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Impermanence

In discussing the festival of Sucot, the Talmud gives all the various possible explanations for the origin and purpose of a Sucah. Its final idea is that of impermanence. “Leave your permanent home, and live in a temporary home.” In many ways, impermanence is in our genes. Our wandering forebears. Our movable Tabernacle. Exile. Return. Impermanence really resonates with me.…

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For All Our Sins

The Torah introduces us to the idea that we confess our sins to God (Leviticus 5:5 and 16:21). To God, not to humans—priests or otherwise—because, according to our tradition, it is a question of human dignity not to demean ourselves in the eyes of other human beings by revealing our errors to other humans. But the Torah gives us no…

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The Head of the Year

We are about to enter the season of long synagogue services, with a liturgy that, when translated into English or any vernacular, strikes many people as archaic, distant, and even irrelevant. How many of us can make literal sense of most of the concepts?  Can we say that prayer is meant to be poetic? In Hebrew we can allow the…

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Charity Begins at Home

This is the time of the year when many of us have spent a great deal of money on summer vacations. So it is appropriate to think about how much we give charitably to those less fortunate than we are. Charity is highly emotive, and it is an absolutely crucial element of all religions. In Judaism the term most commonly…

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New Nation-State Law in Israel

As a follow-up to last week’s discussion on nationalism, the controversial nation-state law just passed in Israel is typical of what I do not like about nationalism—the way it has been and continues to be a tool of politics.  The bill was passed by 66 to 55. Very far from unanimous and probably a fair reflection of the longstanding chasm…

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Nationalism

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote that Jewish nationalism versus Jewish liberalism is the crucial issue facing American Jewry today. He wondered how we can reconcile liberal politics, universal, humanist values, with the nationalism of Jewish identity? This is the fault-line that is troubling readers of the New York Times. He says and concludes with a question: If these two…

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