Musings

Contradictory Impulses

09/29/2010

 Ecclesiastes is full of contradictions. Better the day of death than the day of birth we are told; but then we are reminded that a live dog is better than a dead lion. Everything is futile, we are told; but then we’re urged to obey the commandments — or to enjoy life with the one we love. Ecclesiastes teaches a great life lesson: No single value, idea or practice can be right for all people at all times.

All Along The Watchtower

09/22/2010

Sooner or later, the enemies of the Jewish people become the enemies of the world. Nazism, Soviet communism, radical Islam. All single out the Jews for special obloquy, but eventually the world pays the price. This has led some to call the Jewish people the canary in the coal mine: the canary, with its limited lung capacity, dies to let the miners know there is lethal gas.

But despite everything the Jewish people have survived. Better is the image of the sentinel in the watchtower. We have seen the oncoming enemy and called out in alarm.

To Start Anew

09/15/2010

Once a King was lost in the forest. He asked several villagers how to find his way home, but none knew. Nor did they recognize the King. One bedraggled but wise villager stepped forward, filled with reverence and respect for he recognized the King. He directed him home and also walked with the King to keep him safe.

Alone Together

09/07/2010

Where can one go to see both freedom and unity in action? Go the morning minyan.

Jews pray in a peculiar way. Walking into the service one would think that each individual is wrapped not only in a tallit but also in his or her own world. Each is mumbling, turning pages, swaying and then, miraculously, everyone stands and says the same thing in temporary unison. Each then lapses back into private prayer.

Alone Together

08/31/2010

Where can one go to see both freedom and unity in action? Go the morning minyan.  

 

Jews pray in a peculiar way. Walking into the service one would think that each individual is wrapped not only in a tallit but also in his or her own world. Each is mumbling, turning pages, swaying and then, miraculously, everyone stands and says the same thing in temporary unison. Each then lapses back into private prayer.

 

The Drive-by Sin

08/25/2010

We are deluged by rumor, gossip, tall tales masquerading as truth. Good names are sullied and reputations ruined at the careless push of the “send” button. In an age of loose talk, Jewish teachings on improper speech have never been more important.

Israel As A Bridge

08/17/2010

Of all the possible places in the world, why Israel? There are many more attractive sites to which God could have led the Jewish people. Surrounding lands are richer in natural resources and more secure from invasion. So why Israel? 

The Upside Of Guilt

08/10/2010

Among the signs of brutality, writes the Polish Nobel Prize winning poet Wislawa Szymborska, a clear conscience is number one.

Judge Kindly

08/03/2010

‘Judge everyone favorably,” teaches the Mishna. In my years in the rabbinate I have found this is a principle we observe very strictly when it comes to ourselves. We always put our own actions in a favorable light: “I was only trying to help!” or “I only said it out of concern” or “I’m not mean — you are too sensitive!” But when it comes to others, we are too willing, even eager, to assume unflattering motivations. 

Rest Not

07/27/2010

Israeli President Shimon Peres once offered his view on the greatest Jewish contribution to the world: “Dissatisfaction.”

Talk shows and preachers peddle calm and peace of mind. But Peres reminds us of the message of our prophets: Isaiah could not feel satisfied while living amidst anguish and war. Jeremiah could not ignore the widow, the orphan, the corruption around him. 

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