Musings

Want What You Have

02/14/2012

After the opening declaration of the Ten Commandments, “I am the Lord your God,” we get action. All the commandments mandate some behavior: keeping the Sabbath, honoring parents and so forth. Then comes the final commandment — “Do not covet.” This is not a behavioral prescription. How can the Torah tell us what to feel?

Getting Better All The Time?

02/07/2012

There are times it appears that to be successful one needs to be a harbinger of catastrophe. Optimism is the besetting sin; we like our Jeremiahs, our Cassandras, and we are forever opening Pandora’s box.

Pain And Passion

01/31/2012

 

Moses was born into trouble, placed in a basket to save his life. Pharaoh’s daughter “beholds” the child crying; noting that she saw and did not hear him crying the Rabbis conclude that the baby cried silently. Moses learned early what it was to fight, to have to hide, to be scarred by the world.

Making Time For Study

01/24/2012

From historian David McCullough: “Once upon a time in the dead of winter in the Dakota Territory, Theodore Roosevelt took off in a makeshift boat down the Little Missouri River in pursuit of a couple of thieves who had stolen his prized rowboat. After several days on the river, he caught up and got the draw on them with his trusty Winchester, at which point they surrendered. Then Roosevelt set off in a borrowed wagon to haul the thieves cross-country to justice.

Real Leadership

01/17/2012

As Moses prepared to relinquish leadership of the Israelites, he had advice about the type of leader who should succeed him. 

Moses entreats God to appoint as his replacement “a man in whom there is spirit.” What does that phrase mean? Our sages offer a very interesting interpretation. They explain Moses was asking for a leader who would be able to deal with each individual according to his or her own temperament. In other words, Moses understood that people need a leader who honors diversity.

In Messianic Times

01/10/2012

The history of messianism in Judaism is the history of false and failed Messiahs. Some were earnest but wrong; others were clever pretenders. But there is also no complete agreement as to what the messianic time, when it arrives, will bring. Some scholars are supernaturalists, believing that it will result in the overturning of nature. Others, most notably Maimonides, are more restrained in their vision.

In Messianic Times

01/03/2012

The history of messianism in Judaism is the history of false and failed Messiahs. Some were earnest but wrong; others were clever pretenders. But there is also no complete agreement as to what the messianic time, when it arrives, will bring. Some scholars are supernaturalists, believing that it will result in the overturning of nature. Others, most notably Maimonides, are more restrained in their vision.

The ‘Great Jews’ Dilemma

12/27/2011

Each year we are privileged to see Jews accomplish extraordinary things in science, art, literature and other subjects. Many of them strongly identify as Jews, but for many, Judaism plays little or no role in their lives. Rav Kook once asked a poignant question: When will Jews who are great also be great Jews?

A True Kindness

12/20/2011

British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks tells an extraordinary story of his visit to Kosovo during the war. He interviewed Sir Michael Jackson, head of NATO forces in Pristina, Kosovo, where Serbian Christians had attacked mosques and now feared reprisals. In the midst of this tense atmosphere, Jackson thanked him for what the Jewish community had done — they had taken charge of the 23 primary schools in the city. Because of the Jewish community, said Jackson, the children were still being educated.

How many Jews were there in Pristina? Eleven.

Children Of The Wilderness

12/13/2011

 

In his autobiography “Anti-Memoirs,” French writer André Malraux tells of running across an old friend with whom he fought in the war. The friend has become a parish priest and Malraux, seeing his compatriot anew after two decades, asks him what he has learned from years of listening to people’s confessions.

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