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Editorial & Opinion | Musings

04/07/2015 - 20:00 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Why is the Torah compared by our sages to a marriage contract, to a ketubah? 

One might suppose that they both limit freedom. Each constrains what a person may do, imposing obligations and restricting choices. But to see it this way is to misunderstand freedom. Freedom is the expansion of opportunity not the absence of obligation.

03/31/2015 - 20:00 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

In high school I approached a well-known rabbi and told him that I had read one of his books and liked it very much. “Ah, have you read my other book?” he asked. No, I had not. “You should,” he told me, “it’s a classic.”

03/24/2015 - 20:00 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Judaism may seem abstract, but the things that keep it alive are very concrete. If you cannot pay for food and clothes, for the lights and the rooms, the desks and the books, the ideas have nowhere to take root. This deep truth is expressed in a powerful story about Rabbi Hiyya.

03/17/2015 - 20:00 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Jews venerate memory. So important is memory to Jews that one characterization of God in our prayers is “Zochair kol Hanishkachot” — the one who remembers everything forgotten. To be God is to have the gift of perfect memory.

03/10/2015 - 20:00 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Prayer is supposed to inspire us with the beauty of its language and the grandeur of its conception. In each morning service there is a passage called “The Thirteen Exegetical (or, hermeneutical) rules of Rabbi Ishmael.” If prayer is supposed to be uplifting, one can only wonder why such dry material would be included. Here is a sample of one of the rules: “The particular implied in the general and excepted from it for pedagogic purposes elucidates the general as well as the particular.” It hardly sets the spirit aflutter.

03/03/2015 - 19:00 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Mark Twain wrote of his experience in church: “I couldn’t wait for him to get through. I had $400 in my pocket. I wanted to give that and borrow more to give. You could see greenbacks in every eye. But he didn’t pass the plate, and it grew hotter and we grew sleepier. My enthusiasm went down, down, down — $100 at a time, till finally when the plate came round I stole 10 cents out of it.”