Rabbi Daniel Gordis, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, caused a storm within the Jewish community a few weeks ago when he published a piece arguing that the connection by students at America’s liberal rabbinical schools — the future leaders of the Jewish communities of the Diaspora — toward Israel was weakening.
When it rains in the Middle East, it’s a pain – I got soaked walking to Mandel this morning – but everybody is happy about it because we need rain. One of the special things about the land of Israel is the fragile, quite direct connection between rainfall and the health of the land. Rain is seen as a divine blessing:
During the rabbinic debate over the Oven of Akhnai, Rabbi Eliezer and the rabbis disagree about the purity of an oven (Baba Metzia 58b-59a). Rabbi Eliezer is convinced he is right and, during the argument, miracles prove he is correct: a carob tree moves, a stream flows backward, the walls of the beit midrash tremble, and even a Bat Kol — a voice from heaven — cries out against the rabbis: “Why do you dispute with Rabbi Eliezer? In all matters, the halachah agrees with him.”
To many people I don’t look like a rabbi. One reason, I suspect, is that I’m athletic. I swam in the 1993 Maccabiah Games and am currently training for a triathlon.
During my first summer at Camp Ramah it became necessary to dismiss a camper. We sat on my porch together, and he started to shake and cry after I broke the news to him. He buried his face in his hands.
It is 38 degrees on a Monday night. Our family wakes up in a tent cabin in the high country of Tuolumne Meadows, ready for the beauty, and warmth, of the Yosemite Valley, where we have reservations Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night. But a wildfire has different ideas.
My wife met a pastor’s wife on a plane. Every few months now, we have Darren, an evangelical pastor, and his wife, Amy, over to our Shabbat lunch table.
How am I a man of faith? There are things I cannot believe, times when I cannot say with certainty that life, or even God, is good. But I return to God, sometimes in anger and depression, sometimes just tired, but I return and I pray.
Parshat Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27) Lech Lecha begins with God telling Abraham, "Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, from the house of your father to the land that I will show you."
Parshat Vayeilech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30) Didn't we just finish Pesach? How is Rosh Hashanah already here again? Another year has slipped away.
Parshat Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17) The parsha begins: "See [re'eh, singular] I place before you [lifnei'chem, plural] today blessing and curse". Why begin in the singular and finish in the plural?
Two years ago, Camp Ramah in California embarked upon a major solar energy project, effectively becoming the first Jewish overnight camp west of the Mississippi to adopt greener energy options. With the installation of a solar energy system atop the dining hall of our 75-acre Ojai campgrounds, Ramah has become a leader in the Jewish community when it comes to reducing environmental pollution and dependence on foreign oil. The system purchased by Ramah is designed to reduce toxic emissions by approximately 4.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide, 11,000 pounds of nitrous oxide and 35,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide over the life of the system.
My pre-camp seminar with 35 staff members from Israel had just wrapped up, but Avinoam, our 21-year-old Israeli basketball coach for the summer, lingered behind, looking nervous and shaken.
On Sukkot, the time tradition tells us is zman simchateinu, the season of our joy, we dwell in a fragile hut, open to the winds and rain and cold of the world, to remind ourselves that our joy is enriched, is deepened, when we glimpse, if only for a moment, how weak and fragile we are.
Scientists will tell you that the senses of smell and taste are most strongly associated with memory. I think eating resembles what learning the Passover story should be -- we allow something from outside of ourselves to enter us; we "digest it" and change it (it is we who must tell the story so that our children can hear it) and it changes us and nourishes us and stays with us forever.
On no holiday are we instructed to feel God's participation in our lives more palpably than on Pesach. The hagaddah teaches: "In every generation, each person must see himself as if he personally left Egypt."
"A man sat opposite me in my study one evening: 'Two weeks ago, for the first time in my life I went to the funeral of a man my own age.... He died suddenly over the weekend.... That was two weeks ago.
Jewish law requires that we publicize the miracle of Chanukah -- both when we light and where we light. We light the Chanukah candles after dark when they are most visible and we light in the early evening when most people are still out and about.
A few weeks ago, three students at Milken Community Jewish High School in Los Angeles were expelled for making a sexually explicit video of themselves that was eventually seen by members of the student community. Many parents and teachers in the Jewish community have expressed confusion at how educated Jewish students at a school like Milken did what they did.
But to think that what happened at Milken is isolated to the particulars of the parent-child relationships of the families involved is myopic -- and too easy. To be sure, such behavior is not widespread in our children's communities. But we can be relatively certain that for every incident brought to light, many more are hidden in the shadows.
It is easy to feel small. As you fall asleep one night, try to watch yourself in your mind's eye, your body growing quiet on your bed as your mind begins to wander. You are one person falling asleep in one room. Beyond you are two, five, 20 others in your home or apartment building or on your block. Imagine yourself rising, now hovering a thousand feet in the air and peering out across the lights of Los Angeles. There are almost 10 million people in Los Angeles County, each person unique. There are 260 million people in the United States, each with a story different than the other. Each soul has walked a journey unlike any other. Rising higher, you see the vastness of the United States below.
Enjoying my last few hours in Jerusalem a few weeks ago, I sat in Zion Square davka – just to spite those terrorists who have tried to drive people like me away from the center of Jerusalem.