Donald Rumsfeld famously said: “As we know, there are known knowns; there are things that we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
On the eve of 5775, more than 50 Jewish thought leaders and communal activists from around the country gathered at a retreat near Baltimore last week for 48 hours to talk about whatever was on their mind. Not surprisingly, their frank discussions covered a wide range of themes and interests. But bottom-line, the common thread was a deep concern about Jewish unity — more precisely, the lack of it — over the policies of the State of Israel, and the denominational divides that underscore the dearth of religious and communal leadership at home.
In the words of an old country song, “Everybody wants to go Heaven, but nobody wants to go now.” For all of our well-validated concerns of a dangerous world, nobody wants to go to Heaven just yet. The world seems “unformed and void, darkness over the deep,” but the verse in Genesis continues, “the spirit of God hovers over the waters.” There is light, not at the end of the tunnel, but just one verse away.
With the exception of the glorious weather, the summer of 2014 was deeply depressing. There was the collapse of the Mideast peace talks. Then came seven weeks of war in Gaza with much of the world seemingly more critical of Israel for aggressively defending itself than of Hamas for initiating, prolonging and expanding the conflict. Hamas fired from within civilian areas and encouraged their citizens to stay put rather than escape from Israeli-targeted buildings. Yet the onus of a United Nations commission on human rights violations no doubt will highlight alleged Israeli violations, once more equating the arsonist and the fireman.
‘A yarmulke is an indoor garment.” Ask any male Ramaz graduate from the 1940s through the mid-’60s and he will recognize that declaration as one with which we — and others of our age — grew up. We didn’t wear kipot outside. We wore hats or no head covering. Essentially, we didn’t identify as Jews in the street, a street that was not entirely welcoming to us. It was a time of overt or covert anti-Semitism, and we were acculturated to be aware of it and respond accordingly.
The High Holiday Season is upon us, which means that High Fundraising Season is upon us as well. The value of tzedakah (charity) is a central one among Jews of all denominations. In Devarim 26:12, the Torah famously mandates Jews to donate 10 percent of their crops to the poor. And later sources suggest 10 percent as the baseline, encouraging as much as 20 percent of one’s income as an ideal allocation of one’s philanthropic dollars.
Rosh Hashanah candles: 6:33 p.m. (Wed.); 7:30 p.m. (Thu.)
‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” we say, but we are often wrong. It is self-delusion to suppose that if we always make a sound decision, always expend the extra effort, and always do the right thing, we will equally always figure it all out.
Shanah Tova! Happy New Year! Who says so? The summer saw three Jewish kids and one Palestinian brutally murdered, followed by a war — one ended by a cease-fire that Hamas leaders are already threatening to end by Sept. 25 if they don’t get the results they want.
“A yarmulke is an indoor garment.” Ask any male Ramaz graduate from the 1940’s through the mid-‘60’s and he will recognize that declaration as one with which we – and others of our age – grew up. We didn’t wear kipot outside. We wore hats or no head covering. Essentially, we didn’t identify as Jews in the street, a street that was not entirely welcoming to us. It was a time of overt or covert anti-Semitism and we were acculturated to be aware of it and respond accordingly.