Blog

General Topics

Change the Omer?

Pesach is over; normal service resumes! But what is “normal”? We are now into a period of mourning called “the Omer”. It’s a time of mourning—no weddings or parties (and for those decadent ones amongst us, no public entertainment, opera, concerts, theater, or cinema).  None of these restrictions are mentioned in the Torah. All it says there is that the…

Continue Reading

General Topics

Is the Bible fact?

Well before Spinoza’s “Tractatus Theologicus Politicus” (1670) Christian thinkers and rational philosophers, like Hobbes, began to challenge the authorship and validity of the Bible. Questions arose in both the Jewish and the Christian worlds as to whether all of the Bible stories in the Old or New Testaments actually happened the way they were written. In the following centuries, as…

Continue Reading

General Topics

Slaves or Pagans?

The Four Questions, Mah Nishtanah HaLaylah Hazeh, that are asked in the Haggadah, act as an introduction to the ideas behind the festival of Passover. These questions were already mentioned in the Mishna, written some 2,000 years ago. In fact, the idea that we should ask questions is mandated in the Torah, written much earlier. Four times the Torah says…

Continue Reading

General Topics

Torah and Study

One of the biggest challenges Judaism faces today is the Haredi schism. On the one hand, it is the most dynamic, fastest growing, most passionately committed and scholarly section of the Jewish world. On the other, it is the most fundamentalist, anti-intellectual, narrow-minded, excessively restrictive sector that refuses to countenance any change, moderation, or amelioration in Jewish law—and in almost…

Continue Reading

General Topics

What is spirituality?

I often hear people say that sitting in a synagogue for a long time can be stultifying, boring, and the opposite of spiritual. My response is that they should take a break and go for a walk outside, in a park, along the coast, or the banks of a river—whatever is available—to look at nature and to wonder at the…

Continue Reading

General Topics

I am a liberal.

I am proud to call myself a liberal. Although, nowadays the term has come to be associated with so many different positions on almost any political, social, or religious issue, I cannot find a more appropriate word to describe myself. One of my favorite school teachers was a man called Helmut Dan Schmidt. Back in prewar Germany he had been…

Continue Reading