Is there anything new under the sun? Ecclesiastes thought not. “One generation goes and another comes, but the earth remains the same forever.” But Ecclesiastes was jaded, cynical, skeptical, and misanthropic to boot.
Judaism, by contrast, insists that the proper answer to, “What’s new?” is not, “Same old, same old,” but, “This morning I awakened to a brand new day.”
If two religiously observant Jews are engaged in a disagreement that has financial ramifications, are they permitted to go to a secular court to arbitrate their dispute or must they go to a religious or rabbinic court (beit din)? Is the law different in Israel, which has both religious and secular court systems but where even the secular court judges are Jewish? And if, indeed, Jews are religiously ordained to go exclusively to a beit din, why is this so? After all, the nonreligious judicial system in Israel and the secular courts in America are certainly fair and equitable.
Torah is poetry. Parshat Yitro contains one of the most beautiful examples of the sophisticated metaphorical language of our Torah: “You, yourselves, have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on kanfei nesharim — eagle’’ wings — and brought you to Me” [Exodus 19:4].
This week’s Torah reading, Beshalach, describes the glorious Jewish march from Egyptian slavery to freedom. When the Jewish people emerge triumphantly out of the Red Sea, they are finally emancipated from 210 years of cruel servitude to despotic pharaohs.