I’ve been a congregational rabbi now for almost thirty years, and I’ve learned lots of things about lots of things. I know a lot more about human nature and the human condition than I possibly could have known when I was new to the craft, and of course, I’m still learning.
Like so many other rabbis across the world, I devoted my sermon this past Shabbat to the lessons to be learned from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme scandal. I talked about linking one’s actions in the “real world” to ethics and morality, and how, in the Jewish way of looking at things, there is no line of demarcation between the “real world” and one’s religious life. When one perverts the system and creates that dichotomy, the potential for Hillul Hashem- the desecration of God’s name- is enormous. The damage that Bernie Madoff has
My family and I returned late last night from a week in Israel, visiting with my daughter, who’s on the NATIV gap year program, and my mother and sister and her family, all of whom live in Rechovot. The hostilities in Gaza began over Shabbat, when we were blissfully not tuned in to the radio and television, although the constant drone of warplanes overhead from a nearby air force base might have been a clue…
It is a strange and unsettling feeling to have been in Israel for the first few days of the Gaza campaign, and now back in the States for the rest of it. The powerful sense of purpose that is virtually tangible in Israel with regard to Operation Oferet Yetzukah is not a given here in America, even within the Jewish community. The fighting is far away, and the images that assault us in the print and electronic media make it much harder to keep one’s eye on the ball with regard to who Hamas is, and what is at stake here.
As Israel’s war against Hamas continues in its third week and casualties among the Palestinian population of Gaza mount, it is getting awfully difficult to find people outside the Jewish community- except for a select few politicians running for office- who are genuinely supportive of Israel’s cause.
I have long been interested in the debate which continues in both the medical and mental health communities about the affect of hope on healing. Some would argue that honesty about a patient’s condition and prognosis must trump the understandable desire to give him a reason to believe in the possibility of a cure. Others say that depriving a patient of hope, even when the situation is, in reality, dire, also deprives her of the will to live, and thus can hasten death itself.
In a move that stunned the Jewish world and significant parts of the Catholic world as well, Pope Benedict XVI moved last week to revoke the excommunication of four bishops, one of whom, Richard Williamson, has denied the historicity of the Holocaust. The four are all members of the St. Pius X Society, a far-right wing schismatic group that argues generally against the modernization of the church, and more specifically against the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s.
Having experienced the almost palpable sense of exhilaration that was so much a part of the American presidential election just a few months ago, the near universal sense of frustration and despair that haunted voters after the electoral stalemate of the past week in Israel was a rude reminder of the fractured nature of Israel’s political system.
Among my friends and colleagues, I am occasionally chided for being a centrist. I am neither a leftist nor a partisan of the right, and I like to think that being open to the best thinking of all sides to an argument is the surest road to growth and wisdom.