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One Good Deed... Deserves Another

It looked like a bumblebee but something was odd. It seemed too shiny and too black, too large-limbed and lumbering. Maybe, I thought, it was just an aged member of the species.

I watched as it crawled slowly across a wooden beam that I had mounted last summer above the metal railing of the deck outside our dining room.


Concerning the Jews... by Mark Twain

If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of.


Orthodox Jewry Goofed

If word gets out about this, it might find its way to the tabloids and liberal media but it is important to set the record straight. Despite the fact that Orthodox bashing seems to be a popular sport I feel that this article is in the interests of fulfilling the dictum of acknowledging a mistake in order that the repentance that follows be complete.


Coming To Judaism

A long, long time ago, when I was much younger, even more foolish and living in California, I used a motorcycle for personal transportation. I remember once riding my mid-sized Honda, tzitzit-fringes flying behind me, into a cycle shop for a part. As I entered a parking space and cut the engine, I heard a roar from behind and knew, even before it pulled up next to me, that a Harley had arrived. The behemoth's rider, a man much older than I, with flowing white hair and dark sunglasses, clad in jeans and a long sleeved shirt, looked down at me - menacingly, I thought. But what I had tagged a scowl suddenly broadened into a smile, as the biker slapped his right hand onto his left wrist and pulled up his sleeve, revealing the unmistakable evidence of another time and place: a crudely tattooed number.  "Another crazy Jew," he said in Yiddish.


Jewish Monasteries

Did you ever hear of a Jewish monastery? Or a Jewish convent? The reason you haven’t heard of any is because there aren’t any – there cannot be any.

Why?

Alan Alda, Sandra Bullock and G-d

There are those who will watch a movie with Alan Alda or Sandra Bullock and analyze the plot line while sipping red eye frappuccinos at Starbucks till the coffee is room temperature and the chairs are piled high on the table next to them, signifying closing time.


The Gift of Torah & Personal Redemption

“I am Hashem, your God, who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).  This simple verse requires some explanation. 

As written in its original Hebrew form, the verse addresses “you” the single individual as opposed to “you” the collective nation.  Why does God address us individually instead of speaking to the nation as a whole?


The Art of Growth

I don’t often ride the New York subways, but not long ago I found myself leaving a train deep beneath Brooklyn, at the borough’s cavernous Atlantic Street station. And I was surprised to be greeted, amid all the usual squalor and bustle, by a large and exquisite reproduction of “The Starry Night,” Vincent Van Gogh’s eerie painting. I’m no art aficionado but the famous rendering of a haloed moon and stars in a swirling blue firmament has always moved me. What in the world – or underworld – though, was a copy of the painting doing on a subway station wall?


The Road Taken

As summer unfolds, we behold and endure graduation ceremonies – the recognition of academic milestones, the bestowing of diplomas, the conferring of awards and the delivery, to excess, of commencement addresses.


He Wouldn't Be Caught Dead in a Shroud

It was late one Saturday night, a few hours after the end of Shabbos, when I arrived at the funeral home to perform a Tahara - to wash and dress the body of an old Jewish man for burial. I am a member of the Chevra Kadisha, the group responsible to care for Jewish people and properly prepare them for their final journey to Olam Habah -The World to Come. I was particularly inspired this night and was looking forward to this particular Tahara. This man had been described to me as a “Real Tzaddik” by a person who should have this knowledge, his wife of many years. She told me, in a heavy Yiddish accent, he had been a veteran of WW I and never missed a day of putting on his Tefillin while in the US Army. 


Thoughts On The Divine Authorship

My friend, you ask for factual evidence that G-d provided us with the Torah. When discussing the Divine origin of the Torah one must take into account that there are two sides to every coin. The proof of that is in the pudding; I say G-d written, someone else says man written. As I mentioned earlier in the stream, Man was given free will to choose what they believe. Therefore the question can not "Give me absolute proof" but rather "Based on the available evidence, which position makes more sense? Could a human have written this or would it have to be G-d?" 


How Jews Can Judge Eachother?

I recently received a letter from a friend asking me to be totally honest when answering if I judged them for being less than fully observant in a particular area of Jewish law...

What follows is my reply.... please listen in... You might appreciate the answer...


An Unintentional Intermarriage

A strange thing happened on the way to my becoming a ba'alat teshuvah: I discovered I was not a Jew.

I made this discovery about fifteen years ago at the happy and lively Shabbat table of an engaging kiruv rabbi and his family, another one of those inspiring Shabbat meals that had attracted us to greater Torah observance.


Will Your Grandchildren Be Jewish

"... All would agree that Jews in America are demographically endangered.  In addition to the usual suspects of assimilation and intermarriage, the survey revealed that Jews in America are getting married later and having fewer children - so few that we are experiencing negative population growth ...


The Virtue of Certainty

As a counselor on the staff of a Jewish outreach group, I once met a teenager whose parents were agnostics and who had absorbed their attitude. Still, something attracted him to us, and eventually he started joining us for Shabbat services... He donned a kippah and put on tzitzit. He started to believe in God. He did everything except approach Judaism intellectually. That was five years ago. Then I ran into him last year. He was a little embarrassed to see me. The kippah and tzitzit were gone. So were all involvements with the Jewish community. So was his belief, he confessed. The emotional jolt that initially drew this fellow toward Judaism slipped into the past; and lacking any supporting intellectual architecture, he was back into the secular mainstream.


Knowledge and Inspiration

Two teenagers.

The first one knows almost nothing about being Jewish. Still, he or she is inspired by our identity and is very proud to be a Jew.

The second knows a lot about being Jewish and has received an above-average Jewish education. Still, something went wrong somewhere – there is little or no pride and inspiration.


We're All Rescue Miners

The death this past week of 37 miners in central China – for those who were aware of the disaster – presented a tragic counterpoint to the enthralling rescue of the 33 Chilean miners that took place mere days earlier.


Understanding Life Settings

Rebbe Elazar bar Padas was one of the greatest Torah sages of his time. He was known as the “teacher in Israel.” To his home came all questions large and small, to his address came all issues communal and personal.  Yet despite the fact that he was a great individual, he led a very difficult life — suffering poverty, illness, and pain.

 


Appreciating Our Wealth (Part I)

One of the great works on Jewish Thought, the Duties of the Heart, gives a parable. Imagine a man who, at age 35, becomes blind. For the next ten years he does his best to reconstruct his life, but now without sight. Being a fighter, he struggles to create a productive life for himself. One day, his doctor informs him of an experimental procedure that, if successful, would enable him to see again. He is both frightened and exuberant. If it works he regains his sight; if it fails, he might die.


Appreciating Our Wealth (Part II)

If we study the world HASHEM created, we find many features that have no functional purpose and were put here strictly for man to enjoy. For example food -- Food is something that we need to maintain our energy levels and health. If its only function were nutrition and nothing more, then all the foods that we eat should taste like soggy cardboard. Yet they don’t. There are so many different and varied types of foods, each with its own unique flavor, texture, and aroma. Why? Why not make it all taste like oatmeal? Again, for one reason: so that man should enjoy. So that eating, which we have to do, shouldn’t be a chore but should be delightful. Taste is something that HASHEM added solely for our benefit -- for our pleasure.


Appreciating Our Wealth (Part III)

My grandmother grew up in Poland before the First World War.  She told me that her family was considered well off: they lived in a two room house. That meant two rooms. One for the parents, and one where the kids slept, ate, played, did chores, cooked, bathed, and cleaned their clothes. That was it, two rooms. Period. And believe me, the rooms weren’t large, and the families weren’t small. Today, when we go on vacation and ‘rough it’  by putting the whole family, parents and two kids, in one motel room, it’s cute and cozy -- for an evening. But that was the amount of space that people lived in with all of their belongings, all the time. That was home.


Appreciating Our Wealth (Part IV)

We live in times where there is an increased emphasis on having fun and being happy-- on living life to its fullest. And it seems that we have all that we need to do just that. After centuries of suffering, after millennium of living in the dark, man has finally found freedom from oppression and rights for all men. We live in an open and accepting society and enjoy unprecedented prosperity. We have amazing health advances and live within safe borders; we no longer fear marauders or the black plague; we enjoy an advanced social structure and have technological wonders at our finger tips. We should now finally be happy.

 


Hello, This is My Funeral

Imagine that you find yourself in a large, nicely carpeted room. There are dark drapes on the wall. The lights are muted; the mood is somber. In the front, on the podium are two candles burning. Gathered are two hundred of your closest friends and relatives. Everyone is seated and listening attentively. All eyes are focused on the front of the room, and there you are, right there in front of everyone – lying in a box. Dead as a doornail. Hello, this is your funeral.


Fundamental Faith

Dear Miriam,

The idea of the Chosen People really bothers me.  It sounds incredibly racist to think we are better than other people.  After all the suffering Jews have undergone from the concept of a superior race, it seems ridiculous that we ourselves believe we are better than other people.  Also, are we really supposed to believe that G-d plays favorites?  That our blood is redder?  That He loves us more?  The whole idea sounds self-serving and negates the universalism upon which modern society is built. 

 

An Uncomfortable Universalist


The Real Story of X-mas

Click here for the audio

I.     When was Jesus born?

 

A.     Popular myth puts his birth on December 25th in the year 1 C.E.

B.     The New Testament gives no date or year for Jesus’ birth.  The earliest gospel – St. Mark’s, written about 65 CE – begins with the baptism of an adult Jesus.  This suggests that the earliest Christians lacked interest in or knowledge of Jesus’ birthdate.

C.     The year of Jesus birth was determined by Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk, “abbot of a Roman monastery.  His calculation went as follows:......

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