Jewish Journal

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila

  • Yitzhak Navon, 5th President of the State of Israel,  dies at 94

    3 weeks ago

    The Honorable Yitzhak Navon, 5th President of the State of Israel, Distinguished Chief of Staff of David Ben Gurion, Member of Knesset, Minister of Education, Author, Diplomat and outstanding representative of Classical Sephardic Judaism died on Nov.  7 at his home in Jerusalem. He...

  • Torah portion: Abraham—a magnetic leader

    October 21, 2015 | 11:13 am

    While waiting in line at a Los Angeles International Airport gift shop last week, I noticed a colorful display of magnets. One in particular caught my eye. In attractive red, yellow, green and purple fonts, it read: “RISK more than others think is safe, CARE more than others think...

  • Tonight, we do not study Torah: Parashat Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22)

    July 24, 2015 | 3:46 pm

    For many years, Tisha b’Av was off the radar of the national Israeli narrative. Many Israelis viewed the ancient day of fast as an antiquated observance lacking contemporary relevance. Some argued that Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron are the “new Israeli Tisha b’Av,” and — especially...

  • Jews Criticizing Israel

    June 12, 2015 | 2:36 pm

  • Passover: A lesson in political science

    March 25, 2015 | 11:00 am

    Decades ago, before the creation of the State of Israel, David Ben-Gurion gave a brief lesson in Jewish history: 

    “Three hundred years, ago a ship called the Mayflower set sail to the New World. This was a great event in the history of England. Yet I wonder if there is one...

  • Bibi, Obama and Shabbat Zachor

    February 27, 2015 | 5:56 am

  • When Rabbis Engage in Fraud and Bribery…

    February 12, 2015 | 5:39 pm

  • Sephardic Mini Course

    January 20, 2015 | 5:40 pm

  • Torah portion: Father and son

    December 10, 2014 | 1:56 pm

    Communication between Jacob and Joseph was sparse, and the dynamic between them was less than exemplary. The first time we hear Joseph speaking to his father, he is gossiping about his brothers. Jacob does not respond. Instead we are told, “He loved Joseph more than all his...

  • Terror, BDS & the “Isaac Factor”

    November 20, 2014 | 2:44 pm

  • Torah portion: Challenging God

    September 10, 2014 | 11:34 am

    Does the classic Jewish tradition allow room for challenging God? Our prayers constantly praise and bless God, but are there any sections of our liturgy that formally level an open challenge to God? 

    In one of Judaism’s earliest prayers — the “tithe declaration” — we find an...

  • The Son of Hamas vs. The Sword of Islam

    August 22, 2014 | 3:24 pm

  • José Nessim, Sephardic Jewish Leader; 91

    August 20, 2014 | 10:00 am

    Dr. José Nessim, a beloved family man, respected physician and transformative Jewish leader, died peacefully in his home on Shabbat, July 26, surrounded by his loving family, at the age of 91.

    Born in Asuncion, Paraguay, on Oct. 28, 1922, the young Nessim came to the United...

  • Why We’re Not Going to Paris

    July 25, 2014 | 5:45 pm

  • Anxiety, hope, unity, grief, outrage, fear, trauma, uncertainty …

    July 16, 2014 | 3:29 pm

    I landed in Israel just a few days after the abduction of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach. I had been here two weeks earlier, in an Israel that was celebrating Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Euroleague Basketball Championship. I spent quality time with my son Ilan and his...

  • Torah portion: Light at the end of the tunnel

    July 16, 2014 | 9:19 am

    The Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” Many would argue that the Bible is the Jewish people’s ultimate artistic masterpiece. If that’s the case, then Jewish history has been one long journey of “life imitating art,” and both...

  • Strength in unity

    May 14, 2014 | 10:09 am

    Toward the end of his life, Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel, Israel’s first Sephardic chief rabbi, composed his last will and testament to the Jewish people. In what is now considered a classic spiritual document and taught in schools throughout Israel, the theme of Rabbi Uziel’s...

  • Mimouna: In my mind I’ve gone to Marrakech

    April 18, 2014 | 10:26 am

    Tirbah u’tissad — may you prosper and succeed. This Judeo-Arabic blessing is the manner in which North African Jews greet one another just moments after Passover formally ends, on the night we call “Mimouna.”

    For many Jews, the night Passover ends is typically the night to turn...

  • Purim: There’s something about Esther

    March 12, 2014 | 11:45 am

    If I were assigned the task of writing a biblical-style script for a play or a movie, the Book of Esther is the last place I would turn for inspiration. The word “biblical” conjures up images of God, prophets, dreams, visions and supernatural miracles — all of which are strikingly...

  • Torah portion: Bridging Judaism’s generation gap

    February 26, 2014 | 2:43 pm

    How do we preserve tradition while simultaneously introducing new ideas? Can worldviews from the past coexist with those of the new generation? From Shabbat tables and Passover seders to public forums and debates, we find an ever-widening generation gap in the Jewish world on...

  • Hanukkah in the White House

    December 5, 2013 | 9:06 am

  • Thanksgivukkah, Emma Lazarus & the Maccabees: Embracing our dual identity

    November 27, 2013 | 12:09 pm

    There is something much deeper to “Thanksgivukkah” than sweet potato latkes. It is an opportunity to celebrate the blessing of our dual identity as Americans and Jews.

    In 1883, the Jewish-Sephardic-American poet Emma Lazarus was invited to write a poem for a literary auction...

  • The long and winding road: Parashat Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1–17:27)

    October 9, 2013 | 3:24 pm

    The day God pronounced two simple words — lech lecha — Abraham and Sarah’s lives changed forever. God instructs Abraham to leave his homeland, his birthplace and his father’s home, “to the land that I will show you, and there I will make of you a great nation” (Genesis 12:1-2)....

  • Sukkot: Life Beyond the Newest iPhone

    September 17, 2013 | 9:43 pm

  • Spiritual dispatches: Yom Kippur

    September 11, 2013 | 2:45 pm

    “This is Kol Yisrael from Jerusalem, Reshet Aleph and Reshet Bet. Shalom and Gmar Hatimah Tovah. It’s 3 p.m. An official IDF [Israel Defense Forces] spokesman reports that at approximately 2 p.m. today, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched attacks in the Sinai and in the Golan...

  • Rav Uziel: A Modern Sephardic Visionary

    August 29, 2013 | 6:02 pm

  • Sephardic Blessings

    August 22, 2013 | 4:49 pm

  • Women of the Word

    June 27, 2013 | 8:17 am

  • Women of the word: Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

    June 26, 2013 | 6:05 pm

    On a recent trip to New York, I spent Shabbat morning at The Jewish Center in Manhattan, a vibrant Modern Orthodox community. As services came to a close, the 500 congregants did not make the typical mad rush for the door. Instead, everyone remained seated, anxiously waiting to...

  • An Old-New Way of Looking at Judaism

    June 17, 2013 | 4:48 pm

  • About

    June 12, 2013 | 4:46 pm

  • A Sephardic S.Y. Agnon

    April 18, 2013 | 10:50 am

    In current discourses on modern Israeli literature, the names Oz, Yehoshua and Grossman typically dominate the discussion. But how often do we hear the name Haim Sabato? Who is Sabato, and why is his writing often compared to Nobel Prize-winning Israeli author S.Y. Agnon?

    When I...

  • Power of ten

    January 30, 2013 | 3:55 pm

    Sometime during the 13th century, in a private study in Barcelona, an anonymous author sat and composed “Sefer HaChinuch” (“The Book of Education”). This systematic study of the Torah’s 613 commandments was beautifully written as a gift from a father to his son. In his...

  • Rabbi Uziel’s overture to Muslim leaders

    November 15, 2012 | 8:19 pm

    During our Sephardic Film Festival this past week, we screened a film telling the intriguing and inspirational life story of Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel, the first Sephardic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel. Rabbi Uziel’s motto was “Loving Truth and Peace.” We also screened a...

  • Why Abraham?

    November 1, 2012 | 3:44 pm

    He had only God’s endorsement. Otherwise, this newly chosen leader of the world was a virtual unknown. He didn’t campaign for very long; he suddenly appeared on the scene, going on to change the world.

    Who was Abraham, and why was he chosen? What was the purpose behind choosing...

  • Call to war

    June 6, 2012 | 2:11 pm

    There are powerful moments when life’s experiences bring deeper meaning to the Torah and her classic commentators.

    It was Shabbat, June 5, 1982.

    I was nearing the end of my first year abroad in Israel, and I spent that Shabbat in Haifa with my family. A few days earlier, on June...

  • Lost in translation

    April 4, 2012 | 1:38 pm

    “Our Passover seder is translated into Arabic,” I used to tell my friends in school. “Arabic?” they responded in bewilderment. “That’s so weird! How could you translate a seder into Arabic? Isn’t Arabic the language of the enemy?”

    Growing up in a French-speaking...

  • Hillel’s voice is back, and she sounds great!

    February 3, 2012 | 6:08 pm

    This week I write to you from Jerusalem, inspired by the headline story from this past Tuesday ‘s Ha’aretz. On the first morning of my trip, here is the headline I woke up to: “New Orthodox Rabbinical Group Puts Israeli Women at Its Head – Hopes to Counter Creeping Religious...

  • Celebrating Gilad: The most joyous Sukkot of our lives

    October 19, 2011 | 6:00 pm

    When my wife Peni and I decided to take our kids to Israel for Sukkot, we knew that we would have a great time. We knew that Sukkot, referred to in our prayers as “Zman Simchateinu” (“Our time to rejoice”) would especially be celebratory in Israel. But we never could have...

  • A Beatles Passover

    April 14, 2011 | 8:06 pm

    Last night my family and I went out with some friends to the Pantages Theatre, where we took a musical journey back in time. For over two hours, the Broadway production of “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles” took us through the tumultuous 1960’s and the great Beatles songs that...

  • Yom Kippur: The power of dialogue

    September 14, 2010 | 6:21 pm

    Thirty-nine years ago, Dov Indig, a young soldier in the Israel Defense Force tank corps, sat on guard duty in the Golan Heights. Joining him was a reserve soldier, many years older than Dov. During their four hours of guard duty, they engaged in a deep conversation about religion....

  • True Ten

    February 2, 2010 | 7:26 pm

    How many commandments are there in the Torah? To most people the answer is simple: 10.

    True, there are those who know the Torah contains 613 commandments, but the majority of people believe that there are only “The Ten Commandments.” For them, the 613 figure comes as a shock....

  • Sukkot with Ambassador Michael Oren

    October 12, 2009 | 3:35 pm

    Last week, I came very close to witnessing the Prophet Zechariah’s vision of many nations gathering together in Jerusalem to worship God on Sukkot. I was actually not in Jerusalem, but if the Israeli Ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC, is considered Israeli soil, then I...

  • What Are You Learning?

    October 6, 2009 | 9:39 pm

    Nine years ago, while attending the United Jewish Communities’ General Assembly (GA) in Chicago, I had the privilege and pleasure of hearing Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herman Wouk — known for bestsellers like “The Caine Mutiny,” “Marjorie Morningstar,” and “The Winds...

  • Give Shalom a Chance

    June 3, 2009 | 2:55 pm

    Someone would probably be labeled a hippie if he or she were to use the English word “peace” as a greeting or an expression when parting. Yet in Hebrew, the standard “hello” or “goodbye” is shalom (peace), and the word carries no modern cultural or political connotation. ...

  • Life and Times of Amos Oz Traced in New Anthology

    April 29, 2009 | 5:27 pm

    “We must keep in touch,” Amos Oz said during my first meeting with him three years ago.

    “With great pleasure,” I answered, proceeding to ask him today’s natural follow-up question: “What is your e-mail address?”

    He looked at me with his charming smile and responded:...

  • Pick Up the Pieces

    March 11, 2009 | 2:23 am

    The “Tablets of Testimony,” the stone tablets upon which God inscribed the Ten Commandments, have a powerful and deeply symbolic story to tell. Beyond the words inscribed by God, the journey of these stone tablets reveals an important lesson in life.

    A mere 40 days after hearing...

  • Quality of Life

    December 31, 2008 | 12:50 am

    It was a very brief meeting, and a seemingly peculiar exchange of words. For the first time, the head of the Israelite household -- Jacob -- meets Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.

    The only thing they shared in common was Joseph.

    To Jacob, Joseph was his son, and to Pharaoh, Joseph was...

  • Sit, eat, stay a little while in the sukkah

    October 15, 2008 | 11:08 pm

    We begin with a basic Hebrew language lesson.

    The blessing recited in the Sukkah -- "... le-shev ba-sukkah" -- does not mean "to sit in the sukkah." One of the most common mistakes on Sukkot happens when people enter a sukkah, stand during Kiddush and, immediately after pronouncing...

  • Which do you choose—blessings or curses?

    September 17, 2008 | 10:18 pm

    As we journey through the month of Elul, it is customary to comment on the weekly Torah portions in light of the upcoming Days of Awe. Parshat Ki Tavo is read a few weeks before Rosh Hashanah, and its overriding theme is one that we encounter several times during the High Holy...
  • The voice of wisdom

    July 3, 2008 | 11:29 am

    Just like that, she was gone.

    With no forewarning, Parashat Chukat tells us "Miriam died there and was buried there" (Numbers 20:1). "She died with a Divine kiss," the Talmud says, and with that one kiss, the sole female voice in the Israelite camp was gone.

    Who was Miriam? She is...

  • Shavuot 5768: Multitude of views from majestic Mount Sinai

    June 5, 2008 | 2:30 pm

    "Present at Sinai: The Giving of the Law" by S.Y. Agnon, translated by Michael Swirsky (Jewish Publication Society, 1994). Originally published in Hebrew as "Atem Re'item" by Schocken Books in Hebrew in 1959.

    What will you study the night of Shavuot? How about immersing yourself in...

  • Had Gadya —according to S.Y. Agnon

    April 17, 2008 | 6:00 pm

    Both the composition and inclusion of "Had Gadya" into the Passover haggadah are shrouded in mystery.

    This popular Aramaic song, chanted at the end of the seder purportedly to keep the children awake, is dated no earlier than the 15th century. Composed of 10 stanzas, "Had Gadya"...

  • A Building of Wisdom

    February 28, 2008 | 5:00 pm

    How do we build a House of God? How do we achieve the spiritual mandate that God placed upon the community when asking of them to build the Mishkan, the dwelling place of God? Anybody who serves a community as its spiritual leader understands that the nature of my question has little...
  • Law and Order

    January 31, 2008 | 7:00 pm

    In his magnum opus on the history and development of Jewish civil law, "Ha-Mishpat Ha-Ivri" ("Jewish Law"), Israeli Supreme Court Justice Menachem Elon remarks that basing a viable modern legal system on Jewish Law is no easy task -- "it calls for great intellectual effort,...
  • Stuck in the middle

    November 8, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    My name is Isaac. You think you know me, but you really don't. I am stuck in between two generations, constantly overshadowed by my father, Abraham, and my son, Jacob. If you ask anyone to name the nation that eventually came from my family, they either refer to them as "the...
  • Agnon puts ‘awe’ in services with inspiring anthology

    September 13, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    "Days of Awe: A Treasury of Jewish Wisdom for Reflection, Repentance, and Renewal on the High Holy Days" by S.Y. Agnon, (Schocken Books, 1995).

    Is literature penned by a Nobel Prize-winning author appropriate reading material during High Holy Days services?

    I am not sure how your...

  • The IDF and Civilians:  A Personal Account

    July 27, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    To all those who feel that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers have no regard for civilians, and that they "do what they need to do" without regard for potential civilian casualties, I offer no opinions on this matter.

    Instead, I offer this personal experience for your...

  • Israel Wins More Than Hoop Crown

    May 12, 2005 | 8:00 pm


    Everybody wanted to be in Moscow this past weekend. Leaders from all over the world flew in to partake in history: President George W. Bush, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder all made it, as did President Moshe Katzav of Israel.

    But as the...

  • The Blessing of Bibhilu

    April 21, 2005 | 8:00 pm


    A book's opening chapter is crucial to setting the mood and aura for the remainder of the book's journey. Likewise, the opening scene of a film usually helps set the tone for what will ensue.

    The Passover seder is both a reader's experience and a moviegoer's. We sit around the...

  • Settling the Land

    July 24, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    My first trip to Israel was a six-week summer program for high school students. I have very clear memories of my first Shabbat in Jerusalem, especially the afternoon program conducted by our counselors. The program was a mock talk show where the host would interview three...

  • Learning Together

    June 5, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    In the fall of 1989, I began the process of pursuing rabbinical ordination. Although I would eventually be ordained at Yeshiva University in New York, I did commence my studies as a Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) student, opting to do my first year at the University of Judaism...

  • Poverty in Israel

    April 10, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    The back cover of the April 7 Jerusalem Report magazine depicts an Israeli child trying to spell the word "poverty" on a blackboard.

    The child spells the word "p-o-v-e-r-t-i" and the ad (run by the Women's International Zionist Organization) reads: "He doesn't know how to spell it,...

  • Look to Leviticus

    March 20, 2003 | 7:00 pm

    Every good Hebrew school and day school principal is always seeking to improve and update the curriculum in their school, especially when it comes to the instruction of Bible. The questions that usually come up in Bible curriculum meetings are: where do we begin, what teaching...

  • Our Eternal Light

    February 13, 2003 | 7:00 pm

    In every generation, there is one special individual whose life and deeds are a living, shining reflection of the Torah's commandment to "bring clear illuminating olive oil to keep the lamp constantly burning." This generation's ner tamid (eternal light) is Col. Ilan Ramon, z"l. My...

  • Moses: No Orator

    January 2, 2003 | 7:00 pm

    The art of public speaking is a special gift. In the anthology "Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History" (Norton & Co., 1997), New York Times columnist William Safire collects 200 of history's outstanding instances of oratorical eloquence.

    He divides this compendium of great...

  • Rabin’s Funeral

    October 31, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    Given the atmosphere in the Middle East today, it is hard to believe that just seven years ago, on Nov. 6, 1995, a Jewish funeral took place where the deceased was surrounded and eulogized by Jews and Arabs. Yes, this week marks the seventh anniversary of Israeli Prime Minister...

  • The Sword of Islam

    August 1, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    Ever since Sept. 11, the term "jihad" has become part of America's vocabulary. So, too, have the adjectives "Militant Islam" and "Islamic Fundamentalism" become common parlance on America's talk shows and in daily conversations on the American street. To most Americans, these are all...

  • Purity of Weapons

    April 25, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    I will never forget July 12, 1984. That was my first day on the Ketziot basic training base, my new "home" as an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier in the Givati Infantry Brigade. One by one we were issued what was then the standard IDF infantry weapon, the Israeli-made Galil...

  • Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

    January 17, 2002 | 7:00 pm

    Although it might seem a little early for Passover discussions, Jewish law does mandate that one should begin studying the Passover laws and details at least 30 days before the actual holiday. This is probably because no holiday requires more detailed preparation than Passover. Most...

  • Who Wrote the Bible?

    October 11, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    So many people seem to be concerned with the question, "Who wrote the Bible?"

    It reminds me of a story that a professor from the University of Judaism once told me. He was discussing a movie that he had recently seen, and he asked his students what they thought of this particular...

  • Deja vu

    September 13, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    September 11, 2001.

    This morning, America woke up to the same nightmare that my parents did on February 6, 1985. On that morning, my parents in Los Angeles heard the news that a suicide bomber had attacked an Israel Defense Forces convoy in Southern Lebanon. Reports of casualties...

  • Extremist Danger

    July 5, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    While leading a tour of Israel for a group of college kids in the summer of 1995, I read a newspaper headline that described a newly issued halachic ruling by 15 rabbis -- with former Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira at their helm: "The evacuation of West Bank IDF military bases poses a...

  • Exodus: A Sephardic Response

    May 31, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    As a Sephardic Jew representing a heritage of tolerance, intellectual honesty and tradition, my perspective on the recent "Exodus controversy" -- which is not rooted in anger, name-calling or popular "marketplace theologies" which have characterized certain responses in this city --...

  • Fair Weight

    May 3, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    Honesty, morality and ethical behavior -- these are the calling cards of Leviticus, and they are the centerpieces of Jewish behavior and identity. Amongst the mitzvot enumerated in Leviticus 19 (known by some scholars as the "Holiness Code") are respect for parents, charity for the...

  • Joseph in the White House

    December 28, 2000 | 7:00 pm

    No, I am not demanding a recount, nor am I calling on the Supreme Court to hear the case one more time. The election is over and hopefully behind us. George W. Bush will be our next president, and the vice-president's name is not Joseph. There will be no minyan in the White House,...

  • In The Beginning, There Was Zionism

    October 26, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    Zionism. Remember that term? We don't hear it too often anymore. Many Jews seem uncomfortable with the term Zionism, saying it's "too strong" or it "breeds nationalism." Some of Israel's leading historians have gone as far as declaring this current period in Israel's history as the...

  • Thank Goodness for the Basics

    August 17, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    Dr. Norman Lamm, the president of New York's Yeshiva University, once told me of a professor he knows in Israel who does not consider himself an observant Jew but who insists that his children maintain one halachic practice at home: "Birkat HaMazon" (the grace after meals). Lamm...

  • A Scholar Who Lacks Sense

    August 10, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    In Hebrew, a "scholar who lacks sense" reads as talmid chacham b'li sechel. In any language, it sounds like an oxymoron. I first heard this in reference to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the former chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel, who this week called Holocaust victims "reincarnated sinners,"...