Your editorial, “Arab Spring, Summer Chaos” (Aug. 26), is certainly to be commended for its optimism that the wellspring of democratic sentiment that has emerged throughout the Arab world since January might still herald real and sweeping political change throughout the region. Yet the piece falls short in its assessment of Arab attitudes towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Mideast, already roiling with violence and unrest, is about to enter an even darker, more uncertain phase as the Palestinian Authority seeks full membership in the United Nations next week. The prospects are deeply worrying, if not terrifying.
The Talmud in Ta’anit envisions the “future dance of the righteous.” In Alan Brill’s book “Thinking God,” about Rabbi Zadok of Lublin, he quotes Rabbi Zadok’s beautiful comment on this passage:
“The future dance of the righteous is because dancing occurs in a circle in which all are equal. … When everything is complete, then one will not need effort to love in one’s heart the creation, because then loving creation will be as natural as loving parts of one’s own body.”
Talk of “apology” and “forgiveness” is all around us today, from the international diplomatic front, where Turkey and Egypt have insisted on Israeli apologies for recent actions, to the personal and communal level, where our thoughts turn to the approaching High Holy Days and the central theme of atoning for our sins.
We are taught to seek forgiveness when we have done wrong, but is it appropriate to apologize for an act that we believe merits no admission of guilt?
I am often asked, especially by non-believers, whether religious practice can actually make us better human beings.
This is a real-life query. And often, it’s actually a deeper, far more personal question that each of us might ask of ourselves: what does religious practice mean to me? For one person, “Do not steal” can be guidance from within: theft is something that he despises and avoids at all costs. For another, “Do not steal” may mean: do not steal when there are witnesses, especially if the police are around.
“You have seen all that God did in Egypt… Your own eyes saw the great miracles, signs and wonders. But until this day, God did not give you a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear” [Deuteronomy 29:1-3].
When I first co-authored a book on “peoplehood,” I was hoping that it would precipitate conversations on what it means to be a people. I hoped we would talk about what constitutes Jewish identity in a modern age and what we can do to bring people together with diverse Jewish commitments. It was an ambitious goal but not an impossible one.
I’m a Russian Jew. I was born and raised in New York City. I am proud to be an American. But somehow, I am still a Russian Jew.
My family hasn’t been back to the former Soviet Union since they left in search of a better Jewish life, some 40 years ago. I’d never been there at all, until this summer.
I have returned to Switzerland this week as the Rabbinic Representative to join global partners and interfaith leaders at the World Economic Forum. Here, we continue to plan the annual gathering in Davos this winter and to think-tank the greatest moral, economic, and political issues of our time.