Jewish Journal

Rabbi Haim Ovadia

  • Sustainable Judaism

    January 25, 2011 | 5:55 pm

    We are told that Pharaoh was punished harshly for enslaving the Israelites. But why does the Torah sanction slavery? And how am I supposed to respect the weaker strata of society — such as the converts, the sojourners, the widows and orphans — if I allow myself to enslave another...

  • Epitome of Truth

    November 3, 2010 | 12:21 pm

    The ancient Romans were known for their wild and weird rituals, but one of them, recorded in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 11b), is of special interest to us. It is said that once every 70 years, Romans would have a healthy man, wearing the legendary garments of Adam, ride on the back of...

  • The Rabbis' Priestly Robes

    March 9, 2010 | 4:24 pm

    “Of the blue, purple and crimson yarns they also made the service vestments for officiating in the sanctuary ... they hammered out sheets of gold and cut threads to
    be worked into design among the blue, the purple and the crimson yarns and the fine linen.” (Exodus 39:1-3).


  • Women of Justice

    January 6, 2010 | 12:27 am

    The Exodus was made possible because of the merits of the righteous women, say our sages. Some interpret this statement as a patronizing approach to women in the spirit of the famous dictum: Behind every great man there is a great woman. But this relegates women to the sidelines and...

  • Listen, Will You?

    November 24, 2009 | 7:09 pm

    You are driving, looking for an address, when your wife tells you to ask someone. You refuse, but you finally make it to your destination — two hours late. Are you familiar with this scenario?

    When it happened to me, we were going to our first Shabbaton in Pennsylvania, got lost...

  • Heaven and Earth

    September 23, 2009 | 7:23 pm

    “April is the cruelest month, breeding

    Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

    Memory and desire, stirring

    Dull roots with spring rains.”
    — “Wasteland,” by T.S. Eliot

    Maybe it is the unforgettable image of Charlton Heston as Moshe in “The Ten Commandments,” coming down...

  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T

    May 20, 2009 | 4:45 pm

    Numbers, this is the English name of the Book of Bemidbar. Whoever chose the name must have been overwhelmed by the meticulous descriptions of the multiple censuses of the Israelites, the Levites and the firstborn. Then we have the manual of camping, building the Tabernacle, taking...

  • OCDism

    February 25, 2009 | 3:02 pm

    I recently read a book about a great rabbi who, according to the author, exemplified in his behavior the rule that one should always be concerned with whether he performed mitzvot properly. The rabbi would constantly check himself to make sure that he had not made a mistake and that...

  • Listen, will you?

    December 3, 2008 | 9:29 pm

    You are driving, looking for an address, when your wife tells you to ask someone. You refuse, but you finally make it to your destination -- two hours late. Are you familiar with this scenario?

    When it happened to me, we were going to our first Shabbaton in Pennsylvania, got lost...

  • Just Injustice

    September 11, 2008 | 12:33 am

    As we draw nearer to the High Holy Days and lists of classes, seminars and workshops pop up on synagogues' bulletins and Web sites, a saying of a very wise man comes to mind. He said that it is easier to study Talmud for 70 consecutive years than to change one character trait. In...
  • Rare Quality

    June 26, 2008 | 11:30 am

    Being one of the top international best sellers of all time is not an easy spot to maintain, taking into account changing cultures, societies and times. But the Bible possesses this rare quality, which has enabled generation after generation of readers to identify with its heroes and...
  • Rekindling the Fire

    March 27, 2008 | 6:00 pm

    One of the events that undoubtedly shocked and reshaped Judaism was the destruction of the Second Temple almost 2,000 years ago. For nearly 300 years following that calamitous event, the Jews still entertained hopes of rebuilding it -- hopes that were translated into two...
  • It’s time to (re)open dialogue with Islam

    January 10, 2008 | 7:00 pm

    I am a Jew of Islam. Not an Arab Jew, mind you, since that term makes as much sense as Slavic or Baltic or Arian Jew, but a Jew of Islam. It is not only because in my family's veins runs the blood of people who lived in Iraq, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey, nor because among my...
  • Internalizing the concept of history

    January 3, 2008 | 7:00 pm

    If you were paying attention during Genesis, the opening statement of this week's parsha may be perplexing: "And God (Elohim) spoke to Moses and told him: I am Adonai, I have appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make myself known to them by my name...
  • Troublesome numbers

    November 1, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    The most fascinating, intriguing and philosophically engaging book of the Tanakh (if we are allowed to indulge in ratings) is undoubtedly the first one -- Bereshit, or Genesis. It tackles questions of creation and destiny, society and government, as well as the different facets of...
  • In the Name of God?

    June 28, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    "Oh God, open all doors for me. Oh God, who answers prayers and answers those who ask you, I am asking you for your help. I am asking you for forgiveness. I am asking you to lighten my way. I am asking you to lift the burden I feel....

    God, I trust in you. God, I lay myself in your...
  • Just Sing a Song

    February 1, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    "They're Playing Our Song!" is more than just a Broadway musical by Neil Simon. It's a phrase that captures the enchanting power of music.

    Hearing a familiar tune carries us back in time to a special moment, to our childhood realms and to the innermost chambers of our heart. Jewish...

  • Letters to Mom

    November 2, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    Dear Mother,

    Here we are again on the plains of Bethel. We're in the 10th month of our 10th year in Canaan. Sorry I haven't written. There were so many things happening, but none of them so important to justify my negligence. The famine, Pharaoh, Avimelech, the war -- they all...
  • The Key Is Rejoicing

    August 17, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    A story is told about a Chasidic rabbi visited by an enthusiastic follower. The man eagerly wanted to update the rabbi on his latest religious undertaking.

    "I have decided to inflict my body and deprive myself from mundane pleasures," the man said. "Every day I roll in the snow...

  • Seven-Year Switch

    May 18, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    We want to have everything, and we want it better, bigger and more spectacular than everyone else. Gas-guzzlers roam the roads, and our oil dependency forces us to redefine values and ideals, like democracy and freedom. In Las Vegas and Palm Springs, we must have lusciously green...

  • Remember Sinai?

    February 16, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    Immediately following the Ten Commandments, we read a series of instructions that seem a little out of place: You shall not make gods of silver alongside me, nor shall you make yourselves gods of gold. You need make for me only an earthen altar and bring your sacrifices there, and I...

  • You Rule

    November 17, 2005 | 7:00 pm

    "While all other sciences have advanced, government is at a standstill -- little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago." -- John Adams

    If the art of government had improved, then war, disease and poverty inflicted by the tyranny and selfishness of man, as well...

  • Bird’s-Eye View

    April 14, 2005 | 8:00 pm


    One day, Rabbi Shimon Ben Elazar was riding his donkey along the coastal road. He was enjoying the beautiful scenery and reviewing in his mind the wonderful study session he had with his rabbi at Migdal Eder, when he encountered a man who was extremely ugly.

    "How ugly you are,"...

  • Divine Protection

    January 13, 2005 | 7:00 pm


    As the train pulled into the Iraqi border police station, the lanky Jewish boy at the window became more and more nervous. The bulging

    package under his robes felt heavy like lead. As the train came to a full stop and the passengers were ordered to line up on the platform, he...

  • Biblical Logotherapy

    June 24, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    This week's Torah portion discusses one of the most bizarre and indecipherable rituals in the Torah: parah aduma, which is the ritual of purifying a person who has come into contact with a dead body. During the ritual of parah aduma, the Kohen slaughters a red cow that has never born...

  • Monsieur Le Peh Ra

    April 22, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    This is the story of Peh Ra. All his life, Peh Ra felt like a cattle owner, walking among his animals and marking them with a red-hot branding iron. Peh Ra had a nice collection of branding irons. Some people he branded "losers," others were marked "nerds" or "geeks" and, of course,...

  • Cherish and Respect

    February 12, 2004 | 7:00 pm

    The Ten Commandments are one of the most fascinating documents in the history of mankind. Hundreds of books and thousands of articles and commentaries were written around them. They decorate, in different forms and media, almost every synagogue and public Jewish facility, and...

  • A Question of Perspective

    December 11, 2003 | 7:00 pm

    We are all familiar with Jacob, the refugee who returns to his homeland to the dreaded encounter with his vengeful brother Esau. I believe most of us read the story through Jacob's eyes, but is it the only way? What if it were possible to unearth these biblical heroes' diaries? What...