Emma Lazarus, of Statue of Liberty fame, was an ardent Zionist. The second stanza of her “The Feast of Lights,” written for Chanukah, reads:
Remember how from wintry dawn till night, Such songs were sung in Zion, when again On the high altar flamed the sacred light, And, purified from every Syrian stain, The foam-white walls with golden shields were hung, With crowns and silken spoils…
I got the feeling that my extended hour with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, late in the afternoon last Wednesday, was going to be more shmooze than interview when his assistant, on entering my office with him, asked if I would mind if the prolific scholar and author ate the chocolate rugelach she brought for him during our chat.
In that spirit, I prepared hot tea for them, and switched mental gears, relishing the opportunity to have a relaxing talk with one of the great Jewish minds of modern times rather than posing deep questions, especially since The Jewish Week’s Steve Lipman had written a major piece on the Jerusalem-based rabbi on the occasion of his having just completed a monumental, 45-year project to translate the entire Talmud into modern Hebrew, complete with vowels, punctuation and his own original commentary. (‘The Longest Translation,” Nov. 5)
‘Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam’ at New York Public Library:
The joy, and the complexity, of text.
One approaches “Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam,” a new exhibit of religious texts at The New York Public Library, with caution. The animating idea might cause you to roll your eyes at its surface naiveté: at a time of heightened tensions among Muslims, Jews and Christians, the curators suggest we should emphasize what we all share in common.
Living in caravans in a small settlement town during my years learning in Israel, my dream was always to settle the land. As a religious Zionist, I feel that living in Israel is a tremendous and miraculous opportunity, and all Jews can and must consider making this life transition as we are all very familiar with the halakhic obligation of yishuv ha’aretz, the religious obligation to settle the Land of Israel. I would like to suggest, however, that in addition to this well-known imperative, there is also a crucial duty to reside in the Diaspora.
The Talmudic sage Hillel was more radical and welcoming than many realize.
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
Special to the Jewish Week
I was sitting with a rabbinic friend swapping stories about our lives and our work. He started talking about an encounter he had recently had: “A Jewish man, probably in his early 30s, and his non-Jewish girlfriend came to speak with me. They want to marry, but his parents are dead-set against their only son marrying a gentile.
Reading the comments of many Jewish Week readers on the New York Islamic Center controversy, I can't help but wonder why so many fail to see the parallels between their views of Islam and traditional anti-Semitism.
A typical comment goes like this: “Don't you understand that Islam is not a religion, but a violent ideology bent on conquering the world and bringing its population under submission through Sharia law? Haven't you read the Koran?”
A number of years back, I attended a kiddush club gathering in the basement of a synagogue. Right when the haftarah reading began, about 8 or 9 older men snuck out the back and in a small dark room in the basement opened multiple bottles of alcohol. They drank excessively until the sermon was over and then not so inconspicuously returned back for the final portion of the Shabbat morning service. Isn’t it fair for one to enjoy a nice scotch on their weekend, I wondered at the time?
After a three hour delay for what our pilot blithely referred to as a "catastrophic failure" of one of our brakes (how fortuitous to learn this before takeoff and not after!), my wife and I are finally on our way to California for a well-earned vacation. Watching flight attendants deal with frustrated passengers at 34,000 feet seems like a good time to spend a few minutes thinking about America's new cult hero, Steven Slater.