Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2009

Crosses at the Wall

There is yet another controversy brewing in the city and country seemingly filled with controversies. The pope is planning a visit to the State of Israel. The rabbi (Shmuel Rabinovitch) in charge of the Western Wall has ruled that Pope Benedict should not wear his cross when visiting this Jewish holy site. This is absurd. How is it that the pope's beliefs impinge on my beliefs or his practices on the sanctity of my holy place? Let the pope come to our Western Wall and offer a prayer. Let him pray to God as he as always done. Let him wear what he always wears. It does not lessen my faith. We will be doing more to honor the history of hatred and enmity between us by allowing him to be an authentic representative of his Christian faith than by asking him to hide his cross. I remember the previous Pope Paul's words at the Wall, said some nine years ago this month: "God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring Your name to the nations: we are deeply sadden

Headwinds and Tailwinds

I have been thinking about the economy and our current crisis. I have this sense that we will be writing history in 2009. Everything is going to be rewritten. How businesses are run and how their employees (and executives) are paid. How charities are supported. How synagogues function. Much has been said about the making of history. And now we are really in the thick of it. History is hanging over our heads. For this reason I am pulled to the first century. I know that how I practice my Judaism was written during those years. I understand that the rabbis then made historic choices. They chose the Torah over the Temple--after the catastrophe of 70 C.E. when the Temple was destroyed. They chose relevance over irrelevance. The rabbis seized history over the Sadducees and Zealots. I know I am simplifying their struggles but how many Sadducees are still quoted in Jewish circles? I can only imagine the fear that gripped our people during those days. I can only imagine how afraid they were of

Israel's Army

This morning's New York Times has an excellent, albeit unflattering, article about Israel and its army. My teacher Moshe Halbertal , with whom I study every summer at the Shalom Hartman Institute, is quoted at length. Moshe helped to rewrite the IDF's code of ethics and helps to teach in the Institute's officer training course. The goal of his teaching, as I see it, is to place modern, humanistic values within the language of Jewish tradition and texts. That of course is simplifying the enterprise for his project is no small job and no small matter for Israeli society. How can Israel remain a modern, democratic state, infused with Jewish language and discourse, while fighting enemies bent on its destruction? Do our enemies every forfeit their right to humanity? When does our love for the land of Israel become an intoxication that overshadows all other values and commitments? When does our love of the Bible and our enthrallment with its words overwhelm our devotion

Madoff Again

Last week Bernie Madoff finally went to jail. But his punishment will never befit his crime. I remember reading that Elie Wiesel (who lost all of his personal money as well as his foundation's dollars) suggested that the only fitting punishment would be if in Madoff's cell there was a TV screen with a perpetual interview of his victims. 24 hours a day, every day of the year, Madoff would have to watch an endless loop of interviews. He would have to watch the tears of pain, the anger, the feelings of betrayal. That would be the only show he could ever watch, the only story he could ever read. To that end Vanity Fair's video produced by Stephen Wilkes is worth watching. The sad truth is that I doubt this would have any effect on Madoff's soul. He is no different from the pocket thief (except in terms of dollars) who hugs someone while reaching into his pocket to steal his wallet. He laughed and vacationed with people who called him friend and then stole from them. Madoff

Happy Purim!

Happy Purim! For more pictures from JCB's Purim celebration follow the link in the sidebar under My Pictures. Chag Purim Samayach--may it be a Purim filled with fun, laughter and joy.

Purim Def Poem

In honor of the upcoming holiday of Purim (beginning Monday, March 9) which celebrates, among many of its themes, Esther's growing awareness of her Jewish identity, I recommend watching the following Jewish Def Poem with Vanessa Hidary: The Hebrew Mamita . Even though this performance was recorded some years ago it is still a wonderful statement about the awakening of Jewish pride and consciousness. On Purim we remind ourselves that our people's survival is dependent on standing with Esther and declaring, as she did in the megillah, that our personal survival is intertwined with our people's.