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Ruth & Shavuot

The Book of Ruth, which is read on the Festival of Shavuot, is one of the shortest books in the Bible.  On the face of it, it is a simple story of a wealthy family that flees a famine in Bethlehem for Moab in the east. Elimelech and Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Kilyon ( their names imply…

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Prayer in the time of COVID

The great advantage of having to pray alone during this period of lock down is that one can actually take the time to pay attention to the words being said and to focus on their meaning and relevance (rather than keeping up with the congregation). According to Maimonides, prayer in its original, Biblical form was simply a private way of…

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May 8th, 1945

May 8th,VE Day, is the anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 1945. It marks the final defeat of the Nazis and an end to the worst crime against humanity in the history of the world. The fate of the Jewish people hung by a thread between extinction and survival. Had they won, the Nazis would have…

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Yeshayahu Leibowitz

My nephew Dov, a philosopher, scholar and rabbi of YAKAR Jerusalem , sent me a brilliant essay he recently published entitled “ On Social Distancing and deontology.” It looks at the ethical aspects of the current crisis in terms of what moral responsibility we have to avoid causing sickness in others. How do we decide medical equipment allocations and services?…

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Israel and the Diaspora

As we approach Israel’s independence day, the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora remains ambivalent. Israel is faced with constant existential threats and low-grade warfare. It is fiercely self-protective. On the other hand, American Jewry has the luxury of continuous peace and tends towards a more liberal world view. Attitudes towards Israel have always been a problem, but never more…

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Religion and COVID-19

There has been a great deal of negative publicity that religious communities in Israel and the United States were disregarding state and medical laws about social distancing. And it has given ammunition to anti-Semites (as if they need an excuse) to blame Jews and Israel for the virus. As this has created an unfavorable image of religious life, I think…

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