Ownership

Who does Jerusalem belong to? At some level, that’s the question at the heart of the conflict between participants in Friday’s planned gay pride parade and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jewish protestors. An ad campaign planned by the Orthodox Agudath Israel group […]

Borat vs Jewface: The Politics of Jewish Humor

Truth be told, my first three years watching Sacha Baron Cohen was spent fast-forwarding through Borat on to Ali G. And for the last year or two Bruno has replaced Ali G as my favorite character. But recently–maybe only the […]

All Out of Proportion

Rabbi Grossman sees McMansions as a sign of status and wonders how much money their owners gave to tzedakah, as opposed to pouring it into gold bathroom fixtures–a fair question. In fact, Judaism is not an ascetic religion and encourages […]

Of Humility and Hypocrisy

Both Rabbi Stern and Rabbi Grossman correctly point to the hypocrisy of those who claim moral authority acting in immoral ways. But the issue goes deeper than that when we come to the question of people in positions of political […]

Katzav’s Piety

If there is any truth to the mounting rape and misconduct charges facing Israeli President Moshe Katzav, it will be a sad day not only for Israel but all religious Jews. The truth is that at this point there is […]

C’mon, Get Real

Idolatry as “Bad habits,” “addictions,” “kissing Torah scrolls”: Weren’t these the kind of things pulpit rabbis spoke about in the 1950s on Shabbat when they couldn’t think of anything else to talk about? Both Rabbi Waxman and Rabbi Grossman fail […]

Sukkot’s Lessons, Lost on Us?

It’s ironic that Rabbi Grossman sees Sukkot as an enjoyable holiday. In its essence, the holiday is meant to make us feel uncomfortable and challenge our sense of rootedness and complacency. Yes it might say in Scripture that you should […]

Why Do You Have to Bring In Auschwitz?

Rabbi Grossman seems to fast on Yom Kippur for reasons ranging from something to do with snapping at her son to not being in the Holocaust. This is all very nice. I, too, don’t like snapping at children. And boy, […]

Starving for Meaning on Yom Kippur

If there’s one thing American Jews and Muslims have in common, it’s that they share a very similar relationship to corporeal forms of atonement. Roughly half of the American Muslim community fasts in the month of Ramadan. The same number […]

The Low Down on the High Holidays

Enough with the homilies. There is no high in this year’s high holy days. My fellow rabbis are missing this year’s significance: Most people who will be walking into synagogue feel a sense of loss, confusion, and bewilderment at a […]

The Best Jewish Advertisement

Check out this High Holiday video put out by Jewish Impact Films. In a much more comical way than I can describe here, the film depicts just how impossible it can be for the majority of Jews to “get into” […]

Hebrew: The Big Hurt?

For far too many Jews, the High Holidays are marred by confusion and boredom. They come to synagogue and are lost. Everything is foreign except maybe their parents sitting next to them, who once again purchased tickets for the whole […]

Go Bother Someone Else

Ah… summer in New York City: Central Park concerts, café life, sweaty subways, and who can forget those smiley young boys and girls passing out Jews for Jesus pamphlets. Every year they come with more zeal and more ambition, peddling […]

Muscular Judaism and the War in Lebanon

Israeli and American Jews are now scratching their heads over the war in Lebanon. Oh, how quickly political tides change. Just a few weeks ago, everyone was standing squarely behind Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert; today everyone is calling for […]

The End of the Messianic

Walter Benjamin, in his essay “Critique of Violence,” discuses the idea of divine biblical justice. Benjamin points out that in the Bible everyone gets what he or she deserves (though it does not seem so commensurate to us; even Job […]

Without America…

If there is one thing this war has taught Israelis, it’s that without America they are nothing. Could things change? Could America grow weary of Israel? Perhaps. But as of now America is Israel’s chief supporter. America has single-handedly protected […]

Terror as AIDS

For years now people have been calling terrorism a cancer. As Itamar Rabinovich, the president of Tel Aviv University and former Israeli diplomat, put it, “You either cut it out or it eats you up.” Right now, this is certainly […]

Mourning This Year

Tisha b’Av (the 9th of the month of Av), the day Jews mourn the loss of the Temple and their subsequent exile, is one of those holidays that never made too much sense growing up. Let me explain by recounting […]

Something Just Doesn’t Add Up

I am not sure if there is much more to say about this issue, Prof. LeVine. Your problem seems to be more with the people at Pew. To sum up: Your position expresses little difference between evangelicals, Muslims, and Israelis […]

Prof. LeVine: Where Are Your Statistics?

Prof. Mark LeVine should be commended for his cool-headed response to my original post. To be honest, I wrote the post in a very unrabbinic way (too much steam not enough substance) I appreciate the time he took to flesh […]

Evangelicals & Israel: Conditional Love

Since September 11, there has been a growing coalition between Jews and evangelicals. And in the past few days, we have seen evangelicals rush to support Israel in its war against Hamas and Hezbollah. The Israel/evangelical alliance highlights the complexity […]

The End of War

We have entered into a new stage in Middle East crises: The End of War. Yes that’s right: THERE IS NO WAR IN GAZA OR LEBANON. Let me explain. War is defined by the possibility of peace. If there is […]

Mark LeVine: Wrong and Irresponsible

UC Irvine historian Mark LeVine, writing on Beliefnet, has once again crafted a beautiful apology for Islamic leadership. Contrary to everything stated by Hamas and Hezbollah, LeVine somehow has managed to argue that “However harsh the rhetoric against Israel or […]

Where Did God Go?

For more than a thousand years, the Jewish God was primarily seen and described by Christians as a vengeful God. As Robert Louis Wilken, writing in “First Things,” explains:“One of the first major theological disputes in the early Church centered […]

The Leibowitz in Me

When I heard about Israeli president Moshe Katzav deciding not to refer to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the leader of the Reform movement, by the title “Rabbi,” I laughed it off. But the more I think about it, the more the […]

No Responsibility in Gaza

Israel’s response to the recent kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit by invading Gaza is nothing shocking or all that new. It is what is: the latest incarnation of the cycle of violence that continues to cripple the Middle East. Is […]

The Ritual of Silence

One of the many rituals surrounding death in the Jewish tradition is the practice of going to a mourner’s house during a seven-day mourning period called “shiva.” The mourner sits on a low stool and he/she is comforted by friends, […]

No! The Death Penalty is Morally Bankrupt

On today’s New York Times op-ed page, David Dow writes a very interesting but ultimately morally flawed article on the death penalty. In short, he suggests: Instead of focusing on the issue of whether or not someone convicted of the […]

Give Aid and Punish Hamas

I can’t stand people who invoke moral obligations regarding providing humanitarian aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. I am sorry, but a group that demands my destruction has no right to make moral and ethical claims on me or anybody […]

Saving the Sacred From Itself

Recently, there has been a spate of sexual abuse cases surfacing within the Orthodox community. These cases have come to the fore primarily through the constant pressure of blogs. Blogs are an important check for religious democracy. Traditional communities by […]

Day School Education Beyond Statistics

I can go on for pages about how important a day-school education is toward ensuring the continuity of the Jewish people. Likewise, I could spend hours explaing how critical Jewish literacy is for Jewish life. There are no issues more […]

Israel: A Reality Check

The recent spat at the American Jewish Committee‘s conference in Washington is what happens when you get a lot of Jews in one room who really do not know that much about Jews or Judaism. The debacle happened on the […]

Easy Target

“Keeping up with the Steins,” the new movie set to hit theaters shortly, is one of those cultural events that remind you just how different your Judaism is from your grandparents’ Judaism. The story revolves around a family preparing for […]

Orthodoxy, Halakhah, and Gay Marriage

Perhaps no issue is more misunderstood within the context of halakhah, Jewish law, than gay marriage. On the one hand, those such as my friend and teacher Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College, has radically argued that “a […]

On Crusaders and Zionists

“This Zionist-Crusader war” is probably the most oft-repeated line invoked by the terrorist-madman Osama bin Laden in his latest rant against the West. As Bin Laden sees it, “A war is under way to offend the messenger of Allah, his […]

The Casualties of Memory

After my last post, I received a number of responses asking me to flesh out and explain a little more what exactly I was trying to say about all this Jewish memory stuff. So with Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, […]

Why I Am Not Going to Remember this Passover

“Remember this day that you departed from Egypt from a house of bondage for you with a strong arm God took you from here.(Exodus 13:3).” If there is one thing Jews love, it’s “to remember.” Perhaps the only thing Jews […]

Rick Warren’s Mega-Synagogue

Do you think Rick Warren, the author of the “Purpose Driven Life” and super duper mega-church leader, knew the joke about two Jews and three opinions when he sat down to consult Synagogue 3000 on how to attract more Jews […]

On the Border

Recently, The New York Times published an op-ed by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who expressed his indignation at HR 4437, an immigration bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in December that includes provisions for a 700-mile […]

Walking Out is Unethical

To the chagrin of many of my friends, being ethical does not entail defenselessness. Power, like anything else, can be ethical; it must be ethical. From a Jewish perspective, it’s tempting to make powerlessness a pre-condition for ethics. Jewish liberals […]

Kashrut: The Great Barrier

From the Iron Chef to Alice Waters, there is nothing more universal than food. Everyone eats. Everyone needs nourishment. If there is one thing that brings us all together it is the most basic instinct of all, hunger. Hey, what’s […]

Moving Beyond Fear Factor Judaism

Fear Factor Judaism dominates American Jewish life. Here is just a spattering of typical Fear Factor Jewish discourse: “You better support the cause against anti-Semitism–otherwise our survival may be in jeopardy.” “You better go to synagogue on Yom Kippur or […]

Sucking the Life out of Judaism

As you might expect, contrary to “new-found scientific research,” Jewish ritual circumcison–brit milah–is not and will not be going by the wayside anytime soon. The truth of the matter is that Jews have been circumcising their children long before science […]

Is Apathy the New Jewish Heresy?

You know something is happening to Jewish denominations when Orthodox Jews (who pray in gender-segregated prayer services) are calling women up to the Torah for honors (aliyot), while many Conservative congregations that have mixed seating still prohibit women from being […]

Conversion: A Theological 360

Should Judaism proselytize? No. Should it be more welcoming? Yes. For years most rabbis instinctly followed the Talmudic norm that one should push away converts warning them about the difficulties of becoming Jewish. God knows how many conversions stopped with […]

Sick and Disturbed in Damascus

The behavior of Muslims rioting in Damascus over cartoons depicting Muhammad as a terrorist only reinforces the public perception that radical Islam is a danger to humanity. Moreover, sadly, it makes Muslims literally into caricatures of themselves. The rioters’ actions […]

Israel and America: Two Visions of God

What does American Jewry offer Israel and what can Israel learn from America? As my teacher Rabbi David Hartman has suggested, specifically regarding spiritual matters, both populations have a great deal to offer each other. Since its inception Israel has […]

Monkey Talk in a Biblical Key

When I was studying in Yeshiva, I heard the following sad but telling story about one of the great American rabbis of the twentieth century: The rabbi took a plane trip across the country with his extended family. After boarding […]

The Commandment Pat Robertson Forgot

Either we have all become prophets or everyone has forgotten the third commandment. Based on the Rev. Pat Robertson and Israel’s Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s prediction rate, I am inclined to think the latter. Repeatedly throughout the Bible we are told, […]

Living Over “Life” and “Choice”

So much surrounding the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito comes down to two simple words: “life” and “choice.” Simply put, for many in Washington the question of whether he is pro-life or pro-choice is the be-all and end-all of […]

Funny, Your Values Don’t Look Jewish

Mr. Klinghoffer, I just do not understand what you are trying to say. In your Forward article, you suggested that Jack Abramoff should be left alone because the money he got through illegal means was given to charity–an idea that […]

Shame on Jack Abramoff and His Rebbes

Let’s cut to the crux of the issue: Jack Abramoff is an embarrassment to Orthodox Jews. His rabbis and the religious figures supporting him and living off his dirty money are embarrassments to Judaism. Lest you have forgotten the way […]

Only Allah

Iran’s President Ahmadinejad‘s latest declarations that the Holocaust is a myth and that Israel should be wiped off the face of this earth speak for themselves. What everyone is trying to figure out is just how seriously should we take […]

And the Loser Is…

News flash: Most Americans really don’t care what they are being told at the checkout counter. Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas. There are few moments where I favor disengagement over engagement, but this issue is one of them. This is […]

Is Hanukkah an Orgy of Consumerism?

Baruch Hashem (Thank God) for Macy’s. No matter how much Jews forget their Judaism, no matter how much they assimilate, no matter how much they intermarry, Macy’s will ensure that each and every Jew never forgets Hanukkah. For most American […]

Previous Posts

The Task Is Never Finished
It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in postings over a time frame of days (rather than moments

posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

Some Parting Reflections
Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe it’s that blogging doesn’t lend itself so well to t

posted 1:00:29pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s advisors. She was right. I never should have cited those web

posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

The Future of Race Relations
As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the black and Jewish communities look to this period either

posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced in visits to other (largely white) seminaries. We were

posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »

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