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‘It’s part of a larger pattern’: Texas synagogue hostage …

Posted By on January 20, 2022

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Bobby Ghosh, opinion columnist for Bloomberg, and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, join Aaron Gilchrist to discuss the implications of the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas and whether it was motivated by anti-Semitism.Jan. 17, 2022

Now Playing

'It's part of a larger pattern': Texas synagogue hostage standoff and rising anti-Semitism in the U.S.06:48

UP NEXT

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We have to do everything we can to learn from January 6. Rep. Yvette Clarke speaks about Jan 6 anniversary04:44

The toll of the unvaccinated in hospitals continues to rise, compromising life-saving care for those in need04:39

Hosts of Higher Learning podcast on LAPD violence and the need to reconstruct modern-day policing06:04

Steve Bannon named Media Matter's Misinformer of the Year03:33

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'It's part of a larger pattern': Texas synagogue hostage ...

Was Luther Anti-Semitic? | Christian History …

Posted By on January 20, 2022

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Set fire to their synagogues or schools, Martin Luther recommended in On the Jews and Their Lies. Jewish houses should be razed and destroyed, and Jewish prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, [should] be taken from them. In addition, their rabbis [should] be forbidden to teach on pain of loss of life and limb. Still, this wasnt enough.

Luther also urged that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them. What Jews could do was to have a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade put into their hands so young, strong Jews and Jewesses could earn their bread in the sweat of their brow.

These fierce comments have puzzled and embarrassed Christians who otherwise admire the Reformer. And they have led to charges that Luther was one of the church fathers of anti-Semitism. More seriously, Luthers attacks have been seen as paving the way for Hitler.

Was Luther anti-Semitic? How should we understand his words?

In 1523, Luther accused Catholics of being unfair to Jews and treating them as if they were dogs, thus making it difficult for Jews to convert. I would request and advise that one deal gently with them [the Jews], he wrote. If we really want to help them, we must be guided in our dealings with them not by papal law but by the law of Christian love. We must receive them cordially, and permit them to trade and work with us, hear our Christian teaching, ...

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On TikTok, she offers a spicy daily take on Talmud – Forward

Posted By on January 20, 2022

In one of many oddball stories in the Talmud, the commentary on the Hebrew Bible, were told about an ancient diss: one rabbi tells another rabbi that his voice is so bad that if the Holy Temple were still standing, he wouldnt be allowed to sing in it.

As Miriam Anzovin puts it in her first TikTok, Shimon is pitchy but Chiyyah is bitchy.

Shes not obviously your typical teacher of Talmud.

Following the same schedule as Daf Yomi, the page-a-day Talmud study cycle whose participants number in the tens of thousands worldwide, Anzovin hair-tosses, speed-talks and eyebrow-pops through her homemade recaps, distilling the daily dose to its sauciest moments.

In Anzovins very online breakdowns of the Talmud, everyone is relatable: Rabbi Hanina Ben Dosas wifes neighbor, thwarted by divine intervention more than 2,000 years ago, is a Karen; Rabbi Yochanan, whose radiant beauty is a matter of Talmudic discussion, is a legendary hottie; and Rav and Rav Huna are besties beholden to a bro code.

Some of it is extremely boring, Anzovin says of her source material. And some it is extremely not safe for work.

DAF REACTIONS Megillah 3! One quick tip to find out if that random guy u met is a ##demon or not! PLUS the Divine Voice has SOMETHING to SAY! ##dafyomi

A non-Orthodox woman with bleach-blonde hair, Anzovin might not look like what most people conjure when asked to think of someone who studies Talmud, which has historically been the domain of Orthodox men. But she may be the quintessential participant in Daf Yomi, whose very mission is to make the long, dense and often arcane Oral Torah more accessible and inclusive.

Her approach is pretty simple make it funny and her process fully digital.

She begins her mornings listening to Rabbanit Michelle Farbers Daf Yomi podcast while she puts on her makeup. Then shell read a summary of the same material on MyJewishLearning.com. From there, shell skim the text itself on Sefaria.org and riff about it with her chavruta over Google Chat. All along, shes waiting for inspiration to strike.

Sometimes its right there at the surface, the modern connection, or the kind of language I would use to describe the scenario in a millennial sense, she says. And sometimes you gotta dig a little harder to find it.

Get the Forward delivered to your inbox. Sign up here to receive our essential morning briefing of American Jewish news and conversation, the afternoons top headlines and best reads, and a weekly letter from our editor-in-chief.

Anzovin, 36, a content producer for JewishBoston.com, first became interested in Daf Yomi after hearing Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the late chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, speak highly of the movement. But it was the middle of the seven-and-a-half-year cycle, putting her enthusiasm on hold. Later, the Hanukkah stabbing in Monsey in December 2019 several were injured and one was killed got her fully committed.

One week later, on Jan. 5, 2020, a new cycle began with Anzovin on board.

Every single day that I do the daf is my response to that, is my response to antisemitism, to Jew hatred, she said.

Courtesy of Miriam Anzovin

Anzovin, a content producer for JewishBoston.com, makes her Daf Reactions videos in her free time.

Her videos defy norms in other ways: her coquettish affect (and occasional profanity) make them evoke the juicy conspiracy theories and brilliant life-hacks popular on TikTok more than the dialectic of staid first-century rabbis. For the most part, Anzovin leaves what others might consider the true substance of the Talmud arguments about Jewish law on the cutting room floor.

The videos have, perhaps inevitably, drawn a few unhappy comments which failed to deter her. She noted a bewildering detour the Talmud takes to consider a scenario in which a snake has entered a womans vagina.

Nothing that I say could ever be worse than the things that are in the Gemara, she said. And I say that with love.

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On TikTok, she offers a spicy daily take on Talmud - Forward

Dr. Berman on Leadership, Shakespeare and the Talmud – Yu News

Posted By on January 20, 2022

Rabbi Dr. Berman, Rabbi Dr. Soloveichik, Dr. Trapedo and the Shakespeare and the Talmud students

By Dr. Shaina TrapedoStraus Center Resident ScholarandSam GelmanStraus Center Communications and Program Officer

On Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University, gave a guest lecture in Stern College for Womens Shakespeare and the Talmud course, which was offered in collaboration with the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought in fall 2021. The class was co-taught by Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, Straus Center director, and Dr. Shaina Trapedo, Straus Center resident scholar .

After getting to know each student by name, hometown, and favorite Shakespeare character, Dr. Berman addressed the unique opportunity and value of studying Shakespeare at Yeshiva University.

Fascinating similarities and differences emerge when the same concerns and complexities of the human experience that Shakespeare addresses in his works are studied in conversation with biblical narratives and Torah tradition. What relationships matter? How should we prioritize personal and communal interests and obligations? Who deserves authority and leadership?

Among the breadth and depth of Shakespeares canon, Dr. Berman shared that Hamlet is his favorite play, in part, because of its focus on the relationship between elocution and action, and the pleasure and purpose that comes with the ability to unpack [the] heart with words.

Dr. Berman invited students to bring the page to life with an enlivened reading of an understudied and often-trimmed scene in modern productions. In Act 4, Scene 4, as Hamlet departs for England by the kings commission, he sees Fortinbras of Norway leading his army (over the stage) through Denmark on their way to attack Poland. In questioning the captain, Hamlet learns that thousands of men are marching into battle to gain a little patch of ground that hath in it no profit but the name. Fortinbras, driven by honor code and courage, spurs Hamlet to reflect on his own failure to avenge his fathers murder and finally resolves that from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth.

Guiding the class through a careful close-reading of this scene and the plays dramatic conclusion, Dr. Berman noted that Hamlet and Fortinbras have been understood as foils for centuriesthe former a man of words and the later a man of actionand while Fortinbras emerges as the ostensible hero who gains property and power by the end of the play, it is Hamlets story that we are obliged to tell, forcing us to re-evaluate which stories endure and why.

Turning to Tanakh, Dr. Berman invited the students to consider another case of contrasts. Using classical commentaries and Midrash, Dr. Berman demonstrated that the Patriarchs were either shepherds (like Abraham and Jacob, who spent time engaged in reflective isolation) or farmers (like Isaac, who favored his son, Esau, also a man of the field).

Yet in Joseph, we find a remarkable synthesis. While Shakespeare presents and preserves a dialectic between Hamlet and Fortinbrasnoble intellect in pursuit of truth against steadfast worldly engagementJoseph, driven by faith and service to God, directs his wisdom and skills toward the well-being of society, offering a powerful paradigm for Jewish leadership today. The story of the Jewish people, Dr. Berman emphasized, is still being written, and Yeshiva University students have an active role to play in the collective betterment of humanity and moving history forward.

You can learn more about the Straus Center and sign up for our newsletterhere. Be sure to also like us onFacebook, follow us onTwitterandInstagramand connect with us onLinkedIn.

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Dr. Berman on Leadership, Shakespeare and the Talmud - Yu News

In Judaism, it’s often mother who knows best – The Jewish Star

Posted By on January 20, 2022

By Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb

When I was young, I was an avid reader of novels. As Ive grown older, I have found myself more interested in good biographies, especially of great men, and I try to focus on what exactly made them great. Particularly, I try to discover the roles played by father and mother in the formation of these personalities.

Until relatively recently, Jewish tradition did not have many biographies of our heroes and heroines. Bible and Talmud contain much material about the lives of prophets, kings, and sages, but only occasionally give us a glimpse of the role that parental influences played in making them great.

I recently came across a passage in a book by a man I admire, Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Reines (1839-1915). He was the head of a very innovativeyeshivain Lida, Lithuania, and was one of the founders of the Mizrachi Religious Zionist movement. He was a prolific writer, and one of his works is entitledNod Shel Demaot (A Flask of Tears).

In this book, Rav Reines writes about the important role that mothers play in the development of their children. He emphasizes the role of the mother in the development of the Torah scholar. He argues that the mothers feminine intuition and maternal compassion, together with the fathers teaching, motivates and informs the budding Jewish leader.

The sources of his thesis include a verse from this weeks Torah portion, Yitro(Exodus18:1-20:23), in which we read that the L-rd called to Moses from the mountain and said, Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob and declare to the children of Israel. You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (ibid19:3-6).

The Midrash explains that the house of Jacob refers to women and the children of Israel to men. Both men and women must be involved if we are to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Why the women? asks the Midrash, and answers, Because they are the ones who can inspire their children to walk in the ways of Torah.

Rav Reines adduces another biblical verse to make his point. He refers to the words in the very first chapter of theBook ofProverbs, in which King Solomon offers this good counsel: My son, heed the discipline (mussar) of your father, and do not forsake the instruction (Torah) of your mother (Proverbs1:8).

From this verse, it seems that the mothers message may be even more important for the childs guidance than that of his father. After all, father merely admonishes the child with words of discipline, whereas mother imparts nothing less than the instruction of the Torah itself.

Then comes thetour de forceof Rav Reines essay, the biographical analysis of a great Talmudic sage, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya. The student ofPirkei Avot will recognize his name from a passage in Chapter Two of that work where we read of the five disciples of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai.

They are enumerated, and the praises of each of them are recounted. Of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya, we learn, Ashrei yoladeto (happy is she who gave birth to him). Of all the outstanding disciples, only Rabbi Yehoshuas mother is brought into the picture. What special role did she play in his life that earned her honorable mention?

Rav Reines responds by relating an important story of which most of us are sadly ignorant. Recorded inBereshit Rabba 64:10, it tells of a time, not long after the destruction of the Second Temple, when the Roman rulers decided to allow the Jewish people to rebuild the Temple. Preliminary preparations were already under way for that glorious opportunity when theKutim, usually identified with the Samaritan sect, confounded those plans. They maligned the Jews to the Romans and accused them of disloyalty. The permission to rebuild was revoked.

Having come so close to realizing this impossible dream, the Jews gathered in the valley of Beit Rimon with violent rebellion in their hearts. They clamored to march forth and rebuild the Temple in defiance of the Romans decree.

However, the more responsible leaders knew that such a provocation would meet with disastrous consequences. They sought for a respected figure, sufficiently wise and sufficiently persuasive, to calm the tempers of the masses and to quell the mutiny. They chose Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya for the task.

The Midrash quotes Rabbi Yehoshuas address in full detail. He used a fable as the basis of his argument:

A lion had just devoured its prey, but a bone of his victim was stuck in his throat. The lion offered a reward to anyone who would volunteer to insert his hand into his mouth to remove the bone. The stork volunteered, and thrust its long neck into the lions mouth and extracted the bone.

When the stork demanded his reward, the lion retorted, Your reward is that you can forevermore boast that you had thrust your head into a lions mouth and lived to tell the tale. Your survival is sufficient reward. So, too, argued Rabbi Yehoshua, our survival is our reward. We must surrender the hope of rebuilding our Temple in the interests of our national continuity. There are times when grandiose dreams must be foresworn so that survival can be assured.

Rav Reines argues that this combination of cleverness and insight into the minds of men was the result of his mothers upbringing. The ability to calm explosive tempers and sooth raging emotions is something that Rabbi Yehoshua learned from his mother.

He was chosen for this vital role in Jewish history because the other leaders knew of his talents, and perhaps even knew that their source was to be traced back to his mother, of whom none other than Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai had exclaimed, Happy is she who gave birth to him.

This wonderful insight of Rav Reines is important for all of us to remember, particularly those of us who are raising children. Psychologists have long stressed the vital roles that mothers play in child development. In our religion, we put much stress on the fathers role in teaching Torah to his children. But we often underestimate, and indeed sometimes even forget, the role of the mother.

Our tradition urges us to embrace the role of the mother not just in the childs physical and emotional development, but in his or her spiritual and religious growth as well.

We would do well to remember that Rav Reines is simply expanding upon G-ds own edict to Moses at the very inception of our history: Speak to the house of Jacob! Speak to the women as well as to the men.

Mothers, at least as much as fathers, are essential if we are to create a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

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In Judaism, it's often mother who knows best - The Jewish Star

DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS INAUGURATE THE CONGRESSIONAL CAUCUS FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF TORAH VALUES – Yahoo Finance

Posted By on January 20, 2022

PR Newswire

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2022

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2022 /PRNewswire/ - The Congressional Caucus For the Advancement of Torah Values was recently inaugurated in Washington, DC by a bi-partisan group of Democrats and Republican congressmen and congresswomen.

Caucus Co-chairs are Congressman Don Bacon (R -Nebraska District 2) and Congressman Henry Cuellar (D - Texas District 28).

Championed by Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, Founder of Dirshu, the largest Torah organization in the world, Members of the US House of Representatives met to support the Caucus launch, and discuss ongoing issues of concern to Jews in the United States, Canada and around the world.

In his address to the Congressmen/Congresswomen, Rabbi Hofstedter who is based in Toronto, Canada, outlined the issues on which the Caucus will focus:

"The rise of anti-Israel bigotry that has led to an increase of antisemitism incidents on college campuses and elsewhere;

The rise of hate crimes against Jews in New York city and elsewhere, where Jews easily identifiable by their garb are targeted;

The uneven-handed lockdown of Synagogues and Yeshivas in New York that was and inconsistent with city and state policy."

Dirshu, is an Orthodox Jewish International organization founded in 1997 in Toronto by Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, the son of Holocaust survivors. It includes 200,000+ supporters dedicated to the study of Jewish texts, sponsoring Torah lectures and offering financial incentives to individuals and groups to learn and master Talmud, Halakha and Mussar texts. Dirshu operates in 26 countries on five continents with its US headquarters in New Jersey.

Congressman and Co-Chair Bacon said, "The purpose of this Caucus is to pledge our friendship to our Jewish friends, our brothers and sisters. We are 100% standing with you against antisemitism in any form. I don't care where it comes from left or right."

Story continues

Congressman and Co-Chair Cuellar said, "This Caucus is going to be so important in a bipartisan way. We have to be able to have the strength so we know what's good, what's bad, what's moral and what's not moral."

Speaking in Washington to the Members in attendance, Rabbi Hofstedter said, "Torah values have been under attack for many years basic values such as the deep respect for religion, for human dignity, honesty, integrity, self-sacrifice, charity, compassion and empathy. These values are the foundation of the USA. As Members of Congress, your attendance and participation here demonstrates your personal commitment to supporting Jewish values and to promoting unity. I feel a deep sense of encouragement about what lies ahead and I intend on conveying your messages of encouragement to all members of our organization in your respective districts. We at Dirshu look forward to working together in the months and years to come, to ensure that freedom of religion is never abridged, and that never again, in fact, remains just that Never Again."

The attending Members of Congress were asked "to continue to be more clear and forceful in their condemnation of antisemitic acts especially in light of the increased number of hate crimes against Jews." Congressional districts represented included Florida, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas and Wisconsin.

Rabbi Hofstedter added, "We appreciate and continue to rely on the support of the United States and the benevolence of its government to protect Jewish people when we have been the subject of persecution and under attack. Let us celebrate the inauguration of this Caucus as we embrace its principles and strive energetically and bravely to ensure freedom of religion and religious education, even in the most challenging of times. Let us battle, together, against antisemitism. Let us fight to restore human dignity and advanced Torah values in America and throughout the world. Doing so, we should always be mindful of the Torah values as embodied in the Declaration of Independence with the firm reliance of the protection of divine providence."

NEWS MEDIA CONTACT:

David Eisenstadttcgprdeisenstadt@tcgpr.com(C) 1-416-561-5751

Celebrating the recent inauguration of the Congressional Caucus for Torah Values in Washington, DC (L-R) Congresswoman Kat Cammack (R- Florida Dist. 3); Caucus Co-Chair Don Bacon (R-Nebraska, Dist. 2); Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, Dirshu Founder; Caucus Co-Chair Henry Cuellar (D-Texas, Dist.28); Congressman Dan Meuser (R-Pennsylvania, Dist. 9); Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania, Dist.1) Photo Credit: Sruly Saftlas (CNW Group/Dirshu)

Dirshu Logo (CNW Group/Dirshu)

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DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS INAUGURATE THE CONGRESSIONAL CAUCUS FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF TORAH VALUES - Yahoo Finance

Tragedy of Colleyville: Remaining a people of kindness in a world that often isn’t – The Times of Israel

Posted By on January 20, 2022

This week, we averted one tragedy, but we experienced another. Thank God, that Colleyville did not end like Pittsburgh. We averted tragedy in that none of the hostages from Congregation Beth Israel of Colleyville were killed and all managed to escape from their eleven-hour nightmare in the synagogue this past Shabbat. At the same time, this latest antisemitic attack in a Jewish house of worship has only reinforced the fact that when we come to a synagogue to pray, whether on Shabbat or not, we are placing ourselves at a certain risk of harm. Some of us may have been lulled with the passage of time to think that we neednt be so cautious anymore when coming to shul. Colleyville was a wake-up call to the ongoing need for security precautions, and we recognize how fortunate we were that this instance of terror did not cost the life of a single worshipper.

However, the tragedy of Colleyville is that it also forces synagogues to revisit a core mission, that of chesed, acts of kindness. Mr. Akram, the terrorist, was allowed into the synagogue as an act of kindness. Rabbi Cytron-Walker, the Rabbi of the synagogue, said that he had let the stranger in before Shabbat services that morning. It was an unusually cold day in North Texas, and the rabbi thought that he was just coming in to get warm. The tragedy of Colleyville is that we may not be able to do that anymore.

I remember that when I was studying in Yeshiva in Israel thirty years ago and I wanted to travel with a friend to France on the way back to the United States, we found a book that contained the names and contact information of families all over the world who were happy to host orthodox Jewish young adults like us for Shabbat. There were no security precautions to get invited for Shabbat. We simply wrote a letter to a family in France and we received a favorable response a few weeks later and we stayed with this family for Shabbat. After all, that is the beauty of the Torah community throughout the world. We all extend ourselves to help the stranger, because he or she is not really a stranger. We all are related to each other. We all are one large family. We all are connected to each other even if we live on opposite corners of the world and even if we have never met.

The Talmud Yerushalmi in Masechet Nedarim develops this idea in explaining how we can fulfill the challenging command of vahavta lreiacha kamocha, of loving our friend like ourselves. Because in fact, doesnt that seem like too high a standard to achieve? The Yerushalmi explains this requirement with the following parable. If someone is holding a knife with his right hand and accidentally cuts his left hand with the knife, will the left hand now pick up a knife and in an act of revenge, cut the right hand? Obviously not. They are part of the same person. That is the basis for the mitzvah of loving our friend. Why should we love our friend? Because kamocha, because he or she is really connected to us. We both are connected to the same entity, which is Am Yisrael, the nation of Israel. As an extension of this concept, we all come from a common ancestor. We care about every individual, imitating the description of God as being rachamav al kol maasav, merciful upon all of His works. The Gemara in Yevamot states that one of the distinguishing marks of the Jew is that he is merciful and another distinguishing mark is that he performs acts of kindness. This is who we are. Kindness is a value that lies right at our core.

But then what do we do if we are too scared to be ourselves anymore and to engage in certain acts of kindness anymore? What if security considerations do not permit us to simply open our doors to a stranger who needs a place to eat, to escape from the cold, or just to find a friendly face. I teach a Mitzvot bein adam lachavero course to high school students and when we studied the topic of the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim, of inviting guests, I provided my students with three scenarios and asked what they would do under the circumstances. The first situation is that someone called you in the middle of the week and wanted to spend Shabbat in your community. What would you do? I think in that scenario we easily can ask the person to send references, like the Rabbi of the community where the person davens, if thats possible, so that we can verify that it is safe to host the person. But what if someone calls you on Friday evening right before Shabbat begins and says that she is stuck on the road and your town is the nearest town because she cant make it home for Shabbat. She wants to spend Shabbat in your community and there is no time to get references. What would you do then? We discussed that maybe we cannot host her because we cant verify her credentials but we can direct her to a nearby hotel where she can stay without violating Shabbat and, if need be, provide funding for the hotel if the person cant afford it. But what if someone shows up on Friday night in your community and theres no hotel nearby. Do we offer the person a place to stay? How do we balance the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim with security considerations?

In 2014, Rabbi Akiva Males, then the Rabbi of Harrisburg, Pennsylvanias orthodox shul, wrote an opinion piece in the OUs Jewish Action magazine, when he reflected on this tension. He cited a discussion in the Talmud that resonated with him in this context. The Mishnah in Yoma teaches us that prior to Yom Kippur, the elder Kohanim compelled the Kohen Gadol who would perform the Yom Kippur service to take an oath of allegiance, that he would not deviate from the traditional method of performing the service. The Mishna concludes that after the oath, both the elder Kohanim and the Kohen Gadol would weep. The Talmud explains that the Kohen Gadol would weep for having been suspected of possibly deviating from the Yom Kippur service and the elder Kohanim would weep for having suspected that a potentially innocent person would deviate from the Yom Kippur service.

This is the tension that Rabbi Males faced and this is the tension that we increasingly face in this world where there is a need for heightened security. If a needy individual comes to our synagogue asking for help, must we now ask for references every time before letting the person in? If so, we must cry for suspecting the individual and the needy individual must cry for being suspected. How somber we must be when we realize that practical and legitimate fears for our safety obstruct our ability to actualize our true nature as kind and giving people. Unfortunately, the near tragedy of this past Shabbat will further force us not just to re-evaluate our security for how to protect ourselves, but it will also force us to re-evaluate how we engage in a core value of our mission, which is a mission of chesed. And that is a real tragedy.

Jonathan Muskat is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside.

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Tragedy of Colleyville: Remaining a people of kindness in a world that often isn't - The Times of Israel

Torah portion inspires search for balance in life – St. Louis Jewish Light

Posted By on January 20, 2022

Rabbi Carnie Shalom RoseJanuary 14, 2022

And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph, who had previously exacted an oath from the children of Israel, saying, God will be sure to take notice of you and when this comes to be, you pledge to carry up my bones from here with you to the Holy Land. Sefer Shemot 13:19

Each and every time I return to the study of Parashat Beshalach, I am struck by the image of a hassled, harried somewhat stressed-out Moshe Rabbeinu making final preparations for the Exodus of the entire Israelite Nation after hundreds of years of Egyptian servitude and bondage. And despite being deeply engaged in what surely must have been a monumental and herculean task, with a long list of last minute responsibilities, Moshe himself engages in the securing of the remains of the patriarch Yosef.

The obvious question is why? Why was it essential for Moses to pause from the important work of preparing the Bnai Yisrael at this critical and liminal moment in Jewish History to locate, secure and arrange for the transport of the mummified remains of a long deceased ancestor?

One possible explanation is alluded to in the Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 13a-13b: All those years that the Israelites were in the desert, those two chests one of the dead (the bones of Josef) and the other of the Shechinah (the Ark of the Covenant) proceeded side by side, and passersby would ask: What is the nature of those two chests? They received the following reply: One is of the dead (Joseph) and the other of the handiwork of the Divine Presence (the Tables of the Ten Commandments). But is it then, the way of the dead to proceed with the revelation of the Divine? They were told, This one (Joseph) fulfilled all that was recorded in the other (the Commandments) [and thus, it makes perfect sense for them to sojourn side-by-side].

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This Talmudic passage underscores a deep truth that we all know well. The most profound lessons that we learn in our lifetimes are those that are at once profoundly transcendent as well as demonstrably attainable. The Ten Commandments were given to the world amidst thunder and lightning in a miraculously supernatural manner. In sharp contrast, Joseph lived a Godly existence in base settings that were remarkably challenging; first as a lowly slave and then as a revered Viceroy of the Egyptian aristocracy. Moshe, our greatest of teachers, understood that the nascent Nation of Israel (and all of humanity!) was in need of both models in the right proportion to ensure that the way of life that the Almighty had intended could be actuated and effectuated.

May we who hear of these two remarkable chests, be inspired this week anew to quest for this balance in our own lives so that we, too, can live lives of transcendent holiness and earthly sanctity, Amen!

Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose, D.Div., is the Rabbi Bernard Lipnick Senior Rabbinic Chair at Congregation Bnai Amoona and a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association, which coordinates the dvar Torah for the Jewish Light.

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Torah portion inspires search for balance in life - St. Louis Jewish Light

Rabbi Cytron-Walker described as ‘menschy guy’ by area rabbis – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on January 20, 2022

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, spoke of love and gratitude at a Jan. 17 healing service showing a familiar quality to Ohio rabbis who knew him in his youth, as a rabbinical student and today.

In Texas, Rabbi Daniel Utley told the Cleveland Jewish News Jan. 17 that he and Dallas-area clergy hope to reach out to Cytron-Walker, whom he said is well-respected and has helped build Congregation Beth Israel.

It was really special to see how Rabbi Cytron-Walkers efforts saved lives and defused the situation as best as possible, said Utley, the associate rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, and who grew up in Beachwood. Weve all been very proud to see that. We know what a wonderful man he is and what a wonderful rabbi he is. ... I can imagine his ability as a pastoral caregiver were put to work and his training was put to work throughout the day.

On Jan. 15, Cytron-Walker allowed a man into Congregation Beth Israel prior to the beginning of Shabbat services because it had been a particularly cold day in North Texas and he served him a cup of tea, according to media reports. Services were being livestreamed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The man, Malik Faisal Akram, ended up holding the rabbi and three congregants hostage for more than 10 hours.

One hostage was freed in late afternoon and the others escaped after the hostage-taker told the men to kneel, according to The New York Times. Thats when Cytron-Walker threw a chair at him and the three remaining hostages ran outside to safety.

Cytron-Walker received his rabbinical ordination in 2006 and a masters in Hebrew letters in 2005 from Hebrew Union CollegeJewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. As a student, he served congregations in Ishpeming, Mich., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and Cincinnati. During his time at HUC-JIR, he received multiple awards for his service to the community, along with an award for leadership from QESHET: A Network of LGBT Reform rabbis, according to his bio on his synagogues website.

On Jan. 17, Cytron-Walker spoke at the healing service at Whites Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, Texas.

There, he thanked all who had reached out to him and to the congregation since the ordeal.

I have led or helped to lead too many of these services; I have mourned at too many vigils for Jews, for Muslims, for Christians and more, so many more, people, he said. And I am so grateful, so unbelievably grateful, that we are tonight unlike every other service like this that I have done tonight we will not be saying our traditional prayer for mourning, that no one will be saying Kaddish Yatom for me or for any of us, the Mourners Kaddish, this evening.

Thank G-d. Thank G-d. It could have been so much worse and I am overflowing, truly overflowing, with gratitude, he said.

Cytron-Walker thanked those in the sanctuary, a sanctuary far larger than the one at his synagogue, he said, and he thanked those who watched online, which numbered 32,000 as of the following day.

Cytron-Walker grew up in Lansing, Mich. Rabbi Robert N. Nosanchuk at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood met Cytron-Walker when Cytron-Walker was a fifth grader. Nosanchuk was his youth group adviser while in college in East Lansing, Mich., and knows Cytron-Walker and his mother, Nosanchuk told his congregation in a Jan. 15 email, in which he expressed prayers for the safety of the hostages. Cytron-Walker graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

At the healing service, Cytron-Walker quoted the Talmud that a person who saves one life, saves a world.

When terrible things happen to me and you feel it, thats empathy, he said. Thats compassion. And thats what enables us to see each other in spite of all our differences. It enables us to see each other as human beings, as infinitely valuable because every person, every world is infinitely valuable.

He also spoke of the importance of reaching across divides to make friends.

Because heres the thing, if we live that value we might have a lot more friends that we disagree with, a lot more friends that we dont see eye to eye with, but well have a lot fewer enemies.

Quoting Martin Luther King Jr. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he said, Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.

He also said viewing each person as of infinite value, Thats on each and every one of us to work on.

Rabbi Rick Kellner, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Tikvah in Worthington, a Columbus suburb, said he met Cytron-Walker when both were first-year rabbinical students at HUC-JIRs Jerusalem campus. Kellner then attended the Los Angeles campus and Cytron-Walker headed to the Cincinnati campus.

Kellner told the CJN Jan. 18 that Cytron-Walker is loving, kind and calm. He said he has seen Cytron-Walker at Central Conference of American Rabbis conventions and that he looks forward to his conversations with him.

He leads with his heart, Kellner said. He leads with his soul.

Kellner said Cytron-Walker is giving and heartfelt and deeply intuitive about the world around us.

At the healing service, Cytron-Walker spoke to his congregation.

To my CBI (Congregation Beth Israel) family, I wish I had a magic wand, he said. I wish I could take away all of our pain and struggle. I know that this violation of our spiritual home was traumatic for each and every one of us, and not just us. And the road ahead, this is going to be a process.

However, he said, Like any journey, we will take the next step.

We will comfort each other, and we will lean on each other, and we will understand that each of us will respond in our own way and we will have patience with each other even when we get on each others nerves I can hope, he said. It will take time, but we will heal together. Together, all of us, we will heal together.

The healing service included readings by past presidents of Congregation Beth Israel and songs led by cantors. It closed with the song, Olam Chesed Yibaneh, written by Rabbi Menachem Creditor. It includes the lyrics, If we build this world from love, then G-d will build this world from love.

Rabbi Josh Brown of Temple Israel in Bath Township, who attended HUC-JIR, said he met Cytron-Walker in Cincinnati because Cytron-Walker had been assigned to help lead orientation for incoming rabbinical students.

I have always known Charlie to be deeply committed to learning, to justice and to smiling a lot, Brown wrote his congregants in a Jan. 16 email. He is best described as a pure mensch. Thank G-d the world will continue to benefit from his shining light and the lives of the other hostages who survived yesterdays attack.

Brown told the CJN Jan. 18, I remember him, I think, much like he presented himself at the vigil last night. ... I remember him as being a very smart, justice-oriented, happy, menschy guy.

He said Cytron-Walker presented himself authentically.

I think what we saw from the leadership at the pulpit these last few days and on the interviews has been very much what I remember of him, Brown said.

Utley said his congregation has a healing service Jan. 21 and that prayers for Congregation Beth Israel and Cytron-Walker will be included in that previously scheduled service.

Were trying to encourage people that the response to these situations is to be prepared, make sure our physical security is upright and ... ready to respond, but also that our spiritual path is strong, he said. If we step out and step forward in the Jewish community and continue building vibrant Jewish lives together, thats our best response to antisemitism, to hatred of all kinds.

Cytron-Walkers first post on Facebook following the situation was one of gratitude: I am thankful and filled with appreciation for / All of the vigils and prayers and love and support, / All of the law enforcement and first responders who cared for us, / All of the security training that helped save us. / I am grateful for my family. / I am grateful for the CBI Community, the Jewish Community, the Human Community. / I am grateful that we made it out. / I am grateful to be alive.

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‘Big 10’ and the structuring of a good society – The Jewish Star

Posted By on January 20, 2022

By Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks zt"l

In the House of Lords there is a special chamber used as, among other things, the place where new Peers are robed before their introduction into the House. When my predecessor Lord Jakobovits was introduced, the official robing him commented that he was the first Rabbi to be honored in the Upper House.

Lord Jakobovits replied, No, I am the second.

Who was the first? asked the surprised official.

The chamber is known as the Moses Room because of the large painting that dominates the room. It shows Moses bringing the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai. LordJakobovits pointed to this mural, indicating that Moses was the first Rabbi to be honored in the House of Lords.

The Ten Commandments that appear in this weeks parsha, Toldot, have long held a special place not only in Judaism but also within the broader configuration of values we call the Judeo-Christian ethic. In the United States they were often to be found adorning American law courts, though their presence has been challenged, in some states successfully, on the grounds that they breach the First Amendment and the separation of church and state. They remain the supreme expression of the higher law to which all human law is bound.

Within Judaism, too, they have always held a special place. In Second Temple times they were recited in the daily prayers as part of the Shema, which then had four paragraphs rather than three.It was only when sectarians began to claim that only these and not the other 603 commands came directly from G-d that the recitation was brought to an end.

The text retained its hold on the Jewish mind none the less. Even though it was removed from daily communal prayers, it was preserved in the prayer book as a private meditation to be said after the formal service has been concluded. In most congregations, people stand when they are read as part of the Torah reading, despite the fact that Maimonides explicitly ruled against it.

Yet their uniqueness is not straightforward. As moral principles, they were mostly not new. Almost all societies have had laws against murder, robbery and false testimony. There is some originality in the fact that they are apodictic (that is, simple statements of You shall not, as opposed to the casuistic form, If then). But they are only ten among a much larger body of 613 commandments. Nor are they even described by the Torah itself as Ten Commandments. The Torah calls them theasseret ha-devarim, that is, ten utterances. Hence the Greek translation, Decalogue, meaning, ten words.

What makes them special is that they are simple and easy to memorize. That is because in Judaism, law is not intended for judges alone. The covenant at Sinai, in keeping with the profound egalitarianism at the heart of Torah, was made not as other covenants were in the ancient world, between kings. The Sinai covenant was made by G-d with the entire people. Hence the need for a simple statement of basic principles that everyone can remember and recite.

More than this, they establish for all time the parameters the corporate culture, we could almost call it of Jewish existence. To understand how, it is worth reflecting on their basic structure.

There was a fundamental disagreement between Maimonides and Nahmanides on the status of the first sentence: I am theL-rdyour G-d,who brought you outof Egypt,out of the land of slavery. Maimonides, in line with the Talmud, held that this is in itself a command: to believe in G-d. Nahmanides held that it was not a command at all; it was a prologue or preamble to the commands.Modern research on ancient Near Eastern covenant formulae tends to support Nahmanides.

The other fundamental question is how to divide them. Most depictions of the Ten Commandments divide them into two, because of the two tablets of stone(Deut 4:13) on which they were engraved. Roughly speaking, the first five are about the relationship between humans and G-d, the second five about the relationship between humans themselves. There is, however, another way of thinking about numerical structures in the Torah.

The seven days of creation, for example, are structured as two sets of three followed by an all-embracing seventh. During the first three days G-d separated domains: light and dark, upper and lower waters, and sea and dry land. During the second three days He filled each with the appropriate objects and life forms: sun and moon, birds and fish, animals and man. The seventh day was set apart from the others as holy.

Likewise the ten plagues consist of three cycles of three followed by a stand-alone tenth. In each cycle of three, the first two were forewarned while the third struck without warning. In the first of each series, Pharaoh was warned in the morning(Ex. 7:16; 8:17; 9:13), in the second Moses was told to come in before Pharaoh(Ex. 7:26; 9:1; 10:1) in the palace, and so on. The tenth plague, unlike the rest, was announced at the very outset(Ex. 4:23). It was less a plague than a punishment.

Similarly, it seems to me that the Ten Commandments are structured in three groups of three, with a tenth that is set apart from the rest. Thus understood, we can see how they form the basic structure, the depth grammar, of Israel as a society bound by covenant to G-d as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.(Ex. 19:6)

The first three no other G-ds besides Me, no graven images, and no taking of G-ds name in vain define the Jewish people as one nation under G-d. G-d is our ultimate sovereign. Therefore all other earthly rule is subject to the overarching imperatives linking Israel to G-d. Divine sovereignty transcends all other loyalties (no other G-ds besides Me). G-d is a living force, not an abstract power (no graven images). And sovereignty presupposes reverence (Do not take My name in vain).

The first three commands, through which the people declare their obedience and loyalty to G-d above all else, establish the single most important principle of a free society, namelythe moral limits of power. Without this, the danger even in democracy is the tyranny of the majority, against which the best defense against it is the sovereignty of G-d.

The second three commands the Sabbath, honoring parents, and the prohibition of murder are all about the principle ofthe createdness of life. They establish limits to the idea of autonomy, namely that we are free to do whatever we like so long as it does not harm others. Shabbat is the day dedicated to seeing G-d as creator and the universe as His creation. Hence, one day in seven, all human hierarchies are suspended and everyone, master, slave, employer, employee, even domestic animals, are free.

Honoring parents acknowledges our human createdness. It tells us that not everything that matters is the result of our choice, chief of which is the fact that we exist at all. Other peoples choices matter, not just our own.

Thou shall not murder restates the central principle of the universal Noahide covenant that murder is not just a crime against man but a sin against G-d in whose image we are. So commands 4 to 7 form the basic jurisprudential principles of Jewish life; they tell us to remember where we came from if we are to be mindful of how to live.

The third three against adultery, theft and bearing false witness establish the basic institutions on which society depends. Marriage is sacred because it is the human bond closest in approximation to the covenant between us and G-d. Not only is marriage the human institution par excellence that depends on loyalty and fidelity, it is also the matrix of a free society. Alexis de Tocqueville put it best: As long as family feeling is kept alive, the opponent of oppression isnever alone.

The prohibition against theft establishes the integrity of property. Whereas Jefferson defined as inalienable rights those of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, John Locke, closer in spirit to the Hebrew Bible, saw them as life, liberty or possession.Tyrants abuse the property rights of the people, and the assault of slavery against human dignity is that it deprives me of the ownership of the wealth I create.

The prohibition of false testimony is the precondition of justice. A just society needs more than a structure of laws, courts and enforcement agencies. As Judge Learned Hand said, Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.There is no freedom without justice, but there is no justice without each of us accepting individual and collective responsibility for telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Finally comes the stand-alone prohibition against envying your neighbors house, wife, slave, maid, ox, donkey, or anything else belonging to him or her.

This seems odd if we think of the ten words as commands, but not if we think of them as the basic principles of a free society. The greatest challenge of any society is how to contain the universal, inevitable phenomenon of envy: the desire to have what belongs to someone else. Envy lies at the heart of violence.It was envy that led Cain to murder Abel, made Abraham and Isaac fear for their life because they were married to beautiful women, led Josephs brothers to hate him and sell him into slavery. It is envy that leads to adultery, theft and false testimony, and it was envy of their neighbors that led the Israelites time and again to abandon G-d in favor of the pagan practices of the time.

Envy is the failure to understand the principle of creation as set out inGenesis 1, that everything has its place in the scheme of things. Each of us has our own task and our own blessings, and we are each loved and cherished by G-d. Live by these truths and there is order. Abandon them and there is chaos.

Nothing is more pointless and destructive than to let someone elses happiness diminish your own, which is what envy is and does. The antidote to envy is, as Ben Zoma famously said, to rejoice in what we have(MishnahAvot 4:1) and not to worry about what we dont yet have. Consumer societies are built on the creation and intensification of envy, which is why they lead to people having more and enjoying it less.

Thirty-three centuries after they were first given, the Ten Commandments remain the simplest, shortest guide to creation and maintenance of a good society. Many alternatives have been tried, and most have ended in tears. The wise aphorism remains true: When all else fails, read the instructions.

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