Last Thursday, a 5-year-old British girl, April Jones, who had been raped and murdered, was buried in London after her funeral was televised nationally. She and another young girl were victims of men apparently addicted to online pornography. And although England, like the U.S., bans child pornography, Prime Minister David Cameron plans to take measures to further restrict pornography on the Internet, making Britain “the most family-friendly democracy in the world,” according to a member of his Conservative Party.
My favorite contemporary Simchat Torah story was told to me by a close friend who grew up in Pittsburgh. I offer it here in honor of Simchat Torah, which is celebrated this year on Thursday evening and Friday, and as the baseball season closes out this weekend. Nowadays, with the expanded Major Leagues, divisional playoffs and Wild Card teams, the World Series, long known as the October Classic, could very well linger until November. But when I was growing up, the World Series invariably fell out on the High Holy Days. (I used to imagine Ford Frick, the commissioner at the time, consulting a luach, or Jewish calendar, each year to pick the Series dates just to frustrate observant fans.) But it was just such a convergence of the baseball schedule and the Jewish holidays that led to the unique encounter described here …
With “Like Dreamers,” due out Oct. 1, Yossi Klein Halevi, an American-born writer and journalist living in Jerusalem, has written a powerful and haunting book about the soul of modern Israel, focusing on the lives of seven Israelis, members of the famed 55th Paratroopers Reserve Brigade. These men helped reunite Jerusalem in the 1967 war and went on to become exemplars of the social, religious, political and cultural impulses that divided the country, from Peace Now to Gush Emunim, from Torah scholars to kibbutz leaders to a revered musician, Israel’s Bob Dylan.
One of the loveliest aspects of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is the concept of forgiveness, the notion that if we are sincere in our commitment to make atonement for past sins and try to improve our ways, God will, in effect, wipe our slate clean at the outset of the new Jewish year.