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Fasting on the 9th of Av

The fast of the Ninth of Av, Tisha B’Av, falls this coming Monday night and Tuesday. All other so-called “minor fasts” in Judaism run from dawn to dusk—like Ramadan. Unlike Ramadan, which lasts for a month, we have many fewer fast days. But we also have two fasts during the year that run for over 24 hours—Yom Kippur and Tisha…

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Nicknames

My father loved giving nicknames. My younger brother Michael was called Mickey, and my youngest brother was called Buster. I was Rooky. That came from my Hebrew name, Yerucham. The English could not pronounce the guttural Chet sounds so it became Yerookam, and from that came Rooky, which stayed with me until my first rabbinic position, when I thought that…

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Fritz Haber

I went to a very good Jewish school in England, Carmel College (the one my father founded), which was known for the strength of its sciences. In those days they were divided into three separate faculties—chemistry, physics, and biology. The senior master and head of sciences was a brilliant chemist and pedagogue, Romney Coles. He had written several textbooks on…

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Going Mad

I do not want to come across as a rabbi-basher or an opponent of Haredi Judaism. Most things are like curates eggs—there are parts that I love and parts that I do not. And I like to vary my subject from week to week. But something happened this week that I simply cannot let go without comment. It is not…

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When Rebbes Fight

The Talmud (Yoma 23a) says, “Any Talmid Chacham who does not strike and attack like a snake, is no Talmid Chacham.” Perhaps this explains why religious leaders tend to fight. Is it because they care so much? Are the issues so important they are worth fighting over? Too often they are over power, succession, or money. When this infects men…

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Elijah

Elijah (Eliyahu in the Hebrew) the Tishbite is one of the most important and most complex characters in biblical and Jewish lore. One might even say he is second only to Moses. We know that he was a passionate opponent of idolatry and in particular of King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and his Phoenician wife, Jezebel. They…

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