Fear and trembling. Those have been our primary religious emotions during the past several weeks...
It is a question which I learned never to ask. I first learned this lesson in my training as a psychotherapist, long ago. I was seeing a gentleman for a number of problems, including his marital difficulties.
It was the first time that I announced a contest from the pulpit. It felt like a risky thing to do, and probably was. But it worked, and I tried it several times over the ensuing years.
Ethics is a subject about which we all have many questions. What makes an ethical personality? How do we make ethical decisions in complicated circumstances?
It is an experience common to all freshmen. One comes to a new campus, knows no one, and tries to orient himself by identifying the senior students who seem to have prestige. Then, he tries to connect with these campus big shots.
It is an old word, and it describes a behavior that has been around since the very beginning of history. Yet the word seems to me to be used more and more frequently these days, and the behavior it describes has gotten out of control.
Jewish people teach Jewish values to their children, and to all who wish to be informed about their faith. If one is asked “Should I or should I not?” we generally respond with clear and certain advice: “Yes, you should”, if the value is a positive one, or “No, you should not”, when the value in question demands inaction.
Very often, we think that if a person is especially spiritual, he cannot possibly be very practical. It is as if religious devotion and good common sense just don’t go together.
This lecture was perhaps the first delivered in the United States to present the findings of this group about the discovery, or perhaps more aptly, the recovery, of the authentic tekhelet, the blue dye which was used extensively in ancient times by royalty and, more importantly, from our Jewish perspective, to color some of the fringes of the tzitzit.
I no longer remember which Israeli artist colony I was visiting. Perhaps Jaffa. But I will never forget the crude, almost primitive paintings, which were on exhibit. They were all very different in color, style, and size. But in every painting, a candle predominated.
We are all full of contradictions. There is a part of us which is noble, kind and generous. But there is another part that is selfish and stingy, and which can even be cruel.
Although the rest of the world refers to the Five Books of Moses as the Pentateuch, traditional Jews refer to it as the Chumash, stressing that it is comprised of five very different sections. The themes of each book differ fundamentally from each other.
The custom is fairly prevalent nowadays, but it was not a common practice thirty years ago when my friend raised his sons. He would seek out especially pious rabbis, generally quite elderly ones, to request that they bless his children.
He never returned phone calls. He certainly never returned e-mails. He rarely smiled.
“No man is an island.” “It takes a village.” These are just some of the clichés that are used to convey the importance of social groups, of the realization that people cannot “go at it alone”.
I remember well when the age at which one could vote or drink was 21. From my perspective when I was a child, and frankly eager to do these things, it seemed to be an injustice to set the age bar so high. Twenty-one seemed a long way off.
We live in a world of cell phones and e-mails, blogs, Facebook and Twitter. We have no privacy, for almost anyone can reach us wherever we are, whatever we happen to be doing, at all times of the day. And we can have no secrets, because anyone who knows anything about us can spread it to the entire world in a matter of seconds.
You have surely noticed the great changes in the way charitable causes do their fundraising these days. There was a time when fundraisers, who often were themselves dignified and prestigious rabbinical figures, knocked on the doors of potential philanthropists in the hope that they would not be turned away.
It was over 40 years ago, but I remember the feelings very well. They were overwhelming, and were not dispelled easily.