Editorial & Opinion | Musings

07/30/2013 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

My teacher Simon Greenberg once explained the great innovation of the Ten Commandments. He explained that the first four are the justification for the last six. In other words, he told us, the Ten Commandments introduced the world to the idea that God cares most how we treat one another.

07/24/2013 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

In his classic history of art, Ernest Gombrich offers a powerful insight into life while discussing Botticelli’s famous “Birth of Venus.” Botticelli deliberately misproportioned Venus, and Gombrich notes that the figure emerging from the half shell is more beautiful for her flaws: “the unnatural length of her neck, the steepfall of her shoulders...” The painter’s Venus is less correctly drawn than his predecessors, but his alterations “enhance the impression of an infinitely tender and delicate being.”

07/17/2013 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Ruins are a catalyst to imagination. When we see the remains of an old building or civilization we can imagine what once stood in that place. Should you travel this summer, notice the inspiration of lost splendor. Gaps and flaws and remnants are the spur to vision.

07/10/2013 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Recent studies on college roommates suggest that our cognitive styles — whether we face adversity with optimism or despair — are not fixed. After only three months roommates influence each other: the resilient ones change the approach of the pessimists, and vice versa. Once more the ancient wisdom is reaffirmed: we are not only known, but shaped, by the company we keep.

07/03/2013 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

In high school we read “Black Like Me,” an account of how John Howard Griffin, a reporter, had his skin artificially darkened so he might better understand the predicament of blacks in the South in the late 1950s. Can we understand another if we have not been in his position? Does a member of a ruling caste understand the humiliations of the oppressed, or does someone who has lived in difficulties understand the seductions and possibilities of wealth or power?

06/26/2013 | | Musings

There is no achievement without obstacles and no triumph without reversals. Failure, said Churchill, is not fatal. He would know: Although we reckon Churchill an astounding success, he was voted out of office and despondent in the years before becoming prime minister of England. Reflecting on the fact that he lost his place in Parliament while he was in the hospital, he wrote: “In the twinkling of an eye, I found myself without an office, without a seat, without a party, and without an appendix.”