Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud


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 […]


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 […]


Hate Is at Home on the Internet

It is a truism that the power of the Internet is to allow for the proliferation and dissemination of information without passing through central sources (newspapers, radio, TV) that would screen or block them. The advantages are obvious: repressive governments […]


Brief Reflection on Thursday’s Tragedy in Jerusalem

I share with the Beliefnet community a message I sent to my congregation last night: The escalating violence in Israel has not escaped anybody’s notice over the past week, beginning with the killing of a Sderot resident by a Hamas-launched […]

What’s Wrong with Hecksher Tzedek?

We took up the question of the Conservative Movement’s Hecksher Tzedek a few months back and I am glad Rabbi Grossman brought it up again. At the time I was taken aback by the negative comments that some had posted […]

Obama and Fear Mongerers

With the Republican nomination all but wrapped up, whatever attention Americans still have left for politics turns to the Democratic nomination, where Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are both still viable contenders. Despite Obama’s recent momentum, it’s far too early […]

True Wealth

I found Rabbi Stern’s analysis of the economy as a faith-based institution interesting. It cast Alan Greenspan’s (now Ben Bernanke’s) cryptic musings about future conditions in a new light: the high priest of economics reciting just the right words (and […]

Writers Guild, Stop Whining

I have to admit that I was secretly thrilled when Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert-–my sole pop-cultural fixes-–announced that they would be coming back on the air at the beginning of January, despite the ongoing Writers Guild strike. Now, I […]

Civil Law Isn’t Always About Right and Wrong

At one level, Rabbi Stern’s argument employs some seriously dubious logic – if the essence of life is being able to freely make the right choice without any outside restraints, then we should legalize murder and simply encourage people to […]

The Demands of Interdependence

Rabbi Grossman’s distinction between actions we do because we wish to and those we do because we are commanded to is a vitally important one. Vice President Cheney famously asserted that conservation was a personal virtue–that is, a nice thing […]

Caucusing on the Sabbath Is a Problem

Again and again we heard it as the analysts scratched their heads and did their post-mortems of the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries: “Turnout is key.” In the party primaries and caucuses, when the voting is generally confined to the […]

More Wishes for 2008

I appreciate Rabbi Grossman’s wishes for 2008 and would like to add a few of my own (in no particular order): • President Bush becomes invested enough in Mideast peace to keep pressure on the Israelis and Palestinians to talk […]

What Huckabee & Romney Mean for Jews

With the Iowa caucuses just two short weeks away, the candidates are all scrambling against the clock to get their message out. And with Christmas as the backdrop, it seems that several of the candidates are trying to use the […]

Acts of Heroism Increase the Light

While Rabbi Grossman’s sentiments are certainly heartwarming and worthy, and I tend to agree with Rabbi Stern’s analysis of the Adler-Askari incident, I don’t think this story proves that anti-Semitism is rampant on the Upper West Side of New York […]

Why Christopher Hitchens Just Doesn’t Get It

I was as aghast as Rabbi Stern was by Christopher Hitchens’ article on Hanukkah in Slate from last week. Not because of the venomous rhetoric or offensive bombast–this is Hitchens’ stock-in-trade and without it it’s not clear anyone would know […]

Hanukkah’s Lesson on Conserving Energy

It seems each day we hear about the continued consequences of our dependence on oil as a source of energy–the greenhouse gas emissions that come with burning fossil fuels, the devastation to local communities and ecosystems of exploring for and […]

November (Peace) Surprise?

I took part in a phone conference earlier this week with Gil Hoffman, the chief political correspondent for the Jerusalem Post to hear his reflections on the Annapolis conference–a conference for which expectations were so low that everyone is coming […]

More Thoughts on Health Care

I appreciate Rabbi Grossman’s overview of Jewish texts pertaining to the mandate to heal. I would add Chapter 25 of Leviticus which, while not directly relating to health, speaks to the question of obligations to those in need that are […]

Reflections for Veterans Day

Today many schools and government offices are closed in observance of Veterans Day, a time to honor and thank those who have so bravely served their country. Veterans Day is always a solemn occasion–and never more so than when members […]

Why the Jewish Poor Get No Respect

It’s interesting even to be raising the subject of Jewish poverty: So much of the world reflexively associates Jews with wealth, and in some cases great wealth, the sort that leads to ugly displays of conspicuous consumption and one-upmanship at […]

Rethinking Our Religious Schools’ Missions

I found Rabbi Grossman’s stories of the successes in her synagogue’s religious school inspiring, even as I found the criteria she used to evaluate success perplexing. Our synagogue’s religious school–a thriving and engaging school run by a dynamic education director–has […]

Self-Help & Updating Judaism

Rabbi Krause writes that she is not scared of new influences coming into Judaism–that bringing in new ideas and perspectives helps keep Judaism dynamic and relevant. This assertion is central to Reconstructionist Judaism’s approach to understanding how our religion works. […]

The Environmental Crisis and Free Will

The connections Rabbi Stern and Rabbi Grossman have drawn between the story of Noah and the modern environmental crisis are, sadly, very much to the point. One of the salient points of the Biblical story is that the crisis is […]

What Exactly Is a Christian Nation, Anyway?

In thinking about Senator John McCain’s comments in his interview with Beliefnet— that America is a Christian nation–I spent some time online trying to figure out what the substance of the label is. Certainly ‘Christian nation’ sounds like it should […]

The Hidden Meaning of the Fall Holy Days

By this time of year, many Jews are holidayed out. We’ve sat through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and used our personal days at work for the privilege. Perhaps we managed to celebrate Sukkot. But hold on, there’s still Hoshanna […]

On the Road to Perfection

Rabbi Grossman’s post on the wish “Next year in Jerusalem” reflects the fact that for much of Jewish history Jerusalem has been more of an ideal than a historical or geographical reality. It is only in the last hundred-odd years […]

The Power of Sin

With Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fast approaching, Jews around the world are supposed to be reflecting on our behavior over the past year by acknowledging our wrongdoings, asking forgiveness, and committing to doing better in the year ahead. It […]

We Need to Get Our Own House in Order

I appreciate Rabbi Stern’s insightful and eloquent plea for the American Jewish community to make a concerted effort to begin building bridges to the Muslim world and to the American Muslim community in particular. It certainly is one of the […]

Eco-Kashrut: You Are What You Eat

For thousands of years, Judaism has taken seriously the idea of “you are what you eat”-– in other words, that the choices we make about what food to eat (and not to eat) has the capacity to make us holy. […]

Why Be Jewish? Here’s Why!

That there is a need to convene the sort of conference called “Why Be Jewish” that Rabbi Stern recently did points to precisely how poor a job the institutional Jewish world has done at providing meaningful answers to why we […]

Lebanon War: No Winners

I wish I shared Rabbi Grossman’s rosy assessment of the legacy of the Lebanon War, which marks its one-year anniversary next week. She lists a number of factors that she cites as positive outcomes from the war, and it is […]

Intermarriage: No Easy Answers

It’s one of the most challenging situations that faces many American rabbis today, especially in the progressive movements: a young couple approaches a rabbi and asks about officiating at a wedding. One partner is Jewish and one is not. The […]

The Way Forward for Our Youth

It’s interesting to see the tension between Rabbi Stern and Rabbi Grossman’s posts–the former portrays himself as the purveyor of substance and the latter as the purveyor of sizzle. What we need, of course, is both. It goes without saying […]

Tisha B’Av: Looking for God in the Dark

Both Rabbi Grossman and Rabbi Stern grapple with the question of God’s role in calamitous events that befall us, either as individuals or as a people. If God is loving and good, it is difficult to understand these catastrophic occurrences–either […]

Fundamentalist Relativism: A Bad Choice

Rabbi Stern’s recent comments on Pope Benedict and the direction in which he is taking the Catholic Church gives good cause for alarm. On the one hand, the Pope is certainly well within his rights (and role) to assert that […]

Why Jews Don’t Need Jesus

My freshman year of college, I was accosted by a classmate who lived across the hall in our dorm, a born-again Christian whose fervor and certainty I found both compelling and disturbing. Learning that I was Jewish, she immediately expressed […]

A Legacy of Service

I’m sitting at my computer following our local Independence Day parade, where veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam all received well-deserved recognition and applause from the onlookers, myself included. On a day when we stop to appreciate the […]

No Easy Answers in Gaza

Before posting I took a few minutes to survey the numerous reader responses to Rabbi Grossman’s analysis of the horrific situation in Gaza. I am struck by how diverse and deeply passionate they are–from those who blame Israel and America […]

Boycotting Common Sense

Two weeks ago, the British University and College Union (UCU), the union of university academics, passed an absurd and deeply offensive resolution calling on all union members to “consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic […]

The Power and Perils of Dialogue

Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, the Director of the Religious Studies Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and a seasoned participant in interreligious dialogue, relates a telling incident that took place at an interfaith conference hosted by the Emir of Qatar in […]

Jerusalem, Divided Against Itself

As we mark the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, there is no question, as Rabbi Grossman rightly points out, that it is anything but a unified city. This truth is particularly demoralizing following the dizzying sense of hope […]

Teen Pregnancy & Aids: Not a Jewish Problem?

I’m disturbed by Rabbi Stern’s claim that the incidence of teenage pregnancy and AIDS in the Jewish community is not a problem that needs to be taken seriously. Similar claims were once made about alcoholism and domestic violence, driving the […]

The Seduction of Abstinence

Regular readers of VT may have noticed my absence from the blog the past couple of weeks – but it has been for the most wonderful of reasons: my wife and I have been extremely busy as we have welcomed […]

Questioning Jewish Genius

An article by Charles Murray that recently appeared in Commentary Magazine has been inspiring both conversation and criticism with its claim that Jews are uniquely gifted when it comes to intellectual accomplishment, especially in the arts and sciences. Although much […]

Does Darfur Need a Good Publicist?

A few weeks ago my congregation was fortunate enough to host Ruth Messinger, executive director of American Jewish World Service, who spoke to us on the situation in Darfur and the obligations that our Jewish values–and recent history–demand of us. […]

The Bloodied Face of God

Rabbi Grossman asks where God was found in last week’s horrific massacre at Virginia Tech, and I was touched by her portrayal of God made manifest in the acts of heroism and self-sacrifice by students and teachers at Virginia Tech, […]

Defining a Jewish State

I understand Rabbi Grossman’s discomfort with including a person in Israel’s government who isn’t committed to the notion of Israel as a Jewish state, but I also think that the term “Jewish state” is so vague and amorphous that it […]

Advancing the Jewish State

Recently Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert created a controversy by naming Raleb Majadele, an Arab-Israeli Muslim, to his cabinet – the first time a Muslim has held such a high-ranking position in Israel’s government. Predictably, reactions were strong. Many moderate […]

True Justice Means More Than Restitution

In response to Rabbi Stern’s post, it is impossible to think about righting the wrongs of the Holocaust because the cruelty, barbarism, and evil on such an unimaginable scale preclude any talk of justice. The work of the Claims Conference […]

Virtue Is Its Own Reward

Rabbi Grossman writes movingly about the reasons she abstains from chametz on Passover. As a Reconstructionist Jew, I too believe that God doesn’t intervene in the world to punish wrongdoers or those who violate the commandments, and yet I still […]

The History Trap

I find it interesting that Rabbi Grossman wants to argue that the Exodus account may contain more historical truth than I give it credit for. Maybe, maybe not–I’m not sure it terribly matters either way. Clinging to the “kernels of […]

The Truth of the Exodus

Several years ago, before I had even enrolled in rabbinical school, I was sitting at my parents’ table for seder when my uncle looked at me pointedly and said: “You’re the religious one. Tell me, did the Exodus really happen?” […]

The Old and the New of Jewish Organizations

As someone who is often still lost in the alphabet soup of Jewish organizations – UJC, WZO, AJC, JCRC, WJC, LOL – I share the frustration of those who find the organizations of Jewish communal life difficult to navigate, perhaps […]

Spare the Rod

“Spare the rod and spoil the child,” a well-known and unfortunate aphorism based on Proverbs 13:24, was recently invoked in the debate about a proposed California law banning spanking children younger than age 3. The bill garnered so much resistance […]

Evil in Stages

Rabbi Stern compares Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Haman, and there’s certainly reason for comparison–but there’s also at least one important difference. In the Purim story, it is striking that Haman displays a level of hatred and arrogance that is […]

Of Purim and Power

Rabbi Stern’s reference to the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance is right on the mark in our discussion of the place of women in today’s Jewish power structure. This week’s Jewish Week contains a front-page story on how that organization has […]

Principle, not Expediency

I appreciate Rabbi Grossman’s defense of the practice of taking multiple and potentially contradictory positions. Jewish tradition is based on the principle of eilu v’eilu–that conflicting positions each have standing and integrity in their own right, provided that the argument […]

Mixed Messages on Homosexuality & Jewish Law

On December 6, the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards–known in short as the Law Committee–passed a number of contradictory teshuvot (legal opinions) that variously allow and disallow same-sex commitment ceremonies, participation of gays and lesbians in synagogue […]

Let’s Be More Careful with Charges of Anti-Semitism

In response to Rabbi Stern’s post on whether liberal Jews fuel anti-Semitism by criticizing Israel, Rabbi Grossman writes: When Jewish intellectuals confuse their right to criticize specific policies of current or past Israeli governments with questioning the legitimacy of having […]

Appreciation, not Exploitation

Rabbi Grossman and Rabbi Stern make several excellent and practical suggestions for cutting down pollution and lowering demand for non-renewable sources of energy. In addition to these important measures, I also encourage us to strive to cultivate a relationship of […]

Grave Matters

I am surprised and disturbed by the tone of Rabbi Grossman’s post stating her opposition to allowing non-Jews to be buried with their Jewish spouses in a Jewish cemetery. She writes: “Let us… not undermine the final resting places of […]

Till Death Do Us Part?

One of the issues that has been gaining prominence recently on the American Jewish scene is whether non-Jews–typically the non-Jewish partner in an intermarriage–may be buried in Jewish cemeteries. Traditionally, Jewish law has forbidden non-Jews to be buried together with […]

Whose Best Interest?

Rabbi Stern raises an interesting point in distinguishing between making a general rule and judging each case on its own particular merits. The problem with a complicated situation like the one Rabbi Grossman writes about–a 9-year-old girl named Ashley with […]

Saddam: Punished with Justice?

The ancient rabbis who wrote the Talmud (in modern-day Falluja, incidentally) understood something very important about capital punishment that we in this country–to say nothing of those in Iraq–seem to have forgotten. It’s not that capital punishment is philosophically indefensible, […]

The Dangers of Certainty

Rabbi Stern, it strikes me, doth protest too much. It is true that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews are not extremists who will take matters into their own hands to enforce their own social and religious agenda. It is […]

A New Year for Religious Extremism?

The vast majority of American Jews would take no offense were I to take this opportunity to wish them a “Happy New Year. ” Although the new Jewish year of 5767 began several months ago with Rosh Hashanah, the Gregorian […]

Twisting the Truth

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 […]

‘Tis Better to Give…

I want to clarify for Rabbi Stern’s benefit that I don’t mean to be the Grinch who stole Hanukkah. Gift-giving is a fun part of the holiday, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with having some fun. The point is also […]

It’s Beginning to Look Alot Like Hanukkah

Last week a group of parents from my synagogue’s religious school gathered in my office with an important question about Hanukkah: How, they asked, can we make Hanukkah about more than just presents for our children? For many parents, this […]

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 […]

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, Bunker, and Election Day

Rabbi Stern suggests a 1-10 ratio of those who lionized Archie Bunker vs. the majority who laughed at him. I have no idea if the ratio is accurate but I think the more important analogy is that those who laughed […]

Borat–Archie Bunker or Andy Kaufman?

Rabbi Grossman and some of our respondents worry that the character of Borat will be taken as anti-Kazakh, which in turn triggers a mind-numbing satiric chain to untangle: a Jew mocking Kazakhs mocking Jews… In fact, one of the most […]

Is Borat the New Archie Bunker?

Maybe I am dating myself, but when I hear one of Borat’s tirades, I immediately think of Archie Bunker of “All in the Family.” That TV show broke ground a few decades ago because it exposed in humorous fashion the […]

The Case for Borat

“Throw the Jew down the well” is the chorus to a Kazakh folk song brought to us by Borat, starring in his own movie opening in just a few days. Of course as everyone knows, both the song and the […]

Who’s Orthodox Bashing?

Rabbi Stern, who’s Orthodox bashing? I also believe having a large Jewish family is a mitzvah. If you can afford the extra room, great. And if you can fix up your home and stay in the neighborhood near family, even […]

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 Meets Foley’s Folly

Rabbi Stern points out the distinct irony of Israeli President Moshe Katzav refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of Conservative and Reform rabbis on the basis of Orthodox law as interpreted by Israel’s Religious Ministry while engaging in personal behavior that, […]

A Slippery Slope to Idolatry

The Torah scroll is taken out of the ark. The rabbi walks in a procession around the synagogue holding the Torah as congregants reach out with their tallises (prayer shawls) or siddurim (prayer books) to touch the scroll and then […]

Holiday Fatigue, or No Protestant Model?

I’m inclined to agree with Rabbi Grossman about the virtues of Sukkot relative to Yom Kippur. Too many American Jews are “twice-a-year Jews,” meaning they show up at synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Now granted, these are extremely […]

What’s Behind Fasting, Anyway?

It’s fascinating to see the wide range of intense emotions that fasting has generated on Virtual Talmud, from gratitude and appreciation to distaste, even disgust. I think one of the reasons we may have such strong feelings on the subject […]


I’m disappointed by Rabbi Stern’s pessimism. There’s no question that there is much to be dismayed about in the year that is drawing to a close, and I can’t dispute the prevailing mood of anxiety and concern. Which is why […]

Rosh Hashanah: Recreating our Selves

This week is the final countdown to Rosh Hashanah, the day when our fates are written for the New Year. The liturgy tells us that God sits in heaven judging all people and writing our fates in a giant book–“Who […]

How Many Rugelach Do I Get With That?

As a rabbi, I find myself in a bit of a bind when it comes to the question of synagogue membership and the High Holidays. On one hand, I’d never want to turn anyone away who wants to pray at […]

Yes, but…

Rabbi Stern raises some very legitimate points about how disenfranchising it can be when prayers are in Hebrew if you don’t understand the language. That being said, I don’t agree with his solution of abandoning the siddur (the Hebrew prayer […]

The Limits of Identity

My friend Jenny Moyers is not the most connected Jew ever to walk the earth. She doesn’t belong to a synagogue and does not celebrate any of the Jewish holidays in her home. She seems to regard my rabbinic career […]

After Lebanon: Jewish Identity Crisis?

In the aftermath of the war in Lebanon, Israelis have begun a round of soul-searching into what went wrong. How was it that Israel’s vaunted military–the pride of a nation and unquestionably the best-equipped army in the region–could barely make […]

Hoping Against Hope

It seems that the U.S.-backed ceasefire in Lebanon, while fragile, is holding for the moment. I pray that it does, and that families on both sides of the border will be able to return to their homes, rebuilding, and trying […]

History Every Day

The violence in Israel continues to worsen, and now wide-scale evacuations of the North are finally under way as it appears Israel is preparing to enter Southern Lebanon in force. I pray for the well-being of the brave Israeli soldiers […]

Lamenting the Suffering

A few hours before Tisha b’Av began I was reflecting that the violence in the Middle East shows absolutely no signs of abating. Instead, it’s been getting worse–with Hezbollah shooting more than 200 rockets into Israel and Israel vowing to […]

Destruction and Introspection

These past few weeks have been so full of pain and strife. Each new headline brings fresh waves of sorrow at the human and political toll that the current conflict in Lebanon is taking. With Israeli ground troops now entering […]

Strange Bedfellows

Of the many strange bedfellows that politics breeds, one of the strangest in recent memory is the alliance between evangelical Christians, largely in the United States, and the Israeli governments of Netanyahu, Barak, Sharon, and now Ehud Olmert. The reasons […]

A God to Believe in

I love speaking with seventh-graders about God. They’re so eager to shock the rabbi–they can’t wait to tell me that they don’t believe that God controls the world or, often, that they don’t even believe in God at all. I […]

Which Zionism?

There are few terms more fraught–and less clear–than “Zionism.” For some, it is the fulfillment of God’s ancient promise to Abraham to give the land of Canaan to his descendants. For some it is a movement of spiritual and cultural […]

Winning the Battle, Winning the War

The Hamas raid last week against an army post in Israel, with the murder of two soldiers, the wounding of a third, and the kidnapping of 19-year-old Gilad Shalit, is a classic example of the tactical jujitsu that terrorists have […]

The Ways We Mourn

Of all the issues I engage with my congregants around, I find shiva–Jewish mourning practices–to be among the strangest and most challenging. The vast majority of my congregants –like the overwhelming majority of Jews in this country today–don’t understand themselves […]

The Right Thing to Do

The January election of a Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories immediately led to stern resolve on the part of the international community not to have dealings with or assist this regime–and rightly so. Hamas has been and continues to […]

A Net Gain

In the past few years, an increasing number of allegations about rabbinic sexual impropriety have come to light, beginning with charges against Rabbi Baruch Lanner and more recently against Rabbi Mordechai Gafni of Bayit Chadash in Israel and Rabbi Yehuda […]

Finding Ourselves at Sinai

In his masterful book “Sacred Fragments,” Rabbi Neil Gillman explores the question of revelation and asks: What really happened at Sinai? And what does our answer mean about revelation and the value of the Torah? Gillman considers, and rejects, a […]

Doing our Home-Work

There is no question that neither the Jewish day school nor supplemental “Hebrew school” model is succeeding when it comes to educating our kids to be informed, conscientious, proficient, identified Jews. The reason is simple: both day schools and supplemental […]

A Complex Relationship

The Jewish press in America and Israel is abuzz about the recent comments of Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua to the effect that Jewish life in the Disapora (outside of Israel) is incomplete and irrelevant. The substance of the charges is […]

Bling Mitzvah

Sadly, the story is all too common–Jewish families trying to outdo each other with over-the-top Bar and Bat Mitzvah parties that show off wealth and status in an orgy of conspicuous consumption. For some it seems it don’t mean a […]

Evolving Judaism & Homosexuality

One of the core precepts of Reconstructionist thought is that Judaism is always evolving in response to times and circumstances–and thank God for that! If Judaism had remained static, then our religion would have died out 1,900 years ago when […]

A Conspiracy of Dunces

I recently attended a talk where Rabbi Mordechai Liebling discussed his visit to Sudan as part of an interfaith delegation. He commented wryly that this was one time where anti-Semitism worked in his favor: all of the Sudanese officials with […]

The Shame of Inaction

This April 25 we observe Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The date chosen for this observance is 27 Nissan in the Jewish calendar, associated with the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 in which 13,000 Jews perished in […]

Fragile Freedom

In our house, the experience of Passover always comes early, with the preparations. As we shop, put away, clean, dust, scrub, vacuum, and scrub some more, the transformation our house undergoes slowly begins to pervade our consciousness as well, as […]

Of Jews and Pews

It’s a not-so-well kept secret that recently many Jews–many Americans, in fact–have come to find traditional, frontal services where congregants sit quietly in pews to be off-putting and, dare I say it, boring. For a certain generation raised with a […]

The Stranger in our Midst

In our hearts, Jews are immigrants. The very name “Hebrews,” Ivri’im, comes from the word ‘to cross over’; Hebrews are boundary crossers. Our founding story portrays us as refugees arriving to our land, and Judaism itself is a religion forged […]

Fighting for our Humanity

In recent months, public opinion has increasingly been turning against the war in Iraq–and for good reason, as body counts for U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians continue to soar, as the situation on the ground becomes increasingly chaotic, and as […]

Nourishing Our Connections

There are very few things more important to building community than food. Food brings us together in companionship (literally: ‘bread-breaking’), helps us celebrate joyous occasions, and connects us to one another through shared moments. Some Jews see kashrut–the system of […]

Being the Hidden Miracle

At various points in history, the legitimacy of the Book of Esther has been challenged as part of the Biblical canon. Although the Council of Yavneh in 90 C.E. confirmed that the book was, in fact, part of the Hebrew […]

The Kindest Cut

I remember very well standing over my beautiful, perfect, eight-day-old son with a knife in my hand. It was his brit milah, the day of his induction into the covenant between the Jewish people and God through the rite of […]

Being Jewish Outside the Box

The Reconstructionist movement was never supposed to be one. Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionism in the 1920’s, actually considered himself a Conservative Jew and taught at that movement’s seminary for more than fifty years. (He was also a […]

Being a Welcoming Community

The Reform Movement’s call to convert non-Jews is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, non-Jews are increasingly being told that they are welcome in liberal congregations and on the other their non-Jewish identity is devalued as they receive the […]

Muslim Outrage: Cynicism as an Artform

I would be more sympathetic to Muslims’ anger at the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad if it were not accompanied by rampant violence and threats, and if it weren’t being so cynically and opportunistically manipulated by Islamic leaders for […]

Nurturing a Mature Love for Israel

Many American Jews do not feel as connected to Israel as they once did, or as Jews living in many other parts of the world do. Israel is far away, perceived as scary, and speaks a language–Hebrew–which is, sadly, Greek […]

The Taxonomy of Wonder

Let me start by saying that I think that evolutionary science provides the best description we have of how life came to exist in its present form, that intelligent design is junk science (at best), and that Judge Jones made […]

Looking for Not-so-Pat Answers

Why is it so tempting to blame others for their own misfortunes? The Jews, at least, had the good grace to acknowledge their own shortcomings when they said, “M’pnei chata’einu galinu m’artzeinu” – “Because of our sins we were banished […]

Can Alito See the Shades of Gray?

Over the coming weeks, much time, energy, and breathless news coverage will be devoted to divining how Samuel Alito would rule on abortion as a Supreme Court justice–a subject on which he will offer no clues if he can help […]

A Jewish Lesson in Abramoff’s Misdeeds?

The news of Jack Abramoff’s guilty plea is, sadly, just the latest chapter in the sordid story of the intersection of money and power. Going back to the story of Purim, we see how the wicked Haman–the first lobbyist?–paid King […]

Use the Weapon of Memory Against Iran

I’m not going to waste words here on why Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s revolting remarks on Israel and the Holocaust are both patently false and deeply offensive, and to its credit the world community has largely stepped in to say […]

Putting the ‘Daze’ Back in ‘Holidays’

A lot of attention has been given lately to a small but vocal segment of the population that sees Christmas–and, by extension, Christians–under attack, with the increasing use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Exhibit A has […]

A Celebration of Identity

Hanukkah – the most important holiday of the Jewish year. Not really, of course: Holidays like Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur and even (especially!) the weekly observance of Shabbat have far more religious significance. In fact, religiously speaking, Hanukkah hardly […]

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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


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