One year ago, Libyan dictator Muammar Kaddafy’s troops were marching toward Benghazi, the unofficial capital of the Libyan rebels. Kaddafy was calling the rebels “rats,” and a 10,000-person massacre seemed inevitable. But on Purim itself, in Libya (historically part of the Persian Empire), NATO made the decision to intervene, saving the pro-democracy rebels. “Nahafoch hu”—the opposite of the tyrant’s plan occurred. Fortunately, Purim has been a bad time for tyrants in modern as well as ancient times.
It is the question that so many wonder but few investigate, about which we are long on opinion but short on fact: “Who wrote the Torah?” One might think this would be the most basic question in Jewish learning and thought since of the three primary theological paradigms of religion—creation, revelation, and redemption—revelation most profoundly captivates our human lived experience. How in an age of skepticism can we fully embrace the Jewish tradition?
Idolatry (avoda zara) is one of the gravest sins in the Torah. In fact, it is one of three sins for which one must accept death before succumbing (Yoma 82a). But is it merely an ancient relic? As 21st-century Jews who have demythologized the world, we simply cannot relate to the worship of trees, rivers, and statues. Nonetheless, today’s desire for idolatry is as strong as ever, clothed deceptively in new forms such as slave labor and unethical consumption.
Whether or not a candidate for public office supports the state of Israel is important to American Jews, but it is not the only issue we care about.
Indeed, in 2012 it is highly likely that all major Presidential candidates will be pro-Israel, so American Jewish voters can concentrate on voting for the candidate who best embodies the principles of the Torah and the American republic.
Brit milah (Jewish ritual circumcision) may be uncomfortable to watch, and naturally makes many of us ambivalent in a time of celebration. But is it cruel? Living in California, where calls for the outlawing of circumcision have recently proliferated, I have not heard anyone make the moral case for circumcision. The Shulkhan Arukh says that “this commandment (milah) is greater than (all the) other positive commandments,” (Yoreh De’ah 260).
“We want Moshiach now!” Have you sung it? What did you mean?
The Torah teaches us about the 4 stages of redemption (Shemot 6). Through God’s miraculous interventions in the world (the 10 plagues), there was a mass exodus, perhaps the greatest story of liberation and redemption in human history.
But we have to ask ourselves, is this the historical model for future redemption? Is this the way that we want it to occur? As a miracle of God?
Anyone who has held a lottery ticket knows the thrill of taking a gamble. Personally, I recall the emotional intensity of the poker games in the basement of my friend’s house as a child. With money on the table, even as a 12 year-old, this friendly get together was no longer a game. Five years later, I recall passing through an Atlantic City casino on a family trip shocked to see it full of yarmulke-wearing Jews. I wondered if gambling was an acceptable Jewish sport.
Millions of children fall asleep every night hungry, wearing an unchanged diaper, and with no one to hold them as they cry themselves to sleep. There is perhaps no greater suffering than to feel unloved, unwanted, and uncared for by anyone. This is the story of the orphan.
“For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come” -Hamlet
Every night of our lives, we enter the dream state. Sometimes we are very aware of our dreams upon waking, sometimes not at all. I often wonder about the theological implications of our unconscious thoughts that occur while we dream. How are we to interpret these ideas and how can those interpretations help us to grow to become who we need to be?