Tag: Judaism

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There is a tension in every family between the older child and all the subsequent children, an assumption that being “the first born” comes with an inherent status. The idea in English Law (and in many ancient legal codes as well, including parts of Ancient Egyptian history) of primogeniture is tied to this: the first-born […]

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Religion and Republicans

 

shutterstock_295810463About 15 years ago, on Christmas Eve, our family departed from the traditional American Jewish observance of the holiday (ordering Chinese take-out) and elected to find an open restaurant. We drove to the local city center (or what passes for it in suburbia) and were stunned to find that not only were all of the restaurants open, they were packed.

I had pictured my Christian friends and neighbors at home, gathered around the table Norman Rockwell-style, eating goose or ham or whatever Gentiles eat, bathed in the twinkling lights of decorated trees. In fact, I liked to think of them that way, and finding crowds treating Christmas Eve as just another night was almost a sacrilege.

Americans have long resisted the secularizing trend of Western Europe. In many Western European countries, churches stand virtually empty on Sundays and few profess belief in God (37 percent in the United Kingdom; 27 percent in France; 28 percent in The Netherlands). In the United States, according to Gallup, 92 percent said they believed in God as recently as 2011, which was down only 4 points from the 1944 response.

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I do not understand you–at least on how Moses’ “Thus says the LORD,” being the Word of God, is different from Isaiah’s “Thus says the LORD,” being something less than Moses’. [Augustine in this post] Why does this matter? It is actually at the very heart of the Jewish/Christian divide: Do earlier sources trump later […]

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My second son attends a school with no other observant Jews. He is, quite probably, the first of his kind to attend in its 120 year history. He recently dressed up on the day before Halloween as a married man – a married Chasidic man, complete with long coat (mine), tall fur hat known as a shtreimel (a […]

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The Israeli postal service makes its US counterpart look like the paragon of efficiency. One year, my rabbi (who lives in Israel) was expecting an important package, and the post office could not find it. After a month of call upon call to functionary after functionary, the most he could determine was that the package […]

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Jews & Christians: Where We Part Ways

 

shutterstock_156235796After reading Jon Gabriel’s piece on Michele Bachmann’s comments regarding converting Jews to Christianity, I thought I’d offer a Jewish response. I get that Evangelicals evangelize, but I wonder how sensitive Christians would be if Joe Lieberman talked about how important it was to get Christians to stop believing in Jesus.

Christian attempts at conversion are a core, visceral issue for many Jews and for reasons unique to Jews. In the West, we who are Jews today are so because our ancestors resisted efforts to convert them, often at great cost to themselves and their loved ones. And our ancestors were the lucky ones, because many didn’t survive these efforts. Their sacrifices will not be in vain. Even though today’s Evangelicals limit themselves to non-coercive persuasion, it reminds us of the darker times in our joint history when significantly harsher tactics were used.

So laugh, scoff, whatever. Tell me I’m making a big deal out of nothing. Or, as Breitbart’s John Nolte tweeted, maybe I should just realize that it’s a “Complimentary act of love, morons.” Hey, I was content to ask Christians to keep their complimentary love to themselves, but Nolte won me over when he called us morons.

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A separate comment on the perils of working with translated text (and the long-term ramifications) made me recall this very interesting excerpt from Jonathan Sachs: One passage … shows how differences in interpretation can lead to, or flow from, profound differences in culture. Ironically, the subject concerned – abortion – remains deeply contentious to this day. […]

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The land itself was at the heart of the ancient world. At the crossroads of three continents, Israel was the inevitable waystation for land traffic between Europe, Africa and Asia. Traders were a continuous feature, coming and going with their goods, cultures, and languages.   Though in one sense merely one organ among many, the […]

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During the festival of Sukkot, we live in huts (“sukkot” means “booths”). Why? Because G-d commanded us to do so: You will dwell in booths for seven days; all natives of Israel shall dwell in booths. –Lev. 23:42. This is to remember, the Torah tells us, that we lived in booths in the wilderness between […]

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Any poet can tell you that language is so powerful in part because it does not simply translate. Words convey a whole spectrum of meanings, depending on context, prior use, and any of a range of associations.  Jews have always read the Torah in this way, and sought to live our lives accordingly. So, for […]

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“Dad’s got major issues with the new Rabbi”.    I was raised at a British Orthodox Synagogue. When my family moved to the U.S. we became members at a Conservative Synagogue. For years after college I floated to different temples and Chabad. However, once I was married we joined the local Reform Synagogue. I won’t say […]

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I finally understood the last line of the Book of Jonah yesterday!  My understanding had been blocked by my Maimonidean rationalist view of G-d that presumed He was making a reasoned moral argument about the importance of mercy. Jonah had argued, in the name of truth and justice, that G-d should have killed the people […]

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The First Yom Kippur

 

shutterstock_291906152Although Jewish customs vary around the world, the rhythm of the Jewish calendar is substantially the same. There is one notable exception, though, and you see it this time of year as we prepare for the High Holidays — Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).

Ashkenazi Jews (of European origin) begin to say the special selichot prayers about a week before Rosh Hashanah, continuing daily through Yom Kippur. Meanwhile, Sephardi (North African) and Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) Jews drag themselves to synagogue before sunrise for a full month before the new year — since the beginning of the month of Elul.

“Selichot” means “forgiveness.” The core of the service is the recitation of God’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, from Exodus 34:5-8:

Will Jewish Democrats Sink the Iran Deal?

 

shutterstock_197638877“Seven Jewish Lawmakers Could Tilt the Scales on Iran Deal,” headlines The Times of Israel. The members — Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Steven Israel, Rep. Eliot Engel, Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Nita Lowey, Sen. Ben Cardin, and Rep. Ted Deutch – are all Democrats. They must choose between loyalty to their party’s president, and concern about what the deal portends for Israeli and American security.

There are long and short answers to the question: “Why are Jews liberal?” The long answer traces back to the Enlightenment in Europe when parties of the right were monarchist and anti-Semitic, while parties of the left favored pluralism and religious freedom. I don’t buy the long argument. Tsar Alexander III, who instigated pogroms against the Jews, is long dead. So is Napoleon, who liberated them. In the meantime, Jews have suffered under communists, who proved just as cruel as the monarchists.

Jewish liberals often explain that their views spring from Jewish tradition, which admonishes the Jewish people to engage in “tikkun olam” or “healing the world.” I’m skeptical. Tikkun Olam is traditionally understood as adhering faithfully to the commandments (keeping kosher, visiting the sick, and observing the Sabbath, for example), the better to prepare the world for the messianic age. Many of those who brandish the Hebrew phrase today have commandeered it to bolster support for same sex marriage, government-run health care, and the rest of the progressive agenda — an interpretation that would, to quote the immortal words of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, “cross a rabbi’s eyes.”

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Do you know how, after going to a funeral, life seems that much sweeter? We often step away and resume our daily lives with renewed vigor and a focus on what really matters. In the back of our minds, we are often thinking about our own funerals, and what we will leave behind when we […]

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Political Intermarriage: Spice of Life or Recipe for Disaster?

 

donkey-elephant“Reagan conservative and Torah Jew.”

That’s what it said on my dating profile, right at the very top. Not to be cute — well, perhaps a little — but mainly because these are the two basic things in my life that everything else is derived from.

Unsurprisingly, I got a lot of feedback on that profile. I mean lengthy, angry notes asking How could I claim to be looking for love just to exclude such a large portion of the population? and What do politics have to do with love and affection?

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I am thrilled!!!! The official distributor’s website is here. The author’s website (where you can get autographed versions) is here, and it includes excerpts that you can read to decide whether you want to read more or not. It should be on Amazon (both Kindle and hard formats) within a week or two. Preview Open

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