Editorial & Opinion | Musings

04/24/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

The Book of Exodus, in Hebrew, is called “Sh’mot,” or names. Yet the first extended story, about the slavery from Egypt, records none of the names of the Egyptians save for the midwives, Shifra and Puah. (Although some commentators claim them as Jews, it seems clear the Torah intends them to be taken for Egyptians). Even Pharaoh is a title, not a name — one of the reasons it is so difficult to determine which Pharaoh should be associated with the time period.

04/17/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Pharaoh proclaims the Israelites a threat, and yet fears their leaving: “Come let us deal cleverly with them, lest they increase, and when war strikes they will join with our enemies, and leave [Exodus 1:10].” This paradox is familiar from Jewish history.  Jews were expelled throughout history, but equally often, tyrants who felt threatened by Jews nonetheless refused to let them immigrate to more benign lands.

04/09/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

The first morning blessing thanks God for the ability to distinguish between day and night. The most immediate reference is to the dawn; the worshiper wakes and is grateful for the rising sun. But as Passover reminds us, there is a deeper meaning.

04/02/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

When Adam and Eve are fashioned in the Garden of Eden, the Torah makes an important editorial comment: “Therefore a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife.” My best guess is that comment was to pacify parents.

03/26/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

The great Greek playwright Aeschylus tells us that Prometheus gave the world two gifts: fire and ignorance of our own fate. In other words, an uncertain future, and the power to shape it; both light and darkness.

03/20/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

One of the greatest pleasures of Shabbat is disapproving of what other people wear. So please, permit me the pleasure.

The Talmud comments that honoring the Sabbath mandates that one’s dress not be the same as on weekdays. In the Torah, Rebecca helped Jacob impersonate his brother not only by putting hair on Jacob’s arms, but by dressing him in Esau’s clothes. Rabbi Naphtali of Rushpitz’s explanation is that Rebecca understood that dressing like Esau would allow Jacob to feel more like Esau, because what we wear affects who we are.