Tag: Judaism

Introducing the Tikvah Podcast


Hello Ricochet! The Tikvah Podcast is the latest show to join the Ricochet Audio Network. (If you haven’t listened yet, here it is!) We couldn’t be more excited about it. We want you to be excited as well, so let’s introduce ourselves…

The Tikvah Fund is a think tank, educational institution, and philanthropic foundation committed to supporting the intellectual, religious, and political leaders of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. We do our work through a wide range of venues, from great books-oriented summer programs, to publications like Mosaic and the Jewish Review of Books, to online courses and podcasts. Intellectually and politically, we’re broadly center-right, admiring and learning from the likes of Irving Kristol, Leo Strauss, Leon Kass, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, and Vladimir Jabotinsky.


Veneration: The Practicing Jew


They live their lives by a sacred code; it isn’t secret, but few people actually know its inner sanctum. Life entails a commitment to consciousness, discipline and faith, and because of the lure of everyday secular life, many fall away, believing they are not up to the task or are unwilling to comply with the demands. Those who remain are deeply committed to living virtuous lives, to raising loving and principled children, and to following the Law.

They are practicing or Orthodox Jews who embrace Torah, love G-d and revere acts of kindness. I have witnessed these three qualities among my practicing Jewish friends, and I venerate them for the life choices they have made.


Thinking About Anti-Semitism


In the days following the murder rampage at the Tree of Life synagogue, I received several expressions of grief from friends who are committed Christians. One included in her note a verse from John Donne:

No man is an island entire of itself . . .
any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.


Why the Jews?


The outpouring of love and support for Jews following the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings has deeply touched me. I’m not surprised by it, but the reminder of the inclusiveness in our community is one more tribute to Ricochet. In one of the many posts I read, someone asked, “Why have the Jews always been treated this way?” It may have been a rhetorical question, but I took it at face value and decided to share my views about the reasons for anti-Semitism.

It’s important to say at the start that there is no way to provide every explanation for anti-Semitism:


Zealots of Masada


In 66 AD, a group of 960 Jewish Zealots decided they would prefer to commit suicide rather than yield to Roman conquest at Masada:

Masada (‘Metsada’ in Hebrew) is the name of the mountain on which the Masada fortress was built. It is more like a plateau or a table mountain, and quite isolated from its surroundings, as there is only one narrow, winding pathway leading up, fittingly called “the Snake.” According to Josephus Flavius, an ancient historian and the only one to record what happened on Masada, Masada was first built by the Hasmoneans, a Jewish dynasty who ruled Judaea in the years between 140-37 BC. Then, between 37-31 BC, King Herod the Great built two palaces there and further fortified the place as a refuge for himself in case of a revolt. However, it proved to be a refuge for Jewish rebels about 90 years later.


Member Post


This past week, we witnessed emotional testimony from both Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanugh, and Dr. Christine Blasé-Ford, who alleges a sexual assault by Kavanaugh in high school. Both described vicious attacks from social media on them and their families following these allegations. Ms. Ford has had to move from her home, and Judge […]

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No Excuses: Guns and Faith


We’ve arrived! My husband and I have taken a road trip, and the first part of our agenda is attending the Couples for Liberty five-day workshop at Hillsdale College—lessons on shooting guns and on understanding the Constitution. We originally signed up for the workshop in May, but we had court dates assigned for the same time and we had to be there. But we found out there were two slots open for Hillsdale’s September workshop. They let us make the switch, and we were delighted–

–until a few weeks ago I realized that Yom Kippur fell during the same week. (I thought I also had a conflict with Rosh Hashanah, but there wasn’t a scheduling problem.)


Dennis Prager on the Self-Righteously Suicidal West and False Morality


For this week’s Big Ideas with Ben Weingarten podcast, I had nationally syndicated radio host, columnist, author of numerous books, teacher, film producer and co-founder of PragerU, Dennis Prager, on the podcast to discuss among other things:

  • How Dennis Prager ended up a conservative as an Ivy League-educated Jewish intellectual from Brooklyn, New York — contrary to so many of his peers
  • How perceptions of human nature divide Left and Right
  • Whether government has filled the void of religion for the increasingly secular and progressive American coasts
  • How the good intentions that underlie Leftist policy prescriptions lead to horrendous outcomes — and emotion versus reason on the Left and Right
  • The false morality underlying European immigration policy with respect to the Muslim world, and Prager’s criticism of Jewish support of mass immigration consisting disproportionately of Jew-haters
  • The self-righteous suicidalism of the West
  • The Leftist bias of social media platforms and PragerU’s legal battle with YouTube/Google

You can find the episode on iTunes, everywhere else podcasts are found, download the episode directly here or read the transcript here.


Giving Up the Dream


I finally made the tough decision. I had a dream, and now I’ve let it go. The act leaves me feeling slightly sad and also free. After more than 10 years, I’ve disbanded my meditation group.

This journey was an extension of my dream to be a Zen Buddhist sensei, a seed that began 10 years into my 20-year practice. When it became clear that my Zen teacher thought it was essential to cripple my ego, it was time to leave. But in the meantime, she had encouraged me to start a meditation group when I came to Florida 10 years ago.


Member Post


The so-called “New Atheists” are desperate to demonstrate that one can have morality without God, and in fact that morality is baked in to our genetic code via the process of natural selection. More

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Next Year in Jerusalem!


I had no sooner walked through the front door with Son #1 when I was attacked and hugged by a delighted child, Son #5. I have never, ever been greeted so enthusiastically, anywhere. Son #5 had seen me the past two years when I went to the @iWe home for the Passover/Pesach celebration. He was either very pleased to see me (or was counting on my reading him some stories during my stay). Then Son #1 instructed him matter-of-factly to take my carry-on bag and backpack up to my room, two and one-half flights up. And this same Son #5, uncoached, pulled out my chair for me at the Seder meals. Did I mention he is seven years old and 4’1” tall (so he tells me)?

When I entered the iWe home, I had entered the space of timelessness and antiquity, of celebration and remembering the suffering in leaving the slavery of Egypt. This Pesach celebration, like the past two years, was a time of sweetness, poignancy, history, and memories. The iWe family takes both seriously and joyfully their celebration of Pesach, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else to connect to my Jewish roots with both moments of sadness and much happiness.


A Jew Sings Christmas Carols


I was touched by @qoumidan‘s post on attending plays at Christmas time. It reminded me of the times I was in the school choir and we learned Christmas carols in preparation for the Christmas concert.

I love to sing. I have a fair voice and loved singing in the middle of a group of my friends in school. But Yuletide was always awkward, especially the first time we had a Christmas concert. I was probably around 10 years old. I wanted to sing and I wanted my parents to attend, of course. Only we were going to be singing Christmas songs; some were secular but some of them were clearly religious. I guess Jewish parents were supposed to be comforted by a Chanukah song like “I Have a Little Dreidel.”




“‘This time I will thank God’ and she called him Judah.” Leah references her unhappiness with how her husband feels about her when naming her first three sons. But for her fourth son, she becomes the first Biblical character to express gratitude.

Jews (the name derives from Judah) are the people who thank. Or at least we should be. The first words we say each morning are “thank you.” On festivals the verse we recite most often is “Thank you God for it is good, for His kindness is forever.”


Judaism – The Unnatural Faith


From the artificial seven-day week, to its refusal to recognize any deity within the forces of nature, the Torah pioneered the idea that G-d is not found within nature. G-d is not in the ocean or the sun, or any physical force. When Adam was created, he was not described as being an animal (though physiologically we are, indeed, animals) — but was instead described as being made of dust, and also ensouled by the divine breath. G-d in this world is only found inside each person.

As Rabbi Sacks points out in a brilliant piece, the descendants of Avraham who were rejected from the covenant that became Judaism were similarly described as being like animals, great men of nature. In any other culture, being a passionate man who was a great archer would make one a hero – think of Davy Crockett and many other classic and folk heroes. But not in Judaism. The archer, Ishmael, was likened to a wild donkey, while the great hunter in the forest, Esau, was described as having “game in his mouth,” evocative of a cat with a bird in its teeth. Both were rejected, replaced by Isaac and Jacob, respectively.


After Israel, Final Thoughts: What Does it Mean to be a Jew?


I’m home in sunny Poinciana, FL, and so glad to be back with my husband! This trip was life-changing for me in many ways — in small ways and (I hope this won’t sound like an exaggeration) existential ways. All these outcomes have transformed the fabric of my life.

The smaller ways include the fact that I can travel alone and feel safe. The first part of my trip I traveled with friends, but after that time I made my way alone. When I got lost, people offered to help; when I couldn’t decide how to travel, people made suggestions. Even when there was no one around, I sought help and found it. I learned that when I travel, even when I feel most vulnerable, I can find my way.


The Refiner’s Fire: The Place of Hell in Judaism’s Sister Religion


The same man who wrote this blissfully mournful setting of “Hear my prayer, O Lord” also wrote an annoying little ditty which begins, “I attempt from love’s sickness to fly in vain, / Since I am myself my own fever and pain.” Despite the musical love present in the former composition and lacking in the latter, the words of the latter are expressive enough: love, whether sacred or profane, is a fever whose cause isn’t incidental, its cause is you – who you are and what you love.

That might be a strange way to begin any theological musing, no matter how speculative. But bear with me. Judaism and Christianity are sister religions, springing from the same source. To put it in the driest of secular terms, Jesus was an apocalyptic Jewish teacher. Not all Jews believe in an afterlife, but among those who do, this description of its punishments that @susanquinn shared with me seems fairly standard. This essay of sweeping scope by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan also contains several illuminating passages. Both writings describe Gehenom, hell, as a cleansing, either of the “dirt” of our sins (like socks getting “punished” in a washing machine) or of the “static and jamming” that reduces our awareness of our sins’ rightful shame. In neither description are sinners “sent to a different place” from the righteous. Rather, all souls go to the same “place”, and what makes it heavenly or hellish is the state of each soul experiencing it – how “dirty” it is, how much it still has to be ashamed of. As Peter Kreeft, a once-Calvinist Catholic theologian, put it, “In reality, the damned are in the same place as the saved—in reality! But they hate it; it is their Hell. The saved love it, and it is their Heaven.” Still, descriptions of hell as cleansing – as purification which educates the soul for God’s presence – ought to remind Christians more of Catholics’ conception of purgatory than the Christian descriptions of hell most of us are familiar with.


From Israel, Part 3: Jerusalem and the Temple Destructions


The Old City in Jerusalem, I’m convinced, can best be appreciated through the eyes of a guide. And if the guide is a religious Jew, all the better.

Rather than recount the story of Jerusalem, I’d rather share my experience of the day there. History and my impressions are intertwined as they are impossible to separate; my focus is on the most memorable moments. My friends, Alizah and Menashe joined me as our guide, Avi, took us back in time.


Traveling, Alone


I am not only taking a momentous trip abroad by myself, but there is an aloneness that will accompany it. I’m still processing that idea as my travel time approaches.

It’s not like I never travel alone. But when I was young, my international travel was with others. Since I’ve been married, I have traveled alone for week-long retreats. My husband and I have always traveled together, although I threatened to go to the U.K. without him, because he couldn’t make up his mind about going. But even then, I had family over there. And he decided to accompany me after all.


The Mating Call of the Jewish People


The Torah describes the process of rapprochement between G-d and the Jewish people in a dance of oscillating words: the people do X, and G-d does Y. Then the people respond with Q, and G-d moves onto P, and so on (see Deut. 30). There is fluid movement on both sides, changes in posture and attitude and desires, sometimes flexing in toward each other, sometimes bending away or even – when things go very wrong – one of the dancers abruptly breaking it off and leaving the dance floor.

It is this sort of language that helps us understand that G-d is not some kind of great static thing: a strong but silent gravitational force or a distant and proud king. On the contrary, the Torah’s words show us that G-d is a full participant in this dance, able to be distant or near, equally capable of being inflamed with anger or with love.


Rabbis Won’t Forgive Trump


In an article at The Federalist, Menachem Wecker explained that a tradition that began with Barack Obama was going to be boycotted by a group of US rabbis, including conservative, reform, and reconstructionist rabbis. The conference call was originally scheduled with thousands of rabbis to consult with them and convey the president’s best wishes to them for this especially holy time of year, the days approaching Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

This year, however, this particular group of rabbis determined that Donald Trump’s comments following the events in Charlottesville were “so lacking in moral leadership and empathy for the victims of racial and religious hatred” that they refused to organize the call. In fact, they published a statement that included this paragraph: