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Editorial & Opinion | Musings

12/03/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

A childhood friend once attended a play starring the great Zero Mostel. He had the misfortune to be late and Mostel, spotting him trying to sneak in the theater, stopped the performance and asked for the house lights to be turned up. “You — yes you, the one who is late,” he said, pointing to my humiliated friend. “I want you to know what you missed.” Mostel then acted out the entire play to that point by himself, inhabiting all the roles. My friend was embarrassed but also delighted to be the spur to such a tour de force.

11/26/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

I am surrounded by books I will never have a chance to read, people I will never get to know and constantly hear about places I will never visit. This is the invariable law of every life. How shall we think of this richness so vastly greater than our time to experience it?

11/19/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

We read the Torah on Monday and Thursday in the synagogue because in ancient times those were market days. Picture the scene: Competing with the merchants hawking their wares was the voice of someone reading and explaining the stories and laws of the Torah. I imagine the Maggid stationed today in the produce section of Trader’s Joes, telling of Moses’ encounter before Pharaoh, or better, the of delights of the Garden of Eden.

11/12/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

As king, David has grown satisfied and been blessed. When he sees Batsheba bathing on a roof, he acts as if he is a law unto himself. He summons and sleeps with this woman who belongs to another man. She becomes pregnant, and David cannot induce her patriotic husband, Uriah, to sleep with her when his fellow troops are risking their lives in battle. David arranges to have Uriah killed. It is probably the most cynical act of cruelty in the Bible.

11/05/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

What do four walls and a roof make? A potential for holiness.

A room has special significance in Jewish tradition. Students in Eastern Europe studied in “cheder,” which means room. The holiest site in Jewish history, the kadosh kedoshim, was a room in the Temple. While not disdaining the beauties or wonder of nature, rooms hold much of the wonder and specialness of Judaism.

Your synagogue has rooms where people pray and where they meet. Both can be vessels of kedushah, or holiness. Committees too can do sacred work. We may imagine that a meeting must be mundane, but in that room where funds are allocated for education or tzedakah, or decisions made to enable people to join and pray with the community, holiness lives.

10/29/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

An old and venerable Jewish joke: Rabbi Cohen answers his phone.

“Hello?” “Hello, is this Rabbi Cohen?” “Yes, it is. “This is the Internal Revenue Service. Do you have a congregant named Samuel P. Schwartz?” “Yes I do.” “Did he in fact donate $25,000 to the synagogue building fund?”