Editorial & Opinion | Musings

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.

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

The human mind inclines toward certainty. Having been involved in my share of arguments, beginning with the childhood dinner table (an excellent place to learn both the skills of debate and the fine art of going only slightly too far), I know that arguing is mostly a process of persuading oneself that one was right in the first place. Who has not heard scientists extol the certainties of scientific knowledge, religious people astonishingly secure in their understanding of God, and all of us pronounce others “simply wrong” with no more prompting or expertise than the skill of thumping a fist and nodding a head?

03/05/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

The ancient historian Tacitus recounts that when Jerusalem was conquered and the Roman general Pompey walked into the Holy of Holies in the Temple, he found it empty. Surely this perplexed the future emperor. Uniquely among ancient civilizations, there was no image or picture of God in the Temple. Pompey probably did not know it, but he was witnessing Judaism’s greatest counterintuitive gift to the world.

02/28/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

"Jerusalem was destroyed," teaches the Talmud, “because judgments were rendered strictly upon the law of the Torah.” In other words, the quality of mercy was missing from the courts of the day. Untempered by humility and humanity, the law is destructive.

02/18/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

I’m often asked to recommend books. Here are five unique and powerful modern works that you may have missed or forgotten. These works will enrich, elevate and educate any Jew, indeed any human being.

02/12/2014 | | Special To The Jewish Week | Musings

Rabbi Tarfon was very rich. One day, Rabbi Akiva met him and said, “My master, shall I purchase for you a town or two?” “Yes,” said Rabbi Tarfon, and immediately gave Rabbi Akiva 4,000 gold dinars. Akiva distributed the money to poor scholars.