Why is this book club different from all other book clubs? I know this phrase is out of season, but the strange confluence of holidays this year permits some flexibility.
“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the entire earth is filled with his glory” (Isaiah 6:30). If Isaiah is correct, with every step we take, with every breath we draw, we cannot help but encounter God’s glory. And yet who among us is constantly aware of this fact, this daily miracle?
In my last column, I suggested a number of reasons for the rise of Orthodox Judaism and the decline in membership among non-Orthodox denominations.
Wells, water, history and peace. Seems like as much as the world changes, advances and develops, some things remain intact, remain essential to our future. In the midst of this week’s parasha, Toldot, within the stories of familial strife among Isaac, Rebecca and their twin sons, Jacob and Esau, in between the pain, we have a scene that brings hope, if not for the immediate pain of the Torah’s story, then for the future, perhaps for us today.
As almost every Jew knows by now, according to major reports on American Jewry — such as the most recent and most highly regarded Pew report — Orthodoxy is growing, while Conservative and Reform Judaism are shrinking.
This week’s Torah portion begins: “YHVH appeared to Abraham as he was sitting at the entrance of the tent … looking up, he saw: behold, three men standing opposite him.
What’s considered “Jewish art” often includes a Marc Chagall print. Maybe some abstract metal sculptures resembling a menorah or Star of David. Or a painting of Orthodox Jewish men dancing with a Torah or playing klezmer music.
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). “Lech lecha,” go forth — and thus the long journey began.
Only a couple of weeks ago, we were all feeling the holiness of Yom Kippur. By the end of the day of fasting, beautiful music, insightful teachings and prayers that deepened our self-awareness, we were remembering the real priorities in life.
If you have family problems, there is a book that can provide a good deal of consolation. That book, you might be surprised to learn, is the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Torah.
When Allen Alevy was 12 years old, he was called to the Torah for the first time. Although he hadn’t yet had a bar mitzvah, his maternal grandfather’s Orthodox synagogue was one man shy of a minyan.
“But what are you chanting for?” the woman cutting my hair wanted to know. She didn’t mean the glory of God or even my own spiritual well-being. It turned out she had once belonged to a 1970s church that chanted for things like shoes and better jobs.
A Torah scroll that has been hidden in a Tuchow monastery since 1942 was returned to the synagogue in Dabrowa Tarnowska in southern Poland.
Outside of Baltimore, smooth country roads swept like rivers between banks of undulating forest. As my wife and I coasted past rolling hills of green, we had the impression of driving over waves. Red barns and silver silos stood watch atop billowing crests while small ponds and brooks swashed cheerily in the troughs below.
Here in Pico-Robertson, we’re bracing ourselves for the annual onslaught of kosher calories known as the Holy Month. Some people think that this time of year calls for only a few big meals. Not quite. If you’re a stickler for tradition, the actual number of Thanksgiving-level meals over the next month is closer to — I’m not kidding — about 18. And that’s not even counting the Yom Kippur pre-fast and break-the-fast meals.
The question “Where are you going for services?” is a mainstay among Jews around this time of year. Numerous congregations that ordinarily perform Shabbat services at their own locale often need to find larger, and more spacious, nontraditional venues — often churches, theaters or hotels — for the High Holy Days to accommodate the many who come only then to meet their spiritual needs.
As twilight approached on yet another gorgeous Southern California day, a cantor led a service bursting with guitar and dance. The room was packed with daveners, and kids circled a table, the youngest ones carrying Torah scrolls.
“When you enter the land that YHVH, your God, is giving you as a heritage …” (Deuteronomy 26:1).
I confess there’s something that’s always bothered me about this time of year, when we put such a big emphasis on reflecting on our mistakes. Why only now? Isn’t this something we should be doing all year? As a community, we certainly do plenty of it, through the very act of constantly challenging one another.
On Saturday, two weeks after Ethan Kadish’s 13th birthday, the members of his family will gather around a Torah scroll in the chapel of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for a small ceremony marking his entrance into adulthood.
“If you should see your friend’s ox or sheep straying, don’t ignore them. Instead return them to your friend. But if your friend is not close by, or you don’t know the owner, bring it to your home and hold onto it until the owner finds you, and then return it to them” (Deuteronomy 22:1-2).
Everything we build and teach our children, all our investments and dedication to good, all our moral standards, our entire education system, can be wiped out in one fell swoop when we or our children are violated.
“Why all these values, rabbi?” preteen Josh asked. “Can’t you just say we should be good people?” Often it is the most basic questions that set me thinking, and Josh’s query sure did.
The Torah says that the laws of kashrut separate us from the nations and make us a holy people by precluding us from eating detestable things (Deuteronomy 14:2-3, 21).
It is not uncommon for a synagogue to honor a cantor who leaves the congregation. Torahs and plaques adorn the halls of temples around the world paying homage to the influential people who have served them.
We conclude the reading of Bamidbar (Numbers) this week. Over the course of the book, the children of Israel spend approximately 40 years in the desert, camping in 42 different places, each of which is mentioned in Masei, the second of this week’s two parshiyot.
My father, originally from a small-town farm in Kansas, converted to Judaism when I was a young child. You can imagine that my seder table looks a lot like many American seder tables. Ours hosts a grand mixture of people — religiously, ethnically, socially and politically diverse. My congregational family at Temple Israel of Hollywood reflects the same. The Jewish communities I occupy are, at their core, wonderfully varied.
“This is the decree [chukat] of the Torah” (Numbers 19:2). Isn’t it amazing how, as we get older, our parents seem to become wise?
Hundreds of protesting Charedi Orthodox youth did not prevent or significantly disturb the Women of the Wall’s monthly service at the Western Wall.
Women of the Wall said it will read from a Torah scroll at its upcoming service at the Western Wall.
Between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is a good time to return again to the fifth of the Ten Commandments, “Honor your father and your mother.”
Lord our God, we stood before You just a week ago to receive the Ten Statements of Your Torah. We stood, as though with our ancestors, and listened to the Torah reader chant descriptions of the smoking mountain, the thunderous rumbling, and the long-awaited voice of God.
It is not our place to judge the neighbors of Ariel Castro. We don’t know enough about the particular circumstances of those who lived near this man who allegedly held three women hostage for a decade to be able to judge whether things could have been different had they been paying closer attention
The book of Bamidbar, literally “in the desert” or “in the wilderness,” is a hard book to read. Over and over, plagues break out and thousands are killed. The reason, we are told, is a pronounced lack of faith in God. I found the repeated spilling of Israelite blood difficult, to say the least, until Bible scholar Adriane Leveen put it into mythic perspective for me.
I have spent much of my adult life working to bring Jews and Christians together. In particular, I have tried to explain to fellow Jews that traditional Christians are our best friends in the world today.
Shavuot celebrates the receiving of the Ten Commandments and the arrival of the spring harvest. But, for food lovers, it is noted for the array of dairy foods that are served — delicious combinations of cheese, sour cream, milk and eggs. Also in abundance are “stuffed” foods, such as blintzes with cheese fillings.
There are a variety of options for how to begin the process, but all involve study with a rabbi. Some people study with an individual rabbi for a period of time, and other people enroll in group classes designed especially for converts.
This week’s double Torah portion, Behar-Bechukotai, begins: “And the Lord spoke to Moshe at Mount Sinai” (Leviticus 25:1). At the end of our reading, we conclude the Torah’s third book with: “These are the mitzvot that the Lord commanded Moshe for the children of Israel at Mount Sinai” (Leviticus 27:34).
Natan Sharansky’s proposal to reduce tensions at the Western Wall has lost support from Orthodox and non-Orthodox leaders.